Our Faith




The waves of change that crashed across Europe during the Reformation drove many dissenting church groups to seek a refuge from persecution.  The founders of the first three English colonies in North America: Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, Plymouth Plantation at Cape Cod in 1620 and the Puritan settlement of Boston in 1630 took the lead.  Each received charters from the King of England to operate as privately financed adventures.

The motives for establishing their settlements appeared in the group’s charters and writings. The Jamestown charter stated, “...by the providence of Almighty God,…to the Glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God....” 1

The Pilgrims at Plymouth stated in their Mayflower Compact that they had, “undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith,…a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia,…” 2

The Governor of the Puritan Colony John Winthrop, in his work A Model of Christian Charity directly expressed the purpose of their colony:  “Thus stands the cause between God and us:  we are entered into covenant with Him for this work. We have taken out a Commission; the Lord hath given us leave to draw our own articles...”3

Soon after, other groups embarked on their search, making their way across the sea to the shores of American.   In 1634, a group of 200 English Catholics led by Lord Baltimore arrived in Maryland pursuant to their charter granted by King Charles I that stated:

Our well beloved and right trusty subject Coecilius Calvert, Baron of Baltimore… being animated with a laudable, and pious Zeal for extending the Christian Religion… hath humbly besought Leave of Us that he may transport… a numerous Colony of the English Nation, to a certain Region … having no Knowledge of the Divine Being.4

The Carolina colony, home to English Quakers, French Huguenots and various others.
Protestant groups obtained their Charter in 1663 that stated: Being excited with a laudable and pious zeal for the propagation of the Christian faith…[they] have humbly besought leave of us…to transport and make an ample colony… unto a certain country…in the parts of America…inhabited by…people, who have no knowledge of Almighty God.

This then made up the beginning of the search for religious and political freedom in the New World. These small bands of faithful believers emerged day by day in victory, amid a life of bare subsistence and under constant exposure to sickness and hostile dangers. Such triumphs nourished the longings of the growing numbers that followed.


America took on the characteristics of a proven haven from persecution, the exodus from England began in earnest.  It would continue unabated in a search for free expression, and an opportunity to reap financial security, benefiting England in the process. Winston Churchill described the period in A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. II of the New World:

In these first decades of the great emigration, over eighty thousand English-speaking peoples crossed the Atlantic…. Many different streams of migrants were to make their confluence in the New World and contribute to the manifold character of the future United States.  But the British stream flowed first and remained foremost.6

The founding of free havens continued with Rhode Island in 1663, the colony known at one time as the Baptist Colony. Its charter read, “That they, pursuing, with peaceable and loyal minds, sober, serious and religious intentions…a most flourishing civill state may stand and best bee maintained…grounded upon gospel principles.” 7

In 1682 William Penn, acting on a land grant inherited from his father, settled Pennsylvania under his Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania in which he stated, Therefore, in reverence to God the Father of lights and spirits, the Author as well as object of all divine knowledge, faith and worship, I do hereby declare for me and my and establish it for the first fundamental of the government of my Country; that every Person that does or shall reside therein shall have and enjoy the Free Possession of his or her faith and exercise of worship towards God, in such way and manner as every Person shall in conscience believe…8

William Penn and his Quakers freely welcomed other groups.  They included the Amish and Moravians from Germany. The mission minded Moravians founded the city of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  William Penn also founded the colony of Delaware, which fell within the jurisdiction of the same Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania. 

The founding of the Georgia Colony presented a unique story among the many unique stories that forged the initial thirteen colonies. Its founder, James Oglethorpe served as a Member of Parliament and involved himself in matters of prison reform.  In seeking to relieve the conditions of those in debtor’s prison he set about to establish a refuge where these individuals could, through work, discharge their debt and resume a normal and productive life.  In 1731, the first settlers arrived in Georgia declaring, “Our end in leaving our native country is not to gain riches and honor, but singly this: to live wholly to the glory of God.” 9 The colony grew as German Lutherans and Moravians, Scottish Covenanters and Swiss Calvinists followed the English. 

These isolated scenes of colonial life grew in size and established the ordered lives they had long anticipated. In so doing, they became fertile ground for the religious revivals that began in 1734 in New England with the preaching of Jonathan Edwards and which spread across the colonies primarily through the itinerant preaching of the visiting English evangelist George Whitfield, who made seven tours to America beginning in 1739.  The impact of the revivals caused even Benjamin Franklin to observe, “it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.” 10

This period of revival known as the Great Awakening, unified and strengthened the spiritual and moral foundation of the colonies just prior to their greatest challenge, the birth of a new nation. 


The individual Constitutions adopted by each of the free and independent states reaffirmed the active faith of their colonial founders. The 1776 Constitution of North Carolina is representative of this in stating; “Article XXXII That no person who shall deny the being of God...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, (until 1876).” 11 During the period that the thirteen states functioned under the Articles of Confederation, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  It authorized the establishment of new states beyond the Ohio River, and in Article III, emphasized the role of religion in these areas stating, “Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” 12 The founders ranked it in importance alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

In the midst of the momentous drama that unfolded during the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia in 1787, the convention became deadlocked in disagreement unable to proceed.  Benjamin Franklin’s timely speech saved the moment when his following words of wisdom, once headed, reconciled efforts.

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God Governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that “except the Lord Build the House, they labor in vain that build it...”
I therefore, beg leave to move--that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business,...13

Once they approved the Constitution and submitted it to the states for ratification, opposition arose. The primary focus of this opposition grew out of a concern that the document had not sufficiently secured the people’s individual and religious rights. To remedy this fault several states put forth a list of amendments leading eventually to the Bill Of Rights comprising the first ten amendments to the Constitution.  The State of Virginia’s proposed amendment addressing religious rights represented the majority sentiment among the states.  It read,  "That Religion, or the duty which we owe our Creator, and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by Reason and Convictions, not by Force or Violence; and therefore all Men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion,…" 14

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” is the first constitutional amendment eventually adopted after consideration of various versions by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. “Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination or religion in preference to another…” and “Congress shall make no law establishing one religious society in preference to others…” 15 are two versions previously considered.  These versions show that the intent of the first amendment to the constitution endeavored to ensure that no “denomination” or “society” would dominate. This runs contra to what some proclaim that the amendment intended to separate religion totally from government.  In the face of the historical record, such a claim is totally without merit.

The insightful manner in which the founders balanced the basic functions of government with man’s deepest inner needs appeared in these words of James Madison, known as the father of the Constitution. He stated,

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it.  We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God. 16

Forty-four years later in 1833, the French historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), who had traveled to America in 1831 to seek out the reason for her thriving greatness, published Democracy in America.  Amid the recorded impressions and observations gained after a nine-month tour, he reveals this insightful finding: 

I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors…; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public schools and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. 

Not until I went into the Churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. 

America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. 17


In confronting this subject of America as a Christian nation, one must avoid the temptation to restrict her Christian heritage to a distant era.  Many, at first glance, tend to attribute the fervent faith of the Pilgrims and Puritans to the daily threat of danger in an isolated wilderness. Some may even summarily dismiss it as the socially accepted behavior within a small homogenous group during a given period in history. The truth of the matter is that this fervent faith grew as the nation grew, intimately weaving it into its very nature and establishing it as a nation based on Christian values, even to this day.

The conclusive evidence for this appears in a United States Supreme Court case decided 103 years after the Constitution and 272 years after the Pilgrims signed their Compact aboard the Mayflower. The following excerpts from the 1892 case leave no doubt as to this reality.  Knowledge of this fact is essential in these days and times when this issue is at the forefront of so many conflicts.  In its written opinion in the case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States (143 US 457)1892 the court stated:

...this is a religious people.  This is historically true.  From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation.  

The commission to Christopher Columbus…[recited] that “it is hoped that by God’s assistance some of the continents and islands in the ocean will be discovered…” 

The first colonial grant made to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1584 … and the grant authorizing him to enact statutes for the government of the proposed colony provided that “they be not against the true Christian faith….”  

The first charter of Virginia, granted by King James I in 1606... commenced the grant in these words: “…in propagating of Christian Religion to such Peoples as yet live in Darkness…”

Language of similar import may be found in the subsequent charters of that colony…in 1609 and 1611; and the same is true of the various charters granted to the other colonies.  In language more or less emphatic is the establishment of the Christian religion declared to be one of the purposes of the grant.  The celebrated compact made by the Pilgrims in the Mayflower, 1620, recites: “Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith…a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia….”

The fundamental orders of Connecticut, under which a provisional government was instituted in 1638-1639, commence with this declaration; “…And well knowing where a people are gathered together the word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union…there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God…to maintain and preserve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus which we now profess…of the said gospel [which] is now practiced amongst us.”

In the charter of privileges granted by William Penn to the province of Pennsylvania, in 1701, it is recited:  “…no people can be truly happy, though under the greatest enjoyment of civil liberties, if abridged of …their religious profession and worship….”

Coming nearer to the present time, the Declaration of Independence recognizes the presence of the Divine in human affairs in these words:  
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine 7 Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” 18

After the court summarized similar declarations of various local governments and societal organizations, the court concluded the following. “These and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation....we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth.” 19

This excerpt from the court’s decision leaves no doubt that America is a Christian nation founded and built upon the precepts of the bible. 

© Majesty Publications   


1. Gary DeMar, God and Government--A Biblical and Historical Study (Atlanta, Ga: American Vision Press, 1984), p. 127 quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 624 n. 13.
2. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation, 1608-1650, rendered into Modern English by Harold Paget, 1909, and republished under title, Bradford's History of the Plymouth Settlement (San Antonio, Tx.: Mantle Ministries, 1988),76.
3. "A Model of Christian Charity." Winthrop Papers (Massachusetts Historical Society), Vol. II, pp 292-295, quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 700 n. 209.
4. 1632 Charter of Maryland, issued by King Charles I. Henry S. Commager, ed., Documents  of American History (NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1948, p. 21 quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 35 n. 12.
5. 1663. North Carolina History, Hugh Talmage Lefler, ed., (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1934, 1956), p. 16 quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 91 n. 15.
6. Churchill, Winston S. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: The New World. Vol. II. (Bantam Books. New York. 1957) 138.        
7. July 1663, Granted by King Charles II. William McDonald, ed., Documentary Source Book of American History, 1606-1889 (NY: The McMillan company, 1909), pp. 67-68 quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 532 n. 28.
8. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection, Philadelphia, Catherine Millard, The Rewriting of America’s History (Camp Hill PA: Horizon House Publishers, 1991) pp. 41-44. quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 502-503 n. 48.
9. Stephen K. McDowell and Mark A. Beliles, America’s Providential History (Charlottesville, VA: Providence Press 1988), p. 55. quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 259 n. 16.
10. Franklin Benjamin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (New York: Books, Inc., 1791), p. 146. quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 245 n. 37.
11. Supreme Court Justice Herbert V. Prochnow, 5100 Quotations for Speakers and Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), p.343 quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 482 n. 60.
12. July 13, 1787 Article III. Henry E Commager, ed., Documents of American History (NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1948), p. 131 quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 483. n. 64.
13. June 28, 1787 James Madison, Notes of Debates in he Federal Convention of 1787 (1787; reprinted NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987), pp. 209-210.  quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 247-248 n. 47.
14. Catherine Millard, The Rewriting of Americas History (Camp Hill, PA: Horizon House Publishers, 1991), p. 145 quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 627-628 n. 23.
15. Source and Documents Illustrating the American Revolution 1764-1788 and the Formation of the Federal Constitution, S.E. Morison, ed., (NY: Oxford University Press, 1923), p. 157-158 quoted by David Barton in The Myth of Separation (Aledo, Tx: Wall Builders Press, 1992), pp. 27-28 n. 15.
16. Stephen K McDowell and Mark A. Beliles, America's Providential History (Charlottesville, VA: Providence Press, 1988), p. 221. quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), p. 411 n. 16.
17. The New American, December 12, 1986, p. 10 Russell P McRory, "Faith of Our Founding Fathers" (Wallstreet Journal, Letter to the Editor, June 1993). quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 205 n. 34.
18. February 29, 1892, decided: January 7, 1892, submitted. Justice Josiah Brewer, Church of the Holy Trinity V, United States, 143 US 457-471, 36 Led 226. quoted by William J. Federer in America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations. (Coppell, Tx: Fame Publishing, 1994), 599-600 n. 10.
19. Ibid, 601