Category Archives: General
“I set myself down to write with a heart depressed with the melancholy scenes around me. My letter will be only a bill of mortality; though thanks be to the Being who restraineth the pestilence, that it has not yet proved mortal to any of our family, though we live in daily expectation that Patty will not continue many hours….
“And unto Him who mounts the whirlwind and directs the storm [Nahum 1:3], I will cheerfully leave the ordering of my lot and whether adverse or prosperous days should be my future portion, I will trust in His right Hand to lead me safely through, and after a short rotation of events, fix me in a state immutable and happy….
“We have been 4 Sabbeths without any meeting. Thus does pestilence travel in the rear of War to remind us of our intire dependance upon that Being who not only directeth the arrow by day, but has also at his command the pestilence which walketh in Darkness [Psalm 91:5-6]. So uncertain and so transotory are all the enjoyments of Life that were it not for the tender connections which bind us here, would it not be folly to wish for a continuance here?…Adieu!
“I need not say how sincerely I am your affectionate, Portia.”*
Abigail Adams decided to trust in God’s Providence regardless of her circumstances, and that is another lost episode in American History.
Read and reflect: Read Psalm 91:5-6 and reflect on the Providential goodness of God and how we need to trust Him in “adverse or prosperous days.”
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, we praise you as the one who mounts the whirlwind and directs the storm. Lord we depend on your Providential protection and trust in your right Hand to lead us safely through, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Lyman Henry Butterfield, ed., Adams Family Correspondence: December 1761 to May 1776 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1963), 279.
On September 15, 1815, Founding Father Richard Bassett died. He was a Signer of the U.S. Constitution. Bassett also helped write the Constitution of the State of Delaware in 1776 and its revision in 1792, served as a Captain in the War for Independence, and was instrumental in leading his state of Delaware to be the first to ratify the United States Constitution in 1787. Afterwards, Bassett served as a U.S. Senator from 1789-93, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware (i.e., Court of Common Pleas from 1793-99), was appointed by President John Adams as a U.S. Circuit Court Judge, and served as Governor of Delaware (1799-1801).
Richard Bassett converted to the Methodist faith during the Revolutionary War and became close personal friends with circuit-riding preacher Francis Asbury. In 1787, Major William Pierce of Georgia, the only delegate to the Constitutional Convention who recorded character sketches of the delegates, gave the following description:
“Mr. Bassett is a religious enthusiast, lately turned Methodist, and serves his Country because it is the will of the people that he should do so. He is a Man of plain sense, and has modesty enough to hold his Tongue. He is a Gentlemanly Man, and is in high estimation among the Methodists.”*
In fact, Wesley Chapel, the first Methodist Church in Dover, Delaware, was erected in 1784, “principally by Mr. Bassett’s means.”* Francis Asbury preached the dedicatory sermon at the Chapel and once thought that Bassett might become a preacher. Indeed, Bassett preached on occasion, notably at St. George’s Church in Philadelphia and was described as a “sweet singer.”* A slave owner, Bassett’s faith led him to make the controversial decision to free his slaves and then pay them as hired labor. Many times on his own plantation they would hold Methodist camp meetings, and he would ride to them with his former slaves, sharing the joy and enthusiasm of their singing as they went.
This Signer of the Constitution’s Christian faith not only led him to help build a house of worship and preach occasionally but also to free his slaves and worship with them. That is another lost episode in American history.
Read and reflect: Read Philemon 1:10-16 and reflect Paul’s message urging him to treat Onesimus as a brother and compare that with Founder Richard Bassett’s act of freeing his slaves and then worshipping with them.
Prayer: Lord of Liberty, we praise you for setting us free from slavery to sin May we be apostles of that liberty to everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, background, social status, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citations: Charles C. Tansill, ed., Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1927), House Document No. 398. Robert Emory Pattison, The Life and Character of Richard Bassett (Wilmington, DE: Historical Society of Delaware, 1900 ), 13-14.
On September 14, 1638, the Rev. John Harvard died of tuberculosis at the young age of 38. What you may not know is that this pastor is the Namesake of Harvard University. Born in London the son of a butcher, his family died in a plague and left him an estate. Harvard attended Emmanuel College, was ordained to the ministry, married and then immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony where he became the pastor of the first church established in Charlestown. In his last will and testament, Rev. Harvard bequeathed his library and half of his estate to the college in Cambridge, the first in America.
The following is recorded in Boston’s Old South Leaflets:
“After God had carried us safe to New-England, and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, rear’d convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the Civill Government: One of the next things we longed for, and looked after was to advance Learning and to perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches, when our present Ministers shall lie in the Dust.
“And as wee were thinking and consulting how to effect this great Work, it pleased God to stir up the heart of one Mr. Harvard, a godly gentleman and a lover of learning there living amongst us, to give the one half of his estate…towards the erecting of a college and all his Library…”*
Today’s visitor to Harvard can find words from the first paragraph etched in stone and still visible today on a wall at an entrance to the university. Because of Rev. Harvard’s generosity, the college decided to honor him by taking his name in 1639, and that is another lost episode in American history.
Read and reflect: Read Psalm 119:30 and reflect on this verse that was included in Harvard’s 1642 Rules and Precepts, stating: “Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practicall and spirituall truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability.”
Pray: Father, we thank you for the Scriptures, which are indeed the fountain of all true knowledge. We thank you for the founders of Harvard, who recognized that all truth is your truth and therefore transcendent, applying to all times, peoples, and situations. May we seek to restore your word to its rightful place of honor in our institutions of learning, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Old South Leaflets, published by the Directors of the Old South Work, Old South Meeting House, Boston, n.d. as recorded in Benjamin Pierce, A History of Harvard University from its foundation in the year 1636 to the period of the American Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Brown, Shattuck, and Company, 1833), Appendix I, 3.
On Saturday, September 13, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln wrote Rev. William W. Patterson, Rev. John Dempster, and representatives of the Methodist, Baptist, and Congregational denominations from Chicago, who presented a petition supporting the emancipation of the slaves. President Abraham Lincoln replied:
“The subject presented in the memorial is one upon which I have thought much for weeks past, and I may even say for months. I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the divine will, I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in that belief, and perhaps in some respects both.
“I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal His will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed He will reveal it directly to me; for, unless I am more deceived in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is I will do it …
“I can assure you that the subject is on my mind, by day and night, more than any other. Whatever shall appear to be God’s will I will do.”*
President Lincoln agonized over slavery, asking God to guide him as to how best to proceed, ultimately signing the Emancipation Proclamation. The fact the Lincoln sought God’s will so diligently is another lost episode in American history.
Read and reflect: Read Hebrews 10:5-7, which cites Psalm 40:6-8 in reference to Jesus, and reflect on the desire to do the will of God.
Prayer: Father, we praise you for your Son, who is not only our Savior, but our Model in desiring to carry out your divine purposes. Thank you for Abraham Lincoln’s thoughtful and earnest desire to do the same. Place in our hearts a determination to discover and do your will, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 5:419.
On September 12, 1782, the Continental Congress recommended an edition of the Bible to Americans. This Bible was the first printed in English in America, since the crown had previously forbidden it. Philadelphia publisher Robert Aitken had petitioned Congress on January 21, 1781 for a recommendation of his “neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools,” printed at his own expense. Aitken hoped to recoup his investment because he had printed numerous copies in light of the shortage of Bibles in America due to war, which had interrupted trade with England.
In response to Aitken’s request, Congress appointed Rev. William White and Rev. George Duffield, who served as Chaplains, to examine the Aitken’s edition of the Bible in order to verify its accuracy and quality, since American printing standards were somewhat dubious at the time. If a recommendation was to be made by Congress, the Bible had to be of the highest quality. White and Duffield came back with a good report on Tuesday, September 10, 1782. Consequently, Congress acted favorably on Thursday, September 12:
“Whereupon, Resolved, That the United States in Congress assembled… highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion . . . in this country, and . . . they recommend this edition of the bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this recommendation in the manner he shall think proper.”*
The fact that Congress recommended an edition of the Bible to the citizens of the United States is another lost episode in American history.
Read and reflect: Read Psalm 119:9-16 and reflect on the Psalmist’s recommendation of God’s word then compare that with the recommendation from Congress to all Americans.
Prayer: Father, we praise you for your incomparable word. Thank you for these Founding Fathers who sensed the need for all Americans to study its precepts and live its principles. Give us leaders today who share that same wisdom, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Journals of Congress (Philadelphia: David C. Claypool, 1782), 468-469.