A couple of posts back, I seem to have struck a nerve with the funny little story about the father/daughter meeting of minds.  One of the comments that followed that posting decided to use the Founding Fathers of our country as support his point of view.  In particular, this person fell upon James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, to support his point of view.  Why don’t we let James Madison speak for himself?  His written words should suffice, since he’s no longer with us to verbally defend his name.


From his “Religious Freedom, A Memorial and Remonstrance,” given during the 1785 session of the General Assembly of the State of Virginia:


       “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage . . . before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.


       Because the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity.  The first wish of those who ought to enjoy this precious gift, ought to be, that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind.  Compare the number of those who have as yet received it, with the number still remaining under the dominions of false religions, and how small is the former!  Does the policy of the bill tend to lessen the disproportion?  No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of Truth, from coming into the regions of it . . .


       Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.  If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man:  To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered.


       Earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may, on the one hand, turn their councils from every act which would affront His holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them; and, on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of His blessing.”


James Madison also wrote, regarding the future of America:


       “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it.  We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to government ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.


(Bold and italicized emphasis added by me.) It seems to me that James Madison, while speaking against establishment of religion by law, still managed to convey a missionary heart.  A heart that firmly believed in God and His commandments, but believed that each man must come to know God of his own free will.  Be that as it may, Madison still believed that the scriptures, particularly the Ten Commandments were the rule by which we should measure and sustain ourselves.


I wonder what James Madison would think about the Ten Commandments being routinely ripped from the walls of courthouses and town squares throughout the country in our “enlightened” age?  I, personally, think it would break his heart.

8 thoughts on “

  1. Please cite original reference for the Ten Commandments quote by Madison if you don’t mind. Our pastor once told us that this quote, although it’s been attributed to Madison, has only been referenced by citing other third-party sources and nobody has been able to find the original quote in anything Madison wrote or said publicly. I am a life-long Christian and republican but I don’t believe the fathers of our nation were Christian or intended ours to be a Christian nation. I have some quotes too. Great site, btw!
    “The experience of the United States is a happy disproof of the error so long rooted in the unenlightened minds of well-meaning Christians, as well as in the corrupt hearts of persecuting usurpers, that without a legal incorporation of religious and civil polity, neither could be supported. A mutual independence is found most friendly to practical Religion, to social harmony, and to political prosperity.” [James Madison, Letter to F.L. Schaeffer, Dec 3, 1821]
    “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprize [sic], every expanded prospect.” [James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, April 1,1774]
    Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects? [James Madison, Memorial and Remonstrance]
    The Civil Government, though bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, posesses the requisite stability, and performs its functions with complete success, whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state. [James Madison in a letter to Robert Walsh, March 2, 1819]
    Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. [James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]

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  2. I gleaned the above-quoted material from William J. Federer’s America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations.  The way the quotes are presented in the footnotes of this volume, I understand the Ten Commandments quote to be part of the preceding text taken from Religious Freedom: A Memorial and Remonstrance, which I referenced prior to the entire quotation section.
    The quotes that you posted do not convince me that Madison was in favor of separation of church and state in the way that modern, liberal lawmakers would have it be said — but that he understood that the flesh of men was the exact reason why an ESTABLISHED STATE RELIGION could not be allowed.  I do not think that Madison intended for children to be prohibited from prayer in school or the Bible being banned from the library shelves.  He believed Christianity to be a precious gift that all mankind should enjoy, but enjoy of their own free will.
    I am surprised that you would claim that the Founding Fathers were not Christian and that this nation was not intended to be Christian.  I don’t believe that ALL Founding Fathers were Christian, but even Thomas Jefferson said, on April 21, 1803, in a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush (also a signer of the Declaration):
         “My views…are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from the anti-christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.  To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed, opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.  I am a Christian in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines in the preference to all others . . . ”
    He also wrote, on June 17, 1804, in a letter to Henry Fry:
         “I consider the doctrines of Jesus as delivered by himself to contain the outlines of the sublimest system of morality that has ever been taught but I hold in the most profound detestation and execration the corruptions of it which have been invented . . .”
    And with regard to whether or not this was intended to be a Christian nation, I question the wording of President Thomas Jefferson’s March 4, 1805 National Prayer for Peace:
         “Almighty God, Who has given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech Thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of Thy favor and glad to do Thy will.  Bless our land with honorable ministry, sound learning, and pure manners.
         Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.  Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitude brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues.
          Endow with Thy spirit of wisdom those to whom in Thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that they may be justice and peace at home, and that through obedience to Thy law, we may show forth Thy praise among the nations of the earth.
           In time of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in Thee to fail; all of which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
    Maybe I’m assuming a lot, but I would think someone like Thomas Jefferson (to whom words were so important) would refrain from praying a national prayer of peace in the name of Jesus Christ if this were not intended to be a Christian nation, with all its various denominations, etc.
    Just my thoughts.

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  3. The Madison quote in reference to the ten commandments is, and continues to be, suspect. Citing Federer is not an original quote, and the quote cannot be found in any of Madison’s original writings. It certainly isn’t in “A Memorial and Remonstrance” the text of which can be found here: http://www.ukans.edu/carrie/docs/texts/memorial.html . My guess is that it was invented sometime in the mid 1950s, around the same time that “In God We Trust” was added to US currency and “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
    Likewise, the prayer you attribute to Thomas Jefferson also hasn’t been proven to be real, there has never been any original evidence that this “National Prayer for Peace” ever existed. March 4, 1805 was the day of Jefferson’s second inauguration and the day he gave his inaugual speech, which can be found here. It certainly contains references to a higher power, but not Jesus and not specifically Christian. Jefferson believed in a divine power but rejected what he saw as the mysticism of the Bible and relied on natural law and human reason as his main moral guides.
    Have you ever read the Jefferson Bible?  In it he rewrote the story of Jesus as told in the new testament and eliminated all miracles attributed to Jesus. It ends with Jesus’ burial, no resurrection, nothing Jefferson and his deist contemporaries deemed superstition. As President, he also refused to issue Thanksgiving proclamations.
    I know that nothing I or anyone else (even direct words from the men themselves) can say will convince you that the founding fathers were not primarily Christian. Christians have a desperate need for some reason to claim our nation’s fathers as their own. The facts, however, don’t support your argument. It’s beyond my comprehension as a Christian and a student of US history why it would be necessary to have to invent and twist history to support your religious beliefs. If you believe in Jesus as your savior, it shouldn’t matter so much what anyone who came before or will come after believed. Unless you want to use it as a basis for making law, that is.

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  4. Oh and, by the way, the entire purpose of Madison’s “Memorial and Remonstrance” was to formally object to a proposed bill that was before the Virginia legislature that would have taxed each resident to pay the salaries of “teachers of the Christian Religion.” Referencing it to argue that Madison was in favor of establishing a nation based on Christianity or that he wasn’t in favor of a complete separation of church and state is ironic, to say the least.

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  5. Gosh, I spend one weekend with my family and look at all the fun I miss.
    Okay, about the Constitution.
    I’m not a Constitutional professor or a lawyer, but I do know this much.  Our country was established on the framework of fundamental principles and values, many of which can be traced back to Christian origins.  I never said *all* of the Founding Fathers were Christians, nor did I insinuate that this is a CHRISTIAN only nation.  But what historical revisionists and liberals alike are trying to paint is a picture of Colonial America devoid of God or Faith in Christ in public life.  Thus, you see groups like the ACLU protesting “In God We Trust” on our currency, “One Nation Under God” in our pledge, or nativity scenes within a 1 mile radius of any public building.  Freedom of Religion, as I wrote earlier, is not a call for removal of all Religion from public life.
    I’m not even going to get into the fallacy of the Unitarian “religion” (one that denies the existence of any God or anything unseen) or how morally bankrupt Mormonism is, but I will say this.  I don’t define a religion by whether or not the government grants an organization a 501c3, tax-exempt status.
    “If you’re a Unitarian that lives in a state where gay-marriage has been outlawed, then the State has decided it’s allowed to regulate something inside your religion.  That is against the first amendment.”
    Here’s the problem with your assertion.  If I’m reading it correctly, the 10th Amendment gives power to the State and the people to decide things not expressly under the control of the Federal Government.  Since marriage licenses are recognized as State issued, that leaves control in the hands of the people of the State to decide how to define it.  The problem, as I’ve stated, with judges deciding to force states to recognize gay marriages is that it completely ignores the 10th Amendment and the people’s rights.
    The fact is, you are right that our government is not a simple majority rule operation.  We are not a Democracy, but a Republic.  I won’t get into why that’s important for this topic yet, but my reasons for pointing out “what the majority of people want . . .” was simply to show that there is a very real opposition in this country growing against gay marriage.  The repercussions of such are yet to be determined.  We’re not talking about a handful of radical farmland Christians.  It’s a battle that is far reaching and crosses all kinds of religious, political, or social lines.

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  6. USMCwife909, you’re not reading my comments very carefully because you’re only interested in telling me why I’m wrong.  I clearly stated that, and I quote my own words for the refreshment of your memory:
           It seems to me that James Madison, while speaking against establishment of religion by law, still managed to convey a missionary heart.  A heart that firmly believed in God and His commandments, but believed that each man must come to know God of his own free will
    I am curious that you claim to be Christian, but then you say:
           Christians have a desperate need for some reason to claim our nation’s fathers as their own.
    If you are Christian, wouldn’t you be part of that group?  Or are there two sets of Christians, and you belong to the open-minded, live and let live set?  I hate to tell you this, but no matter how you try to twist the words of many of the founders of our nation (Please note, I said MANY, not all.  Do not try to twist my words and say that I believe that ALL good men that helped formed our nation think exactly as I do.  I NEVER said that.), this nation was founded on Christian principles, based on their very words.  They had a balanced view — the best foundation for our nation is one of Christian principles, but because they held the free will that God gave each and every man so precious, they promised to never establish a national religion.  It’s so obvious what Madison said — he believed in the light of Christianity, the existence of false religions (directly in conflict with modern day liberals who profess “god, whatever your concept of him or her may be”), and man’s free will to accept or reject the light of Christianity.  Yes, he was speaking against established state religion — but he was not denying his faith in doing so.
    It’s a shame that you and so many others who profess to be Christian (and yet demonstrate so differently with your words and actions) twist the words of those who are dead and can’t speak for themselves.  And I am amused that you set yourself up as an authority — “the quote cannot be found in any of Madison’s original writings.”  Perhaps you just haven’t run across the document that contains it?  Why should I believe you?  I’m not going to bore my other readers with lengthy endnotes from Federer’s encyclopedia — I trust the volume and the copious amounts of research that went into it, and anyone who has questions regarding its veracity can research that on their own.

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