As General George Washington pondered the 1,500 Hessian troops quartered in Trenton, New Jersey across the Delaware River, he knew it was an all or nothing moment in the Revolutionary War for Independence from Britain. Morale among his men was at an all time low, desertion was increasing, and his small band of 2,000 soldiers was battered from a string of defeats, brutal Winter weather, and for many of them, even the absence of boots or shoes.
It was Christmas Eve, 1776, and as the General prepared his men for the crossing of the Delaware, he wrote out his thoughts on a slip of paper: “Victory or Death”. In the dead of night they slipped across, 9 miles north of Trenton, then marched in their bare, frozen, and bleeding feet toward an uncertain destiny. But Washington was anything but uncertain. When a courier from General Sullivan rode up to report to him that the snow and wet had spoiled their soldiers’ gunpowder, Washington declared sturdily, “tell General Sullivan to use the bayonet….I am resolved to win Trenton.”
Trenton, New Jersey was a turning point for the Colonial Army. Morale surged when they surprised and totally defeated the Hessian troops, and momentum gradually began to shift in America’s favor.
It took a leader who was unafraid to put everything, both his life and that of his men, on the line for the cause of freedom.
Eighty Five years later another great leader, President Elect Abraham Lincoln, determined that before arriving to take office in Washington D.C., he had to first stop in Trenton, to persuade an adamant New Jersey Legislature that the Union could not win the war without them. New Jersey was determined to stay out of the fray, but once again, Trenton came under the power of a man who was unafraid to put everything, both his life and that of his people, on the line for the cause of freedom.
There are two portraits hanging in the New Jersey Legislature today, one of Lincoln, and the other of Washington. Men who count the cost, and proceed fearlessly, will surely make their mark on history.
We live today in the Western world in the greatest period of uninterrupted comfort that nations have ever known. It is not a crime to be comfortable. But oh how tragic if our comforts delude us into no longer counting the potential cost of giving our all for Christ. Would we sacrifice our own comfort, or even or own breath, for the privilege of advancing His cause? We have mastered those messages that promise emotional euphoria, but in so doing, have we lost our ability to be challenged by His Cross? Do we still believe that there is even something left to “take up” as we purport to be those who follow?
As we prayed this June 6th at New Jersey’s Capitol, we have cried out for the church to be willing once again to give her all for Jesus. We pray for God’s people to be an uncompromising light in a dark world, determined to uphold His word whatever the cost. Not one of us is perfect, and our gunpowder indeed may be dampened by the cold and cares of this storm around us…but we cannot and we must not lose the city. We are resolved to advance and to win.