The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave
There’s nothing like a small town Fourth of July celebration. Our city, tucked in the foothills of northern Utah, throws a great party every year complete with a parade, salt-water taffy, a concert, popsicles, and fireworks. The parade doesn’t feature many fancy floats or an abundance of beauty queens, but there is something wonderful about a hometown celebration where little league sports teams decorate a truck with crepe paper and ride through town piled in the back, throwing candy to the spectators.
I always, ALWAYS, get teary when the National Guard or Air Force Reservists march majestically down the street carrying the American flag. It is one time of the year I pause to remember the sacrifices of so many who fought because they believed in liberty and justice for all. There is always a hush that falls over the crowd on the parade route when our flag passes. For me, it is a reverent, almost sacred moment.
One of my favorite books ever is “The Light and the Glory” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel. I want to share three stories from that book about George Washington, who I believe was not only a patriot but a great man of God. I believe our country was founded by the grace and power of God. These stories show me that God used great men to fulfill His purposes.
Isaac Potts, a Quaker and a pacifist, one day noticed Washington’s horse tethered by a secluded grove of trees, not far from his headquarters. Hearing a voice, he approached quietly and saw the General on his knees at prayer. Not wanting to be discovered, he stood motionless until Washington had finished and returned to his headquarters. Potts then hurried to return to the house himself to tell his wife Sarah, “If George Washington be not a man of God, I am greatly deceived—and still more shall I be deceived, if God do not, through him, work out a great salvation for America.”
Something else happened that winter which says much about the quality of Washington’s faith. A turncoat collaborator named Michael Wittman was captured, and at his trial it was proven that he had given the British invaluable assistance on numerous occasions. He was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death by hanging. On the evening before the execution, an old man, Peter Miller, asked to see Washington. He was ushered in without delay, for Miller had done a great many favors for the army. Now he had a favor to ask of Washington.
“I’ve come to ask you to pardon Michael Wittman.”
Washington was taken aback. “Impossible! Wittman has done all in his power to betray us. In these times we cannot be lenient with traitors, and for that reason I cannot pardon your friend.”
“Friend! He’s no friend of mine. He is my bitterest enemy. He has persecuted me for years. He has eve beaten me and spit in my face. Michael Wittman is no friend of mine!”
Washington was puzzled. “And you still wish me to pardon him? Why?”
“I ask it because Jesus did as much for me.”
Washington turned away and walked into the next room. Soon he returned with a paper on which was written the pardon of Michael Wittman. “My dear friend,” he said placing the paper in the old man’s hand, “I thank you for this.”
This last story refers to events in the French and Indian Wars. Fifteen years after those wars, Washington and life-long friend Dr. Craik encountered an old and venerable Indian chief who wished to have words with Washington. This is what he said:
“I am a chief, and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes, and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path, that I might see the young warrior of the Great Battle.
“It was on the day when the white man’s blood mixed with the streams of our forest, that I first beheld this chief. I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe — he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do — himself is alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies.
“Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for him, knew not how to miss – ’twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded him from harm. He cannot die in battle. I am old, and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy.
“Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man, and guides his destinies — he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire.”
At that same battle, according to other sources, as well as Washington’s journal, the twenty-three-year-old colonel had two horses shot out from under him and four musket balls pass through his coat. There was nothing wrong with the Indian’s marksmanship!
I pray that God continues to bless this remarkable country and the people who live here. Happy Independence Day!