tv The Presidency George Washingtons Faith CSPAN April 8, 2018 8:01pm-9:24pm EDT
when you look at the anniversary of lyndon johnson dropping out of the campaign -- a lot of it was because of the activist who came out and opposed his nomination. i think she is right. our guest is michael: here in washington and joining us from beach, florida is kathleen kennedy townsend, the oldest daughter of senator robert kennedy. to both of you, thank you for being with us on c-span and c-span3's american history tv. >> beach, florida is kathleen kennedy townsend, the oldest daughter of senator robert kennedy. on the presidency, his story and peter lillback talks about his book "george washington's sacred fire." he argues that while many historians consider washington to be a deist or a nominal christian, he was in fact a devoutly religious person. colorado christian university hosted the program. it is 90 minutes.
for the last 80 years, the faith of george washington has been the subject of intense faith -- intenseidency, his story debate. why does it matter? for over a century after his death, most people took it for granted that he was a practicing christian. it revised view of washington began to take hold in the 1930's. it suggested that washington was a unbeliever or at most deist. in 2006, this the it -- this thesis was challenged by several books. one by michael novak called "washington's god." another one was by peter lillback called "george washington's sacred fire" and it became a national bestseller. washington has been called the father of our country, a man for the ages. some call it one of the greatest men any nation has ever brought forward. so it matters a great deal what
he stood for and what he believed. what sets dr. lillback's book apart from other literary works on washington was the exhaustive writings,robing his sermons that he listened to and insights of those who knew him best as well as looking at evidence that no one has ever looked at before. in his book, he reveals the life, the challenges, the leadership, the characters, and the faith of george washington. let me tell you a little about dr. low back. iserend dr. peter lillback the president of westminster theological seminary in philadelphia. he is also it has are of historical theology and history at westminster seminary. he served as the president of the providence form. -- forum. his phd from westminster theological seminary and his thm from dallas the electrical seminary. he is an ordained minister of
the word in the us the carrion church of america. we are glad that tonight's lecture will be covered by c-span but would you please join me in welcoming dr. peter lillback. [applause] dr. lillback: thank you so very much for this wonderful privilege to be with you here at colorado christian university. i begin this lecture confessing the fact that i never even had an inkling of an idea when i was doing my seminary studies that i would ever be lecturing on washington let alone studying his writings. this happened unexpectedly through an embarrassing event in my early ministry that made me say -- maybe i don't know anything about american history. i determined i would never talk about the subject again until i was sure i knew what i was talking about because the last thing you want to do when you get up as a teacher is teaching him thing that is not true.
in fact, one of the wisest things any teacher can ever say is -- that is a great question. i do not know the answer. i will see if i can find out for you. that takes humility and it also shows that you hold important truth. what i want to present to you then is not what i have aspirational he longed for or it is not something that i want us all to believe in because we all have to stand together for some vision of america that has a great christian past. -- butwant to you is to i want to do is just a minute to you the truth scum of the evidences i have uncovered. if you want a deep level, you can go into to the hundred pages of a book. the big question, as we do this, i want to thank the president for his wonderful invitation and for professor gary stewart
being a lover of american history as well as the great tradition biblical heritage of scholarship in the church of america. i come with great gratitude for these women -- for these meant that lobbied for me to come. what was the faith of george washington? we can honestly answer the question -- ask the question --does it matter? let us get going. turn it on. there we go. and it is probably the bottom line that is most important. does it matter? to just be athis historical hour of discussion. i want us to continue the true,on -- if this is what difference does it make in the way that we look at the world and the country that we live in? the basic question that has already been posed was -- was george washington a deist? we need to know what the word means. a deist believes in a god. we might say if there is a big bang, we need a big banger.
banger, did a big he hang around to do anything else? is he an absentee landlord? busy so remote that he has no contact with us? is he uninvolved with the world? that was the claim of the deists. theistrast, atheist -- a -- a greek version of the same word. in philosophical terms is someone that believes that god is act if in the world. knowable.onally we can engage with this god and hear from him. he hears our prayers. as we probe deeper, we can make a distinction between what i have called hard deism and soft deism. as you look at any philosophical -- philosophical school or the illogical tradition, there are always nuances. if a deistto define
believes that god is uninvolved with the world, there are two schools of thought and they were both operable in some way in the context we are speaking about. hard deism will say that there is no providence. what do we mean by providence? god's engagement in history. governing,olling, acting in the events of history. what happened there? ok. soft the is a. we will allow room for god. maybe he will turned up from time to time. hard deism would say that prayer is useless. if there is no engagement of god in the world, why would he bother to hear you pray? prayer is useless. a soft deist will say that god may be doing inks from time to time and maybe he will hear prayers if he chooses to. maybe prayer has a place. the clergy, a hard deist will say -- clergyman are a waste of
resources. there is actually a statement allegedly said by full tear, -- voltaire the kind of world we long for -- artist want to try to paint that picture? it is gruesome. clergy is useless. a soft deist would say -- we could have a place for the church. here is where they come together. a hard deist will say -- there can be no word of god. us is not speaking to because he is not involved. revelation ine written or spoken word. and a soft deist what a great. they would say that god has not spoken to us. is, is a, whatever it mythological collection of ancient stories and they can never be taken as authoritative
or in fact the mind and will of god. deismis him was -- hard would say there is no incarnate of god. an incarnation would be a fable. a soft deist would take a similar position. they would say -- we cannot believe in a divine christ. at two critical points, they are alike. even though they are distinct in other ways. how might we see some theseduals representing at two schools? thomas payne, in his early years, a great patriot becomes a hardened deist in the midst of the french revolution. he takes on the radical view. and thomas jefferson, our great american hero, these two schools? one of the co-writers of the declaration of independence and a president, he would identify himself in what
we might call a soft deist position. in his day, it would be called a unitarian. unitarians may today not even fit into the soft the is him category. we do not want to lump them together. they are similar but different. the question is, are we going to identify washington in one of these two categories? and is this not the uniform expression that we hear from scholarship, the media, people that are debating things in the -- we will often hear that our founders were es. they were all deists. we find that in all circles of discussion. that is basically the position that i am choosing to challenge. now, george washington did not say this. if it doesn't fit, you must acquit. he had nothing to do with the o.j. simpson trial. [laughter] but it just so happens that that
language is very excellent in our context. you see the handsome hand of george washington reaching out. it has five fingers. can we put a deist glove on his hand? if it does not fit, we must acquit him of the charge. did he believe in providence? guess what? providence is by far his most important theological words. he uses it over 270 times and i counted them and i did not include providence, rhode island. just so you know. i did not try to stuff the numbers. providential. .rovident he clearly believed in the doctrine of providence. in fact, could i just introduce the fact that you know that is an official american doctor. with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence we mutually it alleged one
another, our lives, our fortunes, and our honor. christianity written into our founding document. he could not have believed in prayer, right? again, i have found -- this is hard to take but true, i have found over 100 prayers in george washington's writings written in his own hand. usually, they are not much longer than a sentence. he will say -- i now make it my earnest supplication to the god of the universe that god will bless you. one sentence. prayer. right in the letter. over 100. i catalogued them all for you. uh oh. one of them is a full paragraph long at a most auspicious moment. what about clergy? george washington did not have time for the clergy, right? i hate to tell you.
go through his diaries. 50 different clergyman stayed at mount vernon. washington recorded those in his personal journeys -- journals. we don't even have all of them. ministers -- e washington had 50. on top of that, when you go through his letters, he wrote to over 50 different ministers. some of whom he said -- i have read your sermon and i agree with the doctrine. he communicated with ministers. that is another 100 you can catalog. 100 prayers. his home or inn his letters. the word of god. did he believe in it? we will look at an exact quote from him in a moment when he will refer to the word of god and i will explain why that is so important. did he believe in a divine christ? an exact quote
from washington when he will speak of the divine author of our blessed religion. i will build on those in a moment. here is the foundational question. to me, this is the great apologetic pool that i hope you will take away from this lecture. if you forget everything i have said, do not forget this. here is the question. text in the vast writings of george washington that number at least 37 volumes when they were printed back in the early 1900s where he claims to be a deist? i want you to know that i spent 15-20 years looking for that and it does not exist. not one. when you say george washington was notwhen you say george washn was not a deist some might say -- pulitzer prize winner -- or professor so-and-so said -- well, you know the newspaper and it was on the major cover of the
new york times -- what does washington say? the next time, when someone says to you that george washington was a deist, simply stop and say -- please quote george washington chapter and verse when he claims to be a deist. it does not exist. examplesve you a full of where he claims to be a christian. who do you think is the best witness to george washington's faith? a pulitzer prize 200 years after washington? or his own letters that come from his personal as well as his public life? i think the answer is patently clear. let us go back to providence. where did george washington especially demonstrate his interest in providence? july 18, 1755, outside of what was once called fort duquesne am at now called hits per. they were going down a steep
cliff to the mongrel -- muhammad ali river -- he says -- by the all-powerful this been stationed providence, i have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation. i have had two bullets through my code and a horse shot out from under me and get i have escaped unhurt. this was the letter he wrote to his brother and his mother. he said providence has spared me. this doctrine was real and vital to him. how about this? now, he is the victorious general at the end of the american revolution. this is his most public letter that he will ever have written at this point in his public life. it went to all 13 covers of the newly independent states. he signed every one of them with
a majestic signature. and he says -- i now make it my earnest prayer that god would have you and the state over which you preside in his holy protection. that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy and to demean ourselves with that charity come humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the divine author of our blessed religion. we can never hope to be a happy nation without these. may i translate that classic english for you? he is saying -- we need to christthe model of jesus his specificn qualities of humility, of his commitment to peace and love if we are going to succeed. and he does it in a context of micah 6:8. his specific qualities of humility, of his
commitment to peace and love if he changes the last phrase -- humbly with our god to imitating the divine author of our blessed religion. calling the founder of the christian religion divine in this context. him the parallel authority with the god of the old testament. everyone who heard that would have known that in his day. he was affirming the deity of christ. he did ithe changes the last ph- 13 times publicly in his most public letter. it is extraordinary. how about this? the blessed religion revealed in the word of god will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best institutions may be of used by human depravity and they may even, in some instances, be made subservient to the vilest of purposes. this letter was being prepared by washington for the very first congress of the united states after he became elected as president.
what is significant at this moment is that he speaks of the scriptures as the word of god. i have an image here of jonathan edwards. he said -- one of the things we know about deists is that they will never call the scriptures the word of god. for this is what it cannot be for them. god cannot give us his word. fact that washington is doing this, he is declaring -- i am not a deist. i am someone who believes that the word of god is a revelation to humankind. now, there are several things, and we can do these quickly. to general thomas ness -- nelson in a private letter he said the man who cannot see the work of god's providence in this conflict is more than wicked and worse than an infidel. he is using the king james bible when he uses that phrase -- worse than an infidel. the word infidel was the exact synonym for deist in his day.
isn't that interesting? that a deist would call someone like himself worse than anything? it does not fit. read a sermon -- he said the doctrine in your sermon is sound. in his farewell address, he recognized that there were unbelievers and he described them very gently. he is contrasting them with a religious people of america. did you know that he refused to link up with thomas payne, the great patriot, after he had written "the age of reason." it is an embarrassing story for thomas payne to say that washington will not answer my pleas for help. no connection. he put up a firewall between them as he did not want to be identified with the strongest deist in america. and further, did you know that washington was elected to serve on a committee of -- on religion
in virginia at -- and its express purpose was to prevent the spread of deism in the schools are virginia? wouldn't that be an awkward place to put someone who is a deist? the evidence continues to mount. let us look at the glove. did he believe in providence? yes. did he believe in prayer? yes. did he believe in the clergy? did he play that christ was divine? yes. every one of those. the glove does not fit, we must a quick he builds fact after fact to show that this cannot be properly attributed to him. there are many objections and i don't have time to address them in our our but if you go into the book, i extensively discussed these. god are his titles for deist. i looked at the great deist
writings and at the great evangelical preachers of the day and he uses the phrases of the great evangelical preachers of the day. this was the baroque era of the elegy. you would never referred to deity in the same way in the next sentence. you would use different ways to capture the different -- the glory of god. thomas payne has three titles for god in his "age of reason." it truncates god's glory. they say he never used the name of christ but he did use several synonyms like "the ruler of the nations your he said to the indian chiefs, i want you to learn the religion of jesus christ because it will make you a better and happier people than you are. -- he writes as beautiful christmas palm. it tells the entire story of christ and the incarnation and
the cross. this is incorrect even though it is often true. he does use the name of christ. he was a mason. this is a picture of george washington being a mason. what i want you to hear is that washington was in a masonic group that called themselves christian masons. i am not here to debate if masons were christians then, today, or tomorrow. but when i was doing research on washington i discovered that he collected sermons and he had a whole collection that he bound together in his library. it is in the boston atheneum. they are called masonic sermons. they were preached in the must -- in the masonic order. i was startled. one of my favorites -- the preacher, a great evangelical preacher, was preaching in a masonic home.
and he said -- i want to quote you the bylaws of your masonic fraternity. deist mayatheist or be a member of our masonic order because we are christian masons. i did not color anyone stupid here. i am just quoting history. there is one that i particularly like. inan is preaching the gospel a masonic home and he said some of you think you're going to get into heaven because you have been closed with the rope of luther. that won't get you to have them. some think you will get to heaven because you have been closed with the robe of calvin. many of you think you will get into heaven because you have worn thed or you have apron of a mason, that won't get you into heaven. if you ever hope to stand before the lord of glory, you must be closed with the righteousness of jesus christ received a by faith.
that is something i would preach in my pulpit. that was the kind of sermon that george washington read. it was in his masonic fraternity that called them selves christian masons. being a mason does not make you a christian. but it is a non sequitur to say that if a man was a mason he could not be a christian. he did take communion. i have come across three incidents of this. you often hear that he never took communion. a lady by the name of mrs. alexander hamilton. have you ever heard of her? you know her husband. he is famous. i think he is still on some of our american currency. she recorded -- today, i had the privilege of kneeling and taking community -- communion with the newly inaugurated president of the united states. that was just one example. there are others. he owned slaves. yes. tragic. so did many others. they do know that george washington was the owner -- was
the only slave owning president that freed his slaves on his own initiative. everyone else that did, it happened during the civil war. if we had followed his repentance regarding slavery throughout his life, there never would of been a civil war. he determined to end it. even where we might most attack him today, his or shows us how people were addressing the moral failure in his own life. in a remarkably honorable way. the treaty with tripoli is often raised because it says that they -- we arehe muslims not founded in any way as a christian. that clause cannot be found in the original treaty. and thirdly, none of us would claim we were founded on the bible. we did not start a christian republic. that had aa republic
constitution. that you are not a christian. i happen to be glad that i do not have to have a president that has to take a religious test to take -- to lead my country. i think it is a wonderful thing. we believe in a principled pluralism. there may have been some less --n ideal relation relationships. i wonder how many sexual sinners have been forgiven and allowed into heaven. let us suppose the worst might have happened. washington was a man of honor. this is a debated point. this may be the most racy chapter in my book. you have to go get it. it was almost r-rated. do you know what r-rated was in the 1700s? you wrote a letter to someone you should not have. another story for another day. some say he only used the bible in jest. i have found over 200 biblical
allusions, quotes, citations. i want to give you two that you can take away. his favorite bible verse. mica chapter four, verse four. his name for mount vernon -- vine and fig tree. they made him a soldier, a politician, and a president though he wanted to go home. he wanted america to be like this. that anyone can sit under their vine and fig tree. he wrote to the jewish people and said this is what america will be for you. fulfilling a dream. he uses the word millennium. a place of peace where you will be able to sit under your vine and fig tree and there will be none to make you afraid. that is that puritan eschatology. did you know what his great motto was? for my god and my country. was,he second great motto
"deeds and not words. the you know where we find that equivalent? 3:18.p 1 john that was his second great motto according to his daughter. she had a bad temper. and he might have sworn if you times. i hate to see it -- i hate to say it. i have seen some presbyterian elders that read the bible on sunday and then say nasty words on the golf course on monday. we do not make washington a perfect man. we are not making him a saint. we are saying that as imperfect as he was, his christian base -- faith is integral to his person. and his faith is based on the story of a person well -- parson weems. his faith is based on his own writings.
did you know that george washington knew parson weems? they were friends. george washington even endorsed one of his books. parson weems happened to be the pastor in the neighborhood where george washington grew up. oral history is never perfect. a.b. there is a lot of embellishment. you cannot throw it all out. washington is a man. they were on speaking terms. another example. he fox hunted on sundays. i guess that means no one watched the eagles -- know when that watched the eagles win the super bowl is going to heaven. i discovered that he would travel to a foxhunting place on sunday but he waited until the next day to fox m. i have been able to say that he
was more of a sunday keeper than we might have expected. a was not in church always on sunday. but he helped to play for the -- he helped to pay for the communion table, the preachers of his churches even when the church was disestablished. he was committed to his church. miles to site nine in an unheated church in virginia. sometimes for to our worship services. i wonder how many of you would go to a church where they say the heat was not working. was a churchgoer even as a president and as general. it was part of his life. he did not attend church for political gain. there is a wonderful letter that he writes while he is in the british military defending the
colonies against the french and indians. he writes back to the commanding general and says -- where are our chaplains? are we so he then that we would not benefit -- are we so he athen? that was part of his life and character. say he did not pray at valley forge, i always like to say -- george washington had nothing at valley forge except to pray. there is one recorded eyewitness account of george washington praying. again now, it is someone i recorded earlier. at this time her name was elizabeth scholer and she becomes mrs. alexander hamilton. she had access. and she says -- i heard george washington prayed passionately for his country. even the london chronicle. 1777.
describing the enemy camps as saying -- it is well-known that george washington has daily prayers in his tent for his men. even the enemy had to admit that in their newspapers. the last thing any enemy newspaper wants to do is build up the integrity of your enemy. at he play -- did he pray valley forge? how about an eyewitness account? the first lutheran missionary to -- he becomes a preacher and ends up going off to fight. he becomes an officer at valley forge. this is written in the missionary's personal diary. notice what he says. as he came to visit his son at valley forge. this scene is only seven miles from my house.
i walked there regularly to have a moment of prayer and to think of the history that occurred a few miles from where i live. i often do it in my tennis shoes in the snow. i heard a fine example today namely that his excellency, general washington, rode around his army yesterday and admonished them to fear god, to put away wickedness that has set in and become general and to practice christian virtues. from all appearances, he does not belong to the so-called world of society for he respects god's word, please in the atonement through christ, and bears himself in humility and gentleness. who did he hear that from? from a lutheran minister who was a general in john -- in washington's army. this is not a deist.
this is a man that was praying at valley forge. there were statements that he was a christian. on my honor and faith as a christian, what i've written to you as -- is true. in his farewell address, the remember how he says these words? he describes the divine author of our blessed religion. he includes himself in the religion of christianity. is publicly testifying to his faith. his church activities. he was the equivalent of an elder in a presbyterian church. warden. he participated in communion. his family claimed he was a christian. his adopted granddaughter who lived with him for a year said -- you may as well doubt his patriotism as to doubt his christianity. do you want to know who is the hardest person to fool? that you are a christian?
children that live in your house. a christian.e was if you want to say he was not a christian then say there should be no patriot named george washington. we cannot describe george washington without patriotism. one of the things that demonstrates his christian character that makes him one of the greatest men in history. and theyone of the things that demonstrates his were two thingd not do. quit when all was lost at valley forge. there were people that were close to him in philadelphia. when congress had fled. they had no place to go. they were building their housess lost at valley forge. out of logs without rations. the men were naked and barefoot and walking in the snow leaving bloodstains behind. they were hungry. nearly starving. washington, it is time to quit. you are the last one standing.
peace, we can get out of this without being hung. washington out of logs without rations. did not quit. he said our cause is just. in god we stand on the side of justice. the reason there is a centennial state is because george washington did not quit at valley forge. he persevered. until the end. newburgh, new- york. i just spoke at west point at their prayer breakfast. it is just a few miles away. officers toanding washington came around him and said -- congress has not paid us for mod -- has not paid us for months. history is on our side. it is time for you to become the new king george. and we will be your nobility. guess what he did? he refused to become a king when all was wondering. won.id -- when all was
he said the people will choose their leader. he refused to take the crown without fulfilling all that was necessary to do it the right way. can you think of any other human being who did not quit when all was lost? and who did not take the cheap way to be in charge of everything? i would suggest to you that is the very character that george washington said that america needs to follow if we are to be a happy nation. these are the qualities of jesus christ. the elegy is filled with christian references. he knew the bible from cover to cover. over 200 quotes. i mentioned that he believed in a millennium that he hoped would come sooner. his concern of the constitution -- how about this? hese are now official orders
is giving to his army at valley forge. may 2. 1778. while we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. to the distinguished character of patriot. gloryuld be our highest to add the more distinguished character of christian. could you imagine a deist saying that? the most important thing you could possibly be is a christian, even more than a patriot, in my army? that would be the most foolish thing he could say. so greatsay -- it is you are standing for the freedom of thought, speech, society. what a great patriot. what a glorious cause. but so great you are standing no, he said --o think about how important it is to be a christian. this is a man preaching the gospel in the name of christ. our time is hastening. why does it matter?
printians should not things that are patently false. if you find a historian that keeps telling you things that do not hold true to the facts, fire him, leave his class, get someone else to teach you. i'm being honest. the one thing no historian should be allowed to get away with it is consistent, blatant, and accuracy. this is history. you don't have to believe anything washington said but you ought to know what he said and affirm it it -- if it is true. i am quoting george washington. not my scholars -- not any scholars. original figure. listen to the teachers but do not miss the original source. historical revisionism is a
reality. we need to realize that people are willingly changing the facts for an agenda. a great maxim i have heard as a historian -- the living can make the dead do any tricks they find necessary. why is that? the dead cannot fight. you can make them say anything or do anything that you want and the only defense you have are the things that they wrote and the historical context and artifacts that they leave. we must put them in their context. this is critical for sheer scholarship. more than that, the culture wars , whatever stage or place you as we seethey are progressive moving to secularism or even a hardened marxists or anti-christian spirit, i want to say that we need to understand that the christian heritage that is part of your name here at colorado christian university has a place to stand on the
founding era. christianity is not an interloper. christians helped create the public square. that is why it is important. presidents, washington uses that phrase. he knew everything he did as president would establish a precedent for all who came after him. his freedom to be who he was as believer and how he dealt with those that disagreed with his faith establishes a pattern that should be held to it today. it is appropriate for the man that has the seat of power to be a believer like washington who can also give great latitude to those that do not believe what he believes. critical for every president that follows washington. implication.dview
ideas matter. the founding era created certain ideas of republican government. implication. ideas matter. we need to know those ideas even if we disagree with them or want to change them. our world view must take them squarely on and engage them carefully. ideas matter. this is what washington was doing with his christian understanding. christianing conceptions of reality with his perspective on government and constitutional republic thinking. a role model for subsequent generations. all of us can find what it looks like to be a leader in the face of danger. and living like a christian. we all need heroes. washington is not a perfect man but let me tell you he is a giant sized hero for us to look at. i may make this a little dramatic. i thought this one a few times. get your religion at my government. the retort if you understand this is that washington said religion belongs in government as well as your religion -- as
well as irreligion. this is the freedom of conscience which washington fought for and defended. all of our founding fathers were ds. --all of deists and there is ona small step to secularism. all religions are irrelevant. let me tell you, we need to start with a christian founding. not perfectly and not totally but it is a reality. where we move from here is not all the way out there. that is abandoning the story. where we start determines where we end. justice. if in the next 50 years, history justice. is written about colorado christian university and the about theritten president here and it says -- he claimed to be a presbyterian but
he was a marxist just pretending. would anyone rise up and say -- it is not true? isn't it important for justice sake to honor someone's character and reputation? it helps balance public faith and religious liberty. the first amendment gives us this great cause. -- clause. or prohibiting the exercise thereof. washington gives us the example. he refused to push religious things on people through government but he exercises openly his own faith and encourages it for others. a living embodiment of what the first amendment was to come. exposure of censorship and its various forms. if you have never heard anything i am saying, it is not because it is not there. historians have selectively excluded it, disregarded it, or suppressed it. whether we agree
with washington or not is to rediscover it and let it be heard. thought the hard left was against censorship. historians have been censoring this history for a long time. the clarification of the ideology behind the founding documents, the declaration in the constitution, by understanding washington's faith we can understand further what they were wrestling with as they were creating the first document of freedom. and then the enabling laws and structure of government that they were working on in the constitution which by the way washington presided over and discussed. not from the chair. but after hours. and you come to philadelphia on a tour with me, i will take you to the very place, the city tavern, where washington went behind closed doors and said we have to solve the problem. tomorrow is the debate and we have to address the issue.
the importance of this material has been demonstrated in the federal courts. i have had the chance to defend the 10 commandments plaques in the westchester courthouse in pennsylvania which was won in the appellate court of the federal courts in one of the ending arguments is that we had to respect this part of our history. we need to know our history because it preserves the things we cherish. it has relevance in so many ways. i simply want to say that washington is beginning to move towards the end of his career. saying his farewell address. listen to his words right out of this classic statement. the only president unanimously elected as president twice. would you concur with me that that would never happen again?
they wanted him a third time and two is enough. and he writes -- of all of the habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. theain with batman claim tribute of patriotism who labored to subvert these great pillars of human happiness. these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. equal withian comic the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. he concludes that national morality can only prevail if we have religious principle. so much about the wall of separation between church and state. which by the way, i believe we need to have and i would be glad to discuss what i believe our founders meant by that. it needs to be for the proper purpose. whoever talks about the thespensable supports, firmest props of our
constitution without which it will not survive. he said those props are religion and morality. we need to have them if we are going to have republican government. how does he say this? listen to the logic of our founders. if you want to be free, you need a republic. if you have a republic, you need a constitution. if you want a constitution, you need a moral people who are willing to live by the constitution. how do you get a moral people? many to have religious training because people do not do the right thing because it is the right thing. there are reminded of the eternal consequences and the duties and privileges of doing what is right through religious training. benjamin franklin, the great philadelphian, when he was leaving the constitutional convention was asked by a leading official. he could not walk the two blocks home. he was too weary and to all.
a great genius of philadelphia who only went to second grade. he never patented any of his great inventors. some of you are using them right now as you are seated here. he said -- what kind of government have you given us mr. franklin? madam if youpublic can keep it. he understood that a republican is not a guarantee. extraordinary anomaly in human history. when it happens it is utterly precious and it is not going to sustain itself. adams, the vice president under washington, the man who nominated washington to become the general of the army in the continental congress. he says we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. would break the strongest
cords of our constitution as a whale goes through a net. our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. it is inaccurate for the government of any other. those props and pillars. if we don't have them, our constitution will fail. washington and adams. benjamin rush. ,ne of the greatest patriots father of psychiatric medicine, abolitionist society, a great leader, and a signer of the declaration. this is what he wrote. i lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes and take so little pains to prevent them. we profess to be republicans and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican form of government. that is the universal education of our youth and the principles of christianity by means of the bible. for this divine book, above all others, favors equality among
mankind, respect for just laws and all of those sober and frugal virtues that constitute the sole of republicanism. that is founding ideology. the values of the scriptures will support the republic. time,rap up, i am over that i am a presbyterian minister. we disregard the clock for you turn it in. forgive us. as i wrap up, i am moving towards the goal line. give me a couple extra minutes. washington sat down and wrote an extraordinary letter that was intended to go to the first congress. he was reluctantly elected unanimously to be the first president under the constitution. he is going there and trying to put his eyes together. it turned out to be something he did not send but it reflected what he was thinking about how government should work. this was a constitution he had presided over. he argued for its ratification.
he celebrated it when it was put into place. he is now elected. he is trying to think through what the constitution means for the country. i'm going to give you first his words and then i have to translate them. to say that his english is a little over the head of most college students even though he only went to eighth grade. that shows us how we struggle with english. this is the truth. here is what he says. i pretend to know unusual foresight into food dirty and therefor cannot undertake to decide with certainty what may be its ultimate phase. talking about the constitution. washington was not a prophet. he could not make a final prediction about the ultimate fate of the constitution. he said i cannot tell how long it will last. i cannot predict. he says if a promised good should terminate in an unexpected evil, it would be a
solitary example of disappointment. world, goodtain things have often ended up as disappointing evils and this could happen with our constitution also. what else is he saying? if the blessings of heaven showered rick around us should be spilled on the ground and through the curses fault of home they were intended, it would not be the first instance of folly. into english. if we lose our constitution's blessings of liberty it would not be the first time that human foolishness has squandered the blessings of heaven. words,re quite religious aren't they for the first president? the blessed religion revealed in the word of god will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best institutions
may be a be used human depravity and they may even in some instances may be made subservient to the vilest of purposes. let us translate. the word of god's revelation of the christian religion provides an eternal example of the fact that the best human organizations can be used for evil ends. what is he referring to? i would argue that he is referring to jesus being condemned by the law court of israel that was established to preserve the justice of god. he is condemned unjustly. that could happen to our own constitution. this is where it really gets interesting. i would suggest it almost sounds like our current political mill you. should hereafter those who are entrusted with the management of this government, incited by the lust of power, and prompted by the geniality of their constituents overly the known barriers of this constitution and violate the inalienable
rights of humanity, that is just the warming up of the sentence. more to come. let us translate. america's future power-hungry leaders could get away with the disregard of the constitution's limitations and harm our inalienable rights because of voters have become lazy or selfish. do youton is saying -- know what the checks and balances are? the voters. that know what the constitution is about. thisalone can preserve republican form of government and our constitution. he says it will only serve to show that no compact among men can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable. translate. human document is eternal and indestructible even if it began with god's favor and was declared to be holy. washington is saying to every one of us, he was more of a
profit than he thought he was, he is saying -- the constitution is hanging by a thread because there are power-hungry leaders, lazy, selfish voters. notice what it brings it to. and if i may so express myself, that no wall of words, no amount of parchment can be so formed to stand against the sweeping toward of boundless ambition on one side aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other. translation. no words on a piece of paper can withstand unbridled political ambition that remains unchecked due to an immoral electorate. only words on a paper. they become powerful. when there are people of principle and faith that say -- we are going to live by these
and train people to live by these. you know what? that is why washington's faith matters. his faith is essentially the faith that undergirds every christian institution of higher learning. we believe that what we do matters forever. the promises we make are significant. we should love our neighbor with justice. these are the principles that brought about our constitution. does political prosperity matter to you? washington said -- we are not going to have it without religious principle. we need these indispensable supports. , in his verynally first inaugural address said at the end -- having honored the , the propitious smiles of heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which heaven
itself has ordained. eternal rules of order and right? we call those the 10 commandments. he said when we choose to disregard -- the 10 commandments. he said when we choose to disregard these, how can our nation ever hope to thrive? i will say that faith matters. it matters that george washington is a christian. his faith and yours and mine have had the political prosperity. it will be my privilege to answer questions if you like at this point. [applause] >> i believe we have two microphones, one on that side and one on that side, so if you have a question, just raise your hand. we will start over here. >> here.
for the you so much articulate lecture. when is based on evidence, that is what i love. my question is, weis never static. it develops. it becomes more articulate, less articulate, generalized, more specific. in all your studies, did you get a sense of any of the changing movement of his faith chronologically? peter: it is my belief that george washington's faith from his earliest years is what i would call low church anglican christianity, homespun practical , you worship on sunday, you do what is right or your neighbor. and if you want people to learn spiritual truth, you don't have the loss, you say come to church on sunday, then you try to do the right thing. that is his basic faith. he believes worship is
critical, so he orders a prayer book for the right size to take it with him in his pocket when his commanding officer general braddock is killed at the battle geela.ocular -- monoha he reads the prayer book for the service by torchlight as they are escaping and buries him in the road so he will not be exhumed and disgraced. i don't think washington ever left those values. those were his faith. what happens in washington's life is that he becomes more active medical in his -- acumenical in his understanding. it was a brutal experience when his home pastor in his anglican church left to go back to england and actually, as he was leaving from the dock and washington was there, he said you are a traitor to your god and your country, basically something like that. he spoke evilly of washington. he was not welcome in many
anglican churches, so people say he never took communion in the war. he could not go to his home church. we find evidence he went to presbyterian churches. you are sort of like us, but you are not us. what we find is we begin to move in other boundaries. he broadened his understanding. so i would suggest that at the end of the revolutionary war, he is willing to be fairly identified with his kristen faith, broadened -- his christian faith, broadened everybody. then when he comes to the constitution, there are no established religions, he will worship in his church. he has made peace. it is now the episcopal church, not anglican. he doesn't have to pray from the head of the church he believes is a tyrant. he can pray for the church and the american congress. he continues to worship. he is part of the church, but he becomes president. he is more careful not to be
overly christian where he had been. i would argue what he is doing is not changing his faith. he says my principles are very few, and i hold them dearly. they are simple christian truths. but if he becomes more public, he is more sensitive to the fact he doesn't want to be limiting others' faith but wants to live out his own there is the main annge in his life is expanding recognition of the diversity of faith where everybody was basically an anglican. it was the state church. now he sees diversity and is trying to honor and respect, yet his faith is still there. one thing that would support that is, we know that his closest friend when he is back in virginia was lord fairfax's son who was a tory. he would not fight in the american cause. washington still loved him. he now becomes a minister of his
church. he goes to that church and here's the man who would not fight in the army who is now his pastor. one of the churches, sermons we found is you must be born again. he is hearing the gospel, preaching and teaching to the end of his life. his last words are tis well. martha washington had her bible open by the bedside which she read every day, and read it every day till they died. they've read a sermon every day before they went to worship with the family while he was president. faith.ge in his he had to deal with political realities, that he broadened his respect for public office, but his personal faith continued. that is my understanding as i put the pieces together. over here. >> how different do you think of what you found about washington would it be from if you were to comb the private and public
correspondence, letters and so presidents? modern would you not find similar evidence of their religious understandings? at least until a recent political convention it was politically advantageous to be religious. all of our presidents, it seems like we have a penchant for making them evangelical. how is washington different. -- different? peter: it is different -- dangerous to ask hypothetical things you have not examined, so i have not done this with all the presidents. i will not address that question, but those that i have looked at, there are the varying levels of christian witness that show up. some are very unwilling to put a lot of christian language into what they write, and others will clearly do it for political
expediency. so we need to recognize that their private correspondence is the most important, because it is not for show. if i were to do the kind of task , i would want to save their public statements, but in a generally christian america to the extent that was favored, they would speak in that language. but maybe their personal life would have little interest in spiritual things. so i could give you a method how i will pursue, but i will not predict. there are some who have had great christian witness that is part of their life and can demonstrate. washington is distinct in two or three ways to come to your point. i don't think we will find many like this. in his writings he demonstrates mastery of the bible from genesis to revelation, and in appendix ii of sacred fire, i
catalog 200 uses of the bible from his own writings. they are all over the place. pursen't have of changing back writing those letters. they are just his knowledge of the bible and the communication, and may be sermons he is hearing a chapel service. here is a homework assignment for everybody. if i find two or three examples, one of them remarkable, written to the marquis lafayette, a royal figure from france, washington writes him a letter. in one paragraph there are seven or eight distinct biblical quotes illusions, and it makes total sense. it is not about a biblical truths, it is a reality he is dealing with. i would challenge every one of you to do that. with just your bibles, right letter to a friend i let the paragraph be filled with biblical language. it has to make sense. if you can do that, you are like
washington. that is extraordinary. i remember being stunned. where in the world in the bible is that? looking it up and tracking it. his knowledge is extensive. demonstrated at key moments, then in his humor, there are times where it shows you love the bible. one of my favorite examples is he is writing to someone and says, i can't understand why no one allowed those worms -- noah allowed those worms to get on the boat. they are destroying my tobacco crop. that is a christian guy thinking about his bible and trying to make a story that was fun. he used the bible in humor and with extraordinary mastery, and he knew it down to ms. fingertips from cover to cover so -- down to his fingertips and from cover to cover. another one, right here. >> we will go up front. >> i appreciate it.
let's get it on the microphone. >> thank you for your speech, i appreciate it. i want to ask about george washington's father eating about educating children. this will tie into his christian beliefs and morals, but i wonder if there are places where christians go to read about his philosophy. he had his education until the age of 11. i wonder what he would hope for our country and children would learn. peter: i can give you several thoughts, and you can put these together in your own research. number one, one of the providences of god is that washington's father died before he could go off to the appleby school in england where his older brother went. i wonder what would be different. that was a providential thing. it changed history. but he did have from his family
heritage what are called the rules of civility. .e copied them out longhand you can find them online. i have the bulk supper rise -- summarize. they are filled with practical things of life. that was the educational model. included dealing with people in authority, good manners, god, ethical principles, friends. that would have been the educational code. you can look at those things and say, my goodness, i can almost see what george washington was like because you hear of stories. there it is. he mastered it. secondly i think washington clearly believed religious training was critical. not only did he have church schooling for part of his life through an anglican tutor -- he had a couple years of that, but -- they called
he will besh tub, the man that owns arlington that will be robert e lee's place, that becomes arlington national cemetery. interesting connection. he will train this young man and says, he was almost asked to be the president on the board of william and mary college right there in virginia. he said i don't want my son to study their. i want him to study at princeton because they were known further lytic -- biblical and high standards of moral excellence as well as serious learning. he was concerned he put his son, his grandson now, and a place where he would get not only excellent education but moral principles that would build upon a standard of conduct that would be important. that is a critical part. then we know washington was committed to the fact that
education is important. he said one of the limitations is i have had a defective education. he learned to be a surveyor and was a lifelong learner. he led -- read lots of books, had a library, but he realized he wanted better education for others. one of the things he did was founded george washington university. he gave a large grant to start that. one of the things we want to learn our american ways of doing things, not european way of doing things. we need to have an american spirit if you want to say it. we are different. we need republican values. he was not against studying internationally, but he wanted to make sure we established our own national values. he thought that was critical. he recognized there needed to be a place where we learn to develop warfare i'm an american perspective. he thought the military arts needed to be done morally with principles of justice and
principles of success. he was one of the early advocates of what has become west point. he was concerned for higher education, but it had to have principles. it had to be concerned for moral training. it had to have an american approach. he was not ashamed to say i want americans. we are not europe, we are america. on and he wanted there to be spiritual training and good moral and even polite behavior. that was woven into it. there are many other things i could say but that is the beginning. i urge you to look at his principles of civility. that will give you laughter. do you pick a nats off your -- a gnat off your neighbor when you are eating with him? one in the back. talk.nk you for your where did you find the repository of all this information?
it wasn't available to older -- other people that spoke about washington. where did you find it? is an interesting series of events. i remember stumbling for the first time on two sets of things that were thrilling. one was the minutes of the continental congress. they were printed minutes ago -- years ago. i had never seen them. i started combing them through and saw all these biblical, spiritual truths that are really exciting. that is one that helps me to get deeper understanding in the era, then i was at another library, small college near my home, and i dropped in and say, what have they got on washington? it is addiction. can you be addicted to study? this is my pursuit. see what they have. then i saw the 37 volumes of his collected works. one man going in the eighth grade, 37 volumes of collected
writings? he was a politician, military man, farmer, family man, and he did it. he did not have a word processor and had to make copies. he was a disciplined man. they happened to have the beginning of an index to that. i remember getting into it and saying, i wonder if it is anything about the bible. he says something. i looked up a couple other biblical words and said oh no. this is incomplete. that means if i am going to be serious, i have 37 volumes i have to get to. i did my phd on calvin. i know how to get through 100 volumes. but it is hard. that started a harvey. -- a hobby. i will keep scanning and reading. before i have -- after i have been doing this for years, the library of congress had digitized those volumes, and i got the computer.
270 times he uses the word providence, not as a city. i put them in context and collected them, then i started doing wild searches. i did certain words. the point is i began to do that, but the more i learned about him and sorted reading secondary materials, i found books disregarded for a century. these people were closer to washington than we are. i wonder what they said. then i stumbled on the fact the boston atheneum, a rare book library by private access, that actually covered a large part of washington's library, had been sold. they bought it back and have it there. i got it in the catalog that said his servants, and i almost fell off my seat. i love sermons. they are my life. washington was a sermon collector and literally bound
them together and had found sermons? i have to see those. i started reading and realized they said that every sabbath afternoon, george washington and martha would read a sermon together for the lord's day. these were the sermons they were reading. why would they read sermons? they were off for special occasions. they were like magazines or newspapers. this person died, this event is being remembered, this dedication sermon for this government even. they were reading these. that was a great discovery that helped me go along. then i was able to get rare books and keep working. after 20 years you get information from many places. the most important discovery or the collected writings of washington, then they were digitized and then the sermons in the rare book room, then just being able to have unfettered access to the library of
villanova university which is five miles from my house. i looked at all the shelves of every washington book and said, but is my job the next five years. i went through every one of the books. not every word but you know how to penetrate. that is why there are so many footnotes. passion,ns, this is my i was the editor, did not cut anything out. they said they could not have got it through the press. it is all in there. that is the beginning. >> i want you to realize the thickness of this book. , i appreciatek the meaty biographies. it takes a lot of time. you have bathed in a persons theirts, and you pick up ideas. one of the joys of reading was the saturated exposure to a great man. i want to close with a question.
you and i are old enough to washington's birthday as a holiday, lincoln's birthday, no presidents day. we have gone to a generic president's day. the knowledge of the great presidents has been forgotten. as you have read all this and thought about it, how do you bring him back to the youth of our country? peter: two or three quick answers. number one is when you celebrate presidents' day, let's take the day off and have fun, but let's say all presidents are being honored, but there are first among equals and two you need to know is the founding president, the father of his country. it should always say something about washington, then talk about the redeemer president, a man who gave his life to keep the union together, abraham lincoln. these two men are extraordinary.
there would be no america without george washington. that is a fact. there would be no america as we know it today without abraham lincoln. you can say whatever you want about everyone else. at least give those two guys the unique significance they deserve . honor them all but don't miss the two that are critical. secondly i think we begin to learn history like everything else at home. history for all of us becomes more and more important the longer we live because a lot of our life is now history. .istory is about people's lives but the love for history begins by going to places where great things happen and by cherishing them and saying, you need to learn more. i will say honestly, if you want to love washington and learn about him on president's day or any other day, take a trip to philadelphia and a trip to washington, dc and say, we come here not because these men were
perfect but all the blessings we have today we should remember the giant shoulders upon whom we are standing. they gave us these things. the learning by family is critical. thirdly i can announce there is a brand-new children's book written by a friend of mine in abilene, texas. it is called george washington providence. tours, thene of my spent the last four or five years creating a beautiful woman spoke with extraordinary paintings. you wille available -- not have to read all 1200 pages here. you get the gist of it, you capture great moments, and they are right there. those are three things. >> and is not bad. george washington's sacred fire, dr. peter lillback, thank you for being with us. thank you for your work. thank you for being with us. [applause]
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] announcer 1: you are watching "american history tv," 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter @ cspanhistory for information on our schedule and to keep up with news. >> the university of oklahoma is home to the carl albert center. he held the highest political office of any oklahoman in history. we will learn more about this former speaker of the house and other collections from congressman. -- men.