A Political Message in a Presbyterian Church —
It was evidently a message which the well-known Presbyterian pastor in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania had to deliver, given the times. To wait for some better time would be wrong, he must have thought. So the Rev. Dr. Henry A. Broadman on two successive weekdays delivered the same sermon entitled “The American Union: A Discourse” to two different audiences. The first occasion was on Thursday, December 12, 1850 on the day of Annual Thanksgiving in the state. The second was on Thursday December 19, 1850 in the sanctuary of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here are some quotations from the message:
“No man who believes that there is a Providence can take even a brief retrospect of our history, like that which has now engaged our attention, without discovering in numerable evidences of his benignant agency. He who does not see a Divine hand directing and controlling the whole course of our affairs, from the landing of the colonists at Jamestown and Plymouth until the present would hardly have seen the pillar of cloud and of fire had he been with the Hebrews in the wilderness.
“The Union is not the work of man. It is the work of GOD. Among the achievements of his wisdom and beneficence in conducting the secular concern of the world, it must be ranked as one of his greatest and best works. And he who would destroy it is chargeable with the impiety of attempting to subvert a structure which is eminently adapted to illustrate the perfections of the Deity, and to bless the whole family of man.” (p. 30)
Dr. Boardman then goes on to speak of one issue which was actually at work in the 1850’s which, in his estimation, would destroy the American Union. The identification of this is put in all capital letters, and it is, SLAVERY. The rest of the long address is on this issue, and the divisiveness which it is causing to the American Union. Readers can find it on the world-wide web and read it in its entirety.
This patriotic message in a Presbyterian Church (which is now aligned with the Presbyterian Church in America) was proclaimed by the pastor of Tenth Presbyterian, not on Sunday, either the Sabbath morning or Sabbath evening, but on a Thursday at a special service. And because he saw it as an important message, he had it printed into a booklet for the masses to read, especially the Christian people of the land. It was one attempt to heal the union of the land rather than see it splintered into two nations, as was the case eleven years later in 1861.
Words to live by: There is a place, as our Confession speaks in W.C.F. 31:4 of speaking to our citizens “by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary, or by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate.” This writer does not know if the discourse was a humble petition or a requirement by the civil magistrate, but it was delivered by this Presbyterian clergyman to his congregation and others in that eastern city of Pennsylvania. Certainly God’s Word does bear on the affairs of our nation. We must speak to it in extraordinary times. Who can deny that the potential schism caused by the Civil War was an extraordinary time. Christian reader: pray for our nation today, for our president and all his advisers, for the cabinet, the members of Congress, and especially our military forces all over the world, including those in harm’s way.