Devotion for Week of April 5th, 2010 - The Christian Philosophy of Patrick Henry




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The Christian Philosophy of Patrick Henry

Luke 6:45, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth
forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart
bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth

purpose of these nezt few devotions is to illustrate the extraordinary depth of
Patrick Henry’s religious convictions, the wide range of Christian doctrines
which had an influence upon him, and the manner in which this affected his
philosophy of life and government.

Depth of Henry’s Religious Convictions

extraordinary depth of Patrick Henry’s religious convictions is all but
impossible to overestimate.  Throughout
his long and varied career, Henry’s guiding principle, in both his political
and private life was his idea of what course action would best fulfill his
Christian obligations.  While still a
young man, Henry said of the Bible, “This book is worth all of the books that
ever were printed…”  This view
was to remain with him throughout the remainder of his life.  This was apparently the governing factor in
any decision Henry made and to this man, the real test of an individual’s life.


he spent most of his life in public office, Patrick Henry stated, “…I
think religion of infinitely higher importance than politics,” and he
continued, in speaking of his Christian reputation in comparison to his
political reputation, “…This is a character I prize far above all
this world has or can boast.”  A
quick glance at Henry’s life will show that this was no spurious statement.

biographers agree that he was basically a man who was devoted to family life.  Had he not been deeply religious, his family
correspondence surely would have revealed the fact.  This was not the case, however, for his
letters to his family demonstrate a steady and fervent Christian feeling.  A typical example of this was in a letter
Henry wrote to his sister in Kentucky upon receiving the news of her husband’s
death—a cruel death at the hands of an Indian raiding party:

“We cannot
see the reason of these dispensations now, but we may be assured they are
directed by wisdom and mercy.  This is
one of the occasions that calls your and my attention back to the many precious
lessons of piety given us by our honored parents, whose lives were indeed a
constant lesson and worthy of imitation.  This is one of the trying scenes, in which the
Christian is eminently superior to all others and finds a refuge that no
misfortunes can take away… Perhaps I may never see you in this world—oh, may we
meet in that heaven to which the merits of Jesus will carry those who love and
serve him.”

writing to his daughter shortly before her marriage, Henry advised her to study
outstanding sermons of the day because “a woman devoid of rational ideas of
religion, has no security for her virtues; it is sacrificed to her passions,
whose voice, not that of God, is her only governing principle.”  Nothing in his family correspondence indicated
that religion was anything less than of primary concern.

are many illustrations of Henry’s devotion to the Christian life in his public
as well as in his private career.  Morgan
insists that no public record can be found of an instance wherein Henry cursed
or swore.  This biographer also asserts
that Henry, who did not have a reputation for liberality in financial matters,
paid for the printing of and circulated at his own expense copies of Butler’s
Analogy of Christianity and Soame Jenyn’s Internal Evidences of Christ.  The first lawsuit which Henry argued before
the House of Burgesses was, fittingly enough, an attempt to unseat a
representative who had allegedly exerted undue influence upon the electorate by
expenditure of enormous sums on campaign liquors.

evidence of Patrick Henry’s Christian steadfastness was indicated by the fact
that almost all of his speeches demonstrated the overwhelming influence of a
vigorous Christian spirit.  Allusions to
the Scriptures abounded throughout.  In
speaking, for example, of the tendency of the aristocracy to retain a
sentimental attachment for the British, he declared, “The flesh pots of Egypt are
still savory to degenerate palates.”  


many occasions during the Revolutionary War, he reminded the hard-pressed
Virginia militia that they should pray for divine intervention and that “…the
same God whose power divided the Red Sea for the deliverance of Israel, still
reigned in all of his glory, unchanged and unchangeable…”  In scarcely a single one of his public
speeches, did Patrick Henry fail to reaffirm his faith in an omnipotent and
ever-accessible God.  At the
Constitutional Ratification Convention of Virginia in Richmond, he stated, “I
see beings of a higher order anxious concerning our decision!”  In the great bulk of his speeches to the
common people, Henry was ever prodding—ever goading—the deep faith that lay
beneath the breast of the American Frontiersman.  


evidently was the way in which to strike a responsive chord in the masses of
colonial America; for it was the masses, not the aristocracy, who made Patrick
Henry the leader of colonial Virginia.  Henry
was, undoubtedly, able to move this spirit so well and to utilize its
effectiveness in stirring the people to action because he shared the
overpowering frontier faith in an ever-watchful God who led, guided, and
protected His people.


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