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Our Christian Heritage Quotes from US Presidents on God and the Bible

Presidents’ Day in America began as a celebration of the birthday of our first president George Washington, born February 22, 1732.  Washington’s Birthday was generally celebrated throughout most of the nineteenth century, finally becoming an official federal holiday for the District of Columbia in 1879 under President Rutherford B Hayes before going national in 1885.  Several states also set aside another day to honor Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809.

In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed in an effort to create more three day weekends, particularly for federal employees.  This act combined the federal observance of Washington’s and Lincoln’s Birthdays on the third Monday in February for each year (some states still maintain individual holidays).  Many objected to the change, but with extensive support from the labor unions and retailers, profits and convenience won out over tradition.  Although the official federal holiday name remains Washington’s Birthday, the observance has become popularly known as “President’s Day”.  Many now view the holiday as an occasion to celebrate all the US Presidents (although some are more worthy of tribute than others).  Incidentally, two other presidents were also born this month, our ninth president William Henry Harrison (Feb 9, 1773), and our fortieth and greatest president of the modern era, Ronald Reagan (Feb 6, 1914).

In observance of President’s Day, we’ve put together a small sampling of quotes by various US presidents regarding God, the Bible, and our country’s Christian foundation.

Written: Feb 2014

Quote's from US Presidents

Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

– George Washington - Farewell Address, Sept 19, 1796

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.

– George Washington during American Revolution

We recognize no sovereign but God, and no King but Jesus!  ...Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

– John Adams

Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited!  Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God... What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be.

– John Adams - diary entry Feb 22, 1756

Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appear to me so pure as that of Jesus.

– Thomas Jefferson - letter to William Canby, Sept 18, 1813

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this; it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.

– John Quincy Adams - July 4, 1821  [The Pulpit of the American Revolution, John Wingate Thornton, 1860]

You ask me what Bible I take as the standard of my faith - the Hebrew, the Samaritan, the old English translation, or what?  I answer, the Bible containing the Sermon on the Mount - any Bible that I can... understand.  The New Testament I have repeatedly read in the original Greek, in the Latin, in the Geneva Protestant, in Sacy's Catholic French translations, in Luther's German translation, in the common English Protestant, and in the Douay Catholic translations.  I take any one of them for my standard of faith... But the Sermon on the Mount commands me to lay up for myself treasures, not upon earth, but in Heaven.  My hopes of a future life are all founded upon the Gospel of Christ...

– John Quincy Adams in letter from London, Dec 24, 1814  [Peter Marshall and David Manuel - From Sea to Shining Sea - Fleming H Revell Co, 1986]

A Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy.

– James Madison to The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia

The Bible is the rock on which our Republic rests.

– Andrew Jackson

Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God.  I have full confidence in his goodness and mercy... The Bible is true... I have tried to conform to its spirit as near as possible.  Upon that sacred volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

– Andrew Jackson to General Thomas Jessup and friends who had come to bid him farewell as he approached death in the Spring of 1845

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.  And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

–Abraham Lincoln from his Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day on March 30, 1863

Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties; write its precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives.

– Ulysses S Grant - address to Children’s Sunday school

A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.

– Theodore Roosevelt

A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do.  We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about...  America was born a Christian nation.  America was born to exemplify that devotion to the tenets of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.

– Woodrow Wilson

If American democracy is to remain the greatest hope of humanity, it must continue abundantly in the faith of the Bible.

– Calvin Coolidge May 3 1925

The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets.  To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life.

– Herbert Hoover

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.  I don't think we emphasize that enough these days.  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.

– Harry Truman at a Conference in 1950

We cannot depend solely on our material wealth, on our military might, or on our intellectual skill or physical courage to see us safely through the seas that we must sail in the months and years to come.  Along with all of these we need faith.  We need the faith with which our first settlers crossed the sea to carve out a state in the wilderness, a mission they said in the Pilgrims' Compact, the Mayflower Compact, undertaken for the glory of God.  We need the faith with which our Founding Fathers proudly proclaimed the independence of this country to what seemed at that time an almost hopeless struggle, pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence.  We need the faith which has sustained and guided this Nation for 175 long and short years.  We are all builders of the future, and whether we build as public servants or private citizens, whether we build at the national or the local level, whether we build in foreign or domestic affairs, we know the truth of the ancient Psalm, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it”.

– John F Kennedy 1961 Presidential Prayer Breakfast

If we ever forget that we are one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under.

– Ronald Reagan

I've always believed that we were put here for a reason, that there is a path somehow, a divine plan for all of us and for each one of us.  And I've also always believed that America was set apart in a special way, that it was put here between the oceans to be found by a certain kind of people, based on a quality that these people had in that they came from every corner of the world.  And a country then was created by men and women who came not for gold but mainly in search of God.  They would be free people, living under the law, with faith in their Maker and in their future.

It’s been written that the most sublime figure in American history was George Washington on his knees in the snow at Valley Forge.  He personified a people who knew that it was not enough to depend on their own courage and goodness, that they must seek help from God, their Father and Preserver.  Where did we begin to lose sight of that noble beginning, of our convictions that standards of right and wrong do exist and must be lived up to?   Do we really think that we can have it both ways, that God will protect us in a time of crisis even as we turn away from Him in our day-to-day life?...

Education doesn't begin with Washington officials or stated officials or local officials.  It begins with the family, where it is the right and the responsibility of every parent...

The Book of St John tells us, “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”...  We also have His promise that we could take to heart with regard to our country, “That if my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land”...

To preserve our blessed land, we must look to God....Rebuilding America begins with restoring family strength and preserving family values.

– Ronald Reagan at the annual convention of the National Religious Broadcasters on February 9, 1982

Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation… this [arguing against abortion must be done using universal values that are acceptable to all faiths including atheists, rather than appealing to God or the teachings of the Church] is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do.  But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice.

– B Hussein Obama - speech on religion and politics at the Call to Renewal conference sponsored by Sojourners, a self-proclaimed Christian progressive organization, June 28, 2006

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Additional Bibliography

The Faith of America's Presidents,  Daniel J Mount,  AMG Publishers, 2007

America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations,  William J Federer,  FAME Publishing, 1994

Haley's Bible Handbook,  Henry H Haley,  Zondervan 1965

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