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Lost Episode for March 2

John Adams - YoungerOn March 2, 1756, Founding Father John Adams made the following entry in his diary:

“Began this afternoon on my third quarter. The great and Almighty author of nature, who at first established those rules which regulate the world, can as easily suspend those laws whenever his providence sees sufficient reason for such suspension. This can be no objection, then, to the miracles of Jesus Christ. Although some very thoughtful and contemplative men among the heathen attained a strong persuasion of the great principles of religion, yet the far greater number, having little time for speculation, gradually sunk into the grossest opinions and the grossest practices. These, therefore, could not be made to embrace the true religion till their attention was roused by some astonishing and miraculous appearances. The reasoning of philosophers, having nothing surprising them, could not overcome the force of prejudice, custom, passion, and bigotry. But when wise and virtuous men commissioned from heaven, by miracles awakened men’s attention to their reasonings, the force of truth made its way with ease to their minds.”*

From this diary entry, it is clear that John Adams was no deist. He believed in the God of the Bible who providentially and actively intervenes in human affairs, referring specifically to the miracles of Christ. Adams’ view of God is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Acts 5:12-16 and reflect on the miracles done by the apostles and the people coming to faith as a result and compare that with John Adams’ entry.

Prayer: Father, we praise you that you are not a “clock-maker,” who created the universe, but who never intervenes. We thank you that you not only set aside the rules of your creation and work miracles, but you are also active and involved in our lives. Give us the courage and wisdom to be winsome witnesses of your greatness, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Charles Francis Adams, ed, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author Notes and Illustrations, 10 vols., (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1856), 2:7-8.

 

Lost Episode for March 1

John RobinsonPilgrim Pastor John Robinson died on March 1, 1625. Pastor Robinson was a thought-leader in the Separatist movement away from what were perceived as excesses in the Church of England, writing several tracts for which he and the Pilgrims were persecuted. King James I harassed Robinson’s church to the point that they felt compelled to leave Scrooby, England and relocate to Holland in 1608. After 11 years there, Robinson began to encourage his flock to undertake the most ambitious church relocation project in history in coming to America.

Pastor Robinson wrote a number of influential pamphlets and books, including: A Justification of Separation from the Church of England (1610), Of Religious Communion, Public and Private,
(1614), and On the Lawfulness of Hearing Ministers in the Church of England (1634). Pastor Robinson, who hoped to come over himself on a later voyage, had also written a letter to take with them on the journey, advising them that the form of government established should be “congregational” or representative:

“Lastly, whereas you are become a Body Politic, using amongst yourselves Civil Government… let your wisdom and godliness appear not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love and will promote the common good; but also in yielding unto them all due honor and obedience in their lawful administrations. Not beholding in them the ordinariness of their persons, but God’s ordinance for your good…”*

Pastor Robinson’s words are not only based on biblical principles found in Exodus 18:21, 1 Peter 2:13-17, and Romans 13:1-7, but these words are reflected in the Mayflower Compact, which some consider to be America’s Birth Certificate. Note the echo of Pastor Robinson’s own words:

‘Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia…in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick…’

Though Pastor Robinson actively encouraged the Pilgrims to make the voyage to America, and intended on coming over himself, he never made it. Like Moses, who led his people out of bondage in Egypt and to the edge of the Promised Land, Pastor Robinson was given a vision of freedom, but did not get to enjoy its fruit.

Pastor Robinson’s church relocation project and his influence on the Mayflower Compact is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Deut. 34:1-5 reflect on the Moses would get to see the promised land but not enter and compare that with Pastor Robinson.

Prayer: Father, we praise you for providing this pastor, whose visionary leadership caused the Pilgrims to undertake the greatest church relocation project in world history. Give us men of God like that in our day, we pray, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Walter H. Burgess, John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers: A Study of His Life and Times (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe 1920), 255.

 

Lost Episode for February 28

Richard StocktonFounding Father Richard Stockton died on February 28, 1781 as a result of his deteriorated health from being captured and imprisoned by the British during the War for Independence. Born in Princeton, New Jersey and a graduate of the College, Stockton became a lawyer and eventually served as an associate justice on the Supreme Court of New Jersey (1774-76) and as a member of the second Continental Congress (1776). He signed the Declaration of Independence, which concludes with these words: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Stockton pledged and gave his life for liberty.

In his Last Will and Testament, their father, Richard Stockton, wrote:

“As my children will have frequent occasion of perusing this instrument, and may probably be peculiarly impressed with the last words of their father, I think proper here, not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great leading doctrines of the Christian religion, such as the being of a God, the universal defection and depravity of human nature, the divinity of the Person, and completeness of the redemption purchased by the blessed Saviour, the necessity of the divine Spirit, of divine faith accompanied with an habitual virtuous life, and the universality of divine Providence; but also in the bowels of a father’s affection to charge and exhort them to remember that ‘the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom’ [Prov. 9:10].”*

Stockton left a strong legacy of faith to his son Richard, who became a U.S. Senator (1796-99) and a U.S. Representative (1813-15) and to his son Robert, who served with distinction as a U.S. Naval officer in the War of 1812, conquered California and proclaimed it a U.S. Territory (August 17, 1846), and served as a U.S. Senator (1851-53). Stockton, California, was named after him. His daughter Julia married Benjamin Rush, a fellow signer of the Declaration.

Yet it is Richard Stockton’s personal sacrifices on behalf of freedom and the legacy of faith he left his children that is another lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Prov. 9:10 and reflect on the Scripture in light of this Signer of the Declaration’s admonition to his children.

Prayer: Father, we praise you for the faith of this Founder, who loved his children and encouraged them to fear God. We thank you that he only pledged his life as a Signer of the Declaration of Independence but also gave it for the cause of liberty, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Samuel Davies Alexander, Princeton College During the Eighteenth Century (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1872), 3-4. Bracketed item added.

 

Lost Episode for February 27

Zephaniah Swift Law BookThe Honorable Zephaniah Swift was born on February 27, 1759. He was graduated from Yale and became a Congressman, Judge, and author. As a U.S. Representative (1793-97), Congressman Swift declared in his 1793 work, The Correspondent:

“Jesus Christ has in the clearest manner inculcated those duties which are productive of the highest moral felicity [happiness] and consistent with all the innocent enjoyments… Religion…is the source of endless rapture and delight…

“Christians of different denominations ought to consider that the law knows no distinction among them; that they are all established upon the broad basis of equal liberty, that they have a right to think, speak, and worship as they please, and that no sect has power to injure and oppress another. When they reflect that they are equally under the protection of the law, all will revere and love the constitution, and feel interested in the support of the government. No denomination can pride themselves in the enjoyment of superior and exclusive powers and immunities.”*

In 1795, Swift wrote the first purely American legal text, titled: A System of Laws of the State of Connecticut, which had President Washington, Vice President Adams, and two Supreme Court Justices as subscribers. He also served as a member of the Abolition Society (1795), a Connecticut Superior Court Judge (1801-06) and Chief-Justice (1806-19). Swift also helped frame the Connecticut State Constitution (1814).

However, it is Zephaniah Swift’s perspective on the superiority of the religion of Jesus Christ and of the equality of Christian denominations in the eyes of the law that is a lost episode in American history.

Read and Reflect: Read Gal. 3:26-28 and reflect on the equality of every person, regardless of ethnicity or economics or social status or religious persuasion and compare that to Swift’s statement.

Prayer: Father, we praise you that the ground at the foot of the cross is level ground. Forgive us for feelings of spiritual superiority and pride in our group or church. Teach us how to put others ahead of ourselves, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: Zephaniah Swift, The Correspondent (Windham: John Byrne, 1793), 135, 38. Bracketed item added.

 

Lost Episode for February 26

Francis MarionMajor-General Francis Marion died on February 26, 1795 after serving in the Revolutionary War. “Marion’s Brigade” was a volunteer militia force that could assemble at a moment’s notice. Often outnumbered, Marion’s militia surprised British regiments with great success, seeming to attack everywhere at once and capturing many prisoners. Marion’s shrewd tactics and daring exploits earned him the nickname “Swamp Fox.” Ruthless British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, who vainly pursued him, cursed: “As for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him.” The movie “The Patriot” was loosely based on Marion’s exploits.

Gen. Marion’s grandfather, a French Protestant Huguenot who fled to America in 1690 for religious freedom, settled on a farm in South Carolina. In 1775, Francis Marion was elected a member of the South Carolina Provincial Congress and after the War he served in the State Senate of South Carolina for several terms. In 1790, Marion helped write the South Carolina state constitution, and then retired from public life. Marion declared:

“Who can doubt that God created us to be happy; and thereto made us to love one another? which is plainly written in our hearts; whose every thought and work of love is happiness and as plainly written as the gospel whose every line breathes love and every precept enjoins good works.”*

The Swamp Fox’s belief in the Gospel and the lifestyle of love and good works it produces is a lost episode in American history.

Read and reflect: Read Hebrews 10:23-24 and reflect on the encouragement to “love and good works” and compare that with Marion’s declaration.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we praise you for the Gospel, which inspires us to love others and to do good works. Empower us to live out this calling, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

*Source Citation: P. Horry and M. L. Weems, The Life of General Francis Marion: A Celebrated Partisan Officer in the Revolutionary War against the British and Tories in South Carolina and Georgia (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co 1860), 250.

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