The Founder Who Walked with God
By Robert Morgan
Do you know this man? He drafted New York’s first constitution in 1777. He served in the Second Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777, and as its president from 1778 to 1779. During the War’s dark days after the fall of New York, he rallied spirits by advocating the righteousness of the effort, declaring,
You may be told that your forts have been taken, your country ravaged, and that your armies have retreated, and therefore that God is not with you . . . [But] if we turn from our sins, he will turn from his anger—then will our arms be crowned with success. . . . The Holy Gospels are yet to be preached to those Western regions, and we have the highest reason to believe that the Almighty will not [allow defeat] and the Gospel to go hand in hand. It cannot, it will not.
From 1779 to 1782, he served as ambassador to Spain (and was nearly shipwrecked on one of the voyages). He helped negotiate the Treaty of Paris and signed it, ending the Revolutionary War. He became secretary of foreign affairs and later secretary of state. He coauthored The Federalist Papers, and on one occasion during the debate was wounded when struck by a stone during a riot.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, America’s Religious History: An Interview with Thomas S. Kidd]
On September 21, 1789, he was confirmed as the first chief justice of the US Supreme Court, and he ended his political career as governor of New York, where he enacted laws for the emancipation of slaves.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, National Bible Association Hosts Special Reading of Aitken Bible at the US Capitol]
John Adams wanted to reappoint him to the Supreme Court, but this man had other things in mind—to advance the gospel. He became president of the American Bible Society, saying, “No human society has ever been able to maintain both order and freedom . . . apart from the moral precepts of the Christian Religion. Should our Republic ever forget this fundamental precept of governance, we will then be surely doomed.”[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, History of the American Bible Society: An Interview with John Fea]
Who was this man? He was John Jay.
After retiring from public life, Jay and his wife, Sarah, moved to their farm in Westchester, New York. Their son, William, wrote of his mother and father:
In less than twelve months after her removal to Westchester, she was seized with a severe illness, which in a few days terminated fatally. Mr. Jay, calm and collected, was watching by her side when she expired. Immediately on perceiving that the spirit had taken its flight, he led his children, who were with him, into an adjoining room, and with a firm voice but glistening eye, read to them the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians [the Resurrection Chapter of the Bible]; thus leading their thoughts to that day when the lifeless but beloved form they had just left would rise to glory and immortality.
In all his domestic habits [my father] observed great exactness and regularity. . . . Every morning immediately before breakfast, the family, including the domestics, were summoned to prayers; and the call was repeated precisely at nine at night, when he read to them a chapter in the Bible, and concluded with prayer.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, American History’s Entwined Relationship with the Bible: An Interview with Angela Kamrath]
In 1827, Jay fell ill. The doctor told William that it was fatal, and William shared the diagnosis with his father. Jay took the news in good spirits and seemed “unusually raised . . . with cheerfulness and animation.”
Someone told him he should share with his family the reason for his joy, to which he concisely replied: “They have the Book.”[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Honored in US House of Representatives]
“When the tidings of his death came to us,” said one American leader, “they were received through the nation, not with sorrow and mourning, but with solemn awe, like that with which we read the mysterious passage of ancient Scripture, ‘And Enoch walked with God, and He was not, for God took Him.’”
This is true of many of America’s Founding Fathers. They were Enochs.
The biblical reference in the book of Genesis refers to a mighty servant of God, who began walking with God after the birth of his firstborn, a son named Methuselah. Genesis 5:14 says, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” The book of Hebrews explains the meaning of this verse, saying, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). In other words, it seems that Enoch was such a delight to God that the Lord simply transported him to heaven before he died, as in the case of Elijah (2 Kings 2:11).
His friends viewed Jay’s greatness and nobility in those terms—he walked with God. Jay revealed his philosophy of life in a simple 1784 letter to his son Peter:
Your aunt informs me that you . . . love your books, and that you daily read in the Bible and have learned by heart some of the hymns in the book I sent you. These accounts give me great pleasure. . . . The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the Word of God, and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it, and to regulate your life by its precepts.
To retain its power and influence and ministry for good, America needs leaders who know what it is to walk with God. That’s a privilege available to each of us through Jesus Christ our Lord.[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation: An Interview with Robert J. Morgan]
The above article is excerpted from 100 Bible Verses That Made America: Defining Moments That Shaped Our Enduring Foundation of Faith by Robert Morgan. Copyright © 2020 by Robert Morgan. Published by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. thomasnelson.com. Pages 120-123. All rights reserved.
100 Bible Verses That Made America is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
BIO: Robert J. Morgan is a writer and speaker who serves as the teaching pastor at The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville. He is the author of The Red Sea Rules, The Strength You Need, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation, Then Sings My Soul, and many other titles, with more than 4.5 million copies in circulation. He is available to speak at conferences and conventions. He and his wife, Katrina, have three daughters and 16 grandchildren. Contact him at www.robertjmorgan.com.
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February 20, 2020
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