TRUTH # 4 - Our Constitution was made only for a Moral and Religious People
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.”
With these sober words, President John Adams warned that the U.S. Constitution will not be able to sustain our liberties if the American people abandon virtue and religion. Adams stated:
Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.61
John Adams was not alone in his opinion. This view was widely held by our Founding Fathers.
William Paterson, a signer of the Constitution from New Jersey, was appointed by George Washington to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. He, too, understood the importance of promoting religion among the citizenry. “Religion and
morality are necessary to good government, good order, and good laws,” he wrote, “for when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.”62
Religion Needed for Liberty
The Founders understood that Christian morality was essential for both the preservation of liberty and the stability of law. They knew that if Americans ever abandoned the biblical standards of morality, there could be no fixed boundaries to maintain either liberty or law. Consequently, there would be no end to the possibilities of national evil. They saw that the future of the nation was dependent upon the vitality of religion and the exercise of biblical morality.
By 1838 this view had so penetrated the American social consciousness that the New York State Legislature declared, “This is a Christian nation. Ninety-nine hundredths, if not a larger proportion, of our whole population, believe in the general doctrines of the Christian religion. Our Government depends … on that virtue that has its foundation in the morality of the Christian religion.”63
Sadly, our nation is in danger of exchanging liberty for licentiousness. Our Founders feared such a day. They knew that if religion’s influence were ever suppressed, no system of laws could ever hold up to the societal strains that come with rampant immorality.
In his book, Original Intent, historian David Barton documents the alarming rise of destructive behavior that has followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to remove Bibles from public schools.64 Indeed, since 1963, our nation has seen a sharp increase of violent crime, drug abuse, unwed teen mothers, sexually transmitted diseases, divorce, suicide, single-parent homes, abortion, homosexual relationships, and pornography. This is not accidental, nor should it surprise us. The Founders clearly saw that when we remove the influence of religion from society, all society suffers.
Exit God, Enter Tyrants
Apart from religion, the only way for society to maintain order is through expansion of government power. James McHenry, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, once explained that “public utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures…. In vain, without the Bible, we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions.”65
Fearing this expansion of government’s role in society, Patrick Henry proclaimed, “It is when a people forget God, that tyrants forge their chains.”66 He clearly saw that weakened morals would affect the public conscience, and then freedom could not be sustained.
Abraham Baldwin, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, also authored the Charter for the College of Georgia. In this charter, he warned that free governments, without the aid of religion and morality, would be plagued by “evils more horrid than the wild, uncultivated state of nature.” He concluded, “It should therefore be among the first objects of those who wish well to the national prosperity to encourage and support the principles of religion and morality…. ”67
Most of our nation’s Founders viewed the loss of public virtue as the greatest of all possible threats to America’s liberties. For example, Samuel Adams, a driving force of the Revolution, warned:
A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but when they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.68
Today, secularist organizations are quick to dismiss the role of biblical morality in America. Instead, these organizations have branded unqualified “tolerance” as the pillar of modern morality. However, our society must be careful when dealing with notions of public virtue. In words that could have been spoken today, Theodore Roosevelt rightly warned over a century ago:
There are those who believe that a new modernity demands a new morality. What they fail to consider is the harsh reality that there is no such thing as a new morality. There is only one morality. All else is immorality. There is only true Christian ethics over
against which stands the whole of paganism....
Twin “Pillars of Human Happiness”
There is much at stake in our choice. If our forefathers were right, America cannot survive apart from the influence of religion and morality. They were not giving flippant suggestions or off-hand remarks. Their counsel was given out of an earnest concern for the future security of our republic.
In his famous Farewell Address, George Washington stated his views bluntly. He boldly challenged the patriotism of any person who would work to suppress religion and morality. Washington declared:
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.69
Our nation was established with the pillars of religion and morality supporting the structure of law and liberty. If we choose to exchange these for the shifting sand of secularism, we will suffer the gradual disintegration of our law and the eventual loss of our liberty.Our Founders knew that widespread religious conviction could not coexist alongside rampant immorality, and any attempts to satisfy both would lead to political chaos. They sought to promote the merits of religion in an attempt to suppress immorality.
Today, secularists and atheists are seeking to do just the opposite. On this question, government cannot be neutral. It must choose to encourage either immorality or religious conviction. If the former is unleashed, the latter will invariably be suppressed.
Our task is to return our Republic to the proven wisdom of our Founding Fathers: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.” We will see in the following chapter that the only sound foundation of true morality is the Bible.
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