Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John Witherspoon, the Sermon that Helped American Independence

The Founding Father John Witherspoon was a long-standing member of the Continental Congress almost continuously from 1776 to 1782. He served on more committees than any other member of that Congress (over 100). He was one of the most noted evangelicals of his day and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In 2006 the Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on Witherspoon titled "The Forgotten Fouder." In it we learn that Witherspoon's preaching had a strong influence on the drive for separation from Great Britain:

In May 1776, when the colonies teetered on the edge of war with England, he preached a sermon titled "Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men." The church historian William Warren Sweet called it "one of the most influential pulpit utterances during the whole course of the war." Arguing that "There is not a single instance in history, in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire," Witherspoon articulated a link between spiritual and temporal liberty in a way that that spoke vividly to the passions of the moment. In July 1776, when the question of succession was hotly debated and one delegate argued that the country was not yet "ripe" for independence, Witherspoon shot back: "In my judgement the country is not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of becoming rotten for the want of it."

An interesting bit of trivia: Witherspoon was a president of Princeton University. The school's motto was, "Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ."

No comments: