Faith & Freedom Tour
This building was originally the Pennsylvania State House, but today it is known as the meeting place for the development of our new nation. The Continental Congress began to meet here during its second session in 1775. The city of Philadelphia was selected to host these meetings due to its central location and large population. Because of the Continental Congress’ epic decision for independence in 1776, which we celebrate on July 4th, their meeting place has become known as Independence Hall.
The Declaration of independence has four references to God:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political band, which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the cause which impel them to the separation. (See Jeremiah 31:31-37.)
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness …. (Sec Genesis 1:27-28.)
We therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good people of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; …. (See Matthew 25:31-46.)
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. (See Romans 8:28.)
This historic building is more than just the birthplace of independence; it’s also the birthplace of the American Constitution. The Constitutional Convention met here in the summer of 1787 and was presided over by the victorious general George Washington. The founding documents of America were discussed and debated in the eastern chamber on the first floor of the building. In this room you can see a chair with an ornate carving of the sun on its back. This is the seat where Washington sat while presiding over the convention. Benjamin Franklin said he often contemplated the sun on Washington’s chair. With the signing of the newly framed Constitution Franklin declared, “I now have the happiness to know it is a rising, not a setting sun.”
Before Franklin was able to make such a positive Declaration, the assembly endured many long days of difficult debate. On June 28, 1787 the Convention arrived at such an impasse that Franklin called for a day of prayer. He reminded the delegates that years before, during the American Revolution, it had been a regular practice to pray during their time of need, seeking God’s aid. He said it was time for the delegates to follow their own example from before in the same room. To buttress his call for prayer, he appealed to passages from the Bible. He reminded the delegates of Psalm 127:1 which says “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city the watchmen stand guard in vain” (NlV). He also appealed to Matthew l0:29 reasoning that if God sees even the sparrow fall to the ground, how much more he would notice an empire rising to power. So it has been the custom of the American Congress from the beginning to have a chaplain lead the meetings in prayer on behalf of the country and its representatives.
The new Constitution provided for a Supreme Court. The first court met here in the smaller building to the East of Independence Hall. It did not meet on a daily basis, but it served at different times when needed. The first supreme court chief justice was John Jay, a fellow Anglican/Episcopalian like George Washington, who was a close personal friend. John Jay served as the second President of the American Bible Society. The Bible’s teaching on the importance of the judge, maintaining justice is declared in Deuteronomy 25:1, “When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.”
This building to the West of Independence Hall is where the House of Representatives met, on the first floor, andl where the Senate met, on the second floor. Before the American Constitution was adopted, the Congress elected one from its own number to serve as its president. This of course changed with the new Constitution. The motivation for two bodies in the new congress was due to a recognition of human selfishness or depravity. James Madison’s minutes of the constitutional convention say that he “was not a little surprised to hear this implicit confidence urged by a member who on all occasions, had inculcated so strongly, the political depravity of men, and the necessity of checking one vice and interest by opposing to them another vice & interest. … To reconcile the gentln. with himself it must be imagined that he determined the human character by the points of the compass. The truth was that all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.”
John Witherspoon, Madison’s teacher at Princeton and delegate to the earlier Continental Congress, took human depravity seriously as he argued in favor of America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation: ”There is one thing that has been thrown out, by which some seem to persuade themselves of, and others to be more indifferent about the success of a confederacy–that from the nature of men, it is to be expected, that a time must come when it will be dissolved and broken in pieces. I am none of those who either deny or conceal the depravity of human nature, till it is purified by the light of truth and renewed by the Spirit of the living God. Yet I apprehend there is no force in that reasoning at all. Shall we establish nothing good, because we know it cannot be eternal? Shall we live without government, because every constitution has its old age, and its period? Because we know that we shall die, shall we take no pains to preserve or lengthen our life? Far from it, Sir: it only requires the more watchful attention, to settle government upon the best principles, and in the wisest manner, that it may last as long as the nature of things will admit.”
Our Founders’ somber assessment of human depravity is affirmed by the Bible in passages such as Romans 3:10, 23, “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one’ … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
George Washington was present at the first meeting of the Continental Congress when it met at Carpenter’s Hall in 1774. At the Second Continental Congress in 1775, he was elected as General of the Revolutionary Army and left for Boston. For this reason, he didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence as he was leading the army in 1776. When the Constitutional Convention met, he was elected to preside over it in 1787. When the Constitution was ratified and the first presidential election held in 1789, Washington was elected unanimously. He was again unanimously elected for a second term, a feat that will undoubtedly never be repeated.
Washington was a deeply religious man whose favorite Bible verse was Micah 4:4, ·’But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it’” (KJV). He referenced it over 40 times in his writing. At the end of the Revolutionary War when Washington had completed his work as a victorious general, he personally signed a letter to all 13 governors of the new independent states. That letter concludes with the prayer he composed which quotes Micah 6:8, “He hath showed thee, 0 man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (KJV). However he changed the verse to read “to do justice, love mercy, and imitate the divine author of our blessed religion,” referring to Christ’s character of love and peace.
Washington Square is the location where the unknown soldier of the Revolutionary War is buried. It is named for George Washington. Closely associated with true patriotism is the recognition that human life is often required for liberty. The Christian spirit of the American founding era can be found in Jesus’ teaching in John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (KJV). This verse is a fitting description of the hero who paid the ultimate price so that others might live in liberty.
The Liberty Bell Pavilion houses the most important relic of American patriotism. The Liberty Bell, as it is called today, is named for its role in proclaiming liberty throughout American history. The bell was ordered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Penn’s Charter, which established religious liberty in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania delegates had the verse Leviticus 25:10 placed on the bell. It declares, “proclaim LIBERTY throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (KJV).
Penn’s Charter guaranteeing religious liberty declares: “I the said William Penn do Declare Grant and Confirm unto all … these following Liberties Franchises and Privileges first Because no people can be truly happy though under the Greatest Enjoyments of Civil Liberties if Abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences as to their Religious Profession and Worship.”
The bell cracked the very first time it was rung upon arriving in America from the Whitechapel foundry in London. It was broken down, melted and recast twice more before it was finally hung in the Pennsylvania State House. The Liberty Bell began to live up to its name on July 8, 1776 when it called Philadelphia together to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.
When the British invaded Philadelphia, all the bells in the city, including this one, were removed for fear that they would be melted and converted into British musket balls. The Liberty Bell was hidden in the basement of Old Zion Reformed Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After the British withdrew from Philadelphia, it was returned. Several years later however, it cracked again. The Bell’s crack was drilled out and plugged so it could still be used. Nevertheless, the bell cracked again never more to ring aloud . If you look carefully, you’ll see that a hairline crack travels up from the drilled out crack through the word LIBERTY, perhaps providentially reminding us how fragile the gift of liberty truly is.
Benjamin franklin was not only, one of the greatest patriots of America, but also one of the greatest inventors in history, both of objects and ideas. One of his proposals has become the esteemed American Philosophical Society. To be invited to be a member has from the beginning, been a high honor. One such member, who accepted the honor with deep gratitude, was George Washington. In his acceptance letter, he reminds us that when someone pursues philosophical concepts such as the study of nature he is contemplating the work of the Great Creator. Washington states, “In the philosophic retreat to which I am retiring, l shall often contemplate with pleasure the extensive utility of your Institution. The field of investigation is ample, the benefits which will result to Human Society from discoveries yet to be made, are indubitable, and the task of studying the works of the great Creator, inexpressibly delightful.” Washington is in agreement with the Psalmist who says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ ‘Psalm 19:1 (NIV).
The First Continental Congress met here in September, 1774 because their discussion made them unwelcome at the Pennsylvania Stare House as they met to critique and respond to the tyrannical actions of the British Parliament and King. Carpenters’ Hall was originally a guild hall for builders and craftsmen.
The building was new and close to the government’s meeting place at the Pennsylvania State House which later became Independence Hall. Thus, it was an ideal place for the delegates to meet. What prompted the delegates to gather were continuing conflicts in Boston between the British governors and the Sons of Liberty, led by Samuel Adams, John Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere and Dr. Joseph Warren.
The delegates’ common concerns brought them together, but they were unsure how to begin and organize their meeting. It was Samuel Adams who proposed that that they should begin with prayer. This suggestion was remarkable, not because prayer was outlawed in government, like it seems to be today in many places, but because the different colonies had varying religious traditions and had yet to find a common ground for worship .
In a remarkable stroke of political genius and Christian charity, Samuel Adams, a Congregationalist, put aside prejudice and proposed that Rev. Jacob Duche, the Anglican minister at Christ Church, should be invited to lead their prayer. Everyone present understood that the Congregationalists and the Anglicans had a long history of conflict dating back to the English Civil War when the Puritans, under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell, beheaded the Anglican king, Charles I. Adams declared, “I hope I am not a bigot, and can hear a prayer from a gentleman of piety and virtue who is a friend to his country,”
And so, the first meeting of America’s government began with prayer. On the day appointed, Duche arrived in his ecclesiastical robe and led congress in prayer using the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. Those who were present for this prayer meeting included: Samuel Adams, John Adams, George Washington and other great patriots, such as Pennsylvanian, John Morton. John Adams later wrote home to his wife, Abigail, that God’s providence must have been overseeing the prayer service. The reason for this remark was that there had been rumors that the British army had just attacked the city of Boston and the biblical text prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer for that day was Psalm 35. Verse 1 states, “Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me” (KJV).
Duche began his prayer saying, “Our Lord, our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of Kings, Lord of Lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon the earth, and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all kingdoms, empires, and governments, look down in mercy, we beseech thee, upon these American States who have fled to Thee from the rod of the Oppressor, and thrown themselves upon Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only upon Thee.”
When America began, there was a major debate over monetary policy and the ownership of banks. Some felt they should be privately owned, whereas others felt they should he owned by the government. America started off with a government-owned national bank, which was eventually ended under Andrew Jackson’s presidency.
The Second National Bank was built in Greek revival architecture. It is a historic building that reminds us of a bygone era, but it underscores the foundational reality of the necessity of a strong economy for the well-being of a country.
One of the virtues advocated by our founders was thrift coupled with hard work which has obvious biblical roots. Deuteronomy 28:12 stresses the importance of thrift: “Thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow” (KJV).
Benjamin Franklin agreed with this as we find in his Way to Wealth: “… as Poor Richard says, ‘Creditors have better memories than debtors.’ … So, ‘Rather go to bed supperless, than rise in debt. Get what you can, and what you get hold, ‘Tis the stone that will turn all your lead into gold.’ … But, after all, do not depend too much upon your own industry and frugality, and prudence though excellent things; for they may all be blasted, without the blessing of heaven; and therefore, ask that blessing humbly, and be not uncharitable to those that at present seem to want it, but comfort and help them. Remember, Job suffered, and was afterwards prosperous.”
Robert Morris’ statue is situated between the First and Second National Banks reminding us of his pivotal role in the Revolution. He was one of the greatest financiers and contributors to the American cause. However, at the end of his life, he was penniless and served time in debtors’ prison. When the war was over, he had lost all his wealth through bad investments in land speculation. Just as the National Banks went out of business, the vast fortune of this great American hero evaporated into thin air. This reminds us of the truth of l Timothy 6:17- 19, which says: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God. who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life”(KJV ).
Like the Second National Bank, the First National Bank now also is just a historic building which was closed under the leadership of President Andrew Jackson. Our founders knew the scriptures that taught not to squander wealth but rather to put it into the bank to gain interest (see Matthew 25:14-28). America’s founders had a great war debt that they had to pay, so they were constantly concerned with good fiscal policy. This concern is easily seen in Washington’s farewell address on September 19, 1776: ”As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible : avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursement to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of Peace to discharge the Debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.” As Proverbs 13:11 says, “He who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (NIV).
Benjamin Franklin offers timeless advice in his Advice to a Young Tradesman: “In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do, and with them every thing. He that gets all he can honestly, and save all he gets, (necessary expenses excepted) will certainly become rich: if that Being who governs the world, to whom all should look for a blessing on their honest endeavors, doth not, in his wise providence, otherwise determine.” Simply put, “a penny saved is a penny earned.”
As a signer of the Declaration of Independence, John Witherspoon was one of the great patriots in the founding generation. A direct descendant of the reformer of Scotland, John Knox, he was like his forbearer: a man of the church and a man of the public square. As a public leader, he was a representative in the New Jersey legislature when it voted to ratify America’s new Constitution. As a churchman, here in Philadelphia, John Witherspoon helped to organize the new American branch of the Presbyterian church, presiding at its first General Assembly 1789.
John Witherspoon came to America from Scotland to assume the role of President of the College of New Jersey, which today is Princeton University. Throughout his career in both the church and state, he emphasized the providence of God. Scholars have stated that Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration of Independence was amended at the suggestion of Witherspoon with the words “with the firm reliance on the protection of divine providence.” which then continues with Jefferson’s immortal words: “we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” The idea of divine providence is found in Genesis 22:14 where it says, ‘on the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (NIV ) and in Ephesians 1:11, “[he] who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (KJV).
Only a few days before arriving as a delegate to the Continental Congress, Witherspoon had preached a sermon entitled. “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men” on May 17, 1776, in which he said. “If your cause is just–you may look with confidence to the Lord and entreat him to plead it as his own. You are all my witnesses, that this is the first time of my introducing any political subject into the pulpit. At this season however, it is not only lawful but necessary, and I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature.” He declares, “There is not a greater evidence either of the reality or the power of religion, than a firm belief of God’s universal presence, and a constant attention to the influence and operation of his providence. It is by this means that the Christian may be said, in the emphatical scripture language, ‘to walk with God, and to endure as seeing him who is invisible.’”
In his patriotic sermon, he not only emphasizes God’s providence and the justice of the American cause, but he also calls on his listeners to embrace the Christian faith: “There can be no true religion, till there be a discovery of your lost state by nature and practice, and an unfeigned acceptance of Christ Jesus, as he is offered in the gospel. Unhappy they who either despise his mercy, or are ashamed of his cross! Believe it, “there is no salvation in any other. There is no other name under heaven given amongst men by which we must be saved.” Unless you are united to him by a lively faith, not the resentment of a haughty monarch, but the sword of divine justice hangs over you, and the fullness of divine vengeance shall speedily overtake you. I do not speak this only to the heaven daring profligate, or groveling sensualist, but to every insensible secure sinner; to all those, however decent and orderly in their civil deportment, who live to themselves and have their part and portion in this life; in fine to all who are yet in a state of nature, for except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
John Witherspoon argued for independence in 1776 and became the only clergyman who signed the Declaration. He regularly assisted congress in their annual call for a day of “prayer, fasting, and humiliation.” As Witherspoon said in his sermon at the first National Day of Prayer, “While we give praise to God the supreme disposer of all events, for his interposition on our behalf, let us guard against the dangerous error of trusting in, or boasting of, an arm of flesh … If your cause is just, if your principles pure, and if your conduct is prudent, you need not fear the multitude of opposing hosts.” Again, we see his trust in God’s providential care.
Old Swedes Church was originally started in the 1600s as a Lutheran Church. Over time as the Swedish Lutheran settlers learned English, the church was assimilated into the Episcopalian tradition. One largely unknown fact is that the first president of the United States under the Articles of Confederation, our first Constitution, was John Hanson, who is buried here at Old Swedes Church.
The name Gloria Dei means “the glory of God” in Latin. The theme of the glory of God runs throughout the entire Bible and, as the Apostle Paul says in l Corinthians 10:31, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”(NIV). This historic-church attests to the close connection of faith and public service in our country’s earliest days.
This church is the birthplace of a world-wide Christian movement that began with the conversion of a slave to saving faith. This slave in turn led his slave master to Christ. The slave master then freed his former slave, named Richard Allen. The story of the Old Mother Bethel Church reflects the story of Onesimus in Saint Paul’s Letter to Philemon, his shortest epistle. Paul urges the runaway slave’s master, Philemon, to treat his slave, Onesimus, as though he were Paul (v. 17).
From humble beginnings, the African Methodist Episcopalian Church is now a church that has reached millions worldwide. This reminds us that the Christian gospel is, as Revelation 7:9 declares, for “every nation, tribe, people and language” (NIV). When faith is properly lived, it brings communities together. William Penn’s vision for a city of brotherly love, lived out by the application of the golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12), is wonderfully mirrored in this church’s founding.
Politics were not only conducted in the state house, they were often done after hours over food and drink where the great issues of the day continued to be discussed by friends. John Adams called this tavern “the most genteel in America.” George Washington often met with his advisors and friends in a small upstairs room. The Proverbs remind us that “he who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (13:20, NIV). The wise men of early America ate and debated together here in the spirit of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (NIV).
Although this is a restored building, it is built according to its original plans. If these walls could speak, they would reveal the most passionate concerns and sensitive secrets of the Constitutional Convention. Here you will find original recipes of our nation’s founders still being served today. Bon Appetite!
The National Liberty Museum is one of the newest museums in the city of Philadelphia. In this faith friendly setting, remarkable displays, beautiful glass sculptures, biblical and interfaith teachings combine to underscore the role of faith in creating and preserving the fragile and precious gift of liberty.
The National Liberty Museum welcomes thousands upon thousands of students and visitors who are reminded that religious liberty is an expression of loving our neighbor as ourselves, even when they believe differently than we do. As we read in Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself ” (NIV). We find the same teaching in Matthew 22:37-39.
The importance of teaching the truth and duties of liberty is underscored by Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “There has never been a nation that is ignorant and free. That has never been and will never be.”
“Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings.” Proverbs 22:29 (NIV)
If ever there was a man who exemplifies this Proverb, it is Benjamin Franklin who only attended school for two years of his life. Yet Franklin forever changed both science and politics. Starting as a printer who studied the writings that his shop printed, this extraordinary genius used his creativity for the good of mankind beginning in his own home, then his city, and then finally from America to the world.
Franklin’s contributions to Philadelphia include the first free library, the first fire company, the American Philosophical Society, the University of Pennsylvania, the post office, as well as the use of paper money and the bestseller Poor Richard’s Almanac. His contributions to science include the first swimming flippers, bifocals, the Franklin stove, and of course the lightening rod. His famous experiments with the kite and the attached key demonstrated that electricity is the same, whether in a lightening bolt or in a wire. Franklin’s contributions to government include the signing of the Declaration of Independence, leadership in the Constitutional Convention, service in the congress of Pennsylvania, and as America’s ambassador to France during the Revolutionary War.
Franklin even tinkered with inventions for the enjoyment of his family. He developed a rocking chair that enabled his wife to churn butter as she rocked. He also created the glass harmonica, a special musical instrument made of rotating plates, for his daughters musical pleasure.
The financial legacy that Franklin left for Philadelphia has grown substantially through the centuries and continues to provide resources for his city. When you look from Franklin court in the direction of Christ Church and see its high steeple, remember that Franklin helped to raise money for the purchase of its bells by proposing, printing and selling tickets in one of America’s first lotteries.
Further fulfilling the spirit of Galatians 6:10 which says “do good to all men” (KJV), Franklin helped to create Pennsylvania Hospital that has continued to this day to do good to those who have physical need. Franklin writes in his autobiography of his early love of reading that included John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and other Christian books which impacted his life: “There was also a book of De Foe’s, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather’s, called Essays to do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life.”
Franklin’s legacy is celebrated not just here but also at the Franklin institute (222 North 20th Street). A common man who stood before kings, indeed!
Benjamin Franklin said there are two things that should be in every home: a newspaper and a Bible. Not only did they provide education and good content, but they also guaranteed the employment of a man who was a printer by trade!
Franklin’s print shop was employed for government printing, books, newspapers, and broadsides (posters). Franklin even used his print shop to publish his own book, Poor Richard’s Almanac, one of America’s first bestsellers. Some of his classic one-liners that have become part of American life are: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise;” “Fish and visitors smell after three days;” “God helps them that help themselves;” “ Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead;” and “Keep the eyes wide open before marriage and half shut afterwards.”
At the Christ Church burial grounds where Franklin is buried, people still put coins on his gravestone to help support his fictional character, Poor Richard. Franklin’s popular serial story always displayed Poor Richard in trouble and needing to be rescued by his wife. As Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (NAS). Some things never change!
A trip to the post office is a routine activity for most Americans, so we also honor Benjamin Franklin as the man who organized America’s first public postal service. As the first postmaster general of the United States, he appeared on America’s first postage stamp. Since that first stamp, Franklin has appeared on numerous U.S. regular issue and commemorative stamps. Franklin clearly upheld the truth of Proverbs 25:25, “Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land” (NIV). Good news became more accessible to everyone through a public post office.
Franklin’s Post Office is still open for business. Stop there and send a Philadelphia postcard home to friends or family to commemorate your trip!
There are many texts that link Christ as the head of the Church throughout the Bible. Ephesians 1:22-23 is a classic passage that shows Christ’s rule over the church. It says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (NIV).
This was the church where our nation’s patriots often worshipped. During one service they heard a sermon from the Rev. Jacob Duche (pronounced du- shay) on Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (KJV). In his message, Duche connected the spiritual liberty Christians have in Jesus Christ with the liberty they should have through a just government. He dedicated this sermon to General George Washington who often worshiped here, even having his own pew. Several signers of the Declaration and Constitution are buried here as well as in the Christ Church burial grounds.
As a result of the Revolutionary War, the Anglican church could no longer operate by that name in America as it was the official Church of England. An agreement was reached between English officials of church and state as well as the American Congress and American Anglicans to establish the Episcopal church. The first bishop of the new Episcopal church was the pastor of Christ Church who followed Rev. Duche, the Rev. William White. White had previously served as the assistant and successor to Rev. Duche as well as chaplain to congress. Bishop White is buried inside Christ Church.
This church has never ceased to be an active center for worship. Absolom Jones, one of the first ordained African-American preachers in America, studied the Bible and theology here in an upstairs room. The baptismal font, which is still used today, was a gift from All Hallows Barking, an Anglican church in London. The font is the very one in which William Penn was baptized as an infant.
Although the printing of translations of the Bible into other languages, including Native American languages, had occurred in North America, the printing of the Bible in English had not. Bible publication was under the direct control of the king of England. Due to the Revolutionary War, shipments of the Bible from England and Scotland were suspended and new Bibles became unavailable in America. To rectify the issue, the Continental Congress explored the possibility of importing English Bibles from the Netherlands.
The problem was solved in 1782 by a Philadelphia printer named Robert Aitken. Using his own finances and printing press, he printed the first English Bible in North America. The cover page of his Bible identifies the historic address of his printing shop as “Under the sign of the ‘Pope’s Head’ in Market Street, just three doors away from the coffee house.” Today this is 110 Market Street, the current location of Shane Handcrafted Candies, the oldest candy store in Philadelphia, dating from 1876. The coffee house was The London Coffee House, the meeting place of all the newspaper men of early Philadelphia because it was so close to the waterfront and was a great place to hear the news being brought in by the many ships docking on the Delaware River. This coffee house also became the meeting place of the Sons of Liberty in Philadelphia.
Aitken’s printing of the Bible was still technically illegal as the peace treaty with England would not be signed until the next year in 1783. The Bible was submitted to the Continental Congress for its review. Those who assisted Aiken in his efforts to gain congress’ approval and reviewed his work included three congressmen, the Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon of Princeton College in New Jersey, James Duane of New York and Thomas McKean from Delaware as well as the two chaplains of congress, Episcopalian William White from Christ Church in Philadelphia and a Philadelphian Presbyterian Minster, George Duffield. It was found to be satisfactory and was recommended to the American people for their use. As a result, Aitken’s Bible has been called ‘Congress’ Bible.’ Congress’ desire that Americans have the Bible to teach the new nation reflects the teaching of the Bible itself. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (NIV). George Washington said that he would have been happy for each of his soldiers in the Revolutionary Army to receive one of these Bibles if they had been available before the soldiers were given leave to return to their families.
Penn’s first landing in Pennsylvania was actually some miles to the south of Philadelphia in the city of Chester. However, his arrival is commemorated in Philadelphia because this is the city that was named by Penn before it was “born.” Philadelphia finds its name in Revelation 3:7. The name Philadelphia literally means: the city of “brotherly love.” This reflects Penn’s hope that religious liberty would prevail and that no one would ever be persecuted for his or her faith in his city, like he had been in London for his Quaker faith.
Penn was converted to the Quaker faith when he heard street preacher, Thomas Loe, in London preaching on 1 John 5:4-5, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (NIV). The preacher asked, “There is a faith that is overcome by the world and there’s a faith that overcomes the world, which is yours?” Penn determined to have a faith that would overcome the world, and indeed it did. His faith and pursuit of religious liberty made a permanent impact on our Constitution as seen in our Constitution’s first amendment that guarantees religious liberty.
Penn’s Landing appropriately reminds us that William Penn left an indelible mark upon his city. But the Christopher Columbus memorial is a visible reminder that Penn built on the labors of those who had gone before him.
Columbus never set foot on North America, but his voyage of discovery to the New World paved the way for settlers who came after him. Just as William Penn was influenced by biblical teaching, so also was Christopher Columbus. In his own journal, Prophesies which Admiral Don Christopher Columbus Gathered… translated by K. Brigham (Ft. Lauderdale: TSELF, 1992), he writes “At this time I have seen and put in study to look into all the scriptures, cosmography, histories, chronicles and philosophy and other arts, which our Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense his hand upon me)…” (p. 178-179). “ Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that He, with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred scriptures…” (p. 179). And “I have already said that for the execution of the enterprise of the Indies, neither reason, nor mathematics, nor world maps were profitable to me; rather the prophesy of Isaiah (see, for example, Isaiah 60:9) was completely fulfilled” (p. 182). In this work Columbus has 100 pages of scriptural citations and quotations from theologians.
Betsy Ross was a widow working as a seamstress who, according to a strongly held tradition, sewed our first stars and stripes at the request of General Washington. Her pew was next to the Washingtons’ pew at Christ Church. According to this tradition, Betsy is credited with helping Gen. Washington to decide to use five- rather than six-pointed stars on the flag due to the ease in their creation by one snip on a neatly folded cloth. This tradition reflects the compassion of James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (NIV).
Our nation’s colors of red, white and blue were selected by congress for our flag on June 14, 1777, a day that we still celebrate annually as Flag Day. The meaning of these colors was explained by the Continental Congress with the establishment of our Great Seal on June 20, 1782. You can see the Great Seal on the reverse side of a dollar bill. Congress said that the shield on the eagle should have the colors of red, white, and blue. Congress’ interpretation of the colors, following accepted rules of heraldry, represented seven different moral virtues. Congress said that red represented “heartiness and valor,” white represented “purity and innocence,” and blue represented “vigilance, perseverance and justice.” By implication these same character qualities are before Americans whenever the flag of red, white, and blue is seen.
Each of these virtues is taught by the Scriptures. Heartiness and valor are seen in Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV). James 1:27 calls for purity and innocence: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (NIV). Paul encourages Christians to have Christ-like perseverance in Hebrews 12:1b-2, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (NIV). Micah 6:8 commands justice: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV). Vigilance is taught in Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (NIV). Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 5:6 says, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (KJV).
Quakers were a persecuted Christian sect in England. Under Penn’s leadership as a trained attorney and theologian, Philadelphia became the “Quaker City.” Quakers developed their faith from a literal reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 which forbids taking oaths and taking up weapons. In the spirit of loving one’s neighbor as oneself, as found in Matthew 22:39, the Quakers sought to make Philadelphia a city of brotherly love and peace, indeed, a city without walls.
The Quakers called themselves “friends,” reflecting Jesus’ teaching in John 15:12-17, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other” (NIV).
Among the thousands buried in this cemetery are several signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Franklin. The epitaph that Franklin wrote for himself says:
The body of
B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding) Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ’d) Appear once More In a New and More Elegant Edition Revised and Corrected
By the Author.
Franklin, the printer, compares the resurrection body with a re-bound book. Thus, his epitaph reflects his publishing career as well as his belief in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (NIV).
The other signers of the Declaration buried here are Joseph Hewes, George Ross, Dr. Benjamin Rush and Francis Hopkinson. Francis Hopkinson was not only a signer of the Declaration, but also the organist at Christ Church and a student of heraldry. There is good evidence that he is the one who first proposed the stars and stripes for the American flag. He also helped design symbols used on early currency.
Dr. Benjamin Rush was a signer and a notable leader in medicine, mental health and the anti-slavery movement. As a leader of one of America’s earliest Bible societies, he strongly advocated the use of the Bible in public education.
American coins are minted in various cities. The city where they are created is usually identified on the face of the coin by the first letter of the city’s name. Thus coins produced in Philadelphia have a P.
The last act of President Abraham Lincoln to be signed into law before he was assassinated was that all American coins bear the national motto: “In God We Trust.” Why did our leaders choose “In God We Trust” as our national motto? In part, because it is such a foundational theme of the Scriptures. Consider a few of many examples from the Old Testament (KJV):
“The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.” 2 Samuel 22:3
“He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.” 2 Kings 18:5
“O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me.” Psalm 7:1
The motto was actually first suggested by the fourth stanza of Francis Scott Key’s “Star Spangled Banner” written in the midst of the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1812. Our national anthem declares:
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
St. Joseph’s Church is named for the father of Jesus from the nativity story found in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2. Because William Penn’s Charter of Liberty protected people of all faiths, at one point in the history of the British empire, Philadelphia had the only legal, English Roman-Catholic Church. A commemorative plaque inside the church reads: “ When in 1733 St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church was founded and dedicated to the Guardian of the Holy Family, it was the only place in the entire English speaking world where public celebration of the Holy sacrifice of the Mass was permitted by law.”
And since we’re speaking of Christmas and religious liberty, don’t forget that Philadelphia is also the birthplace of the beloved Christmas Carol, “O Little Town Of Bethlehem.” Its words were written by Phillips Brooks, the Episcopal rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, on Rittenhouse Square (1904 Walnut St.). He composed the words just before Christmas in 1868, only a few years after a trip to Israel. The music was written by Lewis H. Redner, the church’s organist. It was first sold by Richard McCauley at his bookstore on Chestnut Street west of Thirteenth Street.
Jewish immigrants found religious liberty as a welcoming gift in the New World. George Washington’s favorite Bible verse was Micah 4:4, “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it” (KJV). He applied this text not just to his home at Mt. Vernon, but also to the whole American experience and particularly to the Jewish people. Washington hoped they would find asylum from their long experience of persecution in our new nation.
One of the early Jewish Sons of Liberty and financial supporters of the American cause from Philadelphia was Haym Solomon. This museum reminds us of the important role that the Jewish- Americans have played in establishing religious liberty and helping to define pivotal aspects of American culture.
The Old Testament story of the Exodus is remembered in the Passover celebration of the Jewish people. A proposal for the Great Seal of the United States was offered to the Continental Congress by an illustrious committee of three: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. Their proposal was from Exodus 12 where Moses leads the Israelites through the Red Sea which is collapsing on Pharaoh and his army. To this they added Jefferson’s personal motto, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” While their proposal was not ultimately accepted by congress, it illustrates the vital role that the Jewish Scriptures’ teaching played in the minds of the American founders.
While Quakers were pacifists based on their understanding of Matthew 5:39, some Quakers in the midst of the American Revolution concluded that the American struggle for independence was a just war against tyranny. For this reason, these Quakers chose to take up arms and establish another Quaker community, which met in the Free Quaker Meeting House. Betsy Ross was one of their members. Along with other revolutionary leaders, their decision to fight reflected Hebrews 11:32-34,“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (NIV). After the war, these Quakers reunited with the original Quaker community.
According to a strongly held tradition commemorated by an early 1900s postage stamp, a Quaker once observed George Washington praying while encamped at Valley Forge. The Quaker, upon seeing Washington pray so fervently, became convinced that the war must be a just war and was converted to the Revolutionary cause. While many doubt the validity of this story, a massive statue of Washington at prayer is found at the Freedom Foundation adjoining Valley Forge National Park. We also know that Washington often prayed as evidenced frequently in his massive writings.
He even speaks of his own “fervent prayers” in a letter dated November 16, 1782:
In return for your kind concern for my temporal and eternal happiness, permit me to assure you that my wishes are reciprocal; and that you may be enabled to hand down your Religion pure and undefiled to a Posterity worthy of their Ancestors is the fervent prayer of General, Your humble and obedient Servant, George Washington.
The idea of a written Constitution, or covenant, between the governors and the governed claims its earliest American expression in the Mayflower Compact of 1620. The word for covenant in Latin is foedus from which our word federal is derived. (See Jeremiah 31:31 for an example of a Biblical expression of covenant.)
The U.S. Constitution limits power by dividing government into three branches: executive, legislative and judicial. This seems to be anticipated by Isaiah 33:22, which says “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us” (NIV). This passage suggests the three branches of our federal government.
While at the Constitution Center, make sure you see the statues in Framers’ Hall. According to a study conducted by political scientists at the University of Texas, one third of the quotations used by our founding fathers were from the Bible.
Also see a direct descendent of the last Liberty Tree that is planted on the west side of the National Constitution Center’s grounds. The first Liberty Tree was a large elm which the Sons of Liberty used in Boston in 1765 as a meeting place to protest the Stamp Act. As unjust taxation continued, other Liberty Trees or Liberty Poles were established across the colonies. The dedication of Liberty Trees is illustrated by the words of Silas Downer in Providence, Rhode Island in 1768:
We do therefore, in the name and behalf of all the true SONS of LIBERTY in America, Great Britain, Corsica, Ireland or wheresoever they are dispersed throughout the world, dedicate and solemnly devote this tree to be a TREE of LIBERTY. —May all our councils and deliberations under its venerable branches be guided by wisdome, and directed to the support and maintenance of that liberty, which our forefathers sought out and found under trees and and in the wilderness.—May it long flourish, and may the SONS of LIBERTY often repair hither, to confirm and strengthen each other.—When they look towards the sacred ELM, may they be penetrated with a sense of duty to themselves, their country, and their posterity:—And may they, like the house of David, grow stronger and stronger, while their enemies, like the house of Saul, grow weaker and weaker. AMEN
His reference to the decline of Saul and the rising of David comes from 2 Samuel 3:1. His Liberty Tree dedication prophesys the decline of British control in America as the new nation grows and boldly asserts its lawful rights in the face of injustice.
Also at the National Constitution Center, on long term loan from the Providence Forum, is the American Eagle carved from wood from the last Liberty Tree. The Eagle is a biblical image of strength. Isaiah 40:29- 31 says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (NIV).
Thomas Jefferson was asked to draft of the document that would declare to the world that America was independent. During the days leading up to the debate on independence, culminating with the Declaration on July 4, 1776, Jefferson lived in the Graff house working on this history making document. The building is a reconstruction of the original building. Jefferson’s draft was far more sweeping in scope than what was ultimately approved by congress. As a result, Jefferson’s hope that slavery would end did not become a reality until the bloody Civil War was fought, nearly a century later. Understandably, Jefferson was quite upset that congress made some eighty changes to his original document. A Central theme of the Declaration is that all men are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Jefferson was a firm believer in the divine design and creation of the world, expressly rejecting the idea of the eternal existence of matter.
Jefferson’s desire to end slavery, although not fully consistent since he was a slave owner himself, was based in part on the idea that God created the whole world, both rich and poor, with inherent rights. Genesis 1:27-28 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (NIV).
These extraordinary words of Thomas Jefferson are carved into the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.:
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
City Hall in Philadelphia is the architectural center of Penn’s city. Here one finds the plaque that records William Penn’s prayer for Philadelphia. It says: “And Thou Philadelphia the virgin settlement of this province named before thou wert born, what care, what service, what travail have there been to bring thee forth and preserve thee from such as would abuse and defile thee. O that thou mayest be kept from the evil that would overwhelm thee, that faithful to the God of thy mercies in the life of righteousness, thou mayest be preserved to the end. My soul prays to God for thee that thou mayest stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be blest of the Lord and thy people saved by His power.”
Penn named the city before it was founded. He took the name Philadelphia from Revelation 3:7. Philadelphia literally means “The City of Brotherly Love.” Penn believed Philadelphia would face a time of severe trial, in accord with Revelation 3:10, “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth” (NIV). Penn anticipated future difficulties because his experiment in religious liberty and his commitment to peace inevitably invited conflict. The invasion of Philadelphia by the British during the Revolutionary War may have been the very time that Penn’s prayer foresaw.
William Penn’s statue atop City Hall faces the direction of Penn’s Landing. He appropriately presides over the City of Brotherly Love. Up until the 1970s, no building could be higher than the brim of Penn’s hat so as to honor the city’s founder. The central theme of William Penn’s leadership was good government coupled with religious liberty. On the cover page of Penn’s defense of religious liberty, he placed the verse Matthew 7:12: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (KJV ). Penn wanted his city of brotherly love to be governed by Christ’s golden rule which was at the heart of his concept of religious liberty. He had been persecuted for his religion, having been jailed in the Tower of London for his Quaker street preaching. By following the Golden Rule, he knew he couldn’t justly persecute others for their religion.
The concept of religious liberty was developed and defended in America by two clergymen: William Penn of Philadelphia, and before Penn, Roger Williams of Rhode Island. This freedom is established by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Sadly, this foundational freedom is still unknown to half of the inhabitants of our world today.
John Wanamaker was born in 1838 and died in 1932. His statue commemorates him simply as a “Citizen.” Wanamaker is credited with helping to give birth to the modern retail system, where there is no bargaining over prices. His commercial venture was so successful that he amassed a fortune and his innovations were broadly imitated by others. Wanamaker was a devout Presbyterian who shared his wealth and his Christian faith by word and deed. There continue to be churches, schools, rescue shelters, and institutions of higher learning and civic good that began through his philanthropic investments. Philippians 3:20 says, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV). Wanamaker believed that being a citizen of heaven allowed one to be an excellent citizen on earth by seeking to love one’s neighbor in the spirit of the gospel of Christ. He said, “I cannot too greatly emphasize the importance and value of Bible study – more important than ever before in these days of uncertainties, when men and woman are apt to decide questions from the standpoint of expediency rather than the eternal principles laid down by God, Himself.”
The Masonic Order is an international, secret fraternity that played a significant role among the officers of the American revolution. The most famous member of the Masonic Order was George Washington. While their history is debated, the tradition argues that Masonry can be traced to Hiram, who helped build the temple of Solomon that is recorded in 1 Kings 6-7. Their classic symbol is a builder’s square with a compass and the letter G. This symbol is called “GAOTU,” which is an acrostic for “Great Architect Of The Universe” suggesting the geometric orderliness of the universe that argues for a creator and designer of all things. Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (KJV).
Although the Wanamaker department stores have been sold, the Wanamaker building still bears the family name and houses the world’s largest organ. Wanamaker had the organ installed as an expression of his commitment to aesthetics as a part of God’s creation and service to mankind. Psalm 150 declares: “Praise the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD” (NIV). Wanamaker believed that such praise even belongs in a department store.
The Union League was established in 1862, in the midst of the Civil War to galvanize the support of Philadelphia for the Union cause advocated and defended by President Abraham Lincoln. Because of Philadelphia’s successful business of turning Southern cotton into manufactured cloth, the loyalty of Philadelphia to the Northern cause was not assured. So, several patriotic businessmen banded together to urge Philadelphia’s leadership to support the Union. The Union League took as its motto: “The love of country leads.”
Within the Lincoln room of the Union League, there is a statue of Lincoln standing under his immortal Gettysburg Address. Therein he speaks of “a new birth of freedom” and in so doing alludes to Jesus’ words in John 3:5: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (NIV). The Gettysburg Address also has other allusions to scripture. His phrase, “Of the people, by the people, for the people” seems to reflect the language of Paul’s conclusion of Romans 11: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (NIV). The parallel suggests that just as God is sovereign over history, so the people are sovereign over creating their government.
The Union League also reflects another speech that Lincoln had given earlier based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand” (NIV). The Union League was a concerted attempt to have a united house so that the American Union of States would stand.
Lincoln also employed significant biblical allusions and quotations in his second inaugural address which are carved in the stone of the Lincoln Monument in Washington D.C.
On the University of Pennsylvania campus, there is a statue of the leading evangelist of the Great Awakening, George Whitefield. The University began in a religious meeting house built to house the crowds that came to hear the eloquent and powerful evangelist. The site of this Meeting House is now where the Holiday Inn on 4th Street is found, adjacent to the Philadelphia Mint.
When Whitefield left, the large building was underutilized for no other church or organization could draw such a crowd. As a result, Benjamin Franklin, Whitefield’s evangelistic ministry’s treasurer, proposed that the building be used for a school of higher learning. So the University of Pennsylvania was born under the leadership of Benjamin Franklin in the meeting house of the great evangelist, George Whitefield.
In the original charter of the University of Pennsylvania, Franklin explained that every country needed a public religion and there was none more useful than Christianity. Thus, Franklin wrote that Christianity would always be taught in the history classes of the University.
In his autobiography, Franklin noted his friendship with Whitefield saying, “ I knew him intimately upwards of thirty years. His integrity, disinterestedness, and indefatigable zeal in prosecuting every good work I have never seen equaled and shall never see excelled.” Franklin also noted Whitefield’s emphasis on the need to be born again from John 3:5-6 which says, “Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (NIV ). Franklin records Whitefield’s call on him to experience the new birth as well as Whitefield’s concern that Franklin had not yet experienced the new birth. Clearly, Whitefield’s gospel preaching impacted the colonies. Some scholars have suggested that his preaching may have been one of the significant influences that helped to unify the disparate colonies into united American States.
Fort Mifflin is sometimes visible when airline passengers arrive in Philadelphia as it is located adjacent to the Philadelphia airport. The Fort is a historic reminder that Philadelphia was a key port city that needed to be defended by land as well as by the Delaware River. It stands as a silent testimony of the resolve of the American people in the Revolutionary War to stand fast in the liberty that had been bequeathed to them by Penn’s Charter. As Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (NIV).
Washington sought to defend Philadelphia from the British who had landed on the Elk River in Maryland by assembling a strong defense near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. This is known as the Battle of the Brandywine. Washington was not able to withstand the British force and had to retreat. His young French ally and officer, the Marquis de Layfatte, was wounded in the battle. Nevertheless, Washington’s commitment to liberty held the beleaguered nation together. What galvanized Washington’s leadership in such adversity was his unstinting belief in the providence of God. On more than 200 occasions in his writings, both public and private, in times of success as well as in defeat, Washington relied on the truth that God was at work in the affairs of human history. (See Romans 8:28.)
Washington wrote to Brigadier General Thomas Nelson on August 20, 1778: “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations, but, it will be time enough for me to turn preacher, when my present appointment ceases; and therefore, I shall add no more on the Doctrine of Providence.” When Washington uses the phrase, “that he must be worse than an infidel” he is quoting 1 Timothy 5:8 (KJV).
At Trenton, New Jersey, a surprise Christmas day attack occurred resulting in the defeat of German mercenary soldiers from Hesse. This was made possible because of Washington’s daring and secret crossing of the ice-laden Delaware River during the early hours of Christmas morning. The Hessians, hired to fight by the British, had celebrated Christmas Eve believing that the war was on hold for the winter months. Thus sleepy, hung-over and surprised, they were overrun by Washington’s surprise assault. This victory was a critical turning point in world opinion. Up to this point, it seemed as though Washington’s army could not prevail in military encounters with the trained British and European troops. Washington’s bold and dangerous move reflected his bold and constant trust in God’s providence. His actions reflect the virtues of Joshua 1:8 and Proverbs 3:5-6. Joshua 1:9 declares, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (NIV) Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV).
The Battle of Germantown turned out to be a tie but because it was a tie, the British invasion of Philadelphia could not be stopped. Washington again relied upon God’s providence as he realized the British would enjoy the winter in Philadelphia and his men would have to retreat to the cold wilderness of Valley Forge. There they built their own shelters out of logs. Declaration signer John Witherspoon’s belief in God’s providence was also put to the test as this preacher and patriot lost one of his sons in this battle. The founders, relying on providence, nevertheless wrestled with the truth of Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). Even in the midst of difficult things such as defeat, loss and death, they sought to trust in God.
As General Washington wrote to his wife, Martha, on June 18, 1775:
I shall rely, therefore, confidently on that Providence, which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall.
Valley Forge was the low point for the American Battle for Independence. Philadelphia, the capital city, was lost. The troops had no provisions as they were forced to winter in the wilderness. Washington’s friends in Philadelphia such as the Rev. Duche of Christ Church urged Washington to surrender because the battle was lost. It was here that Washington’s courage and leadership shaped the outcome of American history.
Washington is one of the greatest men of history for two things he did not do: he did not quit when all seemed lost at Valley Forge, and he refused to become king when the Revolutionary War was finally won. On May 2, 1778 at Valley Forge, Washington called on his men “to add to the glory of being a patriot, the higher glory of being a Christian.” In this simple way he shared the gospel. Matthew 16:26 says, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (NIV). Washington believed a good patriot became stronger by faith.
One of the remaining buildings of the original Valley Forge encampment is the stone house of Washington’s headquarters. Soon after the soldiers left, the wood huts began to decay and none of the originals survived, although replicas have been constructed throughout the park. This has led some to ask if it was not a selfish act for Washington to occupy a house for himself when his men were compelled to live in cold log cabins. But the records show that Washington told his men that he would be the last man under roof. He would stay in his tent until every soldier had built his hut! From this, one can understand why Washington was so admired by his men. As one of the wealthiest men in the colonies by virtue of his vast landholdings, Washington risked everything for the American cause of liberty. For many, he has become the example of one who becomes great by becoming a servant for the good of all. Jesus’ teaching on servant leadership declares, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35, NIV).
On the Memorial Arch at Valley Forge one finds a reminder of the sacrifice that was made by Washington’s troops for the liberties we enjoy. On the west side of the monument is Washington’s statement of admiration for his solders’ loyalty in spite of their hunger and nakedness. In a letter to John Banister dated April 21, 1778, Washington speaks of his barefoot men leaving blood-stained footprints in the snow of Valley Forge: “…no history, now extant, can furnish an instance of an Army’s suffering such uncommon hardships as ours have done, and bearing them with the same patience and Fortitude. To see Men without Cloathes to cover their nakedness, without Blankets to lay on, without Shoes, by which their Marches might be traced by the Blood from their feet, and almost as often without Provisions as with; Marching through frost and Snow, and at Christmas taking up their Winter Quarters within a day’s March of the enemy, without a House or Hut to cover them till they could be built and submitting to it without a murmur, is a mark of patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be parallel’d.”
The principal of self denial for the good of others, an ideal of biblical character, is seen in the story of Valley Forge. Jesus taught in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (NIV).
This arch was created by an act of Congress in 1910 and bears the biblical reference Revelation 7:16, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore…” (KJV).
Washington was a member of the Anglican church. But since the Anglican clergy took a vow of loyalty to the king, it became difficult for him to remain an active communicant in his church. As a result, reports of Washington’s communing during the Revolutionary War appear in other Christian contexts, such as with Presbyterian or Reformed believers. But to Washington’s credit, his letters indicate his efforts after the war to seek reconciliation with alienated friends who were Anglican clergymen who had disagreed with him over the revolution.
When attendance in the Anglican church was no longer required with the disestablishment of the church in Virginia, he continued to worship in his childhood church. Having Episcopal bishops and clergymen as friends, Washington as President maintained his worship in the Episcopal church. Thus the Episcopal tradition has honored his legacy and faith by building a church whose stained glass windows depict the story of Washington and American Independence. We can find in Washington’s diaries that he faithfully worshipped throughout the entire country wherever he was during his long public career in the military and government. Washington well exemplified Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (NIV).
The Freedom Foundation was established after World War II to help Americans remember that faith in God and civil liberty are intimately connected in the American story. The stone tablets here emphasize the American heritage of “A fundamental belief in God.”
General Eisenhower, later to become President Eisenhower, helped to establish the Freedom’s Foundation emphasizing his belief in the foundational importance of Faith in God, as Americans confronted the atheistic ideology of communism. In 1954, he signed into law the insertion of the words “under God” into the pledge of allegiance.
The importance of trust in God is dramatically portrayed by a large bronze statue of Washington kneeling in prayer. Washington’s most famous prayer for the nation is found in his farewell letter to the thirteen governors as he leaves his command as general. His prayer concludes with these words based on Micah 6:8: “I now make it my earnest prayer… that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.”
Tenth Presbyterian Church is the Presbyterian pulpit in Philadelphia made famous by the preaching of Donald G. Barnhouse and James M. Boice. The classic greeting of Tenth Church to you as their guest declares:
To all who are spiritually weary and seek rest;
to all who mourn and long for comfort;
to all who struggle and desire victory;
to all who sin and need a Savior;
to all who are strangers and want fellowship;
to all who hunger and thirst after righteousness;
and to whoever will come—
this church opens wide her doors and offers her welcome in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The motto of Westminster Theological Seminary is “The Whole Counsel of God”. This is based on the Apostle Paul’s words in Acts 20:27: “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (KJV). Westminster was established in Philadelphia in 1929, and today has over 700 graduate students, with over 6,000 living alumni, who serve in over 100 denominations, from over 60 countries around the world.
One of the most courageous moments in American history is commemorated at the Chapel of the Four Chaplains. After the Dorchester, a U.S. Naval ship, had been fatally hit by an enemy torpedo in the icy waters of the north Atlantic, it was soon realized there would not be enough lifejackets for all the surviving sailors. In an interfaith expression of love and trust in God, two Protestant chaplains, a Catholic chaplain and a Jewish chaplain gave up their lifejackets, sacrificing their lives so that others could survive the sinking ship. In sacrificing their lives to save others, they embodied the truth of John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends“ (NIV).
The chapel is currently located at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
What makes a man great—money, power, influence, fame? Rev. Russell Conwell was the founder of Temple University that started at Temple Baptist Church on Broad Street. He concluded his famous sermon, “Acres of Diamonds”, delivered over 5000 times at various times and places from 1900-1925 with these words:
Greatness consists not in the holding of some future office, but really consists in doing great deeds with little means and the accomplishment of vast purposes from the private ranks of life. To be great at all one must be great here, now, in Philadelphia. He who can give to this city better streets and better sidewalks, better schools and more colleges, more happiness and more civilization, more of God, he will be great anywhere. Let every man or woman here, if you never hear me again, remember this, that if you wish to be great at all, you must begin where you are and what you are, in Philadelphia, now. He that can give to his city any blessing, he who can be a good citizen while he lives here, he that can make better homes, he that can be a blessing whether he works in the shop or sits behind the counter or keeps house, whatever be his life, he who would be great anywhere must first be great in his own Philadelphia.
Jesus’ answer to Conwell’s question is found in Mark 10:42-45, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (NIV).