Devotion for the Week of September 12, 2016 - EARLY AMERICAN HEATHENS – Part 2:

EARLY AMERICAN HEATHENS – Part 2:

Who you honor defines yourself

submitted by Randy Jones

Romans 13:7, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

Thomas Jefferson, who is often described today as a Deist or non-Christian, believed that ‘the three greatest men the world has ever produced’ were Francis Bacon, Sir Isaac Newton and John Locke; each, while similar, were very different from each other.  Thomas said, “Bacon, Newton and Locke … [are] my trinity of the three greatest men the world has ever produced”.   To understand this let’s delve into these individuals.

Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626) was a British philosopher, attorney and statesman.  He is referred to as the “Father of Modern Science” as he developed a process of inductive thinking still taught and used today.  This background is something everyone is taught in school, have you ever wondered what was left out?  Jefferson was a well-read man of science so this makes sense, but is there more?

A lesser publicized fact of Francis Bacon is he was a devout studier of the Bible. The extent of his desire to understand science did not conflict with his desire to understand God, in fact it may have paled in comparison.  Bacon had written his own commentary on the scriptures, verse by verse.  For  Genesis 1:1 he wrote, “I believe that nothing is without beginning, but God: no nature, no matter, no spirit, but one, only, and the same God.  That God, as he is eternally Almighty, only wise, only good, in his nature: so he is eternally father, son, and Spirit,…”.  In 1603 when King James decided to have a translation of the Bible made in English it took six years to be delivered.  In 1609, King James gave it to Francis Bacon for the last edits.  While this is not taught as history today, this was likely known by Jefferson.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1727) was an English statesman, mathematician and scientist developing the laws of calculus and gravity.  Isaac had nothing to do with the little fig cookies, but he had a lot to do with the study of the Holy Scriptures.  He believed that the laws of science were the finger prints of an intelligent and omnipotent God.  “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion.”

In the second edition of his book Philosophies Naturalis Principia Mathematica he added a section to explain who set up the principles he had written about.  These comments include, “The true God is a living, intelligent, powerful being…, He governs all things and knows all things that are done or can be done…, As a blind man has no idea of colors, so we have no idea of the manner by which an all wise God perceives and understands all things.”  When he died much of his unpublished work was not based on Mathematics, Science or Astronomy, it was about the Bible, theology and Biblical prophecy.  Newton’s devotion to the scriptures would have been common knowledge during Jefferson’s lifetime.

John Locke (1632 – 1704) was an English political theorist, philosopher and he wrote the 1669 constitution for the Carolina Colony in which he included a clause that no man could be a citizen unless he acknowledged God, was a member of a church, and used no “reproachful, reviling, or abusive language” against any religion.  This sounds as though having a personal relationship with God was important to John Locke and the leaders of the Carolina Colony.  

Locke also wrote the books, Treaties on Government and Two Treatises of Government.  According to Richard Henry Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the document he signed was largely based on these books by John Locke.  It would be hard to believe the Founding Fathers would not be aware that in these two books there are over 1,000 references to the Bible.  These books were, in part, about Natural Rights given to man by God, which should not be distorted by politics or government.  Perhaps not as well-known would have been Locke’s verse by verse commentary covering the writings of the Apostle Paul, or a topical Bible, which he called a Common Place-Book to the Holy Bible.

While these people were different from the other, each was also an outspoken believer in the Bible, a thinker and philosopher, with a strong conviction of personal rights. Could this have been the common thread that rated these men in high regard by Thomas Jefferson?  If Jefferson was the Deist or non-believer as he is often described today, would this make any sense?  No, but, if he was a follower of Christ, it would explain why he thought so highly of these men.  Men of science, politics and grounded in the Word of God.

More importantly, who do you consider to be a great man, to have a great mind or lifestyle and why?  Who has earned your respect?  Who do you honor and why do you believe they deserve that honor?  Who do you hold in high esteem, why?

For who you honor defines yourself and where your heart is.

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