June 28, 1787
This Saturday (June 28), marks the 227th anniversary of Founding Father Benjamin Franklin calling the Constitutional Convention to prayer after several weeks of difficult discussions and frequent impasses. The Founders well understood the need to seek God and the important part that God played both in establishing this nation and in the writing of the Constitution.
As Alexander Hamilton reported after its completion:
For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God [Luke 11:20] never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.
James Madison agreed, and reported:
It is impossible for the man of pious reflection not to perceive in it the finger of that Almighty Hand which has been so frequently and signally extended to our relief in the critical stages of the Revolution.
As far as these delegates were concerned, the finger of God – that is, His Divine power – had guided their writing of the Constitution.
Benjamin Franklin also believed this to be the case, explaining:
[I] beg I may not be understood to infer that our general Convention was Divinely inspired when it formed the new federal Constitution . . . [yet] I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing (and to exist in the posterity of a great nation) should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in Whom all inferior spirits “live and move and have their being” [Acts 17:28].
George Washington (president of the Convention) similarly attested:
As to my sentiments with respect to the merits of the new Constitution, I will disclose them without reserve. . . . It appears to me then little short of a miracle that the delegates from so many different states . . . should unite in forming a system of national government.
Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration from Philadelphia who closely monitored the proceedings, concurred, openly testifying:
I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as perfectly satisfied that the Union of the States in its form and adoption is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament were the effects of a Divine power.
(For more about the Founders’ views of the “finger of God” and what that meant historically, see the article on this in the Founders’ Bible, from Luke 11:20).
As we look forward to celebrating America’s 238th birthday next week. Let us remember that God truly has had His hand involved in the formation of our government and let us take time out, as George Washington recommended, “to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor” on America again.