Lost Episode for April 26

Landing at Cape HenryOn April 26, 1607, the 104 settlers of the Jamestown Colony first arrived in the New World at Cape Henry, Virginia.  The Reverend Robert Hunt, who had been appointed as the minister of the colony, officiated one of their first official acts after setting foot on land.  He led the group in prayer.  Three days later, they erected a wooden cross near the shore where they had prayer.

From Cape Henry, they sailed across the bay and up the James River, named for the King, and decided on a place to settle on May 13.  Soon thereafter, they built a fort and a makeshift church, as adventurer John Smith records:

“When I went first to Virginia, I well remember, we did hang an awning (which is an old sail) to three or four trees, to shadow us from the sun; our walls were rails of wood, our seats unhewed trees, till we cut planks, our pulpit a bar of wood nailed to two neighbouring trees; in foul weather we shifted into an old rotten tent, for we had few better, and this came by way of adventure for new. This was our church, till we built a homely thing like a barn…yet we had daily Common Prayer morning and evening, every Sunday two sermons, and every three months the holy communion, till our minister died…”*

By all accounts, Rev. Hunt was a powerful preacher and a positive influence, taking care of the sick, working hard, and reconciling differences.  When the log church burned down the following winter, with many other makeshift houses, Hunt lost everything.  Smith records: “Good Master Hunt our Preacher lost all his Library and all he had but the cloathes on his backe yet none neuer heard him repine at his losse.”*  In fact, Hunt went to work building the colony’s first grist mill.  After his untimely death in 1608, even the swashbuckling Smith marveled: “Upon any alarm he was as ready at defence as any, and till he could not speak he never ceased to his utmost to animate us constantly to persist,—whose soul, questionless, is with God.”*

The spiritual influence and exemplary life of Rev. Hunt from the day the Jamestown settlers landed in the New World is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Phil. 4:9-13 and reflect on Paul’s call to follow his example of contentment whatever his circumstances and compare that with the live of Rev. Hunt.

Prayer: Father, we are grateful for positive examples of contentment in Paul and the first pastor in Jamestown.  Grant us the patience we need to persevere through times of suffering as well as the grace we need to accept times of blessing, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: William Meade, Old Churches, Ministers, and Families of Virginia, 2 vols., (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippencott, 1861), 1:64, 66; Edward Arber and Arthur Bradley, eds., Travels and Works of Captain John Smith President of Virginia and Admiral of New England 1580 1631, 2 vols., ( New York: Burt Franklin, 1910), 2:407.


Lost Episode for April 25

Jedidiah MorseIn a sermon preached on April 25, 1799, the National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer proclaimed by President John Adams, the Rev. Dr. Jedidiah Morse, Pastor of the Congregational Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, declared:

“To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism…

“I hold this to be a truth confirmed by experience.  If so, it follows, that all efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness…

“Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.”*

In addition to serving as a pastor, Morse was a pioneer educator and geographer. Morse, whom some call the “Father of American Geography,” was also the father of Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the Telegraph and the Morse Code. In addition, the elder Morse helped found the New England Tract Society (1814) and the American Bible Society (1816).  However, it was Rev. Morse’s April 25, 1799 sermon connecting the proportion of our adherence to Christianity with the proportion of our freedom that is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 11:3 and reflect on the Psalmist’s assertion and compare that with Rev. Morse’s message.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for America’s Christian heritage that provided the firm basis for our civil and religious freedoms.  Awaken your people to help shore up that crumbling foundation in this our day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America: Delivered at Charlestown, April 25, 1799, the Day of the National Fast (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1799), 9.


Lost Episode for April 24

Alexander HamiltonIn a letter to James A. Bayard in April 1802, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, signer of the U.S. Constitution and co-author of the Federalist Papers, expressed his displeasure with the ascendancy of Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party over his Federalist Party.  Hamilton enumerated both party’s weaknesses and proposed a fresh approach:

“Nothing is more fallacious than to expect to produce any valuable or permanent results in political projects, by relying merely on the reason of men…. [O]ur adversaries…are eulogizing the reason of men and…are courting the strongest and most active passion of the human heart: Vanity!  It is no less true that the federalists…erred in relying so much on the rectitude and utility of their measures as to have neglected the cultivation of popular favor…

Let an association be formed denomiated as ‘The Christian Constitutional Society.’ Its objects to be:

1st. The support of the Christian religion.

2d .  The support of the Constitution of the United States.”*

Although he was unable to realize this vision because of his untimely death at the hands of Aaron Burr, Founding Father Hamilton’s proposal for a “Christian Constitutional Society” is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Acts 11:19-26 and reflect on the name the disciples were called first in Antioch and compare it with the name that Alexander Hamilton chose for his proposed society.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for this Founding Father, who proposed that his political party get back to the basics of the Christian faith and the Constitution, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton; Comprising His Correspondence, and His Political and Official Writings, Exclusive of the Federalist Civil And Military. Published from the Original Manuscripts Deposited in the Department of State by Order of the Joint Library Committee of Congress, 6 vols., (New York: John F. Trow, 1851), 6:542.



Lost Episode for April 23

John Jay CroppedOn April 23, 1811, Founding Father John Jay recounted two conversations in a letter written to John Bristed that he had with atheists in France:

“The first was this: I was at a large party, of which were several of that description. They spoke freely and contemptuously of religion. I took no part in the conversation. In the course of it, one of them asked me if I believed in Christ. I answered that I did, and that I thanked God that I did…

“Some time afterward, one of my family being dangerously ill, I was advised to send for an English physician, who had resided many years at Paris. He was said to be very skilful, but it was added, he is an atheist…He was a sedate, decent man. I frequently observed him drawing the conversation towards religion, and I constantly gave it another direction. He, nevertheless, during one of his visits, very abruptly remarked that there was no God, and he hoped the time would come when there would be no religion in the world.  I very concisely remarked that if there was no God there could be no moral obligations, and I did not see how society could subsist without them.”*

Founding Father John Jay’s letter recounting his defense of the faith while in France is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 14 and reflect on the Psalmist’s claim and compare that with Founder John Jay’s encounters with atheists.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for John Jay’s confession of faith in Christ.  Forgive us for not sharing Christ in a culture that is growing more and more “atheist,” in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: William Jay, ed., The Life of John Jay with Selections of His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, 2 vols., (New York: J & J. Harper, 1833), 2:346-47.


Lost Episode for April 22

Salmon P. ChaseOn April 22, 1864, Congress passed a law adding “In God We Trust” to American coinage.  The string of events leading to congressional action was set in motion by appeals from devout individuals during the Civil War to Salmon P. Chase, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln.  From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter written to Secretary Chase by the Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, dated November 13, 1861:

“Dear Sir… One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

“You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is…inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION…the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

“This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters. To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.”*

Secretary Chase responded to this plea one week later by instructing James Pollock, the Director of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, to come up with a motto that reflects the fact that “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God or safe except in His defense,” and stating that “The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.”  After reviewing and refining Pollock’s submissions, Chase eventually submitted a recommendation to Congress that we add “In God We Trust” to our coins and Congress voted to approve his recommendation.  The minister’s letter that became the catalyst for this vote is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 59:9, 16-17 and reflect on the Psalmist’s prayer for God’s strength and defense against his enemies and compare it to Secretary Chase’s declaration.

Prayer: Father, we rely on your strength and defense against our enemies.  In you we trust and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: William T. R. Marvin and Lyman H. Low, eds., American Journal of Numismatics, Volumes 35-36 (Boston: T.R. Marvin & Sons, 1901), 116; John Niven, ed., The Salmon P. Chase Papers, 5 vols., (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1998), 3:263, 321.  See also the Treasury Department’s web page: http://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx.

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