Noah Webster and Religion
Religion – I… A belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man’s obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life with the practice of all moral duties…. the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.
Religion was an important aspect of Noah Webster’s life. As a boy, he attended church with his family and learned to read from the King James Bible. His father was a deacon in the local Congregational church, the highest lay position. As he aged and raised his own family, Noah’s faith grew even stronger. He led his wife and children in daily prayers, using a prayer book he wrote.
In April 1808, Noah Webster’s two oldest daughters, Emily (17) and Julia (15), attended a revival meeting where they felt “God’s touch.” They convinced their father and mother to join them at another meeting where they too felt changed. The experience, referred to as conversion, was comparable to the experience of being “born again” as a Christian today.
In 1832, Webster took on what he called “the most important enterprise of my life” – transcribing the 1611 King James Bible into language more understandable to American readers of his day. His changes were minor ones – for example, replacing out-of-date terms such as “kine” with “cows,” and replacing more vulgar words with more refined versions.
Despite Webster’s careful attention to detail and humble desire to more clearly “present to the readers the Word of God,” his Bible was not well received. It is now one of the rarest American Bibles ever produced.