Ezra Stiles: Baptist Founding Father George Washington, Our “American Joshua”

Eric Jon Phelps
By Eric Jon Phelps January 4, 2011 18:04 Updated

Ezra Stiles: Baptist Founding Father George Washington, Our “American Joshua”

Ezra Stiles, Congregationalist Minister and President of Yale College, 1783

AV1611 Reformation Bible-believing, Congregationalist Calvinist Ezra Stiles was in fact one of the principle men behind the Founding Fathers of the American Federal Republic sent from Connecticut and Rhode Island.  That glorious American Republic (1789-1868), born out of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant and Baptist Calvinist American Revolution beginning at Lexington and ending with the Treaty of Paris (1775-1783), would, according to our man of God, develop a huge maritime commerce.  That commercial blessing from God would in turn be the means by which the gospel of Jesus Christ would be taken to all nations.  Stiles, the President of Yale College, spoke these several words about our great White Founding Father, George Washington, in a sermon delivered in 1783:

“And while we render our supreme honors to the Most High, the God of armies, let us recollect with affectionate honor the bold and brave sons of freedom who willingly offered themselves and bled in the defense of their country.  Our fellow citizens, the officers and soldiers of the patriot army, who, with the Manlys, the Joneses, and other gallant commanders and brave seamen of the American navy, have heroically fought the war by sea and by land, merit of their once bleeding but now triumphant country laurels, crowns, rewards, and the highest honors.  Never was the profession of arms used with more glory, or in a better cause, since the days of Joshua the son of Nun.  O Washington!  How do I love thy name!  How have I often adored and blessed thy God for creating and forming thee the great ornament of humankind!   Upheld and protected by the Omnipotent, by the Lord of hosts, thou hast been sustained and carried through one of the most arduous and most important wars in all history.  The world and posterity will with admiration contemplate thy deliberate, cool, and stable judgment, thy virtues, thy valor, and heroic achievements, as far surpassing those of a Cyrus, whom the world loved and adored.  The sound of thy fame shall go out into all the earth, and extend to distant ages.  Thou hast convinced the world of the beauty of virtue; for in thee this beauty shines with distinguished luster.   Those who would not recognize any beauty in virtue in the world beside, will yet reverence it in thee.  There is a glory in thy disinterested benevolence which the greatest characters would purchase, if possible, at the expense of worlds, and which may excite indeed their emulation, but cannot be felt by the venal great, who think everything, even virtue and true glory, may be bought and sold, and trace our every action to motives terminating in self–

“Find virtue local, all relation scorn;

See all in self, and but for self be born.”

(Dunciad, b. 4, p. 480.)

But thou, O Washington!  Forgottest thyself when thou lovedst thy bleeding country.  Not all the gold of Ophir, nor a world filled with rubies and diamonds, could effect or purchase the sublime and noble feelings of thine heart in that single self-moved act when thou renouncedst the rewards of generalship, and heroically tookest upon thyself the dangerous as well as arduous office of our generalissimo, and this at a solemn moment, when thou didst deliberately cast the die for the dubious, the very dubious alternative of a gibbet or a triumphal arch.  But, beloved, enshielded, and blessed by the great Melchisedec–the King of righteousness as well as peace–thou hast triumphed gloriously.  Such has been thy military wisdom in the struggles of this arduous conflict–such the noble rectitude, amiableness, and mansuetude of thy character–something is there so singularly glorious and venerable thrown by Heaven about thee–that not only does thy country love thee, but our very enemies stop the madness of their fire in full volley, stop the illiberality of their slander at thy name, as if rebuked from Heaven with a “Touch not mine anointed, and do my hero no harm!”   Thy fame is of sweeter perfume than Arabian spices in the gardens of Persia.   A Baron de Steuben shall waft its fragrance to the monarch of Prussia; a Marquis de Lafayette shall waft it to a far greater monarch, and diffuse thy renown throughout Europe; listening angels shall catch the odor, waft it to heaven, and perfume the universe.

And, now that our warfare is ended, do thou, O man of God, greatly beloved of the Most High, permit a humble minister of the blessed Jesus—who, though at a distance, has vigilantly accompanied thee through every stage of thy military progress, has watched thine every movement and danger with a heartfelt anxiety and solicitude, and, with the most sincere and earnest wishes for thy safety and success, has not ceased day nor night to pray for thee, and to commend thee and thy army to God—condescend to permit him to express his most cordial congratulations, and to share in the triumphs of thy bosom, on this great and joyous occasion.  We thank the Lord of Hosts that has given His servant to see His desire upon His enemies, and peace on Israel.  And when thou shalt now at length retire from the fatigues of nine laborious campaigns to the tranquil enjoyment, to the sweetness and serenity of domestic life, may you never meet the fate of that ornament of arms and of humanity, the great Belisarius, but may a crown of universal love and gratitude, of universal admiration, and of the universal reverence and honor of thy saved country, rest and flourish upon the head of its veteran general and glorious defender, until, by the divine Jesus whom thou hast loved and adored, and of whose holy religion thou art not ashamed, thou shalt be translated from a world of war to a world of peace, liberty, and eternal triumph!”

Stiles also addresses several important topics worthy of review!

To read most of the sermon preached before the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut on May 8, 1783, see this link.

Eric Jon Phelps
By Eric Jon Phelps January 4, 2011 18:04 Updated
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