It was the summer of 1787 when George Washington received a letter that the Constitutional Convention was not going well. Delegates from 12 of the 13 newly independent American states were divided as they attempted to hammer out what would become of the United States Constitution. When George Washington returned to address the Convention, Benjamin Franklin gave a speech that changed the spirit of the Convention and set the tone for the future of this great nation. It was so impactful, it is also known as “The Miracle in Philadelphia.” My abridged version summarizing his speech is as follows:
“Mr, President, the small progress we have made in the last four or five weeks is proof of the imperfection of Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all around Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In our attempt to discover political truth, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not once thought of humbly asking our heavenly Father to illuminate our understanding?
In the beginning of the war with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of Divine influence in our favor. To our God we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.
And have we now forgotten that 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 men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can 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 127:1a] 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 partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages.
And what is worse, mankind may look on this unfortunate instance and be discouraged from establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. I therefore request that prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”
From that point forward the Delegates were able to come together and complete what we now know as our Constitution. The United States is nothing less than a miracle, allowed by the grace of our heavenly Father. This July 4th, I challenge you to think about the Divine influence that has blessed our nation, and I pray that we never forget our powerful friend. May God continue to bless America. Happy July 4th!