GOD & TEXAS: The Texas Capitol
On Texas Independence Day, March 2, 1885, government officials and citizens gathered in Austin to lay the cornerstone for the new state capitol building. The impressive structural design was modeled after the United States Capitol but stands several feet taller.
The red granite cornerstone weighed 16,000 pounds and was quarried in Burnet County. From there, it was hauled 15 miles on a wagon that was drawn by 16 yoke of oxen, to a train that took it to Austin.
The cornerstone ceremonies featured several guest speakers but began with a powerful invocation brought by Rev. Homer Spellman Thrall. Pastor Thrall was the revered Methodist minister who had laid the spiritual foundation of Austin’s First Methodist Church while preaching in the Halls of the Texas Legislature.
Thrall began his prayer by saying, “Almighty and Immortal God! We have met here to lay the corner stone of this great public edifice, and we humbly implore Thy blessing upon our undertaking.” Pastor Thrall then cited Psalm 127:1 KJV, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.”
A time capsule, filled with items that would best reveal the beliefs of those who built the capitol, was placed in a zinc container in the cornerstone to be recovered by future generations. The inventory list revealed that among the enclosed items were two King James Bibles, a photo of a teen Sunday school Bible class, selected Baptist and Methodist publications, the book “Christian Sacraments,” by Rey O. Fischer, and the Constitution and bylaws of the Hebrew Congregation of Beth Israel.
Amazingly, it is confirming to see that the founders of our great state, and those who followed, instituted Biblical references and inspirational tributes to God throughout the capitol complex. Here are several examples:
The Supreme Court Bible, which is kept in the Supreme Court safe, has been used by the Chief Justice to administer the oath of office to governors of the State of Texas from 1846 until today. Moreover, in the third floor room where the Supreme Court met until 1959, the justice bench bears the Latin inscription: “Sicut patribus, sit deus nobis.” (As God was to our fathers, may He also be to us.)
The west façade of the state library building, which was completed in 1961, is inscribed with a phrase from the Texas Declaration of Independence that includes the statement, “The Supreme Arbiter of the Destinies of Nations.” That same year, Evangelist Billy Graham offered prayer during the inaugural ceremonies of Governor Price Daniel, Sr., and the red granite monument of the Ten Commandments was placed on Capitol grounds.
We read in Romans 13:1 ESV, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." As citizens, we are to pray for and respect our state government.
However, the government of Texas will receive the blessing of God only as long as its leadership honors Him wherever possible. Many of our past leaders have given God honor. Hopefully, this will continue.