During England's Civil War, in 1643, Oliver Cromwell gave out The Soldier's Pocket-Bible.
After having the Declaration of Independence read to his troops, General George Washington issued the order, July 9, 1776:
"The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavor so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country."
On May 2, 1778, Washington issued the order to his troops at Valley Forge:
"To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to laud the more distinguished character of Christian."
John Langdon commanded forces in the Revolutionary War, built war ships for the early Continental navy to fight the British, and was a Signer of the U.S. Constitution.
Four years before the American Bible Society was founded, Langdon founded the New Hampshire Bible Society in 1812, and served as its first President. The Bible Society's goal was to put a Bible in every New Hampshire home.
The American Bible Society was founded in 1816. It supplied Bibles to sailors on the frigate USS John Adams in 1817.
Many famous Americans serve as President and Vice-President of the American Bible Society, including:
- First Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay;
- Continental Congress members Richard Varick and Elias Boudinot;
- U.S. Presidents John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes and Benjamin Harrison.
Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star Spangled Banner," supported the American Bible Society, as did Abraham Lincoln.
The American Bible Society gave Bibles to Pony Express riders, 1858-1861.
During America's Civil War, 1861-1865, the American Bible Society gave Bibles to both sides, as did the Protestant Episcopal Church which distributed Army and Navy Prayer books.
President Ulysses S. Grant, who was the first to hold the rank of General of the Army and wear the four silver star insignia, wrote during his illness in 1884:
"I believe in the Holy Scriptures, and whoso lives by them will be benefited thereby. Men may differ as to the interpretation, which is human, but the Scriptures are man's best guide ...
I feel very grateful to the Christian people of the land for their prayers in my behalf. There is no sect or religion, as shown in the Old or New Testament, to which this does not apply."
As soldiers carried the small Bible in their shirt pocket, there are numerous instances where the Bible saved a soldier's life by stopping a bullet.
A Soldier's Prayer Book, 1861, contained the prayers:
"Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
During World War I, the thousands of American soldiers heading to France and Belgium were given pocket Bibles with the forward written by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917:
"The Bible is the Word of Life. I beg that you will read it and find this out for yourselves, -read, not little snatches here and there, but long passages that will really be the road to the heart of it ...
You will find it full of real men and women not only, but also of the things you have wondered about and been troubled about all your life, as men have been always;
and the more you read the more it will become plain to you what things are worth while and what are not, what things make men happy,-loyalty, right dealing, speaking the truth, readiness to give everything for what they think their duty, and, most of all, the wish that they may have the approval of the Christ, who gave everything for them,
-and the things that are guaranteed to make men unhappy,-selfishness, cowardice, greed, and everything that is low and mean.
When you have read the Bible you will know it is the Word of God, because you will have found in it the key to your own heart, your own happiness, and your own duty.
-(signed) Woodrow Wilson."
General John J. Pershing also wrote a Preface of the New Testament & Book of Psalms, August 10, 1917, which was given to soldiers:
"To the American Soldier aroused against a nation waging war in violation of all Christian principles. Our people are fighting in the cause of Liberty ...
Hardships will be your lot, but trust in God will give you comfort; temptation will befall you, but the teachings of our Savior will give you strength.
Let your valor as a soldier and your conduct as a man be an inspiration to your comrades and an honor to your country.
-(signed) Pershing, Comdg."
In 1917, Theodore Roosevelt wrote a message which was inscribed in a pocket New Testament & Book of Psalms, published by the New York Bible Society and given to World War I soldiers:
"The teachings of the New Testament are foreshadowed in Micah's verse (Micah vi. 8):
'What more does the Lord require of thee than to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?'
... DO JUSTICE; and therefore fight valiantly against the armies of Germany and Turkey, for these nations in this crisis stand for the reign of Moloch and Beelzebub on this earth.
LOVE MERCY; treat prisoners well, succor the wounded, treat every woman as if she was your sister, care for the little children, and be tender to the old and helpless ...
WALK HUMBLY; You will do so if you study the life and teachings of the Saviour.
May the God of justice and mercy have you in His keeping.
-(signed) Theodore Roosevelt."
In 1917, the Army and Navy Service Book contained:
"Almighty and Merciful God and Father, we humbly beseech Thee to visit all those who have forsaken the Christian faith and to reveal unto them their error, so that they may receive the Truth of Thy Holy Word, and walk in the Way that leadeth unto eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen."
The Y.M.C.A, as well as Catholic and Jewish organizations printed and distributed Prayer Books to U.S. soldiers and sailors.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated October 6, 1935:
"The 400th anniversary of the printing of the first English Bible is an event of great significance ... We trace ... the widespread dissemination of those moral and spiritual precepts that have so greatly affected the progress of Christian civilization."
On January 25, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote the prologue of a special Gideons' edition of the New Testament & Book of Psalms distributed to millions of World War II soldiers:
"As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States ...
Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration.
It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.
-(signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt."
General Omar Bradley stated on Armistice Day, 1948:
"We have many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.
The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants ...
If we continue to develop our technology without wisdom or prudence, our servant may prove to be our executioner."
General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces Pacific (SCAP), received the message from President Harry Truman, September 6, 1945:
“The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the State is subordinate to you as Supreme Commander for the Allied powers. You will exercise your authority as you deem proper to carry out your mission.”
"Japan is a spiritual vacuum ... If you do not fill it with Christianity, it will be filled with communism.”
He pleaded that Youth for Christ and other ministries send 10,000 missionaries to Japan: “Send missionaries and Bibles.”
While in Tokyo, MacArthur daily read the American Standard Version of the Bible and helped distribute 43 million Bibles, resulting in it becoming a best-seller in Japan. MacArthur wrote in 1948:
“I am absolutely convinced that true democracy can exist only on a spiritual foundation. It will endure when it rests firmly on the Christian conception of the individual and society.”
As noted in the book Endowed by Their Creator: A Collection of Historic American Military Prayers: 1774 - Present, compiled by Col. Ron Ray USMC (retired), General George C. Marshall stated:
"The soldier's heart, the soldier's spirit, the soldier's soul are everything. Unless the soldier's soul sustains him, he cannot be relied on and will fail himself and his commander and his country in the end."
During World War II, the Allied Commander in Italy, General Mark W. Clark, composed the prayer:
"O God, who knowest the duties that be ahead of us, and the weaknesses that easily beset us, prepare us for the unknown immediately before us. We do not pray for immunity from risks; we pray for courage to face risks ...
We do not ask to be spared from danger; we ask for strength to face danger resolutely.
Grant that we may be able to finish that which Thou hast granted us the wish to begin; through Jesus Christ, our Lord."
In 1947, during the Truman Administration, the U.S. Corp of Cadets required:
"Attendance at chapel is part of a cadet's training; no cadet will be exempted. Each cadet will receive religious training in one of the three particular faiths: Protestant, Catholic or Jewish."
The Army and Navy Service Book in 1948 contained:
"We beseech Thee, O God, for all prisoners and captives, and all who suffer from oppression, that Thou will manifest thy mercy toward them, and make the heart of man merciful as thine own; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
In 1949, the U.S. Naval Academy required:
"All Midshipmen, except those on authorized outside church parties, shall attend Sunday services in the chapel."
President Dwight Eisenhower had served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Forces during World War II. On August 17, 1955, he authorized the code of conduct for U.S. soldiers, which stated:
"I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense ...
If captured ... I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy ... I will never forget I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.
I will trust in my God and in the United States of America."
Eisenhower addressed the National Conference on the Spiritual Foundation of American Democracy, November 9, 1954:
"This relationship between a spiritual faith ... and our form of government is ... so obvious that we should really not need to identify a man as unusual because he recognizes it ... 'Man is endowed by his Creator' ...
When you come back to it, there is just one thing ... man is worthwhile because he was born in the image of his God ...
Any group that binds itself together to awaken all of us to these simple things ... is, in my mind, a dedicated, patriotic group that can well take the Bible in one hand and the a flag in the other, and march ahead."
President Franklin Roosevelt had proclaimed the first National Bible Week, December 8-14, 1941.
One the first day, as the Bible was being read over the airwaves on NBC, the reading was suddenly interrupted to report that Imperial Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:
"The words I heard over the telephone were quite sufficient to tell me that, finally, the blow had fallen, and we had been attacked.
Attacked in the Philippines, in Hawaii, and on the ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii.
Our people had been killed not suspecting there was an enemy, who attacked in the usual ruthless way which Hitler has prepared us to suspect ...
I think, perhaps, it is significant that we should be beginning Bible Week today.
This is the first annual Bible Week, so designated by the Layman's National Committee under the honorary chairmanship of Dr. Frank Kingdon.
This committee believes that religious faith and knowledge of the Bible are essential to the preservation of our freedoms."
Since then, every session of Congress has designated Thanksgiving week as National Bible Week.
Rep. Mike Johnson stated in a Special session of the U.S. House (CSPAN):
"Recognizing the 77th annual National Bible Week in America ... This is a declaration first made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt just weeks before the start of World War II ...
The Holy Bible ... is the most widely published book, widely read, and most influential book in all of human history ... and to us as Christians we know it is more than just a book ...
Can the Bible ... be used appropriately in a public school classroom? ... Yes, more than half a century ago, the U.S. Supreme Court verified that 'the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities' and 'that such study of the Bible ... is perfectly lawful."
In 2012, the Museum of Biblical Art in New York had an exhibition, "Finding Comfort in Difficult Times: A Selection of Soldiers' Bibles."
This exhibit showcased three dozen copies of Scriptures, published by the American Bible Society for the U.S. Armed Forces from the Civil War to the present, from pocket size leather-bound to camouflaged.
The 97th U.S. Congress issued a Joint Resolution proclaiming a "Year of the Bible," signed by Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil and Republican President of the Senate Strom Thurmond.
It was forwarded to President Ronald Reagan signed the Bill on October 4, 1982, thereby designating 1983 the "Year of the Bible":
"Now, therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America,
in recognition of the contributions and influence of the Bible on our Republic and our people,
do hereby proclaim 1983 the Year of the Bible in the United States.
I encourage all citizens, each in his or her own way, to reexamine and rediscover its priceless and timeless message."
President Donald J. Trump commented on biblical faith, September 26, 2020:
"On this inaugural National Day of Prayer and Return, the First Lady and I join millions of Christians here in the United States and around the world in prayer, as we turn our hearts to our Lord and Savior ...
Four hundred years ago, early American settlers trusted their lives to His providence and braved a voyage to a New World.
From the pilgrims who sought His protection aboard the Mayflower to the countless believers who today bow their heads to ask for His guidance during these unprecedented times, our country continues to turn to the Lord.
Following in our ancestors’ footsteps we continue the 'firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence' that provides us enduring strength and reassurance in our times of need.
The trials and tribulations the American people have faced over the past several months have been great.
Yet, as we have seen time and again, the resolve of our citizenry—fortified by our faith in God—has guided us through these hardships and helped to unite us as one Nation under God.
As we continue to combat the challenges ahead of us, we must remember the sage words of President George Washington during his first Presidential Address: 'Propitious Smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained' ...
Today, I am pleased to join my voice to yours in thanking God for blessing this nation with great power and responsibility.
With reverence, humility, and thanksgiving, we beg for His continued guidance and protection."
On February 22, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed Joint Resolution 164 declaring 1990 the International Year of Bible Reading:
"Among the great books produced throughout the history of mankind, the Bible has been prized above all others ...
The Bible has had a critical impact upon the development of Western civilization ...
It was a biblical view of man - one affirming the dignity and worth of the human person, made in the image of our Creator - that inspired the principles upon which the United States is founded ...
The historic speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., provide compelling evidence of the role Scripture played in shaping the struggle against slavery and discrimination ...
We recall the words of the prophet Isaiah, who declared, 'The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever' ...
When you have read the Bible you will know that it is the Word of God ...
Now, Therefore, I, George H.W. Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the year 1990 as the International Year of Bible Reading.
I invite all Americans to discover the great inspiration and knowledge that can be obtained through thoughtful reading of the Bible."
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Image Credits: Gideon's New Testament and Book of Psalms, Foreword by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 25, 1941; https://activerain-store.s3.amazonaws.com/image_store/uploads/7/6/2/8/2/ar130672410728267.JPG