During the time leading up to the Revolutionary War the American people were very restricted in many areas of how they lived and how they did business. Before the Revolutionary War it was illegal to print a Bible in the Colonies. All Bibles had to be shipped in from England. The reason for this was the King did not want a version of the Geneva Bible printed in the Colonies. That Bible did not hold the king in the position that he wanted to be in and that was supreme ruler, almost a god. It was a situation where the king decided what you needed to know concerning the Christian religion. The importance the Geneva Bible to the Pilgrims and the Founders can be explained.
To understand it here is a bit of history of the Geneva Bible: "It is important that we spend a little time looking at why America was such a desired place to go during this time. America had begun to establish a society that was freer than any other nation in the world. That society was being built on the teachings of the new Geneva Bible. Up until the Geneva Bible no Bible was available in the English language nor were there any commentaries to explain many aspects of the teachings found in scripture. The Bible had just begun to be translated into the English language. The New Testament was first printed in 1526 by William Tyndale. In the process of translating it he was forced to flee England because of persecution from the Crown. He fled to Germany and then to Belgium before finishing the translation. Six thousand copies were smuggled into England and that caused Tyndale to be hunted down and imprisoned. Then on March 6, 1536 he was strangled and burned at the stake, all for printing the New Testament in the English language.
It was in 1553 during the reign of ‘Bloody Mary’ Tudor when the English were pushed to return to Roman Catholicism. She ordered the burning of all copies of the Bibles in English and caused more than 300 reformers, pastors and Bible translators to be burned at the stake. This caused about 800 English scholars to leave England, for safety reasons, and they gathered in Geneva culminating in the grouping of the finest theologians and Biblical scholars in the world at that time. There between 1557 and 1560 they began to translate the entire Bible into the English language. In the Geneva Bible were footnotes and commentaries from John Calvin, Thomas Sternhold, John Hopkins, William Whittingham, Miles Coverdale, John Knox and many more. These commentaries infuriated King James because they began to teach against a monarchy and totalitarian rule, supported individual freedoms, property ownership and many other things that took power and authority away from the king so in 1606 he ordered that a Bible without notes and commentaries be made available for him. This became the King James Version we have today.
The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to be completely translated to English from the original language." (Emphasis mine throughout) These commentaries talked about having men who feared God in places of authority, owning property, and individual freedoms. From this we can see that it was this Bible that began to build the fire for liberty in the hearts and minds of not just the Pilgrims but kept that fire burning all the way to the Founders and beyond. It was said that that the key liberties that were in the Declaration of Independence had been preached from the pulpits of America since the early 1600's.
When America was beginning to be established the Pilgrims began to experience liberties that were unknown to the common person in the world at that time. One could pursue the vocation that he was interested in. In Europe there was still a strong cast system and what your father did you did whether you wanted to or not. This freedom was built the foundation for the greatest free market system the world had ever seen.
One could worship as one believed was the manner in which he believed best. In England the Church of England was the prominent church. You paid taxes that supported the church and the government dictated the doctrines of the church. In America you could worship freely and the pastors were free to preach the uncompromised Word of God. This exposed the inhabitants of America to a way of life that was not known anywhere else in the world.
In ones chosen profession a person was able to keep most of what he earned. He could grow crops, sell them and keep most of the money. In England the common person owned nothing and most of his paltry earnings went to someone else. In America you could devise machinery to improve manufacturing or agriculture and sell that machinery and profit from your efforts.
People in America, because of the preaching from the pulpit, began to elect those that were to be placed in authority over them. Scripture teaches about the character of the person that was to be in positions of authority over the people: Exodus 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens: (22) And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee."
In England and the other nations from which the people came there were monarchies and dictatorships where the people had no choice who ruled over them but in America, they could chose who ruled them and if they didn't like the way he ruled, they could replace him. This form of government was unheard of in any other part of the world. These liberties today are either gone or have been severely curtailed. We have seen ownership of property be taken away for the benefit of private industry. Our Founders would never had allowed that to occur. They specifically laid out what could be take and it had to be for public use, roads, schools or libraries. To be taken and given to a private entity to increase the tax base was not what the Founders envisioned.
They gave us our Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. George Mason, a Founding Father, delegate for the State of Virginia to the US Constitutional Convention and co-Father of the Bill of Rights said about the Second Amendment: "To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them." George Washington said “Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth.” Justice Joseph Story, the youngest jurist that has ever sat on the Supreme Court, stated "The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic." Thomas Jefferson stated: "No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms."
By Roger Anghis