Robert C. Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House & The Massachusetts Bible Society

Written by on May 30, 2015 in Founding Fathers, Lost Episodes, State Government

Robert_Charles_WinthropOn May 28, 1849, Rep. Robert C. Winthrop, Speaker of the U.S. House spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Bible Society in Boston, declaring:

“The voice of experience and the voice of our own reason speak but one language….Both united in teaching us, that men may as well build their houses upon the sand and expect to see them stand, when the rains fall, and the winds blow, and the floods come, as to found free institutions upon any other basis than that of morality and virtue, of which the Word of God is the only authoritative rule, and the only adequate sanction.

“All societies of men must be governed in some way or other. The less they have of stringent State Government, the more they must have of individual self-government. The less they rely on public law or physical force, the more they must rely on private moral restraint.

“Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them, or a power without them; either by the word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet.

“It may do for other countries, and other governments to talk about the State supporting religion. Here, under our own free institutions, it is Religion which must support the State.”*
Speaker Winthrop’s allusion to Jesus’ closing illustration in the Sermon on the Mount and his strong affirmation of self-government based on adherence to Biblical principle is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Matt. 7:24-27 and reflect on the teaching of Jesus on the two foundations and compare that with the speech of Speaker Winthrop.

Prayer: Father, forgive us for not governing ourselves and increasingly giving in to the temptation to hand over control to government. Bring us back to the basics of morality and virtue based on obedience to your Word, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Robert C. Winthrop, Addresses and Speeches on Various Occasions, 4 vols., (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1852-86), 1:171-72. Bracketed item added.

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