• Today's Daily Devotion
An Apt Reply
Reality was not completely apparent to the delegates when the meeting began. Many were still squinting. But one man’s apt comment would open their eyes, forcing them ...

An Apt Reply

Reality was not completely apparent to the delegates when the meeting began. Many were still squinting. But one man’s apt comment would open their eyes, forcing them to see the naked truth. “I hope future ages will quote our proceedings with applause,” Patrick Henry said during the first meeting of the Continental Congress.

Representing Virginia, Henry was one of more than fifty delegates who had come to Philadelphia in September 1774. Their opinions were as different as their dialects and the twelve colonies they represented. (The colony of Georgia’s remoteness and mixed political sentiments kept it from sending representatives.)

The delegates’ enthusiasm may have been as fresh as their newly purchased suits, but these travelers were also nervous. Philadelphia was as foreign to them as France or Spain. Most had never placed their heels beyond their colony’s boundaries.

John Adams’s pen captured their emotions as well as their blindness. He loosely recorded his observations of the proceedings. He noted how easily they agreed on the first few housekeeping items. They met at the city tavern and then walked over to Carpenter’s Hall, the location of which, near the state house and library, pleased them. With little opposition, they agreed to meet there. Then they elected a president and a secretary for their proceedings.

But their next decision how to count their votes led to a debate that would spark controversy for decades. Should the delegates from smaller colonies have the same voting power as delegates from larger colonies? Or should wealth, not population, determine the weight of their votes? Should each colony receive one vote based on the majority opinion among that colony’s delegates? Should they send the matter to a committee?

Hence, Patrick Henry stood to help his fellow congressmen remember why they were there in the first place. “Government is dissolved. Fleets and armies and the present state of things show that government is dissolved,” he said, reminding them of the urgent matters behind their meeting. The men had decided to convene after the crown dissolved the government of Massachusetts Bay.

“Where are your landmarks, your boundaries of Colonies? We are in a state of nature, sir,” Henry cried out in an effort to splash water on their faces. Henry’s speech allowed them to regain their focus. Even though he opposed weighting delegate votes based on colonial wealth or population, the issue seemed trivial to him when compared with the grave issues facing the group. Unity mattered more than form and function.

“The distinctions between Virginians, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers, and New Englanders, are no more. I am not a Virginian, but an American,” he said. And with that blunt statement, Patrick Henry voiced a timely phrase that has sounded for centuries.

Prayer

May my words be timely and encouraging today. Corral my tongue to give apt replies, fitting for your purpose.

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply and how good is a timely word!”

(Proverbs 15:23).


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