The Fascinating Life of Charles Thomson

11 12 2008

I recently picked up the book “The Bible in Translation” by Bruce M. Metzger, and it is a very interesting read.  It covers a history of the translation of the Bible and while only half way through it, I have learned some very amazing things about the journey God’s words have taken to the versions we have today.

One of the translations mentioned is Charles Thomson’s Bible.  Charles Thomson has the distinction of creating and printing the first translation of the Bible into English in America.  While this may be in itself an interesting factoid, I found the story of his life quite fascinating.

Childhood & Schooling

Charles was a native of Ireland and boarded a boat for the New World with his father and siblings in 1739.  Within sight of their new home, Charles’ father died.  Since their mother had died back in Europe, Charles and his siblings were now orphans.  The ship’s captain seized the family assets and distributed the children to acquaintances in Delaware willing to raise them.  Unwilling to become a blacksmith’s endentured apprentice, Charles ran away.  He fell upon a kind family who were impressed with his desire to learn and study.  Thus began his scholarly pursuits of the classics.

After his education in Pennsylvania, he moved back to Delaware to open his own school.  Eventually he became a Greek and Latin tutor at Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia Academy (later to become the University of Philadelphia).

Thomson also served as a liason for the Native Americans of Delaware seeking to protect them from predatory practices on the part of the settlers.  His reputation for honesty and credibility earned him a special moniker from the Indians: “The Man Who Speaks the Truth”.

The American Revolution

After some lackluster business endeavors, Charles threw himself headlong into politics at the crest of the American Revolution.  He was unanimously selected as the secretary of the Continental Congress and dutifully took notes and minutes as the United States of America were forged.  The first draft of the Declaration of Independance was penned and signed by Charles, and his last act as secretary was to ride from Pennsylvania to Mt. Vernon to notify George Washington of his election to the position of President and escort him to the inaugaration in New York.  Throughout his political career, Charles was regarded as possessing the utmost level of character, honesty, and faithfulness.

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Thanksgiving: Redux

4 12 2008

I want to revisit Thanksgiving for a moment.  The great fall festival of feasting and football is past us now, but I fear that many people missed the whole point of the holiday.  I can tell you that in the context of my job, I spoke to plenty of people who didn’t sound very thankful.  I was reflecting on what I am thankful for and why, and it brought me back to the impetus for federalizing the holiday in the first place.

Some form of Thanksgiving had been a common custom both in the United States as well as many other cultures by the time Abraham Lincoln made it official.  In the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln issued his Thanksgiving decree because he felt that if the citizenry were spiritually adrift, they would not be able to call on the assistance of God in their plight (“the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” James 5:16b).  In his proclamation, Lincoln pointed out the good, accepted the bad, and asked that everyone be thankful for it all.  See if you can relate with me as I try to apply this to myself…

What do I have to complain about?

– I don’t have a whole lot of money right now
– There are some people that have frustrated me as of late
– I’m not particularly satisfied with my current career path
– I could stand to lose some weight
– The wrong guy got elected
– I wish my fantasy football team was doing better right now

Please understand I offer the previous list to make a point.  I have personally complained about these (and other) things either internally or to friends and family.  Normally I would relent from mentioning them here, except I hope for you to find a common ground in what I’m working through.  Do you see any of these things in your life, and more importantly, have you moaned or groaned about them lately?

These are real issues that do or have bothered me.  Lincoln had some real issues that he was facing, too.  His happened to be horrific death and destruction in the country which he was chosen to lead.  In either case, the decision to have a right attitude before God and men does not lie in resolving the issues, but changing how we look at them.

1. Find the good / God’s grace

Every good gift is from above, but so many of those gifts are ignored or taken for granted.  Lincoln pointed to the expansion of the nation, peace abroad and away from the battlefields, and general prosperity.  Let me see if I can find any good in my life:

– We have enough money to meet our needs without major debt
– I have family all around that loves me
– I have a job
– I have no serious health concerns
– Our election cycle did not end in riots or bloodshed, as happens in other parts of the world
– I have a winning record in my fantasy league

I wonder why it is hard for us to dwell on the good gifts that we have.  I would be willing to wager that if we are honest with ourselves, we might find that it is pride.  To acknowledge good gifts from above is to acknowledge that we had nothing to do with everything good in our lives.  God is in control and he delivers his grace in the measures that he chooses.  It is a humbling thing to recognize that we are powerless to better our condition.

2. Accept the bad / God’s mercy

If we stop at the first step, we are merely “Pollyanna’s” who cover up the bad news with any good news we can find.  We still need to address the root cause of our complaining, which happens to be a familiar problem… pride.

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America’s Birth of Blessings

11 07 2008

In my last post, I asserted that the decision of our founding fathers to break apart from Great Britain was unbiblical and thus sinful.  In researching this, I found that there are many that believe we who would cast such a shadow on our nation’s birth intend to make the conclusion that the United States are therefore inherently sinful and wretched.  That is where I want to focus today.

First of all, let me address the notion that if the nation was “born out of sin,” then it will be perpetually sinful and useless to God.  That’s hogwash.  If we take that same logic, all of us who are born again in Christ are doomed!

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” – Psalm 51:5

But as is the case with myself, God is able to make something useful out of something that started out badly.  There’s no denying the history the United States has of sending innumerable missionaries out into the world to proclaim God’s gospel.  The printing presses of America have been churning out volume after volume of Bibles, study aids, expository articles, and the like.  U.S. resources have been used for over two centuries to further the kingdom of God.  And in God’s good will, America has been blessed tremendously; not of our own merit, but in spite of it.

If you look back to the birth of our country, there is a key document that, I believe, has much more to do with our success than the Declaration of Independence.  A composition that was constructed by many of the same minds as the Declaration, but bears much more significance and biblical influence…

The Constitution of the United States of America

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Righteous Revolution?

7 07 2008

I have often pondered whether the American Revolution was biblically justified or not, and planning for this year’s Fourth of July inspired me to spend some time and energy researching the subject.

Now before we get started, let me make a statement: Oddly enough, Chris and I each wrote about this same subject without any coordination or knowledge of what the other was working on!  I know that this is an emotionally charged issue for some, but I’ve really tried to approach this objectively and do my best to simply hold up the position of the founding fathers to the Bible.  So let’s jump in!

It helps to understand some of the prevailing philosophies leading up to the late 1700’s.  In 1650, a man name Robert Filmer published the book Patriarcha, which was a defense of the notion that kings and rulers had a divine right to absolute authority.  The application of this idea was that kings could do as they pleased, and subjects were required to obey the king no matter what as a matter of religious obligation.  While this was predictably popular with the monarchy, it Read the rest of this entry »

One Nation Under God!

4 07 2008

As we celebrate Independence Day, I thought it only proper to recount just a few of the lesser known events that led to our decision to become a nation. What struck me in my research was the depth of spiritual reasoning that our forefathers used as the basis for their separation from England. Many of my thoughts below are my own condensing of a more complete explanation that can be found in a book entitled “The Light and the Glory” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. Enjoy and Happy Independence Day!


It is impossible for us (nearly 230 years later) to fully appreciate just how radical the words of the Declaration of Independence must have sounded to the generation that formed them. “All men are created equal!” Never before in history had the world actually believed in the equality of man. Certainly not as it pertained to governing nations. All men were mere subjects of the King – a privileged position for a man who sat at the top of an extensive class system that trickled down through society to the lowliest of servants. All things considered, it is truly remarkable how far freedom has come. The freedoms we enjoy today are a direct result of both difficult choices by God fearing men, and the beauty of the gospel granted to us as a gift from God. It was God at work directing the affairs of man to allow for such a land as ours to even exist. God was raising up a nation devoted to freedom. The time and place was right – it would be America. Read the rest of this entry »