- Each day as we read the Bible we're going to focus on things that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams focused on in their studies: virtue, morality and character.
- Not the kind of character that makes a person a prissy priest or clergyman.
- But the kind of character than can create entrepreneurs, CEOs, and heroes; build businesses and hospitals.
- We'll study the character traits you see at the sides, and we will begin developing them into habits in our own lives.
- We'll discover a program in the Westminster Standards to develop extraordinary habits.
Thomas Jefferson, despite his criticisms of clergy and ecclesiastical corruption, would want to be remembered as one who lived and encouraged a life of virtue and morality. He would not take credit for the army of people who champion "separation of church and state" as a cloak for selfish immorality and a lack of virtue.
The practice of morality being necessary for the well-being of society, He has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral precepts of Jesus, and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in his discourses.
— TJ to James Fishback, Sept 27, 1809, Bergh 12:315. (1809.)
Jefferson had written in 1819, "I never go to bed without an hour or half an hour's reading of something moral, whereon to ruminate in the intervals of sleep" -- to which Randall adds, "The book oftenest chosen . . . was a collection of extracts from the Bible."
Henry Wilder Foote, "Introduction," The Jefferson Bible, 23
He was passionately devoted to the gospel of Jesus, which stirred him to the depths of his being and was the most powerful motive force in his life.
Donald S. Harrington, "Foreword," The Jefferson Bible, 11
Speaking of "the widespread denunciation of him by his political opponents as an anti-Christian infidel or atheist," Foote observes,
[I]t is one of the minor ironies of history that such slanders should have been so generally and so long believed about the man whose knowledge of and admiration for the teachings of Jesus have never been equaled by any other President.
Henry Wilder Foote, "Introduction," The Jefferson Bible, 18
It was not, however, to be understood that instruction in religious opinion and duties was meant to be precluded by the public authorities as indifferent to the interests of society. On the contrary, the relations which exist between man and his Maker and the duties resulting from those relations are the most interesting and important to every human being and the most incumbent on his study and investigation.
-- TJ, Report to the Visitors [school boards] Oct 7, 1822
America's Founders were agreed that religion and morality were an essential part of a public school education.
This is because good character, which is the practical embodiment of religion and morality, was essential to liberty and a free Republic. If everyone thinks he is his own god, and can steal, enslave, or kill anyone who stands in his way, you cannot have ordered liberty. People of bad character will use government to steal from others. People of bad character will clamor for a strong government to take vengeance against other people of bad character. Soon you have totalitarianism and lawlessness.
Read the Founders on the connection between morality and liberty here.