Lost Episode for January 27

GW President closeupOn January 27, 1793, President George Washington responded to the congregation of the New Church in Baltimore:

“[T]o the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence and to the patriotic exertions of United America, are to be ascribed those events, which have given us a respectable rank among the nations of the earth.

“We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened Age, and in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.

“Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities taste those blessings, which a gracious God bestows upon the righteous.”*

President Washington not only claimed that God’s Providential intervention led to American Exceptionalism but also that religious liberty is a mark of America’s greatness, and that is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 116:5 and reflect on the description of the character and nature of God and compare that with the same in President Washington’s letter.

Prayer: Gracious are you, O LORD. You are righteous and merciful. We are grateful for your overruling Providence and the patriotic exertions that won our freedom. May we live lives worthy of your grace and the efforts of our forefathers, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington: Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published from the Original Manuscripts, with a Life of the Author, 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837), 12:202.


Lost Episode for January 26

Ronald Reagan CroppedIn a rally called “Spirit of America: A Salute to Free Enterprise” held in Atlanta, Georgia on January 26, 1984, President Ronald Reagan declared:

“We are a nation under God. I’ve always believed that this blessed land was set apart in a special way, that some divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by a people from every corner of the earth who have a special love for freedom and the courage to uproot themselves, leave homeland and friends, to come to a strange land. And coming here they created something new in all the history of mankind – a land where man is not beholden to government; government is beholden to man.

“George Washington believed that religion, morality, and brotherhood were the pillars of society. He said you couldn’t have morality without religion. And yet today we’re told that to protect the First Amendment we must expel God, the source of all knowledge, from our children’s classrooms. Well, pardon me, but the First Amendment was not written to protect the American people from religion; the First Amendment was written to protect the American people from government tyranny….

“We can make America stronger not just economically and militarily, but also morally and spiritually. We can make our beloved country the source of all the dreams and opportunities she was placed on this good earth to provide. We need only to believe in each other and in the God who has so blessed our land…

‘May God keep you always, and may you always keep God.’”*

President Reagan’s speech, given the day after his State of the Union Address, had an economic theme, yet included a strong argument to trust in God and embrace the twin pillars of religion and morality advocated by George Washington. Reagan’s speech is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Deuteronomy 11:8-12 and reflect on the description of the promised land and compare that to President Reagan’s speech.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for this blessed land that you have set apart by your divine plan to be found by people who have a love for freedom , in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: David R. Shepherd, Ronald Reagan: In God We Trust (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984), 138-139. See the full speech here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzazVguX_1I. He begins the spiritual part at 21 minutes into the speech.


Lost Episode for January 25

Gideon New Testament and PsalmsOn January 25, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt offered an encouraging prologue to a Gideon Bible for the Armed Forces. This edition of the New Testament and Psalms, printed by the National Bible Press in Philadelphia, was distributed to military personnel as they entered military service. The prologue stated:

“As Commander-in-Chief, I take pleasure in commending the reading of the Bible to all who serve in the armed forces of the United States. Throughout the centuries men of many faiths and diverse origins have found in the Sacred Book words of wisdom, counsel and inspiration. It is a fountain of strength and now, as always, an aid in attaining the highest aspirations of the human soul.”*

President Roosevelt’s commendation of the Bible to the Armed Forces just months before World War II began is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Proverbs 2:1-9 and reflect on the source of wisdom, counsel, and inspiration, which is the word of God and compare that to the recommendation from Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Prayer: Father, we are grateful for your word that offers us wisdom, counsel and inspiration. We are also thankful for a president who saw value in recommending it to members of the Armed Forces, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Gideon New Testament and Psalms (Philadelphia: National Bible Press, 1941), prologue page.


Lost Episode for January 24

james-madison-pictureOn January 24, 1774, Madison expressed his disapproval of the ongoing lack of religious freedom to William Bradford, his friend from their days at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton). Later, Madison became a champion for religious liberty, shepherding Thomas Jefferson’s “Act for establishing Religious Freedom” through the Virginia legislature in 1786 and proposing what became the First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of religious expression, which passed Congress in 1789 and was ratified in 1791.

This calling began when Madison was a youth as he stood with his father outside a jail in the village of Orange and listened to several Baptist pastors preach from their cell windows, having been imprisoned for expressing their religious opinions without a license in a state where the Episcopal church was the established church.

Writing to his friend, William Bradford in 1774, Madison described the deplorable situation of unlicensed preachers of the Gospel who had been jailed:

“There are at this [time] in the adjacent [Culpepper] County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox.”*

The origins of James Madison’s passionate defense of religious liberty are a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Acts 4:1-20 and reflect on Peter and John being jailed for preaching the Gospel and compare that to the unlicensed preachers of Madison’s day.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for the freedom we enjoy to preach the Gospel in America. However, we see threats to that freedom on the horizon. Raise up leaders who will champion religious liberty like James Madison, we pray, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: William T. Hutchinson, William M. Rachal, et al eds., The Papers of James Madison, 17 vols., (Chicago and Charlottesville, VA: University of Chicago Press and University Press of Virginia, 1962-91), 1:104-6. Bracketed items added.


Lost Episode for January 23

Benjamin_Rush_Painting_by_PealeIn a letter to fellow Founding Father John Adams on January 23, 1807, Benjamin Rush wrote:

“By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. Our Saviour in speaking of it calls it the “Truth” in the abstract. It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. It contains a faithful representation of all its follies, vices, and crimes. All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it must perish, and how consoling the thought – it will not only survive the wreck of these systems but the world itself. ‘The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ [Matthew 16:18]*

Founder Benjamin Rush’s belief that the Bible is an essential foundation for enduring government is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Matthew 16:18 and reflect on Jesus’ words and compare them with how they are used by Founder Benjamin Rush.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for the Word of Truth that reveals the human heart and triumphs over all competing philosophies and religions. May we found our lives upon it, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: L.H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush, 2 vols., (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951), 2:936. Bracketed item added.

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