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Evangelicals are confused as they deal with the difficult question regarding participation in governance especially when looking at the national government. This conundrum is not new! Sam Adams had to deal with it during debates in the 1776 Continental Congress and the media.
Imagine that – Contrarian positions appearing in the media and of a religious/denominational nature. Sam Adams responds to the Quakers who want to submit to the King. They held a ‘convention’ from which came a declaration abhorring Paine’s “Common Sense” and any such writings let alone separating from Great Britain. The Quakers argued a position of Divine Providence that attempted to convince readers that it was ‘against God’ that the Colonial uprising was taking a position in the idea of separation from Great Britain.
Samuel Adams gave a greater and stronger public media response that discussed Gods actions in history with Biblical soundness.
Quoting from Volume II of the Life of Samuel Adams, “Mr. Adams accepted this religious, providential view of the question, and replied soon after, showing by historical examples, that as the rise and fall of empires and rulers was within the special prerogative of God, the present revolution was none the less the result of omnipotent design, and that in God’s providence, the time for the establishment of an independent commonwealth in the West had arrived. Men were but the instruments in his hands for such purposes. Divine will had evidently selected the present moment for the separation of America from Great Britain. This essay, like the Quakers’ address, was directed to the ” People in General.”
There is much more in this letter that I have copied to the references below since you will otherwise never no look for the full source to read. The relevance of Sam’s writing HITs hard for this very present moment!
Ones I can’t let go from in front of you:
Adding one for all to get: Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate
If you are a Christian then this is a must for these present times: Tactics of Christian Resistance by Dr. Gary North
From the Pulpits in the Foundation: Ellis Sandoz, Political Sermons of the American Founding Era: 1730-1805, 2 volumes
Today’s Primary Reference:
From Volume II pages 369 – 375 of The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams
“The convention of Quakers already alluded to had been called more especially in view of the extraordinary effect of Paine’s ” Common Sense,” which was now in everybody’s hands, and was praised or attacked throughout America. That the Quakers ” abhorred ” such writing was one of the best proofs of its effectiveness. That body, in counselling submission and continued dependence upon Great Britain, had in their address spoken of changes in government ” as affecting every mind with the most awful considerations of the dispensations of Divine Providence to mankind in general in former ages, and that as the sins and iniquities of the people had in ancient times subjected them to grievous sufferings, the same causes might still produce the like effects.” They then quote certain ancient testimony to prove that
“The setting up and putting down kings and governments is God’s peculiar prerogative for causes best known to himself, and that it is not our business to have any hand or contrivance therein ; nor to be busybodies above our station, much less to plot and contrive the ruin or overturn of any of them, but to pray for the King and safety of our nation and good of all men; that we may live a peaceable and quiet life in all goodness and honesty, under the government which God is pleased to set over us.
“May we, therefore, firmly unite in the abhorrence of all such writings and measures as evidence a desire and design to break off the happy connection we have hitherto enjoyed with the kingdom of Great Britain, and our just and necessary subordination to the King and those who are lawfully placed in authority under him.”
Mr. Adams accepted this religious, providential view of the question, and replied soon after, showing by historical examples, that as the rise and fall of empires and rulers was within the special prerogative of God, the present revolution was none the less the result of omnipotent design, and that in God’s providence, the time for the establishment of an independent commonwealth in the West had arrived. Men were but the instruments in his hands for such purposes. Divine will had evidently selected the present moment for the separation of America from Great Britain. This essay, like the Quakers’ address, was directed to the ” People in General.”
” When the Prophet Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to anoint a King out of the house of Jesse, and had the eldest son of his family- brought before him, his lofty stature and goodly appearance made the Prophet cry out, ‘ Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.’ But he received this gentle reproof from his divine conductor :
‘ Look not on his countenance, nor on the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord seeth not as man seeth ; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.’
“Were man to set about the destruction or dissolution of a great empire, he would begin by making choice of one of the mightiest powers upon earth to effect it. Then vast warlike preparations would succeed ; nor would he enter upon the grand design until his armies were so numerous, and his instruments of war so terrible and destructive, that they might well be styled the Invincibles. All would now begin to move, and the whole world tremble at his approach ; but a few months would convince him that without God he could do nothing. On the other hand, He who seta up and pulls down, confines or extends empires at his pleasure, generally, if not always, carries on his great work with instruments apparently unfit for the great purpose, but which in his hands are always effectual. By this means, the part he takes appears visible, and the glory of success is given to whom it is due.
” It always gives me sensible delight when I see public calamities affect mankind with a sense of religion and earnest desire of reformation ; and I most heartily concur in sentiment with the representatives of a certain people,’ that our minds ought to be affected with the most awful considerations of the dispensations of Divine Providence to mankind in general, in former ages,’ that we know how to conduct ourselves in like circumstances, and avoid as much as possible the appearance of resisting the Divine Will, as publicly declared in his providential proceedings, lest we should be found to fight against God.
” The Assyrian, one of the first and greatest empires recorded in antiquity, rose to such an height as nearly to command the then inhabited world ; the consequence was, that her rulers became corrupted and arbitrary, and, forgetting the Divine designs in appointing them, they forsook the paths of justice and equity, and looked upon their people as made for their pleasure. This brought down the Divine vengeance upon her, which was executed by the Medes and Persians, two nations at that time of small consideration. On the ruins of the Assyrian arose the Persian Empire, which grew to equal, if not superior height and iniquity. It, too, was destroyed by the Macedonians, a people of no political signification a few years before they were called by Divine Providence to effect this great work. The next great empire we read of was the Roman, which, having arrived at the height of luxury and pride and arbitrariness, fell by the hands of savages who to this day have scarcely any historical existence. The Turks and the Saracens, of all the people at that day the least in the opinions of mankind, divided the Eastern and “Western Empire between them. Thus most if not all of the great empires in the world have successively been over- thrown by nations which, in their time, were of no political consequence. And there are few, if any, examples of one great empire being overthrown by another. The contest between Rome and Carthage was that of two great cities aiming at universal dominion, neither having at that time arisen into empire. Thus deals the Divine Providence, always taking steps which appear strange and wonderful, that the whole may bear the evident marks of his hands.
” To apply this to our present circumstances and receive instructions thereby, let us take a view of the present state of Great Brit- ain and the conduct of Divine Providence towards this country, and it will enable us to discover the designs of Providence, and what measures we ought to pursue, that we might effectually co-operate with the Divine intentions.
” It must be allowed by every one who has the least knowledge of the English nation, that there is no degree of vice, folly, or corruption now wanting to fill up any measure of iniquity necessary for the downfall of a state. From the King on the throne to the meanest freeman in the nation, all is corrupt. The Crown, far from regarding its duty in the political world, only uses the public money to bribe the public officer. The legislator grants the money of the people with a degree of cheerfulness proportioned to the prospect he has of handling it through fingers of corruption. The freeman sells the importance he possesses in the state for the good of himself and his neighbors for a bellyful of porter, and gives his vote to the man who, by the largess he offers, shows he is the most unfit person in the nation to be possessed of the trust. Thus men guilty of the worst of vices possess the places of power and trust, which ought to be filled by none but those of the greatest integrity and virtue. And the consequence is, that the nation is ruled with a rod of iron, and there is no part of the empire free from oppression. Her princes are corrupt, her nobles degenerate, and the representatives of the people are bought and sold. The government moves on the springs of iniquity, and the measure of their conduct is directed by their power of execution, and not by justice or equity ; so that it is perhaps impossible in all history to produce a more complete state of corruption in government. Omnia sunt venalia Romce, is nothing to this, for bribery is descended to the lowest dregs of the nation, and nothing is free from the touch of its pollution. The omnipotence of the Almighty is arrogated by men who rule with the tyranny of the Devil. This is Great Britain’s true but melancholy condition. The eye of partial affection may cast a veil over it ; but ingenuity and candor will acknowledge the facts. Tell me, then, ye devotees of religion, the intentions of God to a nation like this, and point out the advantages of being reconciled to such a government.
” Suffice this for the present on the part of the state of Great Britain. Now let us return to the conduct of Providence towards these Colonies.
” Shortly before the present contest began, the Divine counsel and wisdom permitted Great Britain and France to carry on a long and bloody war in this country, whereby the whole was reduced un- der the power of Great Britain, many of us were trained to arms, and all familiarized to a war at our doors, and taught to view with- out dread or dismay the banners of hostility waving in the air.
” Through the course of this war we gave such incontestible proofs of our loyalty and affection as drew from Great Britain the most unequivocal acknowledgments of the same, and having per- formed more than could be reasonably expected of us, she returned large sums which she then thought we had expended beyond our just proportion. In this situation of affairs, we had reason to expect that we should meet with nothing but the warmest return of gratitude for our services. But they who wasted that time and treasure in folly and dissipation which ought to have been expended in acts of gratitude and praise for the unmerited favors of Heaven in the success of the war, would scarcely remember what they owed to their fellow-subjects. Accordingly our limbs were scarcely rested from the toils we endured in her service, until we were called upon to exert ourselves against her oppressions. And for more than twelve years we have labored by prayers, entreaties, non-importations, and every other peaceable mode of opposition, to prevent her enslaving us ; but all to no purpose. Our petitions from Assemblies and Congresses, from towns and Provinces, and from separate and united bodies of men, were all of no avail. The King despised and rejected them. The Parliament treated them with contempt, and the people, disregarding the justice of them, moved not in our behalf. Thus, after affectionately assisting Great Britain through a very bloody, dangerous, and expensive war, and after a twelve years’ unsuccessful endeavor to remain reconciled to her on principles of right, equity, liberty, and consanguinity, we are at last reduced to the necessity of becoming independent, and entering into a war with her to preserve our privileges.
“The American quit-rents can do little as yet, but in a few years they alone would provide the King with a fund sufficient to raise and support an army necessary to enslave us, let us then be united to Britain on what principles we please. We are at present such a numerous, sober, hardy, and industrious people as in all ages have been the ablest to contend, and most successful in opposing tyranny and oppression. How long we may remain so is only known to the Deity. All parties, even the Ministry itself, agree that we must one day become independent ; and to become independent without a struggle for it is absurd to imagine. We have now gone through the first year of the war which may forever put a period to the contention. When we seriously consider the foregoing chain of events and our present happy union, it is impossible to imagine a conjunction more favorable to the independence of this country.
Less than Divine wisdom could scarcely have fixed on a fitter occassion ; and I may defy any person to point out one link of the fore- going chain which can well be wanted at the time an independency is to take place. Any one who considers these things attentively, and recollects how many opportunities she has had of setting every- thing right at no greater expense than hearkening to our prayers and repealing a few obnoxious acts, must believe that the designs of Providence in this affair are not trivial. God, it is generally acknowledged, sends no extraordinary messenger on an ordinary errand. We may, therefore, safely believe that all this is not for the breaking up of a junto or gratifying the ambition of a prince. No, brethren, it cannot be so. You will say it is a judgment of God upon us for our sins. Be it so. It is, like all his other judgments, sent upon a people which has not yet been incorrigible. It is a judgment in mercy, which will leave us infinitely better than it found us, if we remain not invincibly attached to a people with whom we receive little besides the contagion of vice and folly, not to say slavery and oppression.
” The peace, happiness, and prosperity we once enjoyed in connection with her is as small a proof of any obligation we are under to seek a reconciliation, as an old friendship and correspondence would be that we ought to seek a cell in Bedlam with an ancient acquaintance. Her own madness and folly have driven us from her, and God has mercifully secured our retreat. It would be rendering ourselves unworthy of his future protection to throw ourselves back upon her. She is not now what she was in those happy days of former connection, nor can we remain the happy people we then were, if we seek a reconciliation. Circumstances are materially altered.
“It need not be asked, Are we able to support the measures which will secure independency ? The answer is plain and easy. Though all the world may think we are not, yet God, it appears, thinks otherwise. I say God thinks otherwise, because every part of his providential proceedings justifies the thought. We may then know what part we ought to take. God does the work, but not without instruments, and they who are employed are denominated his servants ; no king nor kingdom was ever destroyed by a miracle which effectually excluded the agency of second causes. Even Herod himself was devoured by vermin. We may affect humility in refusing to be made the instruments of Divine vengeance, but the good servant will execute the mil of his master. Samuel will slay Agag ; Moses, Aaron, and Hur will pray in the mountain, and Joshua will defeat the Canaanites.
“A Religious Politician.”