The current judicial exercise in ensuring a hard separation between religion and the federal or state governments has a fairly short history. It really dates to the last century when Justice Hugo Black resurrected a comment that Thomas Jefferson had made in reply to a letter from the Danbury Baptist Association. The Connecticut group had written to congratulate him upon his election to the Presidency in 1804. His use of the phrase â€œa wall of separationâ€ is its first occurrence in text in this land, and in its context it was used as part of his explanation as to why he had chosen not to call for a national day of fasting and thanksgiving as his two predecessors had done upon election. Justice Blackâ€™s appropriation of the remark was much more insidious.
God’s Word is not a mascot, a thing which brings good luck by its mere presence. It is of no value to have a copy of it in the house, or in one’s pocket, if it is not read. When we read it, understand it, and give all diligence to walk according to its teaching, it benefits us indeed. So the chief duty of every Christian, in as far as others are concerned, is to do what he can to have their hearts and minds filled with the Word of God; for every one who lives and dies with his heart and mind so filled will surely find an abundant entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The gospel is the power of God to salvation to every one who believes it; for everyone whose mind and heart are full of it, every one who truly believes it, will diligently walk according to its teaching. Some people do not walk in the way of righteousness because they do not know it; others because they do not love it. All who know and love it follow Christ. Hence, the importance of striving with all of our might to fill the people with the knowledge and love of the truth. It is their salvation; the lack of either the knowledge or the love is their damnation.
Because of its saving power, God taught Israel to have his words upon their hearts, to teach them diligently to their children, to talk of them while sitting in the house, while walking on the highway, when lying down and rising up, to bind them upon their hands for a sign, and to have them for frontlets between their eyes. For this cause he required them to write them upon their doorposts and upon their gates.
Under the new covenant he commands his people to disciple all nations, to preach the gospel to every creature, and when converts to Christ are made, to teach them to observe all that he has commanded. He says: “Preach the word; be urgent in season, and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long suffering and teaching.” (2 Tim. 4: 2) In light of these teachings, I say again: the most important duty of every child of God is to fill the people with the knowledge and love of God.
James A. Harding