On occasion after occasion, George Washington consistently sought for Americans to obey God. This was true even before he became president. Here are three examples from him.
In 1779, Washington was asked by the Indian chiefs of Delaware if their sons could be taught by the American colonists. George Washington replied, “You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and ‘above all,’ the religion of Jesus Christ.”
Later, after the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, but before the official surrender of the British in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Commander-in-Chief wrote a letter to all the governors of the 13 states. Washington told them in this famous “Circular to the States” many pieces of advice. And he closes this letter with a virtual prayer.
Here is what he said: “I now make it my earnest prayer, that 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 most graciously be 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 Characteristicks 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.”
Here is the paraphrase of what he said: We can never hope to be a happy nation unless we imitate Jesus. He is echoing here Micah 6:8 (“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”) and applying it to an imitation of Christ.
In his First Inaugural Address (1789), the father of our country said, “…the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained…”
What is he saying here? We should not expect to be blessed by God, unless we obey God’s rules.
I had the privilege of co-authoring with Dr. Peter Lillback a best-selling book called, George Washington’s Sacred Fire. This 1200-page tome documents the genuine Christianity of our first president.
I once asked Dr. Lillback what did he think Washington had in mind when he said “the eternal rules…which Heaven itself has ordained.”
Lillback responded that he thought the Ten Commandments were an excellent educated guess. After all, Washington was an active member in the Anglican Church. At that time, many of those churches had a reredos, writings behind the altar for the whole congregation to recite. These included the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.
Over and over, George Washington encouraged us as a new nation, which he helped create, to imitate God and His Son. He encouraged us to obey God’s rules of right and wrong and not disregard them. This is a consistent witness from our first president. Americans continue to ignore this advice at our nation’s peril.