THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY

Our Christian history pertains to God and his Divine Providence. The founding of America clearly demonstrates providential history, God’s care and guidance of his people and the formation of a nation. The earliest writings show us that the founders of our nation clearly understood their total reliance on God. One of the most powerful and clear statements of God’s hand in American history was preached by the Reverend S.W. Foljambe in an Election Day sermon. He was the Pastor of the First Baptist Church, Malden, Massachusetts, a church founded in 1803. [1]

The Election Day sermon was an important institution in colonial New England. The sermon was not usually, it must be stressed, an attempt to influence the outcome of elections. Instead, it was a reflection on the relationship between government and God, between the polity and Divine Authority. In New England, it was a reminder that the colonial governments were supposed to be expressions of the covenant between God and His people. [2]

Reverend S.W. Foljambe’s Election Day sermon of January 5, 1876, was delivered to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. After the sermon, Mr. Foque of Malden, a Representative, was appointed to present the thanks of the House to the Rev. S. W. Foljambe, of Malden, and to request a copy of the election sermon for publication, with the manuscript of said sermon, and recommending the adoption of an Order providing that 2,000 copies be printed. It was reduced to 1,000 and printed (this was a yearly practice). [3]

Reverend Foljambe’s sermon is very long and it is recommended that you refer to the footnote reference to read a copy online. Here are some brief excerpts to give you the general idea of content:

“When St. Paul stood before that famous court of which the poets and orators of Greece tell such proud things, he proclaimed to them the God they knew not, filling up the inscription to the unknown God with the name of Jehovah. He tells them more of God in a few minutes, than Plato had done in all his life. He brings the matter closely home to them, and makes them feel as if in contact with God; not with an ideal merely, but with a living, personal Being, whose providence is directed at once to the individual interests of men, and the highest interest of nations.
‘Seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him’ (Acts 17:25-27)
Such is the divine basis of that institution which we call the State, and such the ultimate religious end of its existence. Not in force, nor in any mutual compact, nor yet in the family, does the State have its origin. The family and the State may seem to be more intimately related, but they are in fact totally distinct from each other. The State cannot be the natural product of the family, for it is animated by another kind of spirit. The family is the sphere of affection and custom, the State is the sphere of justice; the family is the product of nature, but is evolved under the action and control of Providence, and the tendency of its history, both as to its limitations and powers, is to lead it to God, who exerises that providence, and is the source of that spirit of justice which is its root and life.

The more thoroughly a nation deals with its history, the decidedly will it recognize and own an overruling Providence therein, and the more religious a nation it will become; while the more superficially it deals with its history, seeing only secondary causes and human agencies, the more irreligious will it be. If the history of any nation is the development of the latent possibilioties existing in its special nature, it is also the record of Divine Providence furnishing place and scope for that development, creating its opportunities and guiding its progress. History is not a string of striking episodes, with no other connection but that of time. It is rather the working out of a mighty system, by means of regularly defined principles as old as creation, and as infallible as divine wisdom. With this truth in view, we approach our chosen theme, –
The Hand of God in American History.” [4]

That is the Introduction to a powerful, concise account of God’s hand in our nation’s history. It will be worth your time to read the entire sermon slowly and carefully. It is practically a complete historical education of our early days.

Photo: Massachusetts State Capitol Building, 1798

[1] Directory of the City of Malden, Page 155, C.W. Calkins & Company Printers, 1882
[2] Election Preaching, Kevin Schmiesing, Ph.D., Acton Institute Blog, November 2008, Page 4
[3] Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1876, Page 233.
[4] “The Hand of God in American History,” A Sermon Delivered Before The Executive and Legislative Departments of the Government of Massachusetts at the Annual Election, Wednesday, January 5, 1876, by Rev. S.W. Foljambe; http://tiny.cc/XObOX; also, The Christian History of the American Revolution, Verna M. Hall, Foundation for American Christian Education, 1976, Page 46

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