The Pulpit of the American Revolution: Or, the Political Sermons of the Period of 1776

With a Historical Introduction, Notes, and Illustrations. By JOHN WINGATE THORNTON, A. M. Boston: Gould & Lincoln. 12mo.
THIS is a volume worthy a place in every American library, public or private. It consists of nine discourses by the same number of patriotic clergymen of the Revolution. Mr. Thornton, the editor, has supplied an historical introduction, full of curious and interesting matter, and has also given a special preface to each sermon, with notes explaining all those allusions in the text which might puzzle an ordinary reader of the present day. His annotations have not only the value which comes from patient research, but the charm which proceeds from loving partisanship. He transports himself into the times about which he writes, and almost seems to have listened to the sermons he now comes forward to illustrate. The volume contains Dr. Mayhew’s sermon on “ Unlimited Submission,” Dr. Chauncy’s on the “Repeal of the Stamp Act,” Rev. Mr. Cooke’s Election Sermon on the “True Principles of Civil Government,” Rev. Mr. Gordon’s “ Thanksgiving Sermon in 1774,” and the discourses, celebrated in their day, of Langdon, Stiles, West, Payson, and Howard. Among these, the first rank is doubtless due to Dr. Mayhew’s remarkable discourse at the West Church on the 30th of January, 1750. The topics relating to “non-resistance to the higher powers,” which Macaulay treats with such wealth of statement, argument, and illustration, in his “History of England,” are in this sermon discussed with equal earnestness, energy, brilliancy, fulness, and independence of thought. If all political sermons were characterized by the rare mental and moral qualities which distinguish Jonathan Mayhew’s, there can be little doubt that our politicians and statesmen would oppose the intrusion of parsons into affairs of state on the principle of self-preservation, and not on any arrogant pretension of superior sagacity, knowledge, and ability. In the power to inform the people of their rights and teach them their duties, we would be willing to pit one Mayhew against a score of Cushings and Rhetts, of Slidells and Yanceys. The fact that Mayhew’s large and noble soul glowed with the inspiration of a quick moral and religious, as well as common, sense, would not, in our humble opinion, at all detract from his practical efficiency.