June 28, 2020
It was a blistering hot day at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, yet the temperature outside was nothing compared to the heated exchanges going on inside. The 55 delegates had convened there on May 25, 1787, to discuss improving the but by June 28, the Constitutional Convention was at a standstill. (see ) Many were frustrated, with several ready to give up, prompting Benjamin Franklin, the oldest delegate of the convention, to make a statement.
Reminding the delegates of their task, he reviewed their initial duty of studying ancient forms of government, concluding none were applicable to the new country. Thus, they were in uncharted territory. In performing their duty, Franklin continued by inquiring why they were attempting such an important and critical task without the guidance of God. Recalling their daily prayers in that very room at the Continental Congress during their fight against the British, he reminded them of the multiple instances of Divine Providence the Patriots witnessed. (see , , and ) Commenting that if they ignore God now, their efforts to build a new country will fall to the fate of the Tower of Babel. (see )
To conclude his speech, Franklin presented a humble and thoughtful request:
"I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service."
Upon finishing his speech, Franklin returned to his seat as Roger Sherman (CT) immediately seconded the motion. Discussion ensued over the measure, with arguments including starting prayers at such a late time in negotiations could instill fear in the citizens that the delegates were having trouble. However, Hugh Williamson (NC), a Presbyterian minister himself, stated they simply didn't have the funds to pay a minister to present a prayer each day. As a result, Edmund Randolph (VA) proposed Congress attend a Fourth of July sermon, which Franklin seconded.
Congress adjourned for three days without voting on either motion, but that did not mean they didn't take action. During their break, many delegates attended Old First Reformed Church. During the service, Rev. William Rogers offered up a special prayer for the proceedings, which was recorded in a local newspaper.
When the delegates returned on July 2, the animosity and contention had largely dissolved. As Jonathan Dayton (NJ) noted: "We assembled again; and ... every unfriendly feeling had been expelled, and a spirit of conciliation had been cultivated.” In addition, George Washington confirmed the delegates also “hear[d] an oration on the anniversary of independence.” (see ) A little over two months later, the delegates emerged with a signed . (see )
Historians today are trying to rewrite history and deny our Founding Fathers' devotion to God. They claim only a handful were actually religious, yet research shows that at least 50 were devout members of Christian Trinitarian churches with many actively involved in their congregations. While the delegates didn't have money to pay a minister, most were so moved they likely took it upon themselves to pray on their own.
Following Franklin's speech, Dayton declared, “The Doctor sat down; and never did I behold a countenance at once so dignified and delighted as was that of Washington at the dose of the address; nor were the members of the convention generally less affected. The words of the venerable Franklin fell upon our ears with a weight and authority, even greater that we may suppose an oracle to have had in a Roman senate!”
Upon completing the , Alexander Hamilton (NY) is believed to have stated, "For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests."
Likewise, James Madison (VA) proclaimed, "It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution."
One of the most common current-day arguments against our Founding Fathers' faith is that Franklin was a Deist. However, Franklin was greatly influenced by Evangelist Rev. George Whitfield, eventually prompting him to avidly read his Bible and join the Presbyterian Church. (see ) By definition, Deists maintain the existence of God, but do not believe he intervenes with humans. Franklin's own speech proves this is not the case with him. The fact that he even proposes prayer before the sessions is indisputable proof he believed in God's divinity and ability to guide those that turned to Him.
SPIRIT OF CONCILIATION
Once the was signed, Franklin stated: "[I] beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired when it formed the new federal . . . [yet] I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing (and to exist in the posterity of a great nation) should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits 'live and move and have their being' [Acts 17:28]."
As Western civilization entered the age of "Enlightenment," critics present this as another argument against the Founders' faith. However, there were two groups that comprised this movement: believers and non-believers. We can see the difference in the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Americans turned to God, especially George Washington, in guidance during the war and as they tried to organize the new government. (see ) They also followed the writings of believers, such as Sir William Blackstone, Montesquieu, and John Locke, who inspired Thomas Jefferson to use "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness," in the . (see and ) On the other hand, those driving the French Revolution sought to cut out God as they cut off the heads of their political opponents. (see and ) They absorbed the teachings of non-believers such as David Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau, conducting orgies on the altar of Notre Dame Cathedral as they worshipped reason and their own intelligence. Radical citizens painted the streets with the blood of those who resisted the revolution. Where the American Revolution sought freedom and liberty to enjoy our God-given rights, the French Revolution was fueled by the barbarous elimination of dissenters, forcing citizens to choose to kneel to their wants or face death.
Liberty, as Marxists are actively and literally trying to burn down our country right now, we are even more divided than those at the Constitutional Convention. People are coming to the table with completely different objectives. Capitalists want to return to the foundations of our while the Marxists admittedly want to abolish it and the , starting all over with a socialist/communist utopia. (see ) Even though history has proven a Marxist society has never been achieved, the disciples of this ideology truly believe that it is because it has not been done the right way yet.
We have forgotten the Divine Providence we received as we fought for and won our independence. We have fallen away and failed to teach our children about God’s hand in our founding and during times of trials. (see , , and )
As many Americans wonder if our country will even survive until the election in November, Franklin's speech is as applicable today as it was back then. What makes us think we can get out of the mess we find ourselves in today on our own? Rage and hatred fill the hearts of many and the way to find the spirit of conciliation, or defusing the anger, is the same as in 1787.
It is time for God’s people in America and around the world to humble ourselves, get on their knees and repent for not following Him. Let us pray for God’s protection and guidance as well as imploring Him to heal our nation. God is a merciful God and a God of love, the only antidote to the hate and anger we see on our streets.
Franklin’s entire speech is printed . I encourage you to read and ponder his words.
That’s my 2 cents.
"In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.- Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. 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. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that "except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest."