Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

David Barton is founder of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage.

Something interesting happened in 1816 when a young man named Hezekiah Niles decided to write a book on the American Revolution.

Niles, who had not lived through the Revolution, asked former President John Adams – an eyewitness and active participant to the Revolution – who was most responsible for the ideas that produced the nation that Americans had come to enjoy, and which was so different from every other nation at the time. Surprisingly, at the top of Adams’ list of the most influential thinkers were ministers such as the Rev. Dr. Samuel Cooper and the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Mayhew. He also talked openly about the influence of the Rev. George Whitefield and praised the Rev. Charles Chauncy.

We might know something about Whitefield today but the chances that we know anything about Cooper, Mayhew, or Chauncy are slim to none. But here’s Adams, a Founding Father and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, identifying pastors as among the most influential in the ideas of freedom and liberty that resulted in the birth of America.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t get that in my history books in school!

We’re just not teaching our history today. If we still taught stuff like this—if we still taught what really happened—we’d have a whole different view of America.

Our Founding Documents Are Based on the Bible

Why would Adams point to preachers as being so influential? Because historians have documented that every right set forth in the Declaration of Independence had been preached from the American pulpit prior to 1763.

So, if you want a fun assignment, try reading the rights in the Declaration of Independence as a list of sermon topics, because that’s what they were.  It was the pulpit that helped Americans know how to think about liberty and rights, as well as how to have a Biblical view on all sorts of other things.

Common to sermons from the Founding Era is a Biblical relevance to daily life and issues that we rarely see today. It was Adams who wrote, “Our pulpits have thundered.” And when you look at the sermons from back then, there’s no question that’s true.

At WallBuilders, we have about 120,000 documents from before 1812, including thousands of sermons. Let me give you some examples of what we have, and notice the topics—and whey they covered those topics.

In 1755, Boston experienced an earthquake, which is very unusual for that part of the country. What was the response? Famous Boston minister Jonathan Mayhew (one of those mentioned by Adams) preached a sermon on what the Bible has to say about earthquakes. In fact, it was part of a five-week series on earthquakes.

How many earthquakes do you remember in the Bible? I remember Amos talking about one; I remember the earthquake under Uzziah; I remember the earthquake when Jesus died; and I remember the earthquake on His resurrection; and that’s about it for me. But if you just do a search online and look for “earthquakes” in the Bible, it’s unbelievable how many times it’s mentioned – and we’ve never paid attention to it! There are literally dozens of verses about earthquakes! (For a good article on this, see And here are some additional verses about earthquakes in the Bible,

We also have sermons on things like disasters, astronomy, science, military service, patriotism, aging, taxes, transportation, criminal justice, healthcare, education, law, and dozens of other issues. We also have sermons like the one called the “Cry of Sodom Enquired Into,” on what we would now call LGBTQ issues.

It’s interesting that, today, 77% of conservatives self-censor rather than talk about LGBTQ issues because they know they’ll get beat up if they say something. So rather than have a backbone and talk about a subject the Bible clearly and unequivocally talks about, we just go silent. It causes younger generations to think, Well, it’s not that big a deal. Nobody really cares about it.

Rather than be de-platformed, cancelled, or have people yell at us on social media, we stay quiet. But that’s not what pastors did back then.

Today, we rarely see the practical application of the Bible the way they did. When something was in the headlines or affected people in their daily life, preachers were looking for what the Bible had to say about it.

Changing Lives and Influencing History

One of the men very influential in early America about whom we haven’t heard much of today is a black evangelist Harry Hoosier. He grew up in a slave family, got his freedom at the end of the American Revolution, heard a Gospel minister preach, and converted to Christianity.

Hoosier ministered in the Great Awakenings among the famous revivalists like George Whitefield, John and Charles Wesley, Lorenzo Dow, Charles Clay, and Francis Asbury. When asked about Hoosier, Asbury – one of the pioneers of Methodism, who drew crowds of immense size – said Hosier’s crowds were larger than his. 

Dr. Benjamin Rush – whom Adams said was one of the three most notable Founding Fathers, alongside George Washington and Ben Franklin – said Hoosier was the greatest orator he’d heard.

Hoosier’s ministry particularly impacted blue-collar Americans—the rough, tough, and rugged frontiersmen, woodsmen, trappers, and explorers of eastern America. When these men would get converted, they were transformed – their language and behavior changed for the better.

When America started expanding westward, many men converted by Hoosier ended up exploring the edge of the frontier. By the early 1800s, the farthest west Americans had moved was into the Indiana Territory.

As these frontiersmen converted by Hosier moved into Indiana, other people noticed they lived and spoke differently than some of the other pioneers. Because of that, they became known as “Hoosiers.”

Probably few people in Indiana – today a reliably conservative state – connect the nickname “Hoosier State” with a black evangelist from the Founding Era.

It is just another example of preachers having a significant influence on early America. They provided the foundation that makes America great. They spoke to the issues of the day, ministered directly from the Word of God, offered practical Biblical teaching, and laid the foundation for the rights and freedoms secured in our founding documents. Today, these well-documented facts are largely unknown because we’re no longer taught these well-documented facts from our history today.

If our country is going to stay great, it’s going to be because of those who read and understand God’s Word and apply it to the issues we face today. Pastors must preach the Word—all of it, including its practical applications, and lead their local churches to get involved in their communities, and start emphasizing Biblical values in local schools and government. It’s up to believers to preserve our nation’s religious heritage and pass along freedom to the next generation.

Learn More

Learn more about David Barton and WallBuilders by visiting their website.

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