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July 2, 2021

Reformation, Pilgrims, George Whitfield and ... July 4, 1776?

When you research credible and trustworthy historians it becomes clear that the Declaration of Independence was framed from the “two major doctrines of the Protestant Reformation.” The two major doctrines of the Reformation are “justification by faith” and "the priesthood of all believers."  [Reformation Wall photo below was taken in Geneva 12/14/18]

The first, "Justification by Faith," emphasized the Biblical truth that man has a sinful nature and is flawed needing to be justified outside of himself. It was this reality that man is flawed that birthed the American idea of a government with checks and balances. The first of its kind in history. The second main precept “The Priesthood of all believers” led directly to the principle at the very heart of the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal and endowed with rights by their Creator – rights no government has the authority to deny. [1]

The timing of the Declaration of Independence is in line with the transforming effect of the Protestant Reformation. The persecution caused by the Reformation led the Pilgrims to embark to the New World. The painting titled "The Pilgrims Embarkment" has hung in our National Capitol Rotunda since 1847. In the painting, [below], the Geneva Bible is opened to the beginning of Matthew, “The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pilgrim emb


Although, the Founders of America represented many different religious views, ideas and traditions,  including  differing views on what “true Christianity” should be. It is clear that the Founders birthed our government with great wisdom anchoring this nation on religious freedom. They carefully analyzed the Colonies government experiments in which religion ruled. They saw great problems with theocracy models but also realized the societal fabric strength of a person being personally accountable to God.  This led them to come together to create a secular government birthed upon freedom of religion and speech that was framed by the two major doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. A government formed to rely upon God, not to push him away.  



Another factor that greatly influenced the Declaration of Independence was the circuit riding ministry of George Whitefield. As a matter of fact, I argue that the uniting of America around the idea of declaring independence cannot be separated easily from the gospel preaching of George Whitfield. [see sketch left] His animated and expressive gospel preaching touched an inconceivable 80% of the population pf the American Colonies in person! A deep friendship between two unlikely people George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin grew during this time. Randy Petersen calls it “ the surprising friendship that invented America.”[2] 

Although, many of our Founding fathers denied the deity of Christ and therefore were not saved by the gospel, they did agree on the Sovereign God, who is our Creator. But the second greatest effect of Whitefield’s gospel preaching, the first being people changed by the gospel of Christ, was that the gospel preached by Whitefield unified the Colonies! Uniting them around the idea that became America! [3]

As you read the Declaration of Independence and ponder it's importance this weekend, do not forget the factors that brought it forth!

Yes, taxation without representation is part of that picture, but I believe history bears out that a bigger part is the gospel! One was the God allowed circumstance, the latter was the God guided response.


But America today is in a mess - and you know it. The book of I Corinthians chapter one explains succinctly why... man’s wisdom without God brings a mess.

Nancy Pearcy noted in her history research of the century following 1776 that "the culture shaped Christianity instead of Christianity shaping the culture." 4  Sadly,  that trend has continued.

Capitol Commission's main purpose is to deliver the Gospel to our Capitol leaders and their staff. 

A pastoral presence that ministers to all legislators, delivering the good news and teaching Christian worldview without an agenda conveys the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Because of our pastoral presence in Capitols we are seeing legislators turning to Christ and embracing truth.

God has called us to the mission field need in our Capitols,  pastors that minister to the private lives of public people. Partner with us in the Capitols. Let’s advance hope, let’s advance the gospel!

Thank you for your partnership!

Out of the American Revolution came the first American Bible, the Aitken Bible. It is the only Congress approved Bible with the encouragement by congress to read it!  

We have been given permission to offer to you a reproduction of the Aitken Bible with a donation to National.    For More Information

Thank you for shedding your grace upon this nation O' Lord.

Your grace came as men sought You, trusted and obeyed Your Word.

Burn again Your Truth into our hearts within,

And turn our hearts to You, bring revival once again! 

 For His Glory,

Dr. Brad Harbaugh

Capitol Commission, President / National Minister


[1] David Horowitz, Dark Agenda, (West Palm Beach, Florida, Humanix Books, 2018) pp.21,40-43 “Contrary to the claims of Christopher Hitchens (An atheist who was led to a deathbed conversion by the love of Jesus exhibited through his Doctor and a believer who drove him to cancer treatment read – The Faith of Christopher Hitchesn: The Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist by Larry Taunton) and other detractors of Christianity, America is the logical if not the inevitable, development of the Protestant Reformation….Justification by faith revealed the Augustinian view that human beings are flawed and sinful by nature leading to the “American idea that government requires a system of checks and balances to restrain the devious impulses and desires of its citizens and officials…the Priesthood of all believers led to the inalienable rights endowed by our Creator….It was clearly understood by the experiments of Colonies that had “theocratic type governments” that America needed to be borne on the precepts of Biblical doctrine, but carefully not be presented as one religion over another.”

[2] Randy Petersen, The Printer and the Preacher, Thomas Nelson Printing, Nashville, Tennessee, 2015

[3] Eric Metaxsas. If You Can Keep It, (New York, New York, Penguin Random House, 2016) 110-11 “The very gospel message of Whitefield’s preaching was itself inclined toward the ideas of liberty and self-government. By making each person see that God wished to have a direct relationship with every one of his children, no matter what their social standing, the church authorities were effectively cut out of the equation. There was something empowering about knowing that one could go directly to God, and it introduced what we may think as the free market of ideas into the situation. Each person could choose for himself what church he thought best and what preachers and teachers he thought most closely adhered to the theology that Whitfield put forth…It also fanned the flame of E Pluribus Unum…all of God’s children were children of the sovereign of the universe, so they too were members of the only royal family that mattered because the Scriptures said they were members of a “royal priesthood.” The most august dukes and earls were sinners who could be saved only by grace, the very same grace that saved the commonest commoner. The Gospel of Christ was the most powerful sociological leveler in history…and it burst forth in full bloom, in the 1739-1770 revival, [And to speak of the impact of the gospel against racism in our foundation] Whitefield, unlike most other ministers of his day often spoke to Negroes, and was especially touched when one came to faith. One of them asked Whitefield, “Have I a soul?” That Whitefield believed he did meant that the Negro was in this most important aspect equal to whites.[ Whitefield believed that, and the Bible clearly teaches that! ] Whitefield’s preaching was a great social leveler throughout the colonies. But it was a great uniter of the people in the colonies too. By the time Whitefield died in 1770, an inconceivable 80 percent of the population of the American colonies had heard him preach at least once.”

 [4] Nancy Pearcy, Total Truth, Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, (Wheaton Illinois, Crossway, 2004) 277