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Men Of The Revolutionary War

 

Do we know what the men who fought the seven year "War for Independence" were like?  If we know, how do we know?  We are familiar with many of these: Adams, Jefferson, Patrick Henry and there were innumerable more from every walk of life whose words reveal that they were not only educated men but devout Christians.  We learn best what they were like from their own words or from their contemporaries.

Writer James L. Alden states, "It is no slight testimonial to the verity and worth of Christianity, that in all ages since its promulgation, the great mass of those who have risen to eminence by their profound wisdom, integrity, and philanthropy, have recognized and reverenced Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of the living God.  To the names of Augustine, Xavier, Fenelon, Milton, Locke..., and their thousands of compeers in Christian faith, among the world's wisest and noblest, it is not without pride that the American may add, from among his countrymen, those of such men as Washington, Jay, Patrick Henry, and John Quincy Adams."1

A page from Frothingham’s "Rise of the Republic" gives us a portrait showing the various walks of life from which those men came and the trend of their thoughts: there were newspaper editors, farmers, judges, soldiers.  In this extended quotation we read:

"As the thoughtful reflected on the resources of this magnificent country, it seemed to them that the Almighty had formed it for the abode of a people that should stand pre-eminent in the world.  But their ideal of what should constitute a country was not simply hills and valleys, land and water, but spiritual things as well....  By utterances and action in harmony with these views, the sentiment of nationality became the spring and passion of the popular party.  To trace its development is to trace the steps of a free people, when, with minds exalted by such views, they assumed the dignity and responsibility of decreeing themselves a nation." [....copied into the "Boston Gazette" of March 25.']  (References in brackets are Frothingham's)

Some citations are from what purports to be an Address of an Honest, Sensible, and Spirited Farmer to an Assembly of his Neighbors, on entering the Continental Service, printed in the "Pennsylvania Journal" of Feb. 28, 1776.  It was urged that independence "was the path of empire, glory, liberty, and peace," and that labor in such a cause was labor on the side of Providence.

"The Almighty," said Chief-Justice Drayton, of South Carolina, from the bench, "created America to be independent of Great Britain: to refuse our labors in this divine work is to refuse to be a great, a free, a pious, and a happy people." [Charge at the Court of General Sessions, April 23, 1776.]

The following extracts from elaborate articles in the newspapers give an idea of the high-toned political utterances of the period of the adoption of the Declaration, and of the first years of its maintenance.

"It is apparent that the Almighty Constructor of the Universe, having formed this continent of materials to compose a state pre-eminent in the world, is now making use of the tyranny of the British rulers as an instrument to fashion and arrange those materials for the end for which, in his wisdom, he had formed them."  [William Henry Drayton, Chief Justice of South Carolina, Charge to the Court, April 23,1776.]

A Soldier writes: "The whole series of divine dispensations, from the infant days of our fathers in America, are big with importance in her favor, and point to something great and good.  If we look round the world, and view the nations with their various connections, interests, and dependencies, we shall see innumerable causes at work in favor of this growing country...."2  (End of quote from Frothngham)

Perhaps you, as I, noticed the many varied references to our God.  How often do we use such excellent ways of speaking about him in our conversations and writings?  I confess I am remiss in acknowledging in this way the glorious character of the Divine Creator of the universe!  I am determined to emulate them-starting now.

I cannot, however, leave a review of the words of our Founders without one from our first President so I chose this one from a letter written to Major-General Armstrong, March 26, 1781, two years before the war ended.  (Notice the construction of his sentences.  An uneducated man?  I beg your pardon!):

Our affairs are brought to a perilous crisis, that the hand of Providence, I trust, may be more conspicuous in our deliverance.  The many remarkable interpositions of the Divine government in the hours of our deepest distress and darkness, have been too luminous to suffer me to doubt the happy issue of the present contest; but the period for its accomplishment may be too far distant for a person of my years, who in his morning and evening hours, and every moment unoccupied by business, pants for retirement, and for those domestic and rural enjoyments, which in my estimation far surpass the highest pageantry of this world.3

America has a marvelous heritage.  We are the heirs of the Old World’s Christian perspective, particularly of England’s.  This is illustrated by the example of one young English soldier who "happened" to find himself a spy in the British army.  In the providence of God he was apprehended and executed.  His character, however, reflected the Christian beliefs of those who lived in England at that time and I was so impressed with the proof of our having a Christian heritage going back even before our country was settled that I wanted to include the beautiful poem he wrote a few days before he died. 

The Hiding Place

Hail, sovereign love that first began

The scheme to rescue fallen man!

Hail, matchless free, eternal grace

That gave my soul a hiding place.

 

Against the God who rules the sky

I fought with hand uplifted high;

Despised the notion of his grace

Too proud to seek a hiding place.

 

Enwrapt in thick Egyptian night,

And fond of darkness more than light,

Madly I ran the sinful race,

Secure without a hiding place.

 

And thus the eternal counsel ran:

"Almighty love, arrest that man!"

I felt the arrows of distress,

And found I had no hiding place.

 

Indignant Justice stood in view;

To Sinai's fiery mount I flew;

But Justice cried, with frowning face,

This mountain is no hiding place.

 

E'er long a heavenly voice I heard

And Mercy's angel form appeared;

She led me on with placid pace,

To Jesus as my hiding place.

 

Should storms of sevenfold thunder roll,

And shake the globe from pole to pole;

No flaming bolt could daunt my face,

For Jesus is my hiding place.

 

On him almighty vengeance fell,

That would have sunk a world to hell;

He bore it for the chosen race,

And thus became their hiding place.

 

A few more rolling suns at most

Will land me on fair Canaan's coast;

Where I shall sing the song of grace,

And see my glorious Hiding Place.4

It is clear that the colonists who fought in the War for Independence were not only heirs of the learning but of the Christian culture of England in spite of the many slurs cast at them by those ignorant of our true roots.  I trust you will find Gen. John Andre’s poem as inspiring as I did.  And appreciate even more the men who fought for our liberties.  Next time we’ll write about the women who lived and loved and supported these valiant men.  I think you’ll like that too.


Footnotes:

1. Written by James L. Alden, in his preface to a letter by John Quincy Adams, ambassador at St. Petersburgh, to one of his sons..., in 1778. Ambassador Adams was the son of Abigail and John Adams [our first Vice President and second President] and was the "last" of the Founding Fathers having been our sixth President.  (Back to article)

2. Quoted in Frothingham, Richard, "Rise of the Republic," Little, Brown, and Company, 1872, pp. 461-462. Frothingham wrote from original documents just 10 years after the Constitution was written. His works are considered one of the best sources of information about the preceding period.  (Back to article)

3. The Writings of George Washington by Jared Sparks, 1834--7, Vol. III, p. 462, quoted in Johnson, Wm. J., "George Washington The Christian", Mott Media, P.O. Box 236, Milford, Michigan-48042.  (Back to article)

4. Quoted in Ferguson, Sinclair B., "Deserted by God?", Baker Books, Michigan, pp. 87-88.  (Back to article)


Question: Do you recognize the men in the picture?

 

Answer: George Washington at 25, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.


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