March 20, 1779: Third Congressional Fasting Proclamation
Because America has forgotten the truth concerning her Christian heritage, secularists and the irreligious have successfully deceived the nation, resulting in cultural and moral decline. However, Christian Heritage Fellowship provides the historical evidence to demonstrate that America’s Christian founding has been the source of her rise to global prominence. In our series, “When Congress Asked America to Fast, Pray, and Give Thanks to God,” we provide the primary evidence that America’s Founding Fathers were overwhelmingly and deeply committed Christians who practiced their faith in government and asked their states and nation to follow their example. The following article relates only one of the sixteen spiritual proclamations of Congress issued during the War of Independence that called America to seek the favor and blessing of God. As part of thousands of documents proving America’s Christian biblical foundation, the excerpt provided below is taken from the minutes of Congress and represents a primary record of the Christian spiritual allegiance of America’s Founding Fathers.
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By the end of 1778, the Continental Congress had elected its sixth President. His name was John Jay. Nearly a decade later, Jay became the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. As a deeply committed Christian, John Jay became the second president of the American Bible Society, following Elias Boudinot who was the tenth president of Congress. At the age of twenty-nine, Jay was the youngest member of the First Continental Congress. His term as president of Congress began on December 10, 1778 and continued until September 27, 1779 when he was selected to help negotiate a treaty with Spain. During the period of his presidency, only this spiritual proclamation of March 1779 was issued.
Uncharacteristically, the names of the members of the committee to prepare the “fasting, humiliation and prayer” proclamation for the spring of 1779 were not recorded in the Journals of Congress, though it is evident that a committee was selected:
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 1779
Resolved, That the committee be instructed to prepare a recommendation to the several states to set apart a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer, and an earnest address to the inhabitants thereof to rouse them to vigorous exertions on the present critical situation of public affairs.
The effort of the selected committee resulted in one of the longest spiritual proclamations of the Continental Congress. As a note toward the bottom of the following excerpt indicates, at least a portion of this proclamation was recorded by the hand of John Jay. Given the fact that no committee members’ names were designated, we are left to speculate whether the president of Congress, John Jay, was a prominent member of the committee. For the first time, the president and secretary of Congress placed their names at the end of the proclamation. Both men possessed deep Christian spiritual interests. If, indeed, either of these men were members of this committee, this may help to explain both the length and character of the proclamation.
Charles Thomson held the office of secretary of Congress from its inception to the formation of the new government under the Constitution (1774-1789). In addition to his political contributions to America’s independence, Thomson was well-known for his “Thompson Bible,” the first American translation of the Greek Old Testament, as well as theological works such as A Regular History of the Conception, Birth, Doctrine, Miracles, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ. Such were the Christian men and women who birthed America.
A little more than two weeks after the selection of a committee to prepare a fasting proclamation to be sent to each of the states, Congress formally approved and issued the following proclamation:
SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 1779
The committee appointed to prepare a recommendation to the several states to set apart a day of fasting humiliation and prayer, brought in a draught, which was taken into consideration, and agreed to as follows:
Whereas, in just punishment of our manifold transgressions, it hath pleased the Supreme Disposer of all events to visit these United States with a destructive calamitous war, through which His divine Providence hath, hitherto, in a wonderful manner, conducted us, so that we might acknowledge that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong: and whereas, there is but too much Reason to fear that notwithstanding the chastisements received and benefits bestowed, too few have been sufficiently awakened to a sense of their guilt, or warmed our Bosoms with gratitude, or taught to amend their lives and turn from their sins, that so He might turn from His wrath. And whereas, from a consciousness of what we have merited at His hands, and an apprehension that the malevolence of our disappointed enemies, like the incredulity of Pharaoh, may be used as the scourge of Omnipotence to vindicate his slighted Majesty, there is reason to fear that he may permit much of our land to become the prey of the spoiler, and the Blood of the innocent be poured out that our borders to be ravaged, and our habitations destroyed:
Resolved, That it be recommended to the several states to appoint the first Thursday in May next, to be a day of fasting, Thanksgiving humiliation and prayer to Almighty God, that he will be pleased to avert those impending calamities which we have but too well deserved: that he will grant us his grace to repent of our sins, and amend our lives, according to his holy word: that he will continue that wonderful protection which hath led us through the paths of danger and distress: that he will be a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless children, who weep over the barbarities of a savage enemy: that he will grant us patience in suffering, and fortitude in adversity: that he will inspire us with humility and moderation, and gratitude in prosperous circumstances: that he will give wisdom to our councils, firmness to our resolutions, and victory to our arms That he will have Mercy on our Foes, and graciously forgive them, and turn their Hearts from Enmity to Love.
That he will bless the labors of the husbandman, and pour forth abundance, so that we may enjoy the fruits of the earth in due season.
[That he will cause union, harmony, and mutual confidence to prevail throughout these states: that he will bestow on our great ally all those blessings which may enable him to be gloriously instrumental in protecting the rights of mankind, and promoting the happiness of his subjects and advancing the Peace and Liberty of Nations. That he will give to both Parties to this Alliance, Grace to perform with Honor and Fidelity their National Engagements].1 That he will bountifully continue his paternal care to the commander in chief, and the officers and soldiers of the United States: that he will grant the blessings of peace to all contending nations, freedom to those who are in bondage, and comfort to the afflicted: that he will diffuse useful knowledge, extend the influence of true religion, and give us that peace of mind, which the world cannot give: that he will be our shield in the day of battle, our comforter in the hour of death, and our kind parent and merciful judge through time and through eternity.
[Note 1: 1 Words in brackets are in writing of John Jay.]
Done in Congress, this 20th day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine, and in the third year of our independence.
John Jay, President.
Attest, Charles Thomson, Secretary
There is no evidence to support the wild claim by irreligious voices that America was founded by Deists and secularists who wished to marginalize the influence of Christianity in public life. Rather—just as this excerpt from the minutes of Congress demonstrates—thousands of pieces of evidence exist to prove America was founded by those who feared and honored God. World history bears universal witness to the fact that secularism and its Marxist and irreligious companions have always produced pain and suffering in every society where they have been permitted to flourish—every society! The principles of the Christian faith are the foundation of America’s greatness—just ask the earliest Congresses of her Founding Fathers!
America deserves to know its true heritage.
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Thomas Lynch, Jr. (August 5, 1749–? 1779) was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of Virginia; his father was unable to sign the Declaration of Independence because of illness.Read more...
On August 3, 1784, the Continental Congress issued a proclamation for a "day of solemn prayer and thanksgiving." It was the sixteenth such proclamation issued by Congress throughout the years of the American Revolution. From June of 1775 to August of 1784, Congress generally issued at least one proclamation calling the states to prayer, fasting, and thanksgiving. Usually, two such proclamations were issued each year with one in the spring callingRead more...
William Williams (April 23, 1731 – August 2, 1811) was a merchant, and a delegate for Connecticut to the Continental Congress in 1776, and a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Williams was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, the son of a minister, Tim Solomon Williams, and Mary Porter. He studied theology and graduated from Harvard in 1751. Read more...
 William Jay, The Life of John Jay: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, 2 vols. (New York: J. and J. Harper, 1833), 1:30.
Journals of the Continental Congress, 13:272.
 David Barton, “Aitken Bible,” WallBuilders (http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=46, November 20, 2013).
Journals of the Continental Congress, 13:342-344.