Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday, President Washington!

Below are some of our first President's quotes and excerpts:

From his prayer journel:

“O Most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ, my merciful and loving Father; I acknowledge and confess my guilt in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day. I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of my sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers are become my sin, and they stand in need of pardon.”

“ I have sinned against heaven and before Thee in thought, word, and deed. I have contemned Thy majesty and holy laws. I have likewise sinned by omitting what I ought to have done and committing what I ought not. I have rebelled against the light, despising Thy mercies and judgment, and broken my vows and promise. I have neglected the better things. My iniquities are multiplied and my sins are very great. I confess them, O Lord, with shame and sorrow, detestation and loathing and desire to be vile in my own eyes as I have rendered myself vile in Thine. I humbly beseech Thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins for the sake of Thy dear Son and only Savior Jesus Christ who came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Thou gavest Thy Son to die for me.”

"Make me to know what is acceptable in Thy sight, and therein to delight, open the eyes of my understanding, and help me thoroughly to examine myself concerning my knowledge, faith, and repentance, increase my faith, and direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life…”

First Inaugural Address, New York, Thursday, April 30, 1789

“…it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that 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…No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those 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; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage…”

Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

"Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

Wallbuilders has this sermon preached on February 22, 1863 in Connecticut by the pastor of the First Congregational Church, George Richards (1816-1869).


Jonathan said...

Washington's Prayer Journal has been debunked as a fraud. Google "prayer journal" with "Frank E. Grizzard" the scholar who is in charge of GW's manuscripts at UVA.

Rod said...

Thanks Jonathan. I should have titled that section "prayers" instead of "prayer journal".

Grizzard, if I remember correctly, is somewhat hostile to the notion of Washington's Christian faith. And while there is no "prayer journal" of George Washington as such, several of his written prayers do survive.

George Washington was very much a praying man.

Jonathan said...

My pleasure.

I am likeminded with Grizzard on GW's Christianity. I agree that many of GW's prayers survive and that GW was a praying man. However, none of his existing prayers have explicitly Christian content like those in the "prayer journal"; they are all prayers to a generic or philosophical deity.

GW was very much a man of "religion and morality," but not, as far as I have researched (and I've read virtually everything GW has to say on religion), a man of orthodox Christianity.

Rod said...


Are you familiar with Jared Sparks’ “The Writings of George Washington” (1834)? Or William Johnson’s “George Washington the Christian” (1919)? Or more recently Michael and Jana Novak’s “George Washington’s God”?

Or how about the letters of Washington’s granddaughter (“daughter”) Nelly Custis Lewis?

All of these are strong evidences of Washington’s Christianity; and with the exception of the Novak’s book are much older and more reliable than most modern writings.

Jonathan said...

Yes I'm familiar with them and actually reviewed the Novaks' book in the Dec. 2006 ed. of Liberty Magazine. I somewhat comically entitled the review "George Washington, Infidel." By that I meant what Washington likely secretly believed, though not strict Deism, the orthodox of the Founding era were likely to term "infidelity" or "heresy." Conservative evangelicals tended to be even less politically correct in the Founding era than they are today.

I disagree that older books are more reliable than modern ones. From what I've seen they are more likely to contain errors. "GW the Christian" repeats many of the errors that have been debunked in the modern age.

Sparks is an interesting character. Like America's key Founders he considered himself a "Christian"; yet, again like them, he was a theological unitarian. The orthodox believe Christianity, by its nature is Triune. Hence that makes Sparks either a) not a Christian, b) an infidel, or c) at its kindest a "Christian heretic." Sparks' understanding of "what is a Christian?" is broader and more liberal than that of evangelicals or Roman Catholics of traditional orthodoxy.

I agree that Washington could qualify as a "Christian" under this broader and more liberal standard that does not view original sin, the trinity, incarnation, atonement, eternal damnation, or infallibility of the Bible as central elements. But this "Christianity" if its fair to even term it that, is a different animal than the Christianity of the orthodox which is what most religious conservatives (whether Catholic or evangelical) mean when they refer to "Christianity."