George Washington faced a grim moment January 1, 1777. All enlistments for the Continental Army had expired on that date and all of the army, or at least what was left of it, was free to go home. This would not just cripple the Revolution, but probably end it.
He gathered his troops together, the drum roll began, and the general asked all those willing to extend their tours to step forward. Not one soul moved. Then, as Tim Ballard tells it in his book The Washington Hypothesis, “A depressed Washington turned his horse and began riding away. Then suddenly he stopped, returned to his men, and said:
“’My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will continue to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstances.’
Ballard says these miracles came to George Washington and the American cause—and came often—though secular scholars will dismiss it or find other explanations. It is critical that we, who have the benefit of gospel understanding, not forget the exceptional intervention of God in America’s founding.
Even from the beginning of the war, Washington said, “God in his great goodness will direct [the outcome]” and, after his surprising victory at Princeton, he noted, “Providence has heretofore saved us in remarkable manner, and on this we must principally rely.”
This was not mere talk or lip service.
Washington’s understanding was that God’s blessings were inextricably linked to the obedience and righteousness of his army, so he was forthright in placing high standards upon them. A covenant blessing was activated by righteous living and only this led to miracles.
Ballard says, “One of his very first instructions he gave to his soldiers at the Boston scene was to ban all ‘profane cursing, swearing and drunkenness’ and to encourage ‘a punctual attendance on divine Service, to implore the blessings of heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.’”