Tuesday is for Preaching
Recently, I was taken to task on a critical statement I made toward politicians in general of both parties and of the president in particular. It was a friend who took me to task, and we remain friends though I remain unconvinced that my criticism of the Congress, Senate and Executive Office were out of place or inappropriate. Bottom line, I don’t believe that respect for the President means non-criticism of the the President. Except for the question between the post and the footnotes, the following is from Kairos Journal.
Repentance to Parliament [or congress]
On the morning of December 22, 1641, Edmund Calamy, a London curate, calmly climbed the steps into the pulpit of St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster. Facing the assembled House of Commons, he opened his Bible to Jeremiah 18:7-10 and proposed a simple doctrine: “Sin ruins kingdoms.” Calamy told his listeners that the only way to avert God’s wrath over national apostasy was through national repentance and a desire to “reform the Reformation” according to the Word of God.1 He set the tone for many of the decade’s sermons that day: “It is about the ruin and repair of kingdoms and nations, a matter suitable for you that are the representative body of the kingdom.”2 His sermon was entitled “England’s Looking Glass,” and its published version went through five editions due to its popularity.
The practice of preaching to Parliament began in 1614 with a motion that all members receive communion together. To respect Puritan sensibilities, the service was to be held in St. Margaret’s, and the speaker of the house arranged for a preacher for the occasion. Beginning in 1642, monthly fasts were established, with sermons delivered in both the morning and afternoon.3 These days took on special significance during the time of the Long Parliament (1640-1648) and civil war (1642-1646, 1648-1649, and 1649-1651).4
As Calamy preached, he emphasized the importance of repentance in their tumultuous times. He boldly claimed God’s sovereignty over nations: “[W]hen God begins to build and plant a Nation; if that Nation do [evil] in Gods sight, God will unbuild, pluck up, and repent of the good he intended to do unto it.”5 Like most of the preachers, he was a member of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, the men who drew up the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Westminster Catechisms. Indeed, it was the preaching of men like Calamy and Stephen Marshall that led Parliament to call the Assembly.6
That morning, Calamy sought to apply his teaching to the Church, to the nation as a whole, and to Parliament in particular, because he believed that Parliament was the representative body of the kingdom. This representation was not so much to represent the people’s rights before the king as to represent its responsibilities before God.7 Therefore, repentance and reformation should start with them.
The seventeenth-century parliamentary preachers had grasped that the greatest need for any nation was reformation according to God’s Word. When they had the ears of some of the most powerful men in the country, they preached not so much about policy as about repentance. For, in the words of one of these preachers, Obadiah Sedgewick, spiritual renewal was “the [only] way to prevent destroying Judgments.”8
Is it the Church’s role to call elected officials to repent when the laws of God are broken?
1 John F. Wilson, Pulpit in Parliament: Puritanism during the English Civil Wars 1640-1648 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969), 55-56.
|2 Edmund Calamy, “England’s Looking Glass,” quoted in Stephen Baskerville, Not Peace But a Sword: The Political Theology of the English Revolution (London: Routledge, 1993), 63.3 Wilson, 22-28. For example, the sermon mentioned at the beginning of this piece took place on the occasion of a fast for the Irish crisis. Ibid., 239.
4 Charles I called Parliament together to provide needed finances that only parliament could approve. By a special act, it was determined that this Parliament could only be adjourned by a vote from its members. Thus, the Parliament stayed together for nearly ten years, greatly influencing the course of the English Civil War.
5 Calamy, quoted in Wilson, 55.
6 Wilson, 55-57.
7 Baskerville, 79.
8 Quoted in Wilson, 65.