Unheeded Warnings of the Past

“No truth is more evident to my mind…”

Noah Webster, who’s primarily recognized for his 1828 comprehensive dictionary, ‘An American Dictionary of the English Language,’ warned that the continued freedom and success of the United States is dependent on the nation educating America’s youth in the principles of Christianity.

Webster explained: “Every civil government is based upon some religion or philosophy of life. Education in a nation will propagate the religion of that nation. In America, the foundational religion was Christianity. And it was sown in the hearts of Americans through the home and private and public schools for centuries. Our liberty, growth, and prosperity was the result of a Biblical philosophy of life. Our continued freedom and success is dependent on our educating the youth of America in the principles of Christianity.”

As such, Webster believed the Christian religion ought to be one of the first things in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.

In fact, it was so important in his mind, that he argued that “education is useless” without it, as it is the Bible that has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct.

“No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people,” he argued.

In this sense, Webster defined the “Christian religion” as, “the primitive Christianity in its simplicity as taught by Christ and His apostles, consisting of a belief in the being, perfections, and government of God; in the revelation of His will to men, as their supreme rule of action; in man’s… accountability to God for his conduct in this life; and in the indispensable obligation of all men to yield entire obedience to God’s commands in the moral law and the Gospel.”

Thus, the Bible ought to be considered “the great source of all the truth by which men are to be guided in government as well as in all social transactions.”

The Bible is, he argued, “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 [secular] concerns of men.”

As such, for Webster, “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.”

Therefore, the education of the youth establishes the foundation on which both law and gospel rest for success, and it is this success that will determine the success of a nation.

“Any system of education… which limits instruction to the arts and sciences, and rejects the aids of religion in forming the character of citizens, is essentially defective.”

Our history books are filled with warnings that have largely gone unheeded. Better men who prepared for us a better world than they inherited often learned through long and difficult battles that the way forward is an ancient path (Jer. 6:16).

Unfortunately for us, society today has been heavily deluded by, what C.S. Lewis dubbed, “Chronological Snobbery.” That is, “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.”

Lewis asked, “Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively), or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood.”

As a result of this uncritical approach to modern intellectual trends, recent generations have tended to view all those who came before — that is, the more productive, resourceful, educated generations — as primitive, crude and ignorant.

And yet, the consequences of our failure to learn from history are proving just as devastating as those “unenlightened” thinkers of the past predicted.

An unheeded warning, indeed.

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