Webster's 1828 Dictionary: "The Christian religion is ... one of the first things in which all children...ought to be instructed" - American Minute with Bill Federer

Webster's 1828 Dictionary: "The Christian religion is ... one of the first things in which all children ... ought to be instructed"

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Noah Webster had served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.
In 1781, Webster received his Master's Degree from Yale, with his dissertation:
"On the universal diffuse of literature as introductory to the universal diffusion of Christianity."
In 1783, Webster published his Blue-Backed Speller, which eventually sold over 100 million copies.
He was elected to the Connecticut General Assembly for 9 terms, then the Massachusetts Legislature for 3 more.
He wrote to Thomas Dawes, December 20, 1808:
"About a year ago, an unusual revival of religion took place in New Haven ... and I was led by a spontaneous impulse of repentance, prayer, and entire submission and surrender of myself to my Maker and Redeemer ...
In the month of April last I made a profession of faith."
In 1812, Webster helped found Amherst College.
Noah Webster first published his American Dictionary of the English Language on April 14, 1828.
In order to evaluate the etymology of words, he learned 26 languages, including:
  • Old English,
  • German,
  • Greek,
  • Latin,
  • Italian,
  • Spanish,
  • French,
  • Hebrew,
  • Arabic, and
  • Sanskrit.
Taking over two decades to complete, Webster's Dictionary provided over 30,000 new definitions, standardized spelling and gave American English its identity.
Noah Webster wrote in the Preface of his 1828 Dictionary:
"To that great and benevolent Being ... who has borne me and my manuscripts in safety across the Atlantic, and given me strength and resolution to bring the work to a close, I would present the tribute of my most grateful acknowledgments."
Webster wrote to James Madison, October 16, 1829:
"The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government ...
I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable, in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence."
He stated:
"The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all of our civil constitutions and laws."
In 1830, he dined with President Andrew Jackson and addressed the U.S. House of Representatives, which subsequently passed legislation guaranteeing copyright protection.
In 1832, in his History of the United States, Noah Webster wrote:
"The brief exposition of the Constitution of the United States, will unfold to young persons the principles of republican government;
and it is the sincere desire of the writer that our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion."
He added:
"Almost all the civil liberty now enjoyed in the world owes its origin to the principles of the Christian religion ...
The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights.
This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free Constitutions of Government."
In 1833, Webster published his American edition of the Bible.
Webster's original 1828 American Dictionary utilized King James Bible verses within the definitions.
In fact, it contained the greatest number of Biblical definitions given of any reference volume.
Noah Webster wrote:
"The Bible should be the standard of language as well as of faith."
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defined "RELIGION" as:
"A belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of His will to man, in man's obligation to obey His commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's accountableness to God ...
Practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver ... is not religion."
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defined "PROVIDENCE" as:
"The care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures ...
Some persons admit a general providence, but deny a particular providence, not considering that a general providence consists of particulars.
A belief in divine providence is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is understood God himself."
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defined "MARRIAGE" as:
"Uniting a man and woman for life ... A contract both civil and religious ... till death shall separate them.
Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.
Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Hebrews 13:4 ... In a scriptural sense, the union between Christ and his church by the covenant of grace. Revelation 19:7."
This is consistent with the traditional definition of marriage, as recently reported by the Associated Press (Rome: AP, 3/15/21):
"The Vatican decreed Monday that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions since God 'cannot bless sin' ...
In a two-page explanation published in seven languages and approved by Pope Francis ... the Vatican holds that gays must be treated with dignity and respect, but that gay sex is 'intrinsically disordered.'
Catholic teaching holds that marriage, a lifelong union between a man and woman, is part of God’s plan and is intended for the sake of creating new life ... Gay unions ... 'cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing ... a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan ...'
God 'does not and cannot bless sin: He blesses sinful man, so that he may recognize that he is part of his plan of love and allow himself to be changed by him.'"
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defined "LAW OF NATURE" as:
"Rule or conduct arising out of the natural relations of human beings established by the Creator, and existing prior to any positive precept.
Thus it is a Law of Nature, that one man should not injure another, and murder and fraud would be crimes, independent of any prohibition from a supreme power ...
A rule of direction; a directory; as reason and natural conscience. 'These, having not the law, are a law to themselves.' Rom.ii."
Webster's definition of "NATURE" included:
"In a general sense, whatever is made or produced; a word that comprehends all the works of God."
Webster's defined "SODOMY" as: "A crime against nature."
The original Webster's Dictionary defined "SIN" as:
"The voluntary departure of a moral agent from a known rule of rectitude or duty, prescribed by God; any voluntary transgression of the divine law, or violation of a divine command ...
Whatever is contrary to God's commands or law. 1 John 3:4, Matthew 12:31, James 12:31 ...
The effect of Adam's apostasy ... native depravity or alienation of affections from God and his law ... enmity against God ...
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, is supposed to be a malicious and obstinate rejection of Christ and the gospel plan of salvation, or a contemptuous resistance made to the influences and convictions of the Holy Spirit."
Webster defined "SALVATION" as:
"In theology, the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and ... eternal death, and the conferring on him everlasting happiness. This is the great salvation ... Remission of sins ... Luke 19:9."
The definition of "GRACE" included:
"Free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him. 'And if by grace then it is no more of works.' Romans 11:6 ...
Renewing the heart ... 'My grace is sufficient for thee.' 2 Corinthians 12:9 ... The application of Christ's righteousness to the sinner. 'Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.' Romans 5:20 ...
A state of reconciliation to God. Romans 5:2 ... Eternal life; final salvation. 1 Peter 1:13 ... Favor; mercy; pardon."
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defined "FAITH" as:
"That firm belief of God's testimony, and of the truth of the Gospel, which influences the will, and leads to an entire reliance on Christ for salvation.
'Being justified by faith' Rom.v.;
'Without faith it is impossible to please God' Heb.xi.;
'For we walk by faith, not by sight' 2Cor.v.;
'With the heart man believeth to righteousness' Rom.x.;
'Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world' Rom.i.;
'Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God' Rom.xiv.;
'Children in whom is no faith' Deut.xxxii."
Webster's 1828 Dictionary defined "PROPERTY" as:
"The exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing of a thing; ownership. In the beginning of the world, the Creator gave to man dominion over the earth ...
It is one of the greatest blessings of civil society that the property of citizens is well secured."
John Adams agreed with Webster, writing of "PROPERTY" in his Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States, 1787 (The Works of John Adams, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1850-56):
"Property is surely a right of mankind as really as liberty.
Perhaps, at first, prejudice, habit, shame or fear, principle or religion, would restrain the poor from attacking the rich, and the idle from usurping on the industrious;
but the time would not be long before courage and enterprise would come, and pretexts be invented by degrees, to countenance the majority in dividing all the property among them, or at least, in sharing it equally with its present possessors.
Debts would be abolished first; taxes laid heavy on the rich, and not at all on the others; and at last a downright equal division of every thing be demanded, and voted ..."
Adams continued:
"What would be the consequence of this?
The idle, the vicious, the intemperate, would rush into the utmost extravagance of debauchery, sell and spend all their share, and then demand a new division of those who purchased from them.
The moment the idea is admitted into society, that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.
If 'Thou shalt not covet,' and 'Thou shalt not steal,' were not commandments of Heaven, they must be made inviolable precepts in every society, before it can be civilized or made free."
Noah Webster also wrote that "PROPERTY" included a person's genius and imagination (An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, Oct. 10, 1787, Pamphlets 58-61):
"The liberty of the press, trial by jury, the Habias Corpus writ, even Magna Carta itself, although justly deemed the palladia (safeguard) of freedom, are all inferior considerations, when compared with a general distribution of real property among every class of people.
The power of entailing estates (limiting one's use of personal property) is more dangerous to liberty and republican government than all the constitutions that can be written on paper, or even than a standing army ...
The production of genius and the imagination are if possible more really and exclusively property than houses and lands, and are equally entitled to legal security."
James Madison gave his definition of "property" in 1792:
"Property ... In the former sense, a man's land, or merchandise, or money, is called his property. In the latter sense, a man has a property in his opinions and the free exercise of them.
He has a property of peculiar value in his religious opinions, and in the profession and practice dictated by them ... In a word, as a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights ... Conscience is the most sacred of all property."
He wrote further regarding "PROPERTY," in the preface of his Dictionary, republished 1841:
"Let the people have property and they will have power - a power that will forever be exerted to prevent a restriction of the press, and abolition of trial by jury, or the abridgement of any other privilege."
After Webster's death in 1843 the rights to the Dictionary were purchased by George and Charles Merriam in 1845.
In recent times, the new owners began subtly re-editing and changing definitions.
Re-editing definitions is a key tactic in pushing political agendas, as Yale President Timothy Dwight, July 4, 1798, described what Voltaire did prior to the French Reign of Terror:
"About the year 1728, Voltaire, so celebrated for his wit and brilliancy and not less distinguished for his hatred of Christianity ... formed a systematical design to destroy Christianity and to introduce in its stead a general diffusion of irreligion and atheism ...
The principle parts of this system were ... the compilation of the Encyclopedie: in which with great art and insidiousness the doctrines of ... Christian theology were rendered absurd and ridiculous; and the mind of the reader was insensibly steeled against conviction and duty ...
... The fabrication of books of all kinds against Christianity, especially such as excite doubt and generate contempt and derision ...
The being of God was denied and ridiculed ... The possession of property was pronounced robbery. Chastity and natural affection were declared to be nothing more than groundless prejudices."
As programming of software is to computers, so is teaching to minds of children -- the battle for the future is over who gets to load the behavioral software on the next generations brains.
Once a sufficient portion of the population in France had abandoned moral restraints, the bloody Reign of Terror broke out.
Some 10,000 were arrested and died in prison without a trial; 30,000 were beheaded by the guillotine, and 300,000 were butchered in the region of the Vendée.
Noah Webster penned the article "Political Fanaticism, No. III," published in The American Minerva, Sept. 21, 1796:
"The reason why severe laws are necessary in France, is, that the people have not been educated republicans - they do not know how to govern themselves (and so) must be governed by severe laws and penalties, and a most rigid administration."
In the preface of Webster's 1828 Dictionary, he wrote:
"In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed ...
No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people."
American Minute is a registered trademark of William J. Federer. Permission granted to forward, reprint, or duplicate.
Image Credits: Public Domain; Description: "Noah Webster, The Schoolmaster of the Republic," print by Root & Tinker; Date: April 18, 1886; Source: Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003680822 ; US-LibraryOfCongress-BookLogo.svg; This image is available from the United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pga.04071; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Noah_Webster_The_Schoolmaster_of_the_Republic.jpg

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  • Christine A. on

    Everyone should have a copy of Webster’s 1828 Dictionary. You provided excellent insight, as always.

  • al jenkins on

    My Sunday Sermon is now received and is complete – - no matter what day of the week i happen to take in a Bill Federer ‘AmericanMinute’ essay. …..No preacher – no other historian ‘covers-the-waterfront’ as effectively as this story giver bc nobody (and that’s NOBODY) puts things in CONTEXT as Bill does. … America’s Founding w its trials and tribulations and sustainability IS THE VERY ESSENCE of GOD’s-Working to expose Himself in the endeavors of children (mankind). ……….. ….no question , u r ’America’s Storyteller’ shalom

  • Peter E. Masti RN on

    I have loved your “minutes” for years sir and have been blessed and educated as all true Americans should be. We have the “big green Dictionary” as we home schooled our children. I thank God and you for keeping the foundation of America solid. Paper still rules over the wisdom from our technology of today. Sadly the Faith of our Founders is left behind for all the electronics which can so easily be rewritten by a few clicks of of the keyboard today. Thank your keeping our true history alive and kept safe from manipulation. We are in a sad season in our Nation, but God is still on His throne and He reigns forever and will sift the wheat from the chaff. God Bless you sir and God bless those who love Him. Until He returns, Peter

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