WASHINGTON — So many modern skeptics claim George Washington was a deist and not a Christian that many people believe it is true.
But one of the nation’s top experts has assembled a mountain of evidence that just the opposite is true, and has used Washington’s own words to prove it.
Dr. Peter Lillback, author of the No. 1 national bestseller “George Washington’s Sacred Fire,” believes the key lies in Washington’s deep belief in Providence.
Deists believe in a God who does not interfere in the affairs of mankind.
Washington saw the hand of God everywhere, especially in guiding the birth of America.
In his book, Lillback described how Washington saw Providence as “God’s invisible workings and interpositions in human history … His determination of great events … His governing of all events … and the means by which He permits things to happen but also brings about the final results.”
The concept was so central to his beliefs, Washington spoke of Providence some 270 times in both his public utterances and private writings.
A typical example of that staunch belief was expressed by “the father of his country” in a letter to Brigadier General Thomas Nelson on Aug. 20, 1778.
An awestruck Gen. Washington claimed the only reason the greatest military force on earth, the British Empire, had not demolished his ragtag band of farmer-soldiers was because of God’s intervention, writing, “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all of this” that anyone who could not see that “must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith.”
Lillback noted that even when things looked the bleakest, Washington retained his faith, writing to his brother John Augustine in 1776, “I cannot but think the prospect will righten, although for a wise purpose it is, at present hidden under a cloud…”
Five years later, the general recognized God’s Providence in bringing him to the edge of victory, writing, “We have, as you very justly observed, abundant reason to thank providence for its many favourable interpositions in our behalf. It has, at times been my only dependence for all other resources seemed to have fail’d us.”
According to Lillback, Washington even had his own “Doctrine of Providence,” which defined the phenomenon as one that could test a person’s patience, fortitude and virtue. But, such trials could be survived if one would submit “without lament” or “murmur” and show gratitude, humility and thanksgiving. And, “knowing God can bring good from evil,” it is right to “give glory and praise for God’s Providence … with appropriate piety, and sometimes even astonishment.”
Washington was so devout and so grateful to the almighty’s Providence, that, on the day he became president, he dedicated America to God.
“Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″ commemorates the events of April 30, 1789, when, after being sworn in at Federal Hall, President Washington, accompanied by Congress, proceeded to St. Paul’s Chapel where, as one of his first official acts, the president offered a prayer of dedication to God on America’s behalf.
Now in its third year, the event is the brainchild of Dan Cummins, pastor of Bridlewood Church in Bullard, Texas.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., will host, Mike Huckabee will emcee, and some of America’s most principled public servants will commemorate the 225th inaugural anniversary of President George Washington, with members of Congress and national Christian leaders honoring the first U.S. president as a man of Christian faith.
Several lawmakers will offer prayers on behalf of the nation, our president and his Cabinet, the Supreme Court and its justices and members of Congress.
Sign up here to watch the webcast of “Washington: A Man of Prayer” from the U.S. Capitol on May 7, 2014 at 7:30 EST. You can be there virtually and experience the history-in-the-making, the camaraderie, the inspiration and the prayers, just by signing up on this page for FREE.
Those who claim Washington was a deist usually also claim he was not an observant Christian.
Lillback again uses Washington’s own words to counter that claim, citing, for instance, a 1769 letter in which he wrote “On my honor and the faith of a Christian, what I have written to you is true.”
The scholar also claims there is overwhelming evidence of Washington’s practice and commitment to Christian prayer in his own words.
For example, his General Orders at Valley Forge on May 2, 1778: “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.”
Lillback also relies on the accounts of Washington’s contemporaries, such as the Rev. Muhlenberg, who was visiting his son, General John Peter Muhlenberg at Valley Forge, and who wrote: “I heard a fine example today, namely that His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God, to put away wickedness that has set in and become so general, and to practice Christian virtues. From all appearances General Washington does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God’s Word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness.”
Returning once more to the central question, Lillback quoted Mary Thompson, research specialist at Mount Vernon, who disputed the accepted notion for the last 40 years that Washington was a deist, saying, “I found very early on that this was a man who believed that God took an active role in the founding of the United States, a man who believed that God took an active interest in people’s lives, and that the way a person behaved in reference to God would influence how God related to him. And that’s not the belief of a Deist.”
The biographer concluded that Washington believed America to be a nation under divine Providential care.
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When Washington wrote in his Farewell Address of 1796, “Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its virtue?” Lillback took it to mean that he was saying that a nation is happy according to the level of its virtue.
The author also cited a Washington letter from 1783, in which he wrote: “For my own part, Gentlemen, in whatever situation I shall be hereafter, my supplications, will ever ascend to Heaven, for the prosperity of my Country in general; and for the individual happiness of those who are attached to the Freedom, and Independence of America.”
According to Lillback, “If I understand Washington correctly in this last citation, he intended to pray for America until the day he died, and maybe even afterwards. It is sad that so many are seeking to keep America from praying as Washington did for his beloved country.”
And that’s what “Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″ is all about, following his example as a man who prayed for his country.
Cummins calls this year’s celebration of “Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″ on May 7, now in its third consecutive year, “a historic first” because, even though the event is exclusively for members of Congress, churches around the world will be able to watch on a global webcast and join in offering prayers for our nations and its leaders.
The event will be broadcast globally by the Daystar Television Network, with WorldNetDaily Films and CBN News providing the satellite feed from Statuary Hall.
(That hall, where Congress met from 1807 to 1857, is where Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both attended non-denominational Christian worship services, inside the Capitol.)
Churches can register online to host the webcast during their Wednesday midweek services at “Washington: A Man of Prayer.”
In addition to Bachmann and Huckabee, those attending “Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″ will include Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Mike Lee, R-Utah; Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.; and Reps. Louie Gohmert,R-Texas; Steve King, R-Iowa; Steve Stockman, R-Texas; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; Kristi Noem, R-S.D.; Corrine Brown, D-Fla.; Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.; Jeff Miller, R-Fla.; Diane Black, R-Tenn.; Steve Womack, R-Ark.; and Chris Stewart, R-Utah; Jim Bridenstine R-Okla.; John Mica R-Fla.
As a bipartisan event, invitations have been sent to all 535 members of the 113th Congress.
Chaplains of the House and Senate, Fr. Patrick Conroy and the Rev. Barry Black will also participate. The United States Marine Band will also perform.
Christian leaders participating include the program director for the event, Dr. Jim Garlow, as well as Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., Dr. Robert Jeffress, Phyllis Schlafly, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, Star Parker, Penny Nance, Dr. Peter Lillback, Bill Federer, Bishop Angel Nunez, Rosemary Schindler Garlow, Charmaine Yoest, Sergio De La Mora, Tony Perkins, Samuel Rodriguez and Rafael Cruz (father of Sen. Ted Cruz.)
Downloadable promotional materials are available “Washington: A Man of Prayer” website. Also, free school curriculum (K-12) on the historical events surrounding the inauguration of President George Washington has been provided by the Brook Hill School of Bullard, Texas.
WND will run a preview piece on “Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″ every week during the 10 weeks leading up to the event on May 7.
Read these WND articles on “Washington: A Man of Prayer, 2014″:
See a clip of Rabbi Jonathan Cahn speaking during last year’s events:
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth.