History of Christianity—4
Now we look at the next stage of the Reformation, the English Reformation and its transference across the Atlantic Ocean into colonial America. Unlike the German Reformation under Luther and the German-Swiss reformation under Calvin and Zwingli, the English Reformation is spearheaded by the monarch. The others were spearheaded by men who had studied the Scriptures and wanted to return to the truth. The English Reformation was spearheaded by Henry VIII. The occasion for the Reformation was basically Henry's inability to produce a male heir through his first wife Catherine of Aragon. This troubled Henry greatly because Catherine had a daughter he knew that only once before had England had a queen, and that was many centuries before and she had fomented and caused many rebellions and instabilities within the land. So he did not want to die with the only heir a woman. He wanted to solve the problem and have a male heir but as time went by and as he grew older, close to forty and the biological clock was ticking, Henry was getting more and more worried. Not only that but he began to rationalize the whole situation. He wanted to justify a divorce and he petitioned the pope in Rome for permission to get a divorce. He had to get permission from the pope to marry her, so now he appealed to the new pope in order to have the marriage annulled.
Also he was getting a little excited about one of the maids of Catherine of Aragon, a beautiful young lass by the name of Ann Boleyn. Although kings have never had any trouble satisfying the lusts of the flesh if the lusts of his flesh was satisfied and Ann produced a male heir he would not have solved the problem, he had to marry her. Cardinal Wolsey who was the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the English church, would not go along with Henry's divorce and the pope wouldn't go along with it either. Charles V was the henchman of the pope and the leader of the Holy Roman empire at that time and his aunt was Catherine of Aragon, the wife of Henry VIII. So the pope will not grant a divorce to Henry VIII.
Well there's more than one way to skin a cat. Henry decides that since there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction in England anyway with Roman Catholicism—they had begun to read Martin Luther's writings in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge—and priests had begun to drift away from it as they were influenced by the Reformation writings on the continent, he took advantage of that and said they would just split off from Rome. He took advantage of an ancient English law that said they shouldn't have any involvement with a foreign power and he interpreted that to mean the pope to justify his break from Rome, all to get a divorce and to marry a beautiful young lady who had caught his fancy so that he could have a male heir. He carried it out and the English church separated from the Roman Catholic church, but they maintained a Roman Catholic theology. The only difference was that their allegiance was no longer to the pope in Rome, it was now to Henry VIII as the head of the church and to the Archbishop of Canterbury who was the spiritual head of the church.
When Henry died he was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, the son of his third wife Jane Seymour. His second wife, Ann Boleyn, produced one heir, a woman who would be Elizabeth the Great. Under Henry, after the break with Rome came, because Wolsey hadn't gone along with him he fired him and Wolsey left to go back to the continent. Henry replaced Wolsey with a man named Thomas Cranmer. He became Archbishop of Canterbury and played a very important role in the development of the Anglican church. Also Henry finally gave in to allow English translations of the Bible to be printed and spread around England.
The English translation has an important heritage. In the fourteenth century a man by the name of Wycliffe who was a priest and teacher at Oxford and Cambridge began the early break. He was called the morning star of the Reformation although as far as can be determined he didn't understand the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but he did understand the importance of Scripture being the ultimate authority, and the final authority wasn't the church, wasn't the pope in Rome. He insisted that the people should have Scriptures in their native language so that they could read them and he began to translate the Scriptures into English. His followers would then go with the copies of Scriptures and spread them out in the towns and they would go preaching the gospel from town to town—preaching salvation.
Wycliffe was then replaced in this line in the early 1500s by William Tyndale. When Henry made his break with Rome Tyndale had begun translating the Bible, making a better translation of the English Bible, but he was burned at the stake before he was able to publish it. In 1526, the same time that Henry made his break from Rome, before he really had his act completely together and the Reformation in England had gone very far, Tyndale was burned at the stake. His Bible translation was then published by Miles Coverdale. A few years later a man by the name of John Rogers translated the Bible again and used both Tyndale's and Coverdale's works, and that was published as the Matthew Bible. Not long after that Henry finally succumbed to the pressure and allowed a Bible translation to be made that would be read among the people, but at first only the aristocracy could have their own Bible and read it; the common people could not, but it just took a few years before that, too, was rescinded.
When Henry died Edward VI took his place on the throne and he had been raised a Protestant. Ann Boleyn had been a Protestant. When Henry came in Protestant theology finally had its heyday; it came into power. Cranmer wrote the first Book of common Prayer which outlined the worship services in the English churches. He also wrote the 42 Articles, the document which laid out all the doctrine and practices of the Anglican church. In 1553, before the Reformation had really become grounded in England, it was unfortunate that Edward died. He was succeeded by his sister Mary who had been raised in France as a Roman Catholic. When she returned she executed a purge of Protestants in England. One of the victims of her purge was Thomas Cranmer. He was at first severely tortured to recant of his faith and all that he had done. He finally recanted under the pressure of the torture so that he would not be burned at the stake. His inquisitors said that he had waited too long and were going to burn him at the stake anyway. So he recanted of his recantation. They led him out into the field at Smithfield where they burned over 300 martyrs during Mary's reign. As they tied him to the stake he stood on the pile of wood and as the flames mounted he held out his hand, the hand that he had signed the recantation with, and held it into the flames, and said, "This hand is no longer worthy of my body for it denied the Lord." As he stood there he sang hymns to God while his hand burned off and his soul went to be with the Lord. Because of the large number of Protestants Mary martyred she became known as "Bloody Mary." She died in 1558. She was only on the throne for five years and was succeeded by her sister, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth, although raised a Protestant, did not really have any inclination one way or the other regarding theology. She wanted peace in the kingdom more than anything else, so she instituted a merger, a new way of the church. It was institutionalized under the Act of Uniformity in 1559. It was a church that would be Episcopal in its government, Protestant in its theology, and Roman Catholic in its ritual. Many of the doctrinal statements that are made in the Act of Uniformity are written in such a way that both Protestant and Roman Catholic could be happy. The result was a church that brought about religious peace in England at that time. But remember that during this time a number of the people who had fled to the continent because of the persecution under Mary—pastors, theologians and teachers—had been trained in that wonderful seminary in Geneva under John Calvin and Theodore Beza. That school in Geneva functioned as a training ground for the grassroots Reformation throughout Europe. When those men returned to England under Elizabeth they were dissatisfied because the Reformation did not go far enough. They wanted to purify the church of all roman ritual. That is the definition of a Puritan. A Puritan was not somebody who was dour, who didn't want to have fun, who hated liquor, hated cards, hated any kind of happiness or joy. That is not why they were called Puritans. They weren't out there trying to purify everybody of sin. They were Puritans because they wanted to purify the English church of Roman ritual and purify their theology.
This brought the Puritans into conflict with the king. For the next fifty years there were a number of conflicts in Parliament. As the Puritans grew and their pastors went out throughout England to preach in the churches and won the people's hearts to the Lord the Puritans set about having a political goal. The theology of the Puritans is the same as Calvin's theology. Toward the end of this century they began to apply that all the way across the board where they become pre-Millennial. In the middle of the century they were mostly amillennial but they began to work out … Once they came to a literal interpretation of the truth that led to a recovery of justification by faith alone. Once you recover justification by faith alone you begin the recover the doctrines of the Christian life. By combining literal interpretation and working it out into other areas of doctrine you begin to recover the truth. In the early part of the century they were fighting and killing each other and being martyred over justification by faith alone, and over transubstantiation and other doctrines related to salvation. So people weren't concerned about prophecy, about other aspects of theology. The main fight was over soteriology. But by the end of the century where there was a certain amount of peace and the fact that the Protestants had become accepted and their worship legalized, especially in England, they began to work out the implications of a literal interpretation of Scripture in other areas of theology and they recovered pre-Millennialism.
By the turn of the century, the early 1600s, Elizabeth died and she was succeeded by James. She did not have a successor related to her so they went to get her cousin in Scotland, James VI of Scotland. He became James I of England. Because of the pressure from the Puritans he finally succumbed to allow a new version of the Bible to be translated. However, the Puritans never liked the King James Version. The Bible that they brought with them was called the Geneva translation which had been the most popular translation in England up to the KJV. It really took about 100 years before the KJV became popular.
The Puritans were basically separated into three groups: first the Congregationalists, then the Presbyterians—these differed in their view of church government, and then the third group called the Separatist Puritans. The Congregationalists and the Presbyterians stayed within the Anglican church; the Separatists left the Anglican church because the Reformation did not go far enough for them, they wanted a more biblical role. Through this entire time conflict after conflict erupted between the crown and the Puritans until ultimately under Charles I open rebellion breaks out. Oliver Cromwell was not only a good theologian but he was also a brilliant military man. He started off simply as the leader of a militia group from his area of England but after the first battle in which the Puritans were defeated he came back and took his particular group, disciplined and trained them over and over again in a very rigorous way, so that the next time they went into battle it was his unit that held ground and allowed victory to be brought to the Puritans. As a result of that Cromwell was elevated to the command of the Puritan forces, ultimately defeating Charles I and the roundheads in battle. As a result of that Charles I was executed. That set up the period known as the Protectorate in which basically there was exchanged the rule of the king for the rule of a dictator—Oliver Cromwell. After a while the people became very dissatisfied with that and they revolted against the Puritans after Cromwell died and they returned James II from the continent, the son of Charles, to take over and restore the crown.
The important development during this time, the entire civil war period, was that the Puritans called the Westminster Assembly, probably the greatest collection of theologians and scholars that the world has ever seen. They passed out a doctrinal statement that became the foundational doctrinal statement for all Congregational and Presbyterian churches. They held to a literal interpretation of Scripture in every area except for prophecy where they continued to maintain and allegorical interpretation and hermeneutic. They held to an amillennial return of Christ, although that changed by the end of the century. They insisted upon preaching. They knew that the focus of Scripture was to get it out to the people so they emphasized training pastors so that they would go out and teach the Scriptures to the people in their language. They insisted on a trained clergy and they had an emphasis on a very simple form of worship. Te focus was simply on singing hymns and praising God and then learning God's Word. God's Word was always given the prominence in their worship. They would read from it and then teach from it. That was the reason the saints were to gather. They didn't gather for fellowship; they didn't gather for social intercourse; they didn't gather to have a good time or to go through rituals. They gathered for one reason: to learn God's Word. They held to a covenant theology.
The English Puritans were amillennial. Later they began to lean towards a post-millennialism and a pre-millenialism in the late 17th century. Jesus Christ, the Scripture says, will reign for a thousand years. The pre-millennialist says that Jesus will return to the earth to set up that kingdom. The amillennialist says that there is no literal 1000-year kingdom; it is spiritual, we are in it today and Christ is reigning in heaven. The post-millennialist says that the church brings in the Millennium and when that has come to fruition Jesus will return after the Millennium. Unfortunately today, as in the time of the Puritans, when Christians are post-millennial they think that the role of the church is to reform the political system in order to have a perfect environment so that Christ can come back. When the Puritans tried this they failed under Cromwell. Prior to this in America the Puritans had fled persecution because they were dissatisfied with James I and Charles I. Thirty-thousand Puritans fled to Massachusetts where they were going to set up a perfect kingdom. They were going to have a Christian nation. By the end of the century it failed. Whenever there is one segment of Christians trying to set up a Christian nation the result is that anyone who disagrees with them theologically becomes a heretic and a criminal. It is only when you have a consensus of Christians that allow for a complete diversity of religious expression that we have true religious freedom. The role of the church is evangelism and teaching the Word of God. The Puritans lost that. They were evangelical in their doctrine but they had a political agenda.
What were the Roman Catholics doing during this time? At first, while they took it seriously, they didn't think it would have the impact that it had. But within twenty to thirty years, by 1530, they began to wake up. They realized that they were losing massive amounts of territory and with that territory they were losing a tremendous amount of money. Money always gets people's attention. They began to try to recover that land. One of the means through which they did that was the development of a group called the Jesuits. They became the pope's storm troopers. Through the Jesuits and the military might of the French kings and the Holy Roman Empire they began to recover land. They went into a major military conflict called the thirty years war which finally ended in 1648. Also at the same time, from 1643-53, the Roman Catholic church sat down and dogmatized every area of its belief in reaction to what the Protestants had taught. That took place at the Council of Trent. That did not have a major revision until Vatican II which took place under Pope John XXIII around 1962, 63.
When the thirty years war ended it pretty much finalized the line of division between Protestant Europe and Roman Catholic Europe. For people who don't think that theology makes a difference, take a look at a map sometime. Visualize in your mind which countries are Roman Catholic and which countries are Protestant. Where did freedom break out? In Protestant countries. Freedom did not break out under the slavery of legalism in France, in Spain, in Italy. Freedom broke out in northern Germany, in England, and it transferred to the North American continent. Mexico, Central America and South America were left untouched by true freedom. It will not work in a framework of legalistic theology. As Paul states in Galatians it is only when we understand grace that we can have true freedom. So it is only in the context of Protestant theology that men have the ability and the framework of thinking, the ideas that can lead and develop and produce a truly free society.
Christianity in colonial America
How in the world, people ask, did we get so many groups and denominations? There are hundreds of denominations in America and all kinds of different beliefs. You can get whatever flavor you want to make you happy, but the goal really is not for us to be happy and comfortable, the goal is for us to get the truth and to find the truth. We can't say that everything is true because the Bible says there's only one way to heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father except by me." So Christianity is radically different from everything else. And because Christianity is radically different from everything else every other religious group is always out to destroy the true biblical expression of Christianity. When our founding fathers came over to this country from Europe they understood that. Their desire was to establish a society where there could be a free expression of Christianity that would not be suppressed by governmental power, or by another religious power. Too often when we talk about the separation of the church and the state we think it is to protect the church from the state. A lot of times in the history of its development it was to protect one expression of Christianity from other Christians, not necessarily to protect them from the state, although in a lot of situations the church and state have been united together. Now we find ourselves with all of these denominations. Where did they come from?
In 1517 was the first denomination, which was Lutheran. Lutheran churches were identified with the state, so that there were Swedish Lutheran churches, German Lutheran churches, Dutch Lutheran churches, and there were even Polish or Hungarian Lutheran churches. When those people came over to America they brought their church with them. So where there might be three or four national Lutheran churches in Europe when those people came over to the US they didn't merge as one Lutheran church, they maintained their distinction. So there were three or four different Lutheran churches in the colonies at that time. Then in 1520 there were the Reformed churches—Dutch Reformed, German Reformed, French Reformed. The Scots developed the Presbyterian church and the Congregational churches. When all of those groups came over to the colonies they came and maintained their diversity. Later the Anglican church came over and there were English Baptist who split from the Anglican church, so there were English Baptists and Anglicans. When the English came over they first settled at Jamestown. They were Anglicans, so the colony established was primarily and Anglican colony. But there were also Anabaptist groups. B y 1700 in the colonies there were already twenty to thirty different denominational groups. By the end of the 1700s there were new American denominations that were developing such as the Episcopal church which split from the church of England.
The origin of the American denominations
Who were the Pilgrims? They were English Separatists, the Puritans who didn't feel that the reformation had gone far enough in the Anglican church so they separated themselves from the Anglican church. Theologically they were the same as the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians but in terms of their ability to conform to the Anglican church they wouldn't do it, so they left. One group under John Robinson became very discouraged and dissatisfied and when the opportunity came for them to come to America they left on the Mayflower. Their goal was Virginia but they were blown off course and they landed at Plymouth on Plymouth Rock, and there in the middle of winter in the harsh cold they established their colony. More than half died of starvation and disease during that first winter. If it hadn't been for some friendly Indians who came and taught them how to plant and gave them some seed and helped them through that first winter they would not have survived.
The second group who came over were the Puritans. As a result of the problems with James I and Charles I many Puritans began to leave for Massachusetts 1630. They were going to establish the new Israel. Their whole goal was theological. They were fed up with Europe which had been grounded in all of that Roman theology and all the problems of false doctrine and the Anglican church and the Roman church and so the Puritans were now going to come over to the new world and start over, and show Europe how it should have been done all along. Once these groups came over the Presbyterian, Congregationalists and Separatists Puritans merged together for a while and they all became Congregationalists. The major leaders were men like John Cotton, Richard Hooker, etc. With the exception of John Cotton all the American Puritan leaders were pre-millennial in their theology. They all believed that Jesus would come back before the Millennium. Hooker and John Davenport split away from Massachusetts because they rule was too authoritarian and they established a democracy in Connecticut. Roger Williams came to Baptist convictions about relationship of the church to the state. Only for a short time did he have Baptist convictions about Baptism, the main sticking point was the separation of church and state. He went down and founded Rhode Island.
Anglicanism was firmly planted in the southern colonies. Virginia and the Carolinas originally had charters from the king and were Anglican in their orientation. But before long the Scots-Irish began to migrate and they settled all up and down the coast, but primarily the Carolinas and Virginia. While these were primarily Anglican during the late 1600s and most of the 1700s they were peopled by a mass migration of Scots-Irish Presbyterians who came in there.
Though all churches became Congregational in America the Presbyterians soon began to separate out and merge with Dutch Reformed groups, German Reformed Groups and French Huguenot groups. Later with the tremendous influx of Scots-Irish Presbyterians the first presbytery was organized by Francis McKenny in 1706. So that introduced the Presbyterian church to the US. The Roman Catholics came over. The Talbots were given a charter for Maryland and that was the refuge for Roman Catholics. Before long though it became a haven for many other groups. By this time there were a number of different religious persuasions and denominations developing in Europe. Quakers, Moravians, Mennonites and Dunkers. When people came over to America and had freedom of expression then what happened when two people disagreed was they just started a new denomination. That is what led to the multiplication of denominations.
By the end of the 1700s Puritanism began to decline in Massachusetts. During the entire century the Puritans had tried to enforce Christianity. It worked well with the first generations that were regenerate. But what about the children that weren't. When membership of the church ands citizenship became the same then all of a sudden the next generation which didn't know the Lord necessarily and didn't understand truth, what part did they play in society? That created a number of problems, they had to make certain compromises, and before long the whole society began to break down. The final death knell of the Puritan dream came during the Salem witch trials. The Salem witch trials began the daughters of a pastor in Salem Massachusetts were bored during the winters. The family had a slave who had come from Jamaica. While down there she had been involved in some voodoo and the children began to encourage her to tell them about what went on at home. As they heard these stories the children began to mimic them. There probably some demonism that went on but the basic issue with the girls was that they just used this as a time of fun. They began to accuse anybody and everybody that they had some kind of grudge against of witchcraft. By the time the hysteria ended nineteen men and women had been hung for witchcraft or burned at the stake. As a result of that the Puritans lost their intellectual respectability.
After the decline of Puritanism in the early 1700s the nation went through a dry spell spiritually. There wasn't much interest in spiritual things. Orthodoxy had been cold and dead so that as long as you affirmed the doctrinal statement everything was okay. Nobody was preaching the need for regeneration, or very few were. Then in the late 1730s and 1740s it seemed that the Spirit of God began to move again in the nation and there was what was called the first great awakening. This was the first major revival in America. It was sparked in the colonies by the preaching of a tremendous theologian and pastor in Northampton, Massachusetts by the name of Jonathan Edwards. He was a rather dour-looking man, rather thin, a brilliant man who has been called perhaps the greatest American theologian and philosopher. By the time he was twelve years old he had completed the normal training of any New England child. He had been studying Greek and Hebrew since he was four or five years old. When he graduated from high school aged thirteen he knew Latin and Hebrew and then went on to college and seminary. When he preached his sermons he wrote them out in longhand and then stood in the pulpit and read them to his people. To us we would be bored to death. But what happened one day when he was visiting another church in another part of Massachusetts he preached a sermon, "Sinners in the hands of an angry God." He said every sinner deserves hell, and he pictured it as dramatically as the lake of fire, as God dangling a spider over the flames of hell. He said God is totally just in sending every sinner into the flames of hell, but in God's love He will redeem some. And as he read this sermon people became very concerned about their salvation status. People fell on their faces on the floor weeping because they recognized their need for the savior; they realized their lost state. A tremendous revival began to sweep through the nation. Pastors and preachers in all the different denominations began to see results like this.
As a result of these people coming to know the Lord they needed pastors. So William Tennant started a little training center in his home to train pastors. Eventually it became known as the College of New Jersey and then in the latter part of the 19th century it changed its name to Princeton. Also during this time Dartmouth was founded. It was founded to take the gospel to the Indians. Yale was founded. Other schools were all founded to train the clergy. All these schools that we now think of as hotbeds of liberalism were originally founded on the basis of a sound evangelical theology to train pastors and missionaries to take the gospel to people and to teach them the Scriptures from the original languages. This was the time known as the great awakening.
Of course, that started a division because as soon as somebody stood in the pulpit and preached the gospel, and people got emotional when they realized how sinful they were and their need for Christ, the old dour anti-emotional crowd that didn't know Christ, that didn't believe in regeneration, and did not believe in the need for a personal faith in Jesus Christ, immediately began to criticize the new movement. Among the Congregationalists there was a split between the new life, those who favored the revival, and the old life, those who were too afraid that it might lead into excess and saw no need at all for evangelism.
In England the same thing happened. There it took place with two brothers, John and Charles Wesley. They were brought up in a home where their father was a pastor. There were about 19 children born to John and Susannah Wesley. Susannah Wesley was a woman who drilled her children in the stories of the Scriptures, but she also told them stories about missionaries because she wanted them to grow up thinking that their responsibility was not just to take the gospel to their neighbors and their friends but to take the gospel to the whole world. She wanted them to think of the world as their parish.
At that time because the doctrines of regeneration were not being taught in the Anglican church John and Charles Wesley grew up never really understanding the gospel. But they had a hunger in their hearts to know God. They went to Oxford where they met other men who had the same desire to know God and to be sound, solid biblical Christians. They ran into a man named George Whitfield who was one of the first in this group, called The Holy Club, to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Whitfield, rather than preaching in the pulpits of the Anglican churches which had been taken over by a cold, dead orthodoxy would go out into the streets where he would preach the gospel to the masses. It was the beginning of open air evangelism. He was a stocky barrel-chested man. When Benjamin Franklin heard him speak he said that he stood at the edge of a crowd that he estimated to be about twenty thousand and he could hear Whitfield clearly. He was probably the greatest evangelist the English-speaking people have ever known. When he came to America he and Edwards both preached throughout the New England and middle colony areas and were responsible for hundreds and thousands of people coming to know the Lord.
Back in England John and Charles Wesley continued to try to find the truth. Wesley very disturbed and had a very strong religious inclination. He desired to be a missionary and still did not know Christ. He decided to be a missionary and come to the colonies. On his way over he met some Moravians who emphasized the personal walk with the Lord, the personal need to know Jesus Christ. They explained the gospel to Wesley but he still didn't understand it. He came over to Georgia and worked for a while but ran into a few conflicts. A young lady he was very interested in married someone else. He continued to pursue her a little bit, there was nothing immoral there but he just couldn't break away from her. Her husband filed charges against him and he had to flee the colonies in disgrace and return to England. One day in England he went to a Bible class where they were going to begin reading Martin Luther's commentary on Romans. As they read Luther's preface to the book of Romans Wesley writes that he felt his heart was strangely warm, and he came to understand that Jesus Christ had died for him.
That lit a fire in John Wesley and he began to preach all over England. He would get on his horse, pack his Greek New Testament in his saddlebags and off he would go from one town to the next. He and Whitfield were partners in this whole enterprise but they disagreed theologically over the issues related to election and predestination. Whitfield did not want this to be a divisive issue. He was a very strong Calvinist. There are many people who think that five–point Calvinists can't be missionaries or evangelists; yet Whitfield believed that Jesus died only for the elect, but no one knew who they were so he had to go out and explain the gospel to the entire world so that the elect would believe. Wesley was semi-Arminian. He believed that you could reach perfection in this life; he had some very unusual beliefs. When Whitfield came to America on his second tour he pleaded with Wesley not to make an issue out of election and predestination because it would split the movement that they were beginning. But Wesley was too hard-headed, like many pastors are, and that was all he talked about the whole time Whitfield was gone and when Whitfield came home the movement was split. That is where we see the true character of Whitfield. Rather than making an issue out of their different leanings he faded into the background to preserve the unity of the movement. That movement in the next generation separated itself out from Anglicanism and became known as Methodism.
At the same time that there was a tremendous movement of the Spirit throughout America there was also a tremendous movement in the world that would affect the colonies and us today that would take it away from the Scriptures. That was a movement called the Enlightenment. In essence the Enlightenment was a shift to human reason. It, too, was a rebellion against the authoritarianism of the pope. Those who followed Scripture rebelled against the authority of the pope and moved to the authority of Scripture. Those who rejected Scripture moved to the authority of human reason. Reason became the ultimate authority. The founder of the philosophical system of rationalism was Rene Descart. He wad in many ways one of the first modern thinkers. He said, "I think, therefore I am." His thinking was the starting point of his system. After a few years of the influence of Descart another system of philosophy developed called empiricism. John Locke was one of the most foremost empiricists, although he was also a believer but he was heavily influenced by the system of empiricism. Both systems produced a number of writers who developed political theory that had a tremendous impact in the US. The Enlightenment in its most radical form found its expression in the French Revolution; in its moderate form it merged with a lot of Christian principles and it had tremendous impact on the thinking in the US.
The impact of the modern Enlightenment in Scotland
In Scotland it produced a school of thinking called the Scottish Common Sense School of Philosophy. That impacted a man by the name of John Witherspoon who was a pastor in Scotland. He came over to the US and was invited to succeed Jonathan Edwards as the president of Yale. Then he was at Princeton. At Princeton he taught men like James Maddison and many others who were writers and signers of the Constitution of the US. Witherspoon had a greater affect (although he signed only the Declaration, not the Constitution) than any other thinker upon the writers of the Constitution. But the influence of the Scottish Commo Sense view of philosophy and its merger with Christianity set up a unique theological system that dominated Princeton University for the next 120 years.