In the last chapter we began to look at how religion was viewed by the Founders in their daily lives. In this chapter I want to continue to look at the importance of Christianity in their lives. In today’s society religion is banned from most public arenas specifically prayer “in Jesus Name”. We need to look at has this has always been the case or is it something that has come about within the last few decades.
I grew up in the 50’s and every day we would say the Pledge of Allegiance and there would be a short 21 word prayer said at the beginning of the day. Today you would be arrested for such supposed blatant violations of the Constitution. In Massachusetts a student has to have a permission slip signed by the parent to participate in the WEEKLY reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. Our nation is being taken over by progressive liberals that hate religion in general and Christianity in particular. How did our Founders treat the concept of Christian prayers in the public arena? There were many times when the Founders called for prayer. It wasn’t just for a few people but for entire cities and states. When the Colonists expressed their frustration with eight years of ignored appeals to the Crown concerning taxes on tea and other matters with the Boston Tea Party, Parliament passed the Boston Port Bill that resulted in the planned blockade of Boston harbor stopping all trade to and from Boston harbor beginning June 1, 1774. The manner in which the American Colonists responded caused news accounts like this to be reported in Britain:
“The province of Virginia appointed the first day of June, the day on which the Boston Port Bill took place, to be set apart for fasting, prayer and humiliation, to implore the Divine interposition to avert the heavy calamity which threatened destruction of their civil rights with the evils of a civil war, and to give one heart and one mind to the people firmly to oppose injury to the American rights. This example was followed by a similar resolution adopted almost everywhere and the first of June became a general day of prayer and humiliation throughout the continent.” 1
Here prayer was called for by the city leaders throughout the Colonies. Today the ACLU would be filing hundreds of lawsuits to stop the ‘call for prayer’. As a result of this action there was a convening of delegates from all Colonies in Philadelphia to begin a plan to counter any possible further action by the Crown.2 On September 6, 1774 they officially convened and:
Resolved, That the Reverend Mr. Duche be desired to open the Congress tomorrow morning with prayers, at the Carpenters Hall, at 9 o’clock. 3
Here was a call for prayer before the delegates met to insure that they had God’s blessings on what they were about to undertake. This is an aspect of all Christians. They were following a Christian principle set out by Paul to the church in Philippi, Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. (emphasis added) They came before God to ask for direction in the developing events in Boston. Every city council meeting should start with this type of heartfelt prayer. In the days of the Founders these meetings opened in prayer and those prayers ended with “in the Name of Jesus” as all Christian prayer should end. This prayer by Reverend Duche was so profound that many of the attendees literally wrote home about it. Of those in attendance were Samuel Adams4, Joseph Reed5, and Samuel Ward6. Silas Deane commented:
“The Congress met and opened with prayer made by Reverend Mr. Duche which it was worth riding one hundred miles to hear. He read lessons of the day [Scriptures] which were accidentally extremely applicable, and then prayed without a book about ten minutes so pertinently, with such fervency, purity, and sublimity of style and sentiment, and with such an apparent sensibility of the scenes and business before us, that even the Quakers shed tears.” 7 (emphasis added)
Note in this comment that this was not just a little mamby pamby prayer but it was also a sermon. That sermon was described as “accidentally extremely applicable”. I don’t believe in simple coincidences. This pastor was informed about the new Congress wanting his presence to invoke the blessings of God on their proceedings. I believe that he got before God and sought after Him for what God wanted them to know. The text of the message was Psalm 35 which deals with the prayers and pleadings of an innocent and defenseless person who had been attacked by one much stronger. It was also that morning that the British had landed armed troops in Boston and British citizens were being attacked by their own army and navy. This sermon was not a “accident”. It was given to strengthen the delegates and let them know that God was on their side.
I have done this myself. I felt that God wanted me to pray for a man that was running for political office and he agreed to meet with me for 10 minutes for me to pray for him. I spent several days seeking God as to what He wanted me to tell him and how He wanted me to pray for him. God gave me several things and on that day we met and for an hour and twenty minutes I spoke with him telling him what I felt God had instructed me to tell him and then prayed for him. He told me that what I had spoken to him was an encouragement for him as he was seeking answers to things that I gave him the answers for. It is obvious that the Reverend Mr. Duche did the same thing and received from God what was needed for the meeting that was to take place. That is why our Founders prayed before meetings, during meetings and whenever they felt they needed a touch from God. That is one of the reasons that America is Exceptional. Our Founders continually sought the face of God for His will and His direction. No other nation before us had done that. None after us will.
On March 23, 1775 Patrick Henry gave his infamous ‘Give me liberty or give me death” speech before the Virginia House and on April 15, 1775, John Hancock seeing that the clouds of war were building, called Massachusetts to a day of prayer and fasting stating:
“In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us as men and Christians to reflect that whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments . . . all confidence must be withheld from the means we use and repose only on that God who rules in the armies of heaven and without whose blessing the best human councils are but foolishness and all created power vanity.
It is the happiness of His church that when the powers of earth and hell combine against it . . . that the throne of grace is of the easiest access and its appeal thither is graciously invited by that Father of mercies who has assured it that when His Children ask bread He will not give them a stone. . .
That it be, and hereby is, recommended to the good people of this colony . . as a day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer . . to confess the sins . . . to implore the forgiveness of all transgressions . . . and especially that the union of the American colonies in defense of their rights, for which, hitherto, we desire to thank Almighty God, may be preserved and confirmed . . . and that America may soon behold a gracious interposition of Heaven.” 8 (emphasis added)
On June 12, 1775, Congress declared a day of fasting and prayer for all of the Colonies9, John Adams wrote his wife, Abigail:
“We have appointed a continental fast. Millions will be upon their knees at once before their great Creator, imploring his forgiveness and blessing; His smiles on American councils and arms.” 10
As the situation began to heat up, and it became apparent that war was inevitable John Witherspoon, future signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a group of New York and Pennsylvania pastors issued this admonition to American patriots:
“There is no soldier so undaunted as the Pious man, no army so formidable as those who are superior to the fear of death. There is nothing more awful to think of than that those whose trade is war should be despisers of the Name of the Lord of hosts and that they should expose themselves to the imminent danger of being immediately sent from cursing and cruelty on earth to the blaspheming rage and despairing horror of the infernal pit. Let therefore everyone who . . offers himself as a champion in his country’s cause be persuaded to reverence the Name and walk in the fear of the Prince of the kings of earth; and then he may with the most unshaken firmness expect the issue [God’s protection] either in victory or death.” 11 The thoughts of these men were the eternal destination of those that would give their all for the cause of freedom and they implored them to make the choice of heaven over hell.
The Continental Army was also directed towards the things of God:
“It is earnestly recommended to all officers and soldiers diligently to attend Divine service [church]; and all officers and soldiers who shall behave indecently or irreverently at any place of Divine worship, shall . . . be brought before a court-martial” 12
The principles of Christianity were taken very seriously by the Founding Fathers. Documented proof of that is everywhere in our history, yet ignored when taught in our schools. Time after time in the period leading up to the actual war and during the Revolutionary War, Congress and governors called for days of fasting and prayer. Even when Benedict Arnold’s traitorous act was exposed, Congress called upon Samuel Adams, William Houston, and Frederic Muhlenberg to draft a proclamation for a national day of prayer and thanksgiving. 13
1) The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature from the Year 1775 (London: J. Dodsley, 1776), p. 5.
2) David Ramsey, The History of the American Revolution (Dublin: William Jones, 1795), Vol. I, p. 107.
3) The Journals of the American Congress, from 1774 to 1778 (Washington, D.C.: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. I p. 8, September 6, 1774.
4) Boston Gazette, September 26, 1774, containing an extract of a letter from Samuel Adams to Joseph Warren on September 9, 1774; see also Letters of the Delegates to the Continental Congress, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1976), Vol. I. p.55
5) John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, brown and Co., 1850), Vol. II, p.378, from his diary entry of Semptember 10, 1774; see also Letters of the Delegates, Vol. I p. 60.
6) Letters of the Delegates, Vol. I p. 45, from Samuel Ward’s diary for September 7, 1774
7) Silas Deane, The Dean Papers: Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1886 (New York: Printed for the Society, 1887), Vol. I, p. 20, Wednesday, September 7, 1774; see also Letters of the Delegates, Vol. I p. 35.
8) The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, William Lincoln, editor (Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, 1838), pp. 144-145, proclamation of John Hancock from Concord, April 15, 1775.
9) Journals of Congress (1823), Vol. I, pp. 81-82, June 12, 1775.
10) John Adams, Letters, Vol. I, p. 46, to Abigail Adams on June 17, 1775.
11) Witherspoon, Works, (1815), Vol. IV, p. 170, from “Pastoral Letter . . . to be read from the Pulpits on Thursday, June 29, 1775, being the day of the General Fast.”
12) Journals of Congress (1823), Vol. I, p. 90, June 30, 1775. Furthermore George Washington ordered that the Articles of War be read to the soldiers weekly-see George Washington, Writings, (1931), Vol. IV, p. 527, from General Orders of April 28 1776.
13) Journals of Congress (1910), Vol. XVIII, p. 919, October 13, 1780.Tags: American History Founding fathers Religious Freedom