February 20, 2017

10 George Washington Quotes Pointing to God’s Providence

February 22 marks President George Washington’s 285th birthday. Beloved as the Father of our country, the elements of Washington’s life captivate historians and spectators alike. Visitors can wander the gardens and grounds of his adored Mount Vernon home. Docuseries examine the Washington’s courtship and marriage. Biographies detail the Chief Founding Father’s exemplary military skills, judicious presidency, and morally upright character.

Yet, with so much of Washington’s history preserved and at our fingertips, his religious beliefs are ever-debated.

Many note the lifelong Anglican was indeed a sincere Christian. Others argue Washington was religiously ambivalent while some others say he was a Deist. That is, someone who acknowledges God exists but believes He is detached from the activities of mankind. This faith debate marches on, even as Washington’s own words and materials seem to substantiate a devout, albeit private, confidence in traditional Christian teachings.

Happily I found biographer Peter Lillback’s George Washington’s Sacred Fire on my local library’s bookshelf. Lillback’s research authenticates Washington’s Christian piety by examining everything from the use of a 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church, his incorporation of the Scriptures in his writings, to copious handwritten letters and speeches. The evidence points to an astute leader nurturing religious freedom in a new nation, not rejecting his Savior.

So in honor of George Washington’s birthday, here’s a look at 10 of his quotes recognizing God’s Providence:

1. “The Man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf.”

—Washington’s letter to Samuel Langdon, September 28, 1789

 2. “May the same wonder-working Deity, who long since delivering the Hebrews from their Egyptian Oppressors planted them in the promised land—whose Providential Agency has lately been conspicuous in establishing these United States as an independent Nation—still continue to water them with the dews of Heaven and to make the inhabitants of every denomination participate in the temporal and spiritual blessings of that people whose God is Jehovah.”

—Letter to the Hebrew congregation of Savannah, Georgia

3. “Glorious indeed has been our Contest: glorious, if we consider the Prize for which we have contended, and glorious in its Issue; but in the midst of our Joys, I hope we shall not forget that, to divine Providence is to be ascribed the Glory and the Praise.”

—Letter to Reverend John Rodgers, June 11, 1783

4. I flatter myself that a superintending Providence is ordering everything for the best, and that, in due time, all will end well.”

         —Letter to Landon Carter regarding American patriot’s prisoners in the North, October 27, 1777

5. “It is not a little pleasing, nor less wonderful to contemplate, that after two years Manoeuvring and undergoing the strangest vicissitudes that perhaps ever attended any one contest since the creation both Armies are brought back to the very point they set out from and, that that, which was the offending party in the beginning is now reduced to the use of the spade and pick axe for defense. 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, but, it will be time enough for me to turn preacher, when my present appointment ceases; and therefore, I shall add no more on the Doctrine of Providence…”

                                           —Private letter to Brigadier General Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778

 6. “What will be the consequences of our Arming for self defense, that Providence, who permits these doings in the Disturbers of Mankind; and who rules and Governs all things, alone can tell. To its all powerful decrees we must submit, whilst we hope that the injustice of our Cause if War, must ensue, will entitle us to its Protection.”

—Letter to Revered Jonathan Boucher, August 15, 1798

 7. “And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly…”

                   —Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3, 1789

 8. “I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would…most graciously be pleas’d to dispose us all to do Justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves, with that Charity, humility & pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion & without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”

—Washington’s Circular Letter to the States, June 8, 1783

 9. “Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought in conducting our fore-fathers to this western world…and above all, that he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory.”

         —Washington’s General Orders, November 27, 1779

10. “While I reiterate the professions of my dependence upon Heaven as the source of all public and private blessings; I will observe that the general prevalence of piety, philanthropy, honesty, industry, and economy seems, in the ordinary course of human affairs particularly necessary for advancing and conforming the happiness of our country.”

—Answering a letter from the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in the United States, May 1789




7 Responses to 10 George Washington Quotes Pointing to God’s Providence

  1. Patrick98 says:

    I wonder if the use of terms such as “Author of the universe” and “Providence” etc. are actually a sign of respect and honor to God, and an attempt to keep the Lord’s name holy upon their lips and in their writings. Any thoughts from anyone else?

    • They’re the generic terms of Enlightenment and Masonic influence upon Washington and nearly all of the 18th-century founding fathers.

      For more regarding the late 1700 founders’ religious persuasions,
      see Dr. Albert Mohler’s interview with Dr. Gregg Frazer at http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/09/10/what-did-americas-founders-really-believe-a-conversation-with-historian-gregg-frazer/.

      Dr. Frazer proves from the key founders’ own writings that they
      were neither Deists in the purest sense of the word, nor were they Christians in the Biblical sense of the word. Instead, they were Theistic Rationalists.

      Dr. Mohler is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Frazer is Professor of History of the Master’s College in California.

      • George says:

        neither Deists in the purest sense of the word, nor were they Christians in the Biblical sense of the word. Instead, they were Theistic Rationalists.

        Sounds Sufic.

        Dare I say Islamic…

        One God… who hears the prayers of those who praise him, but an abscence of the belief that a man came down to earth to die for our sins, that our sins are forgiven simply by believing something, as opposed to every man being responsible for his own sins and having to deal with the repercussions and/or the blessings dealt out by our creator to us based on our actions?

        … and when people say there is more to religion than love for the one true God and following his commandments… or that he has any associates, sons brothers or mothers or uncles, that salvation is dependent on anything but His mercy…

        “God is enough for me, there are no other gods but he, in him I put my trust, he is the Lord of the Glorious throne”

        – Holy Quran, 9:129

    • AndRebecca says:

      Providence Rhode Island was named by Roger Williams in 1636. He named it Providence, because he believed God had guided him there. Williams was a non-conformist in religion, and did not like the Church of England or the Puritans. But, the word providence was used by everyone in those days for God or his works as in “divine providence.” George Washington was a Mason as well as a Christian. The arguments we’ve had in America over God in the public square originated with the Unitarians, Quakers, and other non-conformists like Roger Williams. We Trinitarians are still in a battle with them today. The Unitarians were outlawed in America in the colonies, but George Washington made them legal and the first Unitarian sermon was in an Episcopal Church in Boston. The Unitarians of old believed in God, but today they are secular humanists. They accepted Marxism in the late 1800s. Today there are Wiccan Unitarians and the Unitarians are proud to have homosexual churches. The “liberal” churches are full of people who are not Christians, but are Unitarians in belief. All people at the time of the founding were concerned about preserving and promoting Christianity, unlike today.

      • Rev. Jonathan Devlin says:

        You make good points. The state of modern Unitarianism doesn’t provide much in the way for a Theist (not a Deist) who believes in the One God, rather than a Trinitarian theology. Although there are Unitarians who have been turned off by church being turned into a forum for leftist political activism. Let’s face it, there are many people who believe in God, but not in the Trinity. What are their options? Convert to Judaism? And had the early Unitarians not been firmly rooted in a Christian worldview (not Jewish), they probably would have converted to Judaism. But they didn’t. Instead, they chose to keep Jesus in the dialogue while rejecting the doctrine of his Divinity. The option for such people should be Unitarianism, but now it cannot be! As you say, Wicca, Marxism, any crackpot atheistic political orientation – that’s what mainstream Unitarianism has become. Although there have been attempts to wrest Unitarianism from the hands of the “oppressed” Marxian “progressives.” The American Unitarian Conference in Virginia, and a newer group called The American Unitarian Society both bring God back into the church and leave the “poor oppressed” rhetoric at the door!

    • Rev. Jonathan Devlin says:

      The phrase “Author of The Universe” is neither Christian nor Deist, nor a respectful substitute for the name of God. Rather, it is derived from Washington’s membership in Freemasonry, in which God is referred to as “Architect of The Universe.” Washington was not preserving the name of God from common profanation, but protecting the “secrets” of Freemasonry while identifying with it. Thus “architect” becomes “author.” Not too much of a difference in the more symbolic and abstract significance of the two words – the latter draws the design while the other describes it in words. However, such language does not evince any belief in Christ by Washington. He was a man of his age – The Enlightenment. The Masonic concept of Providence would have totally resonated with his worldview. Christianity, at least as we know it today, would not. Call him a Deist; a Unitarian at best, and the terms are still compatible. However, to any who would take the time to more fully examine the doctrine, it is clearly Freemasonic.

  2. Jon Rowe says:

    I wouldn’t necessarily go off on a freemasonic conspiracy. Yes, GW was a Freemason in good standing (Master Mason, not Grand Master).

    The evidence that Lillback has in his door stopper that GW believed in Jesus as his savior, 2nd Person in the Trinity is remarkably thin.

    The vast majority of quotes featured above are in generic language.

    GW believed in an active personal God and was friendly towards virtually all of the religious groups in America provided they weren’t Tories. (He had some issues with the Quakers refusal to fight).

    The notion that GW barely EVER spoke about Jesus because he was afraid of profaning His name is sheer speculation by Lillback.

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