Divine Providence

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Dr. Samuel Miller“A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”

It was on this day, January 7th, in 1850, that the esteemed Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller passed from this earth to stand before His Lord and Savior. Dr. Miller had long served as professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at the Princeton Theological Seminary. The Seminary had been established in 1812, and Dr. Miller was installed as the Seminary’s second professor in 1813, joining Dr. Archibald Alexander in the work. Miller proceeded to labor at this post until his retirement in 1849. The following text presents first that portion of the Report from the Board of Directors of the Seminary concerning Miller’s decease, and then in the second paragraph, the official response of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. as it met that same year. Drawn from Samuel Baird’s Digest (1855), pp. 303-304:—

174. Obituary notice of Dr. Miller, of Princeton Seminary.

1850, p. 621. [The Board of Directors of the Princeton Seminary report that] “at the tme of this inauguration, [of Dr. J.W. Alexander,] the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, Emeritus Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government, who had been appointed by the Board to take a part in the exercises, was unable to be present by reason of the feeble state of his health. He continued gradually to sink, honouring religion, and enjoying in a high degree its supports and consolations, until on the 7th day of January, 1850, he departed this life in the eighty-first year of his age; having been Professor from the year 1813. The Board would here express their grateful sense of the divine goodness, in raising up for the Seminary in its infancy a man of such distinguished personal excellence, and such fitness for the high and important office in which he was so ably, so successfully, and so long employed.

p. 465. Resolved, That the Assembly record with deep emotion the decease of the venerable Professor Emeritus of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government, Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, of whom becoming mention is made in the Report by the Board; and while the Church is, in this dispensation of Divine Providence, called to mourn the departure of one who has long stood among the foremost in her counsels, and in her confidence—one of the most prominent and able defenders of her faith and order—one of the staunchest friends of all her benevolent institutions—one whose conspicuous talents, ripe judgment, and elevated piety, made him eminently a fit model and a safe guide for her rising ministry; and whose rare excellence and purity of character beautifully exemplified, in the eyes of all who knew him, that religion to the cause of which his life was devoted—it is matter of profound thankfulness that such a man was raised up to the Church, and spared to her through so many years of usefulness, and permitted to perform so valuable a part in founding our first Theological Seminary—which has served to a great extent as the model of all our after institutions—in arranging its plan and giving it establishment; and that it was not until this great work of his life was done, and he had ceased from the active discharge of these duties, that he was taken to his glorious reward.

Excerpted from A Collection of the Acts, Deliverances, and Testimonies of The Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church, from its origin in America to the present time: with Notes and Documents explanatory and historical: constituting a complete illustration of her polity, faith, and history, by Samuel J. Baird. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1855, pp. 303-304.

Words to Live By:
In my work at the PCA Historical Center, I have been struck over the years at how just a very few in the Church are accorded an extra measure of respect and admiration. Those who knew them honor their memory as ones marked by an unusual depth of character, an undeniable piety, who were circumspect in all their dealings with others. Samuel Miller was such a man. So too was Dr. Robert G. Rayburn, of whom we wrote this past Monday, and Harold Samuel Laird was yet another. Would that all Christians had that same bearing and could command similar respect. Is that possible? How does one come to be such a person? There is no easy answer. The only answer I have thus far is that we must live our lives as close to the Lord as possible, always quick to confess our sins, and with our eyes fixed on Christ, (in the words of Eugene Peterson) striving to live “a long obedience in the same direction”.

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Honest Leaders, Lord, We Pray.

Francis Rawn Shunk was born at the Trappe, Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, on August 7th, 1788. He became a teacher at the young age of fifteen, and in 1812 received an appointment as Clerk in the Surveyor General’s office, serving under General Andrew Porter. In 1814, he marched, as a private soldier, to the defence of Baltimore. This  would have been not long after the burning of Washington, D.C. in what is commonly called the War of 1812, a war alternately called the second war of independence, and a war which did not end until 1815.

In September of 1816, Francis was admitted to the practice of law. He filled the position of Assistant, and then Principal Clerk of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for several years. He next became Secretary to the Board of Canal Commissioners, and in 1839, Pennsylvania’s Governor Porter appointed him Secretary of the Commonwealth. In 1842, Shunk removed to Pittsburgh, to engage in the practice of law, and presumably to prepare for his next career advancement. Then in 1844, he was elected Governor of Pennsylvania, winning reelection in 1847.

Governor Shunk was an honest public servant, and he filled the various offices to which he was called with marked ability and fidelity. On July 9th, 1848, as Executive of the State, he issued the following proclamation:

“To the People of Pennsylvania:

“It having pleased Divine Providence to deprive me of the strength necessary to the further discharge of the duties of your Chief Magistrate, and to lay me on a bed of sickness, from which I am admonished by my physicians and my own increasing debility, I may, in all human probability, never rise, I have resolved, upon mature reflection, under a conviction of duty, on this day to restore to you the trust with which your suffrages have clothed me, in order that you may avail yourselves of the provision of the Constitution to choose a successor at the next general election. I, therefore, hereby resign the office of Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and direct this my resignation to be filed in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

“In taking leave of you, under circumstances so solemn, accept my gratitude for the confidence you have reposed in me. My prayer is that peace, virtue, intelligence, and religion may pervade all your borders; that the free institutions you have inherited from your ancestors may remain unimpaired till the latest posterity; that the same kind Providence which has already so signally blessed you may conduct you to a still higher state of individual and social happiness, and when the world shall close upon you, as I feel it is soon about to close upon me, that you may enjoy the consolations of the Christian’s faith, and be gathered, without a wanderer lost, into the fold of the Great Shepherd above.”

Governor Shunk died on the 30th of July, 1848, and at the time of his decease was a member of the Presbyterian Church at Harrisburg, then under the care of his particular friend, the Rev. W. R. DeWitt, D.D.

Words to Live By:
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour. — 1 Timothy 2:1-3, KJV.

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“We need to get away, often, from the human standpoint, and to come up into communion with Him who sitteth supreme above the water-floods, and who sees times, and laws, and governments change, in the continued repose of His own eternal serenity. It does us good to let our troubled spirits take refreshment and rest in the bosom of God, while we are commending to Him both rulers and people, and asking Him to stay public tumults, and to rebuke violence in high places, and low places; to ride on every whirlwind and direct every storm.”


Tomorrow we will have a post concerning a document presented in defense of the orthodoxy of the New School Presbyterians. Originally lodged as a protest on June 8, 1837, under the title of “Errors and True Doctrines,” this document later became known as the Auburn Declaration. But not wanting to get away from our practice of presenting a sermon on the Lord’s Day, we will put that off till tomorrow, and for today, consider the following sermon from 1856, on the great subject of prayer for those in civil authority. I have edited this somewhat for length. To read the full sermon, click here.

 

 

A SERMON ON PRAYER FOR RULERS,

delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

Sabbath Morning, June 8, 1856,

by Rev. R.W. Patterson, pastor of the church.

(Chicago, 1856).

1 Timothy 2:1-4
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

The duty of prayer is one which is much insisted upon in the Holy Scriptures. The Apostle, in the words just read, exhorts that, first of all, as a primary duty, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made. And he would not have a part only of our fellow creatures chosen as the objects of our petitions at the throne of the Heavenly grace. He calls upon us as believers in the universal Supremacy and Providence of God, to remember in our intercessions all men, of every class, whether they be friends, enemies or strangers. And he names, as specially entitled to our sympathies and supplications, kings, and all that are in authority, or in stations of preeminence. Then, he assigns reasons for compliance with this precept, which are of the most weighty character. The passage might well be made the foundation of a discourse touching the great duty of prayer and thanksgiving in general; but it calls our attention, in particular, to the importance of prayer for those of our fellow-men, to whose hands civil and political power is entrusted. And this special topic, always appropriate for our serious consideration, appears to press itself upon our thoughts and hearts with peculiar urgency at the present time.

Let me, therefore, invite your attention this morning, to the DUTY of prayer for rulers, and for all who possess political power, and to SOME REASONS for an earnest performance of this duty, especially in the present circumstances of our beloved country.

I. The Word of God habitually recognizes the rule of kings as proper to be regarded with reverence and submission in ages of the world when the monarchical form of government was almost everywhere established, and when the general condition of human society scarcely admitted of any freer and more desirable system of government. It is, of course, not to be inferred from this recognition of royal authority, that the right of kings is affirmed by a Divine sanction, as a right to be maintained in all the more advanced stages of social and civil progress in human history. The Bible does not meddle directly with existing forms of civil government. It authorizes civil rule in some form as an “ordinance of God,” but leaves it to human prudence and to the orderings of Divine Providence, together with the silent working of revealed principles in the minds and hearts of men, to determine, from time to time, what particular form of government shall be established and sustained for the benefit of each Commonwealth or Nation. When, therefore, the Apostles exhort their readers to “be subject to the higher powers,” to “honor the king,” and to “pray for kings and for all that are in authority,” they only point out the fit application, in formerly existing circumstances, of the great principle, that it is the duty of Christian people to respect, and commend to God in their supplications, the men who are providentially entrusted with the political rule and supremacy under which they live. These precepts are in principle and spirit, but not in a literal sense, applicable to us, under the republican form of government which God has providentially secured to us. We may respect and pray for kings, only as rulers remote from us, to whose hands are committed the public and civil interests of other nations. The general principle which has been defined as involved in the Scriptural precepts touching this subject, would require us to reverence, and remember before God, as our own rulers, those whom we ourselves, as a people, have placed in authority, and, with them, all the sovereign citizens, in whose hands the civil power ultimately resides. “The powers that be” and “are ordained of God,” in our country, are the people, and those persons whom the people select to rule over them under the guidance of the Constitution and laws already established. We may, then, regard our text as enjoining upon us the frequent presentation of earnest petitions to the God of Nations in behalf of all those in our land who possess and exercise civil authority in any form, but especially for those who are actually appointed to rule over us. This duty is already recognized, no doubt, with more or less distinctness, by every person among us who believes that God hears prayer. But it may be useful to notice a few points at which difficulty, or positive error, is liable to arise in some minds with respect to what is implied in the offering of prayer for those who possess civil authority. Let me then say,

1. That we are not required to prayer for the sovereign people, or for our rulers, in any such form or manner as would imply a sanction of their mistakes or wicked doings. God’s requirements are not in conflict with each other. His laws are supreme. No majorities among communities; no action of public legislators; no decisions of judicial courts; no decrees of supreme executives, can make that to be lawful and right which GOD ALMIGHTY has forbidden; or that to be wrong and unlawful which He has required. “We ought,” said the Apostles to the Jewish rulers, “to obey God, rather than man;” (Acts 5:29; see also Acts 4:18-20; Daniel 3:13-18.) thus affirming the principle, that where we must either disobey God or men, we ought always to prefer allegiance to our Infinite Make, and consent, if need be, to suffer the penalties of unrighteous human laws. And we read in the Word of God heavy condemnation against “the throne of iniquity which frameth mischief by a law,” and against those men who “gather themselves together against the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood.” Now we know that God never contradicts Himself. “He cannot deny Himself.” He does not, therefore, require us to pray for the success of either people or rulers in their efforts to carry out and establish false principles. He abhors wrong and injustice, and would spurn from His mercy seat any invocation of help for those who would so legislate, or so administer laws, as to make war upon the truth or upon the rights of men. It may even be our duty to pray that the wicked counsels of those who are in authority should be turned into foolishness, like the counsel of Ahithophel. “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” And every petition we offer to the Most High should consist with a supreme concern for the ultimate triumph of our Redeemer’s Kingdom of peace and righteousness, and for the triumph of true Christian liberty throughout the earth. It is our duty to pray that our rulers, and all the people, may be restrained from wrong-doing, and not prospered in any selfish designs or mistaken devices. “The voice of the people is” not “the voice of God.” For all men are fallible, and liable to be selfish and passionate, and wicked. Rulers are not infallible, but are often arbitrary, unjust and oppressive; and they can only be the objects of God’s gracious benediction, so far as they acknowledge, in practice, the great law of impartial love, and the Supremacy of Him who sits on the Throne of Universal Dominion. It may, therefore, be our duty to pray against their policy and measures, while we pray for their persons and for the renovation of their characters. The early Christians prayed for their persecutors who were in power, but never for the success of their malignant designs.

2. Again : It is obvious, that the precept which we are considering, does not imply any obligation to submit passively to wrong and injustice on the part of our rulers, where legitimate modes of relief are available to the suffering subjects. We may not speak evil of rulers, as such. We may not despise their authority, even when it is wielded against the right. We may not, on Christian principles, resist the powers which God has evidently ordained.

3. It is almost needless to remark, after what has been said, that the shaping of our petitions for those who possess civil authority, whether they be citizens or constituted rulers, must be determined by the particular features of the case as it stands before us. It is of course our duty to pray for the personal good of every man, whether he occupy one station or another in life. But besides this, it is our duty to pray for those who possess civil authority, with special reference to their official trusts and responsibilities.

II. We are now brought to notice some reasons why it becomes us to pray for all who possess authority, whether as free citizens or as official rulers, and especially at the present time.

1. And the first consideration which I would suggest is an obvious one, but still one of fundamental importance. God teaches us to expect that He will hear and answer appropriate prayer for public, as well as for private interests. This is implied in the very fact that we are required to offer petitions for those who are in authority. The precept contained in our text in relation to this subject only follows the tenor of many precepts in the Old Testament, having the same general end in view. Thus the Psalmist exhorted all saints to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” And Jehovah counseled His people, by the prophet Jeremiah, to “seek the peace of the city whither they had been carried away captive, and pray unto the Lord for it.” But why pray for such interests but because God has the hearts of kings, and of all men, in His hands, and turns them as the rivers of water, whithersoever He will? He may not see it wise to do all the particular things which we ask in relation to the public weal; but He is never sought in vain, by those who honor His supremacy and rightly trust in Him.

2. Let me remark further, that prayer for those who possess and exercise civil power, is specially adapted to fit us for our duties in time of trial and public conflict. When we commune only with our own hearts and with the minds of our fellow-creatures, we surely give place to feelings which have their origin in the depravity of our common nature. Left to ourselves, we cease to support even right principles from right motives; our passions gain the mastery over our conscience and our benevolence; and we forget to love the wrong-doer as a creature of God, and to think of him as an instrument of Providence, while we indulge a sinful indignation against his person, and against all who sympathize with him. We need to get away, often, from the human standpoint, and to come up into communion with Him who sitteth supreme above the water-floods, and who sees times, and laws, and governments change, in the continued repose of His own eternal serenity. It does us good to let our troubled spirits take refreshment and rest in the bosom of God, while we are commending to Him both rulers and people, and asking Him to stay public tumults, and to rebuke violence in high places, and low places; to ride on every whirlwind and direct every storm. It helps us to exercise forbearance and possess our souls in patience, and to take our steps with discretion, to feel that we are allying ourselves more and more with the Infinite One, whose counsels run from all eternity past into all eternity to come. It was this that enabled all the ancient worthies to be calm in times that tried men’s souls, and to sustain with holy firmness the unchangeable principles for which they lived and died. Prayer to GOD ALMIGHTY for those who are in authority, reminds us that they are but men, and must die as soon as He shall breathe upon them; and that they, and we, and the whole nation, are in His hands, like clay in the hands of the potter. And this ought to fill us with solemn concern for all who bear responsibilities as God’s instruments and agents, in positions involving official trust.  Habitual intercession with God for those who are in authority, prepares us to recognize with hearty thanksgiving, their good acts and wise measures, and to deplore their mistakes and public offenses more in grief than anger. The man who prays much for his rulers cannot be their personal enemy, however he may feel bond to expose their errors, or to withstand their unrighteous measures. And the meek spirit which true prayer begets and cultivates, always tends to turn away wrath, even in those who are accustomed to make passion and caprice their supreme lawgiver in seasons of excitement and conflict.

3. Think, in the next place, of the preciousness of the interests that are at stake in the wise, or unwise, administration of our public affairs.

Never before was there a nation with such an ancestry, and such an early history; with such a social and political life, and such a progressive development, as those which distinguish and make proud the people of this great confederacy. What a treasure of national memories have we, to quicken the pulsations of our hearts on every glance at the past! What an inheritance of constitutional liberty and unfettered religion have our fathers left us, as the fruit of their sacrifices and blood! What a present of actually achieved greatness and power, and of advancing prosperity, and self-development, do we live in! What a future of enlargement and glory seems to have been almost ensured to us!

4. Let it not be said, that our interests as a people are not in special peril. Let it not be said, that the bonds which cement us together are too strong to be sundered; or that God will not forsake us after having done so much for us. We are environed by peculiar perils. The history of the world proves to us that general ignorance and corruption among the people are fearful causes of deterioration and decay in any nation,—that luxury and intemperance beget weakness,—that pride and self-sufficiency presage disaster,—and that expansion of territory and the consequent rapid multiplication of diverse interests, are liable to cause great commonwealths to fall by their own weight. And the Word of God assures us that the nation and people that will not serve Jehovah SHALL PERISH—so that ungodliness may be set down as a sure cause of destruction to any persistently wicked nation.

Now, the question is, who but God can so preside in this conflict of opposing interests and principles, as to save us from the horrors of internecine war, and establish our civil and religious freedom on a basis that can never be shaken? Who but God can give us all the wisdom and forbearance, combined with due moral decision, which we need in this critical process? Who but God can save us from hasty and destructive adventures on either side, in our sectional strifes, and open the eyes of the blind ere it be too late to retrace their downward steps? Who but God can give to the Church the needful moderation, as the great conservator of peace and of true boldness in times of peril?

There is hope in prayer. God can show us how to dispose peacefully of present issues, and how to inaugurate a policy that shall in the end take away from our nation all our chief occasions of fear, and make every bondman civilly and spiritual free. Let us, therefore, seek His face. Let us plead with Him for all our rulers and for all the people. Let us look to Him for those interpositions by which the foundations of our glorious Union may be established on the basis of true and changeless principles, and its arches be made as firm as the vault of heaven. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”

[emphasis added]

A sermon on prayer for rulers, delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church in Chicago, on Sabbath morning, June 8, 1856 – Patterson, R. W. (Robert Wilson), 1814-1894.

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George Washington was born on February 22, 1732. You may have noticed postings on Facebook and elsewhere with recommended readings in commemoration of the occasion. Peter Lillback’s recent work, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, should be among that list. But it was on this day, February 23, in 1862, that the Rev. T.W.J. Wylie, a Reformed Presbyterian pastor (General Synod) brought the following message:—  

Washington a Christian.
A Discourse preached February 23, 1862, in the First Reformed Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia.

by the Pastor, T. W. J. Wylie.

(Philadelphia: William S. & Alfred Martien, 606 Chestnut Street, 1862.)

According to Thy manifold mercies Thou gavest them saviours, who saved them out of the hand of their enemies.” — Nehemiah ix. 27.

Why was yesterday, throughout our land, such a day of gladness? It was because, in the arrangements of Divine Providence, a succession of victories which had crowned our arms, was connected, by a delightful coincidence with the recurrence of the birthday of the patriot, the hero, the statesman, who, by universal consent, bears the honoured name of Father of His Country. It was well for us, with gratitude to Heaven, to observe the day; and while reflecting on the evidences which the past presented, that the Lord our God was with us, to gather hope and courage for the future.

It is proper for any nation to cherish the memory of those who have been its deliverers or benefactors. In one of the sacred Psalms (lxxxvii. 4) we have been singing, the inspired writer refers to Rahab, or Egypt, and Babylon, as distinguished for their great men. Ethiopia, also, then, as now, perhaps, despised by many, is not forgotten—”this man was born there.” But it is when the honours which may be accorded to any one, for the natural greatness which he may attain, are connected with the higher glory of a Christian life, that we find an object worthy of our chief admiration. “It shall be said of Zion, This and that man was born in her; and he that is the Highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. As well the singers, as the players on instruments, shall be there. All my springs are in thee.”

It is in this aspect then, especially, that we think it proper, to-day, to review the character of that illustrious man, whom our nation delights to honour. We do, indeed, think it would be unsuitable to introduce into this holy place what was purely political; and we consider it highly improper that any should substitute the reading of Washington’s Farewell Address for the usual exposition of divine truth; but we do think it is perfectly appropriate that we consider the illustration which the history of our country, and the life of Washington afford, of the language of our text: God, “according to His manifold mercies, has given us saviours, who have saved us out of the hand of our enemies.” Such men were Washington, and others, and it is proper for us to acknowledge, with gratitude, the manifold mercies of that gracious Being who raised them to save us from the hand of our enemies.

In thus referring to the history of Washington, we invite your attention, first, to his early life. We desire, naturally, to trace a mighty river to itds fountain; and as we notice how it gushes from the mountain-side, in some dark glen, almost entirely concealed from view; and as we trace its widening, deepening course, till it swells into the majestic stream, which floats a navy on its bosom, we admire the more the grandeur of a development so great, from a beginning so small. We ask what influences have produced such a result. So in the career of great men—so in the history of Washington. One of our first inquiries is, What was he when a child? How was formed then that noble character, which has gained him a place so exalted in the annals of our race?

We may notice, first of all, that he enjoyed the blessing of pious parents. His father, who died when his son was only about ten years old, was a religious man, and appears to have had a profound sense of the Divine existence and excellence, which he endeavoured to impress on the tender heart of his child. His mother, too, was a consistent Christian, and carefully brought up her children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” It is related of her daughter, that when parting with a son, as he first left his home, she gave him, as her farewell charge, “My son, never neglect the duty of secret prayer.” Washington, we doubt not, was early taught to pray; and from a child, he knew of the Holy Scriptures. Indeed, there is reason to believe that from a very early age he was a subject of regenerating and sanctifying grace. His case is one of many which prove the faithfulness of the divine promise: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

One of the principal features of his character was filial obedience. He was remarkable for the respect which he always showed his widowed mother. When quite a young man, a commission was obtained for him to enter the British Navy as a midshipman. His mother had given a reluctant assent, and all the necessary arrangements had been made. The vessel was lying in the Potomac to receive him on board; his baggage was ready; he was just going to say farewell, when he observed that his mother’s heart was grieved, and he resolved to remain. The firm spirit which never quailed before a foe, was bowed by a mother’s love. His whole career was changed. Had it not been that he was thus influenced, how different would have been his subsequent history, and ours!

Such was his general, we doubt not but we may say, his uniform character. When some one, after the great victory which terminated our Revolutionary War, hastened to announce the tidings to his mother, her reply was simply, “George was always a good child.” We question if any of the honours which were heaped upon him were more grateful than this praise from the lips of her whom he so much loved and revered.

He displayed in youth an intrepidity which foretokened the courage he afterwards manifested. The traveller who visits the Natural Bridge in Virginia may notice how one person and another, desirous of leaving a record of his existence, has climbed up its almost perpendicular sides and carves his name on the soft rock. High up above the rest is the name of Washington—the steady heart, the firm hand, the strong foothold of the boy, corresponding to the character of the man.

His habits of system and industry were remarkable from early life. In the language of an old writer, he “endeavoured to live by rule, and therefore had a rule to live by.” When he was about thirteen years of age he prepared a blank book to make a record of such things as he considered worthy of especial remembrance. Among other articles entered in this book we find a number of rules of conduct for the young. Some of these indicate the leading elements of his future character. “When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously in reverence.” “Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.” “Be no flatterer.” “Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy.” “Let your conversation be without malice or envy.” “Detract not from others, neither be excessive in commending.” “Undertake not what you cannot perform, but be careful to keep your promise.” “Let your discourse with men of business be short and comprehensive.” “When you meet with one of greater quality than yourself, stop and retire, especially if it be at a door or any straight place, to give way for him to pass.” “In your apparel be modest, and endeavor to accommodate nature rather than to procure admiration.” “Play not the peacock, looking everywhere about you, to see if you be well-decked; if your shoes fit well, if your stockings sit neatly, and clothes handsomely.” One of the books which belonged to his mother, and which was found in his own library, having evidences of frequent use, was the writings of Sir Matthew Hale; and there is reason to believe that the valuable counsels which it contains were enjoined by his mother, and adopted by himself, for the regulation of his life.

His love of truth is shown by incidents in his history which are as familiar to all Americans as household words. His sense of justice, his impartiality and decision of character were conspicuous even when he was a child. His companions had such confidence in him that they were in the habit of calling on him to settle their disputes. Although naturally courageous, he would neither fight with his schoolmates himself, nor allow them to fight with each other, and braving their displeasure, he would inform the teacher in order to prevent such combats.

But we pass to consider his charcter as he entered upon public life—as the soldier and the statesman—in both the Christian. 

It is well known that he early entered into military service, and in the wars with the French and Indians, before our Revolution occurred, he was prepared for his high position as the commander-in-chief of our armies during the severe and long-continued struggle for our National Independence. The condition of our country at this period shows that he was “raised up for such a time.” Our numbers were few, our resources feeble indeed, and yet we had to cope with the well-trained armies of a mighty empire. At the head of our troops he was the right man in the right place. With courage to strike the blow, and with firmness to wait till all was ready, he was the very person who was fit for such a post. One who was rash or impetuous would have hazarded our cause in the unequal struggle, and lost it. But he could brave insinuation and reproach, and with a lofty patriotism prefer that his own character should suffer rather than his country should be injured. Remarkably preserved from dangers at various times, he was evidently destined to the high work which he so gloriously accomplished.

It is our design, however, principally to refer to the evidences of genuine religion which were manifested in his military career. In one of his proclamations he says, “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor so to live and act, as becomes a Christian soldier defending the rights and liberties of his country.” “A CHRISTIAN SOLDIER”—what he desired in others he certainly exhibited himself. He frequently refers in his letters and reports to a Divine providence, even in events where many Christians would fail to notice the hand of heaven. “We should have been,” he says, when on his first expedition, then but twenty-three years old, “we should have been four days without provisions if Providence had not sent a trader from the Ohio to our relief.” “By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence,” he says, when giving an account of Braddock’s defeat, “I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, while death was levelling my companions on every side of me.” “I trust that Divine Providence,” he says again, “which wisely orders the affairs of men, will enable us to discharge our duty with fidelity and success.” In his reply to a congratulatory address on the evacuation of Boston, he declares that the happy result “must be ascribed to the interposition of that Providence which has manifestly appeared in our behalf through the whole of this important struggle, as well as to the measures pursued for bringing about the happy event.” And he adds, “May that Being who is powerful to save, and in whose hands is the fate of nations, look down with an eye of tender pity and compassion on these United Colonies. May He continue to smile upon their councils and arms, and crown them with success whilst employed in the cause of virtue and mankind.” On receiving information of the surrender of Burgoyne he writes to his brother in reference to “this signal stroke of Providence.” In another letter, alluding to the sufferings of our army at Valley Forge, he says, “To paint the distress and perilous situation of this army in the course of last winter, for the want of clothes, provisions, and almost every other necessary essential to the well-being, I may say, existence, of an army, would require more time, and an abler pen than mine. Nor since our prospects have so miraculously brightened, shall I attempt it, or even bear it in remembrance, further than as a memento of what is due to the Great Author of all the care and goodness that have been extended in relieving us.” In another private letter, he says, “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”

Referring to the condition of public affairs in 1778, when he had gone to Philadelphia to consult with Congress on the plan of the campaign for the next year, he says, “If I was called on to draw a picture of the times and of men, from what I have seen, heard, and in part know, I should, in one word, say, that idleness, dissipation and extravagance seem to have laid fast hold of most of them; that speculation, peculation, and an insatiable thirst for riches, seem to have gotten the better of every other consideration, and almost every body of men; that party disputes and personal quarrels are the great business of the day; while the momentous concerns of an empire, a great and accumulating debt, ruined finances, depreciated money, and want of credit, which in its consequences is the want of everything, are but secondary considerations, and postponed from day to day, from week to week, as if our affairs wore the most promising aspect. I again repeat to you, that this is not an exaggerated account. That it is an alarming one, I do not deny. And I confess to you that I feel more real distress on account of the present appearance of things, than I have done at any one time since the commencement of the dispute. But it is time to bid you adieu. Providence has heretofore taken us up when all other means and hopes seemed to be departing from us. In this I will confide.” In a “Circular of the States,” dated Philadelphia, January 31, 1782, he says, “Although we cannot by the best concerted plans absolutely command success, although the race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, yet without presumptuously waiting for miracles to be wrought in our favour, it is an indispensable duty, with the deepest gratitude to Heaven for the past, and humble confidence in its smiles on our future operations, to make use of all the means in our power for our defence and security.”

To continue reading this discourse, click here, and continue from page 20.

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The following short quote comes from the Memoir of the Rev. J. J. Janeway, a biography compiled by Janeway’s son, Thomas L. Janeway. Jacob Jones Janeway was a noted Presbyterian pastor, situated in Philadelphia in the first half of the nineteenth-century, serving first as associate pastor under Ashbel Green. A close friend of Dr. Samuel Miller, Rev. Janeway was also a key supporter of Princeton Seminary in its early years.
Much of this biography is drawn from diaries kept by Rev. Janeway, and in this particular quote, we find him reflecting on the close of the year and looking forward to the new. His reflections are made the more poignant in that during that year past, he and his wife had suffered the death of a child. By God’s grace and mercy, most of us have probably not lost loved ones in the past year, but the sum of the quote is otherwise an admirable reflection, worthy of review.
So often we conclude a post with a “Words to Live By” comment. Lest we take away from the impact of his words, his reflection is so labeled:—  

J.J. JanewayWords to Live By:
SABBATH, January 6, 1811. ” It has pleased the Lord to prolong my life. How many thousands have died during the last year! but my life has been spared. How many thousands have languished in sickness! but I have enjoyed health. How many millions have lived the year out under thick Heathenish darkness! but I have enjoyed the light of the glorious gospel of Christ. How many who, although they hear the gospel calls and invitations, yet have been living in a state of sin and condemnation! But I have. I trust, been enabled, by free and sovereign grace, to spend the year in a state of peace and friendship with God, and in hope of a blissful immortality. Oh, to grace, how great a debtor! I mourn over the sins of the last year, and beseech grace to spend this more than any heretofore to the glory of God. This year finds us one less in family. It has pleased Almighty God to remove our dear babe from us. We bow to the stroke of Divine Providence.”

[Excerpted from Memoir of the Rev. J. J. Janeway (1861), pp. 177-178.]

Afterthought: The above quote, excepting perhaps the last few sentences, might be a good one to write out on a card and place in your Bible, for frequent reflection through the year.

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