On June 28, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was on the verge of complete rupture. For over a month the delegates wrestled with the issue of representation with no breakthroughs, and now patience was wearing thin, emotions were on edge.
A somber George Washington, presiding over this assembly, began to despair of seeing success in the Convention. But the oldest delegate in attendance, Dr. Benjamin Franklin, asked for permission to speak.
This was unusual. The 81-year-old Pennsylvanian up to this point wrote out his remarks and had some one else read them due to his infirmity. But this time he was stirred to rise and address the delegates himself:
“The small progress we have made after four or five weeks… with each other… is a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the human understanding… In this situation for this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?
“In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor… Have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire could rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings that “except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it (Psalm 127:1).” I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.
“I therefore beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberation be held in this assembly every morning…and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”
This speech marked the turning point of the Convention.
Within a year the Constitution was ratified by eleven states to establish the first Christian form of government in history.
Ref: America’s Providential History, pages 171-173.
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