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Scholarship & Strength: Preservatives of Independence

Posted By Connie Moody, Monday, July 2, 2012

I thought it would be inspiring to share a voice from our American history first spoken on July 4, 1794.  This comes from a published sermon by Mr. William Emerson, Minister of the First Christian Church in Harvard.  It was customary for ministers to speak to assemblies of soldiers and elected government officials on special days and election days to remind them of the principles that must guide them and the duties that must accompany them.  The custom was coupled with the request for a printing of the message for further study and contemplation.  This excerpt comes from an original copy that is one among many collected and studied by Verna Hall and Rosalie Slater.  It is part of the Hall-Slater Library Collection. 

I had intended to find a short passage to share in celebration of the 236th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, but I was taken with the message in its entirety.  I've noted a portion below and attached a copy of the nearly complete text for your consideration.  I hope you will read it with reason and reflection to mine it for the principles that still apply to us as "the scholars, and the soldiers of Jesus Christ"—as the modern-day stewards of His gift of liberty meant to flourish in the world's first Christian constitutional republic.

I hope you will also make it your annual habit to read the Declaration of Independence to share in its heritage and see to its legacy, that "ye may thus rationally hope, that the raptures of independence, which now thrill your veins, will circulate with the blood of all your descendents."


Christian friends and fellow citizens! It is beautiful to behold the mingled pleasure and devotions, with which ye honor this national festival. Would ye annually bring like offerings to liberty? Cultivate the means, by which she was first won. Unite in cherishing every species of useful and religious knowledge, and to their literary and humane acquirements, let your sons add hardihood and skill in the arts of war. Thus shall ye be properly prepared to defend your valuable soil. Thus shall ye justify your just attachment to the FEDERAL CONSTITUTION, that prodigy of human wisdom, and glory of your land; reward the services of your old and faithful rulers; keep inviolate the rights of conscience, and the voluntary worship of God; and, in fine, ye may thus rationally hope, that the raptures of independence, which now thrill your veins, will circulate with the blood of all your descendents.

In giving these mixed exhortations, let it not be thought, that I deviate from the path of a christian minister. Christianity is a religion full of truth, and full of reason. And the knowledge of truth, and the exercise of reason, as they constitute the greatest individual freedom, so they impel to the devising and recommending of all lawful means for the security of freedom among communities and nations.

Let it, nevertheless, be seriously remembered, that, apart from temporary and political considerations, we are, in a peculiar sense, the scholars, and the soldiers of Jesus Christ. We are taught in his school; we are enlisted under his banner. It is true, none of us has ever been entangled with the yoke of Jewish ordinances, nor been bound to the observance of mosaic rites. But we have all, alas! been too much enslaved by bad passions, too much under the dominion of evil habits. Let us break the yoke of this unnatural and worst kind of bondage from off us, and never again be entangled with it. Through the knowledge of our Lord and his gospel, let us conquer all our vices, and surrender ourselves to the possession of those virtues, which, it is designed, shall give the truest liberty to the human race. For, however numerous the present captives of sin, rejoice in this, ye followers of Jesus, christianity shall yet emancipate the world. It shall do more. It shall enfranchise the prisoners of the tomb. The time shall come, when, loosed from the bands of death and the grave, the disciples of virtue, universally, shall own your Master, as Captain of their redemption, who, putting palms of victory in their hands, and crowns of glory on their heads, shall lead them away into a land of everlasting freedom, and make them kings and priests unto God, even his father, to whom be the glory for every and ever. AMEN.

July 4, 1794

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Tags:  Delcaration of Independence  July 4  sermon 

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