I read with interest the article by B.J. Paschal, Ball State University professor emeritus, asserting that George Washington was a deist and not a Christian. I would like equal time.
I have a book entitled “George Washington The Christian,” written by William J. Johnson, published in 1976 by Mott Media, Milford, Mich.
Johnson gives plenty of well-documented evidence that Washington was a Christian. Unlike Paschal, who quoted no one and substantiated nothing, Johnson includes a bibliography of 75 volumes, including Washington's diary. The book has 333 footnotes.
In April 1891, Washington memorabilia owned by Lawrence Washington, Bushrod C. Washington, Thomas B. Washington and J.R.C. Lewis were sold at auction. Among them was a small manuscript book entitled “Daily Sacrifice.” Handwritten by George Washington at age 20 are prayers prepared for his own use. In a petition designated for Tuesday evening and addressed to most gracious God and heavenly father, Washington penned: “O blessed Father, let thy son's blood wash me from all impurities, and cleanse me from the stains of sin that are upon me. Give me grace to lay hold of his merits; that they may be my reconciliation and atonement unto thee — That I may know that my sins are forgiven by his death & passion.” (Johnson, p. 31)
Designated for Monday evening, Washington's prayers included requests to God to “Bless our rulers in church and state. Bless O Lord the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and thy son Jesus Christ. Pity the sick, the poor, the weak, the needy, the widows and fatherless.” (Ibid., 29)
Tuesday morning's prayer included, “let me have all my directions from thy holy spirit; and success from thy bountiful hand.” (Ibid., 30)
I conclude that Washington was not a deist, but instead a Christian who believed that the creator God was actively involved in caring for his world. His reliance on a God active in human affairs continued throughout his life.
The American Army was encamped at Morristown, N.J., during the winter of 1776-77. Gen. Washington, the commander of the American Army, had been ill, and was dealing with many hardships, including the sufferings of soldiers, diseases, frequent desertions. It was at this time that he visited the Rev. Dr. Timothy Johnes, pastor of the Morristown Presbyterian Church.
“ ‘Doctor, I understand that the Lord's Supper is to be celebrated with you next Sunday,' [said Washington]. ‘I would learn if it accords with the canon of your church to admit communicants of another denomination?'
“Having been assured that, as the Lord's Supper, communion was open to all followers of Jesus, Gen. Washington replied, ‘I am glad of it; that is as it ought to
“The Doctor reassured him of a cordial welcome, and the General was found seated with the communicants the next Sabbath.” (Ibid., 88)
Washington withdrew from taking communion during his presidency and part of the war. Historian Sir George Trevelyan said that it did not follow that he was an unbeliever. “Washington always had his reasons for what he did, or left undone; but he seldom gave them; and his motive for abstaining from the sacrament was not a subject on which he would be inclined to break his ordinary rule of reticence,” he said. (Ibid., 98)
Washington was a man of prayer, known to pray and read the Bible in the mornings (Ibid. 129) as well in the evening. (Ibid., 230) He was also seen praying outdoors during the war.
Having come upon Washington in a grove of trees near Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78 and having heard him fervently praying, a Quaker named Isaac Potts went home to his wife and reported, “Sarah! My dear Sarah! All's well! All's well! George Washington will yet prevail. If George Washington be not a man of God, I am greatly deceived — and still more shall I be deceived, if God do not, through him, work out a great salvation for America.” (Ibid, 103)
And that's what happened.
Paschal's statement that Washington was not religious in the traditional sense is false. Martha Washington's granddaughter, Nelly Custis, who lived in President George Washington's household for 20 years, called doubting his firm belief in Christianity the greatest heresy.
“His life, his writings, prove that he was a Christian. He was not one of those who act or pray, ‘that they may be seen of men.' He communed with his God in secret,” she said. (Ibid. 244)