American Founders and Christianity: Looking for Sources

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bradofshaw

Puritan Board Freshman
I know there are American history buffs with a strong enough opinion on this to give me some quick documentation.

Can any of you recommend some books/links with documentation (preferably in their own words) of the religious beliefs of the founding fathers, specifically the revolutionaries and those who drafted the constitution.

I don't want to get into any debate on the topic, but I've always heard certain percentages and such which state so many were devout Christians, so many open Deists, etc. I'm just looking for a few clear examples for a freind of mine to counter the clear examples of enlightenment/deists (Jefferson, Franklin). I know I've read prayers of Washington, for example, that seem to at least give creedence to a Christianity, where Franklin for example, openly denies a saving faith in Christ.

I'm more or less looking for some trusty historical sources as opposed to the readily available revisionist stuff.
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
I'm well read on the American founding. Here are books and book publishers that you might find very helpful. I think some conservative Christians do get carried away with the civil religion and the American founding. But these books give a good insight into the beliefs of the founders. It is nothing more than blatant obfuscation to presume the vast majority of the founders were in fact deists, agnostics, and freemasons.

I would look at founders like James Madison, Benjamin Rush, and Patrick Henry, et al.-- if you want some rebuttals to the founding generation are nothing more than deists claim.

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[Edited on 4-1-2006 by Puritanhead]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
With the highest of respect to my good friend Ryan, for the person seeking to learn about the religious views of our Constitutional Founding Fathers, I would steer clear of Barton and Eidsmoe, both of whom gloss over the clear Deism of Thomas Jefferson and downplay the Masonic influence on the Founders.

Instead I would recommend Dennis Woods' Discipling the Nations and Gary North's Political Polytheism. I am not generally a fan of North, but in this case, I think revisionist history is warranted.

Patrick Henry was a good Christian. George Washington was a Mason, almost never spoke publicly about Jesus Christ, and refused to participate in the Lord's Supper. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were adamant that the Bible and the Church had corrupted the "real" message of Jesus the man. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both believed that the God of John Calvin was a false and monstrous God, and rejected the Trinity. I have posted some of John Adam's comments previously here and commented on the Christian heritage of America before here.

[Edited on 2-3-2006 by VirginiaHuguenot]
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
With the highest of respect to my good friend Ryan, for the person seeking to learn about the religious views of our Constitutional Founding Fathers, I would steer clear of Barton and Eidsmoe, both of whom gloss over the clear Deism of Thomas Jefferson and downplay the Masonic influence on the Founders.

Their books are valuable for the quotes nonetheless... I do agree... Christians are a reactionary sort... and some of us are crafting an elusive primordial civil religion that didn't really exist. No one is worse than D.J. Kennedy about that- though I have a lot of respect for him.

It depends on what founder we're talking about -- so I do think it is misleading to label them masons across the board.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Doug Kelly's book The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern West has an invaluable chapter on the American colonies.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
I have also found this book helpful and it is a generally accepted standard work on the subject: Norman Cousins, ed. In God We Trust, The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers, Harper and Brothers, NY, 1958.
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
I just got a complimentary review copy of a biography of Benjamin Rush by David Barton the other week... I'm reading other books right now, and will get on it later. I've read right many biographies of the founders from historians like Richard Brookhiser to David McCullough. I have Patrick Henry's Papers (3 vols) which is a real blessing, and condensed anthologies of the writings of Fisher Ames, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, et al.

Rush was a good Christian. He said, "I am neither an Aristocrat or a Democrat, but a Christocrat."

M.E. Bradford's Brief Lives of the Founding Fathers is hands-down one of the best overviews of the Framers of the Constitution. In general, Mel Bradford is a good constitutional historian, and an honest one. He documents the divide among centralizing nationalists, federalists, and the misnamed anti-federalists (e.g. the staunch decentralist camp). He tends to esteem John Dickinson who is a good founder In my humble opinion. Other good books include the 1840 classic Lives of the Signers of the Declaration

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Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
Christians and the American Founding

Originally posted by VirginiaHuguenot
With the highest of respect to my good friend Ryan, for the person seeking to learn about the religious views of our Constitutional Founding Fathers, I would steer clear of Barton and Eidsmoe, both of whom gloss over the clear Deism of Thomas Jefferson and downplay the Masonic influence on the Founders.

Instead I would recommend Dennis Woods' Discipling the Nations and Gary North's Political Polytheism. I am not generally a fan of North, but in this case, I think revisionist history is warranted.

Patrick Henry was a good Christian. George Washington was a Mason, almost never spoke publicly about Jesus Christ, and refused to participate in the Lord's Supper. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were adamant that the Bible and the Church had corrupted the "real" message of Jesus the man. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both believed that the God of John Calvin was a false and monstrous God, and rejected the Trinity. I have posted some of John Adam's comments previously here and commented on the Christian heritage of America before here.

Franklin and Jefferson were definitely deists. But Franklin had motioned for a prayer in the first Continental Congress. It's interesting how the deists all garbed themselves in Christian clothing. Says a lot about the preeminence of Christianity in their times. I have a poster of the First Prayer in Congress from Wallbuilders.

I would say read Barton and Eidsmore with a discerning eye, and put stock to their primary source materials. They are good for their presentation of quotes on the founder's religion. I recommend established historians like M.E. Bradford, Forrest McDonald, Ralph Ketcham, and Raoul Berger to unravel the constitutional history of the founding. I confess I have not read the Dennis Woods book, and would probably get it and read it if I didn't have so much already on my itinerary and wishlist... Woods web site notes,
Fact: The founders' main defense of the Constitution-The Federalist Papers - never mentions the Bible, but has nearly 30 references to pagan Greece and Rome.(see p. 13)
It definitely strikes me odd, that some of the major objections to the American founding are things like innumerable references to Greece and Rome in the Federalist Papers. I hope he can muster up better arguments than this in his book. I fancy myself a classicist, but I am going to getting dubbed an Enlightenment pagan for it? For reading Cicero, studying Latin or studying Hellenic philosophy and history.

I don't treat the Federalist Papers like holy writ, because it should be understood as a special pleading for adoption of the Constitution, from founders whose ideas of what the Constitution should be was very much different from the consensus produced. It has errors, and they did not always accurately predict how the new government would operate. However, it seems as though faulting it for references to pagan Greece and Rome is a bit asinine too me, as the Woods' book does in its promotional blurb. When you look at those offending quotes-- the authors of the Federalist were just rehashing lessons from history, and examples of confederacies. Can we put a spin on it? It seems that is what Woods is doing on the surface from his marketing. Can we then turn Hamilton, Madison and Jay into deists on that assumption? All three of those men were confessional Christians, and they were the only authors of the Federalist Papers.

I hope Woods could muster up better facts than that to substantiate his thesis that the American founding is imbued with the Enlightenment than what is listed on the marketing blurb of his book. I do not believe there was a conscious attempt to restore the ancient polities, and Hamilton called the Greek histories of tumultous revolutions and discord "disgusting." All they did was sketch brief histories of confederacies in Greece, yacked about Roman history, and the Swiss confederacy, and Montisequieu.

Madison, was known as Bishop James Madison and even contemplated ministry, and was a learned theologian. Revisionists can put a spin on one of his quote about internecine wars of religion in Europe, but I'm apt to agree with him there. I don't see what we have to gain by politicizing our churches. He made references to Christ and his faith in his private correspondence.

John Jay, phampleteer in the Federalist and first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, said:
"Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. It is to be regretted, but so I believe the fact to be, that except the Bible there is not a true history in the world. Whatever may be the virtue, discernment, and industry of the writers, I am persuaded that truth and error (though in different degrees) will imperceptibly become and remain mixed and blended until they shall be separated forever by the great and last refining fire."

Hamilton was caught in adultery earlier in his life, but on July 12, 1804, Hamilton a life-long Episcopalian said on his deathbed,
"I have a tender reliance on the mercy of the Almighty, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a sinner. I look to Him for mercy; pray for me."

There are also books like Ellis Sandoz' two-volume Political Sermons of the American Founding Era from Liberty Fund, and there were innumerable references to the ancient commonwealth of Israel which some thought to be the first federal commonwealth.

I am cognizant that there are lists of elusive freemason rosters of the American founders and signers of Declaration that are contrived floating on the Internet... I have no idea where Woods gets his sources, but I think we should read things with a discerning eye.

I have read that George Washington said he only visited a Masonic lodge once or twice in thirty years, and didn't much care for it. I am not sure of its veracity. If someone every finds it-- than I would like to see it. The picture of him in masonic garb was a masonic creature years later, presumably to boast of the American patriarch in their midst.

A lot of founders disliked the establishment, pomp and pagentry, and compulsory tithes of the Episcopalians and Romanists. People can put a spin on this and say they were simply anti-clerical, but it was really that many were anti-Roman and some anti-Church of England. John Taylor of Caroline was among them, but he was a Christian. John Randolph became a Christian later in life after being enamored with skeptics of the Enlightenment.

I think we need a balancing act in shaping our perspectives, and discernment... I wouldn't think it very balanced if someone read just the Dennis Woods book without reading the other side of the fence.

In my own mind, I have little doubt that most Congressmen and Senators in our time are going to hell in a handbasket as they are dead in trespasses and unrepentant lives of adultery, hustling, corruption and extortion. I wouldn't put my stock in saying America is a Christian nation then or now, but rather speak of our enduring Christian heritage.
:bigsmile:

[Edited on 2-4-2006 by Puritanhead]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
The Reverend Bird Wilson, an Episcopal minister in Albany, New York, preached a sermon in October 1831 in which he stated that "among all our presidents from Washington downward, not one was a professor of religion, at least not of more than Unitarianism" (Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion, pp. 14-15)

On the subject of George Washington the testimony of Thomas Jefferson, Ashbel Green, Bird Wilson and his pastors, William White and James Abercrombie, as to his religious views, is worth noting:

"Dr. Rush told me (he had it from [Ashbel Green, Presbyterian minister] Asa Green) that when the clergy addressed General Washington, on his departure from the government, it was observed in their consultation that he had never, on any occasion, said a word to the public which showed a belief in the Christian religion, and they thought they should so pen their address as to force him at length to disclose publicly whether he was a Christian or not. However, he observed, the old fox was too cunning for them. He answered every article of their address particularly, except that, which he passed over without notice" (February 1800)(Jefferson's Works, Vol. iv., p. 572).

In a letter to Rev. B.C.C. Parker of Massachusetts, dated Nov. 28, 1832, in answer to some inquiries respecting Washington's religion, Bishop White says:

"His behavior [in church] was always serious and attentive, but as your letter seems to intend an inquiry on the point of kneeling during the service, I owe it to the truth to declare that I never saw him in the said attitude. ... Although I was often in company with this great man, and had the honor of dining often at his table, I never heard anything from him which could manifest his opinions on the subject of religion. ... Within a few days of his leaving the presidential chair, our vestry waited on him with an address prepared and delivered by me. In his answer he was pleased to express himself gratified by what he had heard from our pulpit; but there was nothing that committed him relatively to religious theory" ("Memoir of Bishop White," pp. 189-191; Sparks' "Life of Washington," Vol. ii., p. 359).

In a letter dated Dec. 21, 1832, the bishop writes as follows:

"I do not believe that any degree of recollection will bring to my mind any fact which would prove General Washington to have been a believer in the Christian revelation further than as may be hoped from his constant attendance upon Christian worship, in connection with the general reserve of his character" ("Memoir of Bishop White," p. 193).

Long after Washington's death, in reply to Dr. Wilson, who had interrogated him as to his illustrious auditor's religious views, Dr. Abercrombie's brief but emphatic answer was:

"Sir, Washington was a Deist."

The Rev. Dr. [Bird] Wilson, who was almost a contemporary of our earlier statesmen and presidents, and who thoroughly investigated the subject of their religious beliefs, in his sermon already mentioned affirmed that the founders of our nation were nearly all Infidels, and that of the presidents who had thus far been elected -- George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson -- not one had professed a belief in Christianity. From this [1831] sermon I quote the following:

"When the war was over and the victory over our enemies won, and the blessings and happiness of liberty and peace were secured, the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He was not merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution. The proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of the day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in the Constitution or not, and, after a solemn debate he was deliberately voted out of it. ... There is not only in the theory of our government no recognition of God's laws and sovereignty, but its practical operation, its administration, has been conformable to its theory. Those who have been called to administer the government have not been men making any public profession of Christianity. ... Washington was a man of valor and wisdom. He was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a professing Christian."

Dr. Wilson's sermon was published in the Albany Daily Advertiser in 1831, and attracted the attention of Robert Dale Owen, then a young man, who called to see its author in regard to his statement concerning Washington's belief. The result of his visit is given in a letter to Amos Gilbert. The letter is dated Albany, November 13, 1831., and was published in New York a fortnight later. He says:

"I called last evening on Dr. Wilson, as I told you I should, and I have seldom derived more pleasure from a short interview with anyone. Unless my discernment of character has been rievously at fault, I met an honest man and sincere Christian. But you shall have the particulars. A gentleman of this city accompanied me to the Doctor's residence. We were very courteously received. I found him a tall, commanding figure, with a countenance of much benevolence, and a brow indicative of deep thought, apparently approaching fifty years of age. I opened the interview by stating that though personally a stranger to him, I had taken the liberty of calling in consequence of having perused an interesting sermon of his, which had been reported in the Daily Advertiser of this city, and regarding which, as he probably knew, a variety of opinions prevailed. In a discussion, in which I had taken a part, some of the facts as there reported had been questioned; and I wished to know from him whether the reporter had fairly given his words or not. ... I then read to him from a copy of the Daily Advertiser the paragraph which regards Washington, beginning, 'Washington was a man,' etc., and ending, 'absented himself altogether from the church.' 'I indorse,' said Dr. Wilson, with emphasis, 'every word of that. Nay, I do not wish to conceal from you any part of the truth, even what I have not given to the public. Dr. Abercrombie said more than I have repeated. At the close of our conversation on the subject his emphatic expression was -- for I well remember the very words -- 'Sir, Washington was a Deist.'"

In concluding the interview, Dr. Wilson said: "I have diligently perused every line that Washington ever gave to the public, and I do not find one expression in which he pledges himself as a believer in Christianity. I think anyone who will candidly do as I have done, will come to the conclusion that he was a Deist and nothing more."

Source: Six Historic Americans: Were They Christians? by John E. Remsburg

[Edited on 2-3-2006 by VirginiaHuguenot]
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
Excerpts from Gary North's Political Polytheism re George Washington:

Washington was a member of the Anglican Church all his life. Officially, he was a communicant member, but he never took communion, even though his wife did. He would rise and leave the church as soon as communion was about to be served. When challenged publicly about this by the rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia, Bishop William White, he later apologized indirectly by way of a U.S. Senator, and promised never again to attend the church on communion day, a promise that he apparently kept. 31 Dr. James Abercrombie had been assistant rector of Christ Church during Washington´s Presidency, and he did not mince words in an 1831 statement: "œThat Washington was a professing Christian is evident from his regular attendance in our church; but, Sir, I cannot consider any man a real Christian who uniformly disregards an ordinance so solemnly enjoined by the divine Author of our holy religion, and considered as a challenge to divine grace."32

Nevertheless, the churches to which Washington belonged did not take official action against him by either requiring him to take communion or by publicly excommunicating him. It was this disciplinary failure on the part of these churches that led to the public legitimizing of Washington as a Christian. This failure later indirectly legitimized the Constitution that he conspired to impose on the nation. Without Washington´s support of the actions of the Convention, the Constitution would never have been ratified. But Washington was deemed either too powerful or too sacrosanct to bring under church discipline.

The key to understanding Washington´s public religion is found on the page facing the title page of J. Hugo Tatsch´s book, The Facts About George Washington as a Freemason. There we find Williams´ 1794 painting of Washington in the regalia of Grand Master of a Masonic lodge. It was an official painting; his lodge at Alexandria paid $50 to the painter. 38 Washington had served as Grand Master of the Alexandria lodge in 1788 and 1789. When he was inaugurated President of the U. S., he was therefore a Grand Master, the only Mason ever to be inaugurated President while serving as a Grand Master.39

You will not read in the textbooks that 33 of Washington´s generals were Masons .48 You will also not read that LaFayette was not given command over any troops until after he agreed to be initiated into Union Lodge No. 1, at which ceremony Washington officiated as Master Mason. But such was the case. 49 Washington presided over a procession in Philadelphia on December 27, 1778, after the evacuation of the British. Dressed in full Masonic attire, he marched through the city with three hundred other Masons, and then held a Masonic service at Christ Church, which became his congregation of preference during his Presidency. 50 As President, he received many honors from local lodges. His written replies to them were generous. He never wavered in his attachment to Masonry. In a letter to King David´s Lodge No. 1 of Newport Rhode Island, written on Sunday, August 22, 1790, Washington wrote: "œBeing persuaded that a just application of the principles, on which the Masonic Fraternity is founded, must be promotive of private virtue and public prosperity, I shall always be happy to advance the interests of the Society, and to be considered by them as a deserving brother."51 In several letters, he referred to God as the Supreme Architect. A representative example is his letter to Pennsylvania Masons (Dec. 27, 1791): "œ. . . I request you will be assured of my best wishes and earnest prayers for your happiness while you remain in this terrestrial Mansion, and that we may thereafter meet as brethren in the Eternal Temple of the Supreme Architect ."œ52

John Eidsmoe, in his book-length attempt to defend the Constitution as a Christian document, takes seriously Washington´s outright lie "” it can be nothing else "” in a letter to G. W. Snyder in 1798, that he had not been in a masonic lodge "œmore than once or twice in the last thirty years."53 One does not become the Grand Master of a lodge by attending services once or twice over thirty years, but one can certainly fool two centuries of Christian critics by lying through one´s wooden teeth about it. 54

That he may have been a Christian in private is possible, though his attitude toward the Church betrays a woeful misunderstanding of Christian responsibilities.
He did possess a personal prayer book, written in his own hand, which he called Daily Sacrifice. It contained familiar formal set prayers, such as this one: "œI beseech Thee, my sins, remove them from Thy presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept of me for the merits of Thy Son Jesus Christ.nss Similar Trinitarian prayers are published in the Ahirnan Rezon, the constitutional handbook for Ancient Masons. 56 He perhaps was a "œcloset Trinitarian" in the way that John Locke was. Publicly, he was a Masonic Unitarian. Of him it can legitimately be said, as Mark Nell in fact says: "œIn short, the political figures who read the Bible in private rarely, if ever, betrayed that acquaintance to the public."

31. Paul F. Boiler, Jr., George Wmhington &? ReJigion (Dallas, Texas: SouthernMethodist University Press, 1963), p. 34.
32. Cited in ibid., p. 18.
33. James B. Jordan, Judges: God´s War Against Humanzsm (Tyler, Texas: Geneva Ministries, 1985), p. 42.
34. Ibid., p. 45.
35. Boiler, Wmhington, p. 75.
36. Ibid., pp. 28-29.
37. Ibid., p. 90.
38. J. Hugo Tatsch, The Facts About George Wmhington as a Freemason (New York: Macoy, 1931), p. 43.
39. Ibid., p. 6.
40. Ibid., pp. 24-27. Cf. Your Masomc Capital Ci~ (Silver Spring, Maryland: Masonic Service Association, n.d., 1988?), pp. 1-4; Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, The Tmple and the Lodge (London: Jonathan Cape, 1989), pp. 261-62.
41. Your Masonic Capitol Ci&, pp. 26-27.
42. Ibid., pp. 13-14. The report appeared in the Nov. 15, 1792 issue of the Charleston, South Carolina Ci~ Gazette. The designer of the Capitol and the President´s House, James Hoban, was a resident of Charleston at the time he submitted his designs.
43. Ibid., pp. 19-26.
44. Ibid., pp. 5-12.
45. JameB D. Carter, Mosomy. in Texas: Background, HistoT, and Iny7uence to 1846 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1955), p. 26.
46. Ibid., p. 104.
47. Ibid., p. 144. Freemasons in attendance were Leonard Bleeker, Amos Doolittle, Pierpont Edwards, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Hinsdale, David Humphreys, Henry Knox, Morgan Lewis, Robert Livingston, William Malcom, Jacob Morton, Frederick Muhlenberg, James Nicholson, Arthur St. Clair, and Frederick William von Stueben. James R. Case, Freemasons at the First Znaugwation of "˜George Wmhington (Silver Spring, Maryland: Masonic Service Association, n.d., 1964?), pp. 25-29.
48. Heaton, Masonic Membership, p. xvi.
49. Bernard Fay, Revolution and Freemason, 1680-1800 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1935), pp. 249-50. He cites Philip A. Roth, Masony in the Formation of Our Government, 1761-1799 (by the Author, 1927), pp. 43-45. Roth was the Manager of the Masonic Service Bureau in Washington, D. C. Lafayette´s statement that Washington never
willingly gave senior command to non-Masons is repeated by Morse, Freemason~ and the American Revolution, p. ix.
50. Ibid., p. 246; citing Roth, pp. 63-64, and Tatsch, Freemason in the Thirteen
Colonies, pp. 206-11.
51. Tatsch, Fwts About Wmhington, p. 14.
52. Ibid., p. 18.
53. John Eidsmoe, Chriitiani~ and the Constitution: The Faith of OUT Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1987), p. 125, citing John C. Fitzpatrick (cd. ), The Writings of George Wmhington from the Original Manuscrt~t Sources, 1745-1799 (Washington, D. C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931-44), vol. 34,
p. 453.
54. Washington´s false teeth, attributed to fellow Mason Paul Revere, were made by John Greenwood, who as a boy was a neighbor of Revere´s during the period of Revere´s brief, ill-fated or ill-fitting career as a dentist. Esther Forbes, Paul Revere and The World He Lived In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, [1942] 1962), p. 133.
55. Cited in Benjamin Hart, Faith &? Freedom: The Chrtstian Roots of Amaiian [email protected] (Dallas, Texas: Lewis & Stanley, 1988), p. 274. Seven of these set prayers are reprinted in Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Foundtng Fathers (Brentwood, Tennessee: Wolgemutb & Hyatt, 1987), pp. 111-13. LaHaye cites W. Herbert Burk, Wiihmgtonk Prayers (Morristown, Pennsylvania: Published for the Benefit of the Washington Memorial Chapel, 1907),
56. Ahiman Rezon Abridged and Digested (Philadelphia: Hall & Sellers, 1783), pp. 111-12.
 

Anton Bruckner

Puritan Board Professor
Andrew, I say with all surety that D. James Kennedy and Pat Robertson are sorely disappointed in you ;)

But on the contrary, R.C Sproul is in agreement.
 

VirginiaHuguenot

Puritanboard Librarian
On the subject of Ben Franklin's religious views, I think John Remsburg's research is instructive:

Franklin received a religious training, but his good sense and his humane nature forced him to rebel against the irrational and inhuman tenets of his parents' faith, and at an early age a spirit of skepticism was developed in him, as the following extracts from his Autobiography will show:

"My parents had given me betimes religions impressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, according as I found them combated in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself" (Autobiography, p. 66).

At a later period, alluding to his religious belief, Franklin says:

"Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands. They were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect precisely the reverse of what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appealed to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself. In a word, I soon became a thorough Deist" (Ibid, p. 66).

In a letter to "A Friend in England" (supposed to be Dr. Priestley), Franklin makes some observations regarding the inspiration of the Bible:

"I agreed with you in sentiments concerning the Old Testament, and thought the clause in our [Pennsylvania] Constitution, which required the members of the Assembly to declare their belief that the whole of it was given by divine inspiration, had better have been omitted. That I had opposed the clause; but, being overpowered by numbers, and fearing more in future might be grafted on it, I prevailed to have the additional clause, 'that no further or more extended profession of faith should ever be exacted.' I observed to you, too, that the evil of it was the less, as no inhabitant, nor any officer of government, except the members of Assembly, was obliged to make the declaration.

"So much for that letter; to which I may now add, that there are several things in the Old Testament impossible to be given by divine inspiration; such as the approbation ascribed to the angel of the Lord of that abominably wicked and detestable action of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. If the rest of the book were like that, I should rather suppose it given by inspiration from another quarter, and renounce the whole" (Works, Vol. x., p. 134).

Franklin was not an Atheist; he did not deny the existence of a God; he believed in a God; but his God was the humane conception of Deism and not the God of Christianity. His biographer, Parton, says:

"He escaped the theology of terror, and became forever incapable of worshipping a jealous, revengeful, and vindictive God" (Life of Franklin, Vol. i., p. 71).

"In conversation with familiar friends he called himself a Deist or Theist, and he resented a sentence in Mr. Whitefield's journal which seemed to imply that between a Deist and an Atheist there was little or no difference. Whitefield wrote: 'M.B. is a Deist; I had almost said an Atheist.' 'That is,' said Franklin, 'chalk, I had almost said charcoal" (Ibid, Vol. i., p. 319).

At the age of eighty-four, just previous to his death, in reply to inquiries concerning his religious belief from Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale College, he wrote as follows:

Here is my creed: I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe. That he governs it by his providence. That he ought to be worshiped. That the most acceptable service we render him is doing good to his other children. That the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this."

This is pure Deism. Paine and Voltaire would have readily subscribed to every one of the above six articles of faith. Compare the creed of Franklin with the creed of Paine.

It is not improbable that Franklin had much to do with shaping the Deistic belief of Paine. Parton says:

"Paine was a resident of Philadelphia, a frequenter of Franklin's house, and was as well aware as we are of Dr. Franklin's religious opinions. Nor is there much in the 'Age of Reason' to which Franklin would have refused to assent." (Life of Franklin, Vol. ii., p. 553).

In his letter to Ezra Stiles, he extols the system of morals taught by "Jesus of Nazareth," but says, "I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the Dissenters in England, doubts as to his divinity."

Upon this story and his motion for prayers in the Convention that framed our Constitution is based the Christian piety of Franklin. Regarding the latter, it is only necessary to remark that it was in harmony with the second and third articles of his Deistic creed.
Franklin's motion for prayers in the Constitutional Convention has been used as the basis for another clerical falsehood that has been presented to the eyes or ears of nearly every man, woman and child in the United States. We are told that, the Convention for a month opened its sessions without prayer, that at the end of this time nothing had been accomplished, it was in a state of confusion, and on the point of adjourning, when Franklin came forward, proposed that the sessions be opened with prayer, which was adopted, after which the work of the Convention was speedily and successfully performed. This is adduced as a striking proof of the efficacy of prayer. The fact is, there was not a prayer offered in the Convention from the time it convened until it closed. So nearly unanimous were the members in their opposition to Franklin's proposition that not even a vote was taken on it. Franklin himself, referring to it, says: "The Convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary."

Dr. Franklin and Dr. [Joseph] Priestley were intimate friends. Of Franklin, Priestley writes:

"It is much to be lamented that a man of Franklin's general good character and great influence should have been an unbeliever in Christianity, and also have done as much as he did to make others unbelievers" (Priestley's Autobiography, p. 60).

This great man was himself denounced as an Infidel. He was a Unitarian of the most advanced type, and was mobbed and driven from England on account of his heretical opinions and his sympathy with the French Revolution. Franklin's Infidelity must have been of a very radical character to have provoked the censure of Dr. Priestley.

Source
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by Puritanhead
It's interesting how the deists all garbed themselves in Christian clothing. Says a lot about the preeminence of Christianity in their times.

Therein lie(s?) the issue. I don't have to argue that Washington et al were Bible believing Christians. All I have to point out, along with Dr Doug Kelly, is that they used Christian language because Christianity dominated the colonies

[Edited on 2--3-06 by Draught Horse]
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by Slippery
Andrew, I say with all surety that D. James Kennedy and Pat Robertson are sorely disappointed in you ;)

But on the contrary, R.C Sproul is in agreement.

Actually, when I read an R.C. Sproul book, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, he was quoting from the Declaration, and called it the Constitution. So, I wouldn't look to him for constitutional and American history. A bit amateurish in that arena like most pastors.
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
With respect the image of George Washington of Masonic lore... I think all he did was flater freemasons in letters, and accept a few books of theirs as gifts. The freemasons have conveniently utilized those remarks and created a caricatured Washington, the arch-freemason patriarch of America which is more myth than fact, but enshrined in some masonic memorial in D.C.. The picture of Washington in masonic garb is pure masonic propaganda and for the prestige of the order. After the Revolution, lodges everyone rallied to flatter Washington and make him an honorary Mula-Koola freemason. Sometimes, Washington dignified their kind letters with acceptance.

Washington visited a lodge during the Revolution and here is a letter on file with the Library of Congress. He may have been around some ceremony setting a cornerstone, he may have spoken in flattery to masons in letters, but he was too involved in affairs of state.

The fact of the matter is that lodges were in esteem during and around the time of the revolution, just as the Sons of Liberty were, and espoused a lot of principles about the virtues of good citizenship, republicanism and patriotism in much the same way as Rotary clubs do today. What they do on the inside is another story.

Consider these letters to and from Washington. Here Washington is acknowledging receipt of a book called Proofs of a Conspiracy from a Scottish freemason John Robinson who sought to expose the Illuminati order of Adam Weishaupt that sought to graft itself on the freemasonry lodges, and facilitate radicalism like that of the French Revolution. Washington professes his limited involvement with the Masons. Look it up on the American Memory web site at the Library of Congress.

Mount Vernon, September 25, 1798.

George Washington Snyder,

Sir: Many apologies are due to you, for my not acknowledging the receipt of your obliging favour of the 22d. Ulto, and for not thanking you, at an earlier period, for the Book3 you had the goodness to send me.

I have heard much of the nefarious, and dangerous plan, and doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book until you were pleased to send it to me. The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter have prevented my reading the Book, hitherto; namely, the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, and the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed. And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country. The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years.4 I believe notwithstanding, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati. With respect I am &c. 5
October 24, 1798

Mount Vernon, October 24, 1798.

George Washington Snyder

Revd Sir: I have your favor of the 17th. instant before me; and my only motive to trouble you with the receipt of this letter, is to explain, and correct a mistake which I perceive the hurry in which I am obliged, often, to write letters, have led you into. It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.

The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.

My occupations are such, that but little leisure is allowed me to read News Papers, or Books of any kind; the reading of letters, and preparing answers, absorb much of my time. With respect, etc. 6
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Originally posted by Puritanhead
Originally posted by Slippery
Andrew, I say with all surety that D. James Kennedy and Pat Robertson are sorely disappointed in you ;)

But on the contrary, R.C Sproul is in agreement.

Actually, when I read an R.C. Sproul book, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, he was quoting from the Declaration, and called it the Constitution. So, I wouldn't look to him for constitutional and American history. A bit amateurish in that arena like most pastors.

:lol:
If I found a quote by Sproul Sr where he called himself a theonomist,
Would I be quoting him out of context (how, I don't know, but its the traditional rebuttal. Fortunately, it is rarely proven).
Would Sproul then be outside Orthodoxy?
We can go on.

Also, if anybody's interested, Sproul Sr is writing the Introduction to the new Rushdoony Festchrift. The battle is just about over.

Also on the mason thing:
The Masons gave many honorary titles, sometimes after their deaths.
There is a letter by Gresham Machen thanking a Mason for his financial contributions to WTS, saying the seminary would not have made it without this mason's help. Oh well, how the mighty have fallen!
 

Puritanhead

Puritan Board Professor
Originally posted by Draught Horse
Also on the mason thing:
The Masons gave many honorary titles, sometimes after their deaths.
There is a letter by Gresham Machen thanking a Mason for his financial contributions to WTS, saying the seminary would not have made it without this mason's help. Oh well, how the mighty have fallen!

RTS lists the Masons as a source of potential scholarship money.

The Presbyterian-Masonic connection!
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
Originally posted by Draught Horse
Originally posted by Puritanhead
It's interesting how the deists all garbed themselves in Christian clothing. Says a lot about the preeminence of Christianity in their times.

Therein lie(s?) the issue. I don't have to argue that Washington et al were Bible believing Christians. All I have to point out, along with Dr Doug Kelly, is that they used Christian language because Christianity dominated the colonies

[Edited on 2--3-06 by Draught Horse]

I'm inclined to agree with this.
 
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