449) George Washington on Religion; Private and Public


George Washington (1732-1799)

PRIVATE:  A prayer at age 20:

    O Most Glorious God, in Jesus Christ, my merciful and loving Father; I acknowledge and confess my guilt in the weak and imperfect performance of the duties of this day.   I have called on Thee for pardon and forgiveness of my sins, but so coldly and carelessly that my prayers become my sin, and they stand in need of pardon.
    I have sinned against heaven and before Thee in thought, word, and deed…   I have likewise sinned by omitting what I ought to have done and committing what I ought not.  I have rebelled against the light, despising Thy mercies and judgment, and broken my vows and promises.   I have neglected the better things.   My iniquities are multiplied and my sins are very great.   I confess them, O Lord, with shame and sorrow…  I humbly beseech Thee to be merciful to me in the free pardon of my sins for the sake of Thy dear Son and only Savior Jesus Christ who came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.   Thou gavest Thy Son to die for me.
–From a 24 page authentic handwritten manuscript book dated April 21-23, 1752; quoted in George Washington, the Christian, by William J. Johnson (New York: Abingdon Press, 1919), pp. 24-35.
PUBLIC– From Washington’s Farewell Address, September 17, 1796:
    …Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens.  The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them.  A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.  Let it simply be asked where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the Oaths which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?  And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
    ‘Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.  The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of Free Government.  Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?…
    Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations.  Cultivate peace and harmony with all;– Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it?  It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous… example of a People always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.  Who can doubt that in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it?  Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its virtue?  The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human Nature…
Psalm 33:12a  —  Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord…  
Proverbs 29:18  —  Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. 
I Timothy 2:1-2  —  I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 
    O Lord, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.  To the President and members of his cabinet, to governors of states, mayors of cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.  Give them courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations to the community of nations.  To the judges and officers of our courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.  And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trust-worthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.   AMEN. 

Book of Common Prayer