Five Sermons to Celebrate the Fourth of July and America’s Independence

Few dispute that Christianity has played a prominent role in the history of the United States from its founding in the 18th century into the modern day.

Oftentimes, American clergy have spoken to churches or other gatherings about Independence Day, patriotism, and what relationship if any it has to piety.

Many inspirational sermons and messages have been preached on American soil, and on a host of diverse issues social, religious, and political.

Here are five profound messages given by preachers in American history centered on the Fourth of July, patriotism, or the call to create a more perfect union.

John Witherspoon

On May 17, 1776, famed 18th century preacher John Witherspoon gave a sermon generally considered a major inspiration for the American colonists in their struggle for independence.

Witherspoon was president of the College of New Jersey, later renamed Princeton University, and was an ordained Presbyterian clergyman.

In a famous address given at Princeton titled “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men,” Witherspoon based his sermon on Psalm 76:10.

“I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature,” declared Witherspoon.

“I am satisfied that the confederacy of the colonies, has not been the effect of pride, resentment, or sedition, but of a deep and general conviction, that our civil and religious liberties, and consequently in a great measure the temporal and eternal happiness of us and our posterity, depended on the issue.”

Author and Christ Covenant Church Senior Pastor Kevin DeYoung wrote in 2016 that he believed the popular sermon “helped push the colonies toward independence.”

“It is widely regarded as one of the principal sermons that prepared the way for the Declaration of Independence, a document that Witherspoon himself — the lone clergymen — would sign on July 4, 1776,” wrote DeYoung for The Gospel Coalition.

Joseph Lathrop

Joseph Lathrop, an ordained preacher who served as pastor for the Congregational Church in West Springfield, Massachusetts, preached a sermon on Independence Day 1794 titled “The Happiness of a Free Government and the Means of Preserving It.”

Preached in honor of the recently acquired independence of the United States, Lathrop argued that a republican form of government is the only one “framed under the immediate direction of heaven.”

“Moses was immediately ordained by God to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, and to communicate to them the divine ordinances and laws. But he claimed no authority to command them until by exhibiting evidence of his divine commission, he had obtained their consent to follow him. Much less did he claim for his family an hereditary jurisdiction over them,” he said.

“When he found the burden of government too heavy, for him to sustain alone, he laid the case before the people. He never presumed, of his own prerogative, to create officers under him; but he proposed to them, that they should choose proper persons to assist him.”

James Patterson

Not to be confused with the best-selling author of the modern day, the Rev. James Patterson served as pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in the Northern Liberties of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In a sermon preached on Independence Day 1825, Patterson denounced the practice of slavery, drawing on the Old Testament Book of Exodus and the history of Hebrews demanding freedom.

“But while offering up our prayers and thanks to our Great Deliverer for our political redemption, Fellow citizens will you suffer us to remind you of a race of beings at our own firesides, wearing a chain much more galling than that of our fathers, when with their hearts up to heaven, and their swords in their hands they resolved to die, or be free,” said Patterson.

“It has always appeared to us equally incongruous and un-Christian to assemble together to hear our Declaration of Independence read, while we at that very moment are holding men in slavery — and men whose blood is the same with that in our own veins.”

Patterson concluded his speech by stating that he hoped “day is not far off, when this abominable traffic, by the united exertions of Christian nations will be declared piracy throughout the world.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski