Election Day Sermon: Rev. Samuel Payson

Posted at This Day in Presbyterian History:

The Rev. Samuel Phillips Payson (1736-1801) was a classical scholar and Pastor. His family migrated from England, and his father was a pastor before him; his wife was also a daughter of the manse. He graduated from Harvard in 1754 and pastored in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He delivered this sermon on February 28, 1778 to a State Convention in Boston just before the state constitution was considered.

Payson took this sermon from Gal. 4:26 and 31. He began praising liberty: “We doubt not but the Jerusalem above, the heavenly society, possesses the noblest liberty to a degree of perfection of which the human mind can have no adequate conception in the present state.” He also denounced bondage, corruption, tyranny, and lust. Payson preached, “Hence a people formed upon the morals and principles of the gospel are capacitated to enjoy the highest degree of civil liberty, and will really enjoy it, unless prevented by force or fraud.”

In this sermon, he was clearly an advocate of ‘republican’ governance: “Much depends upon the mode and administration of civil government to complete the blessings of liberty; for although the best possible plan of government never can give an ignorant and vicious people the true enjoyment of liberty, yet a state may be enslaved though its inhabitants in general may be knowing, virtuous, and heroic.”

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