Religious Test Clauses in Colonial and State Constitutions and Other Documents and Statements Supporting the Original Consensus That There Should be a Religious Test for Positions of Authority and Trust

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A religious doctrine involves practical consequences so important, and its effects upon individual and social life are so infallible and so profound, that it can never be contemplated with indifference by the mass of society, and much less by their rulers. We pray you to observe, amongst other things, that the stronger the feeling of dependence to which religion reduces the individual, the more she invests him, on the other hand, with a lofty independence. All religion is freedom. By introducing us into the service of one master, she emancipates us from the dominion of all others. If she does not altogether do away with dependencies of another order, she transforms them from absolute into relative ones. We still belong to society, we are perhaps linked to it by closer ties than before; but it is in a mediate manner, for man cannot serve two masters. It is this independence which exasperates the rulers of this world, and indeed, for the most part, all those who do not share in it. It is this sacred retreat of liberty which they would invade -- this freedom, of which they would deprive us; as if the numerous sacrifices which from time to time liberty has made for the common weal were insufficient, as if it were not enough, or rather as if it were nothing, for us to have devoted all our bodily powers and all our worldly goods to the service of society, so long as this offering is not completed by the sacrifice of the soul. It is spiritual domination, dominion over the soul, of which despotism, whether of princes or of the people, is especially desirous. Thus, when a tyrant has bereft a nation of all its liberties, until throughout the realm his will has become law, his ambition having nothing else wherewith to satiate its appetite, directs itself against religion. Thenceforward, having subjugated the bodies of men, he directs his attacks against their souls. It is because he cannot but be sensible that dominion over souls -- what do you say? -- over one single soul, is as much superior to that over bodies, as the soul itself is superior to its envelope of clay. He cannot endure the humiliation of knowing that there is a sphere in which the most obscure man, by the force of sympathy alone, wields a greater power than his own. A deep-rooted and bitter feeling of envy takes possession of him; he can enjoy no more repose, until moral force shall have yielded to the pressure of physical force -- until the second Mordecai shall have bowed down to this second Haman -- until the soul, by dethroning itself, shall have delivered him from this odious rivalry. And should he encounter in this enterprise an unlooked-for resistance, his impatience becomes fury, and he destroys those whom he cannot subdue. This has been the origin of many religious persecutions, and it discloses the secret motives of those atrocities by which some have been distinguished.
It does not follow, however, that all the evils with which the world has been inundated in the name of religion, are to be referred to this cause alone. They have originated in that preeminently just idea, that religion gives the true signification of every man, and of the whole of society; that there is nothing more deeply seated in us, nothing which more decisively determines what we are; and that to declare what we believe, is at the same time, and as a matter of necessity, to declare what we wish to be. The influence of a lordly spirit apart, it is not astonishing that the social power has everywhere, more or less, attempted to regulate the faith of the citizens and the instructions of the priesthood. Nor is it surprising that the priesthood, in aid of the state, have themselves attempted to dictate in a matter of this importance. For the suppression of this evil, the assistance of ages has been necessary, and this has not proved sufficient; the veto of public opinion has been also needed. Perhaps in certain countries something further has been required -- the progress of religious indifference. But nowhere is the fire extinguished, because nowhere is man changed; he will never witness unmoved, the energetic manifestation of religious principle; he may be indulgent to philosophical religions, or to religious philosophy, which penetrates not to the very sources of will and of action; but he will be, with his own full knowledge and consent, severe upon genuine faith. And why? because man possessing genuine faith, rises to his highest elevation; an elevation to which it is necessary that others should rise also, not indeed to rule over him (for this is impossible), but to treat with him, and to be at peace together. This is the true position and individuality of each renewed man, and everything is put in requisition to annul, subdue, and modify it.
We dwell no longer upon these different attempts, but return to the principle. We find that in the judgment of the community, the religious conviction of a man moulds his character, estimates his worth, and foretells his life. It is the invisible source of many efforts, and often of much violence. Well, then, we infer [sic] unhesitatingly, that the faith of a member of society cannot remain either a mystery or a matter of doubt to those who surround him. If, as we have sought to establish a former part of this work, the spiritual unity of society, its reality in the elevated sense of that word, depends on the mutual interchange of sentiments; and if that individual only can be said to belong to the community, with whose character she is acquainted, it must be especially in the sphere of religious convictions that this truth is apparent; we may even go further, and say, that although we might keep our sentiments on other subjects to ourselves, those that we entertain respecting religion could not be concealed. For our religious convictions imbue us so thoroughly and practically, that society knows not what she possesses in us, except as she knows what we are with respect to God.
This fact is more conspicuous, we admit, with reference to the Christian religion than to any other. In comparison with it, all other systems of faith are superficial; and we may remark in passing, that this is the reason why Christianity has drawn upon itself, and even excited among its followers, more intolerance than any other religion. The experimental character of its doctrines, coming in contact with the diverse passions of the human heart, has enkindled in the midst of society an active and devouring flame; and its profession has occasioned a host of outrages and calamities. Christianity is radical in the highest degree; radical in morals. It uproots one life, it implants another. Of all religions, it alone is in direct hostility with human nature in its fallen condition, as it is also the only religion which coincides with that same nature in all that sin has not polluted; at once the most human, and the least human of all systems; appearing to grant us everything, and to refuse us everything, but, in reality, granting everything to humanity, and refusing everything to sin. No religion consequently so effectually reforms the moral being; in such a manner, that the complexion of our life and conduct depends on whether we are or are not Christians, and upon what sort of Christians we are.
We should find it impracticable to attempt to distinguish between the doctrines of Christianity and its morals; between what is called its natural and universal morality, and its peculiar and arbitrary doctrines. Christian doctrine is morality -- Christian morality; to wish to distinguish between the two is to desire to divide a stream from its source. Christian doctrine is no sooner received than it regulates the conduct; the character of God becomes a model for man; what God is, man ought to be; and inasmuch as God in the Scriptures is invested with attributes which belong not to human nature, so also man, by means of the Gospel, is invested with a character which nature had not impressed upon him; it makes him a new man in every sense of the term: a man peculiar and extraordinary in the eyes of nature, but in every case a man, who, by the judgment of that very nature, is approved and esteemed. To declare our opinion upon Christian doctrine avails much; it is in fact to profess certain principle of conduct, and to attach ourselves to one or another system of morality; it is to reveal our inward man, to publish the operations of conscience; it is to give the standard of our judgments, and the rule of our actions.
We do well to avow it: whenever we revert to the considerations which most forcibly recommend a duty, we revert to the greatest difficulties in the way of its accomplishment; indeed, in most cases, to point out the motive, is to recognize the difficulty. In the present case, for example, nothing can render candour more difficult than that which enforces its obligation. It is just because such a religious doctrine, of necessity involves such a principle of morality, and such a rule of conduct; it is precisely because it is a disclosure of inward man, that so many persons are averse to declare to what doctrine they adhere. And it is sometimes because their opinion condemns them, sometimes because it elevates them, not so much in itself as in the characteristics and practical consequences with which public opinion has invested it. It is painful to excite repugnance or aversion, and it is sometimes still more painful to excite expectations which we feel but too conscious we cannot fulfill. If it were not so, why should we make a secret of our religious opinions, when we are at no pains to conceal any other? Why, when we are open and unreserved upon all the rest, should we not allow free expression to our thoughts upon this, the noblest of subjects? Why should communications of this nature be so generally regarded as the acme of candour and the pledge of intimacy? Why is there no real union, no true communion of soul, until both parties have expressed what they think, and above all, what they feel upon invisible and infinite subjects? Why do beings long united by the closest ties of affection, as soon as spiritual communion is formed between them, discover with surprise, that up to that period they had really never known, understood, or loved each other? -- that, as Montaigne expresses it, there was wanting to their friendship 'a certain inexplicable, yet essential power, the mediatrix of that union;' or that (as is really the fact), 'God is the true medium of true friendship?' All such instance go to confirm the truth of what we have said. A great effect supposes a powerful force -- a powerful force is employed only against a formidable resistance, and a formidable resistance has no place but in opposition to an urgent necessity. Here the necessity is a moral one -- it is a duty; an evident, and urgent, but a painful duty; for the consequences, even limiting them to their narrowest range, and considering none but those which are developed in the bosom of private relations, these consequences are, it must be confessed, of a startling character.
Nevertheless, if regarded only in the light of morality and natural reason, this candour, which appears so difficult and dangerous, would be found to possess real advantages, whilst reserve would have none but what are false and deceptive. Candour would break the ice which dissimulation thickens and consolidates from day to day; it would procure a more lasting peace; it would put the seal to confidence and friendship. You dread a storm: any storm would be preferable to the dead calm in which you live, -- a calm without peace and without security; for since no one can suppose that you are altogether destitute of religious prepossessions, that you have not some inward conviction to disclose, it will become a matter either of dread or of desire that you should disclose it. This very feeling of anxiety will be an evil in your social relations; if your connexions are desirous of it, when you are averse to making it, their importunity will disturb your peace; on the contrary, if they are averse to its manifestation, when you yourself desire it, they will avoid your company; there will of necessity be in your social relations something painful, constrained, and, in the end, insupportable. If they neither desire nor fear it, it must be because they are not acquainted with your character, and have no desire to become so, because they are not solicitous about your most important interests -- in other words, because they do not love you. And as between a mind occupied with spiritual things and one that is not, there is a wide gulf fixed, as true intimacy between two persons so different is altogether impossible, it is the duty of the more serious of the two, to sound the mind of his friend by disclosing his own, to provide a declaration by declaring himself. Every connexion founded upon a voluntary and designedly prolonged misunderstanding, every factitious union between minds pursuing directly opposite courses, is contrary to human dignity. . . . -- Alexander Vinet (1797-1847), and Charles Theodore Jones (translator), An Essay on the Profession of Personal Religious Conviction, pp. 73-81, and Vinet on Freedom

"Proverbs 1:7a:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

"John Wycliffe wrote in the General Prologue of his 1384 translation of the Bible:

The Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.

"John Knox (1505-1572), the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, stated:

A man with God is always in the majority.

"On July 22, 1620, while on-board the Speedwell, Pastor John Robinson gave this admonition to the Pilgrims:

Someone or few must needs be appointed over the assembly (for) . . . discussing and determining of all matters, so in this royal assembly, the church of Christ, though all be Kings, yet some most faithful and most able, are to be set over the rest . . . wherein . . . they are . . . charged to minister according to the Testament of Christ.

"Harvard college was founded in `Christi Gloriam' and later dedicated `Christo et Ecclesiae.' The founders of Harvard believed that:

All knowledge without Christ is vain.

"Jonathan Edwards exclaimed:

There is no leveler like Christianity, but it levels by lifting all who receive it to the lofty table-land of a true character and of undying hope both for this world and the next.

"John Witherspoon states:

It is the man of piety and inward principle, that we may expect to find the uncorrupted patriot, the useful citizen, and the invincible soldier. -- God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both.

"William Penn, in his profound sermon entitled, A Summons or Call to Christendom -- In an Earnest Expostulation With her to Prepare for the Great and Notable Day of the Lord That is at the Door, wrote:

For in Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; redemption and glory; they are hid from the worldly Christian, from all that are captivated by the spirit and lusts of the world: and whoever would see them (for therein consists the things that belong to their eternal peace) must come to Christ Jesus, the true light in their consciences, bring their deeds to Him, love Him and obey Him; whom God hath ordained a light to lightened the Gentiles, and for His salvation to the ends of the earth. . . .

"In 1701, William Penn, in his Charter of Privileges granted to the province of Pennsylvania, stated:

Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience . . . and Author as well as object of all Divine Knowledge, faith and worship, who only doth enlighten the minds and persuade and convince the understanding of people, I do hereby grant and declare:
All persons living in this province, who confess and acknowledge the One Almighty and Eternal God to be the Creator, Upholder, and Ruler of the world, and that hold themselves obliged in conscience to live peaceably and justly in civil society, shall in no wise be molested or prejudiced for their religious persuasion or practice.
And that all persons who also profess to believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, shall be capable to serve this government in any capacity, both legislative or executively.

"In 1819, the Biographical Review in London described William Penn as one who:

Established an absolute toleration; it was his wish that every man who believed in God should partake of the rights of a citizen; and that every man who adored Him as a Christian, of whatever sect he might be, should be partaker in authority.

"George Mason stated before the General Court of Virginia:

The laws of nature are the laws of God, whose authority can be superseded by no power on earth.

In the days prior to the American Revolution "the Colonists grew in their resilience and confidence in God, to the point where one Crown-appointed Governor wrote of the conditions to the Board of Trade back in England:

If you ask an American who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ.

"Jonathan Mayhew, in a sermon in 1765, states:

The king is as much bound by his oath not to infringe the legal rights of the people, as the people are bound to yield subjection to him. From whence it follows that as soon as the prince sets himself above the law, he loses the king in the tyrant. He does, to all intents and purposes, un-king himself.

"The Committees of Correspondence soon began sounding the cry across the Colonies:

No King but King Jesus!

"On May 2, 1778, General George Washington issued these orders 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.

"Abigail Adams, the wife of the second president, John Adams, near the time of November 5, 1775, wrote to her friend, Mercy Warren:

A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest Man without the fear of God. Is it possible that he whom no moral obligations bind, can have any real Good Will towards Men? Can he be a patriot who, by an openly vicious conduct, is undermining the very bonds of Society? . . . The Scriptures tell us "righteousness exalteth a Nation."

"In 1823, Noah Webster wrote in his textbook:

It is alleged by men of loose principles, or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness.
But if we had no divine instruction on the subject, our own interest would demand of us a strict observance of the principle of these injunctions. And it is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens, that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breeches of trust, peculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country; which disgrace a republican government; and which will tend to reconcile men to monarchs in other countries and even our own.

"Henry Wadsworth Longfellow remarked:

Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice triumphs.

"Henry Ward Beecher stated:

Christianity works while infidelity talks. She feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, visits and cheers the sick, and seeks the lost, while infidelity abuses her and babbles nonsense and profanity. By their fruits ye shall know them.

"Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States and President Abraham Lincoln's Vice-President declared:

Let us look forward to the time when we can take the flag of our country and nail it below the Cross, and there let it wave as it waved in the olden times, and let us gather around it and inscribe for our motto: "Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever," and exclaim, Christ first, our country next!

Examples of the Religious Test Clause in State Constitutions

"Constitution of the State of Delaware:
Article XXII: Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust. . . shall . . . make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: "I ,____________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration."

"Constitution of the State of Mississippi, 1817

Article IX, Section 16: Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government, the preservation of liberty, and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged in this state.

"Constitution of the State of New Hampshire, 1784, 1792, required senators and representatives to be of the:

Protestant religion. (in force until 1877)

"The Constitution of New Hampshire stipulated:

Article I, Section VI: And every denomination of Christians demeaning themselves quietly, and as good citizens of the state, shall be equally under the protection of the laws. And no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another, shall ever be established by law.

"Constitution of the State of North Carolina, 1776 stated:

Article XXXII: That no person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State. (until 1876)

"Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania states:

Frame of Government, Section 10: And each member (of the legislature), before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: "I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governour of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration."

"Constitution of the State of South Carolina 1778, stated:

Article XXXVIII: That all persons and religious societies who acknowledge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated. . . . That all denominations of Christian(s) . . . in this State, demeaning themselves peaceably and faithfully, shall enjoy equal religious and civil privileges.

"Constitution of the State of Tennessee, 1796, stated:

Article VIII, Section II: No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

"Constitution of the State of Vermont, 1786, stated

Frame of Government, Section 9: And each member (of the Legislature), before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: "I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the (Christian) religion. And no further or other religious test shall ever hereafter, be required of any civil officer or magistrate in this State."

"In 1864, the Constitution of the State of Maryland required all State officers to make:

A declaration of belief in the Christian religion, or of the existence of God, and in a future state of rewards and punishments.

"Francis Schaeffer . . . wrote in his book, A CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO:

The civil government, as all life, stands under the Law of God. . . . when any office commands that which is contrary to the Word of God, those who hold that office abrogate their authority and they are not to be obeyed.

And so forth, and so on.

Other Examples of the Religious Test Clause

The Constitution of the State of Texas
Their constitution "contains a religious test for holders of public office. Although that law is still on the books it is nullified by Federal legislation.

Delaware; Article 22 (1776)
"Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust . . . shall . . . also make and subscribe the following declaration, to whit:

'I,_____, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration'"

Georgia; Article VI (1777)
"The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county . . . and they shall be of the Protestant religion . . ."

Georgia; Article VI (1777)
"The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county . . . and they shall be of the Protestant religion . . ."

Maryland; Article XXXII (1776)
"All persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection their religious liberty . . . the Legislature may, in their discretion, lay a general tax and equal tax, for the support of the Christian religion."

Maryland; Article XXXV (1776)
"That no other test or qualification ought to be required . . . than such oath of support and fidelity to this State . . . and a declaration of a belief in the Christian religion."

Massachusetts; First Part, Article II (1780)
"It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe . . ."

Massachusetts; First Part, Article II (1780)
"The governor shall be chosen annually; and no person shall be eligible to this office, unless . . . he shall declare himself to be of the Christian religion."

Massachusetts; Chapter VI, Article I (1780)
"[All persons elected to State office or to the Legislature must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.

'I,_____, do declare, that I believe the Christian religion, and have firm persuasion of its truth . . .'"

New Hampshire; Part 1, Article 1, Section 5 (1784)
". . . the legislature . . . authorize . . . the several towns . . . to make adequate provision at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public protestant teachers of piety, religion and morality . . ."

New Hampshire; Part 2, (1784)
"[Provides that no person be elected governor, senator, representative or member of the Council] who is not of the protestant religion."

New Jersey; Article XIX (1776)
". . . no Protestant inhabitant of this Colony shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil right . . . ; all persons, professing a belief in the faith of any Protestant sect . . . shall be capable of being elected into any office of profit or trust, or being a member of either branch of the Legislature."

North Carolina; Article XXXII (1776)
"That no person, who shall deny the being of God or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments . . . shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.

Pennsylvania; Declaration of Rights II (1776)
". . . Nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged to any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship."

Pennsylvania; Frame of Government, Section 10 (1776)
"And each member [of the legislature] . . . shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.:

'I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder to the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.'"

Pennsylvania; Article IX, Section 4 (1790)
"That no person, who acknowledges the being of a God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this commonwealth."

South Carolina; Article III (1778)
"[State officers and privy council to be] all of the Protestant religion."

South Carolina; Article XII (1778)
". . . no person shall be eligible to a seat in the said senate unless he be of the Protestant religion."

South Carolina; Article XXXVIII (1778)
"That all persons and religious societies who acknowledge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated. The Christian Protestant religion shall be deemed . . . to be the established religion of this State."

Tennessee; Article VIII, Section 2 (1796)
". . . no person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State."

Vermont; Declaration of Rights, III (1777)
". . . nor can any man who professes the protestant religion, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right, as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiment . . . ; nevertheless, every sect or denomination of people ought to observe the Sabbath, or the Lord's day . . ."

Vermont; Frame of Government, Section 9 (1777)
"And each member [of the legislature] . . . shall make and subscribe the following declaration, viz.:

'I do believe in one god, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the scriptures of the old and new testament to be given by divine inspiration, and own and profess the protestant religion'."
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See also: The sovereignty of god, The doctrine of man (human nature, total depravity), Epistemology of theology, the theory of knowledge, Church and state, The question of the one and the many, The religion of secular humanism: man as god, human autonomy, The courts, the law base, and the judicial system, Conspiracy, corruption, organized crime, The decline of american society, irrationality, the decline of western thought, Male role and responsibility, gender equality, suffrage, reproductive rights, and the decline of american society, The mediatorial reign of christ and the crown rights of christ, God's deliverance of nations, The covenant faithfulness of god, Covenants, Soteriology, atonement, The all-sufficiency of christ, Christ's kingdom, Background, foundation, and history of the covenanted reformation of scotland, Covenant theology and the ordinance of covenanting, Confession of national sin and covenant renewal, Selection of covenant heads for positions of leadership, Bible magistracy turns back the wrath of god, The doctrine of the lesser magistrates, The government role of punishing wrongdoers, Unity and uniformity in the visible church: unity in the truth, Christ's influence on western civilization, The scottish covenanting struggle, alexander craighead, and the mecklenburg declaration, Justice, judgment, god's final judgment, the great white throne judgment, the day of the lord, Freedom: a gift of the grace of god, Freedom with responsibility to god, The christian foundation of america, colonial history, Covenanting in america, Slavery, our systems of enslavement, economic enslavement, Politics, The courts, the law base, and the judicial system, Reform, state sovereignty, and corporate immunity: reform of corporations, Machiavellianism, Antichrist, Secret societies, ungodly alliances, voluntary associations, Oaths, ensnaring vows, promises, and covenants, bonds with the ungodly, Islam (muslim/moslim), muhammadanism/mohammadanism, The biblical solution to terrorism, and so forth, and so on.

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