Category Archives: Lost Episodes
On July 20, 1788, George Washington wrote from Mount Vernon to Jonathan Trumbull, Aide-de-camp to the General during the war and then Speaker of the House in Connecticut, regarding the framing and acceptance of the United States Constitution, which he attributed to the working of God:
“[W]e may, with a kind of pious and grateful exultation, trace the Finger of Providence through those dark and mysterious events which first induced the States to appoint a general Convention, and then led them one after another…into an adoption of the system recommended by that general Convention; thereby in all human probability laying a lasting foundation for tranquillity and happiness, when we had but too much reason to fear that confusion and misery were coming rapidly upon us. That the same Good Providence may still continue to protect us, and prevent us from dashing the cup of national felicity, just as it has been lifted to our lips, is the earnest prayer of, my dear sir, your faithful friend, &c.”*
While there was honest and sometimes heated disagreement during the Constitution’s framing and ratification process, George Washington saw the finger of God at work and earnestly prayed for His continued involvement, and that is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Luke 11:19-20 and reflect on how Jesus referred to miraculous activity as the “finger of God,” and compare that to what George Washington wrote.
Prayer: Sovereign Lord, we praise you for the way you orchestrated people and events in the beginning of our nation and especially in the crafting of our matchless Constitution. As George Washington did in his day, help us not fail to see and give thanks for your activity in our day, 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, 12 vols., (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf, 1835), 9:397-98.
On July 19, 1775, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, passed a long list of important resolutions in light of the open conflict with Britain. Included among them, as recorded in the Journals of Congress, they resolved:
“Agreed, That the Congress meet here to Morrow morning, at half after 9 o’Clock, in order to attend divine service at Mr. Duché’s Church; and that in the afternoon they meet here to go from this place and attend divine service at Doct’r Allison’s church.”*
The Continental Congress had declared July 20, 1775 as a day for “public humiliation, fasting, and prayer” for all the American Colonies. Their resolve was proof they intended to lead by example by attending not one, but two different churches.
The two ministers of those churches played a significant role in the founding era, serving as Chaplains for Congress. Rev. Mr. Jacob Duché, Rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia, served as a Chaplain in the First Continental Congress, when they met in Carpenter’s Hall. On July 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress elected him as its first official Chaplain. Rev. Dr. Patrick Allison, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, later became a Chaplain for the Second Continental Congress.
The fact that our Founding Fathers led by example in the call to “humiliation, fasting, and prayer,” even in the midst of all the pressing business in the defense of their liberties, is yet another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 80 and reflect on the desperate situation Israel found herself in and the colonies found themselves in with Britain and how they chose to humble themselves, fast, and cry out to God.
Prayer: Holy Father, forgive us for being “too busy” with other things that we do not take time to turn to you. As the Psalmist prayed, we pray: “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name. Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved.”
*Source Citation: Worthington C. Ford, et al, eds., The Journals of the Continental Congress 1774-1789, 34 vols., (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1904-37), 2:192.
On July 18, 1755, young George Washington wrote home to let his family know that he was safe. During the French and Indian War, then Colonel George Washington of the Virginia militia received orders to serve alongside British General Edward Braddock. Braddock’s mission was to take Fort Duquesne, a French outpost located at the fork of the Ohio River, which is modern day Pittsburgh. On July 9, 1755, the French surprised the 1,300 British regulars and colonial militia in an ambush attack. A hail of bullets tore into the British ranks, their Red Coats a perfect target for the French and Indians who were hiding in the forest on either side. The British were caught in the crossfire.
The result? Over half were killed or wounded, and only 30 men survived out of the Virginia regiment. Nearly one third of the officers were killed, including General Braddock, who died a few days later from wounds received in that battle. It was an absolute massacre, and young George Washington was right in the middle of it. Yet miraculously, while carrying the General’s orders to the commanders in the field on horseback in the heat of that battle, Washington survived.
Meanwhile, rumors had reached Mt. Vernon that he had been killed, so from the safety of Fort Cumberland, George wrote John Washington:
“Dear Brother, As I have heard, since my arrival at this place, a circumstantial account of my death and dying speech, I take this early opportunity of contradicting the first, and of assuring you, that I have not as yet composed the latter. But, by the all powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my com¬panions on every side of me!”*
Recalling Psalm 91:7, young George Washington believed that Almighty God’s protective Providence enabled him survive the massacre, which is yet another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Check out Psalm 91 and reflect on God’s providential protection in your life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you that you are my Refuge and Fortress, my God in whom I trust. Thank you for preserving George Washington in battle so that he could become the American Commander-In-Chief and our first President. We pray for your protection over all our men and women in harm’s way in the Armed Forces, 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, 12 vols., (Boston: Russell, Odiorne, and Metcalf, 1834), 2:89.
Isaac Watts was born on July 17, 1674. Brought up in the home of a religious non-conformist, young Isaac attended the Dissenting Academy, and eventually became pastor of a large independent chapel in London. Later his focus turned to education and hymn writing. He composed over 650 hymns, some of which are still sung, like “Joy to the World” at Christmas and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” at Easter. His efforts earned him the title of “Father of English Hymnody.” Watts’ work Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs (1707), was widely used in American churches.* Yet it was an unusual use of Watts’ hymnal that is the subject of this lost episode.
On June 23, 1780, Pastor James Caldwell, a Chaplain in the New Jersey militia, rode up and down the lines encouraging the men to bravery during the Battle of Springfield, New Jersey. The outnumbered militia, alongside a regiment of Rhode Islanders, was holding their own against an onslaught of battle-hardened British and Hessian troops, when suddenly the calls came up and down the line that they were running out of wadding. The ball and powder in cartridge paper was topped off by “wadding” to make the musket more accurate. Without it, they were in big trouble.
Quick-thinking Pastor Caldwell mounted his horse and galloped off to the Springfield Presbyterian Church with an idea. Nearly every Presbyterian Church had stacks of Watts’ hymnbook. Caldwell ran into the church, grabbed as many hymnals as he could carry, thundered back to the battle lines and began slinging them to the soldiers, and as he did, he roared: “Give ‘em Watts, boys! Put Watts into them!” The soldiers cheered and ripped pages from the hymnals and did, indeed, give the enemy a heavy dose of Watts!*
That move enabled the New Jersey militia and Rhode Island regulars to hold their own until Continental Army reinforcements could arrive and the British advance could be stopped and the tide of the battle turned. The use of Watts’ hymnal not only for worship but also as a weapon is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 and reflect on the fact that God’s people were led into battle by singing and compare that to the use of Watts’ hymnal in the Battle of Springfield.
Prayer: Father, we praise your name! Your mercy endures forever! We thank you that time and time again you helped us in battle. Help us even now, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citations: Stephen A. Marini, Sacred Song in America: Religion, Music, and Public Culture (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2003), 71-76; Washington Irving, Life of George Washington, 5 vols., (New York: G.P. Putnam and Co., 1852), 4:61-72.
“I believe that to be bound by laws to which he does not consent by himself, or by his representative, is the direct definition of a slave. I do therefore believe that a dependence on Great Britain… is utterly inconsistent with every idea of liberty, for the defence of which I have solemnly pledged my life and fortune to my countrymen; and this engagement I will sacredly adhere to so long as I shall live. Amen…
“You have told Congress, ‘if, after the time that may be necessary to consider this communication and transmit your answer, the horrors and devastations of war should continue, we call God and the world to witness that the evils which must follow are not to be imputed to Great Britain.’… Matters of this kind may appear to you…. as mere ornamental flowers of rhetoric, but they are serious things, registered in the high chancery of Heaven…
“There is One above us Who will take exemplary vengeance for every insult upon His majesty [Deut. 32:35]. You know that the cause of America is just. You know that she contends for that freedom to which all men are entitled – that she contends against oppression, rapine, and more than savage barbarity. The blood of the innocent is upon your hands, and all the waters of the ocean will not wash it away. We again make our solemn appeal to the God of heaven to decide between you and us [1 Sam. 24:10-15]. And we pray that, in the doubtful scale of battle, we may be successful as we have justice on our side, and that the merciful Savior of the world may forgive our oppressors [Acts 7:59-60].
“I am, my Lords and Gentlemen, the friend of human nature, and one who glories in the title of
The passionate argument of Samuel Adams, combined with an appeal to the God of heaven and the Savior of the world, is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 1 Sam. 24:10-15 and reflect on David’s appeal to God as judge between himself and King Saul and compare that with Sam Adams’ appeal.
Prayer: Father, we humbly appeal to you, the God of heaven and Savior of the world, to stand by us when persecuted and oppressed by a government that has little regard to our freedoms, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Harry Alonzo Cushing, ed., The Writings of Samuel Adams, 4 vols., (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-1908), 4:38.