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Lost Episode for April 25

Jedidiah MorseIn a sermon preached on April 25, 1799, the National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer proclaimed by President John Adams, the Rev. Dr. Jedidiah Morse, Pastor of the Congregational Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, declared:

“To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism…

“I hold this to be a truth confirmed by experience.  If so, it follows, that all efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness…

“Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.”*

In addition to serving as a pastor, Morse was a pioneer educator and geographer. Morse, whom some call the “Father of American Geography,” was also the father of Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the Telegraph and the Morse Code. In addition, the elder Morse helped found the New England Tract Society (1814) and the American Bible Society (1816).  However, it was Rev. Morse’s April 25, 1799 sermon connecting the proportion of our adherence to Christianity with the proportion of our freedom that is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 11:3 and reflect on the Psalmist’s assertion and compare that with Rev. Morse’s message.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for America’s Christian heritage that provided the firm basis for our civil and religious freedoms.  Awaken your people to help shore up that crumbling foundation in this our day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America: Delivered at Charlestown, April 25, 1799, the Day of the National Fast (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1799), 9.

 

Lost Episode for April 24

Alexander HamiltonIn a letter to James A. Bayard in April 1802, Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, signer of the U.S. Constitution and co-author of the Federalist Papers, expressed his displeasure with the ascendancy of Thomas Jefferson’s Republican Party over his Federalist Party.  Hamilton enumerated both party’s weaknesses and proposed a fresh approach:

“Nothing is more fallacious than to expect to produce any valuable or permanent results in political projects, by relying merely on the reason of men…. [O]ur adversaries…are eulogizing the reason of men and…are courting the strongest and most active passion of the human heart: Vanity!  It is no less true that the federalists…erred in relying so much on the rectitude and utility of their measures as to have neglected the cultivation of popular favor…

Let an association be formed denomiated as ‘The Christian Constitutional Society.’ Its objects to be:

1st. The support of the Christian religion.

2d .  The support of the Constitution of the United States.”*

Although he was unable to realize this vision because of his untimely death at the hands of Aaron Burr, Founding Father Hamilton’s proposal for a “Christian Constitutional Society” is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Acts 11:19-26 and reflect on the name the disciples were called first in Antioch and compare it with the name that Alexander Hamilton chose for his proposed society.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for this Founding Father, who proposed that his political party get back to the basics of the Christian faith and the Constitution, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: John C. Hamilton, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton; Comprising His Correspondence, and His Political and Official Writings, Exclusive of the Federalist Civil And Military. Published from the Original Manuscripts Deposited in the Department of State by Order of the Joint Library Committee of Congress, 6 vols., (New York: John F. Trow, 1851), 6:542.

 

 

Lost Episode for April 23

John Jay CroppedOn April 23, 1811, Founding Father John Jay recounted two conversations in a letter written to John Bristed that he had with atheists in France:

“The first was this: I was at a large party, of which were several of that description. They spoke freely and contemptuously of religion. I took no part in the conversation. In the course of it, one of them asked me if I believed in Christ. I answered that I did, and that I thanked God that I did…

“Some time afterward, one of my family being dangerously ill, I was advised to send for an English physician, who had resided many years at Paris. He was said to be very skilful, but it was added, he is an atheist…He was a sedate, decent man. I frequently observed him drawing the conversation towards religion, and I constantly gave it another direction. He, nevertheless, during one of his visits, very abruptly remarked that there was no God, and he hoped the time would come when there would be no religion in the world.  I very concisely remarked that if there was no God there could be no moral obligations, and I did not see how society could subsist without them.”*

Founding Father John Jay’s letter recounting his defense of the faith while in France is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 14 and reflect on the Psalmist’s claim and compare that with Founder John Jay’s encounters with atheists.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for John Jay’s confession of faith in Christ.  Forgive us for not sharing Christ in a culture that is growing more and more “atheist,” in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: William Jay, ed., The Life of John Jay with Selections of His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, 2 vols., (New York: J & J. Harper, 1833), 2:346-47.

 

Lost Episode for April 22

Salmon P. ChaseOn April 22, 1864, Congress passed a law adding “In God We Trust” to American coinage.  The string of events leading to congressional action was set in motion by appeals from devout individuals during the Civil War to Salmon P. Chase, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln.  From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter written to Secretary Chase by the Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania, dated November 13, 1861:

“Dear Sir… One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

“You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is…inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION…the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

“This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my heart I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters. To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.”*

Secretary Chase responded to this plea one week later by instructing James Pollock, the Director of the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, to come up with a motto that reflects the fact that “No nation can be strong except in the strength of God or safe except in His defense,” and stating that “The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.”  After reviewing and refining Pollock’s submissions, Chase eventually submitted a recommendation to Congress that we add “In God We Trust” to our coins and Congress voted to approve his recommendation.  The minister’s letter that became the catalyst for this vote is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 59:9, 16-17 and reflect on the Psalmist’s prayer for God’s strength and defense against his enemies and compare it to Secretary Chase’s declaration.

Prayer: Father, we rely on your strength and defense against our enemies.  In you we trust and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: William T. R. Marvin and Lyman H. Low, eds., American Journal of Numismatics, Volumes 35-36 (Boston: T.R. Marvin & Sons, 1901), 116; John Niven, ed., The Salmon P. Chase Papers, 5 vols., (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1998), 3:263, 321.  See also the Treasury Department’s web page: http://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx.

 

Lost Episode for April 21

Thomas-Jefferson CroppedOn April 21, 1803, President Thomas Jefferson wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence, regarding his own personal view of Jesus and His teachings:

“In some of the delightful conversations with you…, the Christian religion was sometimes our topic; and I then promised you, that one day or other, I would give you my views of it. They are the result of a life of inquiry and reflection, and very different from that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions. To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others…

“[A] system of morals is presented to us, which, if filled up in the style and spirit of the rich fragments he left us, would be the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man.

“The question of his being a member of the Godhead, or in direct communication with it, claimed for him by some of his followers, and denied by others, is foreign to the present view, which is merely an estimate of the intrinsic merits of his doctrines…

“His moral doctrines… were more pure and perfect than those of the most correct of the philosophers and greatly more so than those of the Jews and they went far beyond both… A development of this… will evince the peculiar superiority of the system of Jesus over all others.”*

While Jefferson came to a place where he no longer believed in the divinity of Christ, seeing that as a later “corruption” by churchmen, he did believe the moral teachings of Jesus to be not only superior to all others but beneficial to humankind.  Thomas Jefferson’s extensive study and evaluation of the teachings of Jesus during his presidency is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read 1 John 2:18-25 and reflect on John’s teaching about Jesus being the Son of God and contrast that with Jefferson’s beliefs.

Prayer: Father, we confess with Peter and the saints of the ages the biblical truth that Jesus is indeed the “Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Even though he was not a biblical believer, we are grateful that Jefferson affirmed the moral teachings of Jesus and felt that they were good for American society.  Give us leaders who will at least do the same, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation:  Henry S. Jackson, The Life of Thomas Jefferson, 3 vols., (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1858), 3:556-57.

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