Pastor Delivers Sermon to Congress

by Don Harkins

BOSTON, 1776--Pastor Samuel West gave an election day sermon today before the Council and House of Representatives. The powerful 90-minute sermon was a rousing, biblically-laden oration which extolled the responsibilities of Christians to fight back against tyranny, as tyranny and oppression are anathema to Godís law. According to Pastor West, oppression and tyranny are nothing more than the evils of greed being realized through the plunder of the citizenry through corrupt and perverted laws.
Pastor West cautioned that it is also the responsibility of Christians to "fight the good fight," and to support and obey "good government."
The impassioned man of God opened his sermon by saying, "The great Creator, having designed the human race for society, has made us dependent on one another for happiness. He has so constituted us that it becomes both our duty and interest to seek the public good; and that we may be the more firmly engaged to promote each otherís welfare, the Deity has endowed us with tender and social affections, with generous and benevolent principles; hence the pain that we feel in seeing an object of distress; hence the satisfaction that arises in relieving the afflictions, and the superior pleasure which we experience in communicating happiness to the miserable.
"The Deity has also invested us with moral powers and faculties, by which we are enabled to discern the difference between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil: hence the approbation of mind that arises upon doing a good action, and the remorse of conscience which we experience when we counteract the moral sense and do that which is evil. This proves that, in what is commonly called a state of nature, we are the subjects of the divine law and government; that the Deity is our supreme magistrate, who has written his law in our hearts, and will reward or punish us according as we obey or disobey his commands.
"Had the human race uniformly persevered in a state of moral rectitude, there would have been little or no need of any other law besides that which is written in the heart for every one in such a state would be a law unto himself.
"There could be no occasion for enacting or enforcing of penal laws; for such are not made for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly, and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men-stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to moral rectitude and the happiness of mankind. The necessity of forming ourselves into politic bodies, and granting to our rulers a power to enact laws for the public safety, and to enforce them by proper penalties, arises from our being in a fallen and degenerate state.
"The slightest view of the present state and condition of the human race is abundantly sufficient to convince any person of common sense and common honesty that civil government is absolutely necessary for the peace and safety of mankind; and, consequently, that all good magistrates, while they faithfully discharge the trust reposed in them, ought to be religiously and conscientiously obeyed. An enemy to good government is an enemy not only to his country, but to all mankind; for he plainly shows himself to be divested of those tender and social sentiments which are characteristic of a human temper, even of that generous and benevolent disposition which is the peculiar glory of a rational creature. An enemy to good government has degraded himself below the rank and dignity of a man, and deserves too be classed with the lower creation. Hence we find that wise and good men, of all nations and religions, have ever inculcated subjection to good government, and have borne their testimony against the licentious disturbers of the public peace."
Pastor West believes that if men would unilaterally behave in accordance with Godís law, we would have no need for the laws of men. Since all men will not obey Godís law, we must have laws of men to punish men who refuse to obey Godís law, which, socially, means being a decent and compassionate human being. Good government is government which demands that people obey the fundamental laws of decency which can be found in the Ten Commandments.
The pastor eloquently stated his belief that it is a Christianís duty to obey good government as long as it is behaving as good government and quoted passages from the Bible to substantiate his opinions.
"Nor has Christianity been deficient in this capital point. We find our blessed Saviour directing the Jews to render to Caesar the things that were Caesarís; and the apostles and the first preachers of the gospel not only exhibited a good example of subjection to the magistrate, in all things that were just and lawful, but they have also, in several places in the New Testament, strongly enjoined upon Christians the duty of submission to that government under which Providence had placed them. Hence we find that those who despise government, and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities, are, by the apostles Peter and Jude, classed among those presumptuous, self-willed sinners that are reserved to the judgment of the great day.
"And the apostle Paul judged submission to civil government to be a matter of such great importance, that he thought it worth his while to charge Titus to put his hearers in mind to be submissive to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work; as much as to say, none can be ready to every good work, or be properly disposed to perform those actions that tend to promote the public good, who do not obey magistrates, and who do not become good subjects of civil government. If, then, obedience to the civil magistrates is so essential to the character of a Christian, that without it he cannot be disposed to perform those good works that are necessary for the welfare of mankind if the despisers of governments are those presumptuous, self-willed sinners who are reserved to the judgment of the great day it is certainly a matter of the utmost importance to us all to be thoroughly acquainted with the nature and extent of our duty, that we may yield the obedience required; for it is impossible that we should properly discharge a duty when we are strangers to the nature and extent of it."
The true purpose of his sermon, in light of increasing tensions between the British and the Colonials, is the inescapable conclusion that, according to the Bible, Godís law and those things which define the parameters of good government, the government of King George III is no longer a good government. In fact, just as it is the responsibility of Christians to obey and support good government which honors Godís laws, it is likewise the responsibility of Christians to oppose and condemn bad government because any government which is not compelling men to obey Godís law is government that is allowing a few men to pervert Godís law at the expense of the citizenry.
"But while we are nobly opposing with our lives and estates the tyranny of the British Parliament, let us not forget the duty which we owe to our lawful magistrates; let us never mistake licentiousness for liberty. The more we understand the principles of liberty, the more readily shall we yield obedience to lawful authority; for no man can oppose good government but he that is a stranger to true liberty.
"There is at present the utmost need of guarding ourselves against a seditious and factious temper; for when we are engaged with so powerful an enemy from without, our political salvation, under God, does, in an eminent manner, depend upon our being firmly united together in the bonds of love to one another, and of due submission to lawful authority.
"I hope we shall never give any just occasion to our adversaries to reproach us as being men of turbulent dispositions and licentious principles, that cannot bear to be restrained by good and wholesome laws, even though they are of our own making, nor submit to rulers of our own choosing.
"But I have reason to hope much better things of my countrymen, though I thus speak.
"However, in this time of difficulty and distress, we cannot be too much guarded against the least approaches to discord and faction. Let us, while we are jealous of our rights, take heed of unreasonable suspicions and evil surmises which have no proper foundation; let us take heed lest we hurt the cause of liberty by speaking evil of the ruler of the people."
As a man of God who believes in the inalienable right bestowed upon all men by their Creator to have the right to life, liberty and happiness, he seemed to understand that to rise in arms against the government is not something to be taken lightly. It is only after attempting to redress grievances and make government see the errors of its ways that Christians should attempt to abolish their government which has become bad, and attempt, with force if necessary, to replace it with good government. He also noted that it is a tendency of men to idolize the corrupt.
"In order to avoid this evil (becoming bad government), I hope our legislators will always despise flattery as something below the dignity of a rational mind, and that they will ever scorn the man that will be corrupted or take a bribe. And let us all resolve with ourselves that no motives of interest, nor hopes of preferment shall ever induce us to act the part of fawning courtiers towards men in power. Let the honor and respect which we show our superiors be true and genuine, flowing from a sincere and upright heart.
"The honors that have been paid to arbitrary princes have often been very hypocritical and insincere. Tyrants have been flattered in their vices, and have often had an idolatrous reverence paid them. The worst princes have been the most flattered and adored; and many such, in the pagan world, assumed the title of gods, and had divine honors paid them. This idolatrous reverence has ever been the inseparable concomitant of arbitrary power and tyrannical government; for even Christian princes, if they have not been adored under the character of gods, yet the titles given them strongly savor of blasphemy, and the reverence paid them is really idolatrous.
"Does it not, then, highly concern us all to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Heaven hath made us free, and to strive to get the victory over the beast and his image over every species of tyranny? Let us look upon a freedom from the power of tyrants as a blessing that cannot be purchased too dear, and let us bless God that he has so far delivered us from that idolatrous reverence which men are so very apt to pay to arbitrary tyrants; and let us pray that he would be pleased graciously to perfect the mercy he has begun to show us by confounding the devices of our enemies and bringing their counsels to nought, and by establishing our just rights and privileges upon such a firm and lasting basis that the powers of earth and hell shall not prevail against it."
The assembly listened intently. One could sense that, not only was the ministerís message being well-received, it was truth, and that all men in the room knew it and were inflamed with a passion to lead the citizens through the period of time it would take to relieve the Colonists of the evil and oppressive government that was perverting Godís law for the purpose of plundering common people.
Nearly all the of the men in the room also appeared resolute in their intentions to be ministers of good government so that our new nation would be a nation of laws which reflected all of the inalienable rights the Creator intended for his children. Pastor West prayed that the men in that room listening to his sermon of truth would indeed be ministers of good government.
"You will have the fervent wishes and prayers of all good men that God would crown all your labors with success, and direct you into such measures as shall tend to promote the welfare and happiness of the community, and afford you all that wisdom and prudence which is necessary to regulate the affairs of state at this critical period.
"Honored fathers of the House of Representatives: We trust to your wisdom and goodness that you will be led to appoint such men to be in council whom you know to be men of real principle, and who are of unblemished lives; that have shown themselves zealous and hearty friends to the liberties of America; and men that have the fear of God before their eyes; for such only are men that can be depended upon uniformly to pursue the general good."
In closing, Pastor West reiterated that, we must give unto Caesar what is Caesarís, but we must first be certain that Caesar is doing Godís work. If he is not doing Godís work, we must fight him, for God wants us to be free.
"My reverend fathers and brethren in the ministry will remember that, according to our text, it is part of the work and business of a gospel minister to teach his hearers the duty they owe to magistrates. Let us, then, endeavor to explain the nature of their duty faithfully, and show them the difference between liberty and licentiousness; and, while we are animating them to oppose tyranny and arbitrary power, let us inculcate upon them the duty of yielding due obedience to lawful authority. In order to the right and faithful discharge of this part of our ministry, it is necessary that we should thoroughly study the law of nature, the rights of mankind, and the reciprocal duties of governors and governed. By this means we shall be able to guard them against the extremes of slavish submission to tyrants on one hand, and of sedition and licentiousness on the other. We may, I apprehend, attain a thorough acquaintance with the law of nature and the rights of mankind, while we remain ignorant of many technical terms of law, and are utterly unacquainted with the obscure and barbarous Latin that was so much used in the ages of popish darkness and superstition.
"To conclude: While we are fighting for liberty, and striving against tyranny, let us remember to fight the good fight of faith, and earnestly seek to be delivered from that bondage of corruption which we are brought into by sin, and that we may be made partakers of the glorious liberty of the sons and children of God: which may the Father of Mercies grant us all, through Jesus Christ. AMEN."