POLITICAL SERMONS FROM PASTORS IN THE FOUNDING ERA
Pastor Roger Anghis
July 13, 2014
A SERMON PREACHED BEFORE THE Honorable COUNCIL, AND THE HONORABLE House of Representatives, OF THE State of Massachusetts-Bay, IN New-England, AT Boston, May 27, 1778.
Being the Anniversary for the Election OF THE honorable COUNCIL. By PHILLIPS PAYSON, A. M. Pastor of a Church in Chelsea.
BUT JERURSALEM, WHICH IS ABOVE, IS FREE, WHICH IS THE MOTHER OF US ALL. SO THEN, BRETHREN WE ARE NOT CHILDREN OF THE BOND WOMAN, BUT OF THE FREE. — Gal. iv. 26, 31.
The sermons of the last two pastors that we have studied were given just a few months before the Revolutionary War started. This sermon was given also to the House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts but it was two years into the Revolutionary War on the eve of an election. Notice that Pastor Payson's foundation scripture deals with the fact that America is free. Payson compares the freedom and liberty that was enjoyed by the Colonies to the freedoms and liberty that we will have in eternity but admitting that what we have on this earth cannot be compared to what is to come as our minds cannot conceive of the glory we will experience in heaven. "We doubt not but the Jerusalem above, the heavenly society, possesses the noblest liberty to a degree of perfection of which the human mind can have no adequate conception in the present state. The want of that knowledge and rectitude they are endowed with above renders liberty and government so imperfect here below.
Next to the liberty of heaven is that which the sons of God, the heirs of glory, possess in this life, in which they are freed from the bondage of corruption, the tyranny of evil lusts and passions, described by the apostle "by being made free from sin, and becoming the servants of God." These kinds of liberty are so nearly related, that the latter is considered as a sure pledge of the former ; and therefore all good men, all true believers, in a special sense are children of the free woman, heirs of the promise. This religious or spiritual liberty must be accounted the greatest happiness of man, considered in a private capacity. But considering ourselves here as connected in civil society, and members one of another, we must in this view esteem civil liberty as the greatest of all human blessings." (Emphasis mine throughout)
The importance of the civil liberties enjoyed by the citizens of America were unlike any liberties enjoyed by any nation in the world at that time. The colonists had based everything in their society, their daily life, their business practices and even their style and form of government on the principles of God. "Hence a people formed upon the morals and principles of the gospel are capacitated to enjoy the highest degree of civil liberty, and will really enjoy it, unless prevented by force or fraud.
Much depends upon the mode and administration of civil government to complete the blessings of liberty ; for although the best possible plan of government never can give an ignorant and vicious people the true enjoyment of liberty, yet a state may be enslaved though its inhabitants in general may be knowing, virtuous, and heroic. The voice of reason and the voice of God both teach us that the great object or end of government is the public good. Nor is there less certainty in determining that a free and righteous government originates from the people, and is under their direction and control; and therefore a free, popular model of government —of the republican kind — may be judged the most friendly to the rights and liberties of the people, and the most conducive to the public welfare."
You'll notice that Payson confirms that our form of government is to originate with the people governed and is in their complete control. What was happening in their day was Britain had replaced their self governing system with Britain's monarchy. To the Colonies this was not just usurping of power by Britain but a refusal by the crown to allow the people to live according to the dictates of scripture. Keep in mind that religious liberty was the biggest reason for the establishing of the Colonies in the first place. There was intense persecution in Britain and throughout Europe against anyone who did not follow the teachings of the Catholic church which did not, at the time of the establishing of the Colonies, allow an English translation of scripture as English was considered a 'vulgar' language. It is also noteworthy to remember that the Geneva Bible used by the citizens of the Colonies actually explained scripture that was previously not fully understood. It was from this Bible that the people learned that God had given man the liberty of self-government however it was to be scripture guided.
Payson begins to describe to the members of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts the scriptural style that they were to follow. Keep in mind that the pastors of this era were the leaders of society and all areas of life followed the teaching and the directions of the pulpit is something that is lacking today. He explains to the House of Representatives their specific role as people in authority over the citizens.
"On account of the infinite diversity of opinions and interests, as well as for other weighty reasons, a government altogether popular, so as to have the decision of cases by assemblies of the body of the people, cannot be thought so eligible ; nor yet that a people should delegate their power and authority to one single man, or to one body of men, or, indeed, to any hands whatever, excepting for a short term of time. A form of government may be so constructed as to have useful checks in the legislature, and yet capable of acting with union, vigor, and dispatch, with a representation equally proportioned, preserving the legislative and executive branches distinct, and the great essentials of liberty be preserved and secured. To adjust such a model is acknowledged to be a nice and difficult matter; and, when adjusted, to render it respectable, permanent, and quiet, the circumstances of the state, and the capacities and morals both of rulers and people, are not only of high importance, but of absolute necessity."
In this comment his is pointing out that those in power in this form of government are not to be there for life as in a monarchy or dictatorship but for a set period of time only. George Washington set this example by only serving two terms as president an example that was followed by all presidents until Franklin Roosevelt in the 20th century. But he also called for the preserving of the boundaries of each branch of government and the requiring of each branch to stay within those boundaries. Payson also points out to this body of politicians their morals, godly morals, were of the utmost importance. We see very little of this type of preaching in today's pulpits which is why we see so very little of it in the political arena.
The Founders established their form of government on Exodus 18:21 "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens." This is the scripture they used to determine the type of leaders they would have, governors over the State, mayors of cities and city council leaders.
It would be very difficult to preach a message like this today to the State legislators or even our federal representatives in their respective Houses because of political correctness and the so-called separation of church and state, which is not even a constitutional provision. But most pastors today would be afraid of offending someone where the pastors of the Founding era were looked upon for guidance and direction for doing the proper things required for a godly society. We have lost that influence on society and I blame the church for that. Their influence was unconstitutionally taken away from them in 1954 with the Johnson Amendment and the church never fought to regain that constitutional right.
Today there is a strong opposition to that amendment and there have been many attempts to get it into a court but the government refuses to carry it that far for fear of losing the ability to control most of the churches who operate in more fear of the IRS than of God. Their refusal to stand for our religious freedoms is a threat to the continuing religious freedoms that we still have. Oh, to have pastors with courage in the pulpits today.
Pulpit of the American Revolution, John W. Thorton, The Federalist Papers
Project, (Gould and Lincoln, Boston), pp. 331-332.
2. Pulpit of the American Revolution, John W. Thorton, The Federalist Papers Project, (Gould and Lincoln, Boston), p. 332.
3. Pulpit of the American Revolution, John W. Thorton, The Federalist Papers Project, (Gould and Lincoln, Boston), pp. 332-333.
© 2014 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