The sound bites of this election have been like no others in campaign history. Both sides have lowered their standards far below that anything we’ve seen in campaigns past. Many people don’t like either candidate and so they struggle with the decision about whether or not to vote or who to vote for (read “Is it a Sin Not to Vote?”)
In our disappointment with the rhetoric of both candidates, let’s remember that it wasn’t always like this. Since July 4th of this year, Reasons for Hope* Jesus has shared videos of many former Presidents who spoke words of truth and faith, and words of encouragement and prayer from current day evangelical leaders, on our Pause to Pray for Our Nation and Its People page (Watch Here). From the words of Harry Truman to the recent words of Franklin Graham at the Decision America Tour, we know the foundation upon which our country was built. Let us never forget!
Stepping Back Almost 100 Years
President Calvin Coolidge had a distinction that no other president has been able to claim. He is the only president in U.S. history to have been born on Independence Day. Perhaps that is why he understood the spiritual underpinnings of the Declaration of Independence so well.
John Calvin Coolidge Jr. was Born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, on July 4, 1872 (died January 5, 1933). Coolidge was a graduate of Amherst College and worked as a lawyer and in state politics in the state of Massachusetts. He served as governor of Massachusetts from January 2, 1919 – January 6, 1921. On March 4, 1921, he became the 29th Vice President of the United States under Warren G. Harding and served in that position until the sudden death of Harding on August 2, 1923. On that day, Coolidge succeeded Harding as the 30th President of the United States. The following year, at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, Coolidge was nominated on the first ballot and successfully campaigned for President. He won the presidential race and was inaugurated on March 4, 1925.
Although a skilled and effective public speaker, it was often said that Coolidge was a man of few words. That earned him the nickname of ”Silent Cal.”
In his inaugural address, Coolidge was certainly not silent about the need for peace in the world. He spoke boldly about the way to achieve it and in doing so Coolidge revealed not only his hope for true peace but also his heart for the one and only true God. We should all be inspired by his words.
Excerpts from Coolidge’s Inaugural Address
“We stand at the opening of the one hundred and fiftieth year since our national consciousness first asserted itself by unmistakable action with an array of force….
“Some of the best thought of mankind has long been seeking for a formula for permanent peace….
“One of the greatest dangers to peace lies in the economic pressure to which people find themselves subjected….
“Conditions must be provided under which people can make a living and work out of their difficulties. But there is another element, more important than all, without which there can not be the slightest hope of a permanent peace. That element lies in the heart of humanity. Unless the desire for peace be cherished there, unless this fundamental and only natural source of brotherly love be cultivated to its highest degree, all artificial efforts will be in vain. Peace will come when there is realization that only under a reign of law, based on righteousness and supported by the religious conviction of the brotherhood of man, can there be any hope of a complete and satisfying life. Parchment will fail, the sword will fail, it is only the spiritual nature of man that can be triumphant.
“….The past and present show faith and hope and courage fully justified. Here stands our country, an example of tranquillity at home, a patron of tranquillity abroad. Here stands its Government, aware of its might but obedient to its conscience. Here it will continue to stand, seeking peace and prosperity, solicitous for the welfare of the wage earner, promoting enterprise, developing waterways and natural resources, attentive to the intuitive counsel of womanhood, encouraging education, desiring the advancement of religion, supporting the cause of justice and honor among the nations. America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force. No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions. The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.”
Words of Faith
WOW!!! There is no mistaking where Coolidge placed his allegiance. Nor is there any question to which God he bowed his knee. Read these words again:
“The legions which she [our government] sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.”
You won’t hear such words spoken today. Both candidates profess faith in Jesus Christ, but neither speaks so boldly to proclaim allegiance to Almighty God.
As a nation, we have drifted from the “reign of law, based on righteousness,” spoken of by Coolidge.
Declaration of Dependence on God
Those testimonies from Coolidge’s inaugural address were repeated 16 months later, when he addressed those who gathered at the 150th Anniversary Celebration of the Declaration of Independence. On July 5, 1926 in Philadelphia, Pa, the quiet President, “Silent Cal,” spoke a bold testimony of confident faith in his Lord. He began with:
“We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in acknowledgment of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.
“It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound.”
“Old Theories and Principles”
Coolidge went on to speak of the “old theories and principles” that had stood the test of time and had been “demonstrated to be sound.” This is a very long speech, so I’ve excerpted and highlighted some of Coolidge’s most powerful words. These are words worth reading and words that remind us of our nation’s Christian heritage.
When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature’s God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say “The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven.”
No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period.
The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event.
No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores.
They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live.
They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.
….A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if it roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document.
It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions.
Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man – these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world.
Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.
…We hold that the duly authorized expression of the will of the people has a divine sanction. But even in that we come back to the theory of John Wise that “Democracy is Christ’s government in church and state.” The ultimate sanction of law rests on the righteous authority of the Almighty.
…..The real heart of the American Government depends upon the heart of the people. It is from that source that we must look for all genuine reform. It is to that cause that we must ascribe all our results.
….It was in the contemplation of these truths that the fathers made their declaration and adopted their Constitution. It was to establish a free government, which must not be permitted to degenerate into the unrestrained authority of a mere majority or the unbridled weight of a mere influential few.
….Our forefathers came to certain conclusions and decided upon certain courses of action which have been a great blessing to the world. Before we can understand their conclusions we must go back and review the course which they followed. We must think the thoughts which they thought.
Their intellectual life centered around the meetinghouse. They were intent upon religious worship. While there were always among them men of deep learning, and later those who had comparatively large possessions, the mind of the people was not so much engrossed in how much they knew, or how much they had, as in how they were going to live.
While scantily provided with other literature, there was a wide acquaintance with the Scriptures. Over a period as great as that which measures the existence of our independence they were subject to this discipline not only in their religious life and educational training, but also in their political thought. They were a people who came under the influence of a great spiritual development and acquired a great moral power.
No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people.
We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them.
The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp.
If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it.
We must not sink into a pagan materialism.
We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy.
We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed.
We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.
Words of Wisdom and Worth
Coolidge may have been a man of few words but when he spoke his words imparted great wisdom and worth. Perhaps nowhere else did he give greater wisdom to his successors than when he later wrote,
“The words of a President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately.” ¹
A Lesson for Us
It seems indiscriminate words are at an all time high in this year’s presidential campaign. Let this election, with its prolific indiscriminate words and disappointments abounding, be a lesson to all of us. Our words are to be edifying. Even more importantly, they are to be testifying. Just as “Silent Cal” boldly spoke, Paul tells us we are to speak as we ought.
Eph 6:19-20 and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
Boldly Speak Discriminating Words
Measure your words. Discriminating means having or showing refined taste or good judgment. It means discerning, perceptive, astute, shrewd, judicious, perspicacious, insightful, keen; selective, fastidious, tasteful, refined, sensitive, cultivated, cultured, artistic, aesthetic words.
Let the words of our 30th President be a reminder that our conversation is to be “becoming the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27)
Let the examples of our current candidates provoke us to be discriminating in all we say, so that our words will be a reflection of the One we serve.
Remember, more often than not, we are measured by our words. Let it be our desire and our goal to be measured by THE Word—the words of truth found only in the Holy Bible.
Psa 19:14 [May] the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
¹Sobel, Robert (1998). Coolidge: An American Enigma. Regnery Publishing, p. 243
Watch this week’s video on our “Pause to Pray for our Nation and its People” page. Find out which President emphatically said, “We will never abandon our belief in God.”
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- Measured By Our Words: The Wisdom of Calvin Coolidge
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- The White House: Shrouded in Color or Covered in God’s Word?
- Their Legacy of Freedom Lives On - video
- No Greater Love: In Memory of Our Fallen Heroes -video
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- "You Will Hear of Wars and Rumors of Wars"
- Grateful for Our Heroes - Memorial Day Tribute
- National Day of Prayer
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- Why is Prayer Important?
- What Did President Reagan Say About Racism and Marxism?
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