Friday, September 30, 2011

Proverbs 25:24 commentary; an unhappy home

24 ¶ It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman and in a wide house.

This is a repeat of 21:9 so let’s look at that again. I don’t think there is any problem understanding the literal value of this verse. In ancient Israel the houses were constructed so you could use the roof. See Deuteronomy 22:8; Joshua 2:6; and 2 Samuel 11:2. A wide house can be understood as meaning the same thing as a large house. By using the cross referencing way of understanding the Bible’s self defining properties we can see it. In the following verse it is linked to large as a synonym.

Jeremiah 22:14 That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is cieled with cedar, and painted with vermilion.

In the next verse it is linked to broad.

Matthew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Young men, there are fewer tidbits of advice that I can give you than to avoid a girl who likes drama, enjoys fighting, and will eventually wind up making your life miserable if you foolishly choose to unite with her in marriage. When you are courting a girl, see her at church, around her family, and notice that she seems to have a penchant for over reaction, a hot temper, and a love of drama, run away from her like she was the devil himself.

She will ruin your life and destroy your children’s as well. You may think her emotional responses to everything are cute now but you won’t think so once you’ve set up a household with her as the spoke around which the wheel turns. Of course, the same goes for a girl getting to know a potential husband. If the person who you are thinking of loves to argue with you and even seems out of control at times they will not make a very good mate.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Proverbs 25:23 commentary; the menace of backbiting

23 ¶ The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.

Backbiting is mentioned in various places. It is mentioned as one of the sins of mankind that resulted in his worship of created things rather than the Creator. Read the context.

Romans 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

It is considered doing evil against someone, taking up a reproach against them.

Psalm 15:3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

It’s a verbal sin which Paul warns about linked with envying and strife, debates and whisperings.

2Corinthians 12:20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:

Now, if the Bible definition didn’t satisfy you we also have Webster’s 1828 dictionary which defines it as “to censure, slander, reproach, or speak evil of those who are absent.” This is usually done in churches, when not blatant, by asking for prayer for someone whose convictions or lack thereof you don’t approve of. For instance, they’re taking a vacation at Six Flags and you prefer Hershey Park because you heard something unChristian happened at Six Flags and they’re carnal for going there and not Hershey Park like you do so you ask for prayer over their carnality. You know how we are. You don’t like hunting but you approve of fishing so you come up with reasons why hunting is more worldly than fishing and Ms. Busybody asks for prayer for Mr. Hiawatha that he would be changed. That’s the way we do it, isn’t it, when we don’t blatantly talk about someone who is not here because their worldliness is not as acceptable as our self righteousness? That’s backbiting.

Without going into debates over climatology the north and its association with the direction that God’s judgment comes from has some other statements we might examine said about it. Among them are;

Job 37:22 Fair weather cometh out of the north: with God is terrible majesty.

Ezekiel 1:4 And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire.

The direction from which God’s judgment comes against Israel, either with other countries used, or by His own visitation is a very interesting study.

Matthew Henry said that sin is so conscious of its own shame that if it is opposed before it becomes daring it becomes cowardly. So it is with us if when we hear someone issue the whispering, backbiting, self righteous complaint about someone, if we immediately oppose it with an angry look we can put an end to it.

We must cut backbiting and gossip, its twin brother, off at the knees. It destroys congregations and runs people from the church. I know that a gracious exit can be made by the standard Baptist apology, “we’ve just decided its time to move on to another church”, but usually that is a code statement for “someone has been flapping their gums about us behind our back and we’re sick of their self righteous gossip.” Give the backbiter a stern look, refuse to hear, and walk away. I think God will be pleased.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Proverbs 25:21,22 commentary; do good to your enemies

21 ¶ If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

Jesus raises similar admonitions for his followers to consider and apply.

Matthew 5:43 ¶ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Luke 6:27 ¶ But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Along with refusing to get revenge these are some of the hardest of verses to follow in our daily lives. For those who are concerned about what is said in the passages that are doctrinal specific to Christians in this age of the Church Paul refers to this verse.

Romans 12:20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

It is a fundamental principle of Christian behavior, along with not seeking revenge, to love your enemies and pray for them. The Proverb says that God will reward you for rendering aid to your enemy. This is one of those statements that go against declaring any nation a Christian nation. Nations make war against their enemies. They do not render aid to them unless they have defeated them first. You macho guys out there want your “getbacks”, that’s fine and well, but just don’t prance around all spiritual when you have an attitude that goes directly against what the Holy Spirit has said.

American Christians have a belief that Christian life should be easy so they just ignore the tougher statements in the Bible and change the meaning of the words in the ones just under that level. It is simply boiled down to this. If you want Christ’s approval for your behavior to someone who has wronged you or who is your enemy then do good to them.

As a final word, I want to read the passage in Romans again in its full context for you to reflect on.

Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Proverbs 25:20 commentary; don't make light of someone's grief

20 ¶ As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.

Christians are told when dealing with someone experiencing sorrow to weep with them, not to make light of their pain.

Romans 12:15 Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.

As one who has gone through great grief let me say that it is very disturbing to hear some people constantly talk about how some good will come out of the situation and trying to make light of what is weighing on you like a mountain. At least Job’s friends sat with him silently for a week before they started giving the advice which God later critiqued.

Job 2:11 ¶ Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. 12 And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. 13 So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.

Make light of no person’s suffering. The best thing you can do for a friend in grief is to just be there and to show your support. Don’t try to make things better because you can’t. Sorrow and grief are processes that people have to go through and although the pain they are experiencing may never go away, it will change over time.

The Christian should be sensitive to the suffering of others.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Proverbs 25:19 commentary; confidence in God, not man

19 ¶ Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.

We all have known someone we should have been able to count on when we were in trouble and found we could not. I can remember my very first inkling of being drawn to Christianity was when I got into great trouble and all of my good time friends who should have been on my side helping me vanished and only some Christians whose beliefs I had not taken seriously stood by my side. It was almost as big a revelation to me as the time when I was a child and suffered the disillusionment of realizing my parents weren’t perfect, even godlike. When Christians were the only ones who really came to my defense or at least suggested some potential in me that I couldn’t see it was a real eye opener and the beginning of a journey to faith in Christ.

But, when you should be able to trust in someone and they are useless in help, unfaithful, then it certainly is like having a broken tooth or a foot you can’t stand on.

It’s not really very smart to put much confidence in men, in any event, of any rank, but to trust in God alone is wise.

Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

Psalm 118:9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

It is also important, when trusting God, to ask for and depend on Him according to His will and not your own vain imaginings and carnal desires. The big house you are afraid of losing to foreclosure or your ministry to circus clowns might not have been in His will. I daresay you probably didn’t spend much time in prayer, asking for His will in those matters in the first place.

1 John 5:14 ¶ And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Most Christians who got married, got a job, bought a home, a car, or chose an educational path never once consulted God as to His will, to make it plain to them. We like to think that we can choose to do something that our culture says is good and God must bless it because it’s not bad. This is ridiculous. Christians, particularly those of the “always have to be doing something” mentality think that if they can imagine a ministry that God must bless it. This is almost as blasphemous as a priest demanding that God enter into the “host” for their “holy communion” to be effective.

Preachers who conduct their ministries like this are real faith killers. They think that God is obligated to bless what they do for Him, as if that was some sort of reverse commandment in the Bible. Their congregations imagine that if I want to get married, have children, a career, and a home that since these are good things God must bless them but when divorce or widowhood comes, children go astray or, worse yet, die early, job killing economies come along, and a home becomes a rental you share with relatives or other families their faith is damaged because they had confidence in God and God let them down.

Read very carefully what God has promised. Salvation to those who trust Christ. Blessings to those who swim in His word, reading, memorizing and meditating on. Joy to those who fellowship with other believers as the body of Christ. A soul won to Christ. Many things are promised. Are you ready for them?

Philippians 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

2Timothy 2:12a If we suffer, we shall also reign with him:

We should keep our minds focused on the things He has shown us to be worthy.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Pray for the proof that you have His Spirit in you and put down those carnal appetites.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Keep your mind from worldly pursuits and desires.

1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

James 1:27 Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

And don’t put your confidence and trust in any man or ruler. Stay in the words of God continually; praying about them, praying them back to God, and keeping them in mind. Expect things in His will, according to His will, and He will never fail you, remembering that we live in a fallen body in a fallen world that is getting worse and worse, and yet have hope and confidence in Him.

1 Peter 1:6 ¶ Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

Eternity is waiting. Have confidence. Have faith.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Proverbs 25:18 commentary; a false witness revisited

18 ¶ A man that beareth false witness against his neighbour is a maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow.

God’s condemnation of being a false witness against your neighbor is all through the Bible and we’ve discussed it previously. One of the Ten Commandments is about this subject.

Exodus 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

A maul can be a heavy sledgehammer like tool to drive in tent stakes or a tool with a wedge shaped head on one end for splitting logs. A sword cuts and an arrow pierces. So, a false witness bludgeons his neighbor, cuts his neighbor, and pierces his neighbor. False witnesses not only tell lies about other people but impugn their motives as well. It is not just that you made up something that someone else either didn’t do or say but you tell others that whatever your neighbor did, they meant something entirely different and it probably wasn’t good. You rarely are a false witness on behalf of someone in that you make up good stuff about them. Almost all of the time when you are going to be a false witness it is destructive.

You lie about political leaders you don’t like, imposing viewpoints and motives on them that you have no idea of the truth or falsehood. Democrats say Republicans WANT to destroy the country in favor of the rich. Republicans say that Democrats WANT to destroy the country to remake it into a socialist state. No one in today’s political world can be patriotic but misguided in belief. They have to literally want to see America fall. We always know not only what the other guy does but we know what he intends to do.

We bear false witness against our family and friends and the more paranoid of us will impute evil motives against ourselves to the most trivial action of virtually anyone we know. Sometimes a false witness is one for a deliberate reason like those against Naboth in 1 Kings 21:13 and against Christ in Matthew 26:60, 61. Much of the time, though, for Christians it is the stating of things you do not know against a person based on your own negative assumptions. This spreads around a church body like a fire and can split congregations and drive people from the assembly.

Beware of what you assume without knowledge. Be even more wary of what you repeat to others without knowledge. This is one of Satan’s methods of destruction of Christian testimony and it is clearly against God’s own commandment under any dispensation, repeated clearly under the doctrines given to the Christian specifically by the Apostle, Paul, under the wisdom given to him by God (2 Peter 3:15).

Romans 13:9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Latest Reading

The End of Reform; New Deal Liberalism in Recession and War by Alan Brinkley. A very well written book that explains the marked difference between reform and modern liberalism, between the Progressive of pre-1937 and the Liberal of today, between the belief in the importance of production and the importance of consumption, and between attempts to reform and the push for "human rights". It discusses the failure of liberalism after 1973 due to many reasons, some of which will surprise you.

Proverbs 25:17; for those who tell others about Christ

17 ¶ Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour’s house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.

This is certainly about overstaying your welcome. This is true about visiting friends or countries that “liberate” and occupy other countries. This goes along with the previous Proverb on overdoing something and excess.

Let’s talk about telling others about the Gospel. Evangelical Christians, those who spend time propagating the faith by things like handing out tracts, knocking on doors, and street preaching need to learn to not only be respectful of other people’s property but of their time. Stopping someone rushing on their way to work and trying to get them into a conversation about where they’re going to spend eternity might just not produce the results you would like although it may make you feel good, as if you’ve done your part. But, you haven’t. Turning people away with disrespectful behavior is not a way to point someone to the Saviour.

I am particularly sensitive to people who have no respect for my time, people who seem to feel that my life is totally meaningless in that whatever I would have to do is unimportant or that the pressures I face mean nothing. If you are constantly wearing people’s patience thin and don’t seem to know when to leave maybe you should realize you’re a shallow boor and set yourself a time limit. On a busy street or at the gas pumps in the morning maybe its best to hand the person a gospel tract and then leave it open to talk but acknowledge you understand they’re probably in a hurry. If this is a “divine appointment” then they’ll start asking you questions, but if not, they’ll move on. I say “divine appointment” because sometimes God puts people in your path or you in theirs in order to lead them closer to Him.

At someone’s door the conversation should be brief unless they invite you in or they come outside to talk further. Don’t stand there for a half hour while a person tries to politely hold the door open but keep you from coming inside. Some people are just too polite to say “go away” but their heart becomes harder and harder as you talk on seemingly endlessly. You should be sensitive to the person who wants to know more and to the person who just wants to get back to enjoying their time at home.

Just remember, God is not lucky to have you on His team. You are not doing God a favor. He doesn’t need any of us to save anyone and He does the actually saving anyway. We usually just plant seeds. Be respectful of other people’s time and property. You are not advertising for a pizza delivery store. You are there to possibly meet with that one person who has been waiting for someone like you to stop by and give them the Gospel of Salvation. That tract you hand out at the gas pump may lie in a person’s floorboard for days or weeks before it is read, long after the person has forgotten who gave it to them. Make sure the tract has some contact information on it, at least someone they can call or email if they so choose, but at best the physical address of a church they can visit.

You are not trying to make a sale. You do not have to have an immediate decision. You might reap a harvest but then, most of the time, you are merely planting a seed. Don’t belabor the issue. There is nothing worse for you than to have someone see you approach their front door, their teeth grinding and their blood pressure spiking, just dreading that you are going to be an obnoxious, rude, pest, and then finding out their fears were correct.

Finally, don’t take rejection personally. Some people reject Christ dozens of times before they receive Him. Others, most, never receive Christ as their Saviour. It’s not about you. It’s about Him. You are just a messenger.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Proverbs 25:16; Moderation

16 ¶ Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.

Philippians 4:5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

It is an understandable maxim. Don’t over do anything. The Ancient Egyptians had a saying which was found written on a papyrus; “We live on a third of what we eat. Our doctors live on the other two thirds.” Americans have made an art form out of overindulgence. Alcohol, drugs, food, material possessions, and obsessions with things sexual fill our news and entertainment worlds.

In today’s world we have information coming at us from every direction in ways our ancestors never dreamed of. Do you spend too much time fretting over the news which seems so similar to me decade after decade with just the names changing? Jobs moving overseas or coming back, a crisis in the Middle East, the world and its money problems, and our own political games all keep ringing in our heads in every generation. Do you watch the news and worry over it so much that it makes you sick? Maybe a key to your cure is to spend more time reading God’s words than listening to some talking head on the TV or disembodied voice on the radio.

In our information age we have become addicted to knowing. But what do we really know when it’s all said and done? Emails go around spreading lies, news site after news site repeat the same misinformation copied from one source. It isn’t so much that we have a great deal of news and solid information available to us but that we have a great deal of propaganda coming at us from every direction.

Older people can spend too much time thinking about the past. As Solomon points out in Ecclesiastes there is a time for everything and it is not wise to say that days past were better than now. Man has been sinful and wicked in every age. Each generation has looked at several generations ahead in shock at the new things they are doing and allowing, and yet, there is nothing new under the sun. I even have read of Roman philosophers lamenting at how the latest generation in their day was disrespectful of their elders and lazy good for nothings two thousand years ago. Give your memories adequate but limited time to occupy your mind lest you become useless to impart the wisdom you’ve learned to the young person in front of you today by constantly crying over a past long gone.

So, young people, be selective in how much you eat, drink, sleep, are entertained, and enlightened. Do different things throughout the day. Don’t sit glued to the glass toilet, hellivision, for hours. Don’t stay attached to Facebook or some other social media for hours. We all need food, exercise, companionship, work, and most of all, our spiritual food in moderation. I can remember for a couple of years trying to read the Bible through each month. It took a great deal of time and I missed a lot of things because I was unable to concentrate for the length of time it took to accomplish my task. So, I still read every day but a half hour to an hour for reading is all I can stay focused on.

The more time you spend in the world, though, the less time you’ll spend in the word. Remember that. Start your day with the Bible and prayer.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Proverbs 25:15 commentary; the strength of a soft answer

15 ¶ By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.

Proverbs 15:1 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.

There is practical advice in this Proverb for all times and places, for the Christian as well as the tenth century BC Hebrew. I have seen it in my own life and it is very hard to accomplish as you so much want to slash and cut with your words when hurt, deprived of something that you rightfully deserve, or receive an injustice. A soft spoken word is often more powerful than all the temper tantrums in the world. We all know from popular culture that the toughest guys in the westerns speak without screaming and yelling. The John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, James Arness type of western heroes are soft spoken but very powerful characters.

David spoke with a soft tongue to Saul who was pursuing him to kill him and Abigail used a soft tongue in speaking to David who was bent on Nabal’s destruction. Gideon with a soft tongue pacified the Ephraimites.

A prince is persuaded with patience. Patience and perserverance are important traits for a Christian. We are to respectfully make our request and with quiet assurance and confidence expect our desired result, if it is within God’s will for us to receive it. There is no advantage for a Christian to use violent language or outbursts, to demand or threaten. If the Christian is acting within God’s will he knows that he has God on his side. You and God are a majority in every decision.

We should certainly speak softly to each other and kindly.

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Aren’t there enough angry, loud, demanding people in the world? Would you not stand out more by your persistent patience and soft spoken confidence?

The First Great Awakening: The Myth of Engendering Unity

“…the Great Awakening helped bind Americans together with a shared sense of
Spirituality as a people and, perhaps, “prepared them,” in the words of one historian,
“for the coming ordeal of sacrifice and war.”

Historians such as Benson Bobrick, here quoting John Anthony Scott, represent a great many writers who give the event called The Great Awakening a great deal of significance in providing a sense of national unity to the colonists of the British territory that became the United States of America in their war for independence. In Alan Heimert’s 1966 book, Religion and the American Mind, he makes the case that it was a consequence of the First Great Awakening that the American Revolution was not only made possible but “inevitable” and that it provided a “thrust toward American nationalism.” It is important to examine the exact nature of the event called The First Great Awakening or simply The Great Awakening to see if it was even the powerful force of its own time it is given credit to be, much less the potent political-religious force of decades later that many authors insist it was.

The religious event called the Great Awakening or more specifically the First Great Awakening, it can be shown, was not the catalyst for giving the colonists a sense of shared identity that it has been claimed to be. In fact, it can be shown that the Great Awakening is more of a mythological construct imposed on the colonial era than a real motivator enabling the colonists to rise up against a perceived oppressor. The series of revivals that give meaning to the 19th century invention of the phrase, The Great Awakening, and read back into the 18th century, were localized and not national in character, affecting different areas of the colonies differently and having no long lasting influence on colonial society. In fact, the men who led the revolution as its most visible chieftains were not men who were influenced by revivalism and emotional constructs of religion at all. It will be necessary to explain both revivalism and to provide a groundwork for the overall religious state of the majority of the colonies, as well, in this paper.

Besides Alan Heimert’s mid-1960’s book and Joseph Tracy’s famous The Great Awakening that gave a name to the series of revivals a hundred years previous to him, mostly in New England, there are several other good books and articles on the subject at hand. For the journal Church History, there is the 1976 article “Church Vitality and the American Revolution” which shows the consensus of historiography being that the period before the revolution was one of spiritual malaise, a notion the author, Douglas Sweet, attempts to overthrow. This paper focuses mainly on New England. In the same volume of Church History Mark Knoll’s article on Ebenezer Devotion takes the life of one particular Connecticut clergyman to underscore the importance of religion in the beginning of the war for independence. Again, in the very same issue of that journal, William Hogue presents an argument that the Great Awakening’s emotionalism and out of control responses to preaching like George Whitefield’s actually increased membership in the Anglican church thus implying that if the Great Awakening had any great consequence it was just the opposite of the effect given it by historians.
In addition Frank Lambert offers several articles that even call into question the legitimacy of giving the so called First Great Awakening such an appellation. There are other works which will be included in this paper to flesh out the thesis that the Great Awakening lacked in reality the importance that historians have read back into it with regard to the willingness of the colonies to rebel against the mother country.

The Great Awakening was “a series of fervent religious revivals” in the early 1700’s. A “revival” of religion carries with it several meanings. One is the meaning of individual revival where a person returns to an enthusiastic start that it is presumed he or she began with when they became “saved” or “born again” experiencing the “new birth” as commanded by Jesus Christ in the New Testament of the Bible, presumably after hearing some inspiring preaching. Another meaning of revival refers to an event that Christians attend where preaching is heard and people, some of whom have never been “born again” do experience it as a result of that preaching whereby they confess faith in Christ as their savior. In general we should define a “revival” as a revival of religion and religious impulses for the purpose of understanding what was called “The First Great Awakening” in the larger perspective and as a spiritual and intensely emotional event in the lives of those who attended preaching where revival broke out.
Jonathan Edwards, the preacher who is often credited with beginning The Great Awakening gives an adequate description of what would go on as a consequence of a meeting where a revival broke out as he described the equally famous George Whitefield after his success in preaching from Edwards’ pulpit; “the minds of the people in general appeared more engaged in religion, shewing a greater forwardness to make religion the subject of their conversation…and to embrace all opportunities to hear the Word preached.” Edwards wife, Sarah, had this to say about Whitefield’s preaching success, “It’s wonderful to see what a spell he casts over an audience…I have seen upwards of a thousand people hang on his words with breathless silence…broken only by an occasional half suppressed sob.”
The Great Awakening was influenced by an Evangelical Revival that swept from England in the early 1700’s. While there were certainly differences between the two regions there were certainly many similarities, as scholar Michael Crawford points out in an article for the Journal of British Studies. “The two movements shared ideals and goals; rejection of contemporary religious norms; emphases on sin, forgiveness, and new birth; existential experience of God’s presence; and intuitive basis for faith. They shared many social forms: religious gatherings of large numbers; itinerant preachers; lay exhorters; open and communal expressions of emotion, sometimes accompanied by convulsions and fainting; religious societies for pious consultation, prayer, and psalm singing; and mass conversions.”
Scholars have expressed their understanding of the importance of these events on colonial society as George Whitefield and others preached to large crowds up and down the Eastern seaboard. “The Great Awakening was nevertheless the single most transforming event in the religious history of colonial America. It left the legacy of evangelical “born again” Christianity.” The question is, though, did it do as Bobrick’s quote at the beginning of this paper claimed, prepare the people for the “coming ordeal” by providing, as the Heimert quote claimed, a thrust toward American nationalism and did it make the drive for independence from England inevitable?
There is no question that religion was a very important factor in the revolutionary generation. But it was not so because of any evangelical fervor on the part of the nation’s founders. Holmes points out that Ben Franklin was a Deist, a believer in the watchmaker God who winds everything up and then walks away. Washington was probably the most religious in his moral viewpoints but was certainly never bound by a need to unite with the body of Christ in worship. Jefferson did not believe in the supernatural and Adams was of the Unitarians, who don’t believe that Christ is the very God who created us, in human form. Madison was never outwardly religious himself but was respectful of religion. In essence the Founding Generation was raised with a thorough knowledge of the Bible, often appeared less devout than they were personally in public as pretending to be an intensely religious person did not carry the same political weight as it does today, and knew the Bible not only as a guide for life, a guide for government, and the foundation of Protestantism, they knew it as literature. They “understood their religion in the terms of their background and their day.” But, they were also steeped in the classics of Rome and Greece and in European political philosophy as is commonly known and need not be referenced here. Their faith can hardly be characterized as evangelical or tied to emotional revivalism. Theirs was an intellectual faith. The Christian religion, in all its diversity from Calvinistic Anglicans to Arminian Methodists to persecuted Baptists possessed of annoying evangelical fervor, was only one of the characteristics of the colonies in general and not the most important one. But, there is no question that “for a significant number of Americans, the revolutionary experience was still best conceptualized within an essentially religious framework.”
But, the question still remains, of what significance was the event known in the 19th century and onward as The Great Awakening? It is true that George Whitefield connected local revivals “crafting a national event before the existence of a nation.” It is also true that in the more conservative areas of the country, like New England, revivalism was a destructive force that split congregations and destroyed established churches, sending many people into the Independent and Baptist camps, in spite of William Hogue’s assertions pointed out earlier, causing division and confusion more than cohesion, creating more and more diverse and conflicting Christian groups. The Great Awakening then was also in great part a pastoral phenomenon and often a negative one.
But, one thing The Great Awakening was not was a unifying political force in colonial America. It was mostly a northern event that left vast areas of colonial America untouched. Interestingly, there aren’t many contemporary accounts of the events, as the revivals were local affairs. Revivals, in and of themselves, do not have long lasting effects, as is well known by anyone who has regularly attended them. They are highly charged emotionally and for any effect to linger must be followed up by more revivals. A religious revival meeting is of the same type of event as a sporting event or a modern rock concert. They are wholly incapable by themselves of establishing political unity or giving such a diverse group as the Thirteen British colonies any sense of political or even religious cohesion. Indeed, from an evangelical religious perspective the term, The Great Awakening, implies two fictions; one, that people were in general indifferent to religion before it and two, that people were inflamed with religious sensibilities after it, neither of which have any evidence showing them to be true across the board. What did give the colonies a sense of solidarity and cohesion, if not this myth called The Great Awakening?
John Jay said it best in The Federalist Papers. “I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people—a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.” This is what unified the American people, not a scattered series of intercolonial revivals of short term effect given continuity by an Anglican itinerant preacher named George Whitefield who manipulated the news media of the day and gained converts for Christianity who soon were as “lost as a goose in a horse race” without the regular attendance at such events, that happened dozens of years prior to the events of the American Revolution.
In fact, as Bobrick points out, political unity was not a new thing but, indeed, he says, “In one way or another the colonies had been trying to unite since 1643, when the four New England colonies had signed articles for mutual defense against invasion by Indians or any other hostile force.” In the French and Indian War as many Americans served as had British military. The colonists without question were willing to unite for their defense and for their rights once convinced that those established rights had been threatened by King George III and his parliament without any great socio-political change effected by the “unifying” preaching of a Congregationalist preacher from Connecticut named Jonathan Edwards.
Samuel Eliot Morison relates an account in his The Oxford History of the American People that sheds light on the motivation of the colonists through an anecdote, “What made the farmers fight in 1775? Judge Mellen Chamberlain in 1842, when he was twenty one, interviewed Captain Preston, a ninety year old veteran of the Concord fight: “Did you take up arms against intolerable oppressions?”
“Oppressions?” replied the old man. “I didn’t feel them.”
“What, were you not oppressed by the Stamp Act?”
“I never saw one of those stamps. I certainly never paid a penny for one of them.”
“Well, what then about the tea tax?”
“I never drank a drop of the stuff; the boys threw it all overboard.”
“Then I suppose you had been reading Harington or Sidney and Locke about the eternal principles of liberty?”
“Never heard of ‘em. We read only the Bible, the Catechism, Watts’ Psalms and Hymns, and the Almanac.”
“Well, then, what was the matter? And what did you mean in going to the fight?”
“Young man, what we meant in going for those redcoats was this: we always had governed ourselves, and we always meant to. They didn’t mean we should.”
Morison also gives this revealing look at the movers and shakers of the American Revolution in his book. “The American Revolution was brought about by radical groups in the seaport towns, usually in alliance with local merchants, and with planters of the Southern tidewater.” Certainly, this group of men were not the kind whose lives would be moved and changed by a group of religious events characterized by intense emotional outbursts.
It is important to repeat, though, that the Christian religion was an important factor in the Founding Generation. Of that there is no denying. But if you peruse even the pages of a highly partisan book like the 1864 The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States by Benjamin F. Morris who reads back from the 19th century into the men of the American Revolution the most pious of Christian motivations making no mention of The Great Awakening or revivals, and merely reveals a letter from Benjamin Franklin to George Whitefield about how he doesn’t see the need for faith if he performs good you can see my point.
Ever since Tracy’s 1840’s book on The Great Awakening historians have been bandying around this notion that Britain’s American colonies were given their unity and prepared for the battle for independence, at least in part, by a semi-mythical event that took place mostly in New England in the 1740’s and was almost finished before it was even acknowledged by its most ardent defenders. And yet, the colonies had already been prepared for the coming ordeal of a war for Independence by banding together for mutual aid against hostile natives, against hostile French, and by their sharing of a commonly expected set of rights and privileges as Englishmen.
Also, if you’ll notice in the John Jay quote aforementioned he does not even speak of a heritage of religious revivals and people frothing at the mouth, crying, falling to their knees, and going into convulsions as a prerequisite for fighting for independence. The very idea carries with it an absurdity that goes beyond understanding. It is simply something normally rational people repeat because historians have said so, that the Great Awakening gave unity to the colonies they didn’t otherwise have and prepared them for the War for Independence.
It’s important to address the quote that this paper began with by Benson Bobrick from his outstanding and wonderfully written history, Angel in the Whirlwind. The Great Awakening did not offer to the American people a sense of shared spirituality. If anything it divided them more; into the born again and destined for Hell, into a multitude of denominations and sects, and into revival supporters and those people who fled to the Anglican Church as a negative reaction to emotionalism. The Great Awakening, if anything, is simply an American myth.
In conclusion, a couple of quotes from Jon Butler’s book, Awash in a Sea of Faith, are appropriate at this point to drive the final nail in the coffin in order to bury this famed event. “The emphasis on “The Great Awakening” may say more about subsequent times than about its own. The term was not contemporary, nor was it known to the historians of the revolutionary and early national periods. Nowhere in George Bancroft’s magisterial history of the United States can a single reference to this “event” be found. Although Tracy coined the term, he limited his history to New England and wrote only fleetingly about revivals elsewhere in the 1740’s.” Butler then goes on to compare The Great Awakening in mythological terms to the famed Donation of Constantine, the early medieval fraud. “More important, an obsessive concern with it distorts important historical subtleties and obscures other crucial realities of eighteenth century American religious development.”

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The Second Great Awakening and the Progressive Movement: The Religious Origins of Government as Savior

Abstract. Many of the Progressive movements of the late Nineteenth Century and the early and middle Twentieth Century had their origins in the religious movement called the Second Great Awakening. There was a distinct shift from the spiritual expectations over what were decidedly thought to be moral issues to a demand for political power to address them as problems that were impeding the growth of America as “The Promised Land” and God’s kingdom on earth. The great political reformers had their inspiration and origin in the revivalists, the preachers, and movers and shakers of the great religious movement of the early Nineteenth Century.

Frederick Widdowson


“…what mattered most in life; and for evangelicals…that was the rebirth
of the fallen soul, the regeneration of the corrupt heart. Without that in-
ward change, one that divine grace alone could effect…would neither find
true comfort on earth nor enjoy eternal happiness in heaven.”

“In being a Christian, two things are implied; the reception of the Christian
system as our creed, and the conformity of our inward and outward life to
its teachings.”

These two quotes show the difference in evangelical religion in America divided by a time period of approximately fifty years, between 1790 and 1842. Certainly, there was and is a majority of practitioners of evangelical religion that relied and still rely predominantly on supernatural effect and a relationship with a living, risen Savior but the latter quote from Tracy shows the clear direction that a significant number of evangelical Christians moved to personal and societal, moral improvement and away from a reliance on the divine. This phenomenon had profound effects on the political life of America.
Fired by evangelical fervor, the Second Great Awakening fundamentally transformed the Protestant Churches of America. The old Calvinism of established churches was almost overthrown for a doctrine that focused not only on the free will of mankind but in his ability, on his own, to create a “Godly” society, which was defined as a society that best reflected the admonitions and commands of Jesus Christ as presented in the four Gospels. This became at least a denial of the Total Depravity of man doctrine of the Calvinist Churches. Man was able to redeem himself, to lift himself up morally and to command a better world, a more fair world, and this movement was eventually destined to travel through the early Christian Progressive’s demand for equal and fair opportunity to the modern secular Progressive’s demand for equal outcome, from a belief that in a Christian country people should not be oppressed to the modern belief that people should not be denied. A God given right became not only the Constitutional right a government should protect one’s access to but became the Human Right, the Civil Right, that government must ensure by removing any obstacle, so much so that to not be able to afford to avail oneself of a right financially is the same as being denied it by private or public tyranny. The movement that resulted from this Second Great Awakening led Christians from exhortation on a personal level to political action, from the supernatural to the legislative, and from the power of prayer to the power of the vote. Some of the Progressive Movements, and there were more than one, were the offspring of this Pietist religious fervor of the early 1800’s and many the movers and shakers of legal reform in the way of anti-slavery, women’s rights, prohibition, child labor laws, civil rights for minorities, and labor reform can be linked to it. (A few examples will be presented in this paper.) The compulsion of men to receive the moral and spiritual commands of a supernatural savior moves to the compulsion of men to respond to a government that takes on the stature of a political savior. The subject of this paper is twofold; one to assert that much of the Progressive movement for social reform had its origins in the revivalists of the Second Great Awakening and two, that the focus of evangelical Christians on government as the cure for society’s ills had its end result as the secularization of the religious impulse involved in said reform.

With regard to the literature concerning the process to which I’m referring in American history, revivalist Charles Grandison Finney was the most powerful voice of the Second Great Awakening and Northern, Yankee women were its most powerful and enthusiastic foot-soldiers. Charles G. Finney: An Autobiography and his Lectures on Revivals of Religion are important founts of information directly from the mind of the revivalist. Smith-Rosenberg’s Disorderly Conduct: Vision’s of Gender in Victorian America is a vital source for a narrative of the religious and political activity of women and their influence in the revivalist movement. Works that document the change in focus from personal deliverance to society’s reform include Heyrman’s Southern Cross and Tracy’s The Great Awakening. Excellent works that chronicle the changes effected by the Second Great Awakening on religion and society in America include Wood’s Empire of Liberty and Howe’s What Hath God Wrought. Robert Crunden’s Ministers of Reform makes the Christian foundation of the great reform movements of the 1800’s very clear.

Many Christians from the early days of the formation of the United States looked to America, not an Israel that at the time only existed in the dreams and hopes of the Jewish Diaspora or the Christian religion itself, as being that fifth kingdom of the book of Daniel that would overcome the entire world. It was God’s special creation destined to lead, change, and overtake the entire earth. As an example of this thought there were two sermons preached before Congress in 1857 on Washington’s birthday, one entitled The United States of America Foretold in the Holy Scriptures and The Battle of Armageddon: or The World’s Last Conflict Between Civil and Religious Liberty on the One Side, and Political and Ecclesiastical Despotism on the Other, offered by the Reverend F.E. Pitts and naming America as “The Promised Land” of Scripture as well as the fifth kingdom of the book of Daniel. The Second Great Awakening, a religious upheaval that began at the turn of the 19th century in America after moving across Europe, led to an explosion of revivalism. Of the famous revivalists, Charles Grandison Finney was, perhaps, the most famous and energetic. At Charles G. Finney’s revivals where he preached, many people swooned and acted in strange ways but declared they had received the new birth spoken of in the Bible as Jesus had declared. “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” The apostle Peter also refers to conversion to Christianity in this manner, also. “ Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” In both cases, the water birth and being born of corruptible seed were understood as being the first natural birth and being born again referred to a spiritual rebirth into God’s Kingdom.
Charles Finney was not only interested in the salvation of souls but in societal reform, particularly anti-slavery efforts, as he understood the purpose behind the founding of Oberlin College, which he eventually assumed control over. His efforts included not only the pushing of an anti-slavery agenda but petitioning the government to stop delivering the mail on Sunday, which Christians like himself believed was the Christian Sabbath, these so called Sabbatarians holding to the impermissibility of either business or government or anyone for that matter doing any work on that day. Finney’s influence and authority over the religious faithful of the Northern U.S. made him an invaluable help in anti-slavery efforts .
The reform minded Christians were predominantly Northern as in the South the Second Great Awakening took a more inward route as the new Pietism had a different impact in the region dominated by slavery versus the non-slave owning North. Initially, women had played a big part in the establishing of evangelical religion in the South as in spite of a patriarchal society with a rigid social and family structure “preachers not only regarded women’s religious opinions as worthy of discussion but also endorsed their right to acquire skills that would enable them to make independent judgments based on firsthand knowledge of the Bible.” The lifting up of women eventually fell away as the evangelical churches sought more successfully to reach the Southern male and made accommodations to slavery.
However, in the North, women were able to overthrow existing social restrictions as they helped the great revivalists in the organization of their events. “Women's religious movements multiplied. Female revival converts formed Holy Bands to assist the evangelist his revival efforts. They gathered with him at dawn to help plan the day's revival strategies. They posted bills in public places urging attendance at revival meetings, pressured merchants to close their shops and hold prayer services, and buttonholed sinful men and prayed with them. Although "merely women," they led prayer vigils in their homes that extended far into the night. These women for the most part were married, respected members of respectable communities. Yet, transformed by millennial zeal, they disregarded virtually every restraint upon women's behavior. They self righteously commanded sacred space as their own. They boldly carried Christ's message to the streets, even into the new urban slums.”
Women’s religious groups grew to help prepare for the great revivals of the period. These women under the guise of spiritual necessity broke virtually every taboo placed on women and their operation in society. These women began as staunch prohibitionists and anti-slavery advocates and branched off into women’s rights and through organizations like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union sought to get the government involved in regulating red light districts, pushing for an eight hour work day, government programs for disadvantaged children, and many other things that they felt helped move society forward, even without the right to vote. As Mark David Hall reports, “the political class of evangelical women was encouraged by its religious convictions to become involved in the public sphere in unprecedented ways. In the process of doing so, these women developed and promulgated social and political ideas that became influential in antebellum America.” The powerful influence of religion during the era of the Second Great Awakening instilled in the devout a demand for the Postmillennial concept of a “moral government”. Evangelistic fervor “creating a vast reservoir of moral anxiety and a boundless commitment to do good, evangelicalism inspired its adherents to strain every nerve in pursuit of new channels of benevolence. With traditional authority and institutions devalued, each person became directly accountable for the benefit of society; and a brave new world awaited his striving.”
The Postmillennial theory of the Bible and history had man instituting a golden age and then turning that perfected world over to a returning Christ, where the belief practiced for the first few centuries of Christian experience was Premillennial, that Christ would return and set up His kingdom on earth for 1,000 years, righting all wrongs and creating His own golden age. Many of the reformers were captivated by Postmillennial belief.
Additionally, the revivalism of the early 19th century had a great deal to do with creating the American self identity of the American Protestant, particularly in the North. Revivalism and the hunger to build society in a moral way “built a sociopolitical universe within which individuals participated in a national market and a national polity. It above all was concerned with ontology, defining the nature of the individual, nation, and action. Revivalism was rooted in the rational organization of everyday life and had important political implications, which were expressed in moral reform, the abolitionist movement, and then later in support of Republican nationalism.”
Postmillennial belief would eventually meet its demise, particularly as World War One drove the last coffin nail into the view that mankind was able to create even a Godly kingdom, much less the literal kingdom of God on earth. “In 1859 an influential theological quarterly asserted without fear of contradiction that postmillennialism was “the commonly received doctrine” among American Protestants; but by the early twentieth century, it had largely vanished, and Lewis Sperry Chafer, with only slight partisan exaggeration, could claim in 1936 that it was without “living voice.”
Using the government to eradicate sin, to establish the kingdom of God on earth, eventually led to secularization of the religious impulse. As one example in the limited space available, Richard T. Ely had come from a long line of Congregationalist preachers and, in fact, his father, Ezra, was a staunch Sabbatarian (holding to the sacredness of Sunday), hating tobacco and alcohol as well. Religious himself, Richard graduated from Columbia University and then went on to Germany for his PhD and became the first instructor of Political Economy at Johns Hopkins where he was a great influence on many future Progressives, particularly future President Woodrow Wilson. Ely believed fervently that God was “transforming the social sciences and enacting progressive policies.”
Ely believed in a twist on the divine right of kings, with kings as having authority directly from God. Ely had written;
“An obstacle [to the expansion of the State’s role] in economic activity has been found in the low view that men have too frequently taken of its [the State’s] nature. Calling it [the State] an atomistic collection of units, some have gone so far as to speak of the support for public schools as robbery of the propertied class. Now, it may rationally be maintained that, if there is anything divine on earth, it is the State, the product of the same God-given instincts which led to the establishment of the Church and of the Family. It was once held that kings ruled by right divine, and in any widely accepted belief, though it be afterwards discredited, there is generally found a kernel of truth. In this case it was the divine right of the state.”
In expressing a belief, however meant to be symbolic, in the divinity of the state, Ely had come a long way in the journey from trusting in the God of the Bible to trusting in the state as the righter of all wrongs and the arbiter of all disputes, from the internal manifestation of divinity in the converted, “born again” person to the external, political manifestation of divinity in the converted, “born again” state.
The Second Great Awakening had begun with a distinct spiritual and religious tone. “As American society became more democratic in the early nineteenth century, middling people rose to dominance and brought their religiosity with them. The Second Great Awakening, as the movement was later called, was a massive outpouring of evangelical religious enthusiasm, perhaps a more massive expression of Protestant Christianity than at any time since the seventeenth century or even the Reformation. By the early decades of the nineteenth century American society appeared to be much more religious than it had been in the final decades of the eighteenth century.” Revivalism was its outward manifestation, as large meetings called revivals drew thousands to hear sermons and to possibly be converted to faith in Christ.
It became, for a number of reasons, a movement that was defined by more than personal salvation. With Northern revivalists and their female cohorts trumpeting the cause of the abolition of slavery and many other hot button issues it grew more outward focused onto the political world. “Finally, the Christian religion remained an enduring element of imponderable magnitude in American life and thought, simultaneously progressive and conservative, a source of both social reform and divisive controversy.”
This particular religious impulse of progress, of reform, and social change moved into a theology of the state as being God’s instrument on earth, with the goal ahead and, in fact, in sight, after moving through distinct stages of growth and development, of “a Christian cooperative commonwealth”.
Now, make no mistake, there are many other important figures that were influenced by the Second Great Awakening’s powerful postmillennial religious impulse to create a Christian nation in fact out of one that was only Christian in promise. There were many influential preachers of the Second Great Awakening but I’ve focused on the most popular, Finney. There are many social reformers and scholars who were influenced by the religious impulses that originated in the Second Great Awakening such as John Dewey, the famed humanist and educator who began as an ardent preacher, not of atheism, but of postmillennial political thought and the assurance that the kingdom of God was about to be created in this country. “The next religious prophet who will have a permanent and real influence on men’s lives will be the man who succeeds in pointing out the religious meaning of democracy, the ultimate religious value to be found in the normal flux of life itself. It is the question of doing what Jesus did for his time.”
Dewey moved the focus of reform to the state through education and away from religion. “Education is the fundamental method of social progress and reform.”
Returning for a moment to Richard T. Ely, he had enormous influence on President Wilson, the first president who began to push the doctrine of “moral government” to the world stage with his “making the world safe for democracy” and under whose administration child labor protections were enacted. Richard T. Ely also made the symbolic divinity of the state more clear. Dewey represents the eventual secularization and even atheism of the once Christian reform movement.
These men (and women although women were predominantly the foot-soldiers as the intellectual world was, at first, denied them) influenced virtually every Progressive effort from the Abolition of Slavery to Prohibition. In the beginning of this paper a point was deliberately made to mention the importance of women in the reform movements that sprang from the Second Great Awakening. Jane Addams was a key figure in the Christian reform movement with roots in the religious impulse of the Second Great Awakening and the most prominent of the Yankee women social progressives. Her father was a Pietist Quaker, one of the wealthiest men in Illinois, and served for many years as a Republican State Senator. After graduating from one of the pioneer all women colleges, the Rockford Female Seminary, Ms. Addams went on to found the famed settlement house, Hull House, in the slums of Chicago. Robert Crunden has this to say about her efforts. “Hull-house was able to play its catalytic role in the history of the social sciences because it managed to appeal to old and new tendencies in American social thought. On the one hand, Hull-house appealed to the tradition in American reform of aroused Christian conscience. Its founder came out of Lincoln Republicanism and Quaker abolitionism; outside of the settlement she continued this family emphasis most obviously with her active participation in the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (1909). She was a living example of applied Christian reform thought.”
At this point it would seem well to point out that the people so far mentioned were essentially capitalist oriented and depended on the patronage of people of wealth and standing for their ability to carry on their work. It’s important to note that there is also a strain of Christian Socialism that runs out of the Antebellum period of the Second Great Awakening such as the minister who wrote The Pledge of Allegiance. It’s also important to note that there were Progressive movements that proceeded directly from people involved in the part of society being reformed. The labor movement is notable in that respect. Many of the most important characters did not come from the Protestant tradition of Christian reform. The point of this paper has, from the beginning, not been to say that all reform has been Christian centered or originated in the Second Great Awakening. Some reform efforts, particularly in the Twentieth Century arose merely from need, urgency, and the existence of impossible living and working conditions. But, the Second Great Awakening provided a base from which religious men and women could believe that it was consistent with their faith to petition government, particularly a government they viewed as their own rather than the petty property of some king or potentate, to fundamentally transform society. As the focus on government as a divine institution representing God’s will on earth evolved the secularization of that religious impulse took control. Today, the party considered to be liberal and progressive on social and economic issues, the Democratic Party, appears to have lost any connection to religion although some of its most influential components of leadership such as President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are profoundly religious people. President Obama, himself, has lamented the inability of the Democratic Party to address the religious impulse of reform. In a controversial speech given before he became president, he lamented how Progressivism had divorced itself from religion;
“And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they're at - to communicate our hopes and values in a way that's relevant to their own - then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse……. what I am suggesting is this - secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”

In conclusion, it has been shown that that much of the Progressive movement for social reform had its origins in the revivalists of the Second Great Awakening with the next generation of reformers attempting to make America an example of Christian belief and practice in the socio-political realm, and two, that the focus of evangelical Christians on government as the cure for society’s ills had its end result as the secularization of the religious impulse involved in said reform. This has been done by offering the quotes and careers of a small few of the principals involved in reform in America’s history as their thoughts and beliefs moved from extolling God to making the state and education divine institutions, and finally to a point where a modern, Progressive president laments the eventual secularization of the Progressive movement and its apparent inability to address the religious impulse in the people at large or even to acknowledge the faith of great reformers of the past.


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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Proverbs 25:14 commentary; false gift? or is it real?

14 ¶ Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.

There are some interesting ways to look at this verse in application to the Christian. One is that the person who brags about giving he did not do is like a sky that promises the relief of rain but produces nothing. This would be along the line of what commentator John Gill said in the 1700’s. But, in today’s Christianity there is another, more startling interpretation. There are several denominations of Christians who claim to have certain “gifts” that others claim through Biblical study died with the Apostles. For instance, there are people who claim to speak in a special, heavenly language either openly in the congregation or privately in prayer. They call this the gift of “tongues”. However, this doesn’t appear to be Biblical because wherever tongues are mentioned it is a reference to an understandable human language, if not the physical organ in the mouth.

Genesis 10:5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.

Genesis 10:20 These are the sons of Ham, after their families, after their tongues, in their countries, and in their nations.

Acts 2:7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?

The specific reference many of these people use is this one;

1Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

This is the only point of argument. Is this a reference to a real and unique language that the appearances of God, men, churches, or countries, which is what an angel is, use? Each time an angel speaks in the Bible it is in an intelligible language. The gift spoken of in Acts is clearly, in context, the ability to speak other human languages for the purpose of spreading the Gospel, without having been taught those languages in the normal way. If the person claiming to speak in a special tongue is faking then this would be a false gift, if he or she is not then it would be a remarkable thing to be able to speak the gospel in, say, Tibetan, without having learned it. Of course, the Bible requires that someone who can interpret the unknown tongue independently be there. If the speakers are real, then it is an amazing thing, and let’s praise God for it. If they are liars then they certainly fit this verse. If you have this gift why aren’t you on the mission field either overseas or in the ethnic neighborhoods of this country? Could it be that this gift points attention at you, which is what you really desire? I can’t judge you nor can I limit what God can do or will do. Just examine yourself carefully. A great deal is at stake.

Then there is the “gift” of healing which many of us, like myself, believe died with the Apostles, and I don’t mean the Popes or Brother Love down at the First Church of the Feel Good. If this isn’t a false gift, like clouds and wind that promise rain, then why isn’t Benny Hinn down at the cancer ward of the children’s hospital healing those poor, little bodies? Why doesn’t he submit his healing ministry to the examination of the Mayo Clinic or some such institute for further study? Of course, Evander Holyfield’s “miracle” cure of a heart defect by Benny Hinn begs the question; is this for real? If it is, praise God. That’s wonderful. Benny, get down to the Shriner’s Hospital or Johns Hopkins right now. You’ve made your millions. People need help.

If, on the other hand, it isn’t real, if it’s fake, once again we have wind and clouds, but no rain. I suppose I’ll find out on the other side of Glory.

Moving closer to home, you have many young people who claim to have the gift of preaching. They say that God has called them to the ministry to preach. When the building business was going great guns I had a manager of a modular home sales lot ask me why I thought about half of his applicants for sales positions had been in some type of ministry they felt they had been called to but it had folded. I told him that sometimes God wants us to wait until His timing is right for our call to service so these men’s run wasn’t over yet, that sometimes we have an ambition to do something for God so we think God has called us to it mistakenly, and, finally, that all Christians are called to a ministry of some sort and if you have been called to preach then God will open the doors for you to do so and it may be a start and stop sort of thing for awhile until God puts you where He wants you so don’t lose hope. It’s not a career opportunity like Petroleum Engineering where you plot out your college and the churches you’ll apply to. If God isn’t in it, you’ll wind up being a car salesman. Be faithful, hang in there, God has something in store for you. You might be a car salesman until the church God is preparing for you is ready. Anyway, Paul made tents. There is nothing wrong with working full time and preaching as well. But, if it’s a false gift and you’re bragging about how you’ve been called to preach when you haven’t, you’re like wind and clouds with no rain.

The worst bragging of a false gift of all, is to claim to have been saved and to have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in your body, only to live carnally and worldly, without any hope of drawing men and women to Christ, either through carnal, fleshly living like drinking and hanging out at bars and profane language or in fake spirituality, going to church every time the doors are open, carrying your KJB under your arm, saying all the church words but harboring nothing but fear, paranoia, and hate in your heart, expecting God to give you a special deal. You be physically faithful and He better treat you right.

If that’s you’re attitude then you, too, are bragging of a false gift and are like clouds and wind with no rain. So much of modern Christianity is like that; just empty words and shallow deeds, another excuse for some to feel better than others not like them.

Lest I’ve injured someone’s feelings let me point out that the only condemnation that comes from this verse and what I’ve written concerns whether or not your professed gift is true or false. Perhaps only you and God know the answer to this. But, beware of boasting, anyway. It carries with it a whole other spiritual problem. There is a difference between confidence and faith, versus presumption and boasting.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Proverbs 25:13 commentary; are you a faithful messenger, Christian or just a self righteous religious freak?

13 ¶ As the cold of snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to them that send him: for he refresheth the soul of his masters.

Dr. Ruckman points out that snow was used for cooling drinks and foods, as far as we know from written sources, as early as 1500BC. When the hard work of the harvest comes where there is no rest until the labor is done, and any factory worker will understand that in the busy season for their company there are sometimes many weeks of 12 hour per day seven day work weeks, cool refreshment is a blessing.

So, without going into a huge historical dissertation about ancient refrigeration methods, of which I have learned some very interesting facts but not very germane to our discussion, let me just say that this verse shows that a faithful messenger is a blessing to the one who sent him as a cold drink in a time of back breaking work is refreshing.

Christians are to be ambassadors for the kingdom of God. We are messengers from the heavenly kingdom which is to come. Our message is the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:1 ¶ Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

That is our message to the world. Without it the world and all of its people are lost and doomed to an eternity of agony, pain, grief, and loss, as we were, very simply.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Our message is not political in that we are not trumpeting the glory of any earthly kingdom or nation including the one we live in. We are practicing malfeasance in office when we seek revenge, even verbal, when we are self promoting, seek our own welfare over others, do not give of ourselves, our time, and our money sacrificially, love violence as either our own satisfaction or our entertainment, are not honest to a fault in our dealings with the world, speak vain words, become easily offended or angry at the behavior and speech of lost people, are obsessed with things sexual and with appearance, and at all times don’t put our message from God ahead of ourselves, specifically OUR SELF.

Ask yourself, what kind of messenger are you? Are you representing Christ, as part of His body on earth, properly? Anger, paranoia, fear, excessive patriotic fervor for an earthly kingdom, self righteousness, bigotry, cruelty, meanspiritedness, selfishness, arrogance, and hatred are not attributes a heavenly messenger should manifest.

What attributes are your credentials which you present to the world every time you leave your front door either physically or figuratively on the computer or telephone? What is the proof of your position as Christ’s messenger, the fruit that proves what kind of tree you really are?

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Are you a faithful messenger that refreshes the soul of your master? Or are you an angry, self righteous religious freak who serves only your own fears and emotional baggage and your desire to see your SELF be honored? Remember, angry people, full of wrath and hatred, cannot serve Christ. Quit fooling yourself. You don’t fool God or the unsaved.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Proverbs 25:11-12 commentary; A beautiful picture of great value

11 ¶ A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. 12 As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

The right word spoken at the right time is like a beautiful picture of great value. Like jewelry and ornaments of great value, so is the picture of a person giving wise reproof and instruction (synonyms as per Proverbs 13:18) and correction (synonyms as per 2 Timothy 3:16) to a person who will hear it and obey. This picture requires the speaker of the word and the hearer. Such is the way of the Bible when you have a person who is teachable, who has been molded into the person who can be changed, when God’s word is applied to him or her.

Are you teachable? Can you handle correction? I’m not talking about being chewed out by a person who is as hard headed and self righteous as you are but about being changed by God speaking to you through His word? Some people are too stubborn, too arrogant, and too full of the worship of Self, the great “I”, who like the “great Oz” in the movie and book, stands behind a curtain pretending to be something he is not.

A fool will not hear reproof as we have seen several times in Proverbs. For example;

Proverbs 15:5 A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

Proverbs 15:10 Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.

If you are not teachable then perhaps God will make you so. Perhaps you need a chronic illness. An injury. A great disappointment or failure or repeated ones. Perhaps you need to have God take one of your children home with Him in some tragic circumstance in order to get you to look up and realize that there is a God and you aren’t Him.

How long will it take for you to understand that this short life is not what it’s all about. This is the proving ground for what it’s all about. This is where those who will know the God who created them are separated from those who will not. This is where those who know the God who created them but will not hear Him are separated from those who will. We have a timeless eternity ahead of us.

Isaiah 50:4 ¶ The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. 5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

A person who will hear and obey instruction and the person giving the instruction is a beautiful picture, a precious thing. The Holy Spirit instructing the Christian, piercing through the layers of Self worship and hardheartedness is an amazing thing. But, it is the two that makes the picture complete. God wants a relationship with you through Jesus Christ by the means of the Holy Spirit, all three being God in one. The Book is the vehicle, the vessel by which He accomplishes the instruction, the correction, and the reproof He wants you to have. Take up and read.

2Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Proverbs 25:8-10 commentary; some battles aren't worth winning

8 ¶ Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame. 9 Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another: 10 Lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away.

Don’t be in a hurry to get in a fight. You have no idea what the outcome might be. Talk things out with the person with whom you have a conflict and don’t be telling tales out of school. It might get back to the person you’re trying to work things out with and make things worse. Many a person I’ve heard say they were trying to work out a problem with someone only to find that their talking about the problem to someone else got back to the first party and ruined everything.

In parts of the South there is a word called “politickin” where, let’s say a husband and wife have a falling out, as in, he cheats on her. Then, he, as he proclaims he’s repented of his sin and is sorry for what he did, goes around to the wife’s family and friends without her and tries to make himself look repentant. Now, what he’s doing is politickin and doing it behind her back, getting her family and friends to side with him or at least have pity on him. He’s gotten the wife’s family to betray her because in her highly emotionally charged state that’s what she feels, that they are taking his side. He also makes it unlikely she’ll forgive him.

This kind of backstabbing goes on in politics, business, and sports as well as the personal. In religion, you might have a popular Pastor caught in a sexual sin or even a crime go around to churches and get some pulpit time to declare either his repentance or his innocence when, after all, our Lord, when innocent, spoke nary a word in His own defence. This is politickin. You have to be suspicious. The old saying goes, if you are innocent don’t confess to something you didn’t do, but if you’re guilty you better cut a deal with the prosecutor. The only person who needs to say anything other than “I didn’t do it” is the guilty party.

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III, Scene II it is said, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”, which is often misquoted as “me thinks thou doth protest too much”. This means that you are so emotional about your innocence you sound guilty.

Commentators agree that this set of verses mean, and let me repeat, don’t be in a hurry to get into a public argument or even go to law with someone, you don’t know how its going to turn out, talk it over only with the party involved lest they hear about your politickin and you wind up with egg on your face that you can never wipe off. I’ve seen families hurt by ignoring this advice, marriages ruined, and friendships ended. With regard to legal matters, Jesus says this;

Matthew 5:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Much of the problem with disputes going too far has to do with our worship of Self. We demand our “propers”, as they say and are very sensitive to any perceived disrespect. Many people, partly due to their own temperament and partly due to our culture’s “me first” mentality, can’t allow their personal worth or importance to be put to the test in a dispute. These Proverbs cut you down a notch and make you think that perhaps the victory isn’t worth pursuing, I could lose, who is to say, and either way, my reputation may be tarnished forever. I only wish I had known this truth forty years ago. My entire life until the age of 46 was involved in spending too much time getting into drama, the results of which either “boomeranged” on me or just made me look worse even when I won. Think carefully before you strive. Some battles just aren’t worth winning.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Proverbs 25:6-7 commentary; humble yourself before God

6 ¶ Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: 7 For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.

Practical advice for the ancient Israelite not to put on airs and attempt to place themselves on a par with the powerful men for it is better to be humble and be lifted up than to be arrogant and brought low. Come into the presence of the king in humility without the pretension of the “great” men. Let him raise you up. Do not put yourself in a position to be knocked down several notches.

The Christian faith is one of denial, humility, and the diminuation of Self.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

1Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

When you come to God, acting as if He’s very fortunate to have you on His “team” then God will need to knock your legs out from under you. And don’t think that if you’re so meek and miserable that you are humble. There is a tyranny of the so called weak, where they become the center of the universe, and direct others not through command or threat but through emotional manipulation and pity. You can be very arrogant without seeming so on the surface. And arrogance, lifting yourself up, is ungodly behavior for a Christian. Tell me, something, whether you seem to be a tough guy and “all that and a bag o’ chips” or if you are meek and mild and just a doormat for everyone to wipe their feet on, are you proud?

Psalm 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.

If you have pride in Self, whether it be a vain extolling of your own accomplishments and your man or womanhood, or if you be a behind the scenes emotional manipulator demanding that everyone kowtow to you, you are proud and therefore, in God’s eyes, acting as one of the wicked unsaved persons.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Look around you at the people you love. Look carefully. Who will God have to take away from you in order to get you to look up and quit kissing the mirror? Come before God in humility so that He can lift you up. In these verses lie one of the three times the words “Come up hither (here)” are used in the Bible. The other two times are;

Revelation 4:1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.

Revelation 11:12 And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

This is the foundation for some Bible commentators saying that there will be multiple “translations” or what are popularly called “raptures”. At least one, Dr. Ruckman, insists that there will be a “rapture” of the church before the Tribulation begins and one of the believing Jews during the Tribulation with the first “Come up hither” referring to Christ’s ascension and the resurrection of the dead Old Testament saints in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52). These things are interesting to discuss but I would not make them issues for argument. Pride tends to creep into arguments and then we forget to keep the main thing the main thing, which is our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Just believe on and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ so that some day God will say to you, “COME UP HERE!”.