John Witherspoon taught a large group of the Founding Fathers, his college; Princeton, proscribed the dominant view in America; Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Penn, and every other institution of higher learning, including the country at large, believed in the same views. As third President of Princeton University, Witherspoon's influence was vast in the field of education by instructing and forming the first Presidents of the following American Colleges: Union College of New York, Washington College and Hampden-Sidney College of Virginia; Mount Zion College in South Carolina; Queen's College and the University of North Carolina; Washington, Greenville, Tusculum and Cumberland Colleges and the University of Nashville in Tennessee; Jefferson College, Pennsylvania; and Transylvania College, Kentucky. Of his layman graduates James Madison became fourth President of the United States. Aaron Burr became Vice-President. Ten became cabinet officers and sixty served in the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives in Congress. Twelve became Governors of States and fifty-six members of State Legislative bodies and three Justices of the Supreme Court of the U.S. Of the twenty-five College graduates at the Continental Congress, nine were from Princeton University, among which six had Witherspoon's signature on their College diplomas.
After researching the writings of Witherspoon, we now know, he, and the Founding Fathers: Richard Stockton, John Jay, John Adams, and all the rest, minus a couple infidels Thomas Jefferson, and Ben Franklin, believed the Bible was superior to anything and everything, especially human law, reason put on paper.
Talking about Hume and the Deistical controversy, he makes clear reason will always be inferior despite what infidel writers devise, let every secularist hearken unto the words of John Witherspoon:
"In the deistical controversy, what commonly leads the way, is the necessity of revelation in general...The first infidel writers in Europe, were chiefly employed in shewing the sufficiency of reason as a guide to man in his conduct, of whom Lord Herbert, of Cherburg, was one of the most early, and one of the most eminent. Their way of arguing is very fallacious; for they avail themselves of that very improvement of reason, which they owe to revelation, in order to shew revelation to be unnecessary...Infidels do not now plead for Jupiter, Juno, Mars, and Apollo, but for the suffciency of human reason."
"Very plain, that such is our blindness and ignorance in the things of God, that we know very little about them, till they are made known by God himself; and if we were to make our own reason the previous standard of what was admissible or not in quality of revelation, it would make mad work indeed."
There goes the logic of Jefferson and Franklin.
"I shall care very little what men of vain and carnal minds say of my sentiments; but I have been many years of opinion, that as revelation was necessary, and revelation is given us, we act the most wise and truly rational part, if we take all our theological opinions immediately, and without challenge, from the oracles of truth. I confess it is agreeable to me to shew, that the truths of the everlasting gospel are agreeable to sound reason, and founded upon the state of human nature ; and I have made it my business through my whole life to illustrate this remark. Yet to begin by making the suggession of our own reason the standard of what is to be heard or examined as a matter of revelation, I look upon to be highly dangerous, manifestly unjust, and inconsistent with the foundation-stone of all revealed religion, viz. that reason, without it, is insufficient to bring us to the knowledge of God and our duty; and therefore as Socrates said to Al.cibiades, It is reasonable to think that God will come down into the world, to teach us his will." I am not insensible how far it would be just to carry the principle on which our adversaries ground their sentiments. Any new principles or doctrines, seemingly absurd in themselves, and unholy in their effects, would not, with judicious persons, be rashly or suddenly admitted ; and the more supicious the principles are in themselves, no doubt we will examine the pretensions to miracles the more carefully.—This is the part of prudence ; but to carry it further, and say, we will receive no evidence that God hasn't taught any thing different from what we ourselves think reasonahle, is just weakening the truth before admitted,' that revelation immediately from himself is evidently new?"It will now be time to consider a little, the objections against the Christian religion...That reason is a sufficient guide to truth and happiness and therefore revelation is unnecessary; and that miracles are impossible, and incredible. Those I pass with what has been laid on them above.""that things may be above reason, and yet not contradictory to it. By this expression above reason, may be understood two things—beyond the power of reason to discover, and above the reach of reason to comprehend."Therefore though we say that the trinity in unity is incomprehensible, or above reason, we say nothing that is absurd or contrary to reason; so far from it, I may say rather it is consistent to reason and the analogy of nature that there should be many things in the divine nature that we cannot fully comprehend. There are many such things in his providence, and surely much more in his essence."
Works, Vol 4.
This chapter on the divinity of Jesus, talks about how reason was espoused by infidels, as did Jefferson and a retired John Adams, and how inadequate the doctrine was to the ancients without revelation. He also attacks the system (Jefferson's entire belief system) of repentence and forgiveness without the Gospel.
Even Law Professor Rodney K. Smith agree with my sentiments on Witherspoon:
I will say Witherspoon believed in some core values of Calvinism, such as Predestination and Damnation, which is not in the Bible:
"nothing can be weaker than the Arminian scheme, considered as a system of the divine purpose, because they leave out or suspend the purpose at every stage. If I were to say any thing upon this subject (I mean the order of the decrees) I would say nearly as Pulit, in his system as contained in the notes upon Rulet, has said, which is in substance this, that God resolved from all eternity to manifest his own glory, and illustrate his moral excellence, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth, in the production and government of a created system. That for this purpose the whole system, and all the facts of which it consists and their dependance one upon another, and the order itself in which they were to take place, were ordained. If the whole, then certainly every particular part as fully as the whole, is the object of one absolute decree"
"It seems to be a matter infilled on in the strongest manner in scripture, that the evil or guilt of every creature is to be ascribed to the creature, as to its proper and adequate cause; at the same time it seems fully as plain that whatever connexion there may be between one evil and another, the choice of the vessels of mercy is free and unconditional, and that the rejection of others is imputed to the sovereignty of God, Luke x. 2i. John xii. 39. That the choice of the vessels of mercy is free and sovereign, appears from the words of scripture; from their universal state dead in trespasses and sins ; from their visible character, and from the means of their recovery I mean the omnipotence of divine grace. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."
He misinterprets these verses, as they do not promote predestination and condemnation, but freewill. Isaiah's prophecy is a rejection of the Messiah, which the Pharisees did by quenching their conscience so many times, that God reinforced them in their position, as he did will Pharoah. Calvinists always distort scripture when it suits them.
That about does it on Witherspoon; that his view on this subject is consistent with most of the nation is evident. I recommend everyone read Vol IV. Thanks Herc, for putting it on founders bookshelf.
The natural rights ideals of the US Founding demanded a legal equality of rights not for all religions, but for Christians. Here, Samuel Adams gives the The Rights of the Colonists in November 20, 1772, with Ben Franklins approval:
I. Natural Rights of the Colonists as Men.
Insomuch that Mr. Locke has asserted and proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction on any solid ground, that such toleration ought to be extended to all whose doctrines are not subversive of society. The only sects which he thinks ought to be, and which by all wise laws are excluded from such toleration, are those who teach doctrines subversive of the civil government under which they live. The Roman Catholics or Papists are excluded by reason of such doctrines as these, that princes excommunicated may be deposed, and those that they call heretics may be destroyed without mercy; besides their recognizing the Pope in so absolute a manner, in subversion of government, by introducing, as far as possible into the states under whose protection they enjoy life, liberty, and property, that solecism in politics, imperium in imperio, leading directly to the worst anarchy and confusion, civil discord, war, and bloodshed.
II. The Rights of the Colonists as Christians.
And, by the charter of this Province, it is granted, ordained, and established (that is, declared as an original right) that there shall be liberty of conscience allowed in the worship of God to all Christians, except Papists, inhabiting, or which shall inhabit or be resident within, such Province or Territory.
It is clear the states are supreme in matters of religion, but they never established a particular sect in each state; general Christianity was the established religion of the states. Religion was never a compromise, but a fact, approved by James Madison:
"If there were a majority of one sect, a bill of rights would be a poor protection for liberty. Happily for the states, they enjoy the utmost freedom of religion...Fortunately for this commonwealth, a majority of the people are decidedly against any exclusive establishment. There is not a shadow of right in the general government to intermeddle with religion. Its least interference with it would be a most flagrant usurpation. I can appeal to my uniform conduct on this subject, that I have warmly supported religious freedom. It is better that this security should be depended upon from the general legislature, than from one particular state. A particular state might concur in one religious project. But the United States abound in such a variety of sects, that it is a strong security against religious persecution; and it is sufficient to authorize a conclusion, that no one sect will ever be able to outnumber or depress the rest."
James Madison, June 12, 1788. Elliot's Debates In the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution(Virginia)
Here, Madison affirms the miraculous, destroying the rationalist stigma applied to him:
"To adjust the clashing pretensions of the large and small States. Each of these objects was pregnant with difficulties. The whole of them together formed a task more difficult than can be well conceived by those who were not concerned in the execution of it. Adding to these considerations the natural diversity of human opinions on all new and complicated subjects, it is impossible to consider the degree of concord which ultimately prevailed as less than a miracle."
To Thomas Jefferson.NEW YORK, Octr 24th, 1787.Writings of Madison, Volume 1: 1769-1793, p.343.
Madison believed we were a Christian Nation:
"that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord, and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion, to do to others as they would require that others should do to them; and, finally, that turning the hearts of our enemies from the violence and injustice which sway their councils against us, He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of peace."
Given at Washington, the 9th day of July, A. D. 1812 James Madison
Pseudo Christian George Washington understood The Law of Nature was the Christian God:
"which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation."
Washington's Farewell to the Army, 1783
Much can be said of the foolishness of John Adams, not only his belief in the false doctrine of unitarianism, but his complete reversal of beliefs when he retired; don't ever miscontrue Adams' words, that while he served our nation he affirmed paganism, here, he rejects anything blasphemous towards the Bible:
"Blasphemy, Cruelty, and Villany have prevailed and may again. But they wont prevail against America, in this Contest, because I find the more of them are employed the less they succeed." to Abigail Adams, 17 February 1777
BLAS''PHEMY, n. An indignity offered to God by words or writing; reproachful, contemptuous or irreverent words uttered impiously against Jehovah.Blasphemy is an injury offered to God, by denying that which is due and belonging to him, or attributing to him that which is not agreeable to his nature. http://machaut.uchicago.edu/?resource=Webster%27s&word=blasphemy&use1828=on
Adams' hypocracy is amazing, Our Saviour? Unitarians do not believe in a Saviour:
"But how shall I describe the Picture of our Saviour in a Frame of Marble over the Altar at full Length upon the Cross, in the Agonies, and the Blood dropping and streaming from his Wounds."
to Abigail Adams 1777.
Here Adams says the Revolution is based on the Bible:
"The gallant Struggle in America, is founded in Principles so indisputable, in the moral Law, in the revealed Law of God, in the true Constitution of great Britain, and in the most apparent Welfare of the Nation as well as the People in America, that I must confess it rejoices my very Soul."
John Adams second "Clarendon" letter as printed in the Boston Gazette, 20, Jan. 1766.
So Adams's morality is the Bible, notice the word alone:
"Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies."
Letter to Zabdiel Adams (1776-06-21)
Here again Adams on conscience and its Author inseparable:
"Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers."
A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765)
Adams again on the weakness of the Conscience:
The passions and appetites are parts of human nature as well as reason and the moral sense. In the institution of government it must be remembered that, although reason ought always to govern individuals, it certainly never did since the Fall, and never will till the Millennium; and human nature must be taken as it is, as it has been, and will be.
Defence, 3:289, 479. Cf., Cited by Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding (San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2002), 49.
Adams was right, human nature is depraved and insufficient without religion.
How can Reason be superior if its so weak, as Adams says:
We see every Day, that our Imaginations are so strong and our Reason so weak, the Charms of Wealth and Power are so en [enchanting]chanting, and the Belief of future Punishments so faint...Their Reason becomes at last an eloquent Advocate on the Side of their Passions, and [they] bring themselves to believe that black is white, that Vice is Virtue, that Folly is Wisdom and Eternity a Moment."
Diary, FEB, 9TH, 1772. ADAMS PAPERS.
Here is the kicker, notice there is no truth(reason) higher than Scripture:
On March 6, 1799, President John Adams called for a National Fast Day.
"As no truth is more clearly taught in the Volume of Inspiration, nor any more fully demonstrated by the experience of all ages...that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the most high God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore his pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to his righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that "righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34)"
John Adams seemed to be a little confused.
Moving on to Biblical Theory being our nation's core, the fact of the matter is the Reformation Period was the springboard to Freedom of Conscience, and Human Rights, not enlightenment philosophers. Men such as: Luther, Calvin, Theodore Beza, George Buchanan, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (1579) by Phillipe du Plessis Mornay, Politica (1603) by Johannes Althusius, and Lex Rex (1644) by Samuel Rutherford was the foundation for
Thomas Jefferson’s seal: “Resistance to Tyrants Is Obedience unto God.”
Calvin's successor Theodore Beza beat John Locke, and Thomas Hobbes on political rights by one hundred years. Puritan theologies loom large as the ideological predecessors of the New World... All sides, sympathetic to Puritans or not, admit that the Puritan faith was at the foundation of the New World colonies. Since this New World led to such paramount developments of government, the locus of the underlying root is not unimportant. Systemic features such as limited terms, balance of powers, citizen nullification, and interpositional magistracies were at the heart of New World government, all concepts that were popularized by the Reformation. One hundred years prior to the American Revolution, most of the major ideas were set, and they did not originate properly from Enlightenment social contract thought so much as from Buchanan/Rutherford’s social covenant, ensconced in its distinctly Biblical moorings.
James Madison held to Calvinism to a certain degree, showing John Witherspoon's influence in the paradigm of John Knox, reflecting this theology when he said,
“But what is government but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” A Genevan theological belief, the doctrine of human depravity, animated his politics.