In a sermon preached on April 25, 1799, the National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer proclaimed by President John Adams, the Rev. Dr. Jedidiah Morse, Pastor of the Congregational Church in Charlestown, Massachusetts, declared:
“To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism…
“I hold this to be a truth confirmed by experience. If so, it follows, that all efforts to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness…
“Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.”*
In addition to serving as a pastor, Morse was a pioneer educator and geographer. Morse, whom some call the “Father of American Geography,” was also the father of Samuel F.B. Morse, the inventor of the Telegraph and the Morse Code. In addition, the elder Morse helped found the New England Tract Society (1814) and the American Bible Society (1816). However, it was Rev. Morse’s April 25, 1799 sermon connecting the proportion of our adherence to Christianity with the proportion of our freedom that is a lost episode in American history.
Read and Reflect: Read Psalm 11:3 and reflect on the Psalmist’s assertion and compare that with Rev. Morse’s message.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for America’s Christian heritage that provided the firm basis for our civil and religious freedoms. Awaken your people to help shore up that crumbling foundation in this our day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
*Source Citation: Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America: Delivered at Charlestown, April 25, 1799, the Day of the National Fast (Hartford: Hudson and Goodwin, 1799), 9.