by Jerry Newcombe
Which type of religious leaders directly/indirectly contributed to America’s Declaration of Independence?
a. Islamic mullahs
b. Presbyterian elders
c. Catholic bishops
d. Quaker ministers
The answer is Presbyterian elders. Here is a portion of the chapter on Christianity and the Declaration of Independence from One Nation Under God: Ten Things Every Christian Should Know About the Founding of America:
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he did so with a great deal of input from those who had gone before him. He did a masterful job writing up our nation’s reason for coming into being, but he had much help. As political science professor, Donald S. Lutz, the author of The Origins of American Constitutionalism, points out, “…there was nothing new in the phrasing and ideas of the Declaration…” Jefferson drew from the ideas of John Locke and William Blackstone. He received help from a group of Presbyterian ministers in Mecklenburg, North Carolina. As just about everything with the founding of America, we see explicit Christian input…
In 1775, a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyterian elders in Mecklenburg County in Charlotte, North Carolina, indirectly contributed to the Declaration of Independence. They wrote a series of resolves that were later echoed in our nation’s birth certificate. Historian George Bancroft writes, “That town had been chosen for the seat of the Presbyterian college, which the legislature of North Carolina had chartered, but which the king had disallowed; and it was the centre [sic] of the culture of that part of the province.” The Presbyterians of Mecklenburg declared: “As all former laws are now suspended in this province, and the congress has not yet provided others, we judge it necessary, for the better preservation of good order, to form certain rules and regulations for the internal government of this country, until laws shall be provided for us by the congress.” Bancroft adds, “The resolves were transmitted with all speed to be printed in Charleston; they startled the royal governors of Georgia and North Carolina, by whom they were forwarded to the king of Great Britain.”
Elder Ephraim Brevard, in conjunction with twenty-seven Reformed Christians, one-third of whom were ruling elders in the Presbyterian Church, wrote up these county resolutions. Brevard was a graduate of Princeton. Author Lorraine Boettner says of this Presbyterian declaration: “It was the fresh, hearty greeting of the Scotch-Irish to their struggling brethren in the North, and their bold challenge to the power of England.” Then they sent them by courier to the Continental Congress. Here’s what they resolved contrasted with phrases in brackets from the Declaration of Independence. Clearly, these Presbyterian parsons contributed to our charter of liberty:
“We do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us with the mother-country, [“to dissolve their political bands which have connected them with another”] and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British crown [“absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown”] . . . . Resolved, That we do hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of a right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing Association, under control of no power other than that of our God and the general government of Congress [“by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States”]; to the maintenance of which we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual cooperation and our lives, our fortunes and our most sacred honor [“we mutually pledge our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”].”
Jefferson borrows so freely from the work of these Presbyterian elders that perhaps he could be accused of plagiarism. Now, of course, they did not have copyright law back then, and to quote liberally from another source was a genuine compliment to the source. In any event, this is yet another example of Christianity contributing to American liberty.
Consider just how influential the Mecklenburg Declaration was to Thomas Jefferson. Author N. S. McFetridge points out: “In correcting his first draft of the Declaration it can be seen, in at least a few places, that Jefferson has erased the original words and inserted those which are first found in the Mecklenburg Declaration. No one can doubt that Jefferson had Brevard’s resolutions before him when he was writing his immortal Declaration.”
What document says that our rights come from God, and it is the duty of the state not to interfere with that?
a. The Declaration of Independence
b. The Articles of Confederation
c. The Mayflower Compact
d. The Constitution
The answer is the Declaration of Independence. The following explanation is based loosely on my book, The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation (Nordskog, 2009).
President Obama said something very disturbing in late October 2008, just before he was elected. He said, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” Fundamentally transforming our nation? He was elected to be president of the country, not dictator. Article 2 of the Constitution spells out what the powers and limits are of the office of president.
The founders of our country were very leery of any one person (monarchy) or even small group of people (oligarchy) holding too much power. James Madison, a key player in the writing of the Constitution, wrote the Federalist #51. He said that if men were angels, government wouldn’t be necessary. But because men are not angels, not only do we need government to protect us from our fellow citizens, but we need to be protected from the government—since the government is run by men, not angels. The Judeo-Christian doctrine of the sinfulness of man played a profound role in the shaping of the Constitution. As a student of history, I’m positive the founders would not be pleased with government taking over so much of private sector and now our health care system and even life and death situations of we the people. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, the people have now ceased to be their own rulers.
July 4, 2010 is America’s birthday celebration—234 years old, counting from the time of our national birth certificate to now. The Declaration states WHY we exist as a nation and it mentions God four times.
- ” … the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God…”
- “…all men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”
- ” … appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions…”
- ” …with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence…”
If our rights came from the state, the state could withdraw them. That has happened repeatedly in the past where the state took over and removed God as the source of rights. You have no rights; you must obey the state. The last century was the bloodiest century in all of human history because of godless, totalitarian regimes. Stalin slew his millions; Mao his tens of millions. And it’s all based on the idea that our rights come from the state, not from God.
It is no small thing that America was founded as one nation under God. John F. Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address, “the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—The belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God….”
Happy Birthday, America, and long live liberty.
Dr. Jerry Newcombe is host and senior TV producer for Coral Ridge Ministries’ The Coral Ridge Hour and author of Nordskog Publishing title The Book that Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation.
© 2011. Used by Permission.