Let the Pastors Speak by Maria Pia Perez

In celebration of Presidents Day, I’d like to share selected stories about our founding leaders and their pastors.

New England’s pulpits essentially paved the road to American freedom. Sermons from the colonial era helped to shape America’s understanding that resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.


Thus, the New England clergy helped lay the intellectual and theological foundation for liberty.

Liberty Thundered from the colonial pulpits, mainly in New England, ignited the war for independence (Kennedy, 1994 ).

One example is the work of reverend Jonas Clark. He was the minister of the church in Lexington. From 1762 to 1776, he was the most influential politician and a churchman in the Lexington Concord area. His home was a meeting place for many important patriots; on the night of Paul Revere’s ride, Clark entertained John Hancock and Samuel Adams. When asked if the men of Lexington would fight, he replied that he had trained them for that very hour (Kennedy, 1994).


History is replete with evidence of how pastors influenced our first founding leaders. I want to share how the pastors guided and influenced the founding of our nation, pastors like Jonathan Mayhew, who asserted that “rebellion against tyranny is obedience to God.” In the 1700s, Jonathan Mayhew was the most prominent dissenter against the Church of England in Massachusetts. His powerful sermons put forth radical ideas against the crown. Mayhew’s words are not just spiritual wanderings but outright treason.

Rev. Jonathan Mayhew

One of his more prominent speeches became known as the “morning gun of the revolution,” fueling rebellion against the King in England. John Adams was so inspired by Mayhew’s sermons that even in his old age, he would give copies of the speech to friends as a gift. Adams would praise people of faith, stating, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” He said, “The revolution was affected before the war commenced; it was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.”


Another preacher who was used mightily by God was the reverend George Whitefield. Whitefield arrived in Philadelphia as part of an extended evangelical journey through the colonies. Benjamin Franklin was curious to learn about Whitefield, so he investigated whether Whitefield might be a charlatan. Uninterested in hearing Whitefield speak to small local congregations, Benjamin Franklin decided to hear him when he spoke in a large open-air meeting, which captivated Franklin’s attention. He was intrigued that the preacher was doing good work, like opening a large orphanage outside Savannah, Georgia. Franklin is taken in by the sincere message of faith and is so moved by the preacher’s message that he secures an arrangement to print Whitefield’s sermons. The two developed a deep civil friendship in Franklin’s words, and Whitefield became a frequent visitor to the Franklin household. Whitefield traveled to America seven times; his message of self-determination in religion and civil affairs would resonate throughout the colonies, inspiring rebellion against England.

Rev. George Whitifield

An additional renowned pastor influential to our nation’s founders was the reverend Samuel Davies. Patrick Henry, one of the most influential fathers of our country, said of reverend Samuel Davies that “he was the greatest orator I have ever heard.” (O’Reilly & Dugard, 2023 )

The Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon had an unparalleled record as a leader and educator for over 25 years. He taught a large group of the founding fathers, and “his graduates included the president of the United States James Madison; Vice president, Aaron Burr; 10 cabinet members; Six members of the Continental Congress; 39 US Representatives: 21 US Senators; 12 Governor’s; 56 State Legislator’s; 30 judges; 3 US Supreme Court justices; 6 members of the Constitutional Convention; and 13 college presidents.” The Reverend John Witherspoon was a signer of the Declaration and a signer of the Articles of Confederation. Witherspoon was the quintessential founding father most people have never heard of. He was best described as the man who shaped the men who shaped America (Kennedy, 1994 ).

How about the Reverend William Rogers, who had a special time of daily prayer for the constitutional convention proceedings throughout the convention.


As Thomas Jefferson said at the time of the founding, “when governments fear the people, there is liberty. when the people fear the government, there is tyranny.”

Montesquieu believed that all law has its source in God. In his primary text, The Spirit of the Laws, he recognized the value of Christianity in fostering good laws and good government.

In the Old Testament, prophets such as Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, and Elisha were counselors to the kings. In America, the people are the king, and the pastors are the counselors to the king sitting in their pews. The church is the conscious of the state (Federer, 2017).

In 1820, Daniel Webster, in speaking against the African slave trader, gave a rebuke in which he stated and invoked “the ministers of our religion, that they proclaim its denunciation of these crimes, and add its solemn sanctions to the authority of human laws. ” He stated, “If the pulpit be silent whenever or wherever there may be a sinner bloody with this guilt within the hearing of its voice, the pulpit is false to its trust” (Federer, 2017).

Works Cited

Federer, W. J. (2017). Who is the King in America: And who are the counselors to the king? Fort Myers : Amerisearch Inc. .

Kennedy, D. J. (1994 ). What If Jeusus Had Never Been Born? Nashville : Thomas Nelson Inc. .

O’Reilly, B., & Dugard, M. (2023 ). Killing the Witches: The horror of salem, Massachusetts . New York : St. Martin’s Press .

Powell, S. S. (2022). Rediscovering America: How the national holidays tell an amazing story about who we are . New York: Post Hill Press .