Presidents’ Day is the day we celebrate each of our presidents. Of course, we celebrate the guys on the coins and the dollar bills but we should also celebrate the lesser-known leaders. As we remember the 46 men who have served as the chief executive, it is important to remember that many of them were devoted not only to the service of our nation but to God.
Central to the faith of many presidents is reliance on the Bible. Ulysses S. Grant, our 18th President, said, “My advice to Sunday Schools, no matter their denomination, is: Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet-anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your heart and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future.”
John Quincy Adams, the sixth President, stated, “So great is my veneration for the Bible and so strong my belief that when duly read and meditated upon, it is of all the books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy.”
President Harry Truman, the nation’s 33rd President, saw the Bible as the foundation of our laws, saying,
“The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and Saint Matthew, from Isaiah and Saint Paul…. If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the State!”
Many argue that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation and that the Founders were deists. Yet the words of our Founders say otherwise. A quote oft attributed to Founding Father and 4th President James Madison reads,
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization not on the power of government, far from it. We have staked the whole of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the commandments of God. The future and success of America is not in this Constitution, but in the laws of God upon which this Constitution is founded.”
John Adams, the nation’s second President, made his view of Christianity clear when he said, “The Christian Religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity, and humanity.”
Faith has played no small role in our nation’s history. Madison believed that a person’s right to practice their beliefs was paramount among man’s liberties. As biographer Ralph Ketcham said, “There is no principle in all of Madison’s wide range of private opinions and long public career to which he held with greater vigor and tenacity than this one of religious liberty.”
Madison wrote in his Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, “It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.” He added, “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe.”
In a letter at the height of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President, wrote, “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this Book.”
In more recent times, President Ronald Reagan spoke of faith frequently. He once said, “Without God, there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience…without God, there is a coarsening of the society; without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.”
Our nation has had many Presidents who are worthy of honor not only because of their office, but because of their faith. As many in our nation try to erase our Christian roots and push for politicians who check their faith at the door, let us remember our leaders who honored God with their lives.