The Bible in America

by David Jeremiah

America—the first nation to begin as "a Christian nation"—was colonized by people seeking to worship God freely, who established schools so everyone could read the Bible, founded universities to train ministers, and wrote laws reflecting biblical truth.

America declares "In God We Trust" on every dime and dollar—one nation under God, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created free and equal.

America's first political document, the Mayflower Compact, said: "Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith[we] covenant and combine ourselves together."

American shores afforded religious liberty just as missionary-minded Protestants were being harried out of Europe. Puritans, Presbyterians, Quakers, Moraviansall seeking freedom from persecution. Their ideals came from their Bibles. Each group brought the Scriptures in their own language—English Baptists, Swedish Lutherans, French Huguenots, Scotch Covenanters, and German Mennonites.

The Eliot Bible

At 27, John Eliot fled England for the New World (1631) and organized a church near Boston. He learned the Algonquin language and began preaching to Native Americans near his church. When they began coming to Christ, he embarked on an eight-year effort to translate the Scriptures into Algonquin.

The Aitken Bible

For over four generations, from the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1607 to the American Revolution in 1776, not a single English Bible was printed in America. It was illegal.

The copyright to the Authorized Version rested with the British Crown, which turned down repeated requests for American printings of the Bible. And with the War of Independence, the importing of Bibles stopped.

Robert Aitken decided to do something. Aitken was the official publisher for the Congress of the States. In 1777, he produced an American "home-grown" edition of the New Testament. Ten thousand copies were printed, but by then cheaper imported Bibles were again available.

In a desperate attempt to recoup his investment, Aitken asked Congress to sanction and support his Bibles. For the first and last time in our nation's history, a Bible was printed with the approval of Congress.

The resolution, adopted September 12, 1782, said: "WHEREUPON RESOLVED: That the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an instance of the progress of arts in this country, andthey recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation."

In 1790, Mathew Carey printed 500 copies of the Catholic Douay Bible, and nearly lost his shirt. Later he printed the King James Version. It sold for a whopping six dollars.

The Influential Bible

For two centuries, the Word of God has been the best-selling book in America. It has shaped our nation like no other book. George Washington said: "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

John Quincy Adams: "The earlier my children begin to read it [the Bible], the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizensand respectable members of society."

President Andrew Jackson called the Bible "the rock on which our republic rests."

Abraham Lincoln: "I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man."

Woodrow Wilson: "I ask every man and woman in this audience that from this day on they will realize that part of the destiny of America lies in their daily perusal of this great Book."

Dwight Eisenhower: "To read the Bible is to take a trip to the fair land where the spirit is strengthened and faith renewed."

When he authorized 1983 as the "Year of the Bible," Ronald Reagan said, "Within the covers of the Bible are all the answers to all the problems that face us today, if we'd only look."

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Ps. 33:12). Keep the Bible prominent in your home and church. Read it, heed it, hold it high and share its message. Its heritage is too great to be lost, its light too bright to keep hidden. Its future in America depends on you and me.

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