Many people in our country have a bleak view of the future. Political corruption, immorality, terrorism, threats to American sovereignty and the prospect of continued wars in the Middle East contribute to this dark outlook. However, long ago Jesus warned us that “wars and rumors of wars” must come to pass, “but the end is not yet.” Neither do the formidable obstacles that confront us today signal the end of America in view of God’s providential design for our nation.
Throughout the Revolutionary War, American soldiers felt God’s providential presence. On Aug. 29, 1776, not long after our war for independence against Great Britain began, things appeared hopeless for the American cause. Colonial forces under the command of Gen. George Washington on Long Island, N.Y., had suffered a great number of casualties. Although saved from complete defeat by heavy rains, the ill-equipped army found itself surrounded on three sides by an overwhelming British force commanded by Gen. William Howe. Outnumbered 3 to 1, with their backs to the mile-wide East River that was controlled by the British Navy, the Continental Army’s situation was “perilous” and presented “most formidable obstacles,” according to Col. Benjamin Tallmadge of Connecticut.
Washington decided to evacuate his troops across the channel in small boats under the cover of darkness. While a strong northeast wind prevented the British ships from coming up the river from the harbor, it also hindered a hasty retreat. At midnight, the breeze shifted, allowing American boats to sharply increase the speed of the evacuation. As dawn appeared on the horizon, many troops had not yet been removed – including those commanded by Col. Tallmadge. He explained what happened next:
“At this time a very dense fog began to rise and it seemed to settle in a peculiar manner over both encampments. I recollect this peculiar providential occurrence perfectly well; and so very dense was the atmosphere that I could scarcely discern a man at six yards’ distance.”
The crossing continued until all the troops were safely on the other side of the river, and then the fog began to dissipate. Tallmadge later wrote of this narrow escape: “In the history of warfare, I do not recollect a more fortunate retreat. After all, the providential appearance of the fog saved a part of our army from being captured.”
Four years after Washington’s miraculous escape, Gen. Benedict Arnold attempted to betray our country by surrendering the fort at West Point, N.Y., without offering resistance to British forces. Located at a strategic point on the Hudson River, Gen. Nathanael Greene noted that loss of the fort would have “given the American cause a deadly wound if not a fatal stab.” On Sept. 26, 1780, Gen. Greene wrote that the plot to relinquish our defense was uncovered by a “providential train of circumstances” which afforded “the most convincing proofs that the liberties of America are the object of divine protection.”
Following the conclusion of the war, the venerable Dr. Benjamin Franklin remarked in his famous oration June 28, 1787, before the Constitutional Convention: “All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.”
Gen. Washington never forgot how God had frequently intervened in the American cause. In his first Inaugural Address, given in New York City not far from the place where his army had narrowly escaped capture, Washington noted, “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.”
In his proclamation of Oct. 3, 1789, calling upon the people to thank God for the newly formed constitutional government, Washington declared, “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. …”
That same providential God has sustained America through two world wars, the Cold War and several other conflicts around the world. Through economic depressions, natural disasters, acts of terrorism and political strife, He has been our strength and stability. Only blocks away from where Washington gave that first Inaugural Address, terrorists brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 2001. On the same day, Congress assembled on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to ask God that He grant favor to our nation.
Although we face new and seemingly insurmountable difficulties in the world today, we can look with assurance and hope to that power Who protected and defended us in our past. As Benjamin Franklin so aptly stated at the Constitutional Convention, “God governs in the affairs of men.” Like our forefathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence, we can place “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” and in Him who can alter “the course of human events” and still governs in the affairs of men.
Related special offers: