December 10, 2012

The American Soul: The First Great Awakening-Part III

Chaplain Jacob Duché Leading Prayer at First Continental Congress
Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia - September 1774
Mezzotint 1848
Granger Collection
[continued from Part II] 

I believe what we see in the First Great Awakening is another example of God acting again in the grand sweep of history and the rise and fall of empire. God in His omnipotence and sovereignty decisively enters the lives of men through the Holy Spirit to move them in the direction He wishes them to go. We see the interaction of a new nation with its Creator at least initially. This is even evident in some of its founding documents and the nation’s justification for independence (some individuals will debate which God). In some of these documents we see our Creator God mentioned as the Author of life (as in Genesis) and that God the Creator, not government, grants liberty to humanity as seen in Galatians 5:1:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (NIV Minister's Bible 735).

Below we read the preamble of the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”(U.S. Declaration of Independence)

It isn’t until the modern culture where liberal courts and liberal politicians have tried to remove mentions of God and His presence from our base of laws, that we begin to see a nation en masse apostatize from the God of the Bible. In many of America’s courts we now see a shift towards changing the time-honored interpretation of the Constitution’s framers which appear to have had a decidedly Christian inclination (Wuthnow 109).

Things like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution for the United States of America are documents that would’ve been heavily influenced by the socio-political climate and culture that the First Great Awakening existed in. God in His perfect wisdom and timing initiated a revival in the people of the United States (and Europe) on the eve of American independence. As we understand from the human condition, the most influential and formative years of life are the first few years after conception. I believe this applies to the condition of the newly birthed nation too, since a nation is nothing more than a collection of constituents or people. What is learned or habituated into a person or nation at this formative time tends to stick with it as it forms tradition or socio/psychological conditioning. I believe this is why the United States was predominately understood to be a Christian nation founded on Christian principles until recently. The effects of this are integral to the American heritage and still influence America to this day (Rice 115). It almost seems to be a civic form of Proverbs 22:6’s, “Train a youth in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

I do not believe it an accident that the Great Awakening would provide the primary foundation stone and cultural basis on which the United States would form its nation. Regardless of what has been said by godless men about the founding fathers and founding documents, it is clear from even a brief perusal of non-revisionist history that there is substantial biblical influence in the foundational documents of the American nation (Noll-Christianity in America 121, Pearse 330). If there is a biblical basis in our nation’s founding documents, it then begs the obvious question: What then is the basis for the Bible? Even most non-believing Americans could accurately answer this question. Jesus Christ is the basis of Scripture. Therefore, the following can be reasoned deductively. The principles promulgated by the First Great Awakening based on Christ Himself and the Gospel had an enormous influence on the socio-religious culture of Colonial America. Furthermore these principles are the spiritual cornerstone of the American nation. We may currently be an American nation that is apostatizing from God, but we are also one decision away from obedience…and blessing just as Israel was millennia ago. Perhaps all we need is another revival or another Great Awakening? It can never hurt to pray for it.

I'll close my three part essay with the prayer from Chaplain Jacob Duché at the First Continental Congress.
O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States, who have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee. To Thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to Thee do they now look up for that countenance and support, which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under Thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in Council and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their Cause and if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, of own unerring justice, sounding in their hearts, constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle! 
Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation. That the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that order, harmony and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Savior. Amen. 
Rector of Christ Church of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

September 7, 1774, 9 o’clock a.m.
Reverend Jacob Duché

The House Chamber 

Cairns, Earle Edwin. Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub., 1996. 150-155. Print.

"Declaration of Independence -Text Transcript." National Archives and Records Administration.  N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012.

Galatians. NIV Minister's Bible. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009. Print.

Noll, Mark A.. America's God: from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.

Noll, Mark A.. Eerdmans' Handbook to Christianity in America. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983. Print.

Pearse, Meic. The Age of Reason: From the Wars of Religion to the French Revolution, 1570-1789. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Print.

Rice, Cynthia A. "The First American Great Awakening: Lessons Learned And What Can Be Done To Foster A Habitat For The Next Great Awakening." International Congregational Journal 9.2 (2010): 103-117. Academic Search Complete. Web. 20 Nov. 2012.
Permalink to EBSCOhost journal article: <>

Shelley, Bruce L.. Church History in Plain Language. Updated 3rd ed. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Print.

Wuthnow, Robert. The Struggle for America's Soul: Evangelicals, Liberals, and Secularism.
Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1989. Print.

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