Articles by David_W_Hall

You are currently browsing David_W_Hall’s articles.

hallDWDr. David Hall is back today with the penultimate (i.e., “next to the last”) entry in his Election Day Sermon series. I’ve enjoyed this series, and hope you have as well. The entire series has presented us with an excellent opportunity to learn firsthand how our forebears handled aspects of the church-state relationship.

“Thanksgiving Sermon”
by George Duffield (Dec. 11, 1783)

Rev. George Duffield, Sr., 1732-1790John Adams was certainly influenced by the heritage of Calvinism. In his diary entry for February 22, 1756, Adams wrote: “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law-book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! . . . In this commonwealth, no man would impair his health” with vice, but would live together in frugality, industry, “piety, love, and reverence towards Almighty God. . . . What a Utopia; what a Paradise would this be!”1

In 1775, the second President of the United States attended the Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. The preacher on that occasion, The Reverend George Duffield (who was later targeted by the British), preached a revolutionary sermon that made quite an impression on John Adams. Adams wrote to his wife on June 11, 1775, that Duffield’s preaching was reminiscent of the fiery expositions he had been accustomed to back in Massachusetts. Duffield applied a Hebrew prophecy2 to America and “gave us as animating an entertainment as I ever heard. He filled and swelled the bosom of every hearer. . . . by this you will see that the clergy this way are but now beginning to engage in politics, and they engage with a fervor that will produce wonderful effects.”3

Adams would later refer to himself as a “church going animal.”4 By any estimation one of the most important figures for the founding of America, Adams, nevertheless, did not identify himself as a Calvinist.5 Toward the end of his life, he championed anti-Trinitarian legislation, and bitterly reviled Calvinists, on occasion, as “snarling, biting” divines. However, the impress of Calvin was so deep on Adams’ predecessors that a certain Genevan fingerprint is indelibly inked on Adams’ writings. Adams believed that knowledge in general could dispel “arbitrary government and every kind of oppression.” In his 1765 Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law, he recognized lust for power or a yearning for dominion as both the cause of much oppression and the effect of human depravity.

Rights, which Adams saw as general but not purely secular, were derived from the “great Legislator of the universe.” Human rights were squelched when human rulers wrested from the people the inalienable grants given by this great Legislator. Liberty was also derived from humanity’s Maker, and the right to knowledge came from the great Creator, certainly not from a secular basis.

On December 11, 1783, Congress had appointed a day of thanksgiving “for the restoration of Peace and establishment of our Independence, in the Enjoyment of our Rights and Privileges.” In a service for that occasion at the Third Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, George Duffield (who was a Chaplain of Congress as well as pastor of the church) resorted to an OT passage to make this point about God’s providence extended to America: “Nor was military prowess only given. He that put of the Spirit of Moses on the elders of Israel [cf. Ex. 18], raised up Senators and guided them in council to conduct the affairs of his chosen American tribes.” Clearly, the biblical basis for republicanism and the institution of a “senate” was the same for Duffield as it had been for Calvin and Beza two centuries earlier.

Duffield (1732-1790), a 1752 Princeton graduate, served a lengthy pastorate at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church—even during the war, when at one time the British put a price on his head—and he was consistently popular with members of the Continental Congress.

A New Light Presbyterian, he chose Isaiah 66.8 as the text for this sermon. In answer to Isaiah’s question—“Shall a nation be born in a day?”—he affirmed: “The earth has indeed brought forth, as in a day. A nation has indeed been born, as at once. It has not been Israel’s forty years of tedious wilderness journey; nor Rome’s, or the United Belgic provinces, long continued scene of arduous, dubious struggle: But almost as soon as our American Zion began to travail; and without experiencing the pangs and pains which apprehensive fear expected; she brought forth her children, more numerous than the tribes of Jacob, to possess the land, from the north to the south, and from the east to the yet unexplored, far distant west: That with great propriety, may we hail every friend of liberty, on this auspicious day, in the language nearly following our text; rejoice ye, with America, and be glad with her, all ye that love her, rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourned for her.”

He castigated the “venal Parliament” of England for her design to crush the American efforts. Moreover, comparing the Crown to Pharaoh, he preached:

Pharaoh, indeed, might have reason to fear, because Israel were an entirely different people; and in their religion and manners separated far from the people of the land. But in the present case, though the court of Britain appear carefully to have copied the Egyptian model; and their measures have produced a similar event; yet, as the people of these states were the same as the people of Britain, their religion and manners the same; and no disposition to separate from them had ever appeared: But an attachment, even to enthusiastic fondness, had always obtained; it must have required an exorbitant share of infatuation to have raised a suspicion so high, as to produce the spirit and zeal that directed the British cabinet. To raise a revenue, and bring America to bear her proportion of the national debt has been assigned as the motive. America, by centring her trade in Britain, contributed her liberal share, nor had she ever withheld her blood or her treasure when requisitions were made; that even malevolence itself had been nonplussed from thence to derive a plea, unless through a mad desire to take by compulsion, what would otherwise be cheerfully given. It seems therefore most probable, his Britannic majesty wished to increase the power of the crown, so as to wrest the very shadow of liberty out of the hands of all his subjects, and reign an absolute monarch; and for this end began where he hoped, by bribes and craft, to cloak his design under the cover of parliamentary sanction.

Both liberty and charity were threatened by this monarchical oppression, preached Duffield. Whatever the motive, he thought, “America was marked out, for servile submission, or severe subjugation: and the power of Britain employed to accomplish the end.” Duffield commended America for choosing “liberty as her prize,” and attempting to battle the greatest military power of the day. His pulpit oratory is still impressive, to wit:

Already had Britain planted her baleful banner on our coast; and her proud insulting flag had possessed our harbours. Her oppressive edicts had gone forth; and her naval and military strength were combined to enforce obedience. As the careful mariner watches the heavy gathering cloud, and dreads the approaching storm; America, with anxiety beheld, and waited the event. Prudence would have seemed to dictate an early resistance to manifest hostile designs; nor suffer an avowed enemy to every privilege to entrench in quiet, and strengthen themselves in a capital town. Nor was America blind to the measure: but that God, who so early espoused her cause, that her innocence in the case, and her reluctance to arms, might be evident to all, withheld her from the deed; and left Britain, on Lexington’s ever-memorable day, to open the scene of war. Quick as the flash of lightning glares from pole to pole, so sudden did a military spirit pervade these then united colonies; but now, blessed be God, confederated, established states. The peaceful husbandman forsook his farm; the merchant relinquished his trade; the learned in the law dismissed their clients; the compassionate physician forgot his daily round; the mariner laid aside his compass and quadrant; the mechanic resigned his implements of employment; the sons of science ceased their philosophic pursuits; and even the miser half neglected, for a time, his gold and his gain, and the griping landlord his rents. All prepared for war, and eagerly flew to the field.

He that put “the spirit of Moses on the elders of Israel, raised up senators, and guided them in council, to conduct the affairs of his chosen American tribes.” Duffield further extolled, “America’s day, the morning of which had lowred with heavy clouds, began to brighten a pace; and its hurrying hours hastened their way to a noon tide glow. The justice of her cause; the influence of her great ally; and the insults and injuries experienced by other nations, from British arrogance, procured her still farther support; and narrowed the distance to the object of her wish. Britain saw, with indignation: And in firm alliance with every infernal power . . . she resolved on utmost vengeance.” He predicted: “generations yet unborn will look back with wonder; and venerate the memories, and long perpetuate the names of those who guided the helm through the storm.”

He mentions that He “who raised up Cyrus, to break the Assyrian force, and say, ‘let Israel be free,’ endued the monarch of France with an angel’s mind, to assert and secure the freedom of his United American States. And, by him were the hearts of other nations disposed to our aid.” Finally, he concludes with this exhortation: “It is, that we love the Lord our God, to walk in his ways, and keep his commandments, to observe his statutes and his judgments. That a sacred regard be maintained to righteousness and truth. That we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Then shall God delight to dwell amongst us. And these United States shall long remain, a great, a glorious, and an happy people. Which may God, of his infinite mercy, grant. Amen.”

This sermon is available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998) and on the web at: http://consource.org/document/a-sermon-preached-on-a-day-of-thanksgiving-by-george-duffield-1783-12-11/.
See also: http://www.thisday.pcahistory.org/2015/12/december-11-rev-george-duffield/.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

1 Adrienne Koch and William Peden, eds., The Selected Writings of John and John Quincy Adams (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946), 5.

2 See Isaiah 35.

3 Maurice W. Armstrong et al, eds., The Presbyterian Enterprise: Sources of American Presbyterian History (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), 85.

4 James H. Hutson, Religion and the Founding of the American Republic (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1998), 81.

5 Adams, apparently was headed toward the congregationalist ministry at one time. His later reflections explain that “an uncharitable spirit of intolerance” kept him from divinity, and made him more fit “for the bar than the pulpit.” Selected Writings, 151. Yet, by the end of his life he expressed to Jefferson (1817) that he did not believe in total depravity: “I believe there is no individual totally depraved. The most abandoned scoundrel that ever existed, never yet wholly extinguished his conscience, and while conscience remains, there is some religion.” Cited in John Witte, Jr., “‘A Most Mild and Equitable Establishment of Religion’: John Adams and the Massachusetts Experiment,” Journal of Church and State, vol. 41 (Spring 1999), no 2, 236. Adams clearly rejected Calvin’s ideas of depravity, election, and the trinity. See Jonathan C. D. Clark, The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 370.

“Surely a Christian nation should be governed by Christian rulers; and surely they do not deserve to be called Christian people who would vote for any others.  Put men into office who are possessed of a competent amount of intelligence, who fear God, and make his law the rule in the government of the nation, and we augur for our country a speedy riddance from her present dangers, and a long future of peace and prosperity.”

And now for something completely different. Dr. Hall is away today, overseeing a worship conference at his church. Today’s post presents what was for many years a conviction of the Reformed Presbyterians in this nation. Some still do hold this conviction, first that Jesus Christ is King of all nations on earth, and second, that because the U.S. Constitution does not acknowledge this fact, that therefore they cannot in good conscience participate in the government. They will not hold office or otherwise participate in the government and so they conclude that they also cannot vote in elections. The following article, dating from 1856, is a good reflection of these views.:—   

T
HE PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST.

Excerpted from THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN, Volume 20, No. 8 (October 1856)

THE present state of political excitement throughout the country arising from the approaching election of an incumbent for the presidential chair, furnishes matter for interesting and even painful reflection.  To us, who are unconnected with any of the parties, and stand without the suck of the political whirlpool, the question is perfectly natural, what is there in the present realities, or the future probabilities, that produces this wide-spread social paroxysm?  A cause adequate to the effect must exist somewhere, for men do not voluntarily become insane.

It is easy to see that to certain classes the election of a president is a matter of private and selfish interest.  The country is filled with office-seekers; men who seem to think the ship of state is sure to be wrecked, unless they have something to do with its helm or its rigging. Some of these are in office; far more of them are out.  But the outs want to be in, and the ins want to stay in.  To hear these men talk, a person might suppose that they were the purest patriots on earth, wishing to serve their country for their country’s good.  They have no personal interest in the matter—not they; if left to their own choice, they would prefer to retire from public life; but as matters are, they are willing to sacrifice ease and fortune on the altar of their country!  Of this kind are the speakers at ratification meetings, pole raisings, and other gatherings of the different parties.  Now it is not strange that there are men who have the effrontery to put forward their personal claims backed by the plea of the public good, for the country abounds with men who will do anything that will inure to their own advantage; but it is strange that steady, sober, sane people, can not only listen to such pretensions, but even catch the excitement, and enter into the cause of these pretenders with all the ardor of enthusiasm.  This is strange—passing strange.

It is, indeed, true that in the present political campaign there are certain issues which skillfully managed must exert a powerful influence over the public mind.  We are willing to confess that we feel this ourselves.  Without giving credit for honesty to brawling politicians,but making up our judgment from well known facts, we must admit that the country has reached a crisis, through which it will require no ordinary skill to guide it in safety.  And it must be admitted also, that those who have the management of its affairs manifest an utter unfitness for the places they occupy.  If ever a country was cursed with incompetent rulers, ours is so cursed.  We can view the present administration in no other light than as a judgment that God has sent on our land for its sins.

The question that is now brought before the country for its decision is, shall slavery be 
restricted or extended; shall it remain where it is, or shall it spread itself into the new territories?This is the naked issue; and it is easy to see that with neither party can consistent anti-slavery men identify.  It is true there is a bad, and a worse.  The bad, however, is too bad to be touched;and that is to engage to protect slavery where it is.  The question is not respecting the evil of slavery in general—it regards merely the evil of it in certain localities.  The Republican party say, in effect, slavery is a very good thing where it is; but you must confine it there.  We will agree to guard and defend it in its present limits, but we insist that it shall not go beyond them.

While, however, we speak thus of the parties in this contest, we still have our preference between them.  And we can have this without yielding any of our principles.  We can have a choice between two moral evils, if we are not to be actively engaged in producing either.  If the question was presented to the country, whether Mormonism, with all its abominations should be established, or merely tolerated, we would prefer the latter, while we would refuse to have any hand in either, and would testify against both.  We would certainly rather see slavery restricted to its present limits than extended beyond them; but we would much rather see it rooted out where it is.  This, the Republican party not only do not propose to do, but they bind themselves not to do it.  They, indeed, declare themselves “opposed to the extension of slavery into free territory;” but they also assert that “the rights of the States must and shall be preserved.”  Now,it does not require proof that “the rights of the States,” here means, the rights secured to the States by the Constitution; and it is equally evident, that to hold slaves in the States where slavery exists, is one of these rights.

Such a creed we cannot subscribe; and for the success of the party holding it, we dare not pray.  With the so-called Democratic party, we have no affinity.  The course pursued by the present administration with regard to Kansas, and endorsed by that party, leaves it without a claim to ordinary respect.  Whether it continue in power, or there be a change in the administration, we are willing to leave with Him who orders all things.  The hearts of men are in His hand.  We earnestly desire the welfare of our country.  We pray for, and we seek its peace.  If God be pleased to grant relief from present evils, by driving from power those who have made a bad use of it, we will be thankful.  At the same time, we have no hope of permanent good from the accession to their place of those who are still in league with sin..

But we are reminded that we are preaching politics. For this, the mass of our readers will not condemn us. They are accustomed to such preaching. If they are not, we have overrated the faithfulness of our ministers. What minister, worthy of the name, does not preach politics?  We know that there are watchmen who are described in Isaiah 56:10,11. Alas! there are many of them. And they are the first to cry down preaching politics. There is one kind of political preaching that we do condemn—political party preaching. To make the pulpit the means of advancing the interests of either of the parties in the present contest, would be to degrade, to prostitute it.  But to use it to point out the sins of the nation, whether constitutional or administrative—of men, whether in public or private station, is to honor it, and to honor Him whose message is declared from it. The same thing is true of the religious press. And we do say, that we would rather our tongue and our hands were paralyzed, than that we should be induced, by any consideration, to cease to reprove sin, whether public or private—whether of the nation, of rulers, of parties, or of individuals.

There is something amusing in the earnestness with which the charge of being a Roman Catholic is urged against one of the candidates by the opposing party, and denied by his own.  One would be ready to think that to be a papist was to be constitutionally disqualified for the office.  And yet the clause of the Constitution which both parties profess most to admire, is that which forbids a religious test to be required.  Why do the Democrats virtually attack the instrument which they seem to think it is their mission to preserve intact?  And why do not the Republicans charge them with a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, by making a man’s religion an objection to his fitness for office?  It is quite likely that it is hard to tell what Mr.Fremont’s religion is, or rather that he has none at all. And in itself, it is a matter about which the parties do not care a straw.  Were he the most bigoted Papist, his friends would stick to him;and were he the most liberal Protestant, his enemies would continue to denounce him.  It is not principle, but policy, that has excited all this zeal on the subject of a religious test for office.
We cannot but wish both parties were sincere in their pretensions on this subject.  Surely a Christian nation should be governed by Christian rulers; and surely they do not deserve to be called Christian people who would vote for any others.  Put men into office who are possessed of a competent amount of intelligence, who fear God, and make his law the rule in the government of the nation, and we augur for our country a speedy riddance from her present dangers, and a long future of peace and prosperity

Less than a month to go at this point, and I trust you are all praying for the Lord’s will to be done.

“The Bible and The Sword”
by John Fletcher (Dec. 6, 1776)

Despite having been born near John Calvin’s Geneva (Nyon) and having attended the University of Geneva, John Fletcher (1729–1785) later relocated to England and threw all in with the Wesley brothers. He was ordained to the Anglican priesthood in 1757 but his sympathies were all with the upstart Methodist movement. He served in several Anglican parishes, and his sympathies not only conflicted with Calvinism but also with Anglicanism.

John Wesley spoke glowingly of Fletcher, even esteeming him above Whitefield in holiness and conversation. This 1776 sermon reveals its Wesleyan sympathies, even hinting that God was on the side of the British in tamping down the colonists.

Nevertheless, Fletcher began his sermon with a stinging rebuke about the state of religion in England. While the American colonists might be labeled fanatics, they at least, he noted, were sincerely religious.

. . . we are ridiculing them as fanatics, and scoffing at religion. We are running wild after pleasure, and forgetting every thing serious and decent at masquerades. We are gambling in gaming houses; trafficking for boroughs; perjuring ourselves at elections; and selling ourselves for places. Which side then is Providence likely to favour? In America we see a number of rising states in the vigour of youth, and animated by piety. Here we see an old state, inflated and irreligious, enervated by luxury, and hanging by a thread. Can we look without pain on the issue?

He raised a legitimate question: would God favor one nation in his providence that was so Laodicean? He queried: “If the colonists throng the houses of God, while we throng play-houses, or houses of ill fame; if they croud their communion-tables, while we croud the gaming table or the festal board; if they pray, while we curse; if they fast, while we get drunk; and keep the sabbath, while we pollute it; if they shelter under the protection of heaven, while our chief attention is turned to our troops; we are in danger—in great danger.” He measured the question this way, invoking Theodore Beza’s division of the Mosaic law: “To disregard the king’s righteous commands, as the colonists do, is bad: But to despise the first-table commandments of the King of kings, as we do, is still worse.”

Fletcher was responding in no small measure to a prior sermon by a Dr. Price, who roundly castigated the spiritual climate of England. And Fletcher in large portion agreed. That, however, was not the only question. While conceding the grand ad hominem, still he disagreed that Price “was fighting the Lord’s battles, and that opposing the king and the bishops, was only opposing tyranny and a prophane hierarchy.” Fletcher warned that the Americans were reviving Cromwellianism, and suggested that “the best way to counter-work the enthusiasm of patriotic religionists, is to do constitutional liberty and scriptural religion full justice; by defending the former against the attacks of despotic monarchs on the right hand, and despotic mobs on the left; and by preserving the latter from the opposite onsets of prophane infidels on the left hand, and enthusiastical religionists on the right.”

This Methodist preacher then defended the notion that Parliament should be a holy one:

Would to God, that by timely reformation, and solemn addresses to the throne of grace, we might convince Dr. Price and all the Americans, that in submitting to the British legislature, they will not submit to libertinism and atheism; but to a venerable body of virtuous and godly senators, who know that the first care of God’s representatives on earth—the principal study of political gods, should be to promote God’s fear, by setting a good example before the people committed to their charge, and by steadily enforcing the observance of the moral law!

Fletcher welcomed the Ruler’s recent call for a day of Fasting, championing the British cause in these exhortations:

The sovereign acts herein the part of a Christian prince and of a wise politician. As a Christian prince, he enforces the capital duty of national repentance; and as a wise politician, he averts the most formidable stroke which Doctor Price has aimed at his government. May we second his laudable designs by acting the part of penitent sinners and loyal subjects; tho’ mistaken patriots should pour floods of contempt upon us on the occasion.

He then drew on Judges 19 (The Levite concubine at Gibeah) to suggest a precise parallel to American travesties. Fletcher applied the OT passage very strictly to his enemies as follows:

Certain sons of Belial, belonging to the city of Boston, beset a ship in the night, overpowered the crew, and feloniously destroyed her rich cargo. The government was informed, that this felonious deed had been concerted by some of the principal inhabitants of Boston, and executed by their emissaries; and being justly incensed against the numerous rioters, it requested the unjust city to make up the loss sustained by the owners of the plundered ship, or to deliver up the sons of Belial who had so audaciously broken the laws of the land; and a military force was sent to block up the port of Boston, till the sovereign’s just request should be granted. The other colonists, instead of using their interest with the obstinate inhabitants of Boston to make them do this act of loyalty and justice, gathered themselves together unto Boston to go out to battle against the sons of Great-Britain, and by taking up arms against the king to protect felons, made themselves guilty both of felony and high treason.

This, Fletcher preached, was a close analog to Judges 19; however, Judah lost 22,000 soldiers! So, he thought, “will the revolted colonies one day bemoan the perverseness, with which their infatuated leaders have made them fight for the sons of Belial, who beset the ship in the inhospitable harbour of Boston.” Fletcher then drew these applications:

(1) That God allows, yea commands the sword to be drawn for the punishment of daring felons, and of the infatuated people who bear arms in their defence, as the Benjamites formerly did, and as the revolted colonies actually do.
(2) That, in this case, a sister-tribe may conscientiously draw the sword against an obstinate sister-tribe; much more a parent-state against an obstinate colony, and a king against rebellious subjects:
(3) That Providence, to try the patience of those who are in the right, may permit that they should suffer great losses:
(4) That whilst the maintainers of order and justice draw the sword to check daring licentiousness, it is their duty to go up unto the house of God, and to weep and fast before the Lord:
(5) That God makes a difference between the enthusiastical abettors of felonious practices, who fast to smite their brethren and rulers with the fist of wickedness; and the steady governors, who, together with their people, fast to smite the wicked with the sceptre of righteousness:

Many moderns might be wary of Fletcher’s close appropriation of OT passages for his enemies, but a sample of his fiery rhetoric is worth hearing:

But till this happy time come, when one nation, or one part of a nation unjustly rises up against another, as the men of Boston did against our merchants, it will be needful to oppose righteous force to unrighteous violence. It is absurd therefore to measure the duty of the christians who live among lawless men, by the duty of the christians, who shall live when all lawless men shall have been destroyed.

If Michael and his angels could fight in heaven against the dragon and his angels, I do not see why general Howe could not fight on earth against general Lee. And if the Congress unsheathes the sword to protect felons, to redress the imaginary grievance of an insignificant tax, and to load thousands of the king’s loyal subjects with grievances too heavy to be borne; it is hard to say, why he and his parliament should not use the sword to redress these real grievances, and to assert the liberty of our American fellow-subjects, who groan under the tyranny of republican despotism.

In Fletcher, we have an example of two perennial truths: (1) Christians may differ vehemently on the sides they choose in political battles; and (2) caution to make sure that one is not eisegeting [i.e., mid-interpreting] Scripture should cause us to be careful in political sermons.

This sermon is available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998) and on the web at: http://consource.org/document/the-bible-and-the-sword-by-john-fletcher-1776-12-6/

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

One of the earliest political sermons in our series.

“Ninevah’s Repentance and Deliverance”
by Joseph Sewall (Dec. 3, 1740)

Joseph Sewall (1688-1769) was a Boston scion, the son of a Chief Justice, who later was offered the presidency of Harvard (from where he graduated in 1707). He delivered this early Fast Day sermon before the Massachusetts’ Governor and Council in 1740. Indeed, by order, the Council commissioned both this Fast Day and the preaching. Sewell, a pastoral fixture at Boston’s South Church from 1713-1769, launched this homily by revisiting the epic of Jonah’s revival in Ninevah. His text was Jonah 3:10, and he intended to address the signs of divine displeasure at the time. This is one of the earliest political sermons in our series. At his death, Sewall would be commemorated by Charles Chauncy (see his sermons in this series) for being “a strenuous” defender of “our civil and ecclesiastical charter-rights and priviledges. . . . the purchase of our forefathers at the expence of much labor, blood,” and treasure.

Pastor Sewall briefly reviewed the first two chapters of the Book of Jonah and pointed out that Jonah was a type of Christ (acc. to Mt. 12:40). The preacher estimated the high value of the rebuke that stirs genuine repentance, as it did in Jonah’s case of finally preaching to Ninevah—a great city. Civic repentance, this Boston pastor taught, surely had its legitimate place.

Next, he highlights the legitimacy of the civil governor calling for a day of fasting: “This great Monarch humbled himself before the Most High . . . The King of Nineveh arose from his Throne, and laid his Robe from him, and cover’d him with Sackcloth, and sat in Ashes, v. 6. Thus did he practically confess, that he had behav’d unworthy his royal Dignity, and deserv’d to have it taken from him. And the Proclamation requir’d the strictest Abstinence.” Then drawing on Jeremiah 18:7-8, Sewall diagnosed that when Ninevah sincerely repented “GOD turned from his fierce Anger, and gave them Deliverance; which is agreable to that Rule of his Government which we have declar’d, Jer. 18.7.8.”

The following four doctrines would then be amplified:

[1.] If we would seek the Lord in a right manner, we must believe Him; the Threatnings and Promises of His Word.
[2.] It is the Duty of a People to cry to GOD in Prayer with Fasting, when He threatens to bring destroying Judgments upon them; and their Rulers should be ready to lead in the right Discharge of this Duty.
[3.] Our seeking to GOD by Prayer with Fasting must be attended with true Repentance, and sincere Endeavours after Reformation.
[4.] When a People do thus attend their Duty, GOD will repent of the Evil, and not bring Destruction upon them.

Under the second main doctrine, he further draws out how both body and soul should be afflicted in a fast. Our hearts are to be “inwardly pierced, and the Spirits broken upon the Account of our Sins.” This sermon is a superb primer for biblical fasting—a virtually lost art. In sentiments that might be appropriate in an election year, Sewall explicated:

If we have omitted religious Duties, Secret or Family Prayer, Self-Examination, the Ordinances of GOD’s House; we must now conscienciously attend upon them. If we have neglected the Duties of those Relations which we sustain towards Men, in publick or private Life; we must now with Care and Diligence discharge them. If we have committed Sins contrary to the Laws of Sobriety, Righteousness and Godliness; we must labour by the Spirit to mortify them. In a Word, We should cleanse ourselves from all Filthiness of the Flesh and Spirit, perfecting Holiness in the Fear of GOD. And in order to these Things, we ought earnestly seek to GOD to put his Laws into our Minds, and write them in our Hearts; for it is He alone that can work in us to will and to do, in beginning and carrying on this necessary Work of Reformation.

This also called for a return to sincere faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ as Lord. In addition, he warned: “If we refuse to repent and reform, we shall be condemned out of our own Mouths, and fall under the threatened Judgments of GOD. One considerable Part of the Duty of a Day of religious Fasting is to make an humble and penitent Confession of our Sins whereby we have provoked a holy GOD to come out in Judgment against us, and to cry to Him for Grace that we may turn from them.”

It would simply not do to have one’s repentance shamed by the contrition of Ninevah. Sewall also encouraged his listeners with the prospect of God’s favor at true repentance:

The first and purest Times of Christianity were Times of Persecution; however, while the holy Martyrs overcame by the Blood of the Lamb, not loving their Lives unto the Death; the Church was preserv’d, yea increased and multiplied. And as to a People, considering them collectively, I suppose no one Instance can be produc’d in which GOD pour’d out his Fury to destroy them, while a Spirit of Repentance and Reformation prevail’d. And even in Times of abounding Iniquity, when the Glory of GOD was departing from his People, and destroying Judgments breaking in like a Flood; GOD was pleased to make a remarkable Distinction between the Penitent, and such as were hardened in Sin.

In the closing “application” section, he listed (in good Puritan plain style) several ‘uses’:

USE 1. Learn that true Religion lays the surest Foundation of a People’s Prosperity. Righteousness exalteth a Nation, Prov. 14.34.

USE 2. Abounding Iniquity will be the Destruction of a People, except they repent. If they persist and go on in the Ways of Sin, refusing to return to GOD, Iniquity will be their Ruin. Sin is the Reproach of any People, Prov. 14.34.

USE 3. Let us then be sensible of the destroying Evil of Sin, and the Necessity of true Repentance.

USE 4. Let us all be Exhorted to turn, every One from his evil Way; and to engage heartily in the necessary Work of Reformation. This, this is our great Duty and Interest this Day, as we would hope to be made Instruments in GOD’s Hand of saving ourselves and this People.

He did not fail in his duty to preach directly to the governors, also calling them to repentance and Christian obedience. His sermon climaxed with an exemplary prayer:

O GOD! We know not what to do; but our Eyes are unto Thee. We wait upon Thee O Lord, who hidest thy self from the House of Israel; confessing that we thy Servants, and thy People have sinn’d. Thy Ways are equal, our Ways have been very unequal. O Lord, Righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us Confusion of Faces, as at this Day, because we have sinned against Thee. To the Lord our GOD also belongeth Mercies and Forgivenesses, tho’ we have rebell’d against Him. O Lord, hear, O Lord forgive, O Lord, hearken and do, defer not, for thine own sake, O GOD! for thy City, and thy People are called by thy Name. Look to the Face of thine Anointed, O merciful Father! Behold thy SON in our Nature, who on Earth offer’d a Sacrifice of infinite Merit to atone for the Sins of thy People; and now appears in Heaven, as a Lamb that had been slain, interceding for us. We are unworthy; but the Name in which we now ask thy divine Help, is most worthy. O hear us, for thy Son’s sake, and speak Peace to thy People. Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a Flock, thou that dwellest between the Cherubims, shine forth. Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh, stir up thy Strength, and come and save us. Turn us again O GOD; and cause thy Face to shine, and we shall be saved. O remember not against us former Iniquities: let thy tender Mercies speedily prevent us; for we are bro’t very low. Help us, O GOD of our Salvation, for the Glory of thy Name; and deliver us, and purge away our Sins for thy Name’s sake: So we thy People and Sheep of thy Pasture, will give Thee Thanks for ever; we will shew forth thy Praise to all Generations.

Fasting . . . preaching . . . praying . . . and applying revealed Scripture to our lives might be what citizens need, even more than additional debates or electoral disputes.

Sewall’s final promise is as follows:

In this Way you shall obtain the gracious Presence of GOD with you. The Lord is with you, while ye be with him, 2 Chron. 15.2. And if GOD be with you and for you, who can be against you? What can harm you? What can be too hard for you, if the Almighty is pleas’d to own you as his Servants, and command Deliverance for his People by you? Surely the Mountains shall become a Plain, crooked Things straight, and the Night shine as the Day. Let me say to you therefore as 2 Chron. 15.7. Be ye strong, and let not your Hands be weak: for your Work shall be rewarded. GOD will be your Shield, and exceeding great Reward. You shall see the Good of GOD’s chosen, rejoice with the Gladness of His Nation, and glory with his Inheritance. And when the Son of Man shall come in his Glory, and all the holy Angels with Him, then shall He say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto these my Brethren, ye have done it unto me: Come ye Blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom.

This sermon is available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998), and online at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N03750.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

“We want the Spirit of God to come as an enlightener and reprover, to show to us as a people our sins and our transgressions. We want that there should be such an acknowledgment of past error, such searching out of present tampering with evil, such putting away of the accursed thing, that as a people we may plead” for God’s promises.”


hallDWOur guest author, Dr. David W. Hall, returns today with his latest installment in his Election Day Sermon series. Today’s post focuses on a sermon by the Rev. Thomas Smyth, who is notable for having often been more closely aligned with the Princeton theologians than with most of the other Southern Presbyterian leadership. This series has been an excellent opportunity to study the issue of church and state as it was lived out in the pulpit in the 18th and 19th centuries. With just a few more posts to go, Dr. Hall’s series is timed to end, appropriately, with the election early this coming November.

“The Sin and the Curse”
by Thomas Smyth (Nov. 21, 1860)

smytht_150Thomas Smyth (1808-1873) was Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston, SC, during the tumultuous period of the Civil War. He was an author of ten large volumes on a wide array of subjects. This sermon was originally preached on an 1860 Day of Humiliation and Prayer declared by the Governor of South Carolina. A copy of this sermon is in the Library of Congress (click here; it also is included in my 2012 Election Sermons); and it originally appeared in The Complete Works of the Rev. Thomas Smyth (Columbia, SC: R. L. Bryan, 1908), vol. 10.

Choosing Daniel 9: 11, 14 as his text, Smyth began: “God is governor among the nations, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the high and mighty ruler of the Universe, doing whatsoever it pleaseth him among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth—none, with impunity, daring to stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? The most High ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”

Next, he cited the proclamation of the South Carolina Governor as embodying the great truth that rulers should well “bow in reverence” to [God’s] will and set aside days of fasting. Accordingly, a day of Fasting was scheduled; and according to Smyth, “Fasting has been universally adopted by all nations as an expression of consciously-felt sin and sorrow, through which, by the suffering and impoverishment of the body, the mind is led to realize man’s helplessness, dependence and want of all things; and the conscience and heart to come in humble contrition before an offended God, under whose judgments they may be suffering, and whose gracious providence alone can either remove them, or in the midst of judgment remember mercy.   THIS IS ALSO A DAY OF HUMILIATION. This implies calamity, fall and ruin; sin and sorrow; contrition and confession; and the recognition of God, whose righteous indignation has brought all upon us.”

Calling for a day of prayer, also implied that God and “God alone can, help us, and give us true repentance and unfeigned humiliation; that God, alone, can avert all the evils that might come upon us; impart wisdom to our counselors; and give to all our citizens unity of purpose and plans. It implies that God can influence our sister States—who are alike interested—to stand or fall with us; and cause other States to acknowledge his power and presence in this national calamity, and to do justly, and act righteously and peaceably before him. It implies, further, that God can, and that God alone can, incline the hearts of foreign nations to recognize our true posture purposes and plans; and his purposes concerning us; and to fraternize with us.” “It implies,” he said, that only God “can mitigate inevitable disasters and suffering; give us patience and perseverance under all adversities; and secure for us a peaceful, prosperous and happy issue out of all our troubles.”

Next, Smyth lamented the effects of God’s curse on his land. He believed this condition to be a “sad and melancholy fact.” He then extolled the “great, glorious and free” constitution that had sustained the nation, leading her into “ever augmenting greatness, beyond all parallel in the history of the world.” Such constitution, he praised as the “embodiment of wisdom, patriotism, sagacity and prudential foresight and moderation; of sterling good sense; and of religion without restriction upon the full exercise of conscientious differences.” He further believed that this constitution still held great promise. Notwithstanding, Smyth viewed the nation now as a “widow,” a once-great but now lamentable castoff. In contrast to the unparalleled progress, now he called for his church members to “take up the lamentation and say, from this glorious constitutional union all the beauty is departed! This nation hath grievously sinned, therefore is she removed. All that honored her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness. . . . She remembered not her past—her chief and purposed end—therefore she came down wonderfully.”

He blamed neither a particular party, nor sectional pride for the collapse of constitutionalism but pointed to “a conglomeration of . . . atheists, infidels, communists, free-lovers, rationalists, Bible haters, anti-Christian levellers, and anachists.” He also called Christians to repent for having had little “zeal for God [to] seek his glory and the good of man. . . . They pervert the golden rule of our Saviour. That rule was designed not to impart to men the first principles of justice, of right and wrong, but, on the assumption of their existence, to guard us against the perverting and blinding influence of selfishness, pride, passion and prejudice.” Moreover, he accused Christians of not consulting their Bibles on matters of governance; instead they turned to “private interpretations of men; to the developments of philosophy, falsely so called; to the licentious and atheistic spirit of a liberty which knows no restraint and no authority, human or divine.” “They pervert,” he alleged, “the great doctrines of personal responsibility, liberty of conscience, liberty of thought, liberty of opinion and liberty of action.”

In addition to “these perversions of fundamental principles,” Smyth rebuked his peers for being “willingly ignorant of, or practically ignore, the prescience and providence of God; the fore-knowledge and fore-ordination by God, of whatsoever cometh to pass, so that not even a sparrow can fall unheeded to the ground, nor a hair of our heads be unnumbered, nor any; event happen by chance. They forget that government is from God; that the powers that be are ordained of God; and that we are to be subject to every ordinance of man, not only from fear, but for conscience sake. . . .”

He located much of the virus that was infecting the nation in “the evil and bitter root of all our evils . . . in the infidel, atheistic, French Revolution, Red Republican principle.” He further criticized the Declaration of Independence as proclaiming a God who was godless—perhaps a deistic code word to gain support of the colonists. He also jeered pure democratism, favoring submission to the constitution over submission to the will of majorities. He preached: “Another consequence of this seminal principle was the interpretation of the Bible according to the majority—that is, according to the popular opinion, and the coercive enforcement of this majority-interpretation as a higher law upon all who differ from it.” Smyth thought these corruptions were responsible for “anarchy, prodigality, profanity, Sabbath profanation, vice and ungodliness in every monstrous form, and in the end the corruption and overthrow of the Republic, and the erection, upon its ruins, of an absolute and bloody despotism, of which coercion, or in other words, force, is the vital principle.”

While many of us will not agree with all the sentiments of this sermon, his urgent appeal was that it was “not too late, with his blessing, to repent, reform, return unto him, and be governed by his word, will, and providence.” He called on his listeners, even those who disagree, to appreciate the “peculiar providence of God” that has charged us with being the “conservators, of the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible; and of that liberty of conscience, free from the doctrines and commandments of men—which is based upon and sustained by the right and duty of every man to search the Scriptures, to prove all things, and to hold fast that which is good—a liberty of conscience drawing after it liberty of thought, opinion, and conduct, individual responsibility, and individual regality as kings and priests unto God—and a liberty of conscience, which has never existed among men severed from the pure, perfect, and unfettered word of God.”

His call for repentance is worth hearing: “We want the Spirit of God to come as an enlightener and reprover, to show to us as a people our sins and our transgressions. We want that there should be such an acknowledgment of past error, such searching out of present tampering with evil, such putting away of the accursed thing, that as a people we may plead” for God’s promises.”

Following several quotations from Jeremiah, Smyth (finally arriving at his text) called for his members to repent and to call out to God. To accomplish this, his listeners needed “a praying heart. And how shall we get this want supplied? We answer, by PERSONAL humiliation and PERSONAL faith. It is to general humiliation and faith that we are now called. . . . But still it is individuals who make up a congregation and a commonwealth, and it is only by individual confession and humiliation, it can come before God. And does not the example of Daniel, when his people were in captivity in Babylon, show us that it is the holiest men in a nation who most humbly acknowledge and bewail national and general sins. . . .” “Without some such personal sense of sin and humiliation,” he preached, “we cannot fast right, nor can we humble ourselves aright. We cannot draw nigh fervently and with a pure heart, with holiness and confidence . . . But to individual humiliation, we must add individual faith. The one great hindrance to faith—to faith in prayer, and to believing, prayerful humiliation—is guilt upon the conscience.”

His sermon ends with this note of optimism:

Oh, what a blessed day, then, might this become to each one of you if it leads you to search out and discover the reason why you find it so hard to believe, to pray, to expect and confide; if it leads you to see your need of an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; to rely upon his blood which cleanseth from all sin; and thus to find peace in your own soul towards God. Then would you become in deed and in truth, one of your country’s best benefactors and defenders, and . . . you would become one of the “Lord’s remembrancers,” “the worm Jacob” wrestling with God, and prevailing with him to bless us and to do us good, by turning every one of us from our sins to our Saviour, and by sending his invisible and invincible chariot and horsemen, to defend and to deliver us. Then would the voice from heaven cry, and when I ask what shall I cry, the response is, “Cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, her iniquity pardoned,” and that though a little one she shall become a thousand, and that though one of the least among the tribes of Israel, she shall become great.

And do I not hear a responsive voice from every heart in this congregation and commonwealth, saying, “I will arise and go to my Father?” ARISE AND GO, and thy Father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly in such untold blessings upon yourself, and upon all the people of South Carolina.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

“A Century Sermon of the Glorious Revolution”
by Elhanan Winchester (Nov. 16, 1788)  

Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797) served as a pastor in New England, South Carolina, and even London—ultimately moving from the Baptist faith to Unitarianism later in life. He was also a popular and influential Baptist pastor in Philadelphia for the seven years just prior to the constitutional convention. After his conversion to universalism, he was removed from his pulpit and relocated to a more Unitarian friendly London.

During his London tenure, Winchester published many erudite works. Toward the end of his life, he distilled his political theology into a work that defended “the great principles of liberty and of the federal government,” entitled A Plain Political Catechism. This sermon was clearly as much a celebration of a historic anniversary as it was an exposition of a passage of Scripture.

Winchester began this sermon with a verse from the first song in Scripture (Ex. 15:11). In it, he extols the unrivaled glory and holiness of God. From this theology will come his political theology. He reviews the plagues and the Exodus narrative that led up to this song. It is against this specific backdrop that Winchester draws an important lesson: “For it may be observed, that when God is about to work a great deliverance for his people, he usually first brings them into a great strait, so that destruction seems inevitable.” However, the God of providence stands and fights for certain nations, as he did for Israel against Egypt. A brief overview of the attributes of God shows his greatness in every aspect of his character. Winchester, in the first part of his sermon, provides a straightforward explanation of the terms and phrases in Exodus 15.

Then, he turns abruptly to a historical review. He did not hesitate to cite Philip of Spain, who in 1588 was viewed as “a second Pharaoh for pride and cruelty.” This Spanish empire sought aggressively to expand their imperial reach. With its massive resources and capital (“the sinews of war”), Spain “had the best army, and finest navy in Europe; and the greatest commanders of the age, both by land and sea.” Spain intended to invade England and likely would have overpowered Great Britain.

Even with the backing of Rome, this ‘invincible armada,’ was thwarted by “the hand of Providence [which] plainly appeared.” Citing the various ways that this Spanish Armada was defeated or distracted, even seeing the Providence of God in the Armada’s taking on disinformation, which led it right into the strength of the British Navy. He stated it this way: “Thus was this formidable armada defeated, without having done the smallest injury to this kingdom, or even landing any troops upon the island. And thus England was miraculously saved from destruction, by the immediate hand of Providence; which was scarcely, ever more visibly manifested in any affair, than in that very great, and singular deliverance of this land, from tyranny, popery, and slavery.”

Winchester next jumps ahead exactly 100 years to 1688. He begins his review with William of Orange, who was a token of God’s providence over human affairs. William of Orange’s Glorious Revolution buttressed the following liberties: (1) the liberty of acquiring and possessing private property; (2) the liberty of personal freedom and safety, guaranteed by jury trials; (3) the liberty and freedom of the press; and (4) the liberty of conscience, including freedom to worship in keeping with that conscience.

On this final point, he amplifies (note the italicized wording that is epexegetical of First Amendment terminology):

There is but one country in the world where liberty, and especially religious liberty, is so much enjoyed as in these kingdoms, and that is the United States of America: there religious liberty is in the highest perfection. All stand there on equal ground. There are no religious establishments, no preference of one denomination of Christians above another. The constitution knows no difference between one good man, and another. A man may be chosen there to the highest civil offices, without being obliged to give any account of his faith, subscribe any religious test, or go to the communion-table of any church.

Winchester blames establishmentarianism (as Constantinianism) for “the almost total cessation of the progress of christianity, the rise of Mahometanism, the rise and spread of deism, the general contempt into which christianity is fallen; all may fairly be laid at the door of that establishment.” He envisioned a better world, once freed of an established church, as in America.

He then issued this distilled proverb: “the greatest maxim in politics that was ever delivered, and which deserves to be written in letters of gold, over the doors of all the state houses in the world. The great secret of governing, consists in not governing too much.”

True liberty, thought Winchester, would depress the love of money, lust for power, and cruelty. While crediting the William III’s accomplishments, this preacher did not fail his calling, when he segued: “As I never shall have a better opportunity, give me leave here to introduce a greater hero on the stage than William the Third; even Jesus Christ, the great deliverer of mankind.” As certain as the historical events were surrounding William III’s rule, more certain were the historical events of Jesus Christ. This impressive apologetic in the midst of this sermon argued that as helpful as William was, Jesus Christ did more. He stated it this way:

William came over here for the benefit of the people of this nation, who were his friends, invited him over, and joined his standard. But Jesus Christ came into the world for the benefit of all mankind, even those who were his enemies; he was hated, despised, opposed and rejected, by his own kindred, according to the flesh; yet still his love and kindness continued to the last towards them.

William did many things for the good of this land; suffered much, and ventured his life for the people of these kingdoms; for which his memory is precious, and ought to be regarded with sincere affection. But O, what love, gratitude and praises, are due to Jesus Christ, who came into the world, and wrought so many works of mercy for mankind?

Coming to the present, the year 1788 saw progress in liberty in many nations. Chief among those tokens of liberty were the US Constitution: “This is such an astonishing event to those who know the situation of the United States of America, that nothing less than a very special Providence, and divine interference could have brought it about. Many instances of the visible protection and goodness of God towards the American states, have appeared from the beginning of the unhappy contest, between them and the ministry of this nation, to the present time; but in no instance has a divine hand so plainly appeared as in the present.”

Winchester believed that one hundred years later, Christianity would continue its spread, the Turks would be in decline, and Jews would be in their own land. His sermon concludes: “When we consider the great things which God hath wrought already; and those greater things which he hath promised to perform in his own time, we may say in the words of my text, with which I shall conclude: ‘Who is like unto thee, O Lord, amongst the gods? who is like thee glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?’”

A version of this sermon is posted online at: http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/816. It also occurs in the published edition by Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998).

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

“Sermon on Commencement of Constitution”
by Samuel Cooper (Oct. 25, 1780)  

Samuel Cooper (1725-1783) graduated from Harvard and furthered his training with a doctorate in divinity from Edinburgh. He followed in his father’s footsteps (the Reverend William Cooper) as one of the younger pastors at Boston’s Fourth church, long a landmark of preaching for the area. Later, he followed the Rev. Benjamin Colman as the primary pastor until 1783. At one point, he was wooed to serve as Harvard’s president, but he declined. He was well respected as an intellect and as a writer on both weighty and popular subjects.

Cooper delivered several sermons for popular consumption, but this one was his most famous—even being translated into Dutch in 1781, showing the admiration given to it.

This sermon was preached before Governor John Hancock and the maiden Senate of Massachusetts. He chose as his text Jeremiah 30:20-21: “Their congregation shall be established before me; and their nobles shall be of themselves, and their Governor shall proceed from the midst of them.” Cooper thought this OT episode was “so exactly descriptive of that important, that comprehensive, that essential civil blessing, which kindles the lustre, and diffuses the joy of the present day. Nor is this the only passage of holy scripture that holds up to our view a striking resemblance between our own circumstances and those of the antient Israelites; a nation chosen by God a theatre for the display of some of the most astonishing dispensations of his providence.”

His ready application from the OT to his own day is further seen as he begins with this assessment: “This day, this memorable day, is a witness, that the Lord, he whose “hand maketh great, and giveth strength unto all, hath not forsaken us, nor our God forgotten us.” This day, which forms a new era in our annals, exhibits a testimony to all the world, that contrary to our deserts, and amidst all our troubles, the blessing promised in our text to the afflicted seed of Abraham is come upon us; “Their Nobles shall be of themselves, and their Governor shall proceed from the midst of them.”

Referring to Jeremiah again, he thought “the fruits of lawless and despotic power in a mortal man intoxicated with it.” He also preached that to claim a ‘divine right for kings’ was “‘the doctrine of devils.’ It covets every thing without bounds: It grasps every thing without pity: It riots on the spoils of innocence and industry: It is proud to annihilate the rights of mankind . . .”

His sermon provides a contextual review of Jeremiah’s time, prior to asserting the following:

The form of government originally established in the Hebrew nation by a charter from heaven, was that of a free republic, over which God himself, in peculiar favour to that people, was pleased to preside. It consisted of three parts; a chief magistrate who was called judge or leader, such as Joshua and others, a council of seventy chosen men, and the general assemblies of the people. Of these the two last were the most essential and permanent, and the first more occasional, according to the particular circumstances of the nation.

And in a rather voluntaristic sentiment, he asserts: “Even the law of Moses, though framed by God himself, was not imposed upon that people against their will; it was laid open before the whole congregation of Israel; they freely adopted it, and it became their law, not only by divine appointment, but by their own voluntary and express consent.” Though theocratic in impulse, nevertheless, Cooper called Israel: “a free republic, and that the sovereignty resided in the people.” However, after “growing weary of the gift of heaven, they demanded a king.”

“Taught by these judgments the value of those blessings they had before despised,” Cooper preached, “and groaning under the hand of tyranny more heavy than that of death, they felt the worth of their former civil and religious privileges, and were prepared to receive with gratitude and joy a restoration not barely to the land flowing with milk and honey, but to the most precious advantage they ever enjoyed in that land, their original constitution of government: They were prepared to welcome with the voice of mirth and thanksgiving the re-establishment of their congregations; nobles chosen from among themselves, and a governor proceeding from the midst of them.”

A written constitution was needed, moving forward. And Cooper believed this to be perfectly consistent with OT norms. In a prosaic burst, he preached:

Happy people! who not awed by the voice of a master; not chained by slavish customs, superstitions, and prejudices, have deliberately framed the constitution under which you chuse to live; and are to be subject to no laws, by which you do not consent to bind yourselves. In such an attitude human nature appears with its proper dignity: On such a basis, life, and all that sweetens and adorns it, may rest with as much security as human imperfection can possibly admit: In such a constitution we find a country deserving to be loved, and worthy to be defended. For what is our country? Is it a foil of which, tho’ we may be the present possessors, we can call no part our own? or the air in which we first drew our breath, from which we may be confined in a dungeon, or of which we may be deprived by the ax or the halter at the pleasure of a tyrant? Is not a country a constitution—an established frame of laws; of which a man may say, “we are here united in society for our common security and happiness.

Among the excellencies of this constitution, he noted:

How effectually it makes the people the keepers of their own liberties, with whom they are certainly safest: How nicely it poizes the powers of government, in order to render them as far as human foresight can, what God ever designed they should be, powers only to do good: How happily it guards on the one hand against anarchy and confusion, and on the other against tyranny and oppression: How carefully it separates the legislative from the executive power, a point essential to liberty: How wisely it has provided for the impartial execution of the laws in the independent situation of the judges; a matter of capital moment, and without which the freedom of a constitution in other respects, might be often delusory, and not realized in the just security of the person and property of the subject.

Typical of his day, he believed that religion was a key buttress for good government: “Our civil rulers will remember, that as piety and virtue support the honour and happiness of every community, they are peculiarly requisite in a free government. . . . if they are lost to the fear of God, and the love of their country, all is lost. Having got beyond the restraints of a divine authority, they will not brook the control of laws enacted by rulers of their own creating.” He also opined: “But need I urge, in a christian audience, and before christian rulers, the importance of preserving inviolate the public faith? If this is allowed to be important at all times, and to all states, it must be peculiarly so to those whose foundations are newly laid, and who are but just numbered among the nations of the earth.”

He concluded with this prayer:

O thou supreme Governor of the world, whose arm hath done great things for us, establish the foundations of this commonwealth, and evermore defend it with the saving strength of thy right hand! Grant that here the divine constitutions of Jesus thy Son may ever be honoured and maintained! Grant that it may be the residence of all private and patriotic virtues, of all that enlightens and supports, all that sweetens and adorns human society, till the states and kingdoms of this world shall be swallowed up in thine own kingdom: In that, which alone is immortal, may we obtain a perfect citizenship, and enjoy in its completion, “the glorious Liberty of the Sons of God![”] And let all the people say, Amen!

This sermon is printed in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998); and it is also available at: http://www.belcherfoundation.org/samuel%20cooper%20sermon%20on%20constitution.pdf.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

“God Arising And Pleading His People’s Cause”
by Abraham Keteltas (Oct. 5, 1777)

Abraham Keteltas (1732-98) was raised by Protestant parents in New York and New Rochelle, where he spent much of his time among the communities of Huguenots in the area. Becoming fluent in French early on, he later studied theology at Yale, where he earned his degree in 1752, followed by gaining his preacher’s license in 1756. From 1757 until his dismissal in 1760, Keteltas supplied the pulpit of the Presbyterian church in Elizabethtown, New Jersey. He then served as an itinerant preacher to the Dutch and Huguenot parishes in Jamaica and Long Island, New York, where he gained much popular support. By 1776, Keteltas was elected to the Provincial Congress and became such a vociferous defender of the American cause that he feared for reprisals when British troops landed on Long Island. During the Revolution, he served as preacher to a number of Presbyterian churches in Massachusetts and Connecticut until his retirement in 1782. He died in 1798 and was buried on Long Island. (Source: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/30/)

An earlier sermon on patriotic themes was his 1759 The Religious Soldier, which was preached to both American and English soldiers, calling for ethical behavior among the military. A year after this sermon below, Keteltas also supported the Revolution with his Reflections on Extortion. Thus, he hardly shied away from political subjects.

Reiner Smolinksi summarizes that in this influential political sermon, Keteltas enlists Jehovah of Armies in defense of America’s rights. Drawing on typological parallels from both Testaments, Keteltas demonstrates that God always supports the cause of righteousness, liberty, and self-government, especially where his people are concerned. If God is on the side of his American Israel, Kelteltas prophecies, the British enemy cannot succeed for long. Religion and politics are joined in a bed of patriotism.”

Keteltas begins with an imprecation from Psalm 74:22, calling on God to arise and plead his own cause. His first primary point was “To shew you what we are to understand by the cause of God.” The preacher then set out to define the “cause of God,” which was “the whole system of divine truth.” In amplified form, the cause of God was:

All the doctrines contained in the old and new Testament, from that system of truth, of which we are speaking, amongst these doctrines, those most essential to man, are his fall in Adam, and redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ, the necessity of being regenerated and sanctified by the spirit of God, and being justified by the righteousness of his son imputed to them, and received by faith, the necessity of holiness in order to happiness, and of conformity in heart and life to the nature and will of God: These, and all the other doctrines of his word, are the cause of God.

However, Keteltas goes further to amplify: “But 2dly, By the cause of God, we are to understand, the cause of universal righteousness: The moral law, or the ten command-ments is the rule of this righteousness, and besides the moral law, all those duties which are incumbent upon us, as fallen creatures; such as the great duties of faith, repentance and conversion, which imply the forsaking of every sin, and the practice of every virtue.”

Thirdly, he added: “the welfare of the people, who believe and profess the above-mentioned system of divine truths, and practice the righteousness just now described, is the cause of God.”

As he begins to expand his themes, his second major heading was: “what is meant by his arising and pleading this cause; and what encouragement his people have that he will effectually do it.” He sounds very much like a well-trained exegete, beginning with: “The Hebrew word here translated ‘plead,’ may be rendered ‘litigate, strove, contend, fight,’ but being here connected with cause, it is best translated, by the English word ‘plead,’ a term very familiar to most of us, which signifies an advocate, lawyer, or patron’s arguing, supplicating, interceding, contending for his client, and representing his case to the best advantage, espousing or patronizing it, or taking it in his own hands and managing it. The phrase of God’s pleading his people’s cause, frequently occurs in scripture.” God pleads his cause by his word, by his Spirit, and by his providence.

In his Word, God commands his followers how to live; also “he pronounces a woe against them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed, to turn the needy from judgment, and to take away the right of the poor of his people; he commands that he who ruleth over men, must be just, ruling in the fear of the Lord; he commands magistrates to be a terror to evil doers, and a praise to them who do well.”

After a discussion of how God works by his spirit, his providence is extolled as: “The whole history of it, from the creation of the world, is a series of wonderful interpositions in behalf of his elect.” In this section, he refers to the Dutch and Swiss independence movements as worthy precedents and useful models.

He praised liberty as “the grand fountain, under God, of every temporal blessing, and what is infinitely more important, it is favorable to the propagation of unadulterated christianity. Liberty is the parent of truth, justice, virtue, patriotism, benevolence, and every generous and noble purpose of the soul. Under the influence of liberty, the arts and sciences, trade, commerce, and husbandry flourish, and the wilderness blossoms like the rose.” On the flip side: “But if liberty is thus friendly to the happiness of mankind, and is the cause of the kind parent of the universe; certainly tyranny & oppression are the cause of the devil, the cause which God’s soul hates. The holy scriptures abound with instances and prophecies of his judgments against tyrants and oppressors; and not only sacred, but prophane history, prove the fulfilment of those prophecies.”

Conversely, “tyranny & oppression are the cause of the devil, the cause which God’s soul hates.” God has “in the most lively characters, written his hatred and detestation of tyranny and oppression, upon the bodies of those who have been guilty of those heaven daring offences—thus hath he shewn how much he detests, and how severely he will punish cruelty and injustice, the murder of the innocent, and the invasion of their rights and property.”

Keteltas cites several previous precedents that support the independence of America. Moreover, he also drafted several British statesmen who supported the revolution. His sermon concludes with these words and a call for Americans to defend not only their own liberty but that of the coming generations.

The cause of God—his own cause, must prosper, in spite of earth and hell—God will effectually plead it; he will plead it by his almighty word, his all conquering spirit, and his over ruling providence. No weapon formed against Zion, shall prosper: every tongue that riseth up against her, shall be condemned: God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved: God will help her, and that right early: Trust ye therefore in the Lord Jehovah, for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength. Cast all your burdens and cares upon the Lord, and he will sustain you—he will never suffer the righteous to be moved. Eminent Divines & celebrated poets, have given it as their opinion, that America will be a glorious land of freedom, knowledge, and religion,—an asylum for distressed, oppressed, and persecuted virtue.

The entire is sermon avail at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1030&context=etas. It is also included in Logos software at: https://www.logos.com/resources/LLS_EVANS12185/god-arising-and-pleading-his-peoples-cause.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

“The African Slave Trade, A Discourse”
by James Dana (Sept. 9, 1790)    

James Dana (1735–1812) graduated from Harvard and was a Congregationalist pastor in Connecticut. He was an early and avid supporter of American independence. Dana became pastor of the First Church of New Haven from 1789-1805, when he was summarily dismissed by the leaders and replaced by the ascendant new preacher, Moses Stuart. He received a D. D. from the University of Edinburgh, and one of his sons, Samuel Whittlesey Dana became a Senator. [Source: consource.org]

This sermon was delivered before the Connecticut Society for the Promotion of Freedom on September 9, 1790. It is an early abolitionist address, showing again that the earlier clergy rightly appealed to Scripture but did not avoid current topics as if that was none of the church’s business.

Dana began with an explanation of the setting of Galatians 4:31 in the context of the Bible. He reviewed the Jewish history and stressed that believers in Christ were not descendants of a line of slavery but of freedom. And as the opening verse of the next chapter asserts, believers were to stand fast in their liberty. Freedom was worth defending. He remarked, “Christian freedom, being alike the privilege of converts from Judaism and heathenism, primarily intends, on the part of the former, the abolition of the encumbered ritual of Moses; and, on the part of the latter, liberation from idolatrous superstition, to which they were in servile subjection: On the part of both it intends deliverance from the slavery of vicious passions.”

Christ’s followers, he taught, brought in a glorious age of expansive liberty: ‘His disciples, made free from sin, walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. There is no condemnation to them. Thus emancipated, they “wait for the hope of righteousness by faith—the redemption of the body.” He added further that Christianity leads its followers to call no man, “master”—the application of which, he preached, would oppose the slave trade (or early Human Trafficking). He also distinguished: “The real friends of liberty always distinguish between freedom and licentiousness. They know that the mind cannot be free, while blinded by sceptical pride, or immersed in sensuality. Liberty consists not in subverting the foundations of society, in being without law. Nor doth it consist in reasoning against God, and providence, and revelation.”

Dana proclaimed that the biblical faith overflowed with “the best aspect on general liberty and the rights of mankind.” “This spirit,” he continued, “doth no ill to others, but all possible good. Rulers, under its influence, are not oppressors, but benefactors.”

Dana did not wish to inflame passions with this address but to appeal to informed consciences. He next provided a detailed history of the colonization of the West, along with a discussion of its religious leadership. He also pointed the finger on the Portuguese (for settling parts of Africa) and various Popes for approving perpetual slavery for certain races. He thought that the exporting of African slaves by the Portuguese began just at the 16th century opened. A sample of his detail is below:

Spanish America hath successively received her slaves from the Genoese, Portuguese, French and English. A convention was made at London between England and Spain, A. D. 1689, for supplying the Spanish West-Indies with negro slaves from Jamaica. The French Guinea company contracted, in 1702, to supply them with 38,000 negroes, in ten years; and if peace should be concluded, with 48,000. In 1713 there was a treaty between England and Spain for the importation of 144,000 negroes in thirty years, or 4,800 annually. If we include those whom the Portuguese have held in slavery in Africa, with the importations into South-America, twelve millions may be a moderate estimate from the commencement of the traffic to the present time.

The British and French colonialists, he said, contributed mightily to this, with his census being: “The present number of slaves in the West-Indies is 930,669. There are in the United States 670,633. To this number may be added about 12,000 manumitted Africans. In all 1,613,302.” He blamed predominantly Christian cultures (“by the citizens of the most republican States, with the sanction of St. Peter’s successor”) for this magnitude of slavery.

We suppose, then, that eight millions of slaves have been shipped in Africa for the West-India islands and the United States; ten millions for South-America; and, perhaps, two millions have been taken and held in slavery in Africa. Great-Britain and the United States have shipped about five millions, France two, Holland and other nations one; though we undertake not to state the proportion with exactness. The other twelve millions we set to Portugal. Twenty million slaves, at £.30 sterling each, amount to the commercial value of £.600,000,000. Six hundred times ten hundred thousand pounds sterling traffic in the souls of men!!!

Dana continued to lament that Christians did not work more zealously for abolition, nor to improve the lives of slaves. Further, he addressed the many OT passages where slavery existed or was not overturned, suggesting mitigating factors for those. Citing the recent language from the Declaration of Independence (“All men are created equal”), he extrapolated that all humans in America were equal and free. He did not believe that Africans were less human or less deserving of all benefits of Christ: “The present occasion will be well improved, if we set ourselves to banish all slavish principles, and assert our liberty as men, citizens and Christians. We have all one Father: He will have all his offspring to be saved. We are disciples of one master: He will finally gather together in one the children of God. Let us unite in carrying into effect the purpose of the Saviour’s appearance.” He called for Christ’s body, the church to be undivided and concluded passionately:

To conclude: In vain do we assert our natural and civil liberty, or contend for the same liberty in behalf of any of our fellow-creatures, provided we ourselves are not made free from the condemnation and dominion of sin. If there is such a thing as slavery, the servant of sin is a slave—and self-made. The captive, prisoner and slave, in an outward respect, may be free in Christ, free indeed; while he who enjoys full external liberty, may, in regard to his inward man, be under the power of wicked spirits: These enter and dwell in an heart garnished to receive them. Jesus Christ, and no other, saveth from sin and wrath. The spirit of life quickeneth those who are dead in trespasses, and looseth those whom Satan hath bound. ‘If we be dead with him, we believe that we shall also live with him.’

The new Jerusalem is free in a more exalted sense than the church on earth. True believers, ‘sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, have the earnest of their inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession.’ In that day of complete redemption, of glorious liberty, may God of his infinite mercy grant that we may meet all the ransomed of the Lord, with songs and everlasting joy, saying: “Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne; and unto the lamb who was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Amen.”

Worth noting, Dana was not the only one who argued this line. In a 1770 sermon (see earlier link in this series), Samuel Cooke pled similarly:

I trust on this occasion I may without offence plead the cause of our African slaves, and humbly propose the pursuit of some effectual measures at least to prevent the future importation of them. Difficulties insuperable, I apprehend, prevent an adequate remedy for what is past. Let the time past more than suffice wherein we, the patrons of liberty, have dishonored the Christian name, and degraded human nature nearly to a level with the beasts that perish. Ethiopia has long stretched out her hands to us. Let not sordid greed, acquired by the merchandise of slaves and the souls of men, harden our hearts against her piteous moans. When God ariseth, and when he visiteth, what shall we answer? May it be the glory of this province, of this respectable General Assembly, and, we could wish, of this session, to lead in the cause of the oppressed. This will avert the impending vengeance of Heaven, procure you the blessing of multitudes of your fellow men ready to perish, be highly approved by our common father, who is no respecter of persons, and, we trust, an example which would excite the highest attention of our sister colonies. (Election Sermons, 2012, pp. 226-227)

Dana’s sermon man be found online at: http://consource.org/document/the-african-slave-trade-by-james-dana-1790-9-9/, and in hard copy in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998).

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

A Sermon Containing Scriptural Instructions to Civil Rulers …”
by Samuel Sherwood (Aug 31, 1774)                     

Samuel Sherwood (1730-1783) was a graduate of Yale and Princeton (at the time led by his uncle Aaron Burr), who pastored in Weston (CT) from 1757 to his death in 1783. Next to this sermon, his other published sermon (also of political import) was his sermon, “The Church’s Flight into the Wilderness” (see the earlier sermon in this series here).

Delivered on a Connecticut Fast Day in 1774, the full title of this sermon flies the flag: “A sermon, containing Scriptural instructions to civil rulers, and all free-born subjects. In which the principles of sound policy and good government are established and vindicated; and some doctrines advanced and zealously propagated by New-England Tories, are considered and refuted.” It also includes “an appendix, stating the heavy grievances the colonies labour under from several late acts of the British Parliament, and shewing what we have just reason to expect the consequences of these measures will be” by the Rev. Ebenezer Baldwin, of Danbury.

Sherwood’s text was Acts 22:28 (followed by two quotes from Cicero), and he humbly considered his work a “poor mite” in the public discourse. His initial hope was that “our charter and birth right privileges may be taken from us; that we may be ruled by the iron rod of oppression, and chained down to eternal slavery and bondage.” He cheers on the patriots and others who were recently awakened by tragic events in Boston (and elsewhere). This burgeoning patriotism “if duly regulated by Christian principles and rules, ensure success to American liberty and freedom,” he thought, would deliver the colony. He thought, “No free state was ever yet enslaved and brought into bondage, where the people were incessantly vigilant and watchful; and instantly took the alarm at the first addition made to the power exercised over them.—They are those only of the tribes of Issachar, who keep in profound sleep; and like strong and stupid asses, couch down between heavy burdens; that insensibly sink into abject slavery and bondage. It is a duty incumbent upon us at all times, to keep a watchful attention to our interests; (especially in seasons of peril and danger,) to watch and pray that we fall not.” At the same time, he called for good order and for men to work within “their own proper spheres,” eschewing anarchy.

While his listeners had been well-steeped in apostolic doctrine (to fear God and honor the King, 1 Peter 2:16), Sherwood also warned against being deceived by corrupt leaders. Some, he warned, “may have the advantage of others, in their tendency to promote these Christian and political virtues; yet I believe there may be mean, base and mercenary wretches in every profession, who for one sweet delicious morsel to themselves, might be tempted to sell their country with all its liberties and privileges, as profane Esau sold his birth-right.”

Appealing to 2 Samuel 23:3 (perhaps the most cited political text of the era), Sherwood rejected jure divino political governance. Since human societies, he suggested, were based on voluntary compacts, those same societies were free to form their own laws. While God’s government is fixed, various nations were free to design their own political forms. Notwithstanding, those same societies also had the right to expect their rulers to live up to certain standards (as per 2 Sam. 23:3). Specifically, he announced his outline as:

  1. Consider[ing] the necessity and importance of justice in civil rulers.
  2. Show[ing] that the fear of the Lord is the proper, effectual principle, to influence such to the observation and practice of justice.

On that first heading, Sherwood argued: “Was the doctrine true, That all property is vested in the king, or chief rulers; and that they can do no wrong to their subjects: Such scripture precepts and directions from the sovereign Ruler of the world as that in my text, would be entirely needless and impertinent; and seem, on this supposition, to argue his want of wisdom and knowledge, on this important subject.” THAT rulers could err and become corrupt—call it the fallibility of governors—Sherwood thought, called for a distributed government that would maintain some accountability. Public character standards were thought to be appropriate. Eternal standards of justice and righteousness were applicable to rulers, who were “the ministers of God, instituted and ordained to attend continually unto this very thing; and in both these capacities, they must be just.”

In a familiar catechism, justice was to be seen:

  • In the making of laws (here and elsewhere Sherwood called for non-sectarian legislation), and;
  • In how they perform their office—not only were laws to be theoretically just, but the implementation of the laws was to be just.

Notwithstanding, “the fear of the Lord,” he preached, “is the proper, effectual principle to influence civil rulers to the exact observance of justice.” After these principles were addressed, Sherwood included an extended set of applications or “improvements,” which included:

  • A thankful praise for God’s providence—“The bigger part of the world have had their liberties wrested out of their hands; been opprest and enslaved by lawless and cruel tyrants: while we are yet in the possession of freedom.”
  • As a correlate of public happiness, he stressed the “importance is it, that civil rulers be men of uprightness and integrity; men of real piety and religion; who fear the Lord, and keep up a proper awe and reverence of him upon their minds.”
  • A reminder that the Glorious Revolution supported the principle of governmental fallibility.
  • Sherwood identified a major “disadvantage” and sign of tyranny that “commerce, and the means of increasing our wealth and riches, are obstructed and great loss and damages sustained; and at the same time, public charges increased, in supporting agents, and commissioners to consult, and look out a way of safety and deliverance for us.” Further, he lamented:

WE are further threatened with being deprived of all our civil privileges, and brought under a most cruel, arbitrary and tyrannical kind of government. The scheme of government planned out for Boston, is in its whole frame and constitution, completely despotic and arbitrary. The will of the chief ruler is law; and the subject holds his estate, and even life, only during his pleasure. This arbitrary government will, no doubt, be carried to its greatest extent through all the American colonies, and exercised in all its terrors and cruelties upon them, if the present ministry are permitted to carry the point they are contending for, in such a sanguine manner.

Several of his thoughts are worth heeding. He appealed for a Protestant unity in view of the present state, “notwithstanding lesser differences among them; that we may stand or fall together: and not be devoured one of another; nor become an easy prey to foreign enemies who may seek our ruin.” He further asked for perspective: “What are those things worth, that alienate people’s affections, and cause divisions; in comparison to our dear liberties and privileges that are endangered hereby?” He cautioned again a “party-spirit” that would weaken the nation or lead to an infatuation that might “blind [us] to our own interest, and that of our children’s, as to pursue measures that are destructive of it?”

Accordingly, he urged his listeners to set aside their passion and prejudice in favor of the common welfare, not meddling with any distractions that carried “the rankest poison.” “Let our country’s interest, glory and prosperity,” he cheered, “be uppermost in our hearts, and use our best endeavours for the advancement of it. Let all strength center and unite in this grand point. Let us remember, this in the common interest of all the colonies; and that each particular inhabitant is concerned herein and must expect to share the fate, in some degree, of the body he is connected with. If the foundation of our public liberties and privileges be overturned, all will be affected, and must expect to suffer in the sad ruin. . . .” He concluded with this stirring rhetoric:

Let us act on principles of moderation, candor and charity; and endeavour in meekness of wisdom to instruct those that oppose themselves, and their country’s good; and recover them to the paths of truth. Let us prize and well improve our privileges, and use our influence to promote the public good. . . . We want wise, steady, judicious rulers in such a day as this; men of sterling integrity and real religion. It is of importance that all orders of men be faithful in their several departments, for defending and promoting the public good. Let us keep stedfastly fixed in the good old principles of our fathers, and cheerfully take our lot and portion one with another; saying as Ruth to Naomi, Whether thou goest, I will go; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. The Lord’s hand has been very conspicuous in the first settlement, and past preservation of these plantations: He will take care of the generation of the righteous; and break the yoke of their oppressors; and give them peace and happiness. Blessed are the people that are under his care and conduct; yea, blessed are the people whose God is the Lord. AMEN.

This sermon is posted on line at: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N10741.0001.001?rgn=main;view=fulltext. It is also available in Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998) and in my 2012 Election Sermons.

By Dr. David W. Hall, Pastor
Midway Presbyterian Church

For others like this order a copy of Twenty Messages to Consider Before Voting from Reformation Heritage Books.

 

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: