The Place of Religion in National Life – by Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge_Bible Reading and LibertyThe following is a portion Vice President Calvin Coolidge’s address to the New York State Convention of the Y.M.C.A. in Albany, New York, 1923.

“The Place of Religion in National Life.”

When we explore the real foundation of our institutions, of their historical development or their logical support, we come very soon to the matter of religious belief. It was the great religious awakening of the sixteenth century that brought about the political awakening of the seventeenth century. The American Revolution was preceded by the great religious revival of the middle of the eighteenth, which had its effect both in England and in the colonies. When the common people turned to the reading of the Bible, as they did in the Netherlands and in England, when they were stirred by a great revival, as they were in the days of the preaching of Edwards and Whitfield, the way was prepared for William, for Cromwell, and for Washington. It was because religion gave the people a new importance and a new glory that demanded a new freedom and a new government. We cannot in our generation reject the cause and retain the same result.

If the institutions they adopted are to survive, if the governments which they founded are to endure, it will be because the people continue to have similar religious beliefs. It is idle to discuss freedom and equality on any other basis. It is useless to expect substantial reforms from any other motive. They cannot be administered from without they must come from within. That is why laws alone are so impotent. To enact or to repeal laws is not to secure reform. It is necessary to take these problems directly to the individual. There will be a proper use of our material prosperity when the individual feels a divine responsibility. There will be a broadening scholarship when the individual feels that science, literature, and history are the revelation of divine truths. There will be obedience to law when the individual feels the government represents a divine authority.

It is these beliefs, these religious convictions, that represent the strength of America, the strength of all civilized society…It is righteousness alone which exalteth a nation…

 

Old Books, Old Wine, and Old Friends

Old Wine Old Books MemeI Love People and Old Books!

The following is the preface of an old book I have on Ancient History. It was written in the late 1800’s.  Enjoy!

To-day superficiality and sensation reign supreme, and the classics of literature are barely studied. The classics are largely relegated to the shelves of public libraries…The art of printing has revolutionized the world. The printing-press has proved far more potent than any other civilizing influence. Learning is no longer confined to the few. The literature of civilization is free to all. The danger lies in reading everything we come across. Indiscriminate reading is seldom beneficial.

While the printing press has proved a potent power for good, it has also been used for ignominious purposes. In many quarters the first consideration in accepting an author’s manuscript to-day is not whether it be a book that is worthy of publication, but whether it be a book that is sufficiently sensational to make it sell. There exists, however, a large and growing class of readers who are not satisfied with these superficial books of the hour. They crave for something more substantial than the sensational reading-matter offered them in “up-to-date” novels, decadent newspapers, and catch-penny magazines. The times are ripe for a revival of the fittest. On the intellectual horizon of the twentieth century breaks the dawn of a literary renaissance. The workers of the world long for “more light.” They desire to have the gates of knowledge thrown wide open, recognizing instinctively that “knowledge is power,” and that those who toil will ever be governed by those who think.

In the early days of printing, the books to which the people had access were few and far between. To-day the world is flooded with books, good, bad, and indifferent. The question is no longer how can I obtain a printed book, but how am I to know what printed book to read? This is a most important question for those whose leisure for reading is limited…

The books…under the head of classics…books of acknowledged greatness…Read them! There is nothing except human love from which you can derive greater happiness than the love of reading. Books prove companions in sorrow and solitude. They assuage the pangs of physical pain. They enable you to commune with all the master minds of by-gone ages. The light of intellect flashes across the printed page. The recorded thoughts of literature live on forever. Books are the “legacies of genius.” We are all heirs to the magic realm of fancy, the republic of letters, the glorious domain of immortal thought. The pyramids of Nubia and Egypt, the palaces and sculptured slabs of Nineveh, the cyclopean walls of Italy and Greece, the temples of India – none have escaped the ravages of Time. The beautiful statues of antiquity – the Venus of Melos, the sculptures of the Parthenon – will sooner or later vanish from the face of the earth. But the poetry of Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, the wisdom of Solomon and Socrates, the eloquence of Demosthenes and Cicero will last as long as earth itself. The material creations of art crumble to dust. Soul-stirring thoughts, the creations of intellect, alone survive.

“To be without books,” exclaimed Ruskin, “is the abyss of penury; don’t endure it.” Books that we own after awhile become actual companions. “He that loveth a book,” says Isaac Barrow, “will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counsellor, a cheerful companion or effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself as in a weathers, so in all fortune.”

The trend of the times is toward mental culture. The Intellectual pleasures and luxuries of life are made accessible to every home where the love of reading prevails. The publishers have provided a feast with the “Immortals.” The flow of soul comes from the authors of all ages. Let the toast be what Alfonso, King of Aragon was wont to say were the four best things of life: “Old wood burn! Old wine to drink! Old friends to converse with! Old books to read!”  Sic itur ad astra.

 

An Incredible American Christmas Story!

 
Washington Resigns His CommissionGeorge Washington’s Merry Christmas – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)
 
The gallery where the House of Congress was sitting, in Annapolis, was full to overflowing on December 23, 1783, on the occasion of General George Washington’s resignation as Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Army.
 
George Washington on that day was doing something unusual in human history – refusing power! He wanted to make it abundantly clear that he had no intention of setting up a military government with himself as the head. The hero of the Revolutionary war, in noble, yet choking emotion, briefly addressed Congress saying,
 
“The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place, I have now the honor…to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country…I here offer my commission, and take leave of all the employments of public life.”
 
The General refused payment for his services; he only asked that the new Republic, when convenient, would reimburse him for his expenses. The General had spent over $60,000.00 out of his own pocket paying and feeding his brothers in arms. Imagine how much money that was in those days.
 
The President of the Congress gave a suitable reply. Two days later Washington, through hard riding, made it home to celebrate Christmas with his family. The Cincinnatus of the West was “resting amid the rural scenes of his Mr. Vernon home” on the Potomac.
 

Plymouth Rock and Stepping Stones

Landing-BaconPlymouth Rock and Stepping Stones – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)

On This Day, December 21, 1620, the Mayflower Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock.

Jamestown was settled in 1607, the Colonists declared independence in 1776. That means the Colonial period lasted 169 years. If we take into account the previous unsuccessful settlement attempts we can say the Colonial period lasted around 200 years.

From 1776 till now (2017), 241 years have rolled by. That means the period of time from the Declaration of Independence to today, where you and I now sit reading this, is only around 41 years longer than the Colonial times. Ponder that for a minute.

This is extremely important. The Colonial period covered about eight or nine generations and their experiences shaped the future of the nation. The colonists were small bands of people on isolated settlements near the Atlantic; slowly they increased in number and, with a Bible in one hand and an axe in another, made their way further inland. They brought their English Heritage to America and molded it to conform to their new circumstances.

The Pilgrims, including men like John Carver and William Bradford, arrived on the Mayflower in 1620. Before Bradford and his brethren went ashore they met in the cabin of the ship to draw up their governing document, it was a compact called the Mayflower Compact. It’s short and concise:

“In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our Mayflower Compactdread Sovereigne Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britaine, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc. having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honour of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northerne parts of Virginia, doe by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civill body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enacte, constitute, and frame such just and equall laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meete and convenient for the generall good of the Colonie unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Codd the 11. of November, in the year of the raigne of our sovereigne lord, King James, of England, France and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fiftie-fourth. In the year of our Lord. 1620.”

John Carver was chosen as governor. More than half the colony died that first winter, including Governor Carver! William Bradford was chosen as his replacement and served in that position every year for the rest of his life except for five, and that’s because he declined those years. Bradford governed wisely and saw the colony slowly grow from a handful in 1620 to about 3,000 in 1640. He wrote an account of the Plymouth Settlement, one of the first American History books ever written, called “Of Plymouth Plantation. Here’s what he said:

“…a great hope and inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for the propagating and advancing the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in those remote parts of the world–yea, though they should be but even stepping stones unto others for the performing of so great a work.”

This gives us some insight into their motivations, especially Governor Bradford. The Colonists were concerned about the future. Believing they were merely stepping stones for their children and grandchildren, they not only lived their lives for themselves, but in view of generations to come. Bradford’s history book is an example of this kind of thinking. He wanted us to know what they did hoping we’d learn from them and improve their work. This attitude gave the Colonists the courage to endure the sufferings of the new world; it was through generational family love they withstood those early days of death and disease.

The colonists were preparing the way for us, their posterity, creating institutions and ways of doing things that are still with us today. We don’t agree with everything they did or said, but we are thankful for their labors.

The history of America is how we got from Jamestown and Plymouth to where you and I sit right now.

Are we planning for the future of our children? Are we willing to be stepping stones to future generation?

***Below is a page from the Geneva Bible, the version the Pilgrims used.

Geneva OT

Noah Webster Teaches America’s Youth about an Un-American Vice…

Blue Back SpellerNoah Webster Teaches America’s Youth about an Un-American Vice: Avarice

In 1824 Noah Webster published a school-book, the “Blue Back Speller,” designed to teach kids American English. The book concludes with lessons on virtues and vices. For instance, “avarice” is considered an un-American vice. Read this very carefully. Is it still considered a vice today? Or has avarice become something we look for in our leaders and something we emulate? Have our morals changed? What would modern Americans call Noah Webster if he published the following message about avarice today? Have we become “Un-American” Americans? Here’s what American children learned about avarice:

Avarice

Q. What is avarice?
A. An excessive desire of possessing wealth.

Q. Is this commendable?
A. It is not; but one of the meanest vices.

Q. Can an avaricious man be an honest man?
A. It is hardly possible; for the lust of gain is almost always accompanied with a disposition to take mean and undue advantages of others.

Q. What effect has avarice upon the heart?
A. It contracts the heart – narrows the sphere of benevolence – blunts all the fine feelings of sensibility, and sours the mind towards society. An avaricious man, a miser…is wrapped up in selfishness, like some worms, which crawl about and eat for some time to fill themselves…

Q. What injury is done by avarice to society?
A. Avarice gathers together more property than the owner wants, and keeps it hoarded up, where it does no good. The poor are thus deprived of some business, some means of support; the property gains nothing to the community; and somebody is less happy by means of this hoarding of wealth.

Q. In what proportion does avarice do hurt?
A. In an exact proportion to its power of doing good. The miser’s heart grows less, in proportion as his estate grows larger. The more money he has, the more he has people in his power, and the more he grinds the face of the poor. The larger the tree and the more spreading the branches, the more small plants are shaded and robbed of their nourishment.

Poor Richard’s Almanac

Poor Richard’s Almanac – By Daniel W. Sheridan (Twitter: @DanielWSheridan)
 
800px-Oliver_Pelton_-_Benjamin_Franklin_-_Poor_Richard's_Almanac_IllustratedOn this day, December 19, 1732, Benjamin Franklin began publishing a magazine called Poor Richard’s Almanac. This was a delightful magazine filled with wise and witty sayings which made Franklin an international celebrity. The title page read:
 
“By Richard Saunders, Philomat. Printed and sold by B. Franklin.”
 
Here are a few samples of his proverbial sayings:
 
“Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears…”
 
“Lost time is never found again; and what we call time enough always proves little enough.”
 
“A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.”
 
“What maintains one vice would bring up two children.”
 
“Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”
 
Franklin made good money off this magazine, which he invested wisely and honestly. Franklin believed that those who were fortunate enough to get to a place in their life where they didn’t have to work to make a living were duty bound to devote a good portion of their time to make life better for mankind, a principle which he lived.
 
Imagine if Doctor Franklin after having made his fortune by the age of 42 had gone on a permanent vacation. We would Franklin Meme Live Usefullyprobably have never heard of him, and there probably wouldn’t have been an America! Imagine what our lives would be like today if Franklin lived out the rest of his days for his own pleasure.
 
Can you see into the future? Look at your life now and ask this question: How will future generations benefit from me?
 
Let this be our motto:
 
“So the years roll round, and the last will come; when I would rather have it said He lived usefully, than He died rich.”
 
May we have more Franklin’s today.