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
"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
"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."