Category Archives: General
On April 10, 1606, the First Charter of Virginia was granted by King James I to the settlers of what became the Jamestown settlement in Virginia. The Colony was named for the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth I by Sir Walter Raleigh, who had explored the area and unsuccessfully attempted to found a settlement on Roanoke Island in 1585. The Virginia Charter stated:
“We, greatly commending, and graciously accepting of their Desires for the Furtherance of so noble a Work, which may, by the Providence of Almighty God, hereafter tend to the Glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating of Christian Religion to such People, as yet live in Darkness and miserable Ignorance of the true Knowledge and Worship of God, and may in time bring the Infidels and Savages, living in those Parts, to human Civility, and to a settled and quiet Government.”
The original mission of the Virginia Colony to spread the “Christian religion” is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Acts 26:15-19 and reflect on the call of Christ on the Apostle Paul to share the Gospel so that lost people can be turned from “darkness to light and from Satan to God” and compare that to the mission expressed in the King’s Charter of Virginia.
Prayer: Father, we see your heart in Jesus, who came to seek and to save that which was lost. May we not only to feel the weight of the mission to share the Gospel but also give us a heart for people, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Ebenezer Hazard, ed., Historical Collections: Consisting of State Papers and other Authentic Documents; Intended as Materials for an History of the United States of America, 2 vols., (Philadelphia: T. Dobson, 1792), 1:50-51.
Founding Father Fisher Ames was born on April 9, 1758. He entered Harvard at age 12, was graduated in 1774, and became a teacher and later a lawyer in 1781. He served as a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1788, where he participated in the state’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Edging out Founder Samuel Adams, Ames was elected as a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts (1789-97) and helped shape the Bill of Rights in the First Session of the U.S. Congress. On August 20, 1789, Fisher Ames suggested and the U.S. House approved wording for what later became essentially the religion clause of the First Amendment:
“Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience.”*
After a conference with the U.S. Senate, the final wording for the religion clause was approved on September 24. So it is Fisher Ames, not the more famous James Madison, who became primarily responsible for the wording of the First Amendment. It was also Ames who wrote:
“It has been the custom of late years, to put a number of little books into the hands of children, containing fables and moral lessons…
“Why then if these books for children must be retained, as they will be, should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating, and noble. The reverence for the sacred book that is thus early impressed lasts long; and probably, if not impressed in infancy, never takes firm hold of the mind. One consideration more is important. In no book is there so good English, so pure, and so elegant, and by teaching all the same book, they will speak alike, and the Bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith.”*
Founder Fisher Ames’ vital role in shaping the First Amendment and his thoughts on the Bible as an essential public school textbook are a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7 and reflect on God’s command to teach our children His word and compare it with the assertion of Founding Father Fisher Ames.
Prayer: Father, we praise you for your inerrant word. Indeed, its “morals are pure, its examples captivating, and noble.” Equip us to teach it to our children and grandchildren. Help us to persuade others of its benefits, especially its use in the schools, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Joseph Gales, Sr., comp., The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States with an Appendix, Containing Important State papers and Public Documents and All the Laws of a Public Nature; with a Copious Index (Washington, DC: Gales and Seaton, 1834), 1:796; Seth Ames, ed., Works of Fisher Ames With a Selection from His Speeches and Correspondence, 2 vols., (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1854), 2:405-06.
“In compliance with the recommendation of the Senate and House of Representatives his Excellency the President has issued his proclamation calling upon the people to set apart Friday the 8th of April as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer. The commanding general invites the army to join in the observance of the day. He directs due preparations to be made in all departments to anticipate the wants of the several commands so that it may be strictly observed. All military duties except those that are absolutely necessary will be suspended. The chaplains are desired to hold services in their regiments and brigades. The officers and men are requested to attend.
“Soldiers! Let us humble ourselves before the Lord, our God, asking through Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, beseeching the aid of the God of our forefathers in the defense of our homes and our liberties, thanking Him for His past blessings, and imploring their continuance upon our cause and our people.”
General Lee’s orders to the Confederate troops in compliance with President Lincoln’s proclamation for a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read James 4:7-10 and reflect on the words of James, especially his call to humility and repentance, and compare them with the words of Gen. Lee.
Prayer: Father, may a deeply divided America learn a lesson from Lincoln and Lee, who were on opposite sides of the war, but were on the same side when it came to humbling themselves before you. Help us to find ourselves on our knees together, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: John Williams Jones, Personal Reminisces, Anecdotes, and Letters of General Robert E. Lee (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1874), 424.
On April 7, 1824, the Board of Visitors (i.e., Regents) of the University of Virginia, of which James Madison was a member, approved the regulations prepared by Thomas Jefferson, Rector of the University, which stated:
“Should the religious sects of this State, or any of them, according to the invitation held out to them, establish within or adjacent to, the precincts of the University, schools for instruction in the religion of their sect, the students of the University will be free, and expected to attend religious worship at the establishment of their respective sects, in the morning, and in time to meet their school in the University at its stated hour….
“The students of such religious school, if they attend any school of the University, shall be considered as students of the University, subject to the same regulations, and entitled to the same priviledges….
“The upper circular room of the rotunda shall be reserved for a library. One of its larger elliptical rooms on its middle floor shall be used for annual examinations, or lectures to such schools as are too numerous for their ordinary school room, and for religious worship, under the regulations to be prescribed by law.”
Contrary to the claims of the separationists, Thomas Jefferson did not establish the University of Virginia as a “religion free zone” but accommodated religious instruction and worship, and that is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Ezra 1:2-4 and reflect on how Cyrus, an unbelieving ruler, provided for a place of worship for the people of God and compare that with the efforts of Jefferson.
Prayer: Father, we thank you for Founders, who, even though some were not themselves Biblically orthodox Christians, provided for the worship of the same, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Roy J. Honeywell, The Educational Work of Thomas Jefferson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931), 249, 274-275. See also Henry S. Randall, ed., Life of Thomas Jefferson, 3 vols., (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippencott and Co., 1871), 3:470-71.
“It having pleased the righteous Governor of the World, for the punishment of our manifold offences, to permit the sword of war still to harrass our country, it becomes us to endeavour, by humbling ourselves before him, and turning from every evil way, to avert his anger and obtain his favour and blessing: it is therefore hereby recommended to the several states,
“That Wednesday, the twenty sixth day of April next, be set apart and observed as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, that we may, with one heart and one voice, implore the sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth to remember mercy in his judgments; to make us sincerely penitent for our transgressions; to prepare us for deliverance, and to remove the evils which he hath been pleased to visit us; to banish vice and irreligion from amongst us, and establish piety and virtue by his divine grace; to bless all public councils throughout the United States…”*
In response, General Washington instructed all his troops, in General Orders from Head Quarters in Morristown, New Jersey, as follows:
“The Honorable Congress having been pleased by their Proclamation of the 11th. of last month to appoint Wednesday the 22nd. instant to be set apart and observed as a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer for certain purposes therein mentioned, and recommended that there should be no labor or recreations on that day; The same is to be observed accordingly thro’out the Army and the different Chaplains will prepare discourses suited to the several objects enjoined by the said Proclamation.”*
George Washington’s orders to observe this day for “Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer,” which included the preparation and preaching of appropriate sermons by the Chaplains, is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Habakkuk 3:2 and reflect on the prophet’s prayer and compare it with the Continental Congress’ proclamation.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord of Heaven and Earth, we pray that you would remember mercy in your judgments on America, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citations: Worthington C. Ford, Galliard Hunt, et al, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-89, 34 vols., (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904-37), 16:252-53; John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, 39 vols., (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1931-1944 ), 18:225.