Category Archives: Lost Episodes
American Statesman John Armstrong, Jr. died on April 1, 1843 after having served as a Major under General Horatio Gates in the War for Independence, a delegate to the Continental Congress (1787-88), a U.S. Senator (1800-04), U.S. Ambassador to France (1804-06) and Spain (1806-10), and Secretary of War (1813). In a letter to his son James occasioned by the untimely death of his son on April 12, 1794, John Armstrong wrote:
“In infancy you were presented to God in the ordinance of baptism solemn engagements were therein entered into for your instruction &c in the faith and practice of Christianity…, voluntarily taking these solemn obligations upon yourself and beseeching the free mercy of God through Christ the Mediator to enable you to perform these vows by giving you the spiritual blessing signified in and by that ordinance…
“[I]f…a cold indifference or negligence toward God, the state of the soul, the Mediator, his ordinances and institutions hath been prevalent, and habitual this fully marks an unrenewed state of the soul involving in it infidelity, aversion and contempt of the gospel and the revealed will of God (hence are men in a state of nature called haters of God). Nor is this spiritual and moral disease to be healed by a better education, a few external, transient thoughts.
“It requires the hand of the great Physician, the Lord Jesus Christ, by His Holy Spirit, and belief of the truth renewing the state of the mind and disposition of the heart as well, thereby leading the soul from a sense of fear of the wrath of God, the penalty of this broken law, and helpless in itself, to flee to the merits of Jesus, that only refuge or foundation which God hath laid in His Church, and who was made sin for us (that is, a sin-offering), that all ‘believers be made the righteousness of God by Him’ [2 Cor. 5:21].”*
John Armstrong’s admonition to his son to do some introspection into his faith is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and reflect on Paul’s words and compare them to the closing words of John Armstrong’s letter.
Prayer: Father, we acknowledge our utter sinfulness and confess your absolute holiness. Without Christ we are lost. In Christ, we are made new. We praise you, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Alfred Nevin, Centennial Biography, Men of Mark of the Cumberland Valley, PA 1776-1876 (Philadelphia: Fulton Publishing Company, 1876), 78.
On March 31, 1776, General George Washington wrote to his brother, John Augustine Washington, from Cambridge, Massachusetts detailing the Continental Army’s maneuvers and Divine help that led to the evacuation of the British from occupied Boston. During the night of March 4, Washington moved 3,000 men to the base of Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston, a very risky enterprise because the location was in full view of British land forces and warships. But, suddenly a low mist rolled in, perfect timing to conceal Patriot movements. Boston and the Red Coats remained shrouded in fog throughout the night; so they could not see what was happening. While at the same time, the top of the hill was perfectly clear of fog, fully lit by a bright moon, thus aiding the Patriots who were building fortifications.
By 3:00 AM, their work was done. The 3,000 builders left, and 3,000 fresh troops moved in. At dawn, the British looked at the Patriot fortifications with amazement. British Captain Charles Stuart wrote that the guns appeared “like magic.” Another officer put the blame on “the genie belonging to Aladdin’s wonderful lamp.” The rebels have “done more in one night than my whole army would have done in months,” said British General William Howe.*
Howe desperately wanted to attack Dorchester Heights, now crawling with Continental soldiers and cannons. He made hasty preparations, but, according to historian J. T. Flexner, “the sky suddenly blackened with what soldiers on both sides considered the most awesome storm they had ever seen.” The winds were of hurricane strength, making a British attack impossible. Americans continued to work through the storm, and, when the sky cleared, Patriot fortifications were such as to convince Howe that an attack on Dorchester would be suicidal. Two weeks later, the Patriots fortified and armed Nobs Hill, making Boston untenable for the British. Completely humiliated, Howe elected to evacuate and Boston was liberated.
George Washington wrote his brother:
“Upon their discovery of the works next morning, great preparations were made for attacking them; but not being ready before the afternoon, and the weather getting very tempestuous, much blood was saved, and a very important blow, to one side or the other, was prevented. That this most remarkable Interposition of Providence is for some wise purpose, I have not a doubt.”*
Washington’s recognition of God’s Providential intervention in the liberation of Boston is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 2 Samuel 22:12-15, 45-46 and reflect on David’s psalm on God’s deliverance from his enemies and compare that to some of the Providential circumstances of Boston’s deliverance.
Prayer: “The LORD is our rock and our fortress and our deliverer. He is our shield, stronghold and refuge. You are our Savior and we will call on you because you are worthy to be praised, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citations: David McCullough, 1776 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), 105: 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), 3:341.
“Whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord [Psalm 33:12];
“And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
“But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own [Deut. 8:11-17].
“Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
“It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness [2 Chronicles 7:14]….
“And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion…”*
Lincoln’s passionate call for a National Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Deut. 8:11-17 and reflect on the propensity God’s people have for forgetting His blessings and compare it to Lincoln’s proclamation.
Prayer: Father, forgive us for failing to acknowledge you as the source of our success as a nation and as individuals. We thank you for your gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1902, 11 vols., (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1907,
Born on March 29, 1790, John Tyler became the 10th President of the United States (1841-45) upon the death of President William Henry Harrison. He was responsible for the Annexation of Texas (1844) and the city of Tyler is named after him. On Friday, April 9, 1841, Tyler declared in his Inaugural Address:
“Fellow-citizens… the painful communication was made to you… of the deeply regretted death of William Henry Harrison, late President of the United States… While standing at the threshold of this great work he has by the dispensation of an all-wise Providence been removed from amongst us…
“For the first time in our history the person elected to the Vice-Presidency of the United States, by the happening of a contingency provided for in the Constitution, has had devolved upon him the Presidential office….
“My earnest prayer shall be constantly addressed to the all-wise and all-powerful Being who made me, and by whose dispensation I am called to the high office of President….
“Confiding in the protecting care of an ever watchful and overruling Providence, it shall be my first and highest duty to preserve unimpaired the free institutions under which we live and transmit them to those who shall succeed me in their full force and vigor.”
President Tyler’s recognition of the overruling Providence of God in his elevation to the presidency is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 121 and reflect on the fact that God watches over us and compare that with President Tyler’s announcement.
Prayer: Maker of Heaven and Earth, our help comes from you. We praise you for your Providence that preserves our going out and our coming in, from this time forth, and even forevermore, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1902, 11 vols., (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1907, 1910), 4:36-39.
Nathaniel Freeman was born on March 28, 1741. He became a soldier, public servant, and a jurist. He served as Brigadier General of the Massachusetts Militia (1781-93), a member of the state legislature, and served Massachusetts as a U.S. Representative to Congress (1795-99). He also served as a Judge of Probate for 47 years and as a Judge of Common Pleas for 30 years. In 1802, Judge Nathaniel Freeman gave a charge to the Massachusetts Grand Jury:
“[O]urs is a government of laws and not of men. Originating in the voluntary compact of a people who in that very instrument profess the Christian religion, it may be considered, not as republican like Rome was, a Pagan, but a Christian republic.
“This religion, being founded not in fable as that was, but in divine revelation [2 Peter 1:16], embraces the Bible as the word, will, and law of the universal Sovereign; our obligations to, and expectations from whom, as well as his perfections and attributes we can know but little of without.
“The laws of that system therefore must be respected as of high authority in all our courts. And it cannot be thought improper for the officers of such government to acknowledge their obligation to be governed by its rule”*
Judge Nathaniel Freeman’s opinion that the courts and elected officials should respect the Bible and particularly the Christian faith is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read 2 Peter 1:16-20 and reflect on Peter’s assertion that our faith is not based on cleverly devised fables but on reality affirmed by Scripture, then compare that with Judge Freeman’s statement.
Prayer: Father, we are grateful for our faith, founded not on fable but on fact – the death, burial and resurrection of Christ – to which the Scriptures give witness, in His Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Nathaniel Freeman, A charge to the Grand Jury, at the Court of General sessions of the Peace, Holden at Barnstable, Within and for the County of Barnstable (Boston: Manning & Loring, 1802), 7.