Summary: How do we explain unrest in America? The answer was given years ago on May 30, 1804, by Samuel Kendall, a preacher addressing the Massachusetts Legislature. Herein is reprinted that important sermon, largely in its entirety.
On January 6, 2021, the world witnessed the shameful spectacle of thousands of Americans storming their capitol building in an attempt to disrupt the proceedings of Congress. Many of these persons carried American flags and some displayed Christian testimonies, all convinced, apparently, of the righteousness and patriotism of their cause. What has gone wrong in America? The answer to that question may be inferred from the following, a sermon by one early American preacher, and because of the manifest wisdom found therein, I share it with you in the hope that it will answer the many questions that you may be experiencing following the events of January 6, 2021. Our nation’s future prosperity may well depend upon gaining understanding.
Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day; which you shall command your children to observe and do, all the words of this law. For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life; and through this thing you shall prolong your days in the land to which you go over Jordan to possess it.
This important advice was given by the Jewish Legislator, just before his death, to the whole congregation of Israel. Moses had exhibited to his nation unequivocal proof of his attachment to their interest, freedom and happiness. Although acknowledged as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, educated at Egypt’s court, and assured of the honors and offices which commonly gratify the ambition of men, he disclaimed kindred and alliance with the oppressors of his people, and boldly demanded their release from servitude. By a series of wonders, wrought in the name of Jehovah, he effected their emancipation, and conducted them to the land promised to their fathers.
To form and carry into operation a system of government, and habituate a newly emancipated people to rule and order were important objects to be accomplished. In these, as in the deliverance of the Hebrews, Moses was under the immediate supernatural direction of Heaven. The government was a theocracy; religion the basis on which the whole structure rested. Their institutions, civil and religious, happily combined to improve the nation, and to guard it against being corrupted by admitting strangers to an equal participation of all its privileges. In its advancement from bondage to an independent rank among the nations of the earth, the people were led by the hand of Moses and Aaron; by the civil magistrate and the minister of religion. Each was a chosen instrument to carry on the merciful designs of Providence in respect to ancient Israel; and each the world hath ever found necessary to promote the peace, order and improvement of society.
Arrived at the borders of the promised land, and apprised that he should not be permitted to pass Jordan, Moses gave the people a new edition of the law… and, to aid their memory, rehearsed the mercies and judgments of God, and the duties and dangers of Israel, in inspired discourse; in which, with an eloquence worthy of his subject, he celebrated the praises of Jehovah, and warned the nation against departing from the statues he had appointed unto them.
Having concluded his discourse, the prophet said to the congregation assembled to hear his last instruction, “Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day; which ye shall command your children to observe and do, all the words of this law.”
The two great commandments in this law, on which all the rest depend, according to our Savior, are to love the Lord our God with all the heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. It therefore related to related to religious, moral and social duty. In this view of it the people were directed by their great deliverer, whose character and achievements situation and prospects, gave weight to his counsel, sincerely to regard its rules and precepts, and to teach and command their children to observe them. The reason assigned for the injunction we have in these words: “For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life; and through this thing you shall prolong your days in the land to which you go over Jordan to possess it.”
By the life of a community, we understand its political existence, independence, freedom and happiness. In the preservation, or loss, of these, whatever may be ascribed to natural causes, we often observe the powerful effect of moral causes. To show the influence of these upon national freedom and prosperity is more particularly the duty of the ministers of religion. To this the subject directs our attention. The importance of the injunction in the text will appear from the truth and weight of the reason by which it is enforced. Our main object, therefore, will be to illustrate this general truth—that religion, and the moral and social virtues which flow in abundance from it, are, under God, the life and security of a free people.