What Leading Americans Have Said about the Bible

John Adams, second president of the United States, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813:
“I have examined all religions, as well as my narrow sphere, my straightened means, and my busy life, would allow; and the result is that the Bible is the best Book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen.” [1]

John Q. Adams, sixth president of the United States, in a letter to his son, September 1811:

“My dear Son:

In your letter of the 18th January to your mother, you mentioned that you read to your aunt a chapter of the Bible or a section of Doddridge’s Annotations every evening.

This information gave me real pleasure; for so great is my veneration for the Bible, and so strong my belief, that when duly read and meditated on, it is of all books in the world, that which contributes most to make men good, wise, and happy – that the earlier my children begin to read it, the more steadily they pursue the practice of reading it throughout their lives, the more lively and confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens of their country, respectable members of society, and a real blessing to their parents…

I have myself, for many years, made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year…
My custom is to read four to five chapters every morning immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time…

It is essential, my son, in order that you may go through life with comfort to yourself, and usefulness to your fellow-creatures, that you should form and adopt certain rules or principles, for the government of your own conduct and temper…

It is in the Bible, you must learn them, and from the Bible how to practice them. Those duties are to God, your fellow-creatures, and to yourself. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thy self.’ On these two commandments, Jesus Christ expressly says, hang all the law and the prophets’; that is to say, the whole purpose of the Divine Revelation is to inculcate them efficaciously upon the minds of men…

Let us, then, search the Scriptures… The Bible contains the revelation of the will of God. It contains the history of the creation of the world, and of mankind; and afterward the history of one peculiar nation, certainly the most extraordinary nation that has ever appeared upon the earth.

It contains a system of religion, and of morality, which we may examine upon its own merits, independent of the sanction it receives from being the Word of God…

I shall number separately those letters that I mean to write you upon the subject of the Bible…I wish that hereafter they may be useful to your brothers and sisters, as well as to you…”[2]

In a letter of December 24, 1814: “You ask me what Bible I take as the standard of my faith – the Hebrew, the Samaritan, the old English translation, or what? I answer the Bible containing the Sermon on the Mount – any Bible that I can… understand. The New Testament I have repeatedly read in the original Greek, in the Latin, in the Geneva Protestant, in Sacy’s Catholic French translations, in Luther’s German translation, in the common English Protestant, and in the Douay Catholic translations.

I take any one of them for my standard of faith… But the Sermon on the Mount commands me to lay up for myself treasures, not upon earth, but upon Heaven. My hopes of a future life are all founded upon the Gospel of Christ…” [3]

“I speak as a man of the world to men of the world; and I say to you, Search the Scriptures! The Bible is the book of all others, to be read to all ages, and in all conditions of human life; not to be read once or twice or thrice through, and then laid aside, but to be read in small portions of one or two chapters every day, and never to be intermitted, unless by some overruling necessity.” [4]

“In what light soever we regard the Bible, whether with reference to revelation, to history, or to morality, it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue.” [5]

Henry Ward Beecher, famous 19th century preacher, son of Lyman Beecher and Harriet’s brother:

“Sink the Bible to the bottom of the ocean, and still man’s obligations to God would be unchanged. He would have the same path to tread, only his lamp and his guide would be gone; the same voyage to make, but his chart and compass would be overboard.” [6]

“The Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on the rocks or bars.” [7]

Samuel Colgate, American manufacturer and philanthropist:
“The only spiritual light in the world comes through Jesus Christ and the inspired Book; redemption and forgiveness of sin alone through Christ. Without His presence and the teachings of the Bible we would be enshrouded in moral darkness and despair.

The condition of those nations without a Christ, contrasted with those where Christ is accepted, reveals so marked a difference that no arguments are needed. It is an object-lesson so plain that it can be seen and understood by all.” [8]

Timothy Dwight, theologian, poet, and President of Yale College:
“The Bible is a window in this prison of hope, through which we look into eternity.” [9]

Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War Union general and 18th president of the United States:
“The Bible is the sheet-anchor of our liberties.” [10]

Horace Greeley, leading abolitionist and publisher of The Liberator:
“It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible-reading people. The principles of the Bible are the ground-work of human freedom.” [11]

Patrick Henry, Virginia orator and patriot of the American Revolution:
“The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.” [12]

Herbert C. Hoover, 31st president of the United States:
“The whole inspiration of our civilization springs from the teachings of Christ and the lessons of the prophets. To read the Bible for these fundamentals is a necessity of American life.” [13]

Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans and 7th president of the United States:
“That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests.” [14]

“We who are frequently visited by this chastening rod, have the consolation to read in the Scriptures that whomever He chasteneth He loveth, and does it for their good to make them mindful of their mortality and that this earth is not our abiding place; and afflicts us that we may prepare for a better world, a happy immortality.” [15]

“Go to the Scriptures…the joyful promises it contains will be a balsam to all your troubles.” [16]

On May 29, 1845, a few weeks before he died: “Sir, I am in the hands of a merciful God. I have full confidence in his goodness and mercy…The Bible is true. I have tried to conform to its spirit as near as possible. Upon that sacred volume I rest my hope for eternal salvation, through the merits and blood of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” [17]

John Jay, first Chief Justice of U.S. Supreme Court and second president of the American Bible Society:
“In forming and settling my belief relative to the doctrines of Christianity, I adopted no articles from creeds but such only as, on careful examination, I found to be confirmed by the Bible.” [18]

Helen Keller, deaf and blind woman who became an inspiration to millions:
“Just as all things upon earth represent and image forth all the realities of another world, so the Bible is one mighty representative of the whole spiritual life of humanity.” [19]

Robert E. Lee, Confederate commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and President of Washington College:
“In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.” [20]

Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President during the American Civil War:
“In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, I believe the Bible is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for this Book we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” [21]

William Holmes McGuffey, minister, university professor, and educator:
In preface to his 1837 Eclectic Third Reader: “From no source has the author drawn more copiously than from the Sacred Scriptures. For this [I] certainly apprehend no censure. In a Christian country, that man is to be pitied, who, at this day, can honestly object to imbuing the minds of youth with the language and spirit of the Word of God.” [22]

From his Eclectic Third Reader:
“1. The design of the Bible is evidently to give us correct information concerning the creation of all things, by the omnipotent Word of God; to make known to us the state of holiness and happiness of our first parents in paradise, and their dreadful fall from that condition by transgression against God, which is the original cause of all our sin and misery…

3. The Scriptures are especially designed to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus; to reveal to us the mercy of the Lord in him; to form our minds after the likeness of God our Saviour; to build up our souls in wisdom and faith, in love and holiness; to make us thoroughly furnished unto good works, enabling us to glorify God on earth; and to lead us to an imperishable inheritance among the spirits of just men made perfect, and finally to be glorified with Christ in heaven.”

Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph:
“The nearer I approach to the end of my pilgrimage, the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible, the grandeur and sublimity of God’s remedy for fallen man are more appreciated, and the future is illumined with hope and joy.” [23]

Theodore Parker, transcendentalist and Unitarian minister:
“The Bible goes equally to the cottage of the peasant, and the palace of the king. It is woven into literature, and colors the talk of the street. The bark of the merchant cannot sail without it; and no ship of war goes to the conflict but it is there. It enters men’s closets; directs their conduct, and mingles in all the grief and cheerfulness of life.” [24]

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States :
“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” [25]

W. H. Seward, politician and Lincoln’s Secretary of State:
“The whole hope of human progress is suspended on the ever growing influence of the Bible.” [26]

“I do not believe human society, including not merely a few persons in any state, but whole masses of men, ever have attained, or ever can attain, a high state of intelligence, virtue, security, liberty, or happiness without the Holy Scriptures; even the whole hope of human progress is suspended on the evergrowing influence of the Bible.” [27]

97th U.S. Congress – Public Law 97-280: Joint Resolution declaring 1983 as the national “Year of the Bible”, October 4, 1892:
“Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people;

Whereas deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures led to the early settlement of our Nation;

Whereas Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and the constitution of the United States;

Whereas many of our great national leaders„among them Presidents Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson„paid tribute to the surpassing influence of the Bible in our country’s development, as the words of President Jackson that the Bible is “the rock on which our Republic rests”;

Whereas the history of our Nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and societies;

Whereas this Nation now faces great challenges that will test this Nation as it has never been tested before; and

Whereas that renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a national “Year of the Bible” in recognition of both the formative influence the Bible has been for our Nation, and our national need to study and apply the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.”

U.S. Supreme Court, 1844 in Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, court’s opinion written by Justice Joseph Story: “Why may not the Bible, and especially the New Testament, without note or comment, be read and taught as a divine revelation in the [school] – its general precepts expounded, its evidences explained and its glorious principles of morality inculcated?…

Where can the purest principles of morality be learned so clearly or so perfectly as from the New Testament?” [28]

Henry Van Dyke, pastor, Princeton English professor, and inspirational author:
“Born in the East and clothed in Oriental form and imagery, the Bible walks the ways of all the world with familiar feet and enters land after land to find its own everywhere. It has learned to speak in hundreds of languages to the heart of man. Children listen to its stories with wonder and delight, and wise men ponder them as parables of life. The wicked and the proud tremble at its warnings, but to the wounded and penitent it has a mother’s voice. It has woven itself into our dearest dreams; so that Love, Friendship, Sympathy, Devotion, Memory, Hope, put on the beautiful garments of its treasured speech. No man is poor or desolate who has this treasure for his own. When the landscape darkens, and the trembling pilgrim comes to the Valley of the Shadow, he is not afraid to enter; he takes the rod and staff of Scripture in his hand; he says to friend and comrade, ‘Goodbye; We Shall Meet Again’; and, confronted by that support, he goes toward the lonely pass as one who walks through darkness into light.” [29]

Daniel Webster, American orator, Massachusetts senator, and President Harrison’s secretary of state :
“There is no solid basis for civilization but in the Word of God…If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity…If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; if the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness will reign without mitigation or end.” [31]

“I have read the Bible through many times, and now make it a practice to read it through once every year. – It is a book of all others for lawyers, as well as divines; and I pity the man who cannot find in it a rich supply of thought and of rules for conduct. It fits man for life – it prepares him for death.

My brother knew the importance of Bible truths. The Bible led him to prayer, and prayer was his communion with God. On the day he died he was engaged in an important cause in the courts then in session. But this cause, important as it was, did not keep him from his duty to God. He found time for prayer; for on his desk which he had just left was found a prayer written by him on that day, which for fervent piety, a devotedness to his heavenly Master, and for expressions of humility I think was never excelled.” [32]

Noah Webster, American educator and scholar:
“The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good, and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society; the bestbook for regulating the temporal concerns of men, and the only book that can serve as an infallible guide to future felicity.” [33]

Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey, President of Princeton University, and President of the United States:

“There are great problems, ladies and gentlemen, before the America people. There are problems which will need purity of spirit and integrity of purpose such as has never been called for before the history of this country. I should be afraid to go forward if I did not believe that there lay at the foundation of all our schooling and of all our thought this incomparable and unimpeachable Word of God. If we cannot derive our strength thence, there is no source from which we can derive it.” [34]

“America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture. Ladies and gentlemen, I have a very simple thing to ask of you. I ask of every man and woman in the audience that from this night on they will realize that part of the destiny of America lies in their daily perusal of this great book of revelations – that if they would see America free and pure they will make their own spirits free and pure by this baptism of the Holy Scripture.” [35]


[1] L.J. Capon, ed. The Adams-Jefferson Letters (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1959) 2:412.
[2] James L. Alden. Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings, 1850, 6-21.
[3] Worthington Chauncey Ford, ed. Writings of John Quincy Adams (NY: Longmans, Green & Co., 1928), 103.
[4] Tryon Edwards. The New Dictionary of Thoughts – A Cyclopedia of Quotations (Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1852. The Standard Book Company, 1963), 48.
[5] New Dictionary of Thoughts, 45.
[6] New Dictionary of Thoughts, 47.
[7] Alfred Armand Montapert. Distilled Wisdom (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1965), 36.
[8] The World Book Encyclopedia – 18 vols. (Chicago: Field Enterprises, Inc., 1957), Vol. 3, 1550-1551.
[9] New Dictionary of Thoughts, 44.
[10] Henry H. Halley. Halley’s Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1962), 18.
[11] Haley’s Bible Handbook, 19.
[12] William Wirt. The Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: James Webster, 1818), 402.
[13] Charles E. Jones. The Books You Read (Harrisburg, PA: Executive Books, 1985), 116.
[14] Haley’s Bible Handbook, 19.
[15] Robert V. Remini. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822-1832 (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), Vol. II, 443.
[16] Gabriel Sivan. The Bible and Civilization (New York: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co., 1973), 178.
[17] Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 519.
[18] George Pellew, American Statesman Series, 360.
[19] New Dictionary of Thought, 46.
[20] Haley’s Bible Handbook, 19.
[21] Roy P. Basler, ed. The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 1:382.
[22] William Holmes McGuffey. McGuffey Eclectic Third Reader (Cincinnati: Winthrop B. Smith & Co., 1848), 5.
[23] Henry M. Morris. Men of Science – Men of God (El Cajon, CA.: Master Books, Creation Life Publishers, Inc., 1990), 47.
[24] New Dictionary of Thoughts, 47.
[25] Distilled Wisdom, 36.
[26] Haley’s Bible Handbook, 18.
[27] New Dictionary of Thoughts, 49.
[28] 1844. Vidal v. Girard’s Executors, 43 U.S. 205-206.
[29] Haley’s Bible Handbook, 19.
[30] Haley’s Bible Handbook, 18.
[31] “The Voices of America’s Heritage,” Torch (Dallas, TX: Texas Eagle Forum, February 1994), vol. 1, no. 7, p. 4.
[32] New Dictionary of Thoughts, 49.
[33] Holy Bible with amendments in language by Noah Webster (New Haven: Durrie & Peck & Co., 1833), preface.
[34] Arthur S. Link. Wilson: The New Freedom, Volume II. Princeton Legacy Library, 1956, 65.
[35] Mario R. DiNunzio, ed. Woodrow Wilson: Essential Writings and Speeches of the Scholar-President.