The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Building a City on a Hill

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Jesus calls us to rebuild broken foundations, not to become revolutionaries for a misguided political faith or escapists from the world through belief in a misguided view of eschatology. Our vision should be like that of John Winthrop and his "Model of Christian Charity," penned in 1630 aboard the Arbella as it sailed to New England.

The Lord will be our God and delight to dwell among us as His own people. He will command a blessing on us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth than we have formerly known. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, and ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies. The Lord will make our name a praise and glory, so that men shall say of succeeding plantations: "The Lord make it like that of New England." For we must consider that we shall be like a City upon a Hill; the eyes of all the people are on us.

This was Israel’s task (Deut. 4:1–8) that has now fallen upon us, the true Israel of God, the church of Jesus Christ made up of Jews and Gentiles, to be a "city set on a hill" (Matt. 5:14), to give "the people who are sitting in darkness . . . a great light" (4:16; cf. Isa. 9:2).

There is no indication in Scripture that this task has been postponed or awaits a millennial reign of Christ. The Bible tells us that as a city set on a hill, we are to be an example of righteousness to the world. The church’s ethical witness attracts the world, acting as a light to the nations.

Cotton Mather wrote a history of early New England which he entitled Magnalia Christi Americana, or The Great Works of Christ in America. "The sum of the matter," he explained, "is that from the beginning of the Reformation in the English nation, there had always been a generation of godly men, desirous to pursue the reformation of religion, according to the Word of God. . . ." But in England, there were others with "power. . .in their hands" who desired "not only to stop the progress of the desired reformation but also, with innumerable vexation, to persecute those that most heartily wish well unto it."[1]

These Puritan disciples of Christ were driven to America to "seek a place for the exercise of the Protestant religion, according to the light of conscience, in the deserts of America." Their purpose was nothing less than to complete the Reformation, believing "that the first reformers never intended that what they did should be the absolute boundary of reformation . . . ."[2]

There are those in our day who would want to set limits on God’s Reformation of the world. For some reason these modern-day skeptics believe that God has set a boundary for reformation. Such limitations on God’s providence and sovereignty are a denial of the Bible and of all history.

We’re being told that the devil controls the world, that he orchestrates the movements of history. This, too, is an unbiblical idea. The Bible says that Satan is defeated, disarmed, and spoiled (Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7–17; Mark 3:27), "fallen" (Luke 10:18), and "thrown down" (Rev. 12:9). He was "crushed" under the feet of the early Christians (Rom. 16:20). He has lost "authority" over Christians (Col. 1:13) and has been "judged" (John 16:11). He cannot "touch" a Christian (1 John 5:18). His works have been "destroyed" (1 John 3:8). He has "nothing" (John 14:30). He "flees" when "resisted" (James 4:7) and is "bound" (Mark 3:27; Luke 11:20; Rev. 20:2).

The early Christians understood the place of the devil and the sovereignty of God. Our forefathers worked in terms of God as the Ruler of the kings of the earth, not in terms of Satan as the "ruler of this world," because "the ruler of this world" has been "cast out" (John 12:31). They took the Bible seriously when it said, "And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth" (Rev. 5:10; compare 1 Peter 2:9–10).

In 1892, the United States Supreme Court determined, in the case of The Church of the Holy Trinity vs. United States, that America was a Christian nation from its earliest days. The court opinion, delivered by Justice Josiah Brewer, was an exhaustive study of the historical and legal evidence for America’s Christian heritage. After examining hundreds of court cases, state constitutions, and other historical documents, the court came to the following conclusion:

This is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation . . . . If we examine the constitutions of the various States we find in them a constant recognition of religious obligations. Every constitution of every one of the forty-four States contains language which either directly or by clear implication recognizes a profound reverence for religion and an assumption that its influence in all human affairs is essential to the well being of the community. . . . We find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth . . . . These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.[3]

Our forefathers understood that, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "God governs in the affairs of men." Any nation that refuses to acknowledge that God is the "chief cornerstone" in the building of a nation, including the United States, will succeed no better than the builders of Babel.

The rich Christian heritage of America is evidence that we began as a Christian nation, cognizant of the fact that God is truly the ruler of the kings of the earth. Any nation that rejects God as its sovereign will be broken "with a rod of iron" and will certainly "perish in the way" (Psalm 2:9, 12). Libraries are filled with the histories of men and nations which sought to overrule the "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. 19:15). There is no hope for those who "take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed" (Psalm 2:2).


[1] Cotton Mather, The Great Works of Christ in America, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1702] 1979), 1:26.
[2] Mather, The Great Works of Christ in America, 1:26.
[3] Decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of The Church of the Holy Trinity v. The United States (143 United States 457 [1892]). See David J. Brewer, "The Church of the Holy Trinity vs. The United States," The United States: A Christian Nation (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, [1905] 1996), 75–89.

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