John Adams said this preacher was “the spark that ignited the American Revolution.”
Robert Treat Paine, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, hailed him as our nation’s “Father of Civil and Religious Liberty.”
Franklin Cole, author of They Preached Liberty, considered him “the first of the Revolutionary preacher-patriots.”
So who was this great preacher to receive such recognition?
Born in 1720, Jonathan Mayhew’s 46 years of life on this Earth were nothing short of a miracle.
God’s wisdom imparted through him paired well with his tenacious spirit, as evidenced in his bold cries for Freedom that spurred on our nation’s founding.
Mayhew was a Boston Congregationalist politically, a Minister of God’s Word religiously, and saw no reason to separate the two, as God’s Word speaks to every matter of our lives.
According to the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), “Mayhew argued that obedience is not the due of oppressive governments because such tyranny violates the divinely-instituted purpose of government to benefit the people … And if rebellion against Charles for eviscerating British liberty was justifiable, the same arguments applied to Americans’ loss of liberty under George III.”
Mayhew’s argument was a part of a fiery sermon which reverberated across the land.
Given January 30, 1750, his address was in response to the centennial execution of Charles I. John Adams was a huge advocate for the wide-spread reading of Mayhew’s take on liberty.
In fact, it was this sermon that Adams called “the spark that ignited the American Revolution.”
Mayhew’s stance on authority was that God is the Ultimate, and thus the one bestowing our dignity as humankind. We are made in His image and therefore we are to act and be governed according to that Truth.
Mayhew also discussed the “natural rights” of humankind, bestowed by our culture and a general moralism.
Earthly authority is “a trust committed by the people … all besides is mere lawless force and usurpation; neither God nor nature, having given any man a right of dominion over any society, independently of that society’s … consent.”
Mayhew’s words resonated with the people, particularly as they struggled against domineering rulership of England.
Franklin Cole named Mayhew “the first Revolutionary preacher-patriot” for this very reason. One can hardly be comfortable in an environment of evil headship when these words are echoing in the mind.
Mayhew was a problem for the status quo of England due to the undoubtedly reasonable way he presented the matter. The evil in this world constantly seeks to capture, kill, destroy. Goodness, only True when God is the Source, is always freedom, life, growth. The evil world seeks to snuff out freedom because True Freedom always points to God.
Mayhew knew that “Wise and brave and virtuous men are always friends to liberty.”
His foundation for this belief was straight from the pages of Scripture. God is our Ultimate Authority and every man who takes a position of authority, according to Mayhew, must position himself under the guidelines of our true King.
Any king (as was central in Mayhew’s national scene) who diverts from His boundaries is not someone the people can follow.
We would say we agree to this, but Mayhew took it leaps further, stating “Resistance … [is] a most righteous and glorious stand, made in defense of the natural and legal rights of the people, against the unnatural and illegal encroachments of arbitrary power … to exercise a wanton licentious sovereignty over the properties, consciences and lives of all the people.”
So, as we see, Mayhew was clearly not anti-government, just anti-obedience to a leader going outside the law.
“The prerogative and rights of the [ruler] are stated, defined and limited by law … he cannot, while he confines himself within those just limits … injure and oppress … as soon as the prince sets himself up above law … he has no more right to be obeyed.”
Jonathan Mayhew paved the way for our own Civil and Religious Liberties.
Realizing what mighty winds set sail to our free foundations is key to maintaining True Freedom.
Today, we are seeing many liberties stolen away, killed and destroyed, under man’s corrupt governance.
May we seek God for the same bravery this man had to stand our ground as the waters rise around us. With God’s help and the same empowered courage Mayhew exemplified, we can see a restoration of good governance.
There were a few words Mayhew spoke in 1750 that are just as needed in our nation today.
We do need to submit to authority — all authority is placed by God for a purpose, but God being our Ultimate Authority needs to direct how we go about submitting in situations as they are fast-approaching. A few Mayhew pointers to remember:
1) “No government is to be submitted to, at the expense of that which is the sole end of all government — the common good and safety of society … The only reason of the institution of civil government; and the only rational ground of submission to it, is the common safety and utility.”
2) “If therefore, in any case, the common safety and utility would not be promoted by submission to government, but the contrary, there is no ground or motive for obedience and submission.”
3) “The end of all civil government [is] the good of society…a contrary end…is a plain and positive reason against submission.”
4) “Nothing [is] more directly contrary to common sense, than … that millions of people should be subjected to the arbitrary, precarious pleasure of one single man; so that their estates, and every thing that is valuable in life … shall be absolutely at his disposal.”
5) “[We have] the duty of a cheerful and conscientious submission to civil government, from the nature and end of magistracy … to punish evildoers.”
6) “But … what can be more absurd than an argument thus framed? ‘Rulers are, by their office, bound to consult the public welfare and the good of society: therefore you are bound to … submit to them, even when they destroy the public welfare … in direct contradiction to the nature and end of their office.’”
7) “Tyrants and public oppressors are not entitled to obedience.”
We need to pray for our government, and also for ourselves.
On both ends, let Truth rise and be the guidelines by which we make every decision.
May God bless our government as they choose to align with Truth. May evil that is being promoted and lawfully allowed be shut down in Jesus’ Name.
May we measure right from wrong according to the only Good, and so see contrasting evil. Our lives must be a reflection of Truth in this nation. We must not submit to the evil, but encourage our governors in every possible way to choose what is good.
To purchase a copy of They Preached Liberty click here.