Does America Have a Special, Divine Purpose?
Author’s Note: Abraham Lincoln once said that his “greatest concern is to be on God’s side for God is always right.” Presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson recently said that America needs God’s healing hands now more than ever. I asked myself how do we as a nation, at this particular time in history, get God’s healing hands and how do we ensure that we are on God’s side? In a search to answer these questions, I read a book entitled “The Light and the Glory: Did God Have a Plan for America?” published in 1977 and co-authored by Peter J. Marshall Jr. and David Manuel. I was especially motivated to read this book when I discovered an extensive list of 209 bibliographical sources (many original source documents from the 1500’s through the 1700’s) and frequent footnoting to support their findings and conclusions. As one might imagine, the findings and conclusions generally are in direct opposition to what some modern day scholars and history professors are teaching (or failing to teach) the youth of America about their nation’s origins and uniqueness. What follows is a brief review of some of the authors’ major ideas, findings, and conclusions in this very enlightening book that I heartily recommend.
America has many, many problems today, and I ask myself what is the “baseline” where we as a nation need to be? One important baseline is a return to the kind of federalism (balance of power between state governments and the federal government) originally envisioned by America’s Founding Fathers. For many reasons, this will require action by the state governments via a Convention of States as explained at www.conventionofstates.com. However, it is believed that the truest and most fundamental baseline for America is embodied in the values and beliefs of the great majority of America’s earliest settlers and founders, particularly those settlers living in New England. In this regard, what follows is a brief review of “The Light and The Glory; Did God Have a Plan for America?”
The authors of “The Light and The Glory; Did God Have a Plan for America?” (hereinafter referred to as “the book”) spent numerous hours researching materials contained in the rare book and manuscript libraries of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities as well as rare manuscripts and books in several private collections and public libraries in the US and overseas. The authors state that the book is not intended to be a history textbook but rather a search for the “hand of God” in the different periods of America’s beginnings. Perhaps the most critical questions they researched are: Did God have a plan for America and if so, is it still valid today? What do we Americans need to do to continue receiving God’s blessings on our nation? In their research of the writings of individuals and groups such as Columbus, the Pilgrims, the Puritans, John Winthrop, the Spanish friars, the Huguenots, George Whitfield, George Washington, and others, the authors made several conclusions. Two of the most significant conclusions are as follows:
The first is that God did indeed place a specific “call” on America and the Europeans who were about to inhabit it. Writings of several early New England settlers living in the 1600’s and 1700’s describe how they believed that God was making His most significant attempt since the biblical Israelites to create a new Israel of people living in obedience to the laws of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. For example, writing in 1673, Urian Oaks, President of Harvard, wrote, “If we — lay all things together, this our Commonwealth seems to exhibit to us a specimen, or a little model, of the kingdom of Christ on earth — wherein it is generally acknowledged and expected.” Writing in 1702, John Higginson wrote, “It hath been deservedly esteemed one of the great and wonderful works of God in this last age, that the Lord stirred up the spirits of so many thousands of His servants — to transport themselves — into a desert land in America — in the way of seeking first the kingdom of God — for the purpose of a fuller and better reformation of the Church of God, than it hath yet appeared in the world.” America was intended to be a model of the kingdom of God on earth. The inhabitants of America were intended to be living proof to the rest of the world that it is possible to live in a way that puts God and others ahead of self. The authors also conclude that the early settlers of Jamestown, VA, had mainly an economic motivation for their settlement and hence, God’s blessings on them were not nearly as bountiful as his blessings on the New England settlers.
Another important conclusion is that God’s “call” on America was to be worked out through the settlers’ covenant with God and with each other. Regarding their covenant with God, the early New England settlers viewed themselves as being called into a direct continuation of the covenant relationship between God and Abraham found in Genesis 12: 1-2: “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’” Regarding their covenant to each other, the early New England settlers used the example set by Jesus (selflessness and humble service) in a daily commitment to eliminate self-love and self-will. The objective was to develop into a loving, unified body of believers in Christ in the same manner demonstrated by the first Christians in the first century.
Many of the experiences of the early New England settlers followed the pattern of life demonstrated by God’s loving and instructional relationship with the Israelites in the Old Testament. When the Israelites were obedient to God’s commands, they received great blessings in terms of peace, bountiful crops, good health, and so forth. However, when the Israelites forgot and/or disobeyed God’s commands, then all sorts of bad things happened to them. When they sincerely confessed and repented of their wrongs (including their selfish, self-serving behavior) and asked for God’s forgiveness, he did indeed forgive them and the blessings started to roll again. In their research, the authors found the same pattern of life and divine action in the lives of America’s early settlers.
The authors conclude the book with their prescription for how America can continue receiving God’s blessings. Simply stated, Americans who believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior (vertical covenant) need to repent of any selfishness and self-love. They (we) need to start living once again as a loving, unified body (church) of believers in Christ (horizontal covenant) acting in genuine concern and love for the welfare of others, putting God first, others second, and self last. The authors believe that the word “my” in the following scripture from 2 Chronicles 7:14 directly applies to Christians living in America today:
“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”
In closing, a short note is in order about the faith of America’s first President and many of the Founders. In America today, there is an effort to discredit and marginalize the Christian faith to include not only the faith of the early settlers but also the men who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Regarding George Washington, some scholars and historians teach that he was not a Christian because, among other things, he did not specifically mention Jesus Christ in the majority of his writings. The authors disagree with this assessment based on entries they found in several of his original handwritten documents including a small manuscript book he prepared as a young man entitled “Daily Sacrifice.” Here are two sample entries:
“But, oh God, who art rich in mercy and plenteous in redemption, mark not, I beseech Thee, what I have done amiss — remit my transgressions, negligences, and ignorances, and cover them all with the absolute obedience of Thy dear Son, that those sacrifices (of sin, praise, and thanksgiving) which I have offered may be accepted by Thee, in and for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, offered upon the Cross for me.
"Direct my thoughts, words and work, wash away my sins in the immaculate Blood of the Lamb, and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit — daily frame me more and more into the likeness of Thy Son Jesus Christ.”
The authors conclude that George Washington was indeed a devout Christian and not a Deist as some scholars maintain. The same conclusion is made concerning the faith of the majority of signers of the Declaration of Independence. Some scholars teach that most of the signers were agnostic in their faith, i. e., believed that it is not possible to know whether or not a God exists. In contrast, the authors conclude that roughly 85 percent of the signers were Christians based on their denominational memberships and original documents written by many of the signers.
In today’s culture, where the Christian faith and those who seek to live their lives in accordance with biblical truths are often times marginalized and sometimes penalized for doing so, it is very important and beneficial to know and not forget America’s “roots” — one Nation under God.