How did Jesus influence America's founders?
There is an on-going debate on whether the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Were our early leaders devout believers in Jesus? Well, what did they write about themselves?
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army often prayed and fasted, invoking God’s protection and providence during the entire War of Independence. He appointed chaplains for every regiment. In 1789, at his inauguration as the first President of the United States, Washington said:
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to the Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge….
No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States.
Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency….
On Oct. 3, 1789, Washington issued a National Day of Thanksgiving Proclamation in which he stated:
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor ….
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the twenty-sixth day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these United States …. that we then may all unite unto him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed….
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord, to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us, and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
On June 8, 1783, in a letter to the governors of the states, he wrote:
I now make it my earnest prayer the God would have you and the State over which you preside, in His holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the field; and, finally, that he would be most graciously pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation.
One merely has to read the prayers that Washington wrote in his own personal prayer book to understand how deeply he relied on God. In one, he wrote:
I have sinned and done very wickedly, be merciful to me, O God, and pardon me for Jesus Christ sake…. Thou gavest Thy Son to die for me; and has given me assurance of salvation, upon my repentance and sincerely endeavoring to conform my life to His holy precepts and example.