This week in Christian history: ‘Pastor’s Pastor’ born, Jerry Falwell Sr., Revolutionary sermon

John Witherspoon preaches sermon that influenced Revolution – May 17, 1776

A portrait of John Witherspoon (1722-1794), signer of the Declaration of Independence and Presbyterian clergyman.
A portrait of John Witherspoon (1722-1794), signer of the Declaration of Independence and Presbyterian clergyman. | (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

This week marks the anniversary of when famed 18th century preacher John Witherspoon gave a sermon that many believe influenced the American colonies in their struggle for independence. 

During an address given at the College of New Jersey (now called Princeton) titled “The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men,” the Scottish-American Witherspoon based his sermon on Psalm 76:10.

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“I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature,” declared Witherspoon.

“I am satisfied that the confederacy of the colonies, has not been the effect of pride, resentment, or sedition, but of a deep and general conviction, that our civil and religious liberties, and consequently in a great measure the temporal and eternal happiness of us and our posterity, depended on the issue.”

Author and Christ Covenant Church Senior Pastor Kevin DeYoung wrote in 2016 that he believed the popular sermon “helped push the colonies toward independence.”

“It is widely regarded as one of the principal sermons that prepared the way for the Declaration of Independence, a document that Witherspoon himself — the lone clergymen — would sign on July 4, 1776,” wrote DeYoung for The Gospel Coalition.

“The sermon is worth reading in its entirety … both for its political-historical significance and also to learn from Witherspoon’s great concern for conversion and personal holiness even in the midst of such national tumult.”

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