Answering the Charge That George Washington was a Deist

George Washington's Christianity

This following essay was written and given to me by reknowned Author William J. Federer, in response to the charges from secularists who claim the Founders and George Washington were not Christians. It is an excellent study and chronicle to debunk the revisionism being engaged by the Secular Left to expunge from our history and heritage – the role the Christian faith played in our foundations and our liberties.

The essays following Federer’s are from the Reverend Peter Marshall on the same subject. I have the distinct pleasure of calling both of these fine men freinds and brethren. Their study, research, commentary and written works are valuable and indispensable in the battle to restore our true history and heritage in this nation.

George Washington & Christianity
By William J. Federer

As to the comment, “I do not necessarily believe that the Beneficent Being mentioned by President Washington, is exactly the same Christian God as is now generally believed,” the best place to go for an answer is to the writings of Washington himself and the first hand descriptions by those who knew him. Below is just a sampling of references regarding Washington and Christianity:

On the same day, in a personal letter to Colonel Benedict Arnold, September 14, 1775, regarding the advance into Canada, General George Washington enlarged:

“I also give it in charge to you to avoid all disrespect of the religion of the country, and its ceremonies. Prudence, policy, and a true Christian spirit will lead us to look with compassion upon their errors without insulting them. While we are contending for our own liberty, we should be very cautious not to violate the rights of conscience of others, ever considering that God alone is the Judge of the hearts of men, and to Him only in this case they are answerable.”1

On July 9, 1776, upon receiving a copy of the Declaration of Independence from the Continental Congress, General George Washington issued the orders from his headquarters in New York authorizing the Continental Army to appoint and pay chaplains in every regiment.

“The Hon. Continental Congress having been pleased to allow a Chaplain to each Regiment, with the pay of Thirty-three Dollars and one third pr month – The Colonels or commanding officers of each regiment are directed to procure Chaplains accordingly; persons of good Characters and exemplary lives -
To see that all inferior officers and soldiers pay them a suitable respect and attend carefully upon religious exercises. The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger – The General hopes and trusts, that every officer and man, will endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier, defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country. The Hon. Continental Congress, impelled by the dictates of duty, policy and necessity, having been pleased to dissolve the Connection which subsisted between this Country, and Great Britain, and to declare the United Colonies of North America, free and independent States: The several brigades are to be drawn up this evening on their respective Parades at six O’Clock, when the Declaration of Congress, shewing the grounds and reasons of this measure, is to be read with an audible voice. The General hopes this important event will serve as a fresh incentive to every officer, and soldier, to act with Fidelity and Courage, as knowing that now the peace and safety of his Country depends (under God) solely on the success of our arms.”2

On Sunday, October 19, 1777, in a letter to Major-General Putnam, General Washington wrote:

“The defeat of General Burgoyne is a most important event, and such as must afford the highest satisfaction to every well-affected American. Should Providence be pleased to crown our arms in the course of the campaign with one more fortunate stroke, I think we shall have no great cause for anxiety respecting the future designs of Britain. I trust all will be well in His good time…. I am exceedingly sorry for the death of Mrs Putman, and sympathize with you upon the occasion. Remembering that all must die, and that she had lived to an honorable age, I hope you will bear the misfortune with that fortitude and complacency of mind that become a man and a Christian.”3

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, pastor of the Lutheran church near Valley Forge and one of the founders of the Lutheran Church in America, noted concerning General Washington:

“I heard a fine example today, namely, that His Excellency General Washington rode around among his army yesterday and admonished each and every one to fear God, to put away the wickedness that has set in and become so general, and to practice the Christian virtues. From all appearances, this gentleman does not belong to the so-called world of society, for he respects God’s Word, believes in the atonement through Christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness. Therefore, the Lord God has also singularly, yea, marvelously, preserved him from harm in the midst of countless perils, ambuscades, fatigues, etc., and has hitherto graciously held him in His hand as a chosen vessel.”4

On May 2, 1778, General George Washington issued these orders to his troops at Valley Forge:

“The Commander-in-Chief directs that Divine service be performed every Sunday at 11 o’clock, in each Brigade which has a Chaplain. Those Brigades which have none will attend the places of worship nearest to them. It is expected that officers of all ranks will, by their attendance, set an example for their men. While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest Glory to laud the more distinguished Character of Christian. The signal instances of Providential goodness which we have experienced and which have now almost crowned our labors with complete success demand from us in a peculiar manner the warmest returns of gratitude and piety to the Supreme Author of all good.”5

On May 12, 1779, General George Washington was visited at his Middle Brook military encampment by the Chiefs of the Delaware Indian tribe. They had brought three youths to be trained in the American schools. Washington assured them:

“Brothers: I am glad you have brought three of the Children of your principal Chiefs to be educated with us. I am sure Congress will open the Arms of love to them, and will look upon them as their own Children, and will have them educated accordingly. This is a great mark of your confidence and of your desire to preserve the friendship between the Two Nations to the end of time, and to become One people with your Brethren of the United States…. You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress
will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to loose it…. And I pray God He may make your Nation wise and strong.”6

Washington’s Prayer for the United States of America appears on a plaque in St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City and at Pohick Church, Fairfax County, Virginia, where Washington was a vestryman, 1762-84:

“Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy Holy protection; and Thou wilt incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”7

On February 8, 1785, George Washington wrote from Mount Vernon to the President of the Continental Congress:

“Toward the latter part of the year 1783, I was honored with a letter from the Countess of Huntington, briefly reciting her benevolent intention of spreading Christianity among the Tribes of Indians inhabiting our Western Territory; and expressing a desire of my advice and assistance to carry this charitable design into execution. I wrote her Ladyship….that I wou’d give every aid in my power, consistent with the ease and tranquility, to which I meant to devote the remainder of my life, to carry her plan into effect…. Her Ladyship has spoken so feelingly and sensibly, on the religious and benevolent purposes of the plan, that no language of which I am possessed, can add aught to enforce her observations.”8

On August 15, 1787, in a letter from Philadelphia to the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington wrote:

I am not less ardent in my wish that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in religious matters. Being no bigot myself to any mode of worship, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church with that road to Heaven which to them shall seem the most direct, plainest and easiest, and the least liable to exception.9

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches in the United States, on May 26, 1789, wrote to President Washington:

“We derive a presage even more flattering from the piety of your character. Public virtue is the most certain means of public felicity, and religion is the surest basis of virtue. We therefore esteem it a peculiar happiness to behold in our Chief Magistrate, a steady, uniform, avowed friend of the Christian religion; who has commenced his administration in rational and exalted sentiments of piety; and who, in his private conduct, adorns the doctrines of the gospel of Christ; and on the most public and solemn occasions, devoutly acknowledges the government of Divine Providence.”10

In May of 1789, President George Washington replied to the General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in The United States:

“Gentlemen: I receive with great sensibility the testimonial given by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, of the lively and unfeigned pleasure experience by them on my appointment to the first office of the nation. Although it will be my endeavor to avoid being elated by the too favorable opinion which your kindness for me may have induced you to express of the importance of my former conduct and the effect of my future services, yet, conscious of the disinterestedness of my motives, it is not necessary for me to conceal the satisfaction I have felt upon finding that my compliance with the call of my country and my dependence on the assistance of Heaven to support me in my arduous undertakings have, so far as I can learn, met the universal approbation of my countrymen. 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. While all men within our territories are protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of their consciences; it is rationally to be expected from them in return, that they will be emulous of evincing the sanctity of their professions by the innocence of their lives and the beneficence of their actions; for no man who is profligate in his morals, or a bad member of the civil community, can possibly be a true Christian, or a credit to his own religious society. I desire you to accept my acknowledgements for your laudable endeavors to render men sober, honest, and good citizens, and the obedient subjects of a lawful government, as well as for your prayers to Almighty God for His blessings on our common country, and the humble instrument which He has been pleased to make use of in the administration of its government.”11

In July of 1789, in writing to the Directors of the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen, President Washington replied:

“Gentlemen: I received with satisfaction the congratulations of your society, and of the Brethren’s congregations in the United States of America. For you may be persuaded that the approbations and good wishes of such a peaceable and virtuous community cannot be indifferent to me. You will also be pleased to accept my thanks for the treatise you presented, (“An account of the manner in which the Protestant Church of the Unitas Fratrum, or United Brethren, preach the Gospel and carry on their mission among the Heathen,”) and be assured of my patronage in your laudable undertakings. In proportion as the general government of the United States shall acquire strength by duration, it is probable they may have it in their power to extend a salutary influence to the aborigines in the extremities of their territory. In the meantime it will be a desirable thing, for the protection of the Union, to co-operate, as far as the circumstances may conveniently admit, with the disinterested endeavors of your Society to civilize and Christianize the Savages of the Wilderness. Under these impressions, I pray Almighty God to have you always in His Holy keeping.”12

In response to the August 19, 1789, letter from the General Convention of Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina, President Washington replied:

“Gentlemen: I sincerely thank you for your affectionate congratulations on my election to the chief magistracy of the United States…. On this occasion it would ill become me to conceal the joy I have felt in perceiving the fraternal affection, which appears to increase every day among friends of genuine religion. It affords edifying prospects, indeed, to see Christians of different denominations dwell together in more charity, and conduct themselves in respect to each other with a more Christian-like spirit than every they have done in any former age, or in any other nation. I receive with the greater satisfaction your congratulations on the establishment of the new constitution of government, because I believe its mild yet efficient operations will tend to remove every remaining apprehension of those with whose opinions it may not entirely coincide, as well as to confirm the hopes of its numerous friends; and because the moderation, patriotism, and wisdom of the present federal Legislature seem to promise the restoration of order and our ancient virtues, the extension of genuine religion, and the consequent advancement of our respectability abroad, and of our substantial happiness at home. I request, most reverend and respected Gentlemen, that you will accept my cordial thanks for your devout supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe in behalf of me. May you, and the people whom you represent, be the happy subjects of the divine benedictions both here and hereafter.”13

On October 20, 1792, from Philadelphia, President Washington wrote to Sir Edward Newenham:

“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy which has marked the present age would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see their religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”14

On March 15, 1790, President George Washington wrote to the Roman Catholics of the nation:

“I feel that my conduct, in war and in peace, has met with more general approbation than could reasonably have been expected and I find myself disposed to consider that fortunate circumstance, in a great degree, resulting from the able support and extraordinary candour of my fellow-citizens of all denominations…. America, under the smiles of a Divine Providence, the protection of a good government, and the cultivation of manners, morals, and piety, cannot fail of attaining an uncommon degree of eminence, in literature, commerce, agriculture, improvements at home and respectability abroad…. I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed…. May the members of your society in America, animated alone by the pure spirit of Christianity, and still conducting themselves as the faithful subjects of our free government, enjoy every temporal and spiritual felicity.”15

While serving his Presidential term in New York, President Washington sent instructions to one of the overseers of his estate:

“I shall not close this letter without exhorting you to refrain from spirituous liquors; they will prove your ruin if you do not. Consider how little a drunken man differs from a beast; the latter is not endowed with reason, the former deprives himself of it; and when that is the case, acts like a brute, annoying and disturbing every one around him; nor is this all, nor, as it respects himself, the worst of it. By degrees it renders a person feeble, and not only unable to serve others but to help himself; and being an act of his own, he falls from a state of usefulness into contempt, and at length suffers, if not perishes, in penury and want. Don’t let this be your case. Show yourself more of a man and a Christian than to yield to so intolerable a vice, which cannot, I am certain (to the greatest lover of liquor), give more pleasure to sip in the poison (for it is no better) than the consequence of it in bad behavior at the moment, and the more serious evils produced by it afterwards, must give pain. I am your Friend, George Washington.”16

John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who had previously fought with Washington in the Revolutionary War and served with him at Valley Forge, said of Washington:

“Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man.”17

Jared Sparks, a historian and professor of history at Harvard, was known for his studies of George Washington. He analyzed Washington’s character and gave this summary:

“A Christian in faith and practice, he was habitually devout. His reverence for religion is seen in his example, his public communications and his private writings. He uniformly ascribed his success as to the beneficent agency of the Supreme Being.”18

James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, stated:

“Washington was constant in the observance of worship, according to the received forms of the Episcopal Church.”19

The inscription at Mount Vernon describes Washington as:

“The hero, the patriot, the Christian. The father of nations, the friend of mankind, Who, when he had won all, renounced all, and sought in the bosom of his family and of nature, retirement, and in hope of religion, immortality.”20

Washington’s Bible was donated by his adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis, to the Pohick Church, Truro Parish, where Washington served as a vestryman, October 25, 1762 to February 23, 1784. The dedication stated:

“Presented to Truro Parish for the use of Pohick Church, July 11, 1802. With the request that should said church cease to be appropriated to Divine worship which God forbid, and for the honor of Christianity, it is hoped will never take place. In such case I desire that the vestry will preserve this Bible as a testimony of regard from the subscriber after a residence of 19 years in the Parish. George Washington Parke Custis.”21

In 1745, at thirteen years of age, George Washington copied some verses on “Christmas Day”:

“Assist me, Muse divine, to sing the Morn,
On Which the Saviour of Mankind was born.”22

In 1747, at the age of fifteen years old, George Washington fulfilled the role of being a godfather to a child in baptism. The next year, 1748, he served as the godfather in baptism to his niece, Frances Lewis. In 1751, George again was the godfather to his nephew, Fielding Lewis, and in 1760, he sponsored his nephew, Charles Lewis.23

On January 6, 1759, George Washington was married to Martha Dandridge Custis by Rev. David Mossom, rector of Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, New Kent County, Virginia. After having settled at Mount Vernon, George Washington became one of the twelve vestrymen in the Truro Parish, which included the Pohick Church, the Falls Church, and the Alexandria Church. The old vestry book of Pohick Church contained the entry:

“At a Vestry held for Truro Parish, October 25, 1762, ordered, that George Washington, Esq. be chosen and appointed one of the Vestry-men of this Parish, in the room of William Peake, Gent. deceased.”24

On February 15, 1763, the Fairfax County Court recorded:

“George Washington, Esq. took the oath according to Law, repeated and subscribed the Test and subscribed to the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England in order to qualify him to act as a Vestryman of Truro Parish.”25

Being in communion with the Anglican Church, serving for over twenty years as a vestryman (trustee), and on at least three different occasions serving as churchwarden, Washington would have regularly repeated the Apostle’s Creed, which begins:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.”26

In his diary, George Washington recorded his attendance at numerous Church and Vestry meetings:

“1768 – May 8th – Went to Church from Colonel Bassett’s.
May 22d – Went to Church at Nomini.
May 29th – Church at St. Paul’s.
June 5th – to Church at Alexandria.
June 12th – at Pohick.
July 16th – Went by Muddy Hole and Dog Run to the vestry at Pohick Church – stayed there till after 3 o’clock and only four members coming, returned by Captain McCartys and dined there.
August – Nomini in Westmoreland.
September 9th – proceeded [through Alexandria] to the meeting of our Vestry at the new Church [Payne's] and lodged at Captain Edward Payne’s.
Nov. 15th – at Pohick.
Nov. 28th – Went to Vestry at Pohick Church.
1769 – March 3rd – Went to the Vestry at Pohick Church and returned at 11 o’clock at night.
Sept. 23rd – Captain Posey called here in the morning and we went to a Vestry.
1772 – June 5th – Met the Vestry at our new Church [Payne's] and came home in the afternoon.
1774 – Feb. 15th – I went to a Vestry at the new Church [Payne's] and returned in the afternoon.
Sept. 25th – Went to Quaker meeting in the forenoon, and to St. Peter’s in the afternoon; dined at my lodgings.
Oct. 2d – Went to Church, dined at the new tavern.
Oct. 9th – Went to the Presbyterian meeting in the afternoon; dined at Bevan’s.
Oct. 16th – Went to Christ Church in the morning; after which rode to and dined at the Province Island; supped at Byrn’s.”27

On June 19, 1773, George Washington returned from Williamsburg to find his 16-year-old stepdaughter, Martha “Miss Patsey” Custis, dying. She was the daughter of Mrs. Martha Dandridge Custis Washington by her first marriage to Daniel Parke Custis, who had died when the girl was young. George Washington, being the only father Martha “Miss Patsey” Custis knew, knelt by her bed at prayed, only to have her die shortly thereafter. He wrote:

“The sweet, innocent girl entered into a more happy and peaceful abode than she had met in the afflicted path she had hitherto trod.”28

On June 1, 1774, Wednesday, the same day the British blockade of the Boston Harbor was to begin, the Colonies called for a Day of Fasting and Prayer “…to seek divine direction and aid.”29

George Washington’s diary entry that day was:

“Went to church and fasted all day.”30

On November 15, 1862, from his Executive Mansion in Washington, President Abraham Lincoln quoted General George Washington in his General Order Respecting the Observance of the Sabbath Day in the Army and Navy:

The President, Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, desires and enjoins the orderly observance of the Sabbath by the officers and men in the military and naval service. The importance for man and beast of the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity. The discipline and character of the national forces should not suffer nor the cause they defend be imperiled by the profanation of the day or name of the Most High. “At this time of public distress,” adopting the words of Washington in 1776, “men may find enough to do in the service of God and their country without abandoning themselves to vice and immorality.” The first general order issued by the Father of his Country after the Declaration of Independence indicates the spirit in which our institutions were founded and should ever be defended: “The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.”Abraham Lincoln.31

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1.Footnote: Washington, George. September 14, 1775, in a personal letter to Colonel Benedict Arnold. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. III, p. 91. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 71. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), p. 122-123.

2.Footnote: Washington, George. July 9, 1776; previously $20.00 a month, approved July 1775. American Army Chaplaincy – A Brief History (prepared in the Office of the Chief of Chaplains: 1946), p. 6. Anson Phelps Stokes and Leo Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States (NY: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1950, revised one-volume edition, 1964), p. 35. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), Vol. V, pp. 244-245. Washington, George. July 9, 1776, order issued to the army in response to the reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. III, p. 456. Writings of George Washington, (Sparks ed.), Vol. XII, p. 401, citing Orderly Book; also orders of August 3, 1776, in ibid., IV, 28 n. Abraham Lincoln quoted this order of Washington’s on November 15, 1862, to have his troops maintain regular sabbath observances. Abraham Lincoln, Letters and Addresses and Abraham Lincoln (NY: Unit Book Publishing Co., 1907), p. 261. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 83. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), Vol. V, p. 245. William Barclay Allen, ed., George Washington – A Collection (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, Liberty Fund, Inc., 7440 N. Shadeland, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250, 1988; based almost entirely on materials reproduced from The Writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799/John Clement Fitzpatrick, editor), p. 73. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944). John F. Schroeder, ed., Maxims of Washington (Mt. Vernon: Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1942), p. 299. Saxe Commins, ed., The Basic Writings of George Washington (NY: Random House, 1948), p. 236. Anson Phelps Stokes and Leo Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States (NY: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1950, revised one-volume edition, 1964), p. 35. Norman Cousins, In God We Trust – The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the Founding Fathers (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 50. Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington and Religion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), p. 69. Frank Donovan, Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration (New York: Dodd Mead & Co., 1968), p. 192. A. James Reichley, Religion in American Public Life (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 1985), p. 99. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and The Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), pp. 120-121. Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987), p. 108.

3.Footnote: Washington, George. Sunday, October 19, 1777, in a letter to Major-General Putnam. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. V, p. 105. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 100.

4.Footnote: Washington, George. Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstern, trans. and ed., Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, The Notebook of a Colonial Clergyman (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), p. 195. Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1977), p. 323.

5.Footnote: Washington, George. May 2, 1778, orders issued to his troops at Valley Forge. George Washington, General Orders (Mount Vernon, VA: Archives of Mount Vernon). Henry Whiting, Revolutionary Orders of General Washington, selected from MSS. of John Whiting (1844), p. 74. Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (1886), Vol. II, p. 140. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), Vol. XI, p. 343. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 112. Norman Cousins, In God We Trust – The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the Founding Fathers (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 51. Peter Marshall & David Manuel, The Glory of America (Bloomington, MN: Garborg’s Heart ‘N Home, 1991), 9.5. D.P. Diffine, Ph.D., One Nation Under God – How Close a Separation? (Searcy, Arkansas: Harding University, Belden Center for Private Enterprise Education, 6th edition, 1992), p. 8.

6.Footnote: Washington, George. May 12, 1779, from his “Address to Delaware Chiefs Indian Chiefs,” John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources: 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, DC: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1907), 1:64. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), Vol. XV, p. 55. William Barclay Allen, ed., George Washington – A Collection (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, Liberty Fund, Inc., 7440 N. Shadeland, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250, 1988; based almost entirely on materials reproduced from The Writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799/John Clement Fitzpatrick, editor), pp. 132-133. Saxe Commins, ed., The Basic Writings of George Washington (NY: Random House, 1948), p. 356. Norman Cousins, In God We Trust – The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the American Founding Fathers (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 51. Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington and Religion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), p. 68. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), p. 120. Gary DeMar, The Biblical Worldview (Atlanta, GA: An American Vision Publication – American Vision, Inc., 1992), Vol. 8, No. 12, p. 8. Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History: The Untold Story (Atlanta, GA: American Vision Publishers, Inc., 1993), p. 76. Stephen McDowell and Mark Beliles, “The Providential Perspective” (Charlottesville, VA: The Providence Foundation, P.O. Box 6759, Charlottesville, Va. 22906, January 1994), Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 8.

7.Footnote: Washington, George. June 8, 1783, original source of prayer is the concluding paragraph in Washington’s farewell circular letter sent to the governors of the thirteen states from his headquarters in Newburgh, New York. This version is used at Pohick Church, Fairfax County, Virginia, where Washington was a vestryman from 1762-1784. It also appears on a plaque in St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City. Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Publishers, Inc., 1987), pp. xi-xii. John F. Schroeder, ed., Maxims of Washington (Mt. Vernon: Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Associations, 1942), p. 299. Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987), pp. 108-109. George Otis, The Solution to the Crisis in America, Revised and Enlarged Edition (Van Nuys, CA.: Fleming H. Revell Company; Bible Voice, Inc., 1970, 1972, foreword by Pat Boone), p. 55.

8.Footnote: Washington, George. February 8, 1785, in a letter written from Mount Vernon to the President of the Continental Congress. William Barclay Allen, ed., George Washington – A Collection (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, Liberty Fund, Inc., 7440 N. Shadeland, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250, 1988; based almost entirely on materials reproduced from The Writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799/John Clement Fitzpatrick, editor), pp. 298-299. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944).

9. Footnote: Washington, George. August 15, 1787, in a letter written from Philadelphia to the Marquis de Lafayette. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. IX, p. 262. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 153-154.

10. Footnote: Washington, George. May 26, 1789, in a letter received from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Jedediah Morse, D.D., Biographical Sketch of General George Washington, December 31, 1799. William S. Baker, Character Portraits of Washington, 1887, p. 77. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 166-167. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), pp. 121-122.

11.Footnote: Washington, George. 1789, in a letter to The General Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in The United States. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. XII, p. 152. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 167-168. William Barclay Allen, ed., George Washington – A Collection (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, Liberty Fund, Inc., 7440 N. Shadeland, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250, 1988; based almost entirely on materials reproduced from The Writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799/John Clement Fitzpatrick, editor), p. 533. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944). Norman Cousins, In God We Trust – The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the Founding Fathers (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 59.

12.Footnote: Washington, George. In writing to the Directors of the Society of the United Brethren for Propagating the Gospel among the Heathen. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. XII, p. 160. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 168-169. Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington and Religion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), pp. 163-194. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), p. 121.

13. Footnote: Washington, George. August 19, 1789, in a letter to General Convention of Bishops, Clergy and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Norman Cousins, In God We Trust – The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the Founding Fathers (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 59. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. XII, pp. 162-163. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 169-171.

14. Footnote: Washington, George. October 20, 1792, in a letter written from Philadelphia to Sir Edward Newenham. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. X, p. 309. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 211.

15.Footnote: Washington, George. March 15, 1790, in addressing the Roman Catholic Churches in America. Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington and Religion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), pp. 163-194. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), p. 121. William Barclay Allen, ed., George Washington – A Collection (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, Liberty Fund, Inc., 7440 N. Shadeland, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250, 1988; based almost entirely on materials reproduced from The Writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799/John Clement Fitzpatrick, editor), pp. 546-547. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944).

16.Footnote: Washington, George. In a letter of instruction to one of the overseers of his estate while serving his Presidential term in New York. Mrs. C.M. Kirkland, Memoirs of Washington (1857), p. 208. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 200-201.

17.Footnote: Washington, George. John Marshall, The Life of George Washington Abridged Edition, 2 vols. (1832; first edition in 5 vols. 1804-7), Vol. II, p. 445. (John Marshall was chosen by the Washington family to write the biography of George Washington.) William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 260. John F. Schroeder, ed., Maxims of Washington (Mt. Vernon: Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1942), p. 274. Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987), p. 102.

18.Footnote: Washington, George. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. I, p. 535. William H. McGuffey’s Eclectic Sixth Reader (NY: American Book Company, 1907, revised 1920), pp. 42-43. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 261.

19.Footnote: Washington, George. James Madison’s comments regarding Washington. Doctor Randolph H. McKim, New York Tribune (May 26, 1902), p. 7. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 257.

20.Footnote: Washington, George. Inscription at Mount Vernon. Charles Fadiman, ed., The American Treasury (NY: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1955), p. 477.

21.Footnote: Washington, George. July 11, 1802, inscription that his adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis, wrote in George Washington’s Bible at the occasion of its donation to the Pohick Church in Truro Parish.

22.Footnote: Washington, George. 1745, in some verses copied on “Christmas Day,” at thirteen years of age. W. Herbert Burk, Washington’s Prayers (1907), p. 12. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 21.

23. Footnote: Washington, George. 1747, 1748, 1751, 1760, serving as a godfather in baptismal ceremonies. John Stockton Littell, D.D., George Washington: Christian (1913), p. 7. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 21.

24.Footnote: Washington, George. October 25, 1762, in an entry in the vestry book of the Pohick Church in Truro Parish, Virginia. W.M. Clark, Colonial Churches (1907), p. 126. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 49.

25.Footnote: Washington, George. February 15, 1763, in the records of the Fairfax County Court. W.M. Clark, Colonial Churches (1907), p. 126. (Washington’s position as a vestryman was again recorded on a leaf from the Pohick Church record, August 19, 1765; manuscripts in the library of the New York Historical Society. Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, 2 vols. (1860), Vol. II, p. 215). William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 49-50.

26. Footnote: Washington, George. Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington & Religion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1963), p. 27. A. James Reichley, Religion in American Public Life (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1985), p. 94. Pat Robertson, America’s Dates With Destiny (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986), p. 108.

27. Footnote: Washington, George. 1768-1774, attendance at various Church and Vestry meetings recorded in his diary. W.M. Clark, Colonial Churches (1907), pp. 121-126. Rev. Randolph H. McKim, D.D., Rector of the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, D.C., New York Tribune (May 26, 1902), p. 7. E.C. M’guire, The Religious Opinions and Character of Washington (1836), p. 143. (E.C. M’Guire was the son-in-law of Mr. Robert Lewis, Washington’s nephew and private secretary.) William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 51-57, 66-67.

28. Footnote: Washington, George. June 19, 1773, at the death of his stepdaughter, Martha “Miss Patsey” Custis. Paul Leicester Ford, The True George Washington (1903), p. 29. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), pp. 60-61.

29.Footnote: Washington, George. June 1, 1774, in a Day of Fasting and Prayer issued by the Colonies, following the Committee of Correspondence report of the passage of the Boston Port Bill. Verna M. Hall and Rosalie J. Slater, The Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America (San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1983), p. 31.

30.Footnote: Washington, George. June 1, 1774, in an entry in his diary. E.C. M’guire, The Religious Opinions and Character of Washington (1836), p. 142. (E.C. M’Guire was the son-in-law of Mr. Robert Lewis, Washington’s nephew and private secretary.) William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 62. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and The Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Baker Book House, 1987), p. 136.

31.Footnote: Lincoln, Abraham. November 15, 1862, from his Executive Mansion in Washington, D.C., issued a General Order Respecting the Observance of the Sabbath Day in the Army and Navy. James D. Richardson (U.S. Representative from Tennessee), ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1897, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, published by Authority of Congress, 1897, 1899; Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Literature and Art, 1789-1902, 11 vols., 1907, 1910), Vol. VI, p. 125. [see General George Washington’s July 9, 1776, order issued to the army in response to the reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837; NY: F. Andrew’s, 1834-1847), Vol. III, p. 456. Writings of George Washington, (Sparks ed.), Vol. XII, p. 401, citing Orderly Book; also orders of August 3, 1776, in ibid., IV, 28 n. William J. Johnson, George Washington – The Christian (St. Paul, MN: William J. Johnson, Merriam Park, February 23, 1919; Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1919; reprinted Milford, MI: Mott Media, 1976; reprinted Arlington Heights, IL: Christian Liberty Press, 502 West Euclid Avenue, Arlington Heights, Illinois, 60004, 1992), p. 83. John Clement Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, from the Original Manuscript Sources 1749-1799, 39 vols. (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1931-1944), Vol. V, p. 245. William Barclay Allen, ed., George Washington – A Collection (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, Liberty Fund, Inc., 7440 N. Shadeland, Indianapolis, Indiana 46250, 1988; based almost entirely on materials reproduced from The Writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, 1745-1799/John Clement Fitzpatrick, editor), p. 73. John F. Schroeder, ed., Maxims of Washington (Mt. Vernon: Mt. Vernon Ladies’ Association, 1942), p. 299. Saxe Commins, ed., The Basic Writings of George Washington (NY: Random House, 1948), p. 236. Anson Phelps Stokes and Leo Pfeffer, Church and State in the United States (NY: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1950, revised one-volume edition, 1964), p. 35. Norman Cousins, In God We Trust – The Religious Beliefs and Ideas of the Founding Fathers (NY: Harper & Brothers, 1958), p. 50. Paul F. Boller, Jr., George Washington and Religion (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1963), p. 69. Frank Donovan, Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration (New York: Dodd Mead & Co., 1968), p. 192. A. James Reichley, Religion in American Public Life (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institute, 1985), p. 99. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and The Constitution – The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, A Mott Media Book, 1987, 6th printing 1993), pp. 120-121. Tim LaHaye, Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1987), p. 108.

Was George Washington a Christian?

By Reverend Peter Marshall

Much of the decades-old cultural battle over whether America was founded as a Christian nation has centered on the question of the Founding Fathers’ Christian faith – or lack of it. Were the men that we have come to call Founding Fathers Christians? And, because the best-known Founding Father is George Washington, much of the controversy about them has focused on him: Was George Washington a Christian?

The accusation that Washington and the rest of the Founding Fathers were Deists, and not believing Christians, has been endlessly repeated by academics and historians to the point that it has become an accepted article of faith about American history – akin to the “of course” status awarded to the doctrine of Darwinian evolution. Except that it simply isn’t true. The historical evidence, when it is carefully and properly examined, will not allow the label of Deist to be pinned on the huge majority of the Founding Fathers.

The reason all this matters is that the secularists would love to prove that the Christian faith did not influence the Founding Fathers during the time of the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of our Constitution. This is a hugely important element of their campaign to try and convince modern Americans that our nation was not founded on the Christian faith.

I am writing on this subject today because I have been spending the entire winter working on a major revision and updated version of our first book, The Light and the Glory. The publisher has wanted a second edition of the book for some time, and it now looks as if that will become a reality by the spring of 2009. In the course of adding sizeable chunks of material I have been doing quite a bit of new research into the life of George Washington, and particularly the issue that furnishes the title for this commentary – was he a Christian?

I thought it might be of interest to my readers to share a bit of what is involved in the kind of research and writing I do on the subject of God’s hand in American history.

When researching the question of George Washington’s Christian faith, the first issue that emerges is whether or not he was a Deist. What was a Deist? Noah Webster (who was an evangelical Christian believer) defined a Deist in his original 1828 American dictionary as “one who believes in the existence of a God, but denies revealed religion; one who professes no form of religion, but follows the light of nature and reason, as his only guides in doctrine and practice; a freethinker.” Deists emphatically rejected the divinity of Jesus Christ, the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture, and the personal nature of God, among other things. They believed that God created the world but then ignored it, and was never involved in human affairs. In 1963 Paul Boller, Jr. published a major work entitled George Washington & Religion in which he accused our first President of being a Deist. But, does this fit what we can discover about George Washington? Hardly!

George Washington was a low-Church Virginia Anglican, who subscribed in all points to orthodox Christian doctrines. His mother, Mary Ball Washington, was a devout Christian who taught her son by example and word the importance and efficacy of prayer. In our 1977 work, The Light and the Glory, David Manuel and I quoted some prayers supposedly written by Washington in his own handwriting which were titled “Daily Sacrifice.” They had turned up in Philadelphia in 1891 among some items offered for auction by descendants of Washington. These prayers were couched in orthodox Christian language – for example, “Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb” – and were made up of whole sentences from the original Anglican prayer book. We had used these as proof of Washington’s Christianity, since Deists didn’t believe in the blood atonement of Christ. However, these prayers will not be in the new edition of The Light and the Glory, because Peter A. Lillback, in his recent magnificent study of Washington’s spirituality, entitled Sacred Fire, quotes historian Rupert Hughes’s point that the tone of these prayers is quite contrary to Washington’s writing style, “as foreign as if they were written in Greek. There is not a misspelled word, not a touch of incorrect grammar, not a capitalized noun or other emphatic word except the titles of the deity.” (This is unlike Washington in every respect). Of greatest importance is the fact that the handwriting doesn’t match Washington’s. Rupert gives the details, saying “The impossibility of the work being in Washington’s hand should be apparent to the most casual comparison.”

But the fact that George Washington didn’t write these prayers has no bearing on the question of whether he was a man of prayer. He was. Lillback has counted more that one hundred written prayers from his public and private letters! It is true that some of the public prayers were composed by aides, but Washington would never have signed them unless he agreed with their sentiments. Further, they express Christian beliefs.

By the way, never once, in all of his voluminous writings, did George Washington ever use the words Deist or Deism.

During the five years of the War for Independence the Continental Congress issued at least sixteen separate calls for days of prayer and humiliation or thanksgiving, depending on how the war was going. (There were more of the former than the latter!) And they were explicit in their Christian doctrine. The one dated November 27, 1779 includes “our gracious redeemer,” the “light of the gospel,” “the light of Christian knowledge,” and the “Holy Spirit.” None of these phrases would have been used by Deists, yet this language was employed by the supposedly Deist Founding Fathers of the Continental Congress! As a matter of fact, Deists never saw any value in prayer, since they believed that God was impersonal and uninvolved with His creation anyway. Washington happily signed these and passed them on to the army’s chaplains to be put into practice.

When aide Alexander Hamilton drafted a letter for Washington’s signature to the Comte de Rochambeau on February 26, 1781, he wrote: “This repetition of advices justifies a confidence in their truth” to which the General added “which I pray God may be confirmed in its greatest extent.”

One fairly reliable testimony to Washington’s prayer life comes from a letter from a General Lewis of Augusta County, Virginia, dated December 14, 1855, relating a conversation with former Continental Army General Robert Porterfield shortly before his death. In recounting some of his experiences during the New Jersey campaign and the army’s crucible of suffering at Valley Forge, he had said that his duties as a brigade-inspector brought him in frequent contact with General Washington. In an emergency he had once gone directly to Washington’s lodgings and found him on his knees in prayer. When he mentioned this to Alexander Hamilton, the General’s aide replied that “such was his constant habit.”

In E.C. M’Guire’s early 1800’s biography of Washington, when some of his sources were still alive, he quotes the recollections of a Colonel B. Temple, an aide to Washington during the French and Indian War. Temple said that in the absence of a chaplain Washington would read the Scriptures to his troops and lead in prayer. He also said that “on sudden and unexpected visits into his (Washington’s) marquee, he has, more than once, found him on his knees at his devotions.”

To me, one of the strongest pieces of evidence of George Washington’s Christianity is his extensive knowledge of the Bible and his frequent use of Biblical phrases. Again, Deists had no use for the Bible – they rejected its authority. In a personal letter to the Marquis de Lafayette (whom Washington loved as a son) he makes seven separate references to Biblical passages. This was pure Washington – no aide wrote this. In another letter, this one to the Hebrew congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, he employs nine Biblical allusions.

According to Lillback’s count, throughout Washington’s writings he uses over 200 different Biblical phrases of passages or allusions to Biblical passages. Some of them he quoted often, such as his favorite Bible verse, Micah 4:4: “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”

He referred to the Bible as only a Christian would – as the Word of God. In April 1789 he said: “The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity…” (Note that Deists rejected the doctrine of human depravity!)

In one of his most famous letters, his Circular to the States, written after the end of the War for Independence, he listed several developments that had blessed America, and then he wrote: “and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation (emphasis mine), have had ameliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of society.” (Remember that Deists didn’t believe in revelation).

Boller smugly writes that “there are astonishingly few references to the Bible in (Washington’s) letters and public statements.” But in an appendix Lillback lists about two hundred! As he points out, perhaps Boller expected Washington to write down the Biblical chapter and verse, or perhaps Boller simply didn’t know his Bible well enough to spot Biblical references when Washington used them. I suspect the latter. This kind of claim from Boller shows you what we have normally been up against in academic circles.

When Washington took the oath of office as our first President, he revealed his reverence for the Bible by kissing it. And, he added to the oath at the end, “So help me God,” establishing a precedent which every subsequent President has, of course, followed.

Tobias Lear, President Washington’s secretary notes: “While President, Washington followed an invariable routine on Sundays. The day was passed very quietly, no company being invited to the house. After breakfast, the President read aloud a chapter from the Bible, then the whole family attended church together.” In the afternoon Washington tended to his personal correspondence, “while Mrs. Washington frequently went to church again, often taking the children with her. In the evening, Lear read aloud to the family some sermon or extracts from a book of a religious nature and everyone went to bed at an early hour.”

Was George Washington a Christian? – Part Two

…The issue of Washington’s Christianity is pivotal in the current moral and spiritual civil war for our nation’s soul, for if these secularists can make a convincing case that the Founding Fathers were not Christians it would be a huge boost for their campaign to undermine the Biblical foundations of America.

Last week, to define Deist for my readers I quoted Noah Webster’s original 1828 American dictionary: “one who believes in the existence of a God, but denies revealed religion.” I added that the Deists emphatically rejected the divinity of Jesus Christ, the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture, and the personal nature of God, among other things. They believed that God created the world but then wandered off and ignored it, and has never been heard from since.

In examining carefully the voluminous research that objective historians have done on our first President, his spiritual life and character, and in doing my own research into his letters and speeches, I can say that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that George Washington was not a Deist. He was not even close to being a Deist.

Washington was a thoroughly Christian, low-Church Virginia Anglican, who subscribed in all points to orthodox New Testament doctrine.

Last week we took up several important proofs of Washington’s Christianity: First, I shared some of the evidence that he was man of prayer, and pointed out that most Deists never bothered with prayer. They didn’t think God cared, and besides, since they didn’t believe in sin, there was nothing to pray about, anyway! Second, I made the important point that Washington was quite familiar with his Bible. In Peter Lillback’s magnificent book on Washington’s Christian faith, Sacred Fire, he has listed in an appendix over 200 different Biblical phrases or passages, or allusions to Biblical passages. Many of these Washington used over and over in his letters and speeches. It is really quite remarkable how often Biblical passages or incidents cropped up in his thinking and writing. This man knew the Word of God.

And he reverenced it, as well. Last week, I quoted from his famous Circular to the States, written to the thirteen State Governors right after the end of the War for Independence. In that letter, he listed several developments that had blessed America, and then he wrote: “and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation (emphasis mine), have had ameliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of society.” The word “Revelation” back then generally referred to the Bible, and more specifically to the Gospel of Christ revealed in the New Testament. Notice that he capitalized it, which though standard usage at that time, reveals his acceptance of the inspiration of Holy Scripture. And remember, Deists didn’t believe in revelation, because they didn’t think that God revealed anything about himself.

Let’s look at the secularists’ claim that the Father of our country never used the names “God” or “Jesus” – which to them is evidence of his supposed Deism. For example, in 1926 historian Rupert Hughes wrote that, “there is no direct allusion to Christ, and the word Christ has been found in none of Washington’s almost countless autographs.”

This is sloppy history writing. Mr. Hughes didn’t do his homework! In 1779, some Delaware Indian chiefs came to General George Washington’s encampment, bringing three of their sons that they wanted the whites to educate. In his prepared speech the General said to them: “You do well to wish to learn our arts and our way of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ (emphasis mine). These will make you a greater and happier people than you are.” That’s putting it rather bluntly! No Deist would have been caught dead telling anyone that the most important thing they could learn was the religion of Jesus Christ. They simply didn’t believe it.

Granted, Washington hardly ever used the name of Jesus, either in speech or in writing, and he only referred to God by name about one hundred times. But, does this make him a Deist? Hardly. What it makes him is a typical devout 18th Century Virginia Anglican. In Washington’s time Anglicans were very reticent about using the names of Jesus or God. As odd as it sounds to our modern ears, they were very concerned not to profane the sacred names by casual reference to them. Of course, because the Nicene Creed was regularly recited by Washington in the Anglican worship service on Sundays, he would have often professed the names of Jesus and God out loud. But that was sacred usage, with which he would have been totally comfortable.

Martha Washington, who was a very strong Christian believer herself, almost always used indirect and honorific titles in place of the names of Jesus and God. Also, in Washington’s personal sermon collection, there is a July 4, 1793 anniversary message from a Presbyterian minister named Samuel Miller who refers to God as: “the supreme Arbiter of nations,” “the grand Source,” “the Deity himself,” “the Sovereign Dispenser of all blessings,” “the Governor of the universe,” and so forth. Mr. Miller was certainly no Deist. So, this was common practice at the time, even for ministers of the Gospel.

An interesting point is that the Deists were much more inclined to use the names of Jesus and God, precisely because of their lack of reverence. Thomas Paine, whom Lillback calls a “soft” Deist, used the name of God often, although he also used “Creator,” and “Almighty.”

Profaning the holy names of Jesus and God, especially in cursing, was something that George Washington hated. In a General Order to his soldiers dated July 29, 1779, he deplored the fact that in spite of the “many and pointed orders (that) have been issued against that unmeaning and abominable custom of swearing…with much regret the General observes that it prevails, if possible, more than ever; his feelings are continually wounded by the oaths and imprecations of the soldiers whenever he is in hearing of them. The Name of that Being…is incessantly…profaned in a manner as wanton as it is shocking.” He goes on to say that he hopes that “for the sake of religion, decency and order” the officers will put a stop to it. Note that he is personally hurt by the swearing – obviously because of what the name of God means to him. And, in an order meant to stop the profane use of God’s name, he refers to God indirectly, not wanting to use the name himself.

Other typical examples of Washington’s use of indirect titles for Jesus include “our gracious Redeemer” and the “Divine author of our blessed religion.” No Deist would ever use those titles! Among his many indirect titles for God (about 95 of them!) we find “the Lord, and giver of victory”; the “Giver of Life”; the “Judge of the hearts of men”; the “great Lord and Ruler of nations”; and his favorite – “Providence,” with a capital “P.” He used this one over 270 times!

There are other minor, but nonetheless significant refutations of George Washington’s supposed Deism. For example, he was a faithful vestryman (lay leader) in the Truro Parish of northern Virginia in the years prior to the War for Independence. In the eleven years of his active service, he attended 23 of the 31 meetings. Of the eight meetings he missed, he was sick once, at the House of Burgesses meetings twice, out of the county three times for sure, and possibly the other two as well. Washington took his vestry responsibilities very seriously. In order to be a vestryman, one had to affirm the creeds of the Anglican Church, and they were most definitely orthodox Christian! Also, at different times he was asked to be a godfather for a total of eight children, which also required one to publicly affirm the creeds of the Church in a service. Washington did this cheerfully. But when Thomas Jefferson was asked to do the same thing, he declined the honor, because he could not honestly affirm the doctrines of the Anglican Church!

What about the secularists’ accusations that George Washington hardly ever attended church, and refused to take Holy Communion when he did? Do they have a case here? Not really.

Before the War for Independence, the Washington family probably attended church on the average of about once a month. That doesn’t sound like much of a commitment to public worship for a Christian believer, but one has to take into account the fact that they had to travel about nine miles over wilderness roads to get to the Pohick Church – the nearest Anglican church to Mount Vernon. Not only was the church unheated, but because it was a rural parish, the minister himself would only show up about once a month, if there was one available.

During the war, the General was insistent on his soldiers attending divine services. His first General Order, when he took command of the Continental Army, dated July 4, 1775 states: “The General most earnestly requires, and expects, a due observance of those articles of war, established for the Government of the army, which forbid profane cursing, swearing and drunkenness (the first of a number of orders he would issue concerning this); And in like manner requires and expects, of all Officers, and Soldiers, not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on divine Service (emphasis mine), to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense”.

When there was no church service in the camp, he was not always able to get to church himself, but apparently he made efforts to do so. Biographer E.C. M’Guire reported that “one of his secretaries, Judge Harrison, has often been heard to say, that ‘whenever the General could be spared from camp, on the Sabbath, he never failed riding out to some neighboring church, to join those who were publicly worshipping the Great Creator.’ ” I

noted in last week’s commentary the evidence that George and Martha Washington often attended church together during his Presidency. For about a year after his retirement back to Mount Vernon, the Washingtons apparently didn’t attend church services. Why, we don’t know. Then they resumed, shifting their churchgoing to Christ Church, Alexandria, which by this time was having weekly services.

Washington always observed the Sabbath – he never worked on Sunday, except for personal letter writing. He always gave his staff, his servants, and his soldiers the day off to attend church. He would not fox hunt on Sundays, though he sometimes traveled to fox hunts on Sundays. If the family didn’t go to church, Washington would lead in devotions and read aloud one of the sermons that he had collected.

The testimony of Nelly Custis, the Washington’s adopted granddaughter, in regard to their church attendance is interesting. “He (Washington) attended the church at Alexandria when the weather and roads permitted a ride of ten miles. In New York and Philadelphia (when he was President) he never omitted attendance at church in the morning, unless detained by indisposition… No one in church attended to the service with more reverential respect. My grandmother, who was eminently pious, never deviated from her early habits. She always knelt. The General, as was then the custom, stood during the devotional parts of the service.”

The accusations that George Washington never took Holy Communion have been common, and began to be leveled not many years after his death. It has become a significant part of the controversy over Washington’s religious belief and practice. In response, let me point out that the custom in colonial Virginia was to only offer the Sacrament at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide (Pentecost Sunday), so many Anglicans only received it once a year. In addition, as Bishop William Meade pointed out, “there was a mistaken notion, too prevalent both in England and America, that it was not so necessary in the professors of religion to communicate (receive Communion) at all times, but that in this respect persons might be regulated by their feelings… Into this error of opinion and practice General Washington may have fallen…” Support for this theory is afforded by Nelly Custis, who wrote of her childhood at Mount Vernon: “On Communion Sundays he (Washington) left the church with me, after the blessing, and returned home, and we sent the carriage back for my grandmother” (Martha Washington). Since at that time the Communion services were as long as the service they had just attended, it was not unusual for two-thirds of the congregation to leave before the Communion service began. Washington’s practice, though regrettable, was common for believers in his day.

There are several testimonies of those who observed him take Holy Communion during the war. General S.H. Lewis of Augusta County, Virginia, in a letter dated December 14, 1855 quoted General Robert Porterfield as saying that “he had known General Washington personally for many years… I saw him myself on his knees receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” There is also a story that Washington took Communion in the Presbyterian Church while the Continental Army was at Morristown, New Jersey for the winter of 1778-79. Dr. James Richards, who followed Rev. Timothy Johnes, the pastor when Washington was in Morristown, noted that “the report that Washington did actually receive the communion from the hands of Dr. Johnes was universally current during that period, and so far as I know, never contradicted. I have often heard it from the members of Dr. Johnes’ family, while they added that a note was addressed by Washington to their father, requesting the privilege…”

Lastly, there is what I believe is a very credible story from the pen of the Rev. Alexander Hamilton, Mrs. Alexander Hamilton’s great-grandson. In 1854, the Hamilton family held a reunion in New York City. Mrs. Hamilton, a young woman of thirty-one, was Continental Army General Phillip Schuyler’s daughter. She took her great-grandson, who was only seven at the time, to see St. Paul’s Church, along with other family members. She told him that she had been present in the church on George Washington’s inauguration day in 1789, when he had received Holy Communion. She made it clear to him that she wanted him to know that she had personally witnessed Washington receiving the Sacrament, so he could tell others. Rev. Hamilton recollected that her words were: “If anyone ever tells you that George Washington was not a communicantof the Church, you say that your great-grandmother told you to say that she had knelt at this chancel rail at his side and received with him the Holy Communion.”

There are more points that I could make on the issue of whether George Washington was a Christian, for if one is willing to do the research into his life the evidence is there to be discovered. However, the proof of Washington’s Christianity is not easily discovered, because he was an intensely private person. Historian Benson Lossing writes: “It was a peculiar trait of his character to avoid everything, either in speech or in writing, that had a personal relation to him.” Many years after Washington’s death, Bishop William White, who knew him personally, wrote: “I knew no man who so carefully guarded against the discoursing of himself, or of his acts, or of any thing that pertained to him.” He added: “His ordinary behavior, although exceptionally courteous, was not such as to encourage obtrusion on what he had on his mind.”

But, suffice it to say in sum that there is plenty of conclusive proof that George Washington was a Biblically literate, Trinitarian and orthodox Anglican Christian believer. A man of prayer, and a firm believer in the providential sovereignty of God, he was unafraid to publicly and frequently acknowledge his gratitude for the “signal instances of providential Goodness which we have experienced.” May we follow his example!

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