Welcome to the American Christian Heritage Group blog where we give you glimpses of our country's early Christian foundations. We hope you enjoy these, learn more about our Christian heritage and undertake reading of the many cited sources and end notes. Please feel free to register and leave comments.


October 21st, 2010

The election day sermon was a 250-year New England tradition from 1634 to 1884, and many of the sermons still speak to modern concerns during this election season. The below article is an excerpt from Christianity in the United States, Daniel Dorchester, D.D., © 2009 American Vision Press, Powder Springs, GA; originally published by Phillips & Hunt, New York, 1888.

Politico-religious sermons were introduced early into New England. As early as 1633 the governor and council of the Massachusetts Bay Colony began to appoint one of the clergy to preach on the day of elections – which was the first of the long list of “Election Sermons.” Governor Winthrop’s critical notice of the discourse of Rev. Nathaniel Ward, of Ipswich, in June 1641, is the earliest sketch of an Election Sermon now extant. By the charter of William and Mary, October 7, 1691, the last Wednesday in May was established as “election day,” and it remained so until the Revolution. This was the date on which the new General Court, as the Legislature of Massachusetts has ever been called, assembled, and the election sermon was at the opening of the session. Another sermon was also delivered, a little time after, on which was called the artillery election day. The sermons on these occasions discussed politico-religious topics, were printed, and widely circulated. They reasoned, instructed, and discussed speculative questions of government, ‘when there was nothing in practice which could give any grounds for forming parties.”

The annual election sermons widely promoted the study of political ethics, which had become a prominent feature in New England history in the middle of the last century, and laid the foundation for that “earnestness which consciousness of rights begets, and those appeals to principle which distinguished the colonies.” The highest glory of the American Revolution, in the estimation of Hon. John Quincy Adams, was the ripe fruitage of this old custom: “It connected, with one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

Occupying a position of such eminent respect and influence in society, it is not strange that the clergy shared the sympathy of the people in the civil struggles through which they were passing, and that “The Pulpit of the Revolution” came to be one of the great factors of the times in the Middle and the New England colonies. God was involved in the civil assemblies, and the teachers of religion were called upon for counsel from the Bible. /Sermons were preached, religion and politics were closely united, and with Bibles and bayonets they entered into the struggle. “This was the secret of that moral energy which sustained the Republic in its material weakness against superior numbers and discipline, and all the power of England. To these sermons the State fixed its imprimatur, and this they were handed down to future generations with a twofold claim to respect.”*

*The Pulpit of the American Revolution, Preface by J. W. Thornton. Boston: Gould & Lincoln, 1860.


March 14th, 2010

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”

Proverbs 8:16

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.


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


February 21st, 2010

The presidential election of 1824 did not give a majority to any of the

Stephen van Rensselaer

candidates. There also was no majority in the Electoral College. Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams were the major contenders. Henry Clay of Kentucky and William H. Crawford of Georgia were the other two candidates.

The Twelfth Amendment (adopted in 1804 following the disputed Election of 1800) provided that elections in which no candidate received a majority should be decided by the House of Representatives from among the top three candidates. Clay was out of contention and Crawford was an unlikely prospect because of a serious illness.

Jackson clearly expected to win, figuring that the House would act to confirm his strong showing. However, Clay, as Speaker of the House, used his influence to sway the vote to Adams. Although they were not close, Clay knew that he and Adams shared a common political philosophy; Clay also knew that Jackson was an avowed opponent of the Bank of the United States, a vital component of the American System. Clay also was not interested in doing anything to further the career of the hero of New Orleans, his main rival in the West. [1]

In spite of Clay’s influence, the House of Representatives was divided and it came down to the vote of single representative from upstate New York, Stephen van Rensselaer III. Van Rensselaer was born in New York City, the eldest child of Stephen Van Rensselaer, the ninth patroon (1742–1769, a great-grandson of Mayor of New York Stephanus Van Cortlandt) and Catharina Livingston (daughter of Philip Livingston). His family was very wealthy, and the Van Rensselaer Manor House was a rich childhood environment for the young boy to grow up in. However, his father died in 1769, when van Rensselaer was only five, and the heir to his father’s estate. Van Rensselaer was raised by his mother and his stepfather, the Rev. Eilardus Westerlo, whom his mother married in 1775. [2] He served in the New York State Assembly (1789) and Senate (1791) , as lieutenant governor of New York State (1795), general of the state militia, as a member of the United States House of Representatives (1822-29). He was the founder of Renssselaer Polytechnic Institute. [3]

Each state was given one-vote in the House of Representatives. Adams had the support of twelve states, one short of what was needed. When Representative van Rensselaer entered the Chamber for the vote, he was ushered into the speaker’s room where Clay and Daniel Webster tried to persuade him to vote for Adams. They were unsuccessful in convincing him, but the combination of two of the best persuaders in American history still had its effect. Before voting, van Rensselaer bowed his head in prayer. When he opened his eyes the first thing he saw was a slip of paper with Adam’s name on it. Accepting it is a sign from God, he put the slip of paper into the ballot box, making John Quincy Adams the sixth president of the United States. [4]

[1] U-S-History.com
[2] Stephen Van Rensselaer, Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Van_Rensselaer_III
[3] Stephen Van Rensselaer III, by Stefan Bielinski, New York State Museum
[4] On This Day, Dr. Paul E. Barkey, self-published