Reflections On the Necessity of Faith from George Washington

Last Sunday I read from a passage of Scripture that General George Washington quoted directly, or made reference to, in 37 letters to friends and colleagues. I believe this passage, from the prophet Micah, was a vision the great general had for the country he was bravely fighting to create. Click HERE to go to the sermon link that includes these reflections on George Washington from last Sunday’s worship service at FBC Nederland.

Here is Washington’s beloved verse from Micah:

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.
Micah 4:4 KJV

Including this passage in his writings was only part of Washington’s public reflections on his faith. Not only did he possess a strong belief in God, but he encouraged his soldiers and officers to exercise their freedom to gather for worship on the Lord’s Day.

General George Washington’s Orders for May 2, 1778

The Commander in Chief directs that divine Service be performed every sunday at 11 oClock in those Brigades to which there are Chaplains—those which have none to attend the places of worship nearest to them—It is expected that Officers of all Ranks will by their attendance set an Example to their men.

While we are zealously performing the duties of good Citizens and soldiers we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of Religion—To the distinguished Character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to add the more distinguished Character of Christian—The signal Instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labours with complete Success, demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of Gratitude & Piety to the Supreme Author of all Good.

Before the Declaration of Independence was signed, General Washington strongly encouraged the army to place their trust in God for the advancement of their cause. He trusted that God would provide both peace and freedom, as evidenced in his General Order given on May 15, 1776.

General George Washington’s Orders for May 15, 1776

The Continental Congress having ordered, Friday the 17th. Instant to be observed as a day of “fasting, humiliation and prayer, humbly to supplicate the mercy of Almighty God, that it would please him to pardon all our manifold sins and transgressions, and to prosper the Arms of the United Colonies, and finally, establish the peace and freedom of America, upon a solid and lasting foundation”–The General commands all officers, and soldiers, to pay strict obedience to the Orders of the Continental Congress, and by their unfeigned, and pious observance of their religious duties, incline the Lord, and Giver of Victory, to prosper our arms.

When General Washington became President Washington, he used a portion of the first inaugural address to offer thanksgiving to God and testify to God’s handiwork in the creation of the United States of America.

From President George Washington’s Inaugural Address given on April 30, 1789

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. 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, cannot 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. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.

As President Washington left the public stage after completing his second term as President, he again encouraged faith in God and piety in living for all Americans. The words of his farewell address merit our reflection.

From President George Washington’s Farewell Speech given on 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 connections 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.

This year, as we celebrate our nation’s 243rd birthday, remember to pause and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And may all of our pursuits bring Him glory!

Happy 4th of July!