When John Hancock was Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he attended, the Election Day Sermon, a practice in those days for all elected officials to hear the Word of God. Preached by the Reverend Daniel Foster, A.M., Pastor of the Church of New Braintree, Samuel Adams, Lieutenant Governor along with the Council, Senate and House of Representatives were also in attendance. This sermon was preached on May 26, 1790.
The sermon carefully outlines that civil government and its officials are under the authority of God. It details step by step with scriptures on how it is that men’s government comes by the power and authority of God. Excerpts of the sermon are presented here, but it should be read in its entirety. Please refer to the Endnotes for the entire sermon.
“By Me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth”
In compliance with the laudable example of our pious Ancestors, on such joyful anniversary occasions as this day presents us with we have assembled in the House of God, to offer our devout praises to him for what he has done for them, and for us, their children; to seek his direction and blessing upon our Political Fathers here present, in the discharge of the important trust reposed in them, and his smiles on this confederate rising Republic.
This book was penned by King Solomon, a man famed for wisdom and understanding throughout all the East.
That being who has an easy access to the human mind, appeared to him in Gibeon, in a vision of the night; and God said, ask what I shall give thee? And his request, “give therefore thy servant an understanding heart,” was so acceptable, that God gave him wisdom above all that were before him in Jerusalem; for the people soon perceived “that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.”
In these Proverbs of the wise man, we have the comprehensive duties we owe to God, and the world, made plain and easy, and enforced with the most powerful motives. By folly, the Preacher would be understood to mean vice and wickedness and by wisdom, grace and Christ.
In the text, the person speaking is doubtless Jesus Christ, who by the Apostle, is called “the wisdom of God, and the power of God.” “By me Princes rule, and Nobles, even all the Judges of the earth:” That is, by my Providence and appointment, they are advanced to rule and govern; and their government is merciful and righteous, happy and prosperous, by my council and assistance.
Ever since the apostasy; the blessed God, has pursued an uniform plan of grace, and government with the church, and the world. The merciful design of which, is to reduce to order, peace and happiness, his intelligent offspring. To prosecute this design, he has sent into the world the “PRINCE Of PEACE,” and given him a commission for acts of ministry and grace, magistracy and government.
The intervention of the new covenant, and the advent of Jesus its Mediator, gave birth to order and subordination in Heaven, and upon Earth.
In Heaven there are thrones, dominions, principalities and powers, angels and arch-angels; and upon earth, princes, nobles, and judges and Christ is Head over them all.
The text leads us to speak of civil government, as ordained of God, in the hands of the mediator; of civil rulers, as holding their commission and authority under Christ; of their duty and dignity as his Ministers, and of the duty and privilege of the people under their administration.
I. That civil government is ordained of God in the hands of the Mediator, the Absolute necessity of order and government, for the existence and happiness of society, pleads its divine original: For without it, the affairs of mankind would fall into the utmost confusion and disorder. …“Yet have I set my King upon my holy Hill of Zion.” and “The government shall be upon his shoulders.” …The kingdom of Christ, where he rules by his word and spirit, is his Church, a spiritual kingdom. But his commission extends to the Utmost ends of the earth. …“For the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, is to break in pieces all other kingdoms, and fill the earth.” …His kingdom will outlive all other kingdoms, and swallow them up; for he must reign till he hath “put down all rule and all authority and power.” …This implies that rule and authority among men, or which is the same thing, civil government, is a divine appointment, and that it is put into the hands of the Mediator to rule and govern the world. For when the great and important ends for which he received his mediatorial kingdom, shall be accomplished, he will put down both ministry and magistracy.
II. That civil rulers hold their commission and authority under Christ.
…Christianity enforces the law of nature; and has confirmed the several constitutions of states and kingdoms, and called our obedience to the higher powers, as the gospel finds them. …The Magistrate then, called to office by the voice of the people, and solemnly sworn, becomes an ordinance of God, and receives his authority from him, “by whom Princes rule, and Nobles, even all the Judges of the earth.”
III. We come to speak of the duty and dignity of civil rulers, as the ministers of Christ.
1st. It is their duty to uphold the kingdom of Christ, which consists in “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” …Religion is, and ever has been, considered the glory of a people; as it insures the favor and protection of Heaven. …Under this dispensation, the gospel and its ordinances, are our glory and defense. And as magistrates are honored by Christ, and act under his banner, they should be careful to be his glory, and support his religion in the world. …Religion dignifies and enables the mind, refines and purifies the heart … fits men to act worthily their part on the stage of life, and shines with a peculiar luster in the Christian magistrate. …The seat of the magistrate is called the throne of God; “and he was caught up unto God, and into his throne.” As they have the image of God upon them as his Ministers, and act by his authority, it should be their care to have the image of God within them as men.
2d. It is the duty of Christian rulers, to preserve and secure to the people, their liberties and properties. …The end and design of civil government is to secure the happiness of the whole community. For this, rulers are appointed; “he is the Minister of God to thee for good.” …The liberties of mankind have ever been held dear, for they are given are by God and nature. “With a great sum, obtained I this freedom,” says the chief Captain to Paul, who relied, “but I was born free.” This has been and still is the voice of Americans; and our attention to the voice, which is from Heaven, has brought us into possession of the liberties and privileges, we this day enjoy.
3d. The Christian ruler will hear the complaints, and redress the grievances of the people he governs.
4th. We come as proposed, to speak of the duty and privilege of the people under the administration of Christian rulers. And 1st, it is their duty to pray for them. …We are divinely bound to pray “for all in authority,” that government might be equal and righteous, and that we might “lead a peaceable and quiet life, in all Godliness and honesty.” It is the blessing of God, that makes government steady and effectual, and gives peace and quietness to the Commonwealth; and God will be sought unto, for such an inestimable blessing.
2d. It is the duty of the people, to support their rulers.
3d. We infer That Christ will vindicate the sacred rights of his government, in the utter destruction of all that oppose his reign.
But it is time that I close the subject with particular attention to the important political characters that compose so great a part of this respectable assembly.
And His Excellency the Governor and Commander in Chief of this Commonwealth, claims our first attention.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY,
We rejoice to find, venerable sir, that you are again, by the suffrages of a free and independent State, called to fill the first seat of government. You are the man on whom the eyes of this Israel are set, that you should rule over us.
…Your Excellency will please to remember, that your authority comes from Christ, though by the mediation of the people; whose religion you will imbibe in your heart, and support in your government, that the people may take knowledge of you, that you have been with Him, by whom you rule.
Election Day Sermon, The Reverend Daniel Foster, A.M.; http://goo.gl/DjJ5
Election Day Sermon, The Reverend Daniel Foster, A.M. in modern English; http://goo.gl/3UXU