Foreword - Dr. Peter A. Lillback

You hold in your hands an extraordinary accomplishment. After many years of being nearly forgotten, a truly significant edition of the Bible, entitled the Brown Self-Interpreting Bible, has reappeared. By the diligence of Dale Mason, it is again available. This Bible held an important place in the life of early America.

In my research on the faith of our founding president, George Washington, I came across the fact that his name was printed in large bold letters as the first of a numerous list of sponsors who invested to bring it to print in the newly formed United States. The Brown-Self Interpreting Bible was already highly regarded in the United Kingdom.  

When doing my research on Washington, I was stunned to discover that as President, Washington had put his name on such a project.

This, however, was consistent with what I had realized after reading the many writings of Washington—he was in fact, a Bible reader. This is evidenced throughout his vast writings. Like many Americans at that time, he was biblically literate.

Washington’s personal Bible reading is substantiated by some 200 biblical allusions and quotations I have documented from his writings that span the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. He held a deep respect for the Bible, referring to it as not only the Bible, but also as Holy Writ, the word of God, and Scripture. And when he took his oath of office he placed his hand upon the Bible. Following the historic Anglican custom, he kissed the Scriptures when he took his oath. He added, as was the custom of Virginians taking an oath in those days, the words that have been followed by other Presidents, “So help me God.” 

There is a compelling reason why George Washington sponsored and welcomed this Bible. He firmly believed it would support the viability of his new nation. For example, on April 30, 1789, the new president said in his First Inaugural Address, “Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply , perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

Washington well understood that “the eternal rules of order and right” so needed for the “sacred Fire of liberty” were found in the Bible. 

Washington knew the central importance of the Bible from his reading, and from hearing many biblically-based sermons, some of which he read weekly to his wife on Sunday afternoons taken from the collection of sermons he had bound in his library.

All of this is said to underscore that Dale Mason has done a singularly important service for Americans today, by recovering this classic work and reissuing it, as it is nothing less than one of the premier sources for the founding values of America.  

His production of Brown’s Bible is the fruit of extensive research that he presents through a carefully written introduction. Together, they provide a rediscovered and renewed gem that will enlighten scholars and bless Bible readers, indeed, all who desire to appreciate the critical role that the Bible played in the formation of America.

The appearance of this publication offers all of us a triple blessing: first, it uncovers the lost Bible of John Brown with all of its unique strengths as a self-interpreting Bible. Second,  it uncovers significant history of this important version of the Bible that has not been documented until Dale Mason’s research. And finally, it again celebrates the Bible that George Washington sought to provide for his young nation, as manifested by his bold and visible subscription for its publication.

May the Lord smile on this work for generations to come.  Every family in America would be blessed to have and to study this Bible — reborn as The Forgotten George Washington Bible — the one that helped President George Washington kindle America’s “sacred Fire of Liberty.”

With gratitude, 

Dr. Peter A. Lillback, founder, The Providence Forum, president of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and author of George Washington’s Sacred Fire.