by Keith Sherlin
– 1. The Christian based colony of Jamestown Virginia in 1606-1607 functioned underneath Christian Based Charter
One of the earliest efforts to colonize and begin the development of the New World, which would later become the United States of America, began in Jamestown Virginia. Financed by the London Company, the first permanent English colony in Jamestown defined its purpose through the governing charter. This charter unequivocally established a Christian basis and purpose for the colony. The charter stated their task as governed by the “providence of Almighty God, . . . to the glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating of the Christian religion to such people, as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.” These early colonists suffered severe hardship in the rough and rugged land. A little more than half died in the early days, and only by the providential hand of God’s grace did the colony survive through supernatural preservation. Scholar B.F. Morris noted that”The Christian religion was the underlying basis and the pervading element of all the social and civil institutions of the Virginia Colony.”
2. The Pilgrims on the Mayflower Constructed a Christian Legal Document in 1620
The Pilgrims set sail to the soils of America to escape the religious persecution in Europe. England had grown intolerant of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ministers were being imprisoned and exiled for their faith. These separatists opted to leave Europe and come to the New World. In 1620 the Pilgrims sailed across the ocean on the Mayflower Ship. Due to the stormy weather the ship missed its desired destination of Virginia. Therefore, the original charter the Pilgrims functioned underneath could not serve them. The Pilgrims realized they needed some type of governing document. Consequently Pilgrims drafted the “Mayflower Compact.” This historical document”emphasizes religious themes and political loyalties that are reflected in later charters and state constitutions.” This governing document specifically stated that they came to the New World in the “name of God . . . . for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” This Christian based document has been heralded as one of the most essential documents to the development of America. Frank R. Donovan states that this document became the “foundation stone of American liberty.” The document became the governing document of the Pilgrims when they finally did arrive in Plymouth on December 22nd 1620. As Gary Demar mentioned”Plymouth was first a religious society, second, an economic enterprise, and last, a political commonwealth governed by biblical standards.”
3. A Christian Based Community in Connecticut New Haven with a Christian Constitution in 1639
Reverend John Davenport and Governor Theophilus Eaton founded New Haven Connecticut. John Davenport became the community’s pastor. John Eaton became the Governor and was elected to this office annually for twenty years until his death. The Bible stood as the supreme law book for the community. In January of 1639 the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” were produced. Some have noted that this governing document became the world’s first written constitution. In one place this document stated this: “Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of His Divine Providence so to order and dispose of things that we the inhabitants and residents . . .; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the Word of God requires thast to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of all the people at all seasons as occasions shall require.”
4. Christianity Expressed in the New England Confederation of 1643
Early in American history the people recognized the governing leaders as ministers of God. These officials were to lead with wisdom and according to the laws and principles of Scripture. When this confederation organized it stood for Christian principles. The ruling authorities functioned with a divine goal to “advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace.” Furthermore, we see that these early colonial Americans viewed the civil leaders as ministers whom serve the people for the common good under Christian principles. The governing leaders were said to be expected to excercise their power “to declare, publish, and establish, for the Plantations within their jurisdiction, the laws He [God] hath made; and to make and repeal orders for smaller matters, not particularly determined in Scriptures, according to the more general rules of righteousness, and while they stand in force, to require the execution of them.”
5. Christianity and Christian Principles Were in Every Colonial Constitution
One of the most unique features of American government is the art of governing by established written law. These written laws are expressed through Constitutions. Furthermore, the Constitutions of each state did not grant or give too much power to the federal government. The national government could only exercise the powers given to that level by the state constitutions. Any power not delgated to the national level by the local state levels remained with the states. One such power that remained at the state level has been the issues relating to faith and religion. Remarkably, as any historical study can reveal, every Colonial State referenced God and religious principles. These references aid in proving that Christianity permeated the founding states of the United States of America. A partial study of various themes from the various state constitutions reveal some sacred allegiances to Christian themes.
Deleware required its office holders to embrace or acknolwedge certain Christian beliefs. These included a profession of faith “God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God blessed for evermore; and I do acknolwedge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
New Jersey’s Constitution
New Jersey provided a freedom for all people of the state to worship God freely. The constitution acknolwedged God and a person’s freedom to worship God without compulsion. It specifically stated: “no person shall ever . . . be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.”
Georgia in its original constitution even promoted the protestant religion. Those whom say that it is illegal to promote a faith or religion at the state level might not be aware that this is exactly what some of the founding states did early in America. For example Georgia’s constitution in 1777 stated in one article that “The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county . . . and they shall be of the Protestant religion.” That requirement nullifies the idea that from the very beginning the founding states of the United States were anti-God, or that the government across the board did not emphasize and stress the Christian faith. People who promote such ideas are not very well read. Therefore, such people do not understand the heritage of America.
- Georgia’s preamble to the 1900’s version of their state constitution also acknowledges the powerful God of the universe. Anyone who says that all references to God ought to be removed from the public sector stand in contradiction to the spirit and heritage of America itself. Look at what the preamble says of God: “To perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty, we, the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of the Almighty God, do ordain and establish this constitution.” Not only does it mention God but also it even gives a description of this God. It describes God as the almighty being that gives protection and guidance.
Maryland differed in that this state and colony developed from the Catholic persuasion of Christianity. The state constitution, however, set the tone that all people of the Christian religion or faith were to have protection. The constitution precisely said: “All persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate on account of his religious persuasion or profession, or for his religious practice; unless under the colour of religion, any man shall disturb the good order, peace and safety of the State.” This aids to prove that Maryland respected religious freedom and acknolwedged the value of religious faith the for the good of the state.
- Massachusetts articulated what may be called natural theology within its governing documents. This state’s constitution in 1780 recognized a Supreme God that created and preserved the universe. The constitution specifically stated: “It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.”
New Hampshire’s Constitution
- The Puritan legacy lived on through the constitution of New Hampshire. In 1784 the Constitution preserved the idea of God who every person must be free to worship. The constitution precisely says: “Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship GOD according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty or estate for worshiping GOD, in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, or for his religious profession, sentiments or persuasion; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or disturb others, in their religious worship.” New Hampshire retained all of its religious principles even after the ratification of the United States Constitution, even one whereby all State office holders had to be of the protestant religion. This again points to the fact that each state had the power and right to adopt one religious slant above and beyond another. The national government had and has no right to establish or prefer any one denomination of religion. However the states, such as with New Hampshire, had and still ought to have the freedom to prefer one religious viewpoint or another above another without the Federal government’s hand restricting the state from doing so.
North Carolina’s Constitution
- First explored by the French and Spanish, North Carolina eventaully developed as a colony in 1653 by settlers from Virginia. In 1711 the colony of Carolina divided ito North and South Carolina. In 1729 North Carolina became a royal colony and the 1776 state constitution acknowledged God freely and even more emphatic was the constitutional requirement that no person who denied God or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments could serve in any office. Sections from that constitution read as follows: “All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. . . . No person who shall deny the bing of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.” One must keep in mind that America is a “REPUBLIC” not a pure “DEMOCRACY.” The republic form of government is one whereby the representative thinks for the people. As the constitutional scholar and professor Dr. John Eidsmoe says: “In a republic the representative is to think for his constituents rather than with them. They elect him because they respect his judgment, not because he will be their rubber stamp.” These requirements reveal that the founders of North Carolina wanted and set in place provisions whereby only people who believed in God and the authority of His Word should be doing the thinking for the people of the state.
South Carolina’s Constitution
The SC constitution was clear in its affirmation of Christianity and the principles of this faith for public life. Article 38 of the 1778 SC constitution said: “All persons and religious societies who acknolwedge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated.” It also stated: “the Christian Protestant Religion shall be deemed, and is hereby constituted and declared to be, the established religion of this State.” This law was balanced in that even though the Christian faith was the law of the land no person was forced or compelled to support the Christian faith, Christian church, or religion unless he or she voluntarily associated with that faith, church or religion. The constitution said: “No person shall, by law, be obliged to pay towards the maintenance and support of a religious worship that he does not freely join in, or has not voluntarily engaged in support.” Even the current SC constitution today says “No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.” Furthermore, despite criticisms to the contrary, the SC constitution even today still requires that all who hold office taken an oath that swears by the name of God.