|David Barton – 09/10/2015|
Signer of the Declaration of Independence, Signer of the Constitution
Original Justice of the United States Supreme Court
James Wilson had a great influence during the American Founding but has been called “the lost Founder” because of his relative modern obscurity.
He was born to a poor family in Scotland 273 years ago today (on September 14, 1742), but managed to attend universities in Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh. At the age of 21, he immigrated to America and soon began tutoring at Philadelphia College. He studied law under John Dickinson, a fellow member of the Constitutional Convention. 
In 1768, he wrote a pamphlet arguing for American independence but it considered too radical for the times. When public opinion later shifted, it was finally published. Thomas Jefferson copied portions of it for his own use, and it is conceivable that parts of Wilson’s essay even influenced the language of the Declaration. Compare the similarity of Wilson’s writing with the wording of the Declaration:
Wilson served as a Pennsylvania delegate to the Continental Congress, where he voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. He later was a member of the Constitutional Convention, where he signed the Constitution. 
Under the new federal government, President George Washington appointed Wilson as an original justice on the U. S. Supreme Court, where he served for 9 years until his death on August 28, 1798. He was buried at Christ Church in Philadelphia. 
Over recent years, the federal courts have become particularly unfriendly to Christianity and religious faith, but it was not that way under Justice Wilson. In fact, Wilson started America’s first organized legal training while he served on the Court, and he told students:
 Nicholas Pederson, “The Lost Founder: James Wilson in American
Memory,” Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, Vol. 22, Is. 2, Art. 3, (May 8, 2013). See also, Robert K. Wright, Jr. and Morris J. MacGregor, Jr., “James Wilson: Pennsylvania,” Soldier-Statesmen of the Constitution (Center of Military History, Washington, D.C., 1987).
 L. Carroll Judson, A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence(Philadelphia : J. Dobson, and Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1839), p. 130-131. See also, “James Wilson, Pennsylvania,” Charters of Freedom: America’s Founding Fathers(accessed September 8, 2015).
Tag Archives: Pennsylvania
On JULY 26, 1775, Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General of the United States, a position he held under the British Crown before the Revolution.
Franklin’s public career began when he organized Pennsylvania’s first volunteer militia during threaten attacks from Spanish and French ships.
He then proposed a General Fast, which was approved by the Colony’s Council and printed in his Pennsylvania Gazette, December 12, 1747:
“As the calamities of a bloody War…seem every year more nearly to approach us…there is just reason to fear that unless we humble ourselves before the Lord & amend our Ways, we may be chastized with yet heavier Judgments,
We have, therefore, thought fit…to appoint…a Day of Fasting & Prayer, exhorting all, both Ministers & People, to observe the same with becoming seriousness & attention, & to join with one accord in the most humble & fervent Supplications;
That Almighty God would mercifully interpose and still the Rage of War among the Nations & put a stop to the effusion of Christian Blood.”
Franklin published evangelist George Whitefield’s sermons, thereby spreading The Great Awakening Revival.
He established a volunteer fire department, a circulating public library, an insurance company, a city police force, a night watch and a hospital.
He set up the lighting of city streets and was the first to suggest Daylight Savings Time. He invented bifocal glasses, the Franklin Stove, swim fins, the lightning rod, and coined the electrical terms “positive” and “negative.”
In 1754, Franklin wrote a pamphlet, “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America,” for Europeans interested in sending their youth to this land:
“Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practised.
Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.
And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favor the whole country.”
On September 28, 1776, as President of Pennsylvania’s Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin signed the State’s first Constitution, “the most radically democratic Frame of Government the world had ever seen.
“Government ought to be instituted…to enable the individuals…to enjoy their natural rights…which the Author of Existence has bestowed upon man; and whenever these great ends…are not obtained, the people have a right…to change it, and take such measures as to them may appear necessary to promote their safety and happiness…”
Pennsylvania’s Constitution continued:
“All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences…
Nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right…
No authority…shall in any case interfere with…the right of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship.”
Pennsylvania’s Constitution added:
“And each member…shall make…the following declaration, viz: I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the Universe, the Rewarder of the good and the Punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration. And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter be required.”
Pennsylvania’s Constitution had in Section 45:
“Laws for the encouragement of virtue, and prevention of vice and immorality, shall be…constantly kept in force…Religious societies…incorporated for the advancement of religion…shall be encouraged.”
At the end of the Revolutionary War, Franklin signed the Treaty of Paris, September 3, 1783, which began: “In the name of the Most Holy and Undivided Trinity…”
As Pennsylvania’s President (Governor), Ben Franklin hosted the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where on June 28, 1787, he moved:
“That henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning.”
Franklin composed his epitaph:
“THE BODY of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN – Printer.
Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding,
Lies here, food for worms;
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will (as he believed) appear once more,
In a new, and more beautiful edition,
Corrected and amended By The AUTHOR.”
Franklin wrote April 17, 1787:
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.
As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
The Word of God prevailed
1771 – The Potomack Baptist Church was founded on this date having been planted by the Chappwamsic Baptist Church and their pastor David Thomas. Thomas was a Regular Baptist from Pennsylvania and was probably the most learned of the early Baptist preachers of Virginia. He settled in the Northern part of the colony and was continually threatened by ruffians with clubs and guns as were many of our early preachers. The Chappwamsic church produced some of the greatest of our early church planters like Jeremiah Moore, Daniel Fristoe, and his brother William. William wrote an early history of the Ketocton Baptist Association and planted the Potomack Baptist Church. William Fristoe experienced the same treatment, and became the object of those same despisers of the gospel. The planting of these churches was resisted by large gangs of men with clubs and rocks as they attempted to break up the meetings and beat the preacher. One example involved a gang of around forty men led by Robert Ashby, who entered the meetinghouse with the purpose of disrupting the meeting. Some stout fellows at the door threw Ashby out. This involved the whole multitude in a huge fight. Soon after, Ashby cut his knee, and it became infected and literally hung by the hamstrings. On his sickbed he desired preaching, but when the preacher would begin preaching he would stop his ears. He died a horrible death of great suffering. So strongly did it impress the people that God had intervened that it put a damper on those that were trying to hamper the meetings. We can say with certainty what they said of the early church in the book of Acts, So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
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He preached with great power
1722 – WARRANTS WERE ISSUED AGAINST A BAPTIST PREACHER IN LOUDON COUNTY, VIRGINIA IN 1766 – Richard Major was born on February 6, 1722 near Pennsbury, Pennsylvania into a Presbyterian home. Early on under conviction of sin he would resort to bad company to ward it off but finally grace prevailed and he became an ardent believer. He became a Baptist in 1764 and moved to Loudon County, VA, in 1766. Though he had not much schooling he was self-taught in the school of Christ, and became ordained, and was called to pastor the Little River Church, of which came six or eight other churches. Major encountered much opposition from the authorities. Warrants were issued for his arrest, but the officers never took him. At Bull Run a mob armed with clubs rose to assist in the execution of a warrant, but the Davis brothers, giants of men, after hearing him preach became enamored with him and threatened to whip anyone who disturbed his preaching. A particular man, whose wife Major had baptized, went to a meeting to kill him but the Lord intervened, and the man became so convicted that he couldn’t stand and was afterwards baptized by Major. On another occasion, a man attacked him with a club, Major said, “Satan I command thee to come out of the man.” The club immediately fell to the ground, and the lion became like a lamb. He had many other similar incidents happen in his ministry. Major was highly esteemed in his latter years which caused him great alarm because of the scripture, “beware when all men speak well of you.” His mind was eased when he overheard someone charging him with an abominable crime. The house where he lived, a stately red brick home still stands near Chantilly, VA, and a few hundred feet behind the house is his grave marked by a weathered landmark of our early Baptist history in America.
Dr. Greg J. Dixon, from: This Day in Baptist History Vol. I: Cummins Thompson /, pp. 50.
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Liberty equals peace equals churches
1644 – William Penn, son of Admiral William Penn of England was born. In early life he embraced the tenets of the Quaker religion, and in 1666 was imprisoned in Cork, Ireland for practicing his faith. In 1668 he was put in the Tower prison in London and again in 1671 he was incarcerated in the Newgate Prison for six months for his outspoken faith. Following that he accepted in full payment for all obligations from the British Crown a great territory in North America called “Pennsylvania”, and on March 4, 1661 Charles II gave him the charter. Penn established a free colony for his Quaker brethren and in 1682, along with many emigrants, sailed for America. It was Penn who laid out the city of Philadelphia, and for two years, before returning to Great Britain he governed wisely, giving full religious freedom to all of the inhabitants of the colony. Several Baptists from England, Wales, and Ireland were among the first settlers. Thomas Dungan, who had fled Ireland because of severe persecution, had sailed to Newport, Rhode Island, to enjoy soul liberty and after several years, in 1684, hearing that a new colony had opened, migrated with a few others to Bucks County, near Philadelphia, and formed a Baptist church, along with a cemetery. Elias Keach, son of the famed English pastor Benjamin Keach, and one of Dungan’s converts referred to him as, “an ancient disciple and teacher among the Baptists.” Dungan finished his course in 1688 and passed the mantle on to Elias who founded the Pennepek church which, subsequently, became the foundation for all of the Baptist work throughout the colony. [William Cathcart, The Baptist Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), 1:350. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 563-64] Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon
Thirty shots but none hit him
1846 – Eugenio Kincaid, along with others, laid the foundation for the University of Lewisburg (now Bucknell University) in Pennsylvania. He had gone to the area because his heart was burdened for missions, having been turned down by the Triennial Convention for service in Burma. Instead he planted a number of churches in the interior of Penn. He grew up in a Presbyterian family in Wetherfield, CT. and was gloriously saved and baptized while attending Baptist evangelistic meetings. He was in the first class of the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institute in New York and thrilled when Luther Rice came to challenge the students in the cause of missions. By May of 1830 the TC believed he was ready and he and his wife sailed for Burma in May of 1830, by way of Calcutta, and arrived in Burma after four months, only four years after the jailing of Judson. 1831 was quite significant, 100 soldiers were converted but his dear wife also died because of the climate. In less than a year the Lord gave him another companion, one Barbara McBain, the daughter of a British military officer. He traveled 700 miles up the Irrawady River. At times he and his crew faced robbers and one time he sent his men on and stared the fiends down just as a Burman boat came into view. On the way back he was captured by boatloads of armed bandits, thirty gunshots were fired but none hit him. He was told to sit down but he refused as 70 men surrounded him with spears. For six days they debated on executing him, but he was able to escape and make it back to Ava. He ended his life in retirement on a farm in Girard, Kansas. [Lewis Edwin Theiss, CenTennial History of Bucknell University 1826-1946 (Williamsport, Pa.: Grit Pub. Company. Press, 1946), pp. 25, 45. This Day in Baptist History II: Cummins and Thompson, BJU Press: Greenville, S.C. 2000 A.D. 547-49]
Prepared by Dr. Greg J. Dixon