Category Archives: General
On March 27, 1854, Representative James Meacham of Vermont, who served as spokesman of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, spoke in favor of continuing the practice of appointing chaplains. His remarks were part of the debate during the Thirty-Third Congress as to whether or not to elect chaplains, as was customary from the beginning of the First Federal Congress in 1789. The so-called “memorialists” who voiced opposition to chaplains did so under the guise of claiming the practice was unconstitutional. Closer to the truth was the fact that so many northern pastors were abolitionists, and the slavery question was dividing the Congress and the nation. Rep. Meacham argued:
“We ask the memorialists to look at the facts… The first Congress under the Constitution began on the 4th of March 1789, but there was not a quorum for business till the 1st of April. On the 9th of that month, Oliver Ellsworth was appointed on the part of the Senate to confer with a committee of the House on rules and on the appointment of chaplains. The House chose five men: [Elias] Boudinot, [Theodorick] Bland, [Thomas] Tucker, [Roger] Sherman, and [James] Madison. The result of their consultation was a recommendation to appoint two chaplains of different denominations – one by the Senate and one by the House – to interchange weekly. The Senate appointed Dr. [Samuel] Provost [an Episcopal bishop from New York] on the 25th of April.
“On the 1st day of May Washington’s first speech was read to the House and the first business after that speech was the appointment of Dr. [William] Linn [a Presbyterian minister from Philadelphia] as chaplain. By whom was this plan made? Three out of six of that joint committee were members of the convention that framed the Constitution. Madison, Ellsworth, and Sherman passed directly from the hall of the convention to the hall of Congress. Did they not know what was constitutional? The law of 1789 was passed in compliance with their plan giving chaplains a salary of $500. It was re-enacted in 1816 and continues to the present time. Chaplains have been appointed from all the leading denominations: Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Catholic, Unitarian, and others…
“If there be a God who hears prayer – as we believe there is – we submit, that there never was a deliberative body that so eminently needed the fervent prayers of righteous men [James 5:16b] as the Congress of the United States.”*
After Rep. Meacham’s report, Congress continued the practice of appointing chaplains, and that is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read James 5:16-18 and compare that with Rep. Meacham’s plea for Chaplains.
Prayer: Father, we thank you that from the very beginnings of American government, our leaders sensed that they needed your wisdom, guidance and blessing and that they sought out ministers to serve alongside them, praying for our nation before deliberations. We are also grateful that this practice continues today, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Lorenzo P. Johnson, Chaplains of the General Government, with Objections to their Employment Considered, also a List of All the Chaplains to Congress, in the Army and in the Navy from the Formation of the Government to This Time (New York: Sheldon, Blakeman, & Co., 1856), 9, 12, 15. See also: http://chaplain.house.gov/chaplaincy/ChaplainHistoryCRS.pdf for a brief history of Chaplains in Congress. Bracketed items added.
“Our affairs are brought to a perilous crisis, that the Hand of Providence, I trust, may be more conspicuous in our deliverance. The many remarkable interpositions of the Divine government in the hours of our deepest distress and darkness, have been too luminous to suffer me to doubt the happy issue of the present contest…
“I am sorry to hear, that the recruiting business in your State is clogged with so many embarrassments. It is perhaps the greatest of the great evils attending this contest, that States as well as individuals had rather wish well than act well; had rather see a thing done, than do it, or contribute their just proportion to the doing of it… To expect brick without straw is idle [Exod. 5:16], and yet I am called upon, with as much facility to furnish men and means for every service and every want, as if every quota required of the States had been furnished, and the whole was at my disposal…”*
General Washington was frustrated with the fact that he didn’t have the manpower needed to fight the war, comparing his situation to the Hebrew slaves in Egypt who were forced to make bricks without straw. Yet he was confident that God’s Providence would enable them to prevail, and that is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Exodus 5:4-19 and reflect on the tough position the Hebrew people were placed in by Pharaoh’s edict withholding straw and compare it with Gen. Washington’s predicament.
Prayer: Father, we are amazed at your Hand of Providence that intervened at so many points in the War for Independence, giving victory to an outnumbered, ill-equipped, and inadequately trained army. We pray for your continued support as we honor you, 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), 7:462. Bracketed item added.
“I was brought up a rigid Presbyterian, to which I have always adhered. Our excellent Constitution guarantees to every one freedom of religion, and charity tells us – and you know Charity is the real basis of all true religion – charity says “judge the tree by its fruit.” [Matt. 7:16]
“All who profess Christianity believe in a Saviour, and that by and through Him we must be saved [Acts 4:12]. We ought, therefore, to consider all good Christians whose walks correspond with their professions, be they Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Methodist or Roman Catholic.”*
President Jackson’s expressed belief in the Savior and quotation of His words from the Sermon on the Mount is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Acts 4:12 and reflect on the fact that Jesus is the only Savior and compare that with President Jackson’s assertion.
Prayer: Father, during this season when we celebrate your mighty acts through the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ, we praise you for providing a Savior for us, even though we have broken your laws and broken your heart. So we trust in Jesus to save us from our sins, give us a fresh start, and a new beginning, in His Name, we pray, Amen.
*Source Citation: Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 3 vols., (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 2:251. Bracketed items added.
Founding Father Rufus King was born on March 24, 1755. A graduate of Harvard, King became a lawyer, a member of the Continental Congress, and served as an aide to General Sullivan during the Revolutionary War. At 32 years old, King became the youngest signer of the United States Constitution. Later he served as a U.S. Minister (Ambassador) to England and a U.S. Senator from New York. King also helped found a Bible society for Anglicans and was an ardent abolitionist. He wrote to C. Gore on February 17, 1820:
“I referred the decision of the Restriction on Missouri to the broad principles of the law of Nature, a law established by the Creator, which has existed from the beginning, extends over the whole globe is everywhere, and at all times binding upon mankind.”*
The reference he spoke of was to a speech made in the Senate:
“Mr. President I have yet to learn that one man can make a slave of another; if one man cannot do so, no number of individuals can have any better right to do it, and I hold that all laws and compacts imposing any such condition upon any human being are absolutely void, because contrary to the law of nature, which is the law of God, by which he makes his way known to man, and is paramount to all human control.”*
Founder Rufus King’s belief that God’s law trumps all human laws is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Rom. 1:18-22 and reflect on the “law of nature” that exists in God’s creation and how that law trumps all human law.
Prayer: Sovereign God, we are grateful that you are a God of order, righteousness and justice. We thank you that your laws supersede all others and that America, albeit belatedly, decided to correct the great evil of slavery. May we do the same with abortion, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Charles R. King, ed., The Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, Comprising His Letters, Private and Official, His Public Documents and His Speeches, 6 vols., (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900), 6:276.
On March 23, 1775, the Second Virginia Convention had convened at St. John’s Church in Richmond, away from the watchful eye of the Loyalist Governor. They had assembled to consider some weighty matters concerning the British tyranny and oppression of the King of England. A thirty-nine year old delegate from Hanover County named Patrick Henry took a seat in the church. Henry listened as many babbled on and on in favor of continued conciliatory measures and more pleading with Parliament. Finally, the delegate from Hanover rose from his pew to address the wavering assembly of Virginians, and with great passion in his voice, this is some of what he said:
“Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope… but… let us not deceive ourselves, sir… If we wish to be free… we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us! They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction…until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?
“Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty… are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [2 Chron. 32:8]. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone [Eccl. 9:11]; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir…There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable–and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, ‘Peace, Peace’– but there is no peace [Jer. 6:14]. The war is actually begun! …. Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle [Matt. 20:6]? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry, who first learned his oratory skills by listening to Presbyterian Pastor Samuel Davies, laced his passionate call to arms with allusions to Scripture and that is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 2 Chron. 32:1-8 and reflect on the words of Hezekiah to Judah and compare them to Patrick Henry’s speech.
Prayer: God of our forefathers, we praise you for your Providential presence from age to age to defend, protect, and provide help, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: William Wirt, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry (Philadelphia: James Webster, 1817), 120-23. Bracketed items added.