A prayer meeting of ALL denominations in New York: April 23, 1789:
As we believe in an overruling Providence and feel our constant dependence upon God for every blessing, so it is undoubtedly our duty to acknowledge him in all our ways and commit our concerns to his protection and mercy. The ancient civilized heathen, from the mere dictates of reason, were uniformly excited to this; and we find from their writings that they engaged in no important business, especially what related to the welfare of a nation, without a solemn appeal to Heaven. How much more becoming and necessary is such a conduct in Christians, who believe not only in the light of nature, but are blessed with a divine revelation which has taught them more of God and of their obligations to worship him than by their reason they ever could have investigated!
It has been the wish of many pious persons in our land that at the framing of our new Constitution a solemn and particular appeal to Heaven had been made; and they have no doubt but Congress will soon call upon the whole nation to set apart a day for fasting and prayer for the express purpose of invoking the blessing of Heaven on our new Government. But this, in consequence of the distance of some of the States, cannot immediately take place: in the meanwhile, the inhabitants of this city are favored with the opportunity of being present on the very day on which the Constitution will be fully organized, and have it thus in their power to accommodate their devotions exactly to the important season.
In this view, it gave universal satisfaction to hear it announced last Sunday from the pulpits of our churches that, on the morning of the day on which our illustrious President will be invested with his office, the bells will ring at nine o’clock, when the people may go up and in a solemn manner commit the new Government, with its important train of consequences, to the holy protection and blessings of the Most High. An early hour is prudently fixed for this peculiar act of devotion, and it is designed wholly for prayer: it will not detain the citizens very long, or interfere with any of the other public business of the day.
It is supposed Congress will adopt religious solemnities by fervent prayer with their chaplains, in the Federal Hall, when the President takes his oath of office; but the people feel a Common interest in this great transaction, and whether they approve of the Constitution as it now stands, or wish that alterations may be made, it is equally their concern and duty to leave the cause with God and refer the issue to his gracious providence. In doing this, the inauguration of our President and the commencement of our national character will be introduced with the auspices of religion, and our enlightened rulers and people will bear a consistent part in a business which involves the weal or woe of themselves and posterity.
I have heard that the notification respecting this hour of prayer was
made in almost all the churches of the city, and that some of those who omitted
the publication intend, notwithstanding, to join in that duty; and, indeed,
considering the singular circumstances of the day, which in many respects exceed
any thing recorded in ancient or modern history, it cannot be supposed that the
serious and pious of any denomination will hesitate in going up to their
respective churches and uniting at the throne of grace with proper prayers and
supplications on this occasion.
“I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Vouchsafe thine Aid Most Holy and Glorious Lord God. Lord God when we come distressed you never foresake us but challenged us, made us stronger in your wisdoms, and comforted us with your healing hand. O Lord that my steps may be pleasing to you, as our way of life has been ebbing away, we seek your wisdom to direct our path. O Lord from your word it is that I remember the withering fig tree, "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, Go, throw yourself into the sea, and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. O Lord this is asked in Jesus name and acknowledge thee as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Thank you Lord God. Amen
As we reflect on the statesman who founded a nation; the people who ordained such a noble constitution of government, and for whom it was made, are under the highest and most solemn obligations to preserve it for themselves, their children, and future generations. “This constitution of government,” says Justice Story, “must perish, if there be not that vital spirit in the people which alone can nourish, sustain, and direct all its movements.
It is in vain that statesmen shall form plans of government in which the beauty and harmony of a republic shall be embodied in visible order, shall be built upon solid substructions, and adorned by every useful ornament, if the inhabitants suffer the silent power of time to dilapidate its walls or crumble its massy supporters into dust, if the assaults from without are never resisted and the rottenness and mining from within are never guarded against. Who can preserve the rights and liberties of a people when they shall be abandoned by themselves?
Who shall keep watch in the temple when the watchmen sleep at their post? Who
shall call upon the people to redeem their possessions and revive the republic,
when their own hands have deliberately and corruptly surrendered them to the
oppressor and have built the prisons or dug the graves of their own friends?
This darkpicture, it is to be hoped, will never be applicable to the republic of
America. And yet it affords a warning, which, like all the lessons of past
experience, we are not permitted to disregard.
America, free, happy, and enlightened as she is, must rest the preservation of her rights and liberties upon the virtue, independence, justice, and sagacity of the people with a strong faith in the divine. If either fail, the republic is gone. Its shadow may remain, with all the pomp and circumstance and trickery of government, but its vital power will have departed.”
The following language fell from the lips of Alexander Hamilton, on his resignation of the office of Secretary of the Treasury, in 1795. Holding in his hand a small book containing a copy of the Federal Constitution, he said, “Now, mark my words! so long as we are a young and virtuous people, this instrument will bind us together in mutual interest, mutual welfare, and mutual happiness; but when we become old and corrupt it will bind us no longer.”
This damaging condition of the republic, which would be produced by the general
corruption of the people and the government, can only be prevented by the
universal belief and application of the principles stated in Webster’s address
before the New York Historical Society. Webster says—
“If we and our posterity shall be true to the Christian religion—if we and they shall live always in the fear of God and shall respect his commandments—if we and they shall maintain just moral sentiments, and such conscientious convictions of duty as shall control the heart and life—we may have the highest hopes of the future fortunes of our country; and if we maintain those institutions of government, and that political union exceeding all praise as much as it exceeds all former examples of political association, we may be sure of one thing, that, while our country furnishes materials for a thousand masters of the historic art, it will be no topic for a Gibbon—it will have no decline and fall. It will go on prospering and to prosper. But if we and our posterity neglect religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.
“If that catastrophe,” he continues, “shall happen, let it have no history! Let the horrible narrative never be written! Let its fate be like that of the lost books of Livy, which no human eye shall ever read, or the missing Pleiad, of which no man can know more than that it is lost forever." Our history never to be lost or end up as Webster says. We as a proud people of this republic protect and defend our liberty, Lets Never Forget Our History as a Proud Republic.