In the House of Representatives, June 24, 1780, it was “Ordered, that Colonel Dawes and Major Osgood, with such as the Honourable Board shall join, be a Committee to inform the Rev. Dr. COOPER that the two Houses have made choice of him to preach a Sermon on the last Wednesday of October next, being the first Day of General Election under the new Constitution. Sent up for Concurrence, JOHN HANCOCK, Speaker. In Council, June 4, 1780, Read and concurred, and Thomas Cushing, Esq; is joined. JOHN AVERY, Dep. Secr’y. Consented to by the Major Part of the Council. A true copy, Attest. JOHN AVERY, Dep. Secr’y.”
Accordingly, Rev. Samuel Cooper, D.D., pastor of the Brattle Square Congregational Church in Boston (attended by John Adams, Samuel Adams and John Hancock), preached a Sermon before JOHN HANCOCK, Esq; Governour, the SENATE, and HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, October 25, 1780, excerpted as follows,
30th Jeremiah, 20, 21.
“Their Congregation shall be established before me: and their Nobles shall be of themselves, and their Governor shall proceed from the midst of them.”
NOTHING can be more applicable to the solemnity in which we are engaged, than this passage of Sacred Writ. The Prophecy seems to have been made for ourselves, it is so exactly descriptive of that important, that comprehensive, that essential civil blessing, which kindles the lustre, and diffuses the joy of the present day. Nor is this the only passage of Holy Scripture that holds up to our view a striking resemblance between our own circumstances and those of the ancient Israelites; a nation chosen by God, a theatre for the display of some of the most astonishing dispensations of His Providence. Like that nation we rose from oppression, and emerged “from the House of Bondage:” Like that nation we were led into a wilderness, as a refuge from tyranny, and a preparation for the enjoyment of our civil and religious rights: Like that nation we have been pursued through the sea, by the armed hand of power, which, but for the signal interpositions of Heaven, must before now have totally defeated the noble purpose of our emigration: And, to omit many other instances of similarity, like that nation we have been ungrateful to the Supreme Ruler of the world, and too “lightly esteemed the Rock of our Salvation;” accordingly, we have been corrected by His justice, and at the same time remarkably supported and defended by His mercy: So that we may discern our own picture in the figure of the ancient church divinely exhibited to Moses in vision, “a bush burning and not consumed.” This day, this memorable day, is a witness, that the Lord, He whose “hand maketh great, and giveth strength unto all, hath not forsaken us, nor our God forgotten us.” This day, which forms a new era in our annals, exhibits a testimony to all the world, that contrary to our defects, and amidst all our troubles, the blessing promised in our text to the afflicted seed of Abraham is come upon us; “Their Nobles shall be of themselves, and their Governor shall proceed from the midst of them”
This Prophecy has an immediate respect to the deliverance of the Jews from the cruel oppressions of the king of Babylon. Their sufferings, when they fell under the power of this haughty tyrant, as they are represented to us in sacred history, must harrow a bosom softened with the least degree of humanity. They give us a frightful picture of the effects of despotic power, guided and inflamed by those lusts of the human heart with which it is seldom unaccompanied. Can we forbear weeping for human nature, or blushing for its degradation, when we view either the sufferer or the actor in such a scene; the relentless oppressor, or those who are “sore broken in the place of dragons?” What can be more pathetic than the description of it given by the same Prophet, who gave the consolation in our text. “How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people? How is she become as a widow: she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces? She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks; she hath none to comfort her; her friends have dealt treacherously with her. Judah is gone into captivity; because of affliction, and because of great servitude, she findeth no rest. Her mighty men are trodden under foot; her young men are crushed; the young and the old lie on the ground in the streets – Mine eyes do fail with tears; my bowels are troubled, my liver is poured on the earth, for the destruction of the daughter of my people.”
Such are the fruits of lawless and despotic power in a mortal man intoxicated with it: Such desolations does it make in the earth – Such havock in the family of God; merely for the sake of enlarging its bounds and impressing its terror on the human bosom. It often, indeed, claims a divine original, and impudently supports itself not barely on the permission, but the express designation of him “whose tender mercies are over all His works;” though it exactly resembles the grand adversary of God and man, and is only a “roaring lion that seeketh whom he may devour.” To plead a divine right for such a power is truly to teach “the doctrine of devils.” It covets everything without bounds: It grasps everything without pity: It riots on the spoils and innocence and industry: It is proud to annihilate the rights of mankind; to destroy the fairest constitutions of wisdom, policy and justice, the broadest sources of human happiness: While it enslaves the bodies, it debases the minds of the offspring of God: In its progress it changes the very face of nature, it withers even the fruits of the earth, and frustrates the bounties of our common parent. “Before it is the garden of God, behind it is a desolate wilderness.”
Looking upon the Jews when groaning under such a power; their armies vanquished; the flower of their country cut off by the sword; their fortresses reduced; their cities in ashes; their land ravaged; their temple and worship destroyed, and the remnant of the nation led in chains to a foreign land; who would have thought that in a few years, these cities and this temple should rise again from their ruins, and a people so totally enslaved and widely dispersed be restored to their rights and possessions, their laws and institutions; peace, liberty and plenty daily augmenting their numbers, and lighting up the face of joy through their whole land; while the haughty empire of Babylon, from which they had suffered so much, should set to rise no more! Such, however, were the decrees of Heaven; such the predictions of the inspired Prophets; and such the event.
“Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of thee; but thou shalt serve the Lord thy God: and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and they shall come and sing in the height of Zion: and fields shall be bought in this land whereof ye say it is desolate, it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans – men shall buy fields for money. And they that devour thee shall be devoured; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil. And out of Judah shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation, their religious and civil assemblies, shall be established before me: and I will punish all that oppress them: and their Nobles shall be of themselves, and their Governor shall proceed from the midst of them, and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto Me…”
FromRev. Samuel Cooper, D.D., we see that the Massachusetts’ Senate and House of Representatives honored God at the commencement of their Constitution, and the inauguration of their new government.
To learn more, click here. (Founding Fathers book)