The formation of the United States of America was an attempt at self-governance the likes of which the world had never seen before. Many historians have sought to explain the emergence of this upstart nation, only to find themselves flummoxed in the attempt. How could such a nation come into being?
The question is still debated today as to how a nation of immigrants and religionists could manage to formulate the most powerful nation in the world – and to do so in such a relatively short period of time. Was it the brilliance of such leaders as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Patrick Henry, to name a few? Or was it that this neophyte nation was able to avoid molestation by more powerful nations, protected, as it were, by two large oceans? Or maybe it was the pioneering spirit that blended well with a continent that was wide open for settlement, Native Americans notwithstanding?
What I find particularly interesting about the birth and development of our nation is the religious influence that has made an irrevocable mark on us as a people. The influence of religious belief and conviction is impregnated in the warp and woof of the American psyche. Our laws are a reflection of this basic principle that all men are created equal. Granted, there are distortions and abuses in any such system, but it cannot be effectively refuted that the formation of this “Grand Experiment” has been an outlandish attempt to provide all men with the opportunity to live in freedom. Limited government; one person - one vote; ownership of property; pursuit of education; a civilian controlled standing army; and so on, are all part of this venture in man’s freedom.
One of those who played a significant part in ensuring our freedoms was Daniel Webster (1782-1852). This American politician and diplomat is considered to be one of the greatest orators in our history. At different times he served in both houses of Congress, and served as the Secretary of State under three presidents. Consider where he gives credit for his accomplishments in life: "If there is anything in my thoughts or style to commend, the credit is due to my parents for instilling in me an early love of the Scriptures. If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity." Sobering words written almost two hundred years ago.
Daniel Webster had much more to say to those of us who would take up the mantle of responsibility for “The Grand Experiment.” Consider these thoughts from this learned man.
• “If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be.”
• “If God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy. If the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will.”
• “I have read the Bible through many times, and now make it a practice to read it through once every year. It is a book of all others for lawyers, as well as divines; and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought and of rules for conduct. It fits man for life - it prepares him for death.”
The course of our nation is in a state of flux - yet to be determined. Our children and grandchildren will make those decisions. But how will they make those decisions? Will they know the history of our nation? Will they understand the magnitude of the role faith and religious conviction have played in our development? Or will “The Grand Experiment” wind up on the ash heap of “Grand Failures”?
The bell is tolling. It is time to halt the slide into moral degeneracy and godlessness. It is time to return to our roots where God is preeminent in the lives of our people and our nation.