INSIGHTS FROM ALMOST 2 CENTURIES AGO
From the pen of Pastor Dan McDowell
In “Advice to the Young,” included in his History of the United States, 1832, Noah Webster wrote: “The brief exposition of the Constitution of the United States, will unfold to young persons the principles of republican government …that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion …
Republican government loses half of its value, where the moral and social duties are imperfectly understood, or negligently practiced …”
Webster added: “To exterminate our popular vices is a work of far more importance to the character and happiness of our citizens than any other improvements in our system of education.”
“Moral evils constitute or produce most of the miseries of mankind and these may be prevented or avoided. Be it remembered then that disobedience to God’s law, or sin is the procuring cause of almost all the sufferings of mankind. God has so formed the moral system of this world, that a conformity to His will by men produces peace, prosperity and happiness; and disobedience to His will or laws inevitably produces misery.
If men are wretched, it is because they reject the government of God, and seek temporary good in that which certainly produces evil.”
In the preface of his American Dictionary of the English Language, republished 1841, Noah Webster wrote: “If the language can be improved in regularity, so as to be more easily acquired by our own citizens and by foreigners, and thus be rendered a more useful instrument for the propagation of science, arts, civilization and Christianity.”
Noah Webster published his translation of the Holy Bible, The Webster Bible, in 1833, stating: “The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is ‘good’, and the best corrector of all that is ‘evil’, in human society; the ‘best’ book for regulating the temporal concerns of men, and the ‘only book’ that can serve as an infallible guide to future felicity.”
In “Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education” (New Haven, 1823), Webster wrote: “It is alleged by men of loose principles … that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations.
But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine.
They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness …
And it is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens, that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breeches of trust, peculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country; which disgrace a republican government; and which will tend to reconcile men to monarchs in other countries and even our own.”
“Men may devise and adopt new forms of government; they may amend old forms, repair breaches, and punish violators of the constitution; but there is, there can be, no effectual remedy, but obedience to the divine law.”
In his 1834 work titled, Value of the Bible and Excellence of the Christian Religion, Webster wrote: “The Bible must be considered as the great source of all the truths by which men are to be guided in government, as well as in all social transactions … The Bible (is) the instrument of all reformation in morals and religion.”
Noah Webster wrote in The History of the United States, 1832: “All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”
The Bible has been a massive influence on literature and history, especially in the Western world, where the Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed using movable type. According to the March 2007 edition of Time, the Bible “has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating.” With estimated total sales of over 5 billion copies, it is widely considered to be the best-selling book of all time. As of the 2000s, it sells approximately 100 million copies annually.