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“No wonder Americans have always proclaimed, ‘In God We Trust!’ Finally—a work of history that skillfully and accurately reveals the extraordinary story of faith and the founding of our nation. This is truly a book ‘for such a time as this.’”
"The old proverb is accurate: 'If you dwell in the past you lose an eye; if you forget the past you lose both eyes.” Our beloved America is dangerously close to losing both eyes. Books like Forged in Faith, from men like Rod Gragg, are corrective lenses intensely focused on our national roots. It is what our founding fathers wisely called “a frequent recurrence to fundamentals.' Read it and act."
“Plead Our Cause, O Lord”
Already they were bickering. It was day two of the First Continental Congress—Tuesday, September 6, 1774. Delegates from twelve of America’s thirteen colonies had assembled at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia to officially react to deteriorating relations between Great Britain and its American colonies. Decades of disagreement had led to a tense crisis between the colonies and the Mother Country. In an attempt to resolve the issues, the colonies had dispatched delegations to Philadelphia’s grand assembly, which was the first of its kind in America. Opening deliberations had been cordial and productive. The delegates had voted to call their assembly the “Continental Congress,” had appointed Virginia delegate Peyton Randolph as its president, and had agreed to meet in Philadelphia’s Carpenters’ Hall. Then came day two—and the opening display of cooperation sank into a mire of argument.1
At issue was the question of how to count votes. Large colonies wanted their large populations to count for more. Small colonies wanted equal representation. Amid the debate, Philadelphia’s church bells began tolling at the news that British forces were bombarding the city of Boston. It was a false alarm, but it added to an atmosphere of anxiety in Congress. The dark mood may have been heightened by the deadly risk each delegate faced by simply being there. The unprecedented assembly was unauthorized by Britain’s King George III or the British Parliament. Among the delegates in attendance were men who believed the British government’s treatment of the American colonies amounted to tyranny. Such politics were deemed treasonous by some, and the delegates undoubtedly knew what grisly fate sometimes befell traitors to the Crown.2
If arrested and convicted of high treason, a delegate might find himself in Great Britain’s notorious Tower of London, waiting to be “drawn and quartered.” If so sentenced, he would first be hanged until almost dead, then cut down and disemboweled. While still alive, he would be forced to watch his intestines burned. Then, one by one, other bodily organs would be torturously removed until death finally occurred. Afterward, his corpse would be beheaded and his torso cut into quarters. Finally, his head would be publicly mounted on a post. “Let us prepare for the worst,” New Jersey delegate Abraham Clark at one point advised a colleague; “we can Die here but once.” Debate on how to count votes concluded with a consensus—a single vote for each delegation—but the tension among delegates led some to fear that the Continental Congress might dissolve in disunity.3
Then Massachusetts delegate Thomas Cushing made a motion. Cushing was a forty-nine-year-old Boston lawyer, a Harvard alumnus, and a successful merchant. A member of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, he was a prominent champion of Colonial political rights—always “busy in the interest of liberty,” according to a colleague. He observed the second day’s tense deliberations with the savvy of a seasoned statesman—then he acted. From now on, Cushing formally proposed, Congress should officially open its day with prayer. The motion reflected Cushing’s personal faith—he was a deacon at Boston’s Old South Congregational Church—and it also reflected the common faith of most delegates. Even so, Cushing’s motion for prayer provoked an immediate challenge.4
Concerns were voiced by John Rutledge of South Carolina and John Jay of New York. A thirty-five-year-old London-educated attorney, Rutledge was renowned for his eloquence and political acumen. The older of two brothers in the South Carolina delegation, he would eventually become his state’s governor and later the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was anything but a critic of Christianity: tutored by clergymen as a child, he was an Anglican who worshipped at Charleston’s St. Michael’s Church.5
John Jay was also a believer. At twenty-eight, the New York attorney was a prominent member of New York City’s Trinity Church. Descended from French Huguenots who had been driven from Europe for their Protestant faith, he would eventually become president of the American Bible Society. Like Rutledge, he too would someday become a governor and a U.S. chief justice, and—like Rutledge—he made no argument for separation of church and state. They were merely concerned that a congressional prayer might increase disunity because so many Christian denominations were represented in Congress. Could the delegates unite in a congressional act of worship?6
Massachusetts delegate Samuel Adams believed so—and he quickly rose to support Cushing’s prayer motion. By almost any measure, Sam Adams was the most famous advocate of Colonial rights in America—and the most controversial. Politics was his passion, and he was a master of the craft. An instrumental leader in the Massachusetts legislature, he was viewed by many as Colonial America’s leading defender, but Britain’s leaders called him an “angel of darkness.” He too was devout. Raised in a family of committed Christians, he had considered the ministry in his youth. Now, as a middle-aged Calvinist, he took his faith seriously, and was said to possess “the dogmatism of a priest.”7
He was “no Bigot,” Sam Adams told his fellow delegates. He “could hear a Prayer from a Gentleman of Piety and Virtue, who was at the same Time a Friend to his Country”—and he heartily endorsed the call to congressional prayer. Congress agreed—and promptly passed Cushing’s motion. Beginning the next day, the Continental Congress would officially open every day’s session with prayer. But who would be the first to pray? In an obvious display of congressional unity, Samuel Adams, a Puritan Congregationalist, nominated an Anglican clergyman to offer the first official prayer. Congress approved his nomination and promptly sent an invitation to the selected minister.8
His name was Jacob Duché, and at age thirty-seven, he may have been the most popular preacher in Philadelphia. The Anglican pastor of Philadelphia’s prestigious Christ Church, Duché was the son of a former Philadelphia mayor and brother-in-law to congressional delegate Francis Hopkinson. A graduate of Cambridge University, he was well educated, served as professor of oratory at the College of Philadelphia, and was renowned for his eloquence in the pulpit. The invitation to open Congress with prayer was a measure of his prominence, but carried genuine risk: Duché was a minister in the Church of England, Britain’s official state church, and accepting the invitation could have put him in harm’s way with the British government. He accepted anyway.9
The next morning—Wednesday, September 7, 1774 — the pastor appeared before the delegates attired in Anglican clergyman’s robes. When the Congress was called to order, he opened the day’s session with a formal prayer, then followed it by reading from the Bible. The Bible passage Duché read was the Anglican “collect” for the day—the scripture scheduled for that day in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer—Psalm 35:
Plead my cause, OLORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.
Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt. Let them be as chaff before the wind: and let the angel of theLORDchase them. Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of thelordpersecute them.
For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul. Let destruction come upon him at unawares; and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall. And my soul shall be joyful in theLORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. …Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.
Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let thelordbe magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant. And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.10
Assembled in the intimidating shadow of Royal power, the delegates found the relevance of Psalm 35 to be extraordinary. It was all the more striking for those who realized that particular Psalm had been placed in the prayer book as the reading for September seventh many years earlier. “It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning,” Massachusetts’ John Adams wrote his wife. Duché’s prayers were apparently equally moving. The Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thompson, managed to record one of them as it echoed in the stillness of Carpenters’ Hall.
O! Lord, our heavenly father, King of Kings and Lord of lords: who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth and reignest with power supreme & uncontrouled over all kingdoms, empires and governments, look down in mercy, we beseech thee, upon these our American states who have fled to thee from the road of the oppressor and thrown themselves upon thy gracious protection, desiring henceforth to be dependent only on thee.
To thee they have appealed for the righteousness of their Cause; to Thee do they look up, for that countenance & support which Thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under thy nurturing care: give them wisdom in council, valour in the field. Defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries. Convince them of the unrighteousness of their cause. And if they persist in their sanguinary purposes, O! let the voice of thy unerring justice sounding in their hearts constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their enerved hands in the day of battle.
Be thou present, O God of Wisdom and direct the counsels of this honourable Assembly. Enable them to settle things upon the best and surest foundation, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed; that harmony and peace may effectually be restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety prevail and flourish amongst thy people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigour of their minds; shower down upon them and the millions they represent such temporal blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ thy son, Our Saviour, Amen.11
Some delegates were moved to tears. Duché’s prayer, marveled John Adams, was “as pertinent, as affectionate, as sublime, as devout, as I ever heard offered up to Heaven. He filled every Bosom present.” Connecticut’s Silas Deane said the congressional devotion was “worth riding One Hundred Mile to hear.” On a motion by New York’s James Duane, the delegates unanimously voted to award Duché the official thanks of Congress. After the prayer and Bible-reading, some said, Congress had a renewed sense of purpose and unity.
Their decision to find their way by faith was typical of Colonial America.12 In eighteenth-century America, observed Colonial scholar Patricia Bonomi, “the idiom of religion penetrated all discourse, underlay all thought, marked all observances [and] gave meaning to every public and private crisis.” The philosophical foundation of Colonial American culture, law, and government was the Judeo-Christian worldview. It was also the flame of inspiration that fired the American quest for freedom. The common people of Colonial America and their leaders would soon establish a new nation, and it would be founded on an old Book—the Bible.13
© 2010 Rod Gragg
Chapter 1 "Plead Our Cause, O Lord" 7
Chapter 2 "New Jerusalem" 15
Chapter 3 "One Small Candle" 25
Chapter 4 "Farewell, Dear England" 39
Chapter 5 "A City upon a Hill" 49
Chapter 6 "God's Merciful Providence" 63
Chapter 7 "The Holy Experiment" 71
Chapter 8 "For Our Saviour and Our Sovereign" 81
Chapter 9 "The Great Awakening" 95
Chapter 10 "It Seem'd as if All the World Were Growing Religious" 105
Chapter 11 "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, There is Liberty" 119
Chapter 12 "An Appeal to God and the World" 135
Chapter 13 "The Love of Liberty is Interwoven in the Soul of Man" 149
Chapter 14 "Thou Hast Brought a Vine Out of Egypt" 163
Chapter 15 "Endowed by their Creator" 177
Posted July 21, 2011
If you enjoy history you will more than likely enjoy this book. I found it an easy read, much of it was covered in my history class, but to a lesser degree. Mr Gregg goes a little overboard too make his polnt at times, but I still enjoyed his book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2011
No text was provided for this review.