If we would be successful in our efforts to do good, to assist Rep. Heather Scott in her hour of need, to assist the Political Prisoners in their fight against the Despot, let us first follow the example of the framers of this nation who acknowledged and adhered to the word of God.
At the Constitutional Convention, delegates from the states pursued a limited, federal government capable of providing basic and essential protections for all of the states that had been impossible under the Articles of Confederation. The fight for freedom had been successful, but the maintenance of freedom was an experiment that had failed to establish unity between the states. Delegates met to provide for the practical necessities of an emerging nation, to establish a balanced blend of pragmatism and principle, by creating the Constitution of the United States of America.
However, extreme discord between the delegates and the self-serving interests of the individual states nearly nullified the entire process. Tempers flared and interests clashed as the delegates sought their respective goals.
I have long been aware that Satan sows contention into the hearts of good people. How is it that to devout Christians will bitterly argue about the most insignificant to points, did Jesus’s sandals buckle or lace. Freedom loving Americans do the same. Don’t believe me, open a Facebook account. Ol’ Scratch knows that as long as we bicker over the meaningless, we will never accomplish the meaningful.
Those who work evil do not face this challenge. Satan will not interfere with their dark work. But we have an advantage that is not available to those who work darkness. We can call upon the powers of heaven to bless our efforts, confound our enemies and enlighten our people.
It was from within this quagmire of divisiveness that the elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin, recognized this same truth. He offered his famous appeal for harmony and conciliation; an appeal for God’s intervention on behalf or the glorious work of the delegates..
Today, it is commonly held that Franklin was a deist, believing in the clockmaker God who created the universe, would the springs and stepped back to watch the hands of time move toward eternity. Perhaps we have misrepresented Franklin’s deism and completely failed to know the man.
The following is the speech as written by Franklin’s own hand. It is the authoritative source concerning the Convention.
The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other,”our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. ”Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of the City be requested to officiate in that service.
Mr. Sherman (of Connecticut) seconded the motion.
Alexander Hamilton and several others expressed their concerns. They stated that such a motion might have been appropriate at the opening of the convention. They worried that it might at this late day, bring on some disagreeable criticisms and that it might lead the public to believe that the delegates were unable to accomplish this work without the hand of God. Oh how little government has changed from that early day. Still, many reject God and believe that the reason of man is sufficient.
Benjamin Franklin and others answered that the past omission of a duty could not justify a further omission, that the rejection of such a proposition would expose the Convention to more unpleasant animadversions (criticism or censure) than the adoption of it.
It is a marvelous thing to see. When one man, in this case Benjamin Franklin, opens a window and allows the light from Heaven to flood a room, other men are moved in a similar direction. Mr. Edmond Randolph, a delegate from Virginia, proposed, that in addition, a sermon might be preached at the request of the convention on the 4th of July, the anniversary of Independence. Dr. Franklin seconded this motion.
From Franklin’s own pen, as reported that the conventions response to the Franklin and Randolf motions were initially disappointing:
The convention, except three or four persons, thought prayer unnecessary.
I find it likely that so many delegates thought prayer unnecessary because they had gone so long without it that they had lost the spirit of it. But, there was a change of heart and no record can be found to document it. The proof of that change is found in the spirit and success of the events that followed.
The requested sermon was given at the Reformed Calvinist Lutheran Church. George Washington has been reported to have led most of the Convention delegates to the church, where James Campbell preached a sermon on trusting in the wisdom of the delegates to establish a “free and vigorous government.”
The real strength of Franklin’s motion is that it debunks the modern understanding that he, and many of the founders, were a deists who did not believe that God assists in the affairs of man. Franklin obviously felt that God does govern in the affairs of men. The truth does not square with todays general understanding of the Founder’s deist views. Franklin, as well as all of the Framers of the Constitution, realized the value of religion in society. They acknowledged the value of prayer in the weightier matters of politics.
By their fruits you shall know them. The Constitution of the united States is the fruit of this effort. The Constitution of the united States is the fruit of petitioning almighty God for the good of man.
In closing, I turn to the word of God. Matthew 5:23-24 reads,
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
The Constitutional Delegates were assembled to bring a gift to the people. However, they came burdened down with their frustration over past conflicts between the states. They were not reconciled to their brethren but were instead arrayed against each other..
Matthew 5:44 provides the key to reconciliation and carries with it the promise of success.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
If we would be successful in our efforts to do good, let us first follow the example of the framers of this nation who acknowledged and adhered to the word of God.
- John Bigelow’s, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, a footnote (pg. 378)↩