Once upon a time, the pulpit was used to shape the nation. Preachers held the church accountable to the word of God and the church, in turn, held their civic leaders to the word of God. Once upon a time the church held sway over the people. Now, the people hold sway over the church. The nation has been turned upside down. What follows is a portion of a sermon that was delivered to the Honorable Council and the Honorable House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts-Bay on May 31, 1780, by Simeon Howard, A.M., Pastor of the West Church in Boston. I ask you - when was the last time you heard a sermon preached from the pulpit that would set fire to your belly? I dare say never. Woe unto us.
"Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers". Exodus XViii.21 (18:21)
Let us now consider, the qualifications pointed out in the text necessary for rulers:
They must be able men. God has made a great difference in men in respect of their natural powers, both of body and mind; to some he has given more, to others fewer talents. Nor is there perhaps a less difference in this respect arising from education. And though there are none but what may be good members of civil society, as well as faithful servants of God, yet every one has not abilities sufficient to make him a good civil ruler. "Woe unto thee, O land, when they king is a child," says Solomon, hereby intimating that the happiness of a people depends greatly upon the character of its rulers, and that if they resemble children in weakness, ignorance, credulity; fickleness, etc., the people will of course be very miserable. By able men may be intended men of good understanding and knowledge, - men of clear heads who have improved their minds by exercise, acquired a habit of reasoning, and furnished themselves with a good degree of knowledge, - men who have a just conception of the nature and end of government in general, of the natural rights of mankind, of the nature and importance of civil and religious liberty, - a knowledge of human nature, of the springs of action and the readiest way to engage and influence the heart, - an acquaintance with the people to be governed, their genius, their prejudices, their interest with respect to other states, what difficulties they are under, what dangers they are liable to, and what they are able to bear and do....
By 'able men' may be further intended men capable of enduring the burden and fatigue of government, - men that have not broken or debilitated their bodies or minds by the effeminating pleasures of luxury, intemperance, or dissipation. The supreme government of a people is always a burden of great weight, though more difficult at some times than others. It cannot be managed well without great diligence and application. Weak and effeminate persons are therefore by no means fit to manage it. But rulers should not only be able men, but, 'Such as fear God.' The fear of God, in the language of Scripture, does not intend a slavish, superstitious dread, as of an almighty, arbitrary, and cruel Being, but that just reverence and awe of Him which naturally arises from a belief and habitual consideration of His glorious perfections and providence, - of His being the moral governor of the world, a lover of holiness and a hater of vice, who sees every thought and design as well as every action of all his creatures, and will punish the impenitently vicious and reward the virtuous. It is therefore a fear of offending Him productive of obedience to His laws, and ever accompanied with hope in His mercy and that filial love which is due to so amiable a character. Let me observe, once more, that it is of great importance to their happiness that religion and virtue generally prevail among a people; and in order to this, government should use its influence to promote them.
For, they must be men of truth. This means men free from deceit and hypocrisy, guile, and falsehood, - men who will not, by flattery and cajoling, by falsehood and slandering a competitor, endeavor to get into authority; and who, when they are in, will conscientiously speak the truth in all their declarations and promises, and punctually fulfill their engagements..."
Do the people that you have elected fulfill these qualifications? The overwhelming answer is "By no means"! Oh, what we have lost.
Our pastors must re-take their pulpits and use their influence to shape the nation. "Woe unto thee, O land, when thy king is a child".