POLITICAL SERMONS FROM PASTORS IN THE FOUNDING ERA
Pastor Roger Anghis
October 27, 2013
December 15, 1774
By William Gordon
Pastor of the Third Church in Roxbury
This message was given around the time of the Stamp Act. It had cause great hardship on many people and the city of Boston seemed to be one city that was very negatively affected. Reverend Gordon states that there are times when politics is justified coming from the pulpit:
“The pulpit is devoted, in general, to more important purposes than the fate of kingdoms, or the civil rights of human nature, being intended to recover men from the slavery of sin and Satan, to point out their escape from future misery through faith in a crucified Jesus, and to assist them in their preparations for an eternal blessedness. But still there are special times and seasons when it may treat of politics. And, surely, if it is allowable for some who occupy it, by preaching up the doctrines of non-resistance and passive obedience, to vilify the principles and to sap the foundations of that glorious revolution that exalted the House of Hanover to the British throne, it ought to be no transgression in others, nor to be construed into a want of loyalty, to speak consistently with those approved tenets that have made George the Third the first of European sovereigns, who otherwise, with all his personal virtues, might have lived an obscure Elector. Having, then, the past morning of this provincial thanksgiving, accommodated the text to the case of individuals, I shall now dedicate it, according to its original intention, to the service of the public, the situation of whose affairs is both distressing and alarming.”
This philosophy was exhibited two years prior when the demand to be free from the chains of Britain began to grow that had swung into full gear because of the Stamp Act of 1765. Even though the Act was repealed in 1766 it had been followed up by the American Colonies Act which was called the Declaratory Act. This piece of legislation was virtually identical to the Irish Declaratory Act which put the people of Ireland into an almost literal slavery to the Irish Crown. The Colonists felt that there would be more and more acts that would bring more and more taxes upon the Colonies, which was exactly what happened. These two Acts were in the author’s opinion, the defining factors that solidified the Colonies resolve that directly led to the Revolutionary War.
In 1772 there was a ‘Committee of Correspondence’ established to communicate to the crown the real grievances of the Colonies. Dr. (Reverend) Mayhew in 1766 had talked about establishing this committee: “It would be difficult, perhaps, to assign to any one specially the idea of committees of correspondence as the most efficient means of unity and of concert of action. As already stated, Dr. Mayhew had, in 1766, suggested the thought to Mr. Otis. Gordon says that Mr. Samuel Adams visited Mr. James Warren, at Plymouth, to confer with him on the best plan for counteracting the misrepresentations of Governor Hutchinson that the discontented were a mere faction, and Mr. Warren proposed the committees of correspondence. Mr. Adams was pleased with it, and the machinery was put in operation at the first favorable opportunity. As the government and defense of a free people depend upon its own voluntary support, and Governor Hutchinson refused a salary from the province, and accepted it of the crown, the General Court did "most solemnly protest that the innovation is an important change of the constitution, and exposes the province to a despotic administration of government."
The Boston "Committee of Correspondence," appointed at this juncture "to state the rights of the colonists ... as men, as Christians, and as subjects; to communicate and publish the same to the several towns in this province, and to the world,"made their report, at a town meeting in Fancuil Hall, on the 20th of November, 1772. They quote freely from "Locke on Government," of which there was a Boston edition published soon after. They declare that, "in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, men have a right to leave the society they belong to and enter into another." That in religion there should be mutual toleration of all professions "whose doctrines are not subversive of society," — a principle which excludes the Papists, for they teach "that princes excommunicated may be deposed, and those they call heretics may be destroyed without mercy; besides their recognizing the Pope in so absolute a manner, in subversion of government, by introducing, as far as possible, into the states under whose protection they enjoy life, liberty, and property, that solecism in politics, Imperium in imperio, leading directly to the worst anarchy and confusion, civil discord, war, and bloodshed.
"That the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave." "The colonists," they say, "have been branded with the odious names of traitors and rebels only for complaining of their grievances.
How long such treatment will or ought to be borne, is submitted." They enumerate, among their grievances, the revenue acts, the presence of standing armies and of hosts of officers for their enforcement; the rendering the governor, judges, and other officers, independent of the people by salaries from the crown," which will, if accomplished, complete our slavery; "the instructions to the governor whereby he "is made merely a ministerial engine ;" the surrender of the provincial fortress. Castle William, to the troops, beyond the provincial control; the suspension of the New York Legislature "until they should quarter the British troops;" "the various attempts which have been made, and are now made, to establish an American Episcopate," though "no power on earth can justly give either temporal or spiritual jurisdiction within this province except the great and general court.'' (Emphasis mine)
Take note that they firmly believed that they were to be free and that freedom came from God, not man; “That the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift.” Also note that it was one of the most influential pastors of the day that recommended the committee and what the purpose of the committee was. This today would be called political activism mythe church and lawsuits would be filed from all directions. This is proof that the churches and the pastors of the Founding Era believed that there should be no restrictions on church concerning the political arena. In fact, the people relied on the clergy of the day for advice and direction and support.
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This committee, designed, organized and blessed by a pastor gained approval throughout the Colonies and was the catalyst for establishing of the union in 1774: “The report, with a letter of correspondence," was printed and sent to "the selectmen of every town in the province." It was like the match to a well-laid train, and there burst forth from every quarter responses of such spirit and severity against "these mighty grievances and intolerable wrongs," the change in the state of affairs was" so sudden and unexpected, "as to greatly alarm and perplex the governor, now helpless and friendless, and his subsequent controversies with the House only tended to strengthen the colonial cause. Virginia approved of all this; the system of correspondence was extended to the colonies, and laid the foundation of that union which resulted in the general congress at Philadelphia, in September, 1774.” (Emphasis mine)
Pulpit of the American Revolution, John W. Thorton, The Federalist Papers
Project, (Gould and Lincoln, Boston), pp. 199-200.
2. Pulpit of the American Revolution, John W. Thorton, The Federalist Papers Project, (Gould and Lincoln, Boston), pp. 193-193.
3. Pulpit of the American Revolution, John W. Thorton, The Federalist Papers Project, (Gould and Lincoln, Boston), p. 194.
© 2013 Roger Anghis - All Rights Reserved
Pastor Roger Anghis is the Founder of RestoreFreeSpeech.org, an organization designed to draw attention to the need of returning free speech rights to churches that was restricted in 1954.
President of The Damascus Project, TheDamascusProject.org, which has a stated purpose of teaching pastors and lay people the need of the churches involvement in the political arena and to teach the historical role of Christianity in the politics of the United States. Married-37 years, 3 children, three grandchildren.
Web site: RestoreFreeSpeech.org