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Category Archives: General

 

Lost Episode for April 24

In 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 Consititution 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

On 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

On 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.

 

Lost Episode for April 21

On April 21, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, regarding his own personal view of Jesus and His teachings:

“In some of the delightful conversations with you…, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others…

“[A] system of morals is presented to us, which, if filled up in the style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man.

“The question of his being a member of the Godhead, or in direct communication with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others, is foreign to the present view, which is merely an estimate of the intrinsic merits of his doctrines…

“His moral doctrines… were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers and greatly more so than those of the Jews and they went far beyond both… A development of this… will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.”*

While Jefferson did not believe in the divinity of Christ, seeing that as a later “corruption” by churchmen, he did believe the moral teachings of Jesus to be not only superior to all others but beneficial to humankind. Thomas Jefferson’s extensive study and evaluation of the teachings of Jesus during his presidency is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read 1 John 2:18-25 and reflect on John’s teaching about Jesus being the Son of God and contrast that with Jefferson’s beliefs.

Prayer: Father, we confess with Peter and the saints of the ages the biblical truth that Jesus is indeed the “Christ, the Son of the living God.” Even though he was not a biblical believer, we are grateful that Jefferson affirmed the moral teachings of Jesus and felt that they were good for American society, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Henry S. Jackson, The Life of Thomas Jefferson, 3 vols., (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858), 3:556-57.

 

Lost Episode for April 20

On April 20, 1789, President-Elect George Washington addressed the Mayor, Recorder, Aldermen and Common Council of the City of Philadelphia:

“When I contemplate the interposition of Providence, as it was manifested in guiding us through the Revolution, in preparing us for the reception of a general government, and in conciliating the good will of the people of America towards one another after its adoption, I feel myself oppressed and almost overwhelmed with a sense of the divine munificence. I feel that nothing is due to my personal agency in all these complicated and wonderful events, except what can simply be attributed to the exertions of an honest zeal for the good of my country.

“If I have distressing apprehensions, that I shall not be able to justify the too exalted expectations of my countrymen, I am supported under the pressure of such uneasy reflections by a confidence that the most Gracious Being, who has hitherto watched over the interests and averted the perils of the United States, will never suffer so fair an inheritance to become a prey to anarchy, despotism, or any other species of oppression.”*

In a speech given a little more than a week before he was inaugurated, President-Elect Washington introduced some of the themes he would use in his inaugural address, which included his acknowledgement of God’s Providential role in helping us win the war and establish our constitutional government. That acknowledgment is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read John 3:27-30 and reflect on John the Baptist’s declaration that Christ must increase and that he must decrease and compare it with the statement by George Washington.

Prayer: Almighty God, we exalt you as the Sovereign One. You rule over human affairs and you are the reason for America’s greatness. Thank you for George Washington’s acknowledgement of that, 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 8elected and Published from the Original Manuscripts with a Life of the Author Notes and Illustrations, 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837), 12:145.

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