John Jay

First Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

1745 Born on 12th December in New York City
1764 Graduated from King’s College (Columbia)
1768 Admitted to the bar
1774-77 Member of the Continental Congress
1776– Member of the New York legislature
1776-79 Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court
1778-79 President of the Continental Congress
1779-82 Minister from the United States to Spain
Peace Commissioner from the United States
in Paris
1784 Regent of King’s College, New York
1784 Regent of King’s College, New York
1784-89 United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs
1789-95 Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court
1794 Commissioner from the United States to Britain
1795-1801 Governor of New York
1816 Vice President of the American Bible Society
1821-1829 President of the American Bible Society
1829 Died on May 17th in Bedford, New York


As President of the Continental Congress, Minister from the United States to Spain and First Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court – what evidence do we have of this founding father’s Christianity?

John Jay was descended from a French Huguenot family, his father having emigrated to New York. At age eight, Jay was sent to grammar school, taught by the pastor of the French Huguenot Church at New Rochelle, which prepared him to enter King’s College at age 14.1

After the death of his beloved father, he wrote the following lines to a friend:

…His affection for me was unbounded, and he knew I was conscious of it…Thank God, there is another world in which we may meet and be happy. His being there is a new motive to my following his footsteps. I assure you I know the value of Christian resignation: it has been friendly to me on several occasions, which may, perhaps, one day furnish us with matter for conversation. I thank you most sincerely for reminding me of the great business and purpose of my life. Such admonitions, so given, are never unreasonable, and always kind. I am persuaded that they who have no regard for their own souls, will seldom have much for the interest and happiness of others…2

John Jay was also a first Vice-President of the American Bible Society, founded in 1816; and its President from 1821 to the time of his death in 1829.

The American Bible Society began on May 8th, 1816, as follows:

On Motion,

Resolved unanimously, That it is expedient to establish without delay, a general Bible Institution, for the circulation of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment.

Its CONSTITUTION reads as follows:

1. This Society shall be known by the name of The AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY, of which the sole object shall be, to encourage a wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures without note or comment. The only copies in the English language to be circulated by the Society, shall be of the version now in common use.
2. This Society shall add its endeavours to those employed by other Societies, for circulating the Scriptures throughout the United States and their territories; and shall furnish them with stereotype plates, or such other assistance as circumstances may require. This Society shall also, according to its ability, extend its influence to other countries, whether Christian, Mahometan, or Pagan…3

To which is attached a letter:

To the People of the UNITED STATES.

People of the United States:
Have you ever been invited to an enterprise of such grandeur and glory? Do you not value the Holy Scriptures? Value them as containing your sweetest hope; your most thrilling joy? Can you submit to the thought that you should be torpid in your endeavours to disperse them, while the rest of Christendom is awake and alert? Shall you hang back, in heartless indifference, when Princes come down from their thrones, to bless the cottage of the poor with the Gospel of peace; and Imperial Sovereigns are gathering their fairest honours from spreading abroad the oracles of the Lord your God? Is it possible that you should not see, in this state of human things, a mighty motion of Divine Providence? The most Heavenly charity treads close upon the march of conflict and blood! The world is at peace!…
That which contributes, in all latitudes and climes, to make Christians feel their unity, to rebuke the spirit of strife, and to open upon them the day of brotherly concord – the Bible! The Bible! – through Bible Societies!…
We shall minister to the blessedness of thousands, and tens of thousands, of whom we may never see the faces, nor hear the names. We shall set forward a system of happiness which will go on with accelerated motion and augmented vigour, after we shall have finished our career; and confer upon our children, and our children’s children, the delight of seeing the wilderness turned into a fruitful field, by the blessing of God upon that seed which their fathers sowed, and themselves watered. In fine, we shall do our part toward that expansion and intensity of light Divine, which shall visit, in its progress, the palaces of the great, and the hamlets of the small, until the whole “earth be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea!”4

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The Christian Statesmen of America. Boston: Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, 1861, pp. 37, 38. Library of Congress, Rare Book Collection.


Constitution of the American Bible Society, formed by a Convention of Delegates, held in the City of New York, May, 1816. Together with their Address to the People of the United States; a Notice of their Proceedings; and a List of their Officers. New York: Printed for the American Bible Society, by G.F. Hopkins, 72, William Street, 1816, p.1.


Ibid., p. 2.


Ibid., pp. 14-20.

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