The George Washington Who Was Selected as Commander in Chief

George Washington's pewbox at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia

George Washington’s pewbox at Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia

Part 1

On June 14, 1775 the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia agreed to raise troops for “the American Continental Army.” As soon as that vote was taken, John Adams nominated George Washington to be commander-in-chief.

Regarding Washington, if you are going to understand the man, the first thing you must understand is he was raised as a Christian.  What we are taught to believe and the moral standards which are imparted to us have a lot to do with the decisions we make in life and the actions we take. This was certainly true of George Washington.  Therefore, with this understanding in mind, let us look at what Peter Lillback has to say about Washington’s religious upbringing in his book, George Washington’s Sacred Fire:

Ted Cruz 2016


George’s training would have included one of the clergy as his religious tutor.  Working with his parents—his father the vestryman and his deeply religious mother—the clergyman helped teach George and his siblings the historic Anglican Catechism, which included statements such as “I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation, through Jesus Christ our Savior. And I pray unto God to give me his grace, that I may continue in the same unto my life’s end,” as well as the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, a statement on the doctrine of the Trinity, the Lord’s Prayer, and comments on the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Table. [1]

Peter Lillback also says:

His mother, his church, and his teachers imparted to him a substantial knowledge of the Bible that was manifested in his writings by a high level of Bible literacy. [2]

Woodrow Wilcox


When you read what Washington wrote, you come away with the understanding that this was a man who had been well trained in the Bible, looked at life through a Christian world view, and fully believed the faith which had been imparted to him when he was growing up.

In addition to the education George Washington received while he was growing up, it is known that he had a great interest in educating himself when he became an adult. In his library, which is kept in Boston at one of the oldest libraries in the United States, we still have many books that were important to him.  And one of his books that has survived, a book which has Washington’s signature in it, is a book titled “The Sufficiency of a Standing Revelation.”[3]  That book is a series of sermons which were written to refute the deist claim that there is no such thing as divine revelation.  Washington apparently took these to heart, for he believed in divine revelation.

Because Washington believed in divine revelation, he continually sought God’s wisdom through regular devotions with his Bible:

There are many anecdotes of Washington seen reading his Bible in devotions by those who were with him in his home or in his military quarters. [4]

Here is one of the anecdotes:

Robert Lewis of Fredericksburg, Virginia was Washington’s private secretary.  During the first part of the presidency, he said that he accidentally witnessed Washington’s private devotions, both morning and evening.

He saw him in a kneeling posture, with an open Bible before him; and he said that he believed such was his daily practice. His custom was to go to his library at four o’clock in the morning for devotions. [5]

Washington was a man who made it a priority to study the Bible.  He did this because he believed God was real, and what the Bible said about God was true.  We know this because in his writings he expressed faith that God was in control and could be trusted.

For example, in writing to his sister-in-law from Cambridge on September 30, 1775, he said:

The testimony of regard, which you were pleased to annex to my Brother’s Letter of the 7th…filled me with grateful pleasure—may every Blessing which Heaven can bestow light on you, and yours, is the sincere wish of your …Brother.[6]

Dedication plaque for George Washington at his church, Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia

Dedication plaque for George Washington at his church, Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia

Notice here, in this letter to his sister-in-law, Washington expresses the belief that blessings come from heaven.  For he says, “may every Blessing which Heaven can bestow light on you, and yours.” God is the one who  brings good into our lives.  This is what George  Washington was confidently expressing.

A second example comes from a letter written to his brother Samuel from Harlem Heights on October 18, 1776.  It was a time when Washington and his soldiers were on their way to White Plains with the British on their heels.  In that high pressure situation, Washington wrote:

We are, I expect, upon the Eve of something very important; what may be the Issue; Heaven alone can tell, I will do the best I can, and leave the rest to the Supreme direction of Events. [7]

Notice here, in this letter to his brother, Washington is testifying to a God who knows what is going on, and to Washington’s willingness to leave what he can’t do in God’s hands, believing that God rules over the events of history.

There are two things that are made very clear by what George Washington says in these letters. First, he was definitely a person who had no qualms about expressing his faith in the God of the Bible.  Secondly, he cared about family.  Even when he was in the midst of his very busy activities as commander-in-chief, he made time to stay in touch with the members of  his family.

Family was important to him.  In Peter Lillback’s book, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, after talking about Washington’s military family and his presidential family, Lillback makes the following comment:

But most important to Washington was his own family. He took pleasure in family life and in being with his family.  In the midst of his busy public life, he sought to keep family responsibilities and matters in mind.[8]

In George Washington, we have a man for whom God and family were important, and therefore a man who sought to live in a way that honored God.  Therefore, he was a man of character. And in speaking of Washington’s character, Thomas Jefferson said the following:

His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest of consanguinity (blood relation), of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision.  He was, indeed, in every sense of the word, a wise, a good, and a great man. [9]

Notice here these were qualities which not only made him a good man, but a good leader, especially in hard times.  A leader who would lead his men through the hard times of the American Revolution would have to have integrity and no bias in judgment. He would have to simply focus on the cause and what was right.  That is what Jefferson’s words imply.

Furthermore, he would have to be a man of good judgment in making decisions. In his book, The War of the Revolution, Christopher Ward testifies to this when he says,

He was a sound man in his judgments and his decisions, as everyone who came in contact with him quickly realized.”[10]

His character traits, however, were not the only thing which made him a good candidate to be commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.  After all, if he didn’t have any military experience, the members of the Continental Congress would hardly have been able to consider him.  Therefore, his military experience was also important.  And that is what we will look at in part two of this article.

[1]  Peter Lillback, George Washington’s Sacred Fire (Bryn Mawr, PA: Providence Forum Press, 2006), p. 117. This is the most comprehensive research on George Washington’s beliefs on different issues ever written.  Lillback spent 15 years researching Washington’s original writings.

[2] Ibid., p. 111.

[3] Ibid., p. 118.

[4] Ibid., p. 307.

[5]  Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations (Rockville, MD: Assurance Publishers, 1979), p. 1036.

[6]  The Papers of George Washington Digital Edition, Theodore J. Crackel, ed. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, Rotunda, 2008.

[7]   Ibid.

[8] Peter Lillback, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, p.233.

[9]   Peter Lillback, p. 112.

[10] Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution (New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2011), p. 99.

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Bob Wittstruck was a pastor for 33 years, was the associate director of the Black Hills Creation Science Association, and is a supporter of both Christian schooling and home schooling. His latest book, The Forgotten Factor of History God Rules, is being printed in February or March of 2016. His email address is [email protected]
Bob Wittstruck
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