Item of the Day: Mr. Bridge’s Election Sermon (May 27, 1789)

Full Title: A Sermon Preached Before His Excellency John Hancock, Esq. Governour; His Honor Benjamin Lincoln, Esq. Lieutenant-Governour; The Honourable The Council, Senate and House of Representatives, of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, May 27, 1789. Being the Day of General Election. By Josiah Bridge, A.M. Pastor of the Church in East-Sudbury. Boston: Printed by Adams & Nourse, Printers to The Honourable General Court, M,DCC,LXXXIX. [1789]

 

AN

Election SERMON.

PSALM LXXXII. VERSE I.

GOD standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty; He judgeth among the GODS.

THIS passage of scripture may well possess the minds of this mumerous and respectable audience, with reverence and a sacred awe, before him, who is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints; and who will be sactified in all them that come nigh to him: It is particularly adapted to arrest the most serious attention of our honoured Rulers; at whose invitation we are assembled in the House of God on this auspicious anniversay, –to supplicate the Divine Presence with them, and his smiles and blessing upon the special business of the day; and their admiration of government the ensuing year; and to enquire of him from his word, agreeable to the laudable practice of our pious Progenitors, from the first settlement of the country, to the present period.

Our text has a primary reference to the Rulers of God’s ancient covenant people. But as this passage of scripture is of no private interpretation, it will as fitly apply to our civil fathers now before God, as the the Jewish Sanhedrim of old.

The words before us, will naturally lead us —“To make some brief and general observations on government.” —The propriety and usefulness of an assembly, for conducting the important affairs of it. —The sublime characters rulers sustain. —The Surpeme Ruler present with them, as an observer, and judge; ready for their assistance and support, when acting up to their character; and carefully noticing whenever they lose sight of the great end of their appointment: And the powerful influence, the consideration of his presence and inspection must have, to engage them in a conscientious discharge of the duties of their exalted stations. May I be indulged your serious and candid attention, while I attempt to dilate a little, upon these several particulars; all obviously contained in, or easily deducible from our text. God standeth in the Congregation of the Mighty: He judgeth among the Gods.

That our text applies to the supreme government of a community, and involves the various departments of it, is readily seen by looking into the Psalm before us; where we find this congregation of the mighty, reproved for the improper use of their power, and a different mode of conduct enjoined upon them. “How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Defend the poor and fatherless: Do justice to the afflicted and needy: Deliver the poor and needy, rid them out of the hand of the wicked.”

Civil government is both a dictate of nature, and revelation; and is accordingly indifferently denominated, the ordinance of God, and the ordinance of man. Man was originally formed for society, and furnished with faculties adapted thereto: Faculties for the improvement of which social intercourse is indispensably necessary. Some of the most important duties, and refined delights of human life are of the social kind.

In order to obtain the benefits of society, civil rule is essentially requisite. Those lusts of men, from whence come wars and fightings, are so prevalent in this apostate world, that they are obliged to form compacts and combinations, for mutual assistance and support. And there is perhaps no people no [sic] earth, however uncultivated and barbarous, but who have adopted some kind of civil polity.

The light and law of nature, which uniformly urges to this mode of procedure, may well be accepted, as an expression of the divine will: For God addresses the human mind in divers manners; and he does it by the voice of reason, as well as revelation.

The providence of God is particularly concerned, in elevating man to post of honour and dignity; and giving them a seat among the congregation of the mighty. “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and fitteth up another.” “By me (says wisdom, or that glorious Being who is the wisdom of God) by me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” And in the New-Testament, we have the same idea held up, in terms equally express. “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for there is no power, but of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” Again, “submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, for the Lord’s sake; whether it be to the King, as supreme, or unto Governours, as unto them that are sent by him for the pinishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God.”

These declarations apply to civil government in general, which is indispensably necessary to social felicity and safety. But they are by no means to be extended to every mode of government that has obtained among mankind: Not certainly to despotic and lawless domination. This is not the ordinance of God. Nor indeed any other government, but such a sprotects the subjects in the peaceable possession of their just rights, properties and priviledges.

. . . Power is an intoxicating quality; and for a single individual to be vested with sovereign rule, is subjecting him to a temptation too strong for human virtue. A desire of pre-eminence is a natural passion, and when properly restrained, may prove highly beneficial to society. But when it has a full free course, and attains the summit of its wish, and feels itself without controul; the  subject of this undue elevation, is apt to be puffed up with pride, to become intolerably supercilious and tyrannical; and to trample upon those rights of the community, and individuals, which it is the prime design of government to protect.

Wherever the will of a despot is the supreme law, the great end of government is usually perverted. This is sufficently attested by facts: And it is no other than what might justly be expected from the nature of man.  . . .

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Filed under 1780's, Early Republic, Elections, Government, Massachusetts, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion, Sermons

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