For many, many years, Americans observed today, February 22, as George Washington's Birthday. Several years ago, under pressure from the unions, Congress made Washington's Birthday one of our legal three-day weekends and passed a law that Washington's Birthday should be observed on the third Monday in February. So we enjoyed our three-day weekend last week. But today gives us another opportunity to remind listeners about the true greatness of the man who is properly called "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."
A picture of George Washington used to hang in every public school classroom, but somehow those pictures disappeared. Modern writers have tried to downgrade Washington's religious faith. In Washington's time, there was a strict formality in the way they addressed Almighty God, but that is no indication of any lack of faith in God or Jesus Christ by Washington, or the fact that he and the struggling Americans asked for God's help and believed He would, indeed, favor their battle for independence.
Washington's public statements and private letters are full of religious and Christian references. Here are several examples. In a general order to his troops dated May 2, 1778, Washington wrote: "To the distinguished character of patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian." The next year, Washington said in a speech to Delaware leaders, "You do well to wish to learn . . . above all the religion of Jesus Christ."
Washington rigorously observed the Sabbath and attended church services on that day. Numerous associates reported that he regularly reserved time for private prayer. Those who knew Washington best, including the chaplains who served under him during the American Revolution, had no doubt about Washington's strong religious beliefs.
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