Writing these articles has revealed to me how much I don’t know about our early history. I’m having fun finding out about it. This one will talk a little about our Constitution and take a look at our colonial religious activities. The Constitutional Convention convened on May 25, 1778 and was signed on September 17, 1778, nearly four months of meetings, proposals, objections and discussions. The first State to ratify it was Delaware on December 7, 1787. On June 21, 1788 New Hampshire became the 9thState to ratify and the Constitution was activated. On May 19, 1790 Rhode Island became the 13th State to Ratify. The Bill of Rights was ratified 12/15/1791.
As we move into this I ask that you remember many of this country’s settlers came here to escape religious persecution; the Pilgrims, the Puritans, the Quakers, the Mennonites, etc.: Before America became The United States Christian religious groups were very influential in the colonies. Many tried to strictly enforce religious observance, some of the colonies established “official” churches. Most colonials considered themselves Christians, but there were conflicts between denominations that sometimes became antagonistic. Churches were not just for religious meetings but often served as the social center for colonials who might ride their buggies in about seven o’clock Sunday morning bringing their lunch and dinner with them. After the pastor, who was an influential voice within the community, completed a lengthy service, most attendees would gather into groups to discuss the service plus everything else that was going on within their domain and perhaps other domains nearby. Churches might also be used for secular meetings. As colonies became more settled, influence of the clergy and their churches grew.
The influx of different nationals brought with it varying religious preferences. Huguenots for the French, Reformed Pietists for the Germans, Calvinists, Scottish Presbyterians, Baptists, Quakers and others made it necessary that communities maintain local tolerances about religion. This was relatively easy since virtually all involved were Christians. Of course some of us have heard the old tales about Baptists who just can’t tolerate those crazy Methodists and vice-versa. Many British colonies tried to enforce strict religious observance. Some even had laws that everyone attend a house of worship and pay taxes that funded the minsters’ salaries.
After the 1600s, with many more churches and clerical bodies emerging, religion in New England became more organized and attendance more uniformly enforced. In even sharper contrast to the other colonies, in New England most newborns were baptized by the church, and church attendance rose in some areas to 70 percent of the adult population. By the eighteenth century, the vast majority of all colonists were churchgoers.
This is the culture our Founding Fathers grew up in and were dealing with as they tried to create a Constitution the people would accept. You can see from the first paragraph above it took over 12 years to get all thirteen colonies to ratify what they created. The people did not want a national religion that would bind them to a single denomination, but they did want a national government founded on the Judeo-Christian morality and ethics.
If I say someone was a member of the Black Robed Regiment what would that tell you about that person? It would tell you he was a pastor, it would tell you he preached separation from British rule, it would tell you he probably had a gun in the church when he was preaching and it would tell you he might be arrested or killed by the British if they get the opportunity.
“For those who have accepted the teaching that faith, or religion, and government do not mix, here are some bits of information to think about. Remember, when these things happened, the American colonists were not a free people like we are. They lived under British rule, with British troops present in every city to control the population.”1
The comments below are selected from the web-site at the following address:
“The Black Robed Regiment was the name that the British placed on the courageous and patriotic American clergy during the Founding Era (a backhanded reference to the black robes they wore). Significantly, the British blamed the Black Regiment for American Independence, and rightfully so, for modern historians have documented that:
“There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763. It is strange to today’s generation to think that the rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were nothing more than a listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the colonial pulpits
“But it was not just the British who saw the American pulpit as largely responsible for American independence and government, our own leaders agreed. For example, John Adams rejoiced that “the pulpits have thundered” and specifically identified several ministers as being among the “characters the most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential” in the “awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings” that led to American independence.
“As a body of men, the clergy were pre-eminent in their attachment to liberty. The pulpits of the land rang with the notes of freedom. (The American Quarterly Register [MAGAZINE], 1833.)
“If Christian ministers had not preached and prayed, there might have been no revolution as yet – or had it broken out, it might have been crushed. (Bibliotheca Sacra [BRITISH PERIODICAL], 1856.)
“The ministers of the Revolution were, like their Puritan predecessors, bold and fearless in the cause of their country. No class of men contributed more to carry forward the Revolution and to achieve our independence than did the ministers.
“The Constitutional Convention and the written Constitution were the children of the pulpit. Alice Baldwin, HISTORIAN, 1918.” (Emphasis mine)
It is my firm belief: Only a Christian nation could have written our Constitution! And only a Christian nation will protect and preserve it. Christians, WAKE UP!
1.- David Barton – What is the Black Robed Regiment