On this day in 1794, the U.S. Congress passed the Naval Act, authorizing the construction of six warships, including the U.S.S. Constitution. The 44-gun Constitution was built in Boston from 2000 Georgian live oak trees. Its planks were up to seven inches thick, rightfully earning its nickname of “Old Ironsides.”
The Constitution saw its first action in 1798 in the undeclared “Quasi-War” with French privateers. Next it sailed to northern Africa as the flagship of a squadron that fought the Barbary States. The War of 1812 gave the Constitution lasting fame. In August of that year, a British frigate fired on the Constitution off the coast of Nova Scotia. In 20 minutes, the English ship was destroyed. Later that year, Old Ironsides pulled off another astonishing victory, boosting the morale of the American people.
After many years of service, the Constitution was declared unseaworthy in 1830. Headed for the scrap heap, medical professor Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. penned his famous poem, Old Ironsides, rallying public support to save the noble ship. The Constitution was almost scrapped again in 1905, but the donations of schoolchildren and patriotic organizations saved her a second time. Now an American icon, the Constitution is under the permanent care of the U.S. Navy, where it is open to the public in Boston Harbor.
Caleb was still eager for the Lord’s service at 85 years old. A spy who encouraged the Israelites to take the land God had promised them, he announced that he was as vigorous then as the day Moses sent him out (Josh. 14:11). Caleb’s example speaks to Christians who feel that their best years are behind them. The Lord calls no one to retire from his service. “I did my duty; now let me rest” are words that should never pass through the lips of a Christ-follower. While we have breath, we can utter a prayer for a lost soul or pass along a word of encouragement to a fellow struggler.
Dry rot happens to ships, not to Christians. We are kept supple by service.