You didn’t expect all my heroes would actually be living, did you? I am WAY too nerdy for that. 🙂 And the truth is, there have been quite a few historical figures who have made an impact on my life.
I have a book that I keep on my desk. Ok, I have a lot of books I keep on my desk, but I’m just talking about this one today. It’s America’s God and Country edited by William J. Federer (Amazon). This amazing complication of quotations and writings focuses on the founding fathers and their influences and catalogues their statements concerning God and Christianity.
These men, like Thomas Paine likened the American cause to a religious duty:
Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolidation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly; ‘tis dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.
George Washington proclaimed that, “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.” This first president of the United States also said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
Patrick Henry, the fiery patriot of the revolution, is famous for his statement, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” But, that is only a small section of his speech that day.
We shall not fight our battle alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battle for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave…
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, author of The Federalist Papers, and President of the United States, wrote that “Religion [is] the basis and Foundation of Government.” He also wrote, “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.”
That leads to my historical hero of heroes. This man not only was a driving force behind the Declaration of Independence, but he also served as ambassador and as President of the United States. In the midst of this, he and his wife raised and nurtured a son who followed his father’s lead and served as President. This is a man who would have preferred to stay with his family, but answered the call of duty and served his country in nearly as many roles as existed. This man is, of course, John Adams. He wrote:
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.
He knew the struggle for independence would not be an easy task. He wrote:
If it be the pleasure of Heaven that my country shall require the poor offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, and that a free country!
Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgment approves this measure [The Declaration of Independence], and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence Now, and Independence forever!
Regardless of what is presented in 1776 – The Musical, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were often bitter rivals. They wrote to each other often in heated discussion. In these letters, Adams said:
I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.
Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company… The most abandoned scoundrel that ever existed, never yet wholly extinguished his Conscience and while Conscience remains, there is some religion.
Doug Philips wrote Ode to Dabney to honor one of his heroes, Robert Louis Dabney. Dabney had been personal aide to Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson during the war, and later became known as a leading apologist. Philips provides this introduction, “Robert Lewis Dabney is best known as the premier defender of Christian orthodoxy to emerge from the South in the latter half of the 19th century. A theologian of rock-solid convictions, Dabney not only stood against the rising tide of modernity, but he was able to predict with devastating accuracy the consequences of compromise for the American church.”
Tomorrow, I will discuss two men who are a bit more modern. These two men led and advised me through the often tricky and potentially devastating journey of higher education. But, to close this post, I leave you with Philip’s Ode to Dabney.
We must remember Thornwell, Palmer, Girardeau —
All Southern men who preached with power, unity, and flow;
But when it comes to logic pure there’s one that tops our list:
Hail Dabney, prophet of the South, our great apologist.
 Paine, T. December 23, 1776, The American Crisis. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 490
 Washington, G. October 3, 1789, From the city of New York, Presidential Proclamation of a National Day of Thanksgiving. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 654
 Washington, G. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 660
Henry, P. March 23, 1775 Speech to the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 288
 Madson, J. June 20, 1785. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 410
 Adams, J. June 21, 1776, Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing, p. 8
 Adams, J. June 21, 1776, In contemplating the personal effect that separation from England would produce. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing, p. 8
 Adams, J. July 1, 1776, Speaking to the delegates of the Continental Congress, Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing, pp. 8-9
 Adams, J. December 25, 1813, Letter to Thomas Jefferson. Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 13
 Adams, J. April 18, 1817, Letter to Thomas Jefferson, Qtd in. Federer, W. J. (1996). America’s God and Country. FAME Publishing. p. 14
 Philips, D. (2004, July 14). Ode to Dabney. Retrieved from http://www.visionforum.com/news/blogs/doug/2004/07/793/