The Pulpit and the Patriots; The Influence of Calvin, the Puritans, and the Pulpit in the American Revolution

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ETH7260 The Pulpit and the Patriots – The Influence of Calvin, The Puritans, and the Pulpit in the American Revolution


When the question is given, ‘whose political writings most influenced the Founding Fathers’, the usual names are to be expected: The Enlightenment thinkers Voltaire and Hume, the Social Contract theorists Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau, or perhaps the classics of political thought, Plato and Aristotle. Having studied at a secular public university, and having focused in political theory, I would be tempted to respond in a similar fashion.[1] In an effort to find an answer to this question, it would make sense to look to whom the Fathers themselves cited most, and conclude these individuals would have been most influential. It then came to me as an utter shock to find out that professors Donald S. Lutz and Charles S. Hyneman, after reviewing over 15,000 items with explicitly political content, identified 3,154 references to other sources, and concluded that “The source most often cited by the founding fathers was the Bible, which accounted for 34 percent of all citations.”[2] Not only did that produce some serious interest, but I also came to discover that the most cited thinker regarding explicitly political material was none other then Paul the Apostle![3] As for the individuals whom I thought would be most influential, Locke was ranked fourth with 2.9% of the citations, Hobbes ranked thirteenth with 1.0%, Rousseau ranked sixteenth with 0.9%, Plato ranked twenty-sixth with 0.5%, and Machiavelli ranked twenty-ninth with 0.5%. This produced within me some serious questions, namely, why was I never taught this before? Why had this influence been so fully ignored?

Perhaps it was the simple fact that I had attended a secular university, and both a fear of what composes a separation of church and state in a public university, and a society quick to file lawsuits. From my memory, the American Revolution had been a rather secular affair, and the only real mention of religion it received was on the influence of Deism.[4] How then could the distinguished German historian, Leopold von Ranke, claim “John Calvin was the virtual founder of America”?[5] I had studied Calvin and other Christian thinkers, as well as their musings on political theory, but the connection was never drawn for me. Nor had any connection been drawn between the influence of the Puritans and the American Revolution. They were simply the guys who burned witches. This prompted me to engage in research on the subject, and the results were surprising. From the nation’s founding documents, to its Founding Fathers, there exists an observable and significant influence in the form of Calvin, the Puritans, and the Pulpit.[6] This paper shall recognize this influence by examining key Calvinist and Puritan contributions to the American Revolution, as well as the role six pulpit patriots served in both the nation’s independence and its governmental formation.

Calvin and His Influence

In an effort to survey both the role and influence made by American preachers at the pulpit, one must first go about tracing substantial influences that shaped both the conflict and its revolutionary response.[7] Given that much academic attention has nearly been exclusively fixed upon the secular influences of the time, this paper will move towards observing two key streams of Christian thought that had heavy influence. As Page Smith notes in his work, Religious Origins of the American Revolution, “The American Revolution … received a substantial part of its theological and philosophical underpinnings from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and much of its social theory from the Puritan Revolution of 1640-1660″[8] Of these two influences, Calvinism and Puritanism, attention will be placed on specific contributions that would both influence key Revolutionary thinkers, and blossom into the tone and actions of various Revolutionary Preachers. Such a treatment must begin with the most influential; given there would be no Puritanism without a Calvin. Of him, historians are not shy in expressing the essential influence he had on American society.

The historian E. W. Smith would argue, “these revolutionary principles of republican liberty and self-government, taught and embodied in the system of Calvin, were brought to America … The vital relation of Calvin and Calvinism to the founding of the free institutions of America … is recognized and affirmed by historians of all lands and creeds.”[9] George Bancroft, a leading historian of the 19th century, confirms their sentiment, stating that “He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.”[10] Various honored historians and scholars continue to affirm the admissions of Smith and Bancroft regarding Calvin’s influential role. As Dr. Loraine Boettner notes, putting this claimed influence into numbers, there were 3,000,000 Americans during the American Revolution, including about “two-thirds of the colonial population [who] had been trained in the school of Calvin.”[11]

Calvin’s Key Contributions: Total Depravity and Human Nature

The question before us remains: with such grand statements of influence made, what exactly were these contributions by Calvin? Clearly we can see how a political document, such as Locke’s Second Treatise, can have a direct influence on the Constitution and its prior Revolution, but what of the systematic theology of Calvin? In him we inherit a worldview, which pervaded the minds and writings of Americans, as hinted by the earlier mentioned statistic. We will observe three elements of this worldview, which contributed greatly to the American experience: Calvin’s view of human nature, covenant theology, and limited government. One must not, in analyzing the role Christianity played in the revolution, deny the real existence of a worldview.  How such a worldview perceives human nature is essential to the construction of a political system. Given the importance of worldview in regards to human nature, and the response then given by the form of government, we begin with this essential element. Page Smith, in Religious Origins of the American Revolution, explains Calvin’s influence regarding man’s natural depravity:

Calvin’s conception of human depravity … underlay the thinking of most of those Americans responsible for framing the Federal Constitution and establishing a new nation as well as the thinking of their constituents. The rationale of the theorists of the French Revolution for popular government, on the other hand, was based on the idea of the natural goodness of man uncorrupted by decadent institutions and a superstitious church.[12]

It then follows that, given Calvin’s admission of man’s wicked and fallen status, that he would desire a government which provided a check against both individual and groups. On the contrary, the French revolution provided full authority within the hands of the people, on the assumption of the goodness presented in such political theorists as Rousseau.[13] John Eidsmoe confirms this influence, arguing, “The founders of this nation held this view of human nature and were not interested in the utopian schemes of the French freethinkers … They designed a government with this human nature in mind.”[14] As we will later acknowledge, this was seen in both the restraints placed upon the passions of the mob, and the checks upon rulers against tyranny.[15]

Calvin’s Key Contributions: Covenant Theology

In addition to the influence human depravity had pertaining the American worldview, a second major contribution of Calvin was his view regarding Covenant Theology. This is the view that God established two covenants with man, one regarding law and the other regarding grace. “The covenant of law consists of God’s revelation of the Old Testament law, the Ten Commandments, and man’s promise to obey it; the covenant of grace is God’s promise of redemption through man’s faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.”[16] We see the influence this doctrine held with the Calvinist attempts to apply these covenant concepts to their civil government. One such case with an impressive line of influence is Rev. Samuel Rutherford. Working upon covenant theory, Rutherford argued in his classic, Lex, Rex,

That rulers derive authority from God, as declared in Romans 13:1-4 and other passages of Scripture. But God gives this authority to rulers through the people. The people establish a form of government and choose a particular man to be their ruler, [and] the ruler then acts under the direction of God.[17]

Rutherford argues the point upon passages contained in II Samuel 16:18, Judges 8:22, Judges 9:6, II Kings 14:21, I Samuel 12:1 and II Chronicles 23:3. The Calvinist idea of Covenant Theology can then be traced through Rutherford into more recognizable and secular influences.  In Locke we find a social contract where man, in his natural state, forms a government to avoid the sin of aggressors in the state of nature. As Eidsmoe points out, “Locke, a Puritan by background, based his political theories on Rutherford’s Lex Rex.”[18] In addition, we can find a direct expression in the Constitution’s preamble: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union … do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”[19] As will be later noted, Covenant Theology was quite influential in the Covenant pacts of the Puritans, as well as the preaching of the 18th century.

Calvin’s Key Influences: Limited Government

One final and major area, which influenced the justification of revolution, is found within Calvin’s treatment on the limitations of government. The concept of limited government, along with those of the earlier mentioned contract and separation of powers, is essential to American Constitutionalism and revolution justification. As stated earlier, Calvinist teaching heavily influenced American society. As such, most in positions of power would be quite familiar with Romans 13, and its treatment on the subject of Christians and rebelling against the government. This brings about the dilemma of addressing the Christians role upon the rise of a tyrannical government. Is the Christian not to rebel, and continue honoring the tyrant? It is here Calvin provided a major intellectual gift regarding how the founding fathers were to approach the yoke of British tyranny. Calvin provides various examples of God raising up “open avengers from among his servants,”[20] arming them “with his command to punish the wicked government and deliver his people, oppressed in unjust ways, from miserable calamity.”[21] Such examples include the work of Moses to remove Israel from the tyranny of Pharaoh in Exodus 3:7-10, and the work of Othniel to rescue them from the violence of the Syrian king Chusan in Judges 3:9.

For the first king of men, when they had been sent by God’s lawful calling to carry out such acts, in taking up arms against kings, did not violate that majesty which implanted in kings by God’s ordination; but, armed from heaven, they subdued the lesser power with the greater, just as it is lawful for kings to punish their subordinates.[22]

Calvin continues:

I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of kings, that, if they wink at kings who violently fall upon and assault the lowly common folk, I declare that their dissimulation involves nefarious perfidy, because they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they know that they have been appointed protectors by God’s ordinance.[23]

In addition to the issues of total depravity, covenant theology, and limited government, Calvin had offered many other important contributions, which, in the effort of brevity, are not included in this paper. However several of these will come to surface while analyzing the influence of the Puritans. It is to the puritans and their contributions we now turn. Much can be said regarding the other major protestant traditions and their influence, however in the effort to remain focused on the major worldview persisting at the time, it would make most sense to continue to follow the stream initiated by Calvin. With the Puritans arrive the American workings and customization of Calvinism. Acknowledging that Puritans prescribed to the above-mentioned contributions of Calvin, this paper will focus on two contributions by American Puritans that contributed to both the worldview of Americans at the founding, as well as to themes that would encourage Christians and the Pulpit to actively participate in the American Revolution.

Puritan’s Key Influences: Postmillennialism

The first contribution to be discussed is the Puritan perspective of postmillennialism. This view on eschatology argued that there would be a golden reign of the kingdom of God that would last upon the earth for about 1,000 years. The Puritans believed that “God was working to bring about conditions conducive to Christ’s return,”[24] and that “God was using New England to lead the revival which would bring about the millennium.”[25] This is an interesting divergence from Calvin, given he supported a view more amillennial in nature. In his work, “The Latter-Day Glory Is Probably to Begin in America,” Jonathan Edwards expresses this postmillennial view:

And if we may suppose that this glorious work of God shall begin in any part of America, I think, if we could consider the circumstances of the settlement of New England, it must needs appear the most likely, of all American colonies, to be the place whence this work shall principally take its rise.[26]

Jonathan Edwards hints towards the influence this Puritan adaption would have regarding the Pulpit and the Revolution: Namely, that the view of New England’s status in relation to the postmillennial kingdom would add meaning to current historical and political events, such as the tyranny of Parliament and a need to overcome such evil forces. This notion of a privileged status, seen in the pulpit language of comparisons to being a ‘new Israel’, would be ignited by the conditions of revolution, thus motivating the people into action.

Puritan’s Key Influences: The Fear of Power

A second major theme to have been adopted by the Puritans from their Calvinist heritage, and having contributed widely to the early American experience, is the perspective Puritans had regarding power. Building upon their understanding of human depravity, Puritans believed “Power had a corrupting influence and could be used to oppress others. For this reason, the authority of their rulers was carefully monitored.”[27] John Eliot expresses this point in Massachusetts Historical Collections, where he argues that, “It is necessary therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited … it is counted a matter of danger to the State to limit Prerogatives; but it is a further danger, not to have them limited.”[28] This fear of power, as made evident in the organization of power among Puritans, naturally led to a distrust of democratic majorities. Clearly here is seen the earlier mentioned depravity of man, as well as a foreseeable powder keg regarding the situation of an oppressive English Parliament. The combined influence of postmillennialism and the fear of power among puritans would lead to a passionate and purpose-minded activity in opposition to British aggression. However there is one final observation to be made regarding Puritanism and its relation to prepping the revolutionary spirit.

Puritanism and Republicanism

Although secular forces behind the revolution will mostly remain absent in this paper, one is worth mentioning for its openness and similarity to Puritanism. The force of republicanism leading up to the revolution was quite influential among both English and American experiences. Republicanism is defined as “the conviction that power defined the political process and that unchecked power led to corruption even as corruption fostered unchecked power.”[29] Immediately we see a similarity between republicanism and the Calvinist tradition of man’s depravity and the Puritan’s fear of power. In his work on the correlation between religion and American history, One Nation Under God?, Mark Noll makes the following observation: “Republicanism was critical for the relation of religion and politics in the Revolutionary era, because the beliefs of American Christians paralleled republican principles in many particulars.”[30] Where Puritan’s worried of the depraved tendency to act in accordance to one’s passions as based upon Adam’s fall, republicans spoke of the danger of man’s natural tendency to abuse the powers of authority.[31] In addition to depravity and abuse of power, “Puritans and republicans also defined virtue, freedom, and social well-being in very similar terms … With their similar views on virtue, freedom, and social well-being, it is not surprising that republican and Christian points of view began to merge during the Revolution.”[32]

Puritanism and Society

In charting some major contributions to the American Christian worldview through the stream of Calvinist tradition, as seen in Calvin’s teachings on man’s depravity, covenant theology, and limited government, an influential force is seen which will later directly and indirectly influence the Revolution and its Founding Fathers. In addition to acknowledging major influences Calvinism offered to the American worldview, this paper has overviewed two contributions by Puritans, which will later motivate preachers and laity alike to patriotically participate in the revolution. In addition various similarities between Puritanism and Republicanism were noted, wedding the two alongside one another as they both approach the problem confronting the revolutionaries: unchecked tyrannical power. The theological and philosophical focus of Calvin has thus given way to the more practical experience of the Puritans, and it is from then we arrive at our geographical area of interest: New England. It is here where most of the activity in support of American independence, as proclaimed from the pulpit, occurs. With the Calvinist tradition and its contributions established, a bridge is now made towards analyzing and understanding the forces behind the Pulpit and it’s preaching, and it is in this direction we turn:

Puritanism created the center out of which New England society lived … As history unfolded, New Englanders gradually brought these peripheral elements under heavy attack from the center itself so that Crown and Parliament were viewed as detrimental to the central values of covenant, consent, the rule of fundamental law, the structure of New England’s organic society, and the liberties of its inhabitants. Thus Puritanism was a major force in engendering a revolution in attitude toward Crown and Parliament.[33]

The Pulpit and the American Revolution: Major Themes

Regarding the role the Pulpit played during the Revolution; we can find wide acknowledgment among scholars. Hinting earlier the central role the New England Pulpit would have, Mark Noll argues in his work, One Nation Under God? that,

As war approached many of them [New England Preachers] cast the conflict with Great Britain in cosmic terms. God has called his people to religious and political freedom in the New World; certainly he would now sustain them as they fought off the tyrannical effort by Parliament to destroy it.[34]

These New England pastors played a diverse role. Some were seen preaching sermons to militias before heading off to war. Others served as chaplains, and others still joined “informal committees of correspondence that preceded the formation of the new state governments.”[35] Alice Baldwin, whose family produced a lineage of such New England Congregationalist preachers, after a lengthy analysis of the time and its ministers, concludes that they were essential to dispersing a constitutional mind-frame regarding God and His natural laws among the People, that “God ruled over men by a divine constitution.”[36] She then concludes:

The alliance of the ministers with the leaders of the agitation against England was one reason for its success … No clever lawyer, no radical mechanic gave more warmth and color to the cause than did some of these reverend divines … Resistance thus became a sacred duty to a people who still were, on the whole, a religious people.[37]

Summarizing the influence Christianity and its members had upon the Revolution, historian Patricia Bonomi states:

Religious doctrine and rhetoric, then, contributed in a fundamental way to the coming of the American Revolution and to its final success. In an age of political moderation, when many colonials hesitated at the brink of civil war, patriotic clergymen told their congregations that failure to oppose British tyranny would be an offense in the sight of Heaven. Where political theory advised caution, religious doctrine demanded action. By turning Colonial resistance into a righteous cause, and by crying the message to all ranks in all parts of the colonies, ministers did the work of secular radicalism and did it better: they resolved doubts, overcame inertia, fired the heart, and exalted the soul.[38]

The call in the Pulpits to resist English tyranny became a primary factor in mobilizing the masses against passiveness and neutrality, and into action. The theological themes of Calvin shaped these Revolutionaries’ worldviews, while the earlier mentioned Puritan contributions of postmillennialism and a fear of power gave divine reasons to promote a spiritual justification for Revolution, painting England and the struggle in cosmic terms. The battle was shaped at the Pulpit in vocabulary biblically familiar: as the Israelites were rescued from the tyranny of the Pharaoh, so now would God rescue New England.[39] Preaching such imagery would become widespread and naturally a product of the postmillennial view from the Puritans. It would also directly inspire scores of congregants to passionately join the Revolution with a perceived divine mandate.[40] The question now left: What did they say? It is to the Pulpit and its Preachers we now turn.

In exploring the Pulpit’s role during the Revolution, three traditions in particular stand as the primary agitators. In his work Religion, Awakening and Revolution, Martin Marty explains the story of Joseph Galloway, a loyalist, who testifying before Parliament after leaving the States, regarded the Crown’s opponents as: ” ‘Congregationalists, Presbyterians and smugglers [Baptists].’ “[41] The majority of congregations active in the war were of this nature, and “In 1780 there were over 1900 congregations of Congregational-Presbyterian-Baptist persuasion, whence much Revolutionary talk and Action came.”[42] It is to some of these characters we now turn.

The Pulpit and the American Revolution: Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766)

Jonathan Mayhew is one such example of these Pulpit Patriots.[43] Robert Treat Pain, a signer of the Declaration and former attorney general, spoke of Mayhew as “The Father of Civil and Religious Liberty in Massachusetts and America.”[44] John Adams also ranked him on par with Otis and Samuel Adams, and stated, “To draw the character of Mayhew would be to describe a dozen volumes.”[45] In addition, according to Frederick L. Weis, Mayhew was regarded as the top New England preacher.[46] Born 1720 as the son of Rev. Experience and Remember Mayhew, missionaries amongst the Indians, Mayhew was the son of distinction. He graduated from Harvard with honors at age 24, speaking of the influence as having been extensive on studying the “doctrines of civil liberty … as they were taught by, Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero. Sydney and Milton, Locke and Hoadley. And having learnt from the Holy Scriptures that wise, brave virtuous men were always friends of liberty. This made me conclude freedom was a great blessing.”[47]

Mayhew’s most famous and widely read sermon, A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers, is a case in point regarding the influence and atmosphere of New England preaching.[48] Given at the West Church in Boston, on January 30th 1750, Mayhew outlined a case of the People’s right to resist. It should also be noted that such a sermon, written twenty-six years prior to Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, contains many of the various themes used to justify and exhort rebellion.[49] Nearly a quarter century before revolt broke, “Mayhew argued it was unreasonable for any people to grant unlimited submission to a civil authority.”[50] For this sermon, Mayhew was known as the “Morning Gun of the American Revolution,” and made it evident that before the work of Jefferson and others, congregants were already actively hearing “declarations of independence,” and sermons focused on “natural rights of life, liberty, and property,” long before their secular counterparts.[51] This role of the Pulpit, as seen in Mayhew’s work, was essential in prepping the mindset of divine-sanctioned liberty.[52]

His influence is further seen in his relationship with James Otis, John Adams and Samuel Adams, where upon Mayhew’s suggestion in a letter dated June 8th 1766 to Otis, led to the eventual addition of Committees of Correspondence.[53] These are but few examples of the power of both the Pulpit in setting the public’s mind on liberty, as well as the influence role such preachers played in the atmosphere and leadership of the American Revolution.

The Pulpit and the American Revolution: Samuel Cooper (1725-1783)

A second minister worthy of mention is Samuel Cooper, Pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston. Born March 28, 1727, Cooper was the third child of Rev. William Cooper and Judith, the daughter of the Chief Justice of the province.[54] A graduate of Harvard in 1743 alongside James Otis, Cooper is known both for his fiery preaching and writing. Arguably one of the most influential Bostonians of the conflict, his popularity is seen through the abuse set upon him by British officers, who responding to his protests, altered his church into a British barrack.[55]

In regards to the central focus of this paper, the Pulpit, Samuel Cooper does not disappoint. Perhaps his best includes an artillery election sermon he wrote at the young age of twenty-six, entitled A Sermon on the Day of Commencement of the Constitution.[56] In it we find what Ellis Sandoz states to be “regarded as the model of a patriotic sermon.”[57] Several of the earlier mentioned Puritan themes are readily observable. In it he discusses Jeremiah 20 and 21, where he draws comparisons to the Israelites in a fashion defining America as “a nation chosen by God a theatre for the display of some of the most astonishing dispensations of his providence.”[58] The earlier postmillennial theme is first noted, given the privileged and near-anointed state America is treated with throughout the letter. As the letter continues, we may also observe the above-mentioned theme of the Puritan’s fear of power, whereas Cooper orates:

Their sufferings, when they fell under the power of this haughty tyrant, as they are represented to us in sacred history, must harrow a bosom softened with the least degree of humanity. They give us a frightful picture of the effects of despotic power, guided and inflamed by those lusts of the human heart with which it is seldom unaccompanied.[59]

Cooper also expresses ideas which solidified and fueled the Revolutionary passions, speaking of “constitution,” “civil and religious liberty,” and “that no man has a natural claim of dominion over his neighbors.”[60] Justification is further given to the American cause, where Cooper argues that “these states are innocent of the blood that hath been shed … we have stood upon the ground of justice, honor and liberty, and acted merely a defensive part.”[61] The role this would play in society, both in its response to and after the Revolution, cannot be ignored. Pulpits such as Cooper’s provided the spark and cohesion that issues forth a ‘divine-mandate’ of providence to act against tyranny and in favor of God-given liberty. An underestimation of such influences would be a mistake.

Samuel Cooper was also well known and influential among various important Revolution figures.[62] Besides being a regular contributor who opposed such issues as the Stamp Act in the Boston Gazette, Samuel Cooper was a friend of founders Benjamin Franklin, John and Samuel Adams. In addition, one of his church members was none other then John Hancock.[63] Various letters between these figures are available, and some preserve positive explanations of Cooper. Of him, Franklin wrote: “Your candid, clear, and well written Letters, be assured, are of great use.”[64]

The Pulpit and the American Revolution: Jonas Clark (1730-1805)

Another Patriot Preacher of interest is Jonas Clark of Lexington. A graduate of Harvard College in 1752, Clark took on a pastorate for fifty years.[65] Clark’s influence may be seen in the role he played within his town. As Franklin P. Cole details, Clark “instructed the Lexington delegates to the Stamp Act Congress. Throughout that stormy period he was the most influential politician as well as churchman in the Lexington-Concord area.”[66] In addition, Clark adheres to a pattern that is beginning to become visible: influence and interaction with key patriot leaders. “On the very night of April 18 1775, John Hancock and Samuel Adams were being entertained by Jonas Clark.”[67] An interesting note of history was Paul Revere’s arrival to warn them of Gage’s expedition, which sought to capture the Boston patriots. When asked if Clark’s Lexington men were prepared to fight, he responded by telling them “I have trained them for this very hour”.[68]

As for influential sermons, Clark provided an important historical contribution with The Fate of Blood-thirsty Oppressors. This sermon, delivered on the anniversary of the battle of Lexington, described in detail stages of the battle, and remains a treasure to Civil War historians.[69] One final fact worth mentioning regarding Clark’s role in the Nation’s beginnings is his appointment in 1799 as the Lexington delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention, where he actively participated in several keen committees, showing that not only were these preachers engaged with the public at the Pulpit, but also directly in governmental affairs.[70]

The Pulpit and the American Revolution: Charles Chauncy (1705-1787)

A fourth preacher who very much deserves mentioning is Charles Chauncy, also considered by John Adams as one of the six of the most influential Revolutionary leaders in Massachusetts.[71] Regarding Chauncy’s influence, Ellis Sandoz describes the man as “The most influential clergyman in the Boston of his time and—apart from Jonathan Edwards the elder—in all New England.”[72] Another graduate from Harvard, Chauncy served fifty years as the minister for the First Church in Boston from 1727 to 1787.[73] Chauncy was widely recognized not necessarily for his close relationships with key Revolutionary leaders, but for his tremendous pamphleteering skills. Understanding that pamphlets were essential towards generating public opinion, Chauncy’s influence can be seen in that “his sermons, newspaper articles, and pamphlets were more widely distributed in Europe than those of any propagandist for the American cause.”[74] In addition, Chauncy played an essential role between 1762 and 1771 in opposing the British efforts to establish an Anglican bishop over America. This issue was major in rallying “Congregationalists across New England in the period leading to the Revolution.”[75]

One of the major contributions at the Pulpit that Chauncy offered the Revolution came in his Thanksgiving Sermon on the Repeal of the Stamp Act, which “bristle[d] with arguments in favor of resistance against British tyranny.”[76] A second noteworthy sermon was delivered by Chancy in Boston, 1747, entitled Civil Magistrates Must be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God. In this sermon, Chauncy focused on II Samuel 23:3, concluding from the passage two central principles: “I. There is a certain order among mankind, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others,” and “II. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”[77] The Puritan and Calvinist themes of total depravity and a fear of power are also evident in his work:

The present circumstances of the human race are therefore such, by means of sin, that ’tis necessary they should, for their mutual defense and safety, combine together in distinct societies, lodging as much power in the hands of a few, as may be sufficient to restrain the irregularities of the rest, and keep them within the bounds of a just decorum.

The Pulpit and the American Revolution: Isaac Backus (1730-1788)

Isaac Backus was born in Connecticut, in 1724, and was a conversion from the Great Awakening preaching of Eleazer Wheelock. After pastoring a church in Middleborough Massachusetts for about a decade, Backus later became pastor of Middleborough First Baptist Church.[78] According to William G. McLoughlin, Backus “was the most forceful and effective writer America produced on behalf of the pietistic or evangelical theory of separation of church and state.”[79] Backus’s main contributions to American thought and development consist of two idea: that religion was between individuals and God, and that “the Baptist church, and the religious sphere generally, as outside the jurisdiction of civil magistracy.”[80] Beyond being a widely recognized statesman, Backus was quite the evangelist, having made 918 trips greater then ten miles, traveling a total of 68,800 miles on horseback between 1748 and 1802.[81]

In 1773, Backus presented An Appeal to the Public, in which we find the themes of charter and divine rights. Backus is a clear example of direct Calvinist influence, and we note within his work a caution regarding the total depravity of man and Lockean natural rights.[82] Given his Baptist identity, there is much in the work regarding problems between the State and Church, specifically in the realm of religious freedom from established religion.[83] Such a respect of the two powers, within their spheres of authority, are noted where he states, “All acts of executive power in the civil state, are to be performed in the name of the king or state they belong to; while all our religious acts are to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus; and so are to be performed heartily as to the Lord, and not unto men.”[84]

Similar to a modern day lobbyist, Backus petitioned delegates of the First Continental Congress in 1774 on behalf of the Warren Association. At the time Baptists had to attain a license to preach, which lead to several receiving imprisonment in the colonies, which still consisted of established state churches. Along with Leland, Backus contributed heavily to the issue of religious liberty, and later served “as a delegate from Middleborough to the Massachusetts convention that ratified the federal Constitution in 1788.”[85] Continuing his zeal for evangelism, Backus also actively participated in the Second Awakening along the frontier, and spent his final days promoting revival in New England.

The Pulpit and the American Revolution: John Leland (1754-1841)

A sixth and final Pulpit patriot to be presented is a second Baptist, John Leland.  Although having been formally educated only in elementary school, Leland is regarded as highly influential in developing the Revolution’s concept of religious freedom. Leland had initially planned to campaign against the ratification of the Constitution out of fear that experiences he and other Baptists had had regarding established state churches would be expanded at a federal level.[86] Given his influence, this spelled trouble for the ratification, since Baptists held significant political sway within Virginia, North Carolina, and other such states. Due to the impact such opposition could have, James Madison met with Leland, and the two came to an agreement. Leland would remove his opposition in exchange for a protection as given in the First Amendment. With Madison coming up on his end, Leland was to become a fiery supporter of the Constitution. Also, not to be outdone by the Baptist Backus, Leland’s zeal for evangelism was first and foremost, as noted by performing 1,515 baptisms.[87]

Besides exerting direct personal influence upon the Founders, Leland’s sermons were influential and widely read. One in particular that continues the Baptist focus of religious and civil liberty is entitled The Rights of Conscience Inalienable and delivered in 1791.[88] Within the sermon, Leland argues in favor of the following observations:

1. That the law was not made for a righteous man, but for the disobedient … 2. That righteous men have to part with a little of their liberty and property to preserve the rest … 3. That all power is vested in and consequently derived from the people … 4. That the law should rule over rulers, and not rulers over the law … 5. That government is founded on compact … 6. That every law made by the legislators inconsistent with the compact, modernly called a constitution, is usurpive in the legislators and not binding on the people. …7. That whenever government is found inadequate to preserve the liberty and property of the people they have an indubitable right to alter it so as to answer those purposes … 8. That legislators in their legislative capacity cannot alter the constitution, for they are hired servants of the people to act within the limits of the constitution.[89]

From these observations, Leland then proposes to answer the question: “Are the rights of conscience alienable, or inalienable?”[90] After arguing for them being inalienable, he then speaks to the error of established churches, of which he provides five arguments.[91]

Leland also had a tremendous personal influence on James Madison. It was primarily at his and other Baptists petitions that James Madison would later propose the adoption of a Bill of Rights, perhaps explaining the initiating role religious liberty has within the first amendment. Leland was also to have direct influence in the affairs of the State, serving as both a delegate to the Virginia Convention to ratify the Federal Constitution in 1788, and as an elected Republican to the Massachusetts legislature in 1811.[92] Besides his influence with Madison, and his direct involvement in the Constitutional Convention and the legislature, historians recognize Leland’s influence. Of Leland, his biographer L. F. Greene stated,

Through a long life, Elder Leland sustained, with uniform consistency, the two-fold character of the patriot and the Christian. For his religious creed he acknowledged no directory but the Bible. He loved the pure, unadulterated word of truth, His political creed was based upon the ‘sufficient truths’ of equality, and of inherent and inalienable rights, recognized by the master spirits of the Revolution.[93]

Lyman H. Butterfield describes Leland as “a representative American of his time. Self-reliant to the point of eccentricity and a tireless fighter for principle, he was without arrogance, and the reminiscences of those who knew him speak most often of his humor, his gentleness, and his humility,” and that “John Leland therefore has a place in our history as well as in our folklore.”[94]

Closing Remarks Regarding the Pulpit Patriots

It shall here be noted that this survey only reviewed six such preachers. By simply observing both the influence of their efforts and the substance of their writing, one can begin to paint the picture of wedding the congregant to the cause. To then imagine that this recap contained only single samples of their preaching among thousands and over decades seems to belittle their influence. Compound upon this the number of pastors engaging in such efforts, and it then becomes eye opening. We must remember that this survey was restricted to six preachers and their churches. These Pulpit Patriots were six of over 1,900 Congregational, Presbyterian and Baptist churches, containing pastors preaching similar political sermons for over a century.[95] With the additional understanding that over two-thirds of the colonial population were the influenced by-products of Calvinism, a world-view, which set the tone of their preaching, is understood.[96] Franklin P. Cole is not in error when he concludes, regarding these preachers and their influence on the American Reformation, that, “There is probably no group of men in history, living in a particular area at a given time, who can speak as forcibly on the subject of Liberty as the Congregational ministers of New England between 1750 and 1785.”[97] Nor is Ellis Sandoz, when she summarizes in the forward of her work containing in its entirety sermons of New England Preachers, that

Although they present a range of viewpoints on many different problems over a period of seventy-five years, all our writers agree that political liberty and religious truth are vitally intertwined. And while the role of the clergy as the philosophers of the American founding has not received great attention from students of political theory, it was abundantly clear to contemporaries.[98]

William Gordan, a contemporary of the American Patriots, discusses the role of the ministers of New England during the American Revolution:

The clergy of this colony are as virtuous, sensible and learned a set of men, as will probably be found in any part of the globe of equal size and equally populous …
[I]t is certainly a duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times; to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and to recommend such virtues as are most wanted … You have frequently remarked that though the partisans of arbitrary power will freely censure that preacher, who speaks boldly for the liberties of the people, they will admire as an excellent divine, the parson whose discourse is wholly in the opposite, and teaches, that magistrates have a divine right for doing wrong, and are to be implicitly obeyed; men professing Christianity, as if the religion of the blessed Jesus bound them tamely to part with their natural and social rights, and slavishly to bow their neck to any tyrant…[99]

In short, we should conclude that, on the basis a sampling of six out of 1,000+ patriots and the roles their Pulpits played in the American Revolution, we are reasonable to acknowledge that there existed real contributions from the Pulpit. This is seen in various earlier noted historical realities: (1) Their close and privileged relationships with key founding figures were, by the words of such founders, influential,[100] (2) The wide popularity, readership, and audience of both their pamphlets and their political sermons, (3) The clearly discernable idea, preceding various secular Revolutionaries, as seen in Mayhew and Jefferson, that liberty can be approached as an issue of divine relevance, thus consisting of specific mandates regarding man and his response to tyranny, and (4) That their roles as pastors, discipling the sheep of America, should be undeniably influential in a Revolution regarding ‘We the People.’[101] In the 18th century, the minister was the educated man of his era, displaying a diverse variety of learning. Although this spot would later be filled, post-Constitution, by the Lawyer, the theologian carried the weight of progressing both theological and civil ideas. It should then come to no surprise that, when called to engage with an issue rooted in both tyranny and liberty, the Pulpit would rise to play its influential role. Should we be surprised? Should it be ignored? What greater force in society could exist, to motivate man to act passionately upon defending the gift of liberty, then the Church and its Pulpit? With this, firm agreement is found with Ellis Sandoz, who in summarizing her view on the matter, rightly states:

To permit the religious perspective concerning the rise of American nationhood to have representative expression is important because a steady attention to the Pulpit from 1730 to 1805 unveils a distinctive rhetoric of political discourse: Preachers interpreted pragmatic events in terms of a political theology imbued with philosophical and revelatory learning. Their sermons also demonstrate the existence and effectiveness of a popular political culture that constantly assimilated the currently urgent political and constitutional issues to the profound insights of the Western spiritual and philosophical traditions. That culture’s political theorizing within the compass of ultimate historical and metaphysical concerns gave clear contours to secular events in the minds of Americans of this vital era.[102]

Concluding Remarks and Modern Reflections

With this work coming to a close, it has become apparent that the force of the Christian religion in both shaping the People’s worldview, and prompting them into action during the American Revolution, was significant.

Little did John Winthrop know that his reference to Puritan New England as ‘a city upon a hill’ would set into motion forces that would eventually contribute to the birth of a new nation. “The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us as His own people [as He did among Israel],’ he opined, ‘and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with.[103]

The forces of the worldview, as shaped by Calvinist Christianity, have been made evident. It is traceable not only to the messages preached on political subjects in churches all over the colonies, but also observable in the presumptions of man’s nature and the question of responding to it in the form of the American government. We can conclude that a mentioning of such persons who preached such views on liberty and freedom, even decades before being penned by Jefferson and others, are worthy of a reference and lecture on the subject of the Revolution. Also worthy of mentioning are the influential intellectual forces of Calvinism and its byproduct, Puritanism. However, what relevance does all this hold for today? To that we turn and conclude.

It is observable that several principles the Founders grounded the structure of their American experiment on are under attack. The view of man’s depravity is being replaced by a post-modernist update to socialist theory that perceives man as essentially good and in need of various forms of state-sponsored aid. In addition, government grows at a rate unimaginable, whereas spending has tripled in comparison to the former presidency, and the nation’s debt stands at over $13,000,000,000,000.00. The rapid growth in the size of government is no myth, nor is it unfair to contrast the reality of its growth with the centrality of the principle of limited government within the Founding Fathers.[104] Regarding a growth in government, various branches have increased in power over the 20th century, bringing with it the challenges to the principle of checks and balances. Also of concern is the increase of a post-modernism that rejects objective truths in favor of a relativistic understanding of what is best for individuals, focusing more on one’s experience than a reality of absolute timeless principles.[105] This is maximized further, and made evident, by the rise of various social ills and a breakdown of the family.[106] The central pillars of the Founder’s experiment seem to be under attack: limited government, liberty from financial restraint, presumption of human depravity the need for checks and balances, objective unalienable rights as the source of law, and a healthy society rooted in strong families and True Religion. How do we approach these modern day challenges with the words of John Adams, who said, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”[107] Can our political system survive upon the foundations of a form of government structured on essential societal and intellectual assumptions no longer held by our society? The prospect seems grime.

It is difficult to imagine that a society rejecting the foundational premises of its political structure would not experience some serious complications. Perhaps the tremendous national debt serves as a warning. Perhaps social attitudes as reflected in the breakdown of the family multiply the warnings.[108] Regardless, there does appear to exist a noticeable difference between the philosophies of the Founders and the attitudes of today. If such a threat were real, then what can the experience of our Pulpit Patriots teach us? With their essential role in promoting the ideas of civil and religious liberty in which both society and government benefited, is the same needed of modern day pastors? Surely there is a genuine concern regarding pastors preaching politics, but if they served such an essential role in society preaching biblical unalienable truths, then would not a fear of political correctness do more harm then good? This is not to say that we should have pastors at the Pulpit telling us which politician we are to vote for.[109] Rather, this is to say that: if the Pulpit was essential to promoting the objective nature of rights, the exclusive character of truth, and the Divine source in which all laws are judged, pastors serve an essential societal function. They are the glue that wed essential attitudes to the American governmental model. Some deem it popular to exclude from the Pulpit and the role of minister anything having to do with the ‘world’ and its politics. However, if the church is called to be the light and salt of the world, and our political system is build upon the very principles cherished and wedded to the Church, is it responsible, or even possible, to ignore preaching these realities? Can a system, which presupposes “Laws of Nature, “Nature’s God,” and “unalienable Rights” “endowed by their Creator,” survive when those entrusted through the revelation of Scripture remain silent on the character of this Creator, and the revealed source of the Gospel and Law? Thomas Jefferson, having penned those very words in the Declaration of Independence, had this to say on the proposed concern: “God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed their only sure basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that those liberties are the gift of God?”[110] By the example of the Pulpit Patriots, and the essential role they played in this Nation’s founding, we can responsibly answer Jefferson with a ‘No, they cannot’. If the Pulpit will not again serve its role in promoting a biblical understanding of man, his God-given liberties, and the source of all unalienable rights and virtue, then who?

[1] Special focus during my Undergraduate (B.A., Political Science) work in political theory was focused on the person of Locke, and his influence on the Founding Fathers. A paper I wrote, “Lockean Liberalism and the Declaration of Independence,” hints towards how I would have responded two years ago. It can be accessed at:

[2] See Table 1, Donald S. Lutz, “The Relative Importance of European Writers on Late Eighteenth Century American Political Thought,” American Political Science Review 189 (1984), 189-97.

[3] See Table 2

[4] See Table 3 for a listing of the Founding Father’s religious affiliations. Of note is the fact that only two were clearly Deists, and even then both progressed later in life to views of a personal God involved in the affairs of man.

[5] Leopold von Ranke, Quoted by E. W. Smith, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972: p. 389.

[6] See Appendix 1, 7 and 8 for a comparison and parallel of Biblical Principles and the Nation’s founding documents.

[7] Regarding impartiality, may it be noted that I do not describe myself as a Calvinist, and express no special favorability to both Calvin and the Puritans. As such, this investigation has been one taken from the position of my training as a student of political sciences and religion. Focus was placed on: (1) Discovering the worldview in which developed 18th century America, (2) Major figures who applied this worldview at the pulpit and public office, and (3) Factual and first-testimonial evidence of the influence such persons has upon the Founders and their documents.

[8] Page Smith. Religious Origins of the American Revolution. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976: 2.

[9] E. W. Smith, Quoted by Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972: 389.

[10] George Bancroft, Quoted by Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1972: 389.

[11] Ibid. 382

[12] Page Smith. Religious Origins of the American Revolution: 12.

[13] Ibid. 12

[14] John Eidsmoe. Christianity and the Constitution. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987: 21.

[15] Ibid. 21: “Given the sinful nature of mankind, how should the government’s power be allocated to give the government sufficient power to serve and restrain the masses effectively without giving it so much power that it becomes tyrannical and oppressive? Their solution to this problem showed a Calvinistic background.”

[16] Ibid. 24

[17]Samuel Rtherford. Lex, Rex: Or, The Law and the Prince: a Dispute for the Just Prerogative of King and People; Containing the Reasons and Causes of the Most Necessary Defensive Wars of the Kingdom of Scotland. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1982: 1, 6-7.

[18] John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: 25.

[19] The Constitution of the United States

[20] John Calvin. “Civil Government, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. by John T McNeill and trans. by Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, Book IV, Chapter XX, Section 30.

[21] Ibid. 30

[22] Ibid. 31

[23] Ibid. 31

[24] John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: 34.

[25] Ibid. 34

[26] Conrad Cherry. “The Latter-Day Glory Is Probably to Begin in America.”God’s New Israel: Religious Interpretations of American Destiny. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998: 55-59.

[27] John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: 34.

[28] John Elliot. Massachusetts Historical Collections 3d ser., Quoted by Wright, Benjamin Fletcher. American Interpretations of Natural Law, A Study in the History of Political Thought. New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.: 19-21

[29] Mark Noll. One Nation Under God? Christian Faith and Political Action in America. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988:  41.

[30] Ibid. 41

[31] Ibid. 41

[32] Ibid. 41

[33] Jerald Brauer, Sidney E. Mead and Robert N. Bellah. Religion and the American Revolution. Philedelphia: Fortress Press, 1976: 26-27.

[34] Mark Noll, One Nation Under God? 43.

[35] Ibid. 43

[36] Alice M Baldwin. The New England Clergy and the American Revolution. Durham: Duke University Press, 1928: 168.

[37] Ibid. 171

[38] Patricia Updegraff Bonomi. Under the Cope of Heaven Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003: 216.

[39] Robert R. Mathisen. Critical Issues in American Religious History. Waco, Tex: Baylor University Press, 2006: 135. “Little did John Winthrop know that his reference to Puritan New England as ‘a city upon a hill’ would set into motion forces that would eventually contribute to the birth of a new nation. ‘The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us as His own people [as He did among Israel],’ he opined, ‘and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness, and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with.’”

[40] Ibid. 135: “According to Charles Chauncy of Boston on the eve of the American Revolution, as the founding fathers of New England had been rescued by God from tyrannical England man years after God had saved his people from Egypt and delivered them to their Promised Land, so now New England had been relieved from the oppressive Stamp Act, even as the Jews had been protected from the destruction of Ahaseurus. To reassure his audience of this in 1770, he contended that ‘perhaps, there are no people, now dwelling on the face of the earth, who may, with greater pertinency, adopt the language of king David, and say, ‘our fathers trusted in these; they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.’”

[41] Martin E. Marty. Religion, Awakening and Revolution. Wilmington: Consortium, 1977: 123.

[42] Ibid. 120. “Compared to a mere 624 Reformed-Lutheran-Catholic local churches, many of them very small.”

[43] See Figure 1 for portraits of the six Pulpit Patriots.

[44] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 26.

[45] Ibid. 26

[46] Frederick Lewis Weis. The Colonial Clergy and the Colonial Churches of New England. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1977.

[47] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 26-28.

[48] A second sermon worthy of mention is his thanksgiving discourse entitled The Snare Broken. “Occassioned by Parliaments repeal of the Stamp Act, the sermon conveys a warning to William Pitt and other English readers that taking self-government into private hands in some circumstances must surely proceed from ‘self-preservation, being a great and primary law of nature.’ ” Sandoz Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 vols, 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998.

[49] See Appendix 1

[50] Robert R. Mathisen, Critical Issues in American Religious History, 136

[51] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 33.

[52] Ibid. 33

[53] Ibid. 33

[54] Lutz, Donald S. “The Relative Importance of European Writers on Late Eighteenth Century

American Political Thought.” American Political Science Review, 1984.

[55] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 35.

[56] For an explanation on political sermons, including and ‘artillery election sermon’, see Appendix 3.

[57] Ellis Sandoz, quoting Samuel Cooper. “A Sermon On the Day of the Commencement of the Constitution.” Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805: Vol. 1 Chapter: 21: Samuel Cooper. Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1991.

[58] Ibid. 21

[59] Ibid. 21

[60] Ibid. 21

[61] Ibid. 21

[62] His influence can be seen in the detailing of his days within his Diary: “July 5, 1775: Went in my horse and chaise with Mrs. Cooper to Cambridge. I waited on General Washington, Major Miffling, Reed, etc.” “July 6: Called at the Room of Committee of Safety, and conversed with them. Met at Major Johonnet’s Quarters, Col. Bowers and Lady. Called at Congress. Received letters from John and Sam Adams and Mr. Cushing bro’t by General Washington.”, “July 7: I wrote Letters to Messrs. Adams, Hancock, Cushing, Dr. Franklin, Madam Hancock.” The American historical review, Volume 6 By John Franklin Jameson, Henry Eldridge Bourne, Robert Livingston Schuyler.

[63] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 36.

[64] Ibid. 38.

[65] Ibid. 29: An interesting note regarding Clark: He had worked also as a farmer. Such a second job was perhaps necessary given the size of his family. Every morning Clark would stand at the staircase and call the family role: “Polly, Betsey, Lucy, Liddy, Patty, Sally, Thomas, Jonas, William, Peter, Bowen, Harry — Get up! Woe to the delinquent!”

[66] Ibid. 39

[67] Ibid. 39

[68] Ibid. 39

[69] Ibid. 40

[70] Ibid. 40

[71] Ibid. 40.

[72] Ellis Sandoz. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805. Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1991: Foreword.

[73] It is worth noting, perhaps for personal reflection, the dedication these pulpit-patriots offered their churches: Samuel Cooper (nearly forty years, Brattle Street Church), Jonas Clark (fifty years, Lexington), and Charles Chauncy (sixty years, First Church in Boston). Perhaps there is a lesson here for modern-day pastors who have a tendency to move from one pastorate to the next.

[74] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 40.

[75] Ellis Sandoz. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805: Foreword.

[76] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 40.

[77] Ellis Sandoz, quoting Charles Chauncy. “Civil Magistrates Must Be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God.” Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805: Vol. 1 Chapter: 5: Charles Chauncy. Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1991.

[78] Ellis Sandoz. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805: 11.

[79] William G. McLoughlin, Isaac Backus on Church, State, and Calvinism: Pamphlets, 1754–1789. Cambridge, 1968: 1.

[80] Ellis Sandoz. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805: 11.

[81] Ibid. 11

[82] Ibid. 11. An example of the influence of total depravity in his sermon: “Yet all this did not remove the dreadful distemper from man’s nature, for the great Ruler of the universe directly after the flood, gave this as one reason why he would not bring such another while the earth remains, namely, For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

[83] Ibid. 11. On religious liberty: “Whereas in ecclesiastical affairs we are most solemnly warned not to be subject to ordinances, after the doctrines and commandments of men. Col. 2. 20, 22. And it is evident that he who is the only worthy object of worship, has always claimed it as his sole prerogative, to determine by express laws, what his worship shall be, who shall minister in it, and how they shall be supported.”

[84] Ellis Sandoz, quoting Isaac Backus. “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty.” Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805: Vol. 1 Chapter: 11: Isaac Backus. Indianapolis: LibertyPress, 1991

[85] Ibid. 11

[86] Richard Land’s essay on “Religious Liberty in the Founding and Development of America”, as found in First Freedom, The Baptist Perspective on Religious Liberty. Ed. T. White, J. G. Duesing, M. B. Yarnell III: 105-108.

[87] Ellis Sandoz. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805: 39.

[88] Ibid. 37. On religious liberty, Leland parallels Backus, “religion is a matter between God and individuals, religious opinions of men not being the objects of civil government nor any ways under its control.”

[89] Ibid. 37

[90] Ibid. 37

[91] Ibid. 37. “1. Uninspired fallible men make their own opinions tests of orthodoxy, and use their own systems,” “2. Such establishments not only wean and alienate the affections of one from another on account of the different usages they receive in their religious sentiments, but are also very impolitic,” “3. These establishments metamorphose the church into a creature, and religion into a principle of state,” “4. There are no two kingdoms or states that establish the same creed or formularies of faith” and “5. The nature of such establishments, further, is to keep from civil office the best of men.”

[92] Ibid. 37

[93] John Leland, and L. F. Greene. The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland Including Some Events in His Life. New York: Printed by G.W. Wood, 1845: 50–51.

[94] Lyman H. Butterfield.  “Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society. Worcester, Mass: American Antiquarian Society, 1843.

[95] “In 1780 there were over 1900 congregations of Congregational-Presbyterian-Baptist persuasion, whence much Revolutionary talk and Action came.” Martin Marty, Religion, Awakening and Revolution: 120.

[96] George Bancroft, Quoted by Loraine Boettner. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1932: 389.

[97] Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 40.

[98] Ellis Sandoz. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805: Foreword.

[99] William Gordon. The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969: 273–74.

[100] The words of John Adams in 1818 acknowledge the influential role such pulpit patriots had, placing them on par with the likes of James Otis and Samuel Adams: “The most ardent and influential in the revival of American principles and feelings from 1760 to 1766 were, first and foremost, before all and above all, James Otis; next to him was Oxenbridge Thacher; next to him, Samuel Adams ; next to him, John Hancock ; then Dr. Mayhew; then Dr. Cooper and his brother.” Franklin Paul Cole, They Preached Liberty: 40.

[101] These pastors must also be known for not simply preaching men into action, but engaging directly as patriots. Baldwin explains such direct involvement: “When the news of Lexington and Bunker Hill arrived, parson after parson left his parish and marched hastily toward Boston. Before daylight on the morning of April 30, 1775, Stephen Farrar, of New Ipswich, New Hampshire, left with ninety-seven of his parishioners. Joseph Willard, of Beverly, marched with two companies from his town, raised in no small part through his own exertion. David Avery, of Windsor, Vermont, after hearing the news of Lexington, preached a farewell sermon, then, outside the meeting-house door, called his people to arms, and marched with twenty men. On his way he served as captain, preached, and collected more troops. David Grosvenor, of Grafton, left his pulpit and, musket in hand, joined the minute-men who marched to Cambridge. Phillips Payson, of Chelsea, is given credit for leading a group of his parishioners to attach a band of English soldiery that nineteenth day of April. Benjamin Balch, of Danvers, Lieutenant of the third-alarm list of his town, was present at Lexington and later, as chaplain in army and navy, won the title of the ‘fighting parson.’ Jonathan French, of Andover, Massachusetts, left his pulpit on the Sabbath morning, when the news of Bunker Hill arrived, and with surgical case in one hand and musket in the other started for Boston.” Alice Baldwin, New England Clergy and the American Revolution.

[102] Ellis Sandoz. Political Sermons of the American Founding Era, 1730-1805: 1.

[103] Robert R. Mathisen, Critical Issues in American Religious History, 135.

[104] 1789, federal government had 350 federal civilian employees for a population of three million. Today, there are over three million civil service employees for a population of 218 million. Total of civil service employees has increased 8,571 times since 1789. Total ratio of civil service employees to private citizens was 1:8,500 in 1789, to 1:70 today. John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution: 389.

[105] For the post-modernist mentality, how does one possibly understand where these ‘unalienable rights’ come from? If being ‘true to yourself’ is key, then how do ‘rights’ not fluctuate in definitions between persons and generations? How can one possibly approach the Constitution, and not be in error?

[106] “The United States Census in 2000 showed that two-parent families now represent less than 25 percent of all households in America, down from 45 percent as recently as 1960. Over the same forty-year period, the percentage of single-parent families tripled, the divorce rate doubled, the percentage of people getting married dropped lower than ever before, cohabitation increased 1000 percent,” “and the rate of illegitimacy (births to unmarried women) rose by more than 500 percent.” Daniel Heimbach, True Sexual Morality: 30-31.

[107] John Adams, 1789; quoted in War on Religious Freedom. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Freedom Council 1984: 1.

[108] Convincing work on the correlation between increased sexual immorality, familial corrosion, and societal breakdown have been made evident in the work of sociologists J.D. Unwin’s Sex and Culture and Carl Zimmerman’s Family and Civilization. Both trace historical evidence concluding that a breakdown in traditional family structure and a libertine approach to sexual morality correlate to a breakdown in government and society. Interesting enough, America is heading down the same path recognized by the work of these sociologists.

[109] This paper does not argue for a fusion between Church and State. I am in agreement with historic Baptists such as Leland and Backus who taught a necessary separation. What I am in favor of are pastors simply preaching the reality of biblical principles relevant to political and societal organization, which are then foundational to the American governmental model.

[110] Thomas Jefferson. The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 4. Query XXVIII.


Acton, John Emerick Edward Dalberg. Quoted in the World Book Encyclopedia, 1985.

Adams, John, quoted in Freedom Council, and Cynthia Condit. War on Religious Freedom: The Mask of Neutrality. Freedom file. Virginia Beach: The Council, 1984.

Baldwin, Alice M. The New England Clergy and the American Revolution. Durham: Duke University Press, 1928.

Boettner, Loraine. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Pub. Co, 1932.

Bonomi, Patricia Updegraff. Under the Cope of Heaven Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Brauer, Jerald C., Sidney E. Mead and Robert N. Bellah. Religion and the American Revolution. Philedelphia: Fortress Press, 1976.

Butterfield, Lyman H. “Elder John Leland, Jeffersonian Itinerant,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society. Worcester, Mass: American Antiquarian Society, 1843.

Calvin, John. “Civil Government,”  Institutes of the Christian Religion. Book IV, Chapter XX. ed. by John T McNeill and trans. by Ford Lewis Battles, Philedelphia: Westminster Press, 1960

Cherry, Conrad. “The Latter-Day Glory Is Probably to Begin in America.”God’s New Israel: Religious Interpretations of American Destiny. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

Cole, Franklin Paul. They Preached Liberty. Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1977

Eidsmoe, John. Christianity and the Constitution. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987.

Eliot, John. Massachusetts Historical Collections 3d ser., Quoted by Wright, Benjamin Fletcher.

American Interpretations of Natural Law, A Study in the History of Political Thought. New York: Russell & Russell, 1962.

Ferris, Robert G. Signers of the Constitution: Historic Places Commemorating the Signing of the Constitution. Washington D.C.: United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1976.

Frost, John. Stories of the American Revolution: Comprising a Complete Anecdotic History of That Great National Event. Philadelphia: E. Ferrett & Co, 1845.

Gordon, William. The History of the Rise, Progress, and Establishment of the Independence of the United States of America. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969.

Heimbach, Daniel R. True Sexual Morality: Recovering Biblical Standards for a Culture in Crisis. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004

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