Dr. Benjamin Rush was an important founding father. He was a physician with a brilliant intellect. He was an author, an active leader, and a devout believer in Jesus. He was — like you and me and every person you and I have ever met — a complicated person, who got some things right and some things wrong. Rush knew that truth about himself and wrote in his journal about the inconsistencies between his devout faith and his flawed life.
Rush wrote about a fact that is obvious to us today, but a view that not everyone believed in 1776 when Rush became one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Rush wrote that he believed Africans were equal to Europeans. He also wrote that claims of superiority of “the whites over the blacks, on account of their skin color, are founded alike in ignorance and inhumanity.”
In 1787 Rush joined the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society. He helped to write the society’s constitution. At different times, he served as its secretary and its president. However, Rush purchased a child slave and did not free him until 1794 — seven years after Rush began working with the society.
Rush’s view on the equality of Africans and Europeans came from a firm belief in the Bible. He was convinced that Africans and Europeans were all descendants of Adam and Eve. Unfortunately, Rush did not leave us much to know how he felt about this discrepancy in his practice.
Ronald Reagan said:
We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken,
society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker.
It is time to restore the American precept that
each individual is accountable for his actions.
I agree. I believe that the only way to fix society is for individuals to come to Jesus for His solution to our very real sins.
Many people seem to see every historic person as wearing either a black hat or a white hat, when the truth is that every person is either an unforgiven sinner or a forgiven one — either an unforgiven flawed person or a forgiven flawed person.
People judge other people by many different standards. Dr. Benjamin Rush knew where to find the only standard that really matters — in God’s Word. Read these words that he wrote to a fellow founding father, President John Adams.
Philadelphia Jany 23rd. 1807.
My dear friend
I have been waiting like Horace’s Clown till the Stream of my business should so far lessen that I could pass over it, in order to acknowledge the receipt of your interesting letter upon the Subject of the perfectibility of human nature, but as that Stream, from adventitious currents pouring into it, rather encreases, than lessens, I have seized a few moments merely to testify my gratitude for that letter, and to assure you that I subscribe to every sentiment contained in it. By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral Subjects. Our Saviour in speaking of it calls it “Truth,” in the Abstract. It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. It contains a faithful representation of all its follies, Vices & Crimes. All Systems of Religion, morals, and Government not founded upon it, must perish, and how consoling the thot!—it will not only survive the wreck of those Systems, but the World itself. “The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”—
. . . All my family join in love to you & yours with Dear Sir, your grateful & Affectionate / friend
The wise homeschooling mama founds her children’s education on the truth of God’s word, “the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published.”
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation.
Rush portrait: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The Corcoran Gallery of Art, one of the country’s first private museums, was established in 1869 to promote art and American genius. In 2014 the works from the Corcoran Collection were distributed to institutions in Washington, D.C.