Friday, April 20, 2012

John Locke - Christian Theologian

John Locke's latter works were primarily on theological subjects which include:

Essay Concerning Toleration (published in 1689) Locke wrote this work privately in 1667 and eventually published the work in 1689 as A Letter Concerning Toleration. The work was published anonymously. To openly criticize and challenge the Anglican church at that time would place his life in immediate danger. Openly challenging the established government Church of England was often met with brutal oppression.

The Anglican Church and its 39 Doctrinal Articles were the standard for all religious faith in Britain under English law. Every British subject was required by law to attend Anglican Church services. Persecution of Dissenters which included death was the consequence for those who opposed the Anglican requirements.
John Locke objected to the establishment of specific church doctrines by law and enforced by the Crown. He firmly argued for a separation of the Church from the state.
He urged the Anglican clergy to be tolerant to those Christians who did not adhere to the doctrines of the Church of England. His position was attacked by defenders of the established Church of England so he responded with A Second Letter Concerning Toleration in 1690 and A Third Letter for Toleration in 1692. Both of these works were published anonymously.
John Locke's latter theological subjects which include:

(1695) The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures

(1695) A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity

(1697) A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity

(1697) A Common-Place-Book to the Holy Bible This book was a re-publication of what Locked called:
(1676) Graphautarkeia, or, The Scriptures Sufficiency Practically Demonstrated

(1707) Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St. Paul to the Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians This work was published posthumously in 1707.

John Locke urged the Church of England to reform itself thus allowing the inclusion of members of other Christian denominations. Hence, this would be inclusive of Dissenters. This proposition was included in his work Reasonableness of Christianity. Locke urged the Church of England to place less emphasis upon liturgy, structure, and church hierarchy, and forms of church discipline. He urged the Church of England to place emphasis upon the major doctrines of Christianity such as one's personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Locke firmly defended Christianity against attacks of secularists, and skeptics. Secularists argued that one must reject Divine revelation for truth could be established through reason. His Reasonableness of Christianity evoked strong virulent criticism from secularists and rationalists. Hence, he took up the pen to write A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity (1695) and A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity (1697).

John Locke was the author of the Two Treatises of Government or "Two Treatises of Government: In the Former, The False Principles and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, And His Followers, are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter is an Essay concerning The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil-Government") which he published anonymously in 1689.

In the first treatise, John Locke invoked 1,349 references from the Holy Bible. He invokes the Bible 157 more times in his second treatise. As John Adams acknowledged:

The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence. . . . were the general principles of Christianity. .  Now I will avow that I then believed (and now believe) that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God. . . . In favor of these general principles in philosophy, religion, and government, I [c]ould fill sheets of quotations from . . . [philosophers including] Locke – not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.”

Previous generations readily recognized the Christian principles which permeated Locke's writings. John Locke was actually considered to be a Christian theologian! Richard Watson includes John Locke as a Christian theologian in his work: Theological Institutes: or a View of the Evidences, Doctrines, Morals, and Institutes of ChristianityLocke included repeated references to the Holy Scriptures and to God in his writings and made specific works defending Christianity. 

The First Tract of Government was written in 1660 and was followed by Second Tract of Government written in 1662. Eventually, they were published in 1689 as Two Treatises of Government. John Locke brilliantly refuted Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha. Filmer attempted to produce biblical support to justify the errant doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings in his treatise.

He followed up his first treatise in which he refutes the Divine Right of Kings with his second treatise in which he presents the rudimentary principles that define the proper role, purpose, and operation of sound government. Many of those principles had been enacted during the rule of Lord Cromwell and eventually under the reign of William and Mary.

Questions Concerning the Law of Nature was written in 1664. Locke asserts that reason and Divine revelation are fully compatible and NOT enemies for the Law of Nature came from God. Although this work wasn't published, several of the concepts argued in the work appear in his other writings.

English theologian Richard Price affirms the fact that Anglican apologists sought to malign him and to lessen his influence.

[W]hen . . . Mr. Locke’s Essay on the Human Understanding was first published in Britain, the persons readiest to attend to it and to receive it were those who have never been trained in colleges, and whose minds, therefore, had never been perverted by an instruction in the jargon of the schools. [But t]o the deep professors [i.e., clergy and scholars] of the times, it appeared (like the doctrine taught in his book, on the Reasonableness of Christianity) to be a dangerous novelty and heresy; and the University of Oxford in particular [which trained only Anglicans] condemned and reprobated the author.”

The bigoted motives behind the attacks on John Locke's Christian beliefs were not unnoticed by the Founders of our Republic. The founders vigorously defended Locke from false and malicious charges.

James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence declared:

I am equally far from believing that Mr. Locke was a friend to infidelity [a disbelief in the Bible and in Christianity]. . . . The high reputation which he deservedly acquired for his enlightened attachment to the mild and tolerating doctrines of Christianity secured to him the esteem and confidence of those who were its friends. The same high and deserved reputation inspired others of very different views and characters . . . to diffuse a fascinating kind of lustre over their own tenets of a dark and sable hue. The consequence has been that the writings of Mr. Locke, one of the most able, most sincere, and most amiable assertors of Christianity and true philosophy, have been perverted to purposes which he would have deprecated and prevented [disapproved and opposed] had he discovered or foreseen them.

Thomas Jefferson agreed with Wilson for he studied both Locke's treatises on government and his theological works. Thomas Jefferson summarizes Locke's view of Christianity affirming that he was not a deist.

Locke’s system of Christianity is this: Adam was created happy and immortal…. By sin he lost this so that he became subject to total death (like that of brutes [animals]) – to the crosses and unhappiness of this life. At the intercession, however, of the Son of God, this sentence was in part remitted…. And moreover to them who believed, their faith was to be counted for righteousness [Romans 4:3,5]. Not that faith without works was to save them; St. James, chapter 2 says expressly the contrary [James 2:14-26]…. So that a reformation of life (included under repentance) was essential, and defects in this would be made up by their faith; i. e., their faith should be counted for righteousness [Romans 4:3,5]…. The Gentiles; St. Paul says, Romans 2:13: “the Gentiles have the law written in their hearts,” [A]dding a faith in God and His attributes that on their repentance, He would pardon them; (1 John 1:9) they also would be justified (Romans 3:24). This then explains the text “there is no other name under heaven by which a man may be saved” [Acts 4:12], i. e., the defects in good works shall not be supplied by a faith in Mahomet, Fo [Buddha], or any other except Christ.”

The charges that Locke was a deist and freethinker have been trumpeted for three centuries. Those false charges originated from his advocating major reforms within the Church of England. As I indicated, Locke proposed a separation of church from the Crown of England. Furthermore, he sought to extend religious toleration to Christians of other denominations. Hence, he was accused of deism and being irreligious by Anglican apologists who were offended by his criticism. 

Locke published his treatise On Civil Government in 1689 in this important work he asserted:

"[The] great and Chief End, therefore, of Men uniting into Commonwealths, and putting themselves under Government, is the preservation of their property...
For men being all the Workmanship of one Omnipotent, and infinitely wise Maker: all the Servants of one Sovereign Master, sent into the World by his Order, and about his Business, they are his Property, whose Workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure...
Those Grants God made of the World to Adam, and to Noah, and his Sons...has given the Earth to the Children of Men, given it to Mankind in common...
God, who hath given the World to Men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best Advantage of Life and Convenience."

Locke wrote on natural law and natural rights in his Two Treatises on Government, August 23, 1689:

"The obligations of the Law of Nature cease not in society, but only in many cases are drawn closer, and have, by human laws, known penalties annexed to them to enforce their observation.
Thus the Law of Nature stands as an eternal rule to all men, legislators as well as others. The rules that they make for other men's actions conformable to the Law of Nature, i.e. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental Law of Nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good or valid against it.

In 1690, he wrote in The Second Treatise on Civil Government:

"Human Laws are measures in respect of Men whose Actions they must direct, albeit such measures they are as have also their higher Rules to be measured by, which Rules are two, the Law of God, and the Law of Nature; so that Laws Human must be made according to the general Laws of Nature, and without contradiction to any positive Law of Scripture, otherwise they are ill made."

John Locke wrote paraphrase of the books of Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, and Ephesians. 

In 1695, he wrote A Vindication of Reasonableness of Christianity.

"He that shall collect all the morals of the philosophers and compare them with those contained in the New Testament will find them to come short of the morality delivered by our Savior and taught be His disciples: a college made up of ignorant but inspired fishermen...
Such a law of morality Jesus Christ has given in the New Testament, but by the latter of these ways, by revelation, we have from Him a full and sufficient rule for our direction, and conformable to that of reason. But the word and obligation of its precepts have their force, and are past doubt to us, by the evidence of His mission.
He was sent by God: His miracles show it; and the authority of God in His precepts can not be questioned. His morality has a sure standard, that revelation vouches, and reason can not gainsay nor question; but both together witness to come from God, the great Lawgiver.
And such a some as this, out of the New Testament, I think, they would never find, nor can anyone say is anywhere else to be found...
To one who is persuaded that Jesus Christ was sent by God to be a King and a Savior to those who believe in Him, all His commands become principles; there needs no other proof for the truth of what He says, but that He said it; and then there needs no more but to read the inspired books to be instructed.
Our Savior's great rule, that we should love our neighbors as ourselves, is such a fundamental truth for the regulating of human society, that, by that alone, one might without difficulty determine all the cases and doubts in social morality."

John Locke declared:

"The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. - It has God for its author; salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture for its matter. - It is all pure, all sincere; nothing too much; nothing wanting."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The "Black Regiment"

Elisha Williams, a follower of George Whitefield, published a pamphlet in 1744 which discussed equality and liberty. Natural liberty, as Williams defined the term meant freedom from any superior earthly power and subjection only to the law of nature. Williams explained the 'law of nature' to be the law of God.

As Reason tells us, all are born thus naturally equal, i.e. with an equal Right to their Persons; so with an equal Right to the Preservation; and therefore to such Things as Nature affords for their Subsistence...Thus every Man having a natural Right to...his own Person and his Actions and Labor, which we call Property; it certainly follows, that no Man can have a Right to the Person or Property of another: And if every Man has a Right to his Person and Property; he has also a Right to defend them, and a Right to all necessary Means of Defense, and so has a Right of punishing all Insults upon His Person and Property.”

Elisha Williams espoused the political philosophy of John Locke and principles which were enunciated throughout the era of the Great Awakening. His statement concerning the limitation of the powers of government reflect the his Lockean philosophy and the principles of the 1st Great Awakening.

[T]heir power is a limited one: and therefore the Obedience due is a limited Obedience.”

Williams referred to John Locke pertaining to what people must do to free themselves from tyranny. Hence, Elisha Williams, a minister of the Gospel in 1744, expressed the same arguments of the patriots of 1770. Subjects and their rulers are bound by a constitution and laws violating natural and constitutional rights are breaches of the law. Hence, laws that violate natural and constitutional rights are NO law which one can lawfully resist. Laws that violate constitutional law require NO obedience.

Clinton Rossiter made this declaration in his work Seedtime of the Republic: The Origin of the American Tradition of Political Liberty

“Here is clear evidence of the transmission through the clergy of the theories of Locke. The importance of this and like pamphlets is this; they show the thinking and the theory that came out in the Revolutionary period were uttered not alone in theoretical sermons but in practical disputes and controversies over church and individual rights long before the trouble with England arose.”

There are several sermons and pamphlets that address the political theories of John Locke and the influence of Calvinism upon political thought before 1770.

Sermons advanced the proposition that law which contradicts natural rights are null and void. In 1673, Jonathan Mayhew declared that true religion comprised love of liberty and ones country. Furthermore, Mayhew held that true religion comprised a hatred of all tyranny and oppression. Mayhew expressed the common convictions of the clergymen throughout the colonies that civil liberty which the American colonists cherished received its chief sanction from their common Christian faith.

Resistance to oppression was a favorite topic in Yankee pulpits. Twenty-five years prior to Paul Revere's ride to Concord and Lexington Jonathan Mayhew preached the following words:

It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God's ministers...When [magistrates] rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare, they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.”

Fifteen years later, Jonathan Mayhew responded to the dreaded Stamp Act with these admonishments:

“The king is as much bound by his oath not to infringe the legal rights of the people, as the people are bound to yield subjection to him. From whence it follows that as soon as the prince sets himself up above all law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, unking himself by acting out of and beyond that sphere which the constitution allows him to move in, and in such cases he has no more right to be obeyed than an inferior officer who acts beyond his commission. The subject's obligation to allegiance then ceases, of course, and to resist him is more more rebellion than to resist any foreign is making use of the means, and the only means which God has put into their power for mutual and self-defense.”

After the Stamp Act was repealed Mayhew declared:

God gave the Israelites a king in His anger, because they had not sense and virtue enough to like a free commonwealth, and to have Himself for their king. That the Son of God came down from heaven to make us 'free indeed' and that 'where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,' this made me conclude that freedom was a great blessing...And who knows, our liberties being thus established, but that on some future occasion, when the kingdoms of earth are moved and roughly dashed one against another....we, or our posterity, may even have the great felicity and honor to 'save much people alive.' and keep Britain herself from ruin!”

The members of the clergy throughout the colonies became more outspoken as conflict with Great Britain became imminent. The clergymen – the men of the “black regiment” were outspoken in their staunch opposition to oppressive government.

The power of a group or an individual can at times be best seen through the eyes of an opponent. Peter Oliver was the last chief justice of the colonial regime in Massachusetts. He detested dissenting ministers whom he considered to be henchmen of patriot James Otis. James Otis (1725 – 1783) realized that Oliver saw from the first the need of securing “the black regiment” if he were to rouse the people. The clergymen of colonial America were called the “black regiment” because of the color of their clerical robes. The British realized that the “black regiment” was key to fanning the flames of resistance among the American colonists.

Boston pastor, Jason Haven preached a widely read sermon in 1769 specifically noted by the English. Haven spoke of the fall of king Charles I and the right of the citizens of Massachusetts to elect a council. Furthermore, he asserted that he hoped the council would continue till the end of time.

Reverend Haven quoted from John Locke on the right of resistance to everyone who was to encroach upon the natural and constitutional rights of the colonists. He declared that the people had the duty, right and privilege to call those in authority to account. The people had the right to take from them power whenever abused.

Prior to the Revolution, American clergymen promoted opposition to tyranny by Great Britain within American colleges. As teachers, the clergymen inculcated the principles of government while permitting debate on questions which caused disturbances. Ministers promoted opposition to England through their personal association with students in American colleges.

In 1769, the students of Brown University debated whether or not it was good policy for Americans to establish an independent state while under the conditions of their era.

Alice M Baldwin wrote the following statement in her work The New England Clergy and the American Revolution:

Andrew Eliot, a somewhat conservative man though constantly friendly to the American cause, said in 1769 that the Harvard students had imbibed the spirit of the times and that their declarations and debates were full of the spirit of liberty. This, he said, had been encouraged, even if sometimes it got out of bounds, because their tutors were afraid to check too decidedly a spirit which might thereafter fill the country with patriots.”

The people of Boston and Americans throughout the colonies were excited about the Boston Massacre of March 1770. The Sunday which followed the Massacre was eventful for it greatly excited the people of Boston. Pastor John Lathrop of the Old North Church preached a sermon that Sunday titled: “The Voice of Thy Brother's Blood Cryeth Under Me from the Ground.”

The clergymen of colonial America were bitterly resented by Chief Justice Oliver. He declared before the trial of the British soldiers:

“Pulpits rang their Chimes upon blood Guiltiness, in Order to incite the People.” After the conclusion of the trials the pulpits “rang their Peals of Malice against the Courts of Justice.”

An observer asserted that the people were led by inflammatory sermons to feel as if they may lawfully resist the king's truth as if he were a foreign enemy.

A pamphlet was published by Reverend Isaac Skillman in which he asserted the rights of American colonists. He believed there was a good prospect that Americans would unite. Skillman asserted that if Americans united; they had the right to resist any military forces which they had “by the law of God, of nature and of nations.”

Furthermore, Reverend Skillman argued: 

"Shall a man be deem'd a rebel that supports his own rights? It is the first law of nature, and he must be a rebel to God, to the laws of nature, and his own conscience, who will not do it.”

A gentleman in New York wrote to a friend in London on May of 1774. He excoriated the clergy of New England for their...
“most wicked, malicious and inflammatory harangues...spiriting their godly hearers to the most violent opposition to Government; persuading them that the intention of the Government was to rule them with a rod of iron, and to make them all slaves; and assuring them that if they would rise as one man to oppose these arbitrary schemes, God would assist them.”

Clergymen throughout the American colonies preached resistance to the various laws and acts which the Parliament of Great Britain passed to exercise its alleged authority in order to control the colonies.

By 1774, the clergymen of Boston refused to read any proclamations of the governor and council which were appointed by Great Britain.

General Gage refused to permit a day of fasting and prayer for he believed “the request was only to give an opportunity for sedition to flow from the pulpit.” The clergymen of Boston responded immediately with political sermons in which some were violent in tone. The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts appealed to the clergy of Boston. The clergy of Boston were requested to advise strict obedience to the Continental Congress.

The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts advised the clergy to...

“make the question of the rights of the colonies and the oppressive conduct of the mother country a topic of the pulpit on weekdays.”

The politic-religious sermons of the American clergymen were recognized as having highly significant value by the Continental Congress. It was common for sermons of this nature to be published as patriotic pamphlets.

During the era of colonial America, the pulpit was a primary source of news and current events. The contemporary news media of modern America was non existent. Essentially, the American pulpit was the only place where American citizens would be taught the doctrines of resistance and just warfare.

An observer declared: “During the entire Revolutionary period, the latter [clergy] were leaders and the most potent factors in resistance to British oppression...In the absence of a numerous newspaper press, the political education of the people then as now in sparsely settled regions was conducted largely from the pulpit – or the stump.”

Resistance to tyranny was a subject on which to preach and was one that was to be desired “at all costs.”

Sermons preached throughout American pulpits took on a radical tone. In August of 1775, a small town was burned. A recruiting officer vainly attempted to recruit men from the town of Harpswell, Maine. Reverend Samuel Eaton was asked to speak on Sunday morning to his congregation. Reverend Eaton was a patriotic gentleman and was unwilling to preach the message at the Communion service on Sunday morning. He promised to address the men of his congregation on Sunday evening. Samuel Eaton preached a message titled “Cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood” after sundown out of doors before the steps of the meetinghouse. Before the conclusion of the meeting, forty men of his congregation volunteered to serve the cause of American independence.

It is most important to understand the chief objective of these sermons and messages like them. The primary objective of these messages was to state clearly and repeatedly arguments in which men could be assured that they had inalienable rights given to them by their Creator. No one had the right to abuse and dissolve those God given rights.

Colonial American clergymen set forth the requirements of legally constituted government through their sermons. English and colonial governments if not abused were such governments. The clergymen sought to enumerate and enlarge upon the acts by which Parliament and the king abused their power. Furthermore, they sought to establish beyond doubt the legal right, moral duty and necessity of resist the encroachments of their liberty through tyranny.

The American clergymen did NOT refuse to obey constitutional authority but advocated resistance to unconstitutional acts.

Alice M. Baldwin The New England Clergy and the American Revolution

“Though recognizing the provocation to violence and though sometimes encouraging abuse of the Tories, there was many a minister who drew careful distinction between liberty and license. It was the liberty which was to their minds inextricably associated with constitutional, ordered government for which they were fighting.”

It is the sacred duty of a religious Christian people to resist tyranny. The clergy of New England and especially the Congregationalists preached a message of independence and preparation for independence several years before 1776.

The Continental Congress appointed a committee of five men to draft a Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. Thomas Jefferson was the first member of the committee whom the Congress chose. He served as chairman of the committee and wrote the first draft of the infamous document.

Thomas Jefferson has been given importance in forming the political outlook of the era. This is clearly an erroneous understanding of the political situation of colonial America. Actually, the greater influence of the clergy of American churches has been overlooked, ignored and omitted by historians.

The impact of colonial political thinking is far greater than suspected. The written works of clergymen bear out the truth of their profound influence upon political thought of the colonial era.

The Reverend Samuel West is among the clergymen who assisted in forming the basic philosophical foundation which found its way into the Declaration of Independence. Reverend Samuel West addressed the Council House of Representatives in Boston on May 29, 1776. His address to the Council was delivered some weeks before Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence.

Reverend Samuel West (1730 – 1776) declared:

The only difficulty remaining is to determine when a people may claim a right of forming themselves into a body politick, and may assume the powers of legislation. In order to determine this point, we are to remember, that all men being by nature equal, all members of a community have a natural right to assemble themselves together, and to act and vote for such regulations, as they judge are necessary for the good of the whole. But when a community is become very numerous, it is very difficult, and in many cases impossible for all to meet together to regulate the affairs of the state; Hence comes the necessity of appointing delegates to represent the people in a general assembly. And this ought to be look'd upon as a sacred and unalienable right, of which a people cannot justly divest themselves, and which no human authority can in equity ever take from them...that no one be obliged to submit to any laws except such as are made either by himself, or by his representative.
If representation and legislation are inseparably connected, it follows, that when great numbers have emigrated into a foreign land, and are so far removed from the parent state, that they neither are or can be properly represented by the government from which they have emigrated, that then nature itself points out the necessity of their assuming to themselves the powers of legislation, and they have a right to consider themselves as a separate state from the other, and as such to form themselves into a body politik.
When a people find themselves cruelly oppressed by the parent state, they have an undoubted right to throw off the yoke, and to assert their liberty, if they find good reason to judge that they have sufficient power and strength to maintain their ground in defending their just rights against their oppressors: For in this case by the law of self preservation, which is the first law of nature, they have not only an undoubted right, but it is their indispensable duty, if they cannot be redressed any other way, to renounce all submission to the government that has oppressed them, and set up an independent state of their own; even tho' they may be vastly inferior in number to the state that has oppress'd them. When either of the afore-said cases takes place, and more especially when both concur, no rational man (I imagine,) can have any doubt in his mind, whether such a people have a right to form themselves into a body politick, and assume to themselves all the powers of a free state.”

The message of Reverend Samuel West which he delivered to Council House of Representatives in Boston bears a striking similarity to the Declaration of Independence. Reverend West delivered the message on May 29, 1776 a few months before Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence. The phraseology and words of the two documents bear a striking similarity to each other.

The similarities become even more apparent when parallel passages are arranged in columns.

Declaration of Independence
Samuel West

Laws of Nature
Law of nature
All men are created equal
All men being by nature equal
Unalienable rights
Unalienable right
It is their right
Undoubted right
It is their duty
Indispensable duty
Throw off such a government
Throw off the yoke
Institute new government
Forming themselves into a body politick
Separate and equal station
To consider themselves a separate state
Assume among the powers
Assuming to themselves the powers of legislation

It is clearly obvious that the Declaration of Independence reflects a broad range of colonial clerical preaching. The broad range of propositions found in the Declaration is greater than those found in any one sermon. The clergy in the churches of colonial America were the sounding boards for the writings of various political pamphleteers. They clergy were often the companions of many of the leaders.

The clergy of American protestant churches contributed to the thought of men within the legislature and those men who became members of the Continental Congress.

Within his diary, John Adams recounts of phrases which were the favorites of a minister he had heard. John Adams carefully studied and cherished the expressions which the clergy preached concerning matters of deep public concern. Often those sermons and messages were printed for public distribution.

The sermons of colonial clergymen formed a solid foundation of integrated thought. The sermons and messages of American clergymen of the colonial period made a most significant contribution to the philosophy of freedom. Those sermons and messages were founded upon the Bible.

Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead in his book An American Dream declared:

In short, colonial sermons formed a solid base of integrated thought. Founded upon the Bible, they made up a large part of the contribution of the philosophy of freedom which began to win a worldwide empire in the minds of men through the conflict which arose with Great Britain. And it would eventually assume a common fabric of rights, resistance, and futuristic optimism within the American psyche.”

Reverend Jonas Clark was the gentleman who drew up the papers urging Bostonians to resist British trade and taxation. He counseled them to seek redress for their wrongs and arm themselves.

Developments of the quarrel with England reached towns throughout the colonies through circular letters carried on horseback by the Sons of Liberty. The letters were sent from a committee formed in Boston in November of 1772. Samuel Adams, the leader of the movement was a committed Christian having been a convert to Christ during the Great Awakening.

In his monumental work The Rise of the Republic, Richard Frothingham wrote: 

“A town meeting was called in Faneuil Hall, to consider the question of the salaries of the judges...In the afternoon, Samuel Adams moved 'that a committee of correspondence be appointed, to consist of 21 persons, to state the rights of the colonies, and of this province in particular, as men, as Christians, and as subjects; to communicate and publish the same to the several towns in this province to the world...
This Report, after long deliberation, was adopted. Six hundred copies were ordered to be printed in a pamphlet, and a copy was directed to be sent to every town in the province. A copy was sent to prominent Whigs in other colonies...
It considered the relations of man not only as a citizen, but as a Christian, and claimed for him that equality which is the cardinal principle of Christianity. It claimed for him, under law, the position to which he is entitled, - the right to make the laws under which he lives, to select his field of labor and enjoy its fruits, and thus claimed fair play for the industrial energy which has contributed so much to the growth and glory of this country...
A few sentences from these responses [to the Report] will show the spirit of the whole... 'It becomes us to rely no longer on the arm of flesh, but on the arm of that all-powerful God who is able to unite the numerous inhabitants of this extensive country as a band of brothers in one common cause...'”

Historian George Bancroft said, 

“The Revolution of 1776, so far as it was affected by religion, was a Presbyterian measure. It was a natural outgrowth of the principles which the Presbyterians of the Old World planted in her sons, the English Puritans, the Scotch Covenanters, the French Huguenots, the Dutch Calvinists, and the Presbyterians of Ulster.”

Loraine Boettner quotes an American Tory of the Revolutionary period in a letter home to England.

I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principal instruments in all these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchial spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere.”

Prime Minister Horace Walpole made this remark to Parliament: “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson.” Walpole was actually referring to Reverend John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence and direct decedent of John Knox.

E. L. Magoon in his work Orators of the American Revolution describes Witherspoon:

He was lineally descended from John Knox, the moral hero of Scotland, was born near Edinburgh, 1722, and from the time he adopted America as his country, was as much distinguished as a preacher as a patriot. Dr. Witherspoon was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, which he eloquently defended; through a trying period of congressional responsibility he was a very efficient legislator; and for many years performed the duties of a laborious, erudite, and eminently successful president of Princeton College. On taking his seat in Congress, he surprised his associates, as his brother Davies, had surprised the courts of Virginia, with his wonderful knowledge and skill as a civilian. He was associated with Richard Henry Lee and John Adams on several important committees and himself drew many valuable State papers...As soon as the liberties of the country were won, Dr. Witherspoon gladly resumed his classical pursuits and the work of the ministry...”

E.L. Magoon speaks of Dr. Samuel Sillman pastor of the First Baptist Church of Boston:

Standing in the presence of armed foes, he preached with a power that commanded respect...The best orators of every age have been created by the oppressive circumstance, in the midst of which they have suddenly arisen with resistless power, as if they gathered strength and inspiration from the terrors of the storm. When the age needs great men it will find them – heroes not of the timid mimosa kind, who 'fear the dark cloud, and feel the coming sound.' Preachers in Revolutionary times are eminently practical; nature supplies them with abundant ammunition, and necessity teaches them expressly to load and fire. They are the flying artillery of 'the sacramental host of God's elect.'”

John Locke was the son of a Puritan attorney. He felt that Separatists and Presbyterians went too far in their convictions and practices. He returned to England in 1689 having been in exile during the reign of Catholic James II.

James M. Bulman in his book It is there Right quotes Locke who maintained his deference for the Bible. Locke declared: I shall presently condemn and quit any opinion of mine, as soon as I am shown that it is contrary to any revelation of the Holy Scriptures.”

Thomas Hobbes wrote Leviathan in 1651 which Locke skillfully contested with a powerful rebuttal. Hobbes, the champion of totalitarianism, attacked religious orthodoxy and defended statism. Russell Kirk in The Roots of American Order speaks of Hobbes Leviathan

“To Hobbes, the state was a vast, necessary beast, Leviathan...Hobbes' system offered freedom from Church, town, guild, and local authorities – but in exchange for servitude to Leviathan.”

Locke, in secularized form, echoed Samuel Rutherford. Locke asserted; the people must hold political sovereignty in their hands. They are the ones to delegate power to a legislative body. John Locke deplored the “divine right of kings,” and believed that society was the result of a voluntary contract among men equal in a state of nature. Hence, the purpose of government was to protect the life, liberty, and property of all its citizens.

These ideas did not originate from Locke. Samuel Rutherford proclaimed the principles in his monumental work Lex, Rex which was published in 1644!

The principles which Rutherford postulated concerning republicanism were those of John Calvin of Geneva. Sir James Stephens, English statesmen and jurist summarized Calvin's four basic points his work Lectures on the History of France:

  1. The will of all the people was the one legitimate source of the power of rulers;

  1. The power was most properly delegated by the people, to their rulers, by means of elections...

  1. The clergy and laity were entitled to an equal and coordinate authority;

  1. Between the Church and State, no alliance, or mutual dependence, or other definite relation, necessarily or properly existed.”

King James I clearly understood the implications of Calvinism for he observed: 

“Presbytery agreeth as well with monarchy as God with the devil.”

Historian George Bancroft referred to the “Political character of Calvinism, which with one Consent and with instinctive judgment the monarchs of that day feared as republicanism.”

Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville called Calvinism: 

“a democratic and republican religion.”

J.C. Monsma analyzed Calvinism as applied to government:

The government is God's servant. That means that AS MEN all government officials stand on an equal footing with their subordinates; have no claim to superiority in any sense whatever...For exactly the same reason the Calvinist gives preference to a republican form of government over any other type. In no other form of government does the sovereignty of God, the derivative character of government power and the equality of men as men, find a clearer or more eloquent expression.”

I am indebted to Constitutional attorney, John W. Whitehead author of The Second American Revolution and An American Dream  
Thanks to Patricia O. Brooks author of The Return of the Puritans  
I am gratefully thankful to Reverend Peter Marshall author of The Light and the Glory 
I wish to thank David Barton of Wallbuilders 
I am also most thankful to Francis A. Schaeffer author of The Christian Manifestro and How Should We then Live? - the Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Susan and Anna Warner - Jesus Love Me

Henry Whiting Warner was a prominent successful lawyer and real estate speculator who lived in a lovely townhouse in New York City. His family was well provided for during the 1820's and early thirties.

Henry and his older brother Thomas graduated from Union College, Schenectady, New York. Thomas graduated from Union College in 1808 and Henry graduated in 1809.

Henry Warner was originally from New England. His ancestors emigrated from England in the 1630's. Several of those ancestors served in colonial Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York as respected leaders of the community. Mr. Warner's father Jason Warner was a soldier in the American Revolution. Jason Warner married Abigail Whiting; the daughter of his Colonel. Henry Warner was the second son of six children whom Jason and Abigail conceived.

He married Anna Marsh Bartlett who gave him two charming daughters named Anna and Susan. Susan was born in New York City on July 11, 1819. Anna, the second daughter, was born on Long Island, New York on August 21, 1827. (Some sources indicate that Anna was born in 1824,)

Mrs. Anna Warner was from a wealthy fashionable family from New York's Hudson Square. The Warner family could trace their historic lineage back to the Puritans and Pilgrims. Both Henry and his wife Anna were descended from Puritans and Pilgrims.

Mrs. Warner died in 1826 while Anna was a baby. Mr. Warner's younger sister, Frances (Aunt Fanny) came to care for Anna and Susan who was ten years old.

Henry Warner wrote to his brother Thomas concerning his sister Frances:

 “...she is my all in all. What should I have done without her?”

Aunt Fanny, a practical woman, would sustain and encourage her two nieces throughout her life. Frances loved and cherished her nieces and remained with the family for the rest of her life. She died at the age of eighty-three in 1885.

The Warner family would visit family and friends frequently. The two girls enjoyed piano and dancing lessons. Mr. Warner employed tutors who taught the girls literature, mathematics, art, and the sciences. Susan and Anna enjoyed frequenting the museums and libraries of New York City.

At the age of 15, Susan Warner recorded the following entry in her personal journal dated August 21, 1843.

“I darned stockings and talked stories, my favorite amusement. I do love it very much.”

Such sentiments were recorded daily in her journal during the early stages of her life in New York City.

During the summer months, the Warner family would visit Mr. Warner's older brother Thomas. The family visited Uncle Thomas Warner between 1828 and 1838. Thomas Warner had entered the ministry and served as chaplain and professor of Geography, History, and Ethics at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He served as Chaplain of West Point from 1828 until 1838.

Susan faithfully recorded the family trips to the academy in her journal. She wrote of her family attending parades, ceremonies, and chapel services conducted by her uncle.

These visits to the academy occurred during a self-conscious adolescent period of Susan's life. Susan was a tall statuesque six foot tall young woman. Apparently, she inherited her stature from her father who was tall as were his brothers. Susan was a shy timid girl who was uneasy with strangers and self-absorbed within her family.

Anna wrote in her biography of Susan's later years:

“But she grew to be intensely fond of the public, of society…and of entertaining”.

Mr. Warner became interested in Constitution Island which was directly across the Hudson River from the Academy at West Point. Young Susan made the following entry dated July 28, 1834 in her journal upon their first visit to the island.

“This morning we all look the boat and rowed over to Constitution Island. We wandered about looking at the prospect, and considering the ground, for Father actually had thought of buying it for a country place. It did not look very prepossessing, however; for nothing can be more rough and rude than the face of that island.”

Consequently, Susan's opinion did not sway her father who chose to purchase the island in 1836.

Susan made the following entry in her journal dated June fifth.

“Uncle Thomas was down from West Point last week and staid several days. He is delighted with the prospect of doings at Constitution Island which Father has bought. Father contemplates keeping the southern part of the island, and building a fine house, making a sort of little Paradise of the grounds, and residing there eight months of the year.”

Anna would eventually record in her biography of Susan an entry in Susan's journal. Anna declared in the biography the sentiments of her sister:

“So comes in the first dim prospect of our future life-long home; as different from the later reality, as it well could be. Of that beautiful handful of plans, just one came true: we did go to the Island to live, and it was Paradise; though not of our making. But no visions born of town life and ease, and plenty, ever figured out anything so rich and rare as what – through straits and need and difficulty – the Lord vouchsafed to us, among our rocks.”

In 1836, Uncle Thomas persuaded his brother Henry to purchase Constitution Island. Henry was reluctant to purchase the island but agreed to the transaction. The two brothers spoke of developing the island on which they proposed constructing an elegant resort with a castellated hotel. They planned to acquire the services of Alexander Jackson Davis who was a prominent architect of the era. The “Panic of 1837” crushed their optimistic plans. Consequently, the family's income was reduced sharply.

Mr. Warner suffered a devastating financial loss in the year following the purchase of Constitution Island. The “Panic of 1837” destroyed the family's finances. Their beautiful mansion at St. Mark's Place in New York was sold and they moved to their summer home “Good Craig” which was an old Revolutionary War era farmhouse on Constitution Island in the Hudson River of New York. Constitution Island was across from the West Point Military Academy. Mr. Warner resolved to lead the life of a farmer on the island.

His lack of experience and unrealistic ill-conceived plans were to create further indebtedness resulting in unpaid loans. An auction of the family's possessions took place on May 6, 1846.

Aunt Fanny used her savings to rescue the family financially after their possessions were auctioned off in 1846. They were scarcely able to endure throughout the late 1840s. It was Aunt Fanny who made a perceptive practical suggestion to her nieces in 1848.

“Sue, I believe if you would try, you could write a story.”

Anna made the remark in her sister's biography inferring that the story would “sell” which would bring a measure of monetary relief to the struggling family.

Susan enthusiastically followed Aunty Fanny's perceptive advice and immediately began writing a lengthy manuscript which her father presented to several New York publishers. He was without success until he presented the manuscript to publisher G. P. Putnam.

Putnam's mother read Susan's manuscript while visiting her son and urged him to publish the book. She proclaimed to her son:

“If you never publish another book, publish this.”

G. P. Putnam published Susan's book which helped to opened the door to establish the sisters as writers.
The two sisters became aware of their indebted existence realizing their future financial security was beyond their father's power to control.

The type of writing which the Warner sisters offered the public during the era between 1820 and 1879 was seasoned for the times.

The financial situation of their actual lives was the inspiration for the plot lines of their books. They described the financial losses, helplessness, and poverty of women in their era. There were few respectable opportunities available to women of the middle-class. One might become a governess or mistress of a boarding house. Employment as teachers and careers in the field of writing were opening to enterprising women. Writing for a living was seldom viewed as “art for art's sake” but as a tool for surviving financially.

The success of Susan's first book The Wide, Wide World was an encouragement to Anna to begin writing to “sell” as well.

During the Civil War, the two sisters produced a short-lived newspaper for children which was titled “The Little American.”

Anna began to write and publish her work which earned some money to aid the finances of the family. Robinson Crusoe's Farmyard was a game for children concerning natural history. After the publication of her book, Susan began writing The Wide, Wide World which was published in 1851. The financial distress of the family was temporarily alleviated by the tremendous success of Susan's book. Although Susan and Anna were successful in publishing several books; their financial difficulties were not eliminated. There were no copyright laws to protect the two talented authors. Anna and Susan received no financial compensation for several editions of books that were pirated. Often they would sell their work outright or in serial form when they needed cash immediately.

Anna wrote that they would:

“live out our lives, fighting the fight, wrestling with sorrow, gathering up the joy—”.

She eventually came appreciate the treasure of the old farmhouse:

“How little discernment a buyer has at first as to the capabilities of his new purchase! For what “palace” could ever have been as dear to us as our old Revolutionary nondescript house?”

Thirteen year old Anna and eighteen year old Susan came to live on Constitution Island in the Hudson River. Young Anna delighted in roaming across the island to pick wildflowers and berries. The girls enjoyed exploring the site of the old Revolutionary War fortress and rowing on the Hudson River.

They were barely aware of the financial difficulties which encompassed their father. He became involved in lengthy litigation shortly after moving to Constitution Island. The lawsuits and poor investments depreciated the remainder of the family fortune. Consequently neighbors on the east bank challenged the family's property rights. Tragically, he lost the litigation and his family was reduced to desperation when faced with eviction. Their island property was placed in the hands of a receiver.

By 1849, little had changed in the family's financial situation. Susan Bogert Warner (July 11, 1819 – March 17, 1885), and her younger sister Anna Bartlett Warner (August 21, 1827 – January 22, 1915) wished to supplement the to family finances so they began writing poems and stories which were published.

When their father died, the two girls supported themselves in various literary endeavors.

Both sisters became Christians after their mutual conversions in the late 1830s. Their reliance on Christ resulted in their confirmation as members in the Mercer Street Presbyterian church in 1841. Susan and Anna Warner were devout Christians; later in life Susan Warner became drawn into the Methodist circles. Becoming Christians was a life changing experience for the two young women. Anna would eventually write in the biography of her sister:

“I think then the bond was knit between us two, which should outlast all time and change.” From this time onward, their shared convictions led to a cooperative, harmonious relationship both personally and professionally.”

Susan chose to write under the pen-name of “Elizabeth Wetherell.” Susan wrote thirty novels and several of those works were published in multiple editions. The Wide, Wide World (1850) was her first novel which was her most popular work. It was translated into several languages including French, German, and Dutch. It is highly possible that The Wide, Wide World was the most widely circulated literary work by an American author other than Uncle Tom's Cabin. Susan became an evangelical writer of religious fiction, theological works and children's fiction.

Susan's literary works include:

The Wide Wide World (1850), Queechy (1852), The Law and the Testimony, (1853), The Hills of the Shatemuc, (1856), Say and Seal (1860), The Old Helmet (1863), and Melbourne House (1864), My Desire (1879), The End of a Coil (1880), and Nobody (1882)

Americans of the nineteenth century reviewing her work admired her characterizations of rural life in America. Furthermore, they praised Susan for her Christian world view and moral teachings.

Susan wrote the Christian children's song “Jesus Bids Us Shine”

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine. 

Jesus bids us shine, first of all for Him;
Well He sees and knows it if our light is dim;
He looks down from heaven, sees us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine. 

Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around,
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound:
Sin, and want, and sorrow—we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Books in which the two sister collaborated jointly included: Wych Hazel (1853), Mr. Rutherford's Children (1855) and The Hills of the Shatemuc (1856)

The devoted readers of Susan's works as well as her family and friends wrote enthusiastically of her ability to affect their lives in a decisive manner. She wrote skillfully having the ability to deepen, captivate, and challenge her readers.

Olivia Stokes was a friend of Anna and Susan and also author of Letters and Memories of Susan and Anna Warner, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1925.

Ms. Stokes wrote:

I had no idea of the vividness and captivating interest that she (Susan) gave to these stories.” 

Younger sister Anna sometimes wrote under the pseudonym of “Amy Lothrop.” She became the author of several books and poems which were set to music as hymns and Christian songs for children.

Anna wrote thirty-one novels of her own of which the most popular book was Dollars and Cents (1852). Dollars and Cents was a story of their family's financial trials.

Among her works are the following books: Gold of Chickaree, In West Point Colors (1904), Stories of Blackberry Hollow and Stories of Vinegar Hill (1872), Gardening by Myself, Hymns of the Church Militant (1858), Wayfaring Hymns, Original and Translated (1869), and The Law and the Testimony.

Anna also wrote a biography of her sister Susan Warner (1909)

Anna wrote the following lyrics: “Jesus Loves Me,” “O Little Child, Lie Still and Sleep,“One More Day's Work for Jesus,” “We Would See Jesus,” and “The World Looks Very Beautiful.”

Ira David Sankey wrote Sankey's Story of the Gospel Hymns and of Sacred Songs and Solos. In his book he speaks of Anna's song, “One More Day's Work for Jesus:”

“One day, while the children in a Mission Chapel were singing “One more day's work for Jesus,” a woman passing by stopped outside to listen. She went home with these words fixed in her mind. The next day, as she was bending over the washtub, the words of the hymn came to her again and aroused the question, Have I ever done one day's work for Jesus in all my life?”

The lyrics to “One More Day's Work for Jesus” was included in Anna's book Wayfaring Hymns, Original and Translated (1869). The music was composed by Robert Lowry.

One more day’s work for Jesus,
One less of life for me!
But Heav’n is nearer, and Christ is clearer
Than yesterday, to me.
His love and light fill all my soul tonight. 
One more day’s work for Jesus,
One more day’s work for Jesus,
One more day’s work for Jesus,
One less of life for me!
One more day’s work for Jesus! 

How sweet the work has been,
To tell the story, to show the glory,
Where Christ’s flock enters in!
How it did shine in this poor heart of mine!  

One more day’s work for Jesus!
O yes, a weary day;
But Heav’n shines clearer, and rest comes nearer,
At each step of the way;
And Christ in all, before His face I fall.


O blessèd work for Jesus!
O rest at Jesus’ feet!
There toil seems pleasure, my wants are treasure,
And pain for Him is sweet.
Lord, if I may, I’ll serve another day!


Anna B. Warner included her hymn “We Would See Jesus” in her novel Dollars and Cents which was published in 1852 and republished in London in 1853. The work was retitled Speculation; or the Glen Luna Family.

The musical score "Visio Domini" was written by John B. Dykes in 1871.

We would see Jesus; for the shadows lengthen 
Across this little landscape of our life;
We would see Jesus, our weak faith to strengthen
For the last weariness, the final strife.
We would see Jesus, the great rock foundation
Whereon our feet were set with sovereign grace;
Nor life nor death, with all their agitation,
Can thence remove us, if we see His face.

We would see Jesus; other lights are paling,
Which for long years we have rejoiced to see;
The blessings of our pilgrimage are failing;
We would not mourn them, for we go to Thee.
We would see Jesus; yet the spirit lingers
Round the dear objects it has loved so long,
And earth from earth can scarce unclasp its fingers;
Our love to Thee makes not this love less strong.

We would see Jesus: sense is all too binding,
And heaven appears too dim, too far away;
We would see Thee, Thyself our hearts reminding
What Thou hast suffered, our great debt to pay.
We would see Jesus: this is all we’re needing;
Strength, joy, and willingness come with the sight;
We would see Jesus, dying, risen, pleading;
Then welcome day, and farewell mortal night.

Anna wrote Robinson Crusoe's Farmyard and Susan wrote The Wide, Wide World. Consequently, the two girls who launched their literary careers simultaneously eventually wrote 106 publications. Eighteen of the works were co-authored by the two girls who collaborated together. Susan became a well-known novelist and Anna wrote two collections of poetry and novels.

Susan's book The Wide Wide World (1850) became a best seller which was second in popularity to Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Among the most successful joint projects which they published was the novel titled Say and Seal. Anna wrote a song at Susan's request which became the most widely known children's hymn.

In the book is the story of a little boy named Johnny Fox who is dying. John Linden was the boys Sunday School teacher and friend who took the boy in his arms while rocking him. He began to sing a little song to the dying boy which he composed while rocking the boy in his arms. Anna's profound personal faith in God is the inspiration for the child-like faith expressed in the words.

Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak but He is strong/

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so

Jesus loves me! He who died
Heaven's gates to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little Child come in.

Jesus take this heart of mine,
Make it pure and wholly thine
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.

Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
He's prepared a home for me
And someday, His face I'll see

Some Stanzas that appear in modern hymnals were rewritten by David Rutherford McGuire.

Hymn writer William Batchelder Bradbury read to the words of the song which John Linden sang to little Johnny Fox. He composed a child-like score to accompany Anna Warner's lyrics. “Jesus Loves Me” became the best known children's hymn on earth. Bradbury wrote the music to “Jesus Loves Me” in 1861 which was the year following the publishing of Say and Seal. Bradbury, a music teacher and manufacturer of pianos was born in York, Maine in 1816. He was a natural born musician who throughout his life compiled music and set many hymns of poetry to the beautiful melodies he composed. The music to “He Leadeth Me,” “Just as I Am,” and “Jesus Loves Me” are among his best known compositions. He studied with Lowell Mason in his youth. Bradbury organized free singing classes which were held in various churches in New York City. As a music teacher, his students received the heritage of music methodology which Bradbury learned from Lowell Mason. Consequently, Lowell Mason was attributed as having introduced music into the public school system of Boston. Furthermore, Bradbury is credited for introducing music into the public schools of New York. William Batchelder Bradbury died in Montclair, New Jersey on January 7, 1868.

Unfortunately, the two girls were never able to recover from the staggering financial distress resulting from the “Panic of 1837” which devastated their father economically.

They were never completely free from debt but managed to retain possession of their home on historic Constitution Island. The fortifications on Constitution Island date back to the earliest days of the American Revolution. Most of their writing was done in a room having a wall which was part of the original barracks of the fortress erected in the fall months of 1775. This thick stone wall is the oldest part of the Warner home. A Victorian wing of the home consisting of eight rooms was constructed by Henry Warner in 1836 upon moving his family to the island. The enchanting old house on Constitution Island became the home of the Warner family from 1836 till 1915.

An original portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart hangs over a fireplace on the same wall of the barracks. No matter how destitute the sisters were; they chose not to part with this cherished possession.

The writing careers of the two sisters were under intense pressure and worrisome for poverty was a looming threat. Throughout their lives, lawsuits with neighbors, copyright losses of foreign publishers, the Civil War, the business losses of their father and Susan's poor intermittent ill health were threats to their lives. Foreign copyright protection did not exist during the lifetimes of Anna and Susan Warner. Whenever foreign publishers printed their books; the two women didn't receive profits from the fruit of their labors.

It was not uncommon for the sisters to immediately sell the copyright of a work to publishers to meet pressing expenses. In order to provide for her living expenses, Anna resorted to selling the vegetable produce of her garden. Randolph of New York published her practical book Gardening by Myself in 1872. She encouraged ladies of leisure to kneel down upon the soil of their own garden and enjoy the fruits of the labor of their own hands. Her book is filled with encouraging suggestions and joyful personal reflections addressed to contemporary gardeners of our age.

Eventually a friend of Anna revealed how they managed from day to day: 

“One day when sitting with Miss Anna in the old living room she took from one of the cases a shell so delicate that it looked like lacework and holding it in her hand, with eyes dimmed with tears, she said, 'There was a time when I was very perplexed, bills were unpaid, necessities must be had, and someone sent me this exquisite thing. As I held it I realized that if God could make this beautiful home for a little creature. He would take care of me.”

Susan and Anna grew up near West Point and became well known for conducting Bible classes and Sunday School services for the young cadets of the West Point Academy. The two sisters taught Bible classes to West Point cadets for forty years.

It wasn't uncommon for Military cadets to sing “Jesus loves me” while on duty.

Millions of children and adults throughout the world have sung the profound but simple verses of “Jesus Loves Me.” The Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked to summarize the essential doctrines of his Christian faith. Barth responded to the inquirer with the simple answer:

“Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so."

“The New Yorker” published an article by John Hershey in 1944 titled “Survival.” John F. Kennedy told a story to him concerning the rescue of the men of PT 109 when it was destroyed in the Solomon Islands. Kennedy and his men were discovered by two natives after they had been stranded for several days. A rescue boat was led to the island through the efforts of the two natives.

John Hershey concludes the account which Kennedy told him with an anecdote:

“Johnston (one of the rescued men) retired topside and sat with his arms around a couple of roly poly, mission-trained natives. And in the fresh breeze on the way home they sang together a hymn all three happened to know:

“Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so:
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak,
but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me;
yes, Jesus loves me . . . . ”

The well-known lyrics of “Jesus Loves Me” are a simple expression of faith which has had special meaning to countless people throughout the world. Nineteenth century missionaries carried the familiar hymn to children across the globe. It has become a standard treasure in the Christian education of countless children. The rhythmical tune and simple words are easily learned making it a favorite song taught to Sunday school classes of young children. Once learned it can never be forgotten. Hence, it isn't a surprise that American sailors and members of the native population in the Solomon Islands would find a common bond in the treasured song.

The story of how the United States Military Academy came to treasure and preserve their property on Constitution Island is a charming vignette.

The opportunity to share their Christian faith with the cadets of West Point came in 1875. Susan began teaching a Bible class on Sunday afternoons in the Cadet Chapel at the request of several cadets.

Anna tells us of the eventful first day:

“The first day, there was a very large gathering, curiosity helping on the numbers. After that, it varied from week to week, as must be always, I suppose; especially among Cadets, where guard duty sometimes interferes; and where Sunday is the free day for seeing friends.”

At home, in the summer, they met in our tent near the house, the forage caps tossed out upon the grass; the gray figures in all sorts of positions in and out of the tent”.

Olivia Phelps Stokes published a biography of the sisters in 1925. She includes a vivid account written by a former cadet of Susan Warner's Bible classes.

“The visits to Constitution Island were regarded as a great privilege, for not only did they make a break in the severe routine of the daily life but they enabled the boys to roam further a field than was possible at the Academy, where the restrictions of the cadet limits were pretty irksome to boys accustomed to the free run of the town or country. So the privilege of going to Constitution Island as one of “Miss Warner’s boys” was eagerly sought and highly prized. Every Sunday afternoon during the summer encampment the sisters would send their elderly man of all work after the favored ones. He pulled the old flat-bottomed boat across the river to the West Point dock, where the boys with the coveted permits were wailing for him. Usually the trip back was accompanied with more or less excitement, for the boat was always loaded to the last inch of its carrying capacity.

Miss Susan Warner awaited her guests in the orchard. She always sat in the same big chair supported by many cushions. She was a frail little woman with a long face deeply lined with thought and care, lighted with large, dark very brilliant eyes. As she sat in her chair with the boys in a semi-circle around her on the grass she looked like a print from Godey’s Lady’s Book of half a century before. She always wore silk dresses of a small flowered pattern, made with voluminous skirts of wonderful stiffness, and rustle, and small close fitting bodices. A rich Paisley shawl was always around her shoulders and a broad black velvet ribbon was bound around her hair, which was only slightly gray.

After each of the boys had read a Bible verse. Miss Warner, choosing her subject from some New Testament text, talked to them for perhaps half an hour until her enthusiasm and interest had obviously almost exhausted her small strength. Her English was the best and purest I have ever heard, and as she went on and her interest grew her eyes shone, like stars and her voice became rich and warm. There was never any cant or sectarianism, and she always gave to the boys the brightest and most optimistic side of the faith she loved so well. When she had finished and lay back pale and weary against her cushions her sister. Miss Anna, came down from the house with the rare treat of the whole week, tea and homemade ginger-bread. After that the two sisters and the boys talked over the things of the world that seemed so far from that peaceful quiet orchard. The boys confided their aims and ambitions, and the sisters in the simplest, most unostentatious way sought to implant right ideals and principles. Miss Warner never forgot any of her boys, and up to the time of her death kept up a correspondence with many of them. This correspondence must have been voluminous, for it embraced men in every branch of the service, and included alike distinguished officers and cadets who had failed. . . “

The sunset years of Susan Warner's life was devoted to teaching the Bible to the cadets of West Point. The cadets heartily requested Susan to perform this undertaking.

Anna Warner continued to teach the Bible classes for the West Point cadets after the death of her 65 year old sister Susan who died in 1885. Anna Warner continued to teach Bible classes for another thirty years after her sister's death.

Whomever attended their Bible Classes respected their knowledge and wisdom. Susan and Anna established lasting friendships with select cadets after graduating from the Military Academy of West Point. The Constitution Island Association has preserved the correspondence between the sisters and cadets in their archives.

Mr. Buckner was Anna's “elderly man of all work.” He would row a boat from Constitution Island to bring Anna to West Point each Sunday to teach her Cadet Bible Class. Anna would bring individual bouquets of fresh flowers which were picked from her garden to brighten up the rooms of the Academy. Anna chose to remain on Constitution Island through early December and never failed to meet the cadets to conduct her class.

Buchner and the intrepid lady started to row to the Academy on a Sunday in late November. They were midway across the river when a severe storm and winds forced them to return to the island. Anna Warner continued to conduct her Cadet Bible Class until the time of her death in 1915.

The family home is now a museum which is on the grounds of the United States Military Academy of West Point. The family home was opposite of West Point where the uncle of Anna and Susan had been a chaplain from 1828 to 1838. In memory of Anna and Susan; the Academy's Constitution Island Association manages Warner's island property as an historic site. The Association is an historical society which was organized in 1916 a year after Anna Warner's death. It was established to preserve the home and furnishings of Anna and Susan Warner located in the Hudson River Valley. In 1927, the furnishings of the Warner home were donated to the Association by Mrs. Charles Addison Miller who was the legatee of Anna Warner's will. Each year from April to September, tours of the home and island and programs designed to educate children, special interest groups and the public are conducted.

The beloved old house on Constitution Island was the home of the Warner family from 1836 to 1915. The furnishings in the house are the original family possessions. If Miss Anna Warner were to visit the home as it is today; she would recognize the charming house which is kept as it was when she lived in the home until her death in 1915.

Anna and Susan Warner both died in Highland Falls, New York. Both were buried with full military honors and are the only civilians who are buried in the illustrious military cemetery of West Point. They are buried side by side and their graves face their beloved home on Constitution Island.

Their home on Constitution Island is maintained by West Point as a museum dedicated to their memory.

Anna and Susan's faith in Christ wasn't the only gift they bequeathed to the Military Academy.

Constitution Island was purchased from Anna Warner in 1908 by Mrs. Russell Sage.

Anna continued to live on the island until the winter of 1914 – 1915. She moved to Highland Falls where Anna died on January 22, 1915 at the age of ninety. Mrs. Sage and Anna presented the island as a gift to the United States Government to be used by West Point.

Mrs. Russell Sage gave West Point Military Academy a gift of her property - Constitution Island in 1908. Mrs. Sage explained the precise details of the transaction in correspondence between President Theodore Roosevelt and herself.

Lawrence, L. I.
September 4, 1908

The President:

I take pleasure in tendering as a gift to the United States from myself and Miss Anna Bartlett Warner, Constitution Island, opposite West Point, embracing about 230 acres of upland and 50 acres of meadow, the same to be an addition to the Military Reservation of West Point and to be for the use of the United States Military Academy. “My attention has been called by Captain Peter E. Traub, one of the professors at West Point, to the importance of adding this island to the West Point Reservation, and to the unsuccessful efforts of successive administrations of the Military Academy and Secretaries of War to secure the necessary appropriation to purchase it. In historic interest it is intimately connected with West Point. It formed during the Revolution a part of the defenses of the Hudson River. Upon it are now the remains of some ten breast-works commenced in 1775 by order of the Continental Congress, and completed later by Kosciusko. The guns mounted upon the Island then commanded the river channel as I rounded Gees Point, and to the island was attached one end of the iron chain intended to prevent the British warships from sailing up the Hudson. Washington’s Life Guard was mustered out on this island in 1783. It is distant only about three hundred yards from West Point, and in its present natural condition forms an essential part of the landscape as viewed from the West Point shore. The occupation of the Island as a Summer resort for profit, or its use for manufacturing purposes, would, in the opinion of the West Point authorities, be extremely detrimental to West Point, both from an aesthetic and from a practical standpoint. Moreover, its acquisition is desirable for the future development of the academy. Purchase of the Island by the Federal Government has been recommended both by the Hon. Elihu Root and Hon. William H. Taft, as Secretaries of War, as well as by the Board of Visitors of the present year. Bills appropriating $175,000 for the purchase of the island have been repeatedly before both houses of Congress, and I find that such a bill passed the Senate in 1902, but was never brought to a vote in the House.

“Miss Warner has received repeated offers from private parties, of a much larger sum than that for which she was willing to sell to the United States Government, but had steadily refused, from patriotic motives, to accept them in order that it might ultimately become a part of the West Point Reservation.

“Under these circumstances, after conference with friends officially connected with the Military Academy, and with Miss Warner, I have become the owner of the Island in consideration of the same amount for which Miss Warner has been willing to sell it to the United States, upon the understanding that I offer the Island to the Government for the use of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and so that it shall form a part of the Reservation there, and upon the further understanding that Miss Warner, who is well advanced in years, may continue to occupy the small part of the island now used by her for the remainder of her life, using her house, grounds, springs, pasture and firewood as heretofore. In view of the great pecuniary sacrifice to Miss Warner in parting with the Island at this price, she becomes with me a donor of the property to the United States Government.

I am prepared to execute a proper deed whenever I am assured that my gift will be accepted for this purpose, and that any necessary authority has been obtained from Congress or from the State of New York so as to vest in the United States the same jurisdiction over the Island which now exists over the military reservation at West Point. My deed will be accompanied by full abstract of title and will contain no conditions except:

“First’. That the Island be for the use forever of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N. Y., and form a part of the military reservation of West Point, and (pursuant to the covenant in Miss Warner’s deed to me, which runs with the land) ‘that no part of it shall ever be used as a public picnic, or excursion, or amusement ground, operated by private enterprise, individual or corporate, for profit; and

“Second: That Miss Anna Bartlett Warner have the right to reside as at present on Constitution island, in full possession of her house and the gardens appurtenant thereto during her natural life, and to the use of such spring or springs from which she now gets her water supply, together with the right to pasture her cows and horses, and to take such firewood as will be necessary while she resides on said Island, it being clearly understood that these reservations in her favor are restricted to her own life only.

“It is a great satisfaction to me to be thus able to carry out the great desire of Miss Warner’s life, and I am sure that her unselfish and high minded refusal to sell Constitution Island for other than Government purposes will be a tradition dear to the heart of every West Point graduate.

Respectfully yours,
(Signed) Margaret Olivia Sage”

“Oyster Bay, N. Y.
September 5, 1908

My dear Mrs. Sage:

Through Mr. de Forest I have received your letter of September 4th. I wish to thank you for your very generous gift to the Nation, and I have written Miss Warner thanking her. I have sent your letter at once to the Secretary of War, directing him to see that whatever action may be necessary, if any such there be, whether by Congress or by the State authorities, in order to consummate the gift, may be taken. Permit me now, on behalf of the Nation, to thank you most heartily again for a really patriotic act.

With regard,
Sincerely yours,

(Signed) Theodore Roosevelt”

The President of the United States wrote to Miss Warner:

“Oyster Bay, N. Y.
September 5, 1908

My dear Miss Warner:

I have written to Mrs. Sage thanking her, and I write to thank you for the singular generosity which has prompted you and her to make this gift to the Nation. You have rendered a real and patriotic service, and on behalf of all our people I desire to express our obligation and our appreciation. With regard, believe me,

Yours sincerely,
(Signed) Theodore Roosevelt”

Anna Warner stepped into Paradise to be greeted by her Lord Jesus Christ and sister Susan on January 22, 1915. Her earthly remains were buried beside those of her sister awaiting the resurrection of the dead in Christ. Anna and Susan Warner were buried in the cemetery of West Point “by special permission of the Secretary of War.”

The second clause of her will contains her final words to the Corps of Cadets. She bequeathed to them the treasured portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart which hung over the fireplace on the Revolutionary War barracks wall of her home. The cherished portrait of George Washington is indicative of their strong patriotism. The painting was willed to the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy for the cadets. It can be enjoyed in the West Point Museum where it hangs presently.

“Inasmuch as my sister and I agreed long ago that when our portrait of George Washington, painted by Stuart, left our hands it should go where we thought it would do the most work for our native land, therefore I give and bequeath the same to the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York (whoever he may be at the time of my death) for the special use of the Corps of Cadets at the Academy (there being some question as to the legal capacity of the Corps as such to take the gift): on condition that said picture is kept at the Military Reservation at West Point, and placed where the Cadets can have free access to see and to study it; so learning to love and revere the man who – under God – not only founded the Institution to which they belong, but gave them the Country they have sworn to defend . . . “.

The two Warner sisters were writers who enjoyed great popularity during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Today their books are unread and out of print, but the two women, themselves, are not forgotten.

Thanks to Charlotte Snyder who is Susan Warner's biographer from whom I gleaned much information beneficial to this essay. Ms. Snyder provided invaluable information which is incorporated in this work.

Furthermore, Thanks to Faith Herbert, Curator of the Constitution Island Association.