Our written history has proven that it was purely the influence of the Christian pastors and their teaching the true principles of God that gave us our unmatched educational system, our governmental system that is second to none other in the history of the world and even our free market economic system that has produced more wealth than any other form of government in the history of the world.
That influence today is ignored and even chastised.
Most of the colleges and universities are bastions of liberal anti-God, anti-America, anti-free market economics teaching. Many of our freedoms we can no longer enjoy. Too many of our pastors today do not even believe the Word of God. A few days before the writing of this chapter I was at our State Capitol testifying in opposition to a civil union bill for specifically designed for the gay community. At that hearing four so-called ministers of the gospel testified in favor of the bill. All of them stating that same-sex ‘marriage’ would not violate the Word of God. I personally blame the pastors of the last 50-75 years for not keeping the truth of God’s Word before the eyes of the people. Because the pastors did not stay diligent, the people have not been diligent. It has come to a point where the pastors of today must reclaim the position that they once had. Not many pastors today even know how important their role was in the early years of America. The leader of the Second Great awakening, Reverend Charles Finney reminded the pastors of his day:
Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.1 (Emphasis added)
America once again needs the type of courageous ministers described by Bishop Galloway:
Mighty men they were, of iron nerve and strong hand and unblanched cheek and heart of flame. God needed not reeds shaken by the wind, not men clothed in soft raiment [Matthew 11:7-8], but heroes of hardihood and lofty courage. . . .And such were the sons of the mighty who responded to the Divine call.2
I would like to talk about a few of the pastors of early America and the Founding era. We need to know about these great men of God. Most have been lost to our history as none of our schools will teach about them anymore. We do not teach about many of the Founders in today’s schools and the separation of church and state does not allow any religious content which means none of the pastors would be taught about at all. But these men must be remembered and their story told so that our youth will always remember how great and important the men of God were in the establishing of this great nation.
Jacob Duche; born in Philadelphia, in 1737; educated at the University of Pennsylvania; and became an eloquent Episcopalian. A descendant of a Huguenot, he naturally loved freedom. He was invited by the Continental Congress of 1774 to open their proceedings with prayer. In 1775 he became rector of Christ Church, and espoused the patriot cause. On July 9, 1776 The Reverend Duche was appointed chaplain of Congress and within a few days he offered this prayer:
O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings and Lord of lords . . . over all the kingdoms, empires, and governments; look down in mercy, we beseech thee, on these American States who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor, and thrown themselves on thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on thee; to thee they have appealed for the righteousness of their cause; to thee do they now look up for that countenance and support which thou alone canst give; take them, therefore, heavenly Father, under thy nurturing care; give them wisdom in council, and valor in the field; defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries; convince them of the unrighteousness of their cause. . . . All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, and our Savior, Amen!3
Reverend Duche also was asked to pray before the start of the September 7, 1774 session of Congress at Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia. His prayer was so moving that many members wrote about it as “it was worth riding one hundred miles to hear”4
Samuel Cooper: Was a graduate of Harvard in 1743 and was ordained in 1746. He was pastor of the Brattle Street Church from 1747 until 1783. Many of the American Revolutions most influential men were members of his parish, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren, John Adams and John Hancock along with many others.
In 1780 he co-founded the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Between 1758 thru 1770 and again from 1777 thru 1783 he was the chaplain of the General Court.
John Adams referred to Reverend Cooper as one of ‘Two of the characters . . . most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential” in “an awakening and revival of American principles and feelings . . . in 1775.”5
Ezra Stiles: Congregationalist minister, graduate of Yale in 1746, ordained in 1749, pastor of the Second Congregational Church in Newport, Rhode Island from 1755 until 1777. In 1764, Stiles played an influential role in the establishment of the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (the original name for Brown University) by contributing substantially to the drafting of its charter and by serving with thirty-five others – including Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery, Samuel Ward, the Reverend John Gano, the Reverend Isaac Backus, the Reverend Samuel Stillman, and the Reverend James Manning – as a founding fellow or trustee.
On May 8, 1783 while President of Yale he gave an Election Address entitled “The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor,” before the Governor and General Assembly of the State of Connecticut. In that message he stated:
Our system of dominion civil polity would be imperfect without the true religion; or that from the diffusion of virtue among the people of any community, would arise their greatest secular happiness: which would terminate in this conclusion, that holiness ought to be the end of all civil government. “That thou mayest be a holy people unto the Lord thy God.”6
John Witherspoon: In 1743 he became a Presbyterian Minister at a parish in Beith [England]. It was in Beith where he married, wrote three noted works on theology. Because of his extraordinary skills as a theologian he was later awarded a Doctorate of Divinity from the University of St. Andrews.
It was only through a protracted effort on the part of several eminent Americans, including Richard Stockton and Benjamin Rush, that the colonies were able to acquire his service. In colonial America, the best educated men were often found in the clergy.
While he at first he did not want any involvement in political concerns, he came to support the revolutionary cause, accepting appointment to the committees of correspondence and safety in early 1776. Later that year he was elected to the Continental Congress in time to vote for R. H. Lee’s Resolution for Independence. He voted in favor, and shortly after voted for the Declaration of Independence. He made a notable comment on that occasion; in reply to another member who argued that the country was not yet ripe for such a declaration, that in his opinion it “was not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it.”
His influence on American politics and government via his emphasis on Biblical principles reverberated through the Colonies through his many students some of which were:
A President, Vice-President, three Supreme Court Justices, ten Cabinet members, twelve governors, twenty-one Senators, thirty-nine Representatives, as well as numerous delegates to the Constitutional Convention and state leaders. His numerous students included leaders such as, Gunning Bedford of Delaware, David Brearly of New Jersey, and James Madison, who served eight years and Secretary of State and eight years as President of the United States.7
Witherspoon was very strong on his belief that it was only for moral men to be placed in authority over the people. He was just one of many that warned against being lax in choosing Godly men. He warned:
Those who wish well to the State ought to choose to places of trust men of inward principle, justified by exemplary conversation. Is it reasonable to expect wisdom from the ignorant? fidelity [faithfulness] from the profligate [unfaithful]? assiduity [diligence] and application to public business from men of a dissipated [careless] Is it reasonable to commit the management of public revenue to one who hath wasted his own patrimony [inheritance]? Those, therefore, who pay no regard to religion and sobriety in the persons whom they send to the legislature of any State are guilty of the greatest absurdity and will soon pay dear for their folly.8 (Emphasis added)
He also stated:
The people in general ought to have regard to the moral character of those whom they invest with authority either in the legislative, executive, or judicial branches.9
The evidence that we have not heeded his warning is in the news every day. We have elected corrupt politicians who have appointed corrupt justices [Justices] and we are paying dearly for it with the loss of many of our rights and liberties and freedoms that our Founding Fathers paid dearly for. I believe that our Founders would not recognize America today because of the abrupt departure from their type of government that was established at the end of the Revolutionary War. Again, I blame most of that loss on those in the pulpit for the last 50-75 years. It is a shame that the group of people that gave us the freedoms that we used to have was the same group that has let them slip through their fingers. Pastors! Arise!
- The Christian Treasury Containing Contributions from Ministers and Members of Various Evangelical Denominations (Edinburgh: Johnstone, Hunter and Co., 1877), p. 203.
- Charles B. Galloway, Christianity and the American Commonwealth (Nashville, TN: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, 1898), p. 77.
- James Thatcher, A Military Journal, (Boston: Richardson and Lord, 1823), p. 143. See also 17 F. Morris, Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864), p. 213.
- Silas Deane, The Deane Papers, Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1886 (New York: Printed for the Society, 1887), Vol. I, p. 20, Wednesday, September 7, 1774.
- John Adams, The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850), Vol. X, p. 284, to Hezekiah Niles on February 13, 1818.
- Ezra Stiles. May 8, 1783, in an election sermon entitled The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor, delivered before the Governor and the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut.
- John Witherspoon. 1768-1794. Martha Lou Lemmon Stohlman, John Witherspoon: Parson, Politician, Patriot (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1897), p. 172.
- John Witherspoon, The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William W. Woodard, !802), Vol. IV, pp. 266-267, from “A Sermon Delivered at a Public Thanksgiving After Peace.”
- 8 John Witherspoon, The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon (Philadelphia: William W. Woodard, !802), Vol. IV, p. 267, from “A Sermon Delivered at a Public Thanksgiving After Peace.”