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Category Archives: Lost Episodes

 

Lost Episode for April 15

On Saturday, April 15, 1775, John Hancock presided over the Second Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, meeting at the church in Concord. The assembly adopted a recommendation declaring a “Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer,” which included the following:

“Whereas, it hath pleased the Righteous Sovereign of the universe, in just indignation against the sins of a people long blessed with inestimable privileges, civil and religious, to suffer the plots of wicked men… that we see the New England colonies reduced to the ungrateful alternative of a tame submission… to the will of a despotic minister, or of preparing themselves speedily to defend, at the hazard of life, the unalienable rights of themselves and posterity against the avowed hostilities of their parent state, who openly threaten to wrest them from their hands, by fire and sword;

“In circumstances dark as these, it becomes us, as men and Christians, to reflect, that whilst every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments, or prepare to act a proper part under them when they come; at the same time, all confidence must be withheld from the means we use, and reposed only on that God, who rules in the armies of heaven [Psalm 84:12], and without whose blessing, the best human councils are but foolishness [1 Cor. 3:19], and all created power vanity [Isa. 40:17].

“It is the happiness of his church, that when the powers of earth and hell combine against it [Matt. 16:18], and those who should be nursing fathers become its persecutors, then the throne of grace [Heb. 4:16] is of the easiest access, and its appeal thither is graciously invited by that Father of mercies [2 Cor. 1;3], who has assured it that when his children ask bread he will not give them a stone [Luke 11:11]:

“Therefore, in compliance with the laudable practice of the people of God in all ages, with the humble regard to the steps of Divine Providence towards this oppressed, threatened, and endangered people, and especially in obedience to the command of Heaven, that bids us to call on him in the day of trouble [Psalm 50:15],

“Resolved, That it be, and hereby is, recommended to the good people of this colony, of all denominations, that Thursday, the eleventh day of May next, be set apart as a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer…”*

This proclamation for a “Day of Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” was adopted a mere four days before armed conflict broke out on the green in Lexington, launching America and Great Britain into the War for Independence, and it is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 50:15 and reflect on God’s promise to answer when we call on Him in the day of trouble.

Prayer: Father of Mercies, we are thank you for showing mercy to us when we find ourselves in distress from persecution and oppression. We are grateful that we can come before your throne of grace and find grace and help in time of need, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: William Lincoln, ed., The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, 1774-1775 (Boston: Dutton & Wentworth, 1838), 144-45.

 

Lost Episode for April 14

On Good Friday, April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln agreed to go with his wife Mary Todd to Ford’s Theatre for an evening out. Rev. N.W. Miner, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Springfield Illinois, who was close to the Lincolns, recalled his conversation with Mrs. Lincoln about that fateful night of the assassination:

“Mrs. Lincoln informed me that he seemed to take no notice of what was going on in the theater from the time he entered it till the discharge of the fatal pistol. She said that the last day he lived was the happiest of his life. The very last moments of his conscious life were spent in conversation with her about his future plans and what he wanted to do when his term of office expired. He said he wanted to visit the Holy Land and see those places hallowed by the footprints of the Saviour. He was saying there was no city he so much desired to see as Jerusalem. And with the words half spoken on his tongue, the bullet of the assassin entered the brain, and the soul of the great and good President was carried by the angels to the New Jerusalem above.”*

We all know how President Abraham Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth, but very few know of Lincoln’s last wish was to visit the Holy Land after his second term. That is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read 1 Peter 2:21 and reflect on the sufferings of Christ and the figurative call to walk in His steps and compare that to the desire of Lincoln.

Prayer: Father, we praise you for the high calling we have to walk in the steps of Jesus. We thank you for the added joy that some have experienced of visiting the land where Jesus literally walked.

*Source Citation: J. A. Reed, “The Later Life and Religious Sentiments of Abraham Lincoln” in Scribner’s Monthly Illustrated Magazine (New York: Scribner’s and Co., 1873), 6:343.

 

Lost Episode for April 13

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. He was graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1762, was admitted to the bar in 1767, and was elected a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses (1768-79). He famously drafted the Declaration of Independence in 1776. He also served as Governor of Virginia (1779-81), as Secretary of State under George Washington (1789-93) and as Vice-President under John Adams (1797-1801). He became the third President of the United States (1801-09), approving the Louisiana Purchase and commissioning the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803). He became Rector of the newly formed University of Virginia (1819). In addition, he was an ambassador, an architect, educator, author and botanist.

Despite Thomas Jefferson’s famous “wall of separation between church and state” metaphor, he was supportive of public expressions of biblical truth in general and the Christian religion in particular. As a member of the Virginia Legislature, Jefferson was one of the leading voices calling for a Day of Prayer on June 1, 1774. As a member of the Second Continental Congress, Jefferson not only drafted the Declaration, with its references to God, but he also revised Ben Franklin’s proposal for the Great Seal of the United States, calling for a depiction of the children of Israel in the wilderness, being led by a pillar of cloud by day.

As Governor of Virginia in 1779, Jefferson introduced several bills in the state legislature:

• A Bill Punishing Disturbers of Religious Worship and Sabbath Breakers (10 Shilling fine).
• A Bill for Appointing Days of Public Fasting and Thanksgiving (Preachers fined 50 pounds for failure to comply – Did not pass).
• A Bill Annulling Marriages prohibited by Levitical Law and Appointing the Mode of Solemnizing Lawful Marriage (Did not pass – allowed for marriages not officiated by clergy and “Levitical Law” was inserted as shorthand for spelling out all the various prohibitions – like marrying cousins or siblings).
• He signed a Proclamation calling for a day of “Thanksgiving and Prayer” to be held on December 9, 1779.

As President, here are some of his actions:

• Jefferson urged the Commissioners of the District of Columbia to make land available for sale to Roman Catholics who wanted to erect a church building in 1801, being persuaded of “the advantages of every kind which it would promise.”
• Jefferson agreed to provide $300 to “assist the said Kaskaskia tribe in the erection of a church” and to provide “annually for seven years $100 towards the support of a Catholic Priest” in 1803.
• Jefferson directed his Secretary of War in 1803 to disperse federal funds to assist a religious school established for Cherokee Indians in Tennessee.
• Jefferson assured a Christian religious school in New Orleans after the Louisiana Purchase that it would receive “the patronage of the government.”

Furthermore, the ACLU and Americans United for Separation of Church and State would be particularly troubled by President Jefferson’s statement recorded by Rev. Ethan Allen: “No nation has ever existed or been governed without religion. Nor can be. The Christian religion is the best religion that has been given to man and I, as Chief Magistrate of this nation, am bound to give it the sanction of my example.” He was good to his word, attending church services held in the U.S. Capitol nearly every Sunday, beginning on January 3, 1802.

Jefferson’s public support for Christianity is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read 1 Tim. 4:12 and reflect on Paul’s admonition to Timothy to be an example in word and deed, and then compare that to Jefferson.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for Thomas Jefferson, who did not believe as we believe, but who respected our beliefs and who was an example. We pray for leaders like that in our day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citations: Julian P. Boyd, ed., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), 2:555; 2:556; 2:556-57; 3:177-179 for the full text of the Proclamation. Letter of Thomas Jefferson to Bishop John Carroll on September 3, 1801 (Library of Congress, #19966). See the actual letter at the following web address: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/P?mtj:9:./temp/~ammem_R1ok::. As recorded in Walter Lowrie and Matthew St. Claire Clarke, eds., American State Papers, (Washington, D. C.: Gales and Seaton, 1832), 4:687.
See Dorothy C. Bass, “Gideon Blackburn’s Mission to the Cherokees,” Journal of Presbyterian History (Fall 1974), 52. Letter of Thomas Jefferson to the Nuns of the Order of St. Ursula at New Orleans on May 15, 1804, original in possession of the New Orleans Parish. James A. Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic, (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1998), 96, quoting from a handwritten history in possession of the Library of Congress, “Washington Parish, Washington City,” by Rev. Ethan Allen.

 

Lost Episode for April 12

On Sunday April 12, 1778, General George Washington responded to the National Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer made by the Continental Congress, which had stated:

“Whereas, Almighty God, in the righteous dispensation of his providence, hath permitted the continuation of a cruel and desolating war in our land; and it being at all times the duty of a people to acknowledge God in all his ways, and more especially to humble themselves before him when evident tokens of his displeasure are manifested; to acknowledge his righteous government; confess, and forsake their evil ways [2 Chron. 7:13-14]; and implore his mercy:

“Resolved, That it be recommended to the United States of America to set apart Wednesday, the 22d day of April next, to be observed as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer; that at one time, and with one voice, the inhabitants may acknowledge the righteous dispensations of Divine Providence, and confess their iniquities and transgressions [Lev. 16:21], for which the land mourneth [Jer. 23:10]; that they may implore the mercy and forgiveness of God…”*

From his headquarters in Valley Forge, General Washington issued the following in his General Orders:

“The Honorable Congress having thought proper to recommend to the United States of America to set apart Wednesday, the 22nd instant to be observed as a day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, that at one time, and with one voice, the righteous dispensations of Providence may be acknowledged, and His Goodness and Mercy [Psalm 23:6]towards our Arms supplicated and implored; The General directs that the day shall be most religiously observed in the Army; that no work shall be done thereon, and that the Chaplains prepare discourses suitable to the occasion.”*

General Washington’s ordered the Continental Army to observe this day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer and that is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 23:6 and reflect on the goodness and mercy of the Lord and compare that with General Washington’s order.

Prayer: Great Shepherd of the sheep, we trust in the “righteous dispensations of Providence” and are grateful for your goodness and mercy that follow us, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citations: Worthington C. Ford, et al, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-89, 34 vols., (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904-37), 10:229-30; 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 ), 12:252. Bracketed items added.

 

Lost Episode for April 11

On April 11, 1823, Thomas Jefferson wrote of the Creator who can be known through the general revelation of the creation in a letter to John Adams:

“I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in its parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition….

“It is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe that there is, in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an Ultimate Cause, a Fabricator of all things from matter to motion, their Preserver and Regulator, while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their Regenerator into new and other forms. We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a Superintending Power to maintain the Universe in its course and order….

“So irresistible are these evidences of an Intelligent and Powerful Agent that, of the infinite numbers of men who have existed thro’ all time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to Unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a Creator, rather than in that of self-existent Universe…”*

Jefferson’s belief in Intelligent Design by a Creator is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 19:1-6 and reflect on how the Creation reveals the glory of the Creator and compare that with Jefferson’s assertion.

Prayer: Almighty Creator of the heavens and earth, we humbly bow in recognition that you are God. We thank you for the sun, moon, and stars that are like “celestial evangelists” proclaiming your glory. Equip us to be your earthly evangelists to do the same, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Thomas Jefferson Randolph, ed., Memoirs, Correspondence and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 4 vols., (London: Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley, 1829), 4:372.

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