Leaders in Christ’s Church: Stand Up Like Men!

“But if a clergyman preaches Christianity, and tells the magistrates that they were not distinguished from their brethren for their private emolument but for the good of the people, that the people are bound in conscience to obey a good government, but are not bound to submit to one that aims at destroying all the ends of government – Oh sedition! Treason! …

“The clergy of this province are a virtuous, sensible, and learned set of men, and they don’t take their sermons from newspapers but the Bible, unless it be a few who preach passive obedience. … It is the duty of the clergy to accommodate their discourses to the times, to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted. … If the rights and duties of Christian magistrates and subjects are disputed, should they not explain them, show their nature, ends, limitations and restrictions …? … Justice is a great Christian as well as moral duty and virtue which the clergy ought to inculcate and explain. … [They should] Show that justice was due to the public as well as to an individual, and that cheating the public of four thousand two hundred pounds sterling is at least as great a sin as taking a chicken from a private hen roost, or perhaps a watch from a fob!?”

– Novanglus No. IV: Feb. 13, 1775

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What an amazing statement for two reasons: first, it is from one of our supposedly “deist” Founding Fathers (which not a single one of our Founding Fathers was, at least by today’s definition); and second, this Founding Father declared that a “clergyman [who] preaches Christianity” was essential to educating the people in order that they may be fit not only to identify when they are being oppressed by their governors, but that they might assume the responsibilities of liberty for themselves.

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John Adams emphatically declares that it is the duty of the leaders of the church “to accommodate their discourses to the times.” But did Mr. Adams mean accommodation of the Bible to the culture? No, quite the contrary, for he says “[in order] to preach against such sins as are most prevalent, and recommend such virtues as are most wanted.” In other words, leaders of the church were meant to be a rock of stability amidst a changing and fluctuating world. Good heavens, what a sound that must have been!

This observation was seconded by numerous Founding Fathers, but perhaps most notably by Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the father of American medicine, when he noted: “A Christian cannot fail of being a republican. The history of the creation of man, and of the relation of our species to each other by birth, which is recorded in the Old Testament, is the best refutation that can be given to the divine right of kings, and the strongest argument that can be used in favor of the original and natural equality of all mankind.” But why was Christianity so important to maintaining a free society? Again, Dr. Rush notes: “Without this [religion] there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

It would be wise for many of today’s pastors to take note of what is said here. Contrary to the “seeker-friendly” style of many today, which is most often done in the name of the Gospel, but for the sake of marketing and increasing cash flow, our Founding Fathers expected the clergy to rise to the occasion when the times called for it. It was precisely that point at which great controversies, moral questions and issues of oppression and liberty were present that so too did the message of the Church become that much more important. Rather than a culturally tailored message that seeks to avoid offending anyone, Mr. Adams noted that many of the pastors during the days of Revolution “don’t take their sermons from newspapers but the Bible.” In other words, they didn’t take their cues from the media of the day on what was relevant or true, but looked to the Word of God itself, the rock of stability amidst a stormy world.

At this time during which there is arguably more confusion than there ever has been in our country, a moral fog and a rational malaise, it is more important than ever that the leaders of the Church stand up like men, preach the Word of God whose relevance is eternal, and exhibit to congregations across the country the power of incarnating the Word of God in their own lives through action and service inspired by love and truth.

Some may think I am arguing that the Church should dictate politics. Not at all. But the Church should ILLUMNIATE politics. It should show that abortion is not political, but moral. It should show us that marriage is not political, but societal and generational. It should show us that never-ending debt is not political, but theft and robbery.

I have heard some object to this, saying, among other things, “Politics doesn’t save us.” No, of course it doesn’t. Only Jesus Christ does that. But as Christians, we are called to improve the world around us so much as God enables us, so the question of politics is not one of salvation, but making the world here and now a better place.

Politics may not save us, but it sure is damning us. Arise, oh leaders of God, and do your duty like men!

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