Christian roots” (continued)
Thank you I.T., and good morning gentlemen.
Last month when I arrived here, IT announced
to me that April was “my month” and that
he expected me to show up here today, prepared to address
you. I guess April became “my month” because,
for reasons of fate, chance, or whatever, I have stood
here before you in April of 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Actually, I think last year it was MAR, not APR, but
I’ll ask you to ignore that minor detail.
[Announce JJ diagnosis]
As in the past, I have written down
the words I want to say to you today, and I ask you
to bear with me as a I read to you for a while –
I promise it will be less than ten minutes.
Today is April 7. Some of you may recall
that it was on this date in 2003, exactly four years
ago today, that US troops captured Baghdad.
I usually conclude my remarks with a
prayer for our troops, but this time, I’m going
to reverse things and begin with a prayer, so if you
would, please, bow your heads and join me.
Today there are about half a million , American men
and women –
stationed in 150 countries around the world.
We pray You keep them safe,
we pray You keep them strong,
we pray You send them safely home ...
Bless those who await their safe return.
And Bless the friends and relatives
who mourn the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan:
The MIAs, the 24,476 wounded, and the
3,266 Killed In Action.
In Jesus name we ask ...Amen.
Those of you who have heard me speak
here before may recall that a recurring theme of mine
has been the Christian roots of the founding of our
nation, and this morning I’m going to continue
on that theme, by sharing with you, some remarks about,
and quotations from, the revolutionary period, and the
early days of our republic.
But first, a bit of humor for you:
Supposedly, all of the statements I
am about to read, have actually appeared in Church Bulletins:
Here’s the first one:
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale
next Tuesday. It's a chance to get rid of those things
not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.
The next one:
Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this
way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
For those of you who have children and
don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
The Rector will preach his farewell
message after which the choir will sing: "Break
Forth Into Joy."
Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were
married Last Saturday in the church. So ends a friendship
that began in their school days.
Please place your donation in the envelope
along with the deceased person you want remembered.
The ladies of the Church have cast off
clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement
on Friday afternoon.
And the final entry:
Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM. Please use the large
double door at the side entrance.
To begin the serious part of my remarks,
I’d like to read an excerpt from a September 7,
1774 letter from John Adams to his wife, Abigail, describing
the opening of the first session of the First Continental
QUOTE: When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing
made a motion that it should be opened with a prayer.
The motion was opposed by Mr. Jay of NY, and Mr. Rutledge
of SC because we were so divided in religious sentiments
(some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists,
some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists), that
we could not join in the same act of worship.
Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that
he was no bigot, and could hear a prayer from any gentleman
of piety and virtue, who was at the same time a friend
to his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia and
had heard that Mr. Duché deserved that character
and therefore he moved that Mr. Duché, an Episcopal
clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to Congress
The motion was seconded, and passed
in the affirmative. Mr. Randolph, our president, prevailed
on Mr. Duché, and received for answer, that if
his health would permit, he certainly would.
Accordingly, next morning the Reverend
Mr. Duché appeared with his clerk and in his
pontificals, and read several prayers in the established
form and read the 35th Psalm. After this Mr. Duché,
unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into an extemporary
prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present.
I must confess I never heard a better prayer, or one
so well pronounced.
Episcopalian as he is, Dr. Cooper himself
and his personal pastor never prayed with such fervor,
such ardor, such earnestness and pathos, and in language
so elegant and sublime, - for America, for the Congress,
for the province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially
the town of Boston. It has had an excellent effect upon
A couple of years later, on July 9,
1776, the Second Continental Congress authorized the
Continental army to provide chaplains for their troops.
There wasn’t much of a bureaucracy back in those
days so when the Congress made an authorization, it
got into the field pretty quickly, and it was on that
very same day that General George Washington, the commander
in chief of the Continental Army, issued the order to
appoint chaplains to every regiment.
A year and a bit later, on September 11, 1777, the Continental
Congress approved and recommended that 20,000 copies
of the holy Bible be imported, in response to the shortage
of Bibles in America caused by the Revolutionary war
The First US Congress, as one of its
early items of business, adopted the policy of selecting
a chaplain to open each session with prayer. Thus, on
April 7, 1789 (exactly 218 years ago today), the Senate
appointed a committee "to take under consideration
the manner of electing Chaplains." Later that month,
the Senate elected its first chaplain, the Right Reverend
Samuel Provoost, Episcopal Bishop of New York, and the
House followed suit the following month by appointing
William Lynn, a Presbyterian from Philadelphia. A statute
providing for the payment of these chaplains was enacted
into law on September 22, 1789.
On Friday, September 25, just three
days after Congress authorized the appointment of paid
chaplains, final agreement was reached on the language
of the Bill of Rights, including the religious clause
of the First Amendment, which reads: QUOTE Congress
shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (16)
Clearly the men who endorsed the Bill
of Rights did not view paid legislative chaplains and
opening prayers as a violation of that Amendment. In
fact, the Representative who introduced the wording
of the Amendment as adopted in the House of Representatives*
was a lesser known player, named Fisher Ames (1758~1808),
a congressman from Massachusetts in the first session
of the US Congress. A month later, in an article published
in Palladium Magazine, Fisher Ames stated:
QUOTE: We have a dangerous trend beginning
to take place in our education. We're starting to put
more and more textbooks into our schools. We've become
accustomed of late of putting little books into the
hands of children, containing fables and moral lessons
… we are spending less time in the classroom on
the Bible, which should be the principal text in our
schools … the Bible states these great moral lessons
better than any man-made book."
So here we have the author of the House
version of the First Amendment, lamenting the fact that
schools are not spending enough time on the Bible, and
characterizing that situation as a “dangerous
trend.” Today, I think we can safely say, that
he clearly saw the writing on the wall.
I began my remarks this morning with
a quote from John Adams, written in 1774 when he was
age 38, and I’d like to close with another one
from him. This was written later in life, when he was
about twice as old - age 77 – and he was reflecting
back on the early days.
On June 28, 1813, in a letter to Thomas
Jefferson, Adams wrote:
QUOTE: The general principles, on which
the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles
in which that beautiful assembly of young gentleman
could unite ….And what were these general principles?
I answer, the general principles of Christianity…
Now I will avow, that I then believed,
and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity,
are as eternal and immutable, as the existence and attributes
Thank you for your attention and God
willing, I hope to be back up here again next April.
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