May 17

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In this last article addressing the thoughts and attitudes toward the Bible and Christianity. Having looked at the first six Presidents and what they thought about the Bible and Christianity. We also looked at Benjamin Franklin. It is time that we look more at those of the time who never served as President. One name that comes to mind, who was a “founding father,” is that of John Jay.
Jay was born December 12, 1745 and died on May 17, 1829. However, between these two dates, Jay served this nation well and in several ways! It is the case that when we are thinking about the “founding fathers” of this nation, we think of those who helped bring independence to the Colonies and create a Constitution, that would bring democracy to the new nation! John Jay was one of them! First, he attended Columbia University. The name Columbia University brings us to a very important question: “Why were the Ivy League Schools started?” In answering this question, it will allow us to get a better idea of what the mind of the “founding fathers” was set on. Therefore, the question: “Why were the Ivy League Schools started?”
Here is a statement that will help us understand the reason for these schools. Their story, in brief, is etched in the entry way to Harvard Yard: “After God had carried us safely to New England, and we had built our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, reared convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civil government; one of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance learning, and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.” It was not lawyers and the like that was in the minds of those who started these schools now known as the “Ivy League Schools.” It took but eighteen years from the time the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, that they, being the most educated people of their day, founded the first and the perhaps the most famous Ivy League Schools. Just a note, to bring us back to the present, these schools are no longer thus minded!
One writer put it this way: “Harvard College’s first presidents and tutors insisted that there could be no true knowledge or wisdom without Jesus Christ, and but for their passionate Christian convictions, there would have been no Harvard.” (“The Forerunner,” By Editorial Staff, Published April 6, 2008). Today, we do not hear such things as: “it would surprise most to learn that almost every Ivy League school was established primarily to train ministers of the gospel – and to evangelize the Atlantic seaboard.” (ibid). Now, you are asking why are we writing about Harvard and not Columbia University? As Columbia was the school of John Jay, the “founding fathers” of whom we write. What was true of one of the now “Ivy League Schools” was also true of Columbia! This is the school of learning where John Jay was a student!
Jay after attending Columbia, practiced law and established a good reputation in New York. He was elected to serve as delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses! Jay with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison let it be known that they were not arguing for the creation of a new and more powerful system of government, but one that was balanced! They explained their proposes in the “Federalist Papers,” in a series of not less than eighty-five articles and five of them were written by John Jay!
Harvard’s Rules and Precepts adopted in 1646 included the following essentials: “Every one shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life. Seeing the Lord giveth wisdom, every one shall seriously by prayer in secret seek wisdom of Him. Every one shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that they be ready to give an account of their proficiency therein, both in theoretical observations of languages and logic, and in practical and spiritual truths….”
With the above in mind, we turn our attention to John Jay. Here is one quote from him: “The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.” (1784). Here is a quote that is most interesting: ““I do not recollect to have had more than two conversations with atheists about their tenents. The first was this: I was at a large party, of which were several of that description. They spoke freely and contemptuously of religion. I took no part in the conversation. In the course of it, one of them asked me if I believed in Christ. I answered that I did, and that I thanked God that I did.” (In 1811, in a letter to John Bristed). Before concluding this long article, one more quote will serve us well: “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. National prosperity can neither be obtained nor preserved without the favor of Providence.” (October 12, 1816).
Finally, let it be known, that John Jay, in 1789, after Jay declined George Washington’s offer of the position of Secretary of State, the president offered him the new opportunity of becoming Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, which Jay accepted!
It is very important that we have some idea of the thoughts and attitudes of our “founding fathers” toward the Bible and Christianity! The one thought that I call your attention to, is that one thought that ran through many of our “founding fathers;” it is here well stated: “So it was natural for the early Americans to turn to the Bible for guidance as to how to make civil law. This was the standard for law beginning with the Mayflower Compact all the way through the constitutions of all 50 states. By the way, what was the stated purpose of the Pilgrims as expressed in the Mayflower Compact? Contrary to revisionist history, their purpose was not to find religious freedom – they already had found religious freedom in Holland. Their purpose is clearly stated as being for the “Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith.”

Frank R. Williams

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