And so died the man that in God’s Providence had been called to lead the newly declared United States against Great Britain, the most formidable opponent in the world. Not only did he lead the army to victory in a desperate war that lasted eight years, he then sheathed his sword and retired to his estate to live out his days with his faithful wife on his farm. It was an act that amazed the courts of Europe. Why would a conqueror not seize all the power he could? The nation did not let him rest, however, for he was called upon to lead the new nation for eight more years after the Constitution of the United States was ratified. In those two terms he established many precedents that Presidents have followed ever since. He could have been President for life, or declared himself king, but he again laid down the scepter once again, and retired to his beloved Mt. Vernon. And to what did this remarkable man attribute his victories and the creation of the Republic?
“This singular instance of Providence, and of our fortunes under it, exhibits a striking proof of the advantages which result from unanimity and a spirited conduct in the militia . . . I flatter myself that a superintending Providence is ordering everything for the best, and that, in due time, all will end well.” —Letter to Landon Carter, 1777
“Glorious indeed has been our Contest: glorious, if we consider the Prize for which we have contended, and glorious in its Issue; but in the midst of our Joys, I hope we shall not forget that, to divine Providence is to be ascribed the Glory and Praise.” —Letter to John Rogers, 1783
George Washington’s life and example to us reverberates with perseverance in time of trial, faithfulness and honesty in relations with men, and trust in the Providence of God for the outcome. His sense of God’s control of history did not weaken in the least his belief in the absolute necessity of man fulfilling his duties with all his strength and powers in this world.
George Washington Crossing the Delaware River
In our own times we need to study Washington’s example of striving for virtue in a sinful world. Though imperfect and troubled by the times, he self-consciously tried to follow the high ethical standards of the Christian faith in his personal life as General and President. There really is an eternal and true law of God for which man is accountable. Our history tour of Mt. Vernon every year reinforces the maxim that, though dead, Washington still speaketh.
Oliver Cromwell Becomes Lord Protector—December 16, 1653
“He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou has also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.” —Psalm 18:34-36
n the 16th of December, 1653, Oliver Cromwell, a leader in Parliament and former General during the English Civil Wars, became the “Lord Protector” of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland although the latter two members of that trio resisted mightily his rule over them.