By Jeffrey A. Ziegler
He hath remembered his covenant forever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant. Psalm 105:8-10
The overarching theme in Colonial-American life signaled an understanding that the sovereign God was creator of all things visible and invisible, and that He advances His rule throughout time and history by means of covenant. Meaning, that the God who created the universe, reveals himself in history, by laying down fixed-immutable ethical requirements, principles, and methodologies wherein His blessings may be known. To the colonial mind, God was distinct from His creation yet was continually intervening in the same. In relationship to these axioms, it was understood that God effects visible, concrete interactions, which include corporate and individual blessings; and negative sanctions relating to fidelity or infidelity to the same. Hence over time, early America held that God’s covenant keeping people or “seed” is blessed and accrues a cultural dominion over all spheres of life, even while the “covenant breakers” are accursed, diminished, and eventually disinherited in national life. Ergo, from the first settlers to the Washingtonian founders, the notion of covenant was understood as the great pivot around which history revolves.
Now the basis for such understanding is found in Genesis 12:1-3, 13:16, 17:1-13 and 22:17-18. Herein the “Abrahamic Covenant” is depicted. Historically when you hear of the Scottish Presbyterians, English Puritans, or Augustinian Germans speak of ‘The Covenant’ they are invariably referring to the promises made to Abraham. Indeed, there is much within this narrative that is rich in “nation building” vision and principle. For promised to Abraham is greatness, honor, material wealth, personal increase, and a vital offspring, in order to bless and govern the nations according to God’s precepts. It is instructive to note that God does not make the covenant with Abraham alone, but also with his children. This is significant for in turning our attention to the New Testament and Galatians 3:14-29, we find that through the finished work of Jesus Christ, all that are elect in God, The Church catholic, are now counted as Abraham’s seed or children and are therefore heirs of the very same covenant promises and world changing mission as was given to the Hebrew commonwealth. Hence, to colonial America, a sacred trust had been passed on to their generation, and therefore the American Vision was an imperative, a divine mandate to build a righteous “city shining on a hill’. Ours was to be a new free nation that would herald liberty throughout the world and signal the overthrow of tyranny throughout the nations.
Moreover, according to the theme verses in Psalm 105, the Abrahamic Covenant is to be enforced and active for at least a thousand generations. Meaning there is still a long way to go before the full progress of the Church global and specifically the Church in America reaches its zenith. Practically speaking, Christians in America must reanchor themselves in the worldview of their forefathers and then plan for the perpetuation of the Faith and for the greatness of The American Ideal for many generations to come. The sacred trust of the covenant must not only be passed to the next generation, but our children must be given the advantage of standing upon our shoulders and advancing the Faith, the vision of America, and of righteousness even further than we. That this futuristic vision runs in antithesis to the “mortgage the future”policies of President Obama cannot be understated.
But Isn’t America A Secular State?
In fact “covenant thinking” and the primary doctrines of Christian Orthodoxy were once so pervasive and common in the embryonic stages of our nation that they were explicitly codified into colonial and state constitutions. As an example; the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina forbade anyone from holding office or to own property that would not acknowledge the God of the Scriptures. In 1703, the Carolinas made it illegal for anyone to “deny any one of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be God,” or to “deny the Christian religion to be true or the holy scriptures of both the Old and New Testament to be of divine authority.” Similar declarations can be found in nearly all of the New England colonial and state charters as well as Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Georgia.
Beyond these codifications, the founders in their own words give eloquence to this covenant-nation motif. They still witness to the unique character our nation was to herald.
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor…. Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States… that we then may all unite unto him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed…. And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions…to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue…. Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3rd of October, A.D. 1789”
Notice the covenant language of Washington’s proclamation and its similitude to the aggregate passages we noted from Abraham’s covenant promise in Genesis.
“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
On November 20, 1798, in his Last Will and Testament, Henry wrote:
“This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.”
Again in leaving an “inheritance” Henry exhibits covenantal thinking and the perpetuation of the vision!
“RESOLVED, That it be, and hereby is recommended to the good People of this Colony of all Denominations, that THURSDAY the Eleventh Day of May next be set apart as a Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer…to confess the sins…to implore the Forgiveness of all our Transgression…and a blessing on the Husbandry, Manufactures, and other lawful Employments of this People; and especially that the union of the American Colonies in Defense of their Rights (for hitherto we desire to thank Almighty GOD) may be preserved and confirmed….And that AMERICA may soon behold a gracious Interposition of Heaven.” By Order of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, John Hancock, President.
See here the covenant thinking in terms of the relationship between ethics and economic prosperity!
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.
“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not … It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world … and I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”
Now Jefferson is thought of as the essential founder of the Democratic Party. Pitted against Obama’s bail-out culture of largesse, one must wonder if President Jefferson might resort to dueling pistols to regain his party’s and nation’s self-respect.
I can give many more such renderings from our embryonic beginnings, yet as late as 1983 The Democratically controlled US House of Representatives passed this incredible declaration!
“Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation of people. Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of The United States … Whereas that renewing our knowledge of, and faith in God through Holy Scriptures can strengthen us as a nation and a people. Now therefore be it resolved … that the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national “Year of the Bible” in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.”
February 3, 1983 – President Ronald Reagan issued the above requested proclamation.
The Covenant Exists
The American Covenant exists whether men acknowledge such existence or not. Positively, its riches, provisions of mercy and grace, grand vision, and manifold blessings stand ready to propel America into a new strapping “Golden Age.” Negatively it sanctions are like teeth which threaten to bite, sting, and bring us to ruination unless we turn from our perilous course of practical atheism. Recovering our heritage, thinking covenantally, and finally acting on that “New World” covenant may very well determine the fate of the American Empire in THIS generation!
“For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God, and all professors for God’s sake. We shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whither we are going. And to shut this discourse with that exhortation of Moses, that faithful servant of the Lord, in his last farewell to Israel, Deut. 30. Beloved, there is now set before us life and death, good and evil, in that we are commanded this day to love the Lord our God, and to love one another, to walk in his ways and to keep his Commandments and his ordinance and his laws, and the articles of our Covenant with Him, that we may live and be multiplied, and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whither we go to possess it. But if our hearts shall turn away, so that we will not obey, but shall be seduced, and worship other Gods, our pleasure and profits, and serve them; it is propounded unto us this day, we shall surely perish out of the good land whither we pass over this vast sea to possess it. Therefore let us choose life,that we and our seed may live, by obeying His voice and cleaving to Him, for He is our life and our prosperity.”
— JOHN WINTHROP
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