The more I investigate and read the account of witnesses claiming George Washington was a Christian, the more my own view is questioned. By a careful examination of Washington’s words, and the context of those words, it is evident his philosophical language, which all Christians used in reference to God, no doubt referred to Jesus Christ. Granted, this is not an admission of faith, but neither does it exempt the label of Christian. Much has been written on the faith of Washington, however, there is not one quote affirming his faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
The key to Washington’s letter to the Delaware Chiefs is not the Indians’ arts and ways of life, but our ways of life, showing Jesus Christ’s Religion is to be above everything else in our culture; again, Washington includes himself in «our» arts and ways of life:
«You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do every thing they can to assist you in this wise intention; and to tie the knot of friendship and union so fast, that nothing shall ever be able to loose it.»
SPEECH TO THE DELAWARE CHIEFS
Head Quarters, Middle Brook, May 12, 1779.
So George Washington never referred to God in Christian terms? Quite the contrary; he mentioned Jesus Christ to the Delaware Chiefs, and here, in 1789:
«And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.»
Thanksgiving Proclamation, October 3rd, 1789
Who pardons transgressions and is The Lord? Jesus Christ is the only answer. This also shows his prayers and supplications were to Jesus, not to a deist, or theist god.
«I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, 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.»
Washington’s Farewell to the Army, June 8th, 1783
Without a doubt, George Washington is referring to Jesus Christ, as these Characteristicks refer only to Him. And again, here, Washington writes Revelation, which is God’s will for mankind, is referring to the Bible. Notice God’s revelation is superior to all human knowledge, including man’s reason, which can only be useful and relevant if it is written down:
«[t]he Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labours of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had a meliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society.»
There is evidence, among other reports, Washington took communion, here is one testimony in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania:
The Rev. Nathaniel Randolph Snowden, an ordained Presbyterian minister, graduate of Princeton with a degree from Dickinson College. Mr. Snowden was born in Philadelphia January 17, 1770 and died November 12, 1851. His writings cover a period from youth to 1846. In his records may be found these observations, in Mr. Snowden’s own handwriting:
Mr. Snowden, as if to emphasize the piety of Washington sets forth in his records that he often saw Washington, that he accompanied seventy other clergymen to visit him on the anniversary of his birth February 22, 1792. Then Mr. Snowden adds:
«When the army lay at Morristown, the Rev. Dr. Jones, administered the sacrament of ye Lord’s supper. Washington came forward at ye head of all his officers and took his seat at ye 1st table, & took of ye bread and wine, the Symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood, to do this in remembrance of ye L J C & thus professed himself a Christian & a disciple of the blessed Jesus.»
Did Washington fake communion, and this testimony false? Is the Valley Forge Prayer an accurate account? I know there are equally other testimonies rejecting Washington’s faith, but, without his words rejecting Christianity, it’s difficult to label him a theist. David Barton may be on safe ground claiming Washington a Christian. The claims of Washington’s Grand daughter Nelly Custis-Lewis, John Marshall, Abiel Holmes, or Jared Sparks may only refer to his Christian character, not his faith in Christian Orthodoxy.
If Snowden’s testimony is true, I have no problem with people claiming Washington a Christian, for me, I am still undecided.