America, O Power benign, great hearts revere your name,
You stretch your hand to every land, to weak and strong the same;
You claim no conquest of the sea, nor conquest of the field,
But conquest for the rights of man, that despots all shall yield.
America, in God we trust, we fear no tyrant’s horde:
There’s light that leads toward better deeds than conquest by the sword;
Yet our cause is just, if fight we must until the world be free
Of every menace, breed, or caste that strikes at Liberty.
America, home of the brave, our song in praise we bring -
Where Stars and Stripes the winds unfurl, ‘tis there that tributes ring;
Our fathers gave their lives that we should live in Freedom’s light -
Our lives we consecrate to thee, our guide the Might of Right.
- Arthur Nicholas Hosking
This poem expresses what the founding fathers believed was to be the “redemptive role” that God had assigned to the United States of America. The idea of this “redemptive mission” runs like a scarlet thread through United States history. It was born in the Reformation, brought to the shores of America by the Pilgrims and Puritans and held by the majority of protestant denominations in America down through the centuries.
It has been proclaimed by statesmen, poets, authors, ministers and presidents. It was an idea held by Christians regardless of denominational background, taught to American school children, and chronicled by historians up until the turn of the century when historians began to rewrite history to exclude the truth regarding our spiritual heritage, Christian roots, and redemptive calling as a nation.
It is a belief that is referred to in all the documents that formed the United States, all the constitutions of the various states, the inaugural address of its presidents and the statements indelibly etched on many of our national monuments – all bear unmistakable testimony to the fact that America is one nation under God, founded for the furtherance of the gospel and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Regardless of the various techniques that have been employed by sinister forces to obliterate these truths from American memory, the calling of God upon America runs deep in the psyche of our nation and has never been revoked. The closing remarks by Representative Solarz in Congress before the House of Representatives took their final vote to authorize the President’s use of force in the Gulf reflect that, at least among a large part of Americans, this idea of America’s “redemptive mission” still overshadows our thinking and exerts its influence. Solarz restated America’s “mission” this way:
“The great lesson of our time is that evil still exists, and when evil is on the march, it must be confronted … Saddam Hussein represents a clear and present danger, not only to the region but to the world. He has gone to war twice in the last 10 years. He has used chemical weapons not only against his enemies, but against his own people, and he is well on his way toward acquiring nuclear weapons as well.
“Driven by a megalomaniacal lust for power, Hussein is determined to dominate the entire Middle East, and if he is not stopped now, we will have to stop him later under circumstances where he will be much more difficult and much more dangerous to contain. None of us wants war. Yet the truth is that not until Saddam Hussein is stripped of any lingering illusions he may have about our willingness to use force will there be any real chance of a peaceful resolution of this crisis …
“If we prevail, as surely we will, we will have prevented a brutal dictator from getting his hands on the economic jugular of the world …We will have eliminated his weapons of mass destruction and greatly reduced his conventional military power … And perhaps most importantly of all, by demonstrating that aggression does not pay, and that the international community will uphold the sanctity of existing borders, we will have established a precedent that could lead to the creation of a world governed by the rule of law rather than by the law of the jungle, and in which nations shall not make war against other nations anymore.“1
God’s Promise of World Peace
This idea of world peace, of a world governed by the rule of law where men sit down at the table of brotherhood to settle their differences rather than hash it out on a battlefield is not a mere construction of unaided human reason and theory, but the assured end of God’s ways with men. The promise of its actual occurrence on the earth is as certain as the Word of God which has never failed.
The prophets Micah and Isaiah foretell of this day saying, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nations, neither shall they learn war anymore.“2 This event will occur one day on earth in time and in history.
This “world order” is not to be mistaken with the New Age movement or some other idea of one world government. It is an idea as old as our republic. It is a vision in which the blessings of liberty would eventually be extended to enable all mankind to enjoy the same peace and security, freedom and the rule of law that we as Americans enjoy.
It is a vision that the founding fathers had in mind when they placed upon the great seal of the United States the Latin phrase Novus Ordo Seclorum. What they were referring to was a new beginning in the history of mankind, a new form of government, a model which they believed that other nations of the world were destined to copy.
Historian Charles Bancroft recorded in 1879, “America stands as a model which other nations will carefully copy, in due time, as they can adapt themselves and change their institutions. There may be no literal copy or close formal imitation; but there is little doubt that the spirit and true sense of our Declaration of Independence will finally mould the structure and control the workings of all governments.“3
To understand the magnitude of our founders undertaking we must realize that until the founding of the United States, 99% of the human race has had to live out their lives under what might be described as Ruler’s Law. The long history of Ruler’s Law is one of blood and terror. Those in power live in luxury while the lot of the common people is one of poverty, excessive taxation, stringent regulations, persecution and oppression. Under Ruler’s Law, government is by the rule of men and what they arbitrarily desire rather than by the rule of law.
Abandoning the idea of a ruler or king, our founders embraced the idea of representative government that God had given Moses and the nation of Israel in the wilderness when He had brought them out of Egyptian bondage. Consequently, our government was based upon the laws of God as found in the Bible and founded on Christian principle. As a result, the citizens of the United States have experienced the greatest freedom, the greatest peace, and the greatest prosperity mankind has ever known.4
Our founders believed it was possible to create a new kind of civilization, providing freedom, equality, and justice for all. They created an expansive new cultural climate that gave eagle’s wings to the human spirit. They encouraged exploration and technology to reveal the secrets of the universe. They built a free-enterprise culture to promote millions of jobs and unprecedented prosperity. They offered the human race a potential future filled with the ultimate hope of the human heart – a world of freedom, prosperity and peace.5
Of course they knew that this kind of government could only succeed as the people maintained a strong commitment and trust in God. John Adams second President of the United States wrote, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.“6
But America’s founders believed that the government they set up would be a climate in which the gospel would prosper. They believed that through revivals of Christianity the work of God would plummet forward and they expected Christianity to triumph in time and in history. They looked forward to what they called “the golden age” in which the world would experience peace and the nations would be gathered into the kingdom of God.
In 1846, E. H. Sears recorded that hope in his carol: It Came upon a Midnight Clear: “And lo the days are hastening on, by prophet bards foretold, when through the ever encircling years comes round the age of gold; When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendor fling, and the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.”
It was at the birth of the Messiah that the angels proclaimed the good tidings of redemption saying: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” It was Jesus’ redemptive work carried on in the hearts of men down through the ages of time that would eventually usher the world into peace and freedom from war.
For this peace, Jesus exhorted his disciples instructing them to pray: “Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
When Jesus began his ministry, He stated his own intent and purpose in time and in history reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah saying: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captive, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”
Isaiah prophesied concerning the Messiah’s birth and purpose saying, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government of and of His peace there will be no end … to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.“7
Wherever the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached, civil and religious liberty has eventually followed. This has fostered the climate for the triumph of Christian principles. It became a cardinal tenet of American Protestants in particular that the “liberty wherewith Christ has made us free” is bound up with political freedom.
The Seeds of Christianity
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, ‘peace on earth’ seemed the farthest thing away from a possibility. It took time for the seeds of Christianity to sink deep into pagan minds and transform world thought and action. Christianity conquered the Roman empire to see the world a few centuries later plunged into the beginning of what was to become the darkest era of man’s history.
It was during the Middle Ages that the Augustinian interpretation of history prevailed which assumed that the City of God, the mystic body of the faithful, must live, usually subject to some degree of persecution, separate from the world of action until the Last Judgement would roll up history itself. Because of this, the outlook for mankind in this world can never be hopeful.8
Ernest Truevson writes in Redeemer Nation: “Yet, even during the Middle Ages, isolated groups were never content with such an interpretation. The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, has many passages describing a glorious time when the kingdoms of this world shall become in literal fact the kingdom of God, when swords shall be beaten into plowshares, when ‘the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’
“In light of such promises, the question began to arise as to whether it was reasonable to believe, with Augustine, that God had condemned his people to suffer under the heel of the wicked, to allow the creation which he had made so fair, originally, to be marred by the continuance of evil until the very end of time? May the prophecies of the Revelation not be literally true after all – may not God’s plan envisage the step by step triumph of good over evil?
“Only isolated and radical minorities, however, asked such questions until, when the Reformation was established a new examination of the whole Scripture occurred. Even in the late sixteenth century some biblical scholars began to conclude that perhaps, after all, there was to be a millennium, a period in which Christ would rule. In the next century, however, the conception took a new and momentous turn. Perhaps the millennium was to be an earthly utopia, an age at the end of all history, in which Christians and Christian principles would really be triumphant.
“Read in the light of this expectation, the Revelation and the other prophecies took on a new and revolutionary meaning. The course of all history was seen as a great series of struggles, in which the Prince of Darkness is progressively defeated, according to a preconceived plan. The plan, more over was already far advanced; the interpreters generally felt that, with the Reformation, the turning point had been reached, and that the source of the evil had already received his death blow.
“How glorious the future would be! Yet, it was frequently warned, great battles still lay ahead; the powers of evil were doomed to defeat, but their resources still were large, and the Revelation had predicted that Satan in his death pangs would rage more strongly than ever before. In such a pattern of history it was inevitable that God would have to operate through certain nations. The old conception of a “people” called to fight the battles of the Lord was revived. It appeared that God must use peoples, armies, governments, to attain his ends; God had re-entered secular history as a participant.
“Many factors contribute to point to one nation as chosen to perform God’s work in the last days. It seemed as if the finger of Providence had pointed to the young republic of the West. The image was a popular one and it was taken literally, not only by a minority, but by what seems to have been a majority of Protestants in the United States.“9
The Protestant Reformation
Milton had asserted that the Protestant reformation was the great turning point of history. The Reformation was the great turning point at which Antichrist was cast half-way down; “its pioneers and most valiant defenders were English; now further battles in the war to overthrow the Beast are preparing, in fulfillment of the prophecies, and God is calling on his people, the English nations peculiarly fitted for such a mission because it has preserved the spirit of liberty and has become the strongest aggressor against the power which binds soul and body.“10
Jonathan Edwards remarked as a matter of course that England was the principal nation of the Reformation and that America was a “vast city, a city of refuge, the mansion house of liberty,” which God is preparing for his next great work.11 It has been seen though our history that many times the overcoming of the power of darkness in its various forms does at time require the sword as well as the Word.
The great English preacher, Richard Price wrote in London in 1784 on The Importance of the American Revolution and its Benefit to the World:
“It is a conviction I cannot resist, that the independence of the English colonies in America is one of the steps ordained by Providence to introduce these times…it will be true of them as it was of the people of the Jews, that in them all the families of the earth shall be blessed. It is scarcely possible they should think too highly of their own consequence. Perhaps there never existed a people on whose wisdom and virtue more depended; or to whom a station of more importance in the plan of Providence has been assigned.12
The idea of America’s mission in the world so permeated American thought that popular writers took up its theme. Herman Melville in his book White Jacket that preceded Moby Dick writes:
“Escaped from the house of bondage, Israel of old did not follow after the ways of the Egyptians. To her was given an express dispensation; to her were given new things under the sun. And we Americans are a peculiar people; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. Seventy years ago we escaped from thrall; and, besides our first birth-right – embracing one continent of earth – God has given to us, for a future inheritance, the broad domains of the political pagans, that shall yet come and lie down under the shade of our ark.
“God has predestined, mankind expects, great things from our race; and great things we feel in our souls…. We are the pioneers of the world; the advance-guard, sent on through the wilderness of untried things, to break a new path in the world that is ours.“13
Motley made observations in his Historic Progress and American Democracy in 1869, explaining that, “The mission of the United States is now to continue working harder than ever to build the largest, most successful, most impressive democratic Protestant state the world has ever seen. And, I think, there is the implication that this great nation will be the stone not cut by human hands that destroyed the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; the great democracy may overwhelm the kingdoms of darkness by its sheer weight, physical and moral.“14
The Depravity of Man
The United States has had its quota of rascals and hypocrites. The depravity of man runs deep. As John Adams once said, “If men were angels we would not need government.” When the Mayflower crossed the Atlantic and the Pilgrims landed on that wild New England shore they made up less than a third of the 120 on board. Yet they believed in the advancing of God’s kingdom.
John Calvin, noted reformer, wrote concerning the Lord’s prayer; “As the kingdom of God is continually growing and advancing to the end of the world, we must pray every day that it may come: for to whatever extent iniquity abounds in the world, to such an extent the kingdom of God which brings along with it perfect righteousness, is not yet come.“15
Josiah Strong saw that “Resolute attack on every kind of social wrong was required.” Strong was of the apocalyptic tradition in that he still saw things as just evils, and not problems; in every situation there was a force to be defeated, an army to be annihilated. For example, the saloon was not a symptom of an underlying disease, but an enemy to put down. The redemptive people had responsibilities at home as well as in the world.16
Timothy Dwight wrote in 1794 that he foresaw that America was called to perform heroic acts of deliverance. He envisioned that its wars would not be fought as those in the Old World for conquest but America’s wars would be fought to defend the rights of mankind. The Union, Dwight felt, was destined to exert leadership over a world on which peace had been imposed. He believed that America was to “Hush the tumult of war, and give peace to the world.“17
Henry Ward Beecher said in 1835, I foresee the “rapid and universal extension of civil and religious liberty, introductory to the triumphs of universal Christianity.”
Yet superstition and feudalism are still very strong; not for nothing do we recall that “revolutions and distress of nations” must occur before the reign of peace can begin. But, whatever may be required, the United States is assigned the star role. “But if this nation is, in the providence of God destined to lead the way in the moral and political emancipation of the world, it is time she understood her high calling, and were harnessed for the work. For mighty causes, like floods from distant mountains are rushing with accumulating power to their consummation of good or evil…“18
It was assumed that Providence casts down evil, sometimes peacefully and sometimes violently.In slavery, the will of antichrist was seen as still being done and it was believed that unless this bad system was eradicated by law, surely the apocalyptic angel would have to use the sword. While this nation was destined to play one part in the divine plan, it was believed that it would not be permitted to ignore the evil still in its bosom.
Our National Mission
A new rationale of national mission was constructed and epitomized for all time in “the Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Written during the Civil War, the apocalyptic trumpet sounded its clearest note in “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. The images are a cipher which when decoded conveys a message about the precise place and point of war in the pattern of salvation.19
The United States could not be a hermit nation, for its mission calls it to save the world from tyranny, defend human rights and furnish a model of a virtuous society of free men and women living under the rule of just law. It cannot rest content in its own happiness or tolerate its own moral corruption. It cannot dismiss the Old World of wars and oppression with a curse.
President Woodrow Wilson was the son of a Presbyterian minister and steeped from his youth in millennialist ideas. In one of his speeches President Wilson gave the following summary of history:
“When you look into the history not of our own free and fortunate continent, happily, but of the rest of the world, you will find that the hand of pitiless power has been upon the shoulders of the great mass of mankind since time began, and that only with that glimmer of light which came at Calvary, that first dawn which came with the Christian era, did men begin to wake to the dignity and right of the human soul, and that in spite of professions of Christianity, in spite of purposes of reform, in spite of theories of right and justice, the great body of our fellow beings have been kept under the will of men who exploited them and did not give them the full right to live and realize the purposes that God had meant them to realize.“20
In a later address Wilson sets forth the faith in American destiny: “… when America was born it was indeed a finger pointed toward those lands into which men could deploy some of these days and live in happy freedom, look each other in the eyes as equals, see that no man was put upon, that no people were forced to accept authority which was not of their own choice, and that hour of the general generous impulse of the human genius and the human spirit we were lifted along the levels of civilization to days when there should be wars no more, but men should govern themselves in peace and amity and quiet.“21
It was President Wilson’s belief that stemmed from his Christian ideology that the cycle of war not only must be broken, but would be broken as God had foretold through Biblical prophecy. It was his passion to set up a League of Nations after World War I to insure world peace. Congress declined to join the League of Nations for they were afraid it would make them responsible for other nations’ wars.
However, Wilson so believed that the God of Providence was behind this idea that he spent the rest of his life seeking to make it a reality. In his last speech delivered from his home in 1923 shortly before his death he said, “I cannot refrain from saying it: I am not one of those who have the least anxiety about the triumph of the principles I have stood for. I have seen fools resist Providence before and I have seen their destruction, as will come upon these again – utter destruction and contempt. That we shall prevail is as sure as that God reigns.“22
America’s millennial passion sometimes appears to be a recessive gene which appears to surface especially in times of crisis. The Gulf War seems to be such a crisis. President Bush in his address to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention January 28 said:
“The war in the gulf … is a just war. The first principle of a just war is that it support a just cause. Our cause could not be more noble … We will see that Kuwait once again is free, that the nightmare of Iraq’s occupation has ended, and that naked aggression will not be rewarded. We seek nothing for ourselves … A just war must also be declared by legitimate authority. Operation Desert Storm is supported by unprecedented United Nations’ solidarity, the principle of collective self-defense, twelve Security Council resolutions and in the Gulf, 28 nations from six continents united – resolute that we will not waiver and that Saddam’s aggression will not stand …
“During the darkest days of the Civil War, a man we revere not merely for what he did, but what he was, was asked whether he thought the Lord was on his side. And said Abraham Lincoln, “my concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God’s side.” My fellow Americans, I firmly believe in my heart of hearts that times will soon be on the side of peace because the world is overwhelmingly on the side of God.”
The Founders passed on to their posterity a policy of peace through strength. They were peace-loving, but not pacifists. They called for a rugged kind of strength and saw the necessity for a level of preparedness which would discourage an attack from potential enemies by creating a rate of risk so high that the waging of war against this nation would be an obviously unprofitable undertaking.“23
Ability to Shape the Future
Of course, evil is present with us, but also goodness and true godliness. America has the potential of being reforming from within. When this nation has stood in the past on the threshold of moral corruption America has been visited by God with massive spiritual awakenings which have affected not only the church and its missionary outreach, but have also affected America’s social life, political institutions, educational system, and have affected the course of her history.
America was founded in Covenant relationship with the One who came” to call not the righteous but the sinners to repentance, “the One who “came not to condemn the world but to save it.” She also has the promise of the New Covenant that says, “When we are faithless, He remains faithful.” Coupled with the Old Covenant promise: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.”
God’s people are praying and God stands poised in heaven, making ready to pour out the Holy Ghost and fire. America stands on the brink of the greatest spiritual awakening in her history. Personal salvation, missionary outreach, social and moral reform will follow in its wake as God again plummets America down the road to fulfill her God given destiny.
This world has not seen the last of the wonders of salvation. “Christians,” says Luther , “must have the vision which enables them to disregard the terrible spectacle and outward appearance, the devil and the guns of the whole world, and to see Him who sits on high and says, ‘I am the One who spoke.’“24
As Charles Spurgeon, great revivalist wrote at the end of the 19th century:
“The fulness of Jesus is not changed, then why are our works so feebly done? Pentecost, is that to be a tradition? The reforming days, are these to be memories only? I see no reason why we should not have a greater Pentecost than Peter saw and a Reformation deeper in its foundations, and truer in its upbuildings than all the reforms which Luther or Calvin achieved. We have the same Christ, remember that. The times are altered, but Jesus is the Eternal, and time touches him not … Our laziness puts off the work of conquest, our self-indulgence procrastinates, our cowardice and want of faith make us dote upon the millennium instead of hearing the Spirit’s voice today …
“I believe myself that King Jesus will reign, and the idols be utterly abolished; but I expect the same power which once turned the world upside down will still continue to do it. The Holy Ghost would never suffer the imputation to rest upon His holy name that he was not able to convert the world.”
“Oh! Spirit of God, bring back thy Church to a belief in the gospel! Bring back her minister to preach it once again with the Holy Ghost, and not striving after wit and learning. Then shall we see thine arm made bare, O God, in the eyes of all the people, and the myriads shall be brought to rally round the throne of God and the Lamb. The gospel must succeed; it shall succeed; it cannot be prevented from succeeding.“25
He has sounded forth the trumpet
that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men
before His judgement seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him!
be jubilant, my feet!
Our God is marching on.”
1 Rep. Solarz, Congressional Record – House, Jan. 12, 1991, H 479. 2 Isa. 2:4, Micah 4:3.
3 Verna Hall, The Christian History of the Constitution, (Foundation for American Christian Education, (San Francisco, Calif., 1978) p. 6; from Charles Bancroft’s The Footprints of Time, 1879.
4 Cleon Skousen, The Making of America, (The National Center for Constitutional Studies, Washington D. C., 1985) pp.44-45.
5 Ibid. p.vi. 6 Ibid. 53. 7 Isa. 9:6,7.
8 Ernest Truveson, Redeemer Nation (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1980) p. ix.
9 Ibid., pp. ix-x. 10 Ibid., p. 143. 11 Ibid. 12 Ibid.,p.158.
13 White Jacket, Chapter 36. 14 Tuveson p.162.
15 Ian Murray, The Puritan Hope, (The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975) p. 90. 16 Tuveson, p.168. 17 Ibid, p.169.
18 Ibid, pp.170-171. 19 Ibid, p.1. 20 Ibid, pp.210-211.
21 Ibid. 22 World Book, Woodrow Wilson, p.276.
23 Skousen, Ibid. 24 Murray, p.237-238. 25 Ibid, p.237-238.
Copyright © Bob and Rose Weiner 2007, All Rights Reserved