Category Archives: General
On January 30, 1750, Jonathan Mayhew delivered a sermon titled “A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-resistance to the Higher Powers” based on Romans 13:1-7, which was printed, bound, and widely distributed. In this seminal message that caused John Adams to remark that it helped spark the Revolution, Mayhew declared:
“It is evident that the affairs of civil government may properly fall under a moral and religious consideration…
The apostle enters upon his subject thus: ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.’ Here he urges the duty of obedience from this topic of argument that civil rulers as they are supposed to fulfill the pleasure of God are the ordinance of God. But how is this an argument for obedience to such rulers as do not perform the pleasure of God by doing good but the pleasure of the devil by doing evil, and such as are not therefore God’s ministers but the devil’s?…
[T]he apostle argues that those who resist a reasonable and just authority, which is agreeable to the will of God, do really resist the will of God himself and will therefore be punished by him. But how does this prove that those who resist a lawless unreasonable power, which is contrary to the will of God, do therein resist the will and ordinance of God? Is resisting those who resist God’s will the same thing with resisting God?…
Thus upon a careful review of the apostle’s reasoning in this passage it appears that his arguments to enforce submission are of such a nature as to conclude only in favor of submission to such rulers as he himself describes, i.e. such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants and public oppressors are not entitled to obedience from their subjects by virtue of anything here laid down by the inspired apostle.”
Though Jonathan Mayhew was a well known theological liberal, his biblical arguments for resisting an unrighteous authority swayed the opinions of many in the colonies and laid the groundwork for resistance to British tyranny. Mayhew’s influential sermon is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Romans 13:1-7 and reflect on Paul’s teaching on government and compare that to the progression of Pastor Mayhew’s Biblical argument.
Prayer: Father, we thank you for the institution of government when it functions as you designed, seeking to reward those who do good and punish those who do evil and serving the common good. Give us the courage to stand with Peter when the government condemns what you command, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: John Wingate Thornton, ed., The Pulpit of the American Revolution: or, The Political Sermons of the Period 1776, with a Historical Introduction, Notes and Illustrations (Boston: Gould and Lincoln, 1860), 53-78.
Founding Father Fisher Ames was a member of the House of Representatives in the First Federal Congress under the new United States Constitution. He is primarily responsible for the wording of the First Amendment statement on Religion in the Bill of Rights. In a January 1801 article on “School Books” published in the New England Palladium, Fisher Ames declared:
“It has been the custom, of late years, to put a number of little books into the hands of children containing fables and moral lessons…
“Why then, if these books for children must be retained, as they will be, should not the bible regain the place it once held as a school book. Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. The reverence for the sacred book that is thus early impressed lasts long and probably if not impressed in infancy never takes firm hold of the mind.
“One consideration more is important. In no book is there so good English, so pure and so elegant, and by teaching all the same book, they will speak alike and the bible will justly remain the standard of language as well as of faith.”*
Founder Fisher Ames’ arguments for the Bible in the classroom are another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 119:9-16 and reflect on how the word of God shapes the character of youths and compare that to the argument of this Founding Father.
Prayer: With the Psalmist we pray: Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: John Thornton Kirkland et al, ed., Works of Fisher Ames to Which are Prefixed Notices of His Life and Character, (Boston: T. B. Wait & Co., 1809), 134-35.
Robert Carter Nicholas, was born on January 28, 1715 and served as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, representing James City. He also served as a member of the Committees of Correspondence, attended all major conventions, and in 1775, served as President Pro-tem of the Continental Convention.
After the Boston Tea Party, the British navy retaliated by blockading the port. Other colonies responded with sympathetic prayer and action. On May 24, 1774, Nicholas, Treasurer of the House of Burgesses in Virginia, was prompted by Thomas Jefferson and others to propose a “Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer,” that was swiftly approved:
“This House, being deeply impressed with apprehension of the great dangers to be derived to British America from the hostile invasion of the city of Boston in our Sister Colony of Massachusetts Bay, whose commerce and harbor are, on the first day of June next, to be stopped by an armed force, deem it highly necessary that the said first day of June be set apart, by the members of this House, as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer, devoutly to implore the Divine interposition, for averting the heavy calamity which threatens destruction to our civil rights and the evils of civil war; to give us one heart and mind firmly opposed, by all just and proper means, every injury to American rights; and that the minds of His Majesty and his Parliament, may be inspired from above with wisdom, moderation and justice, to remove from the loyal people of America all cause of danger from a continued pursuit of measures pregnant with their ruin.”
When word got out, the Royal Governor Dunmore was enraged, seeing this proclamation as disrespectful toward the King. As a result, he disbanded the House of Burgesses. That move prompted some members to meet and plan the first of five Virginia Conventions, which paved the way for a Continental Congress. Yet it was Robert Carter Nicholas’ call for a “Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer” that set everything in motion, and that is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Joel 1:14 and reflect on the call for a fast in the house of God and compare that with the call for a day of fasting which was observed by the House of Burgesses, including several Founding Fathers, at Bruton Parish Church on June 1, 1774.
Prayer: Father, how we need for our leaders to sense the urgency of the hour and the desperate need to call the people of this land to fast and pray! We ask that you would move on the hearts of our leaders to make such a call, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: John P. Kennedy, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia 1773-76, (Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1913), 124.
“[T]o the manifest interposition of an overruling Providence and to the patriotic exertions of United America, are to be ascribed those events, which have given us a respectable rank among the nations of the earth.
“We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened Age, and in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.
“Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities taste those blessings, which a gracious God bestows upon the righteous.”*
President Washington not only claimed that God’s Providential intervention led to American Exceptionalism but also that religious liberty is a mark of America’s greatness, and that is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 116:5 and reflect on the description of the character and nature of God and compare that with the same in President Washington’s letter.
Prayer: Gracious are you, O LORD. You are righteous and merciful. We are grateful for your overruling Providence and the patriotic exertions that won our freedom. May we live lives worthy of your grace and the efforts of our forefathers, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Jared Sparks, ed., The Writings of George Washington: Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and Other Papers, Official and Private, Selected and Published from the Original Manuscripts, with a Life of the Author, 12 vols. (Boston: American Stationer’s Company, 1837), 12:202.
“We are a nation under God. I’ve always believed that this blessed land was set apart in a special way, that some divine plan placed this great continent here between the oceans to be found by a people from every corner of the earth who have a special love for freedom and the courage to uproot themselves, leave homeland and friends, to come to a strange land. And coming here they created something new in all the history of mankind – a land where man is not beholden to government; government is beholden to man.
“George Washington believed that religion, morality, and brotherhood were the pillars of society. He said you couldn’t have morality without religion. And yet today we’re told that to protect the First Amendment we must expel God, the source of all knowledge, from our children’s classrooms. Well, pardon me, but the First Amendment was not written to protect the American people from religion; the First Amendment was written to protect the American people from government tyranny….
“We can make America stronger not just economically and militarily, but also morally and spiritually. We can make our beloved country the source of all the dreams and opportunities she was placed on this good earth to provide. We need only to believe in each other and in the God who has so blessed our land…
‘May God keep you always, and may you always keep God.’”*
President Reagan’s speech, given the day after his State of the Union Address, had an economic theme, yet included a strong argument to trust in God and embrace the twin pillars of religion and morality advocated by George Washington. Reagan’s speech is another lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Deuteronomy 11:8-12 and reflect on the description of the promised land and compare that to President Reagan’s speech.
Prayer: Father, we thank you for this blessed land that you have set apart by your divine plan to be found by people who have a love for freedom , in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: David R. Shepherd, Ronald Reagan: In God We Trust (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1984), 138-139. See the full speech here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzazVguX_1I. He begins the spiritual part at 21 minutes into the speech.