Defender of Liberty, John Leland

“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23

I am thankful to live in a free country. I am thankful for the right to worship and believe as I choose. I am thankful to the men who made it possible. I am thankful to God for allowing me those privileges.

As we celebrate Independence Day tomorrow I thought I would share some information about a little known “patriot preacher” named John Leland{1754-1841}. He was a lover of freedom and he zealously fought the idea that this country should be a Christian commonwealth. He was friends with Madison and Jefferson. He would be considered a Calvinistic Baptist. {I detest revisionism either by commission or omission. If Leland would have been an Arminian Quaker I would have told you so. If you are looking for writings that only uphold your particular party or group …you’re tuned to the wrong station – Shawn}.

I find it interesting that while many today try to elect “Christian” leaders, Leland seemed to warn strongly against it.

Given below are a few small excerpts of his writings.

“No national church can in its organization, be the Gospel Church.  A National church takes in the whole Nation, and no more; whereas, the Gospel Church, takes in no Nation, but those who fear God, and work righteousness in every Nation.  The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever…”

 “Let every man speak freely without fear—maintain the principles that he believes—worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in so doing, i.e. see that he meets with no personal abuse or loss of property for his religious opinions. Instead of discouraging of him with proscriptions, fines, confiscation or death; let him be encouraged, as a free man, to bring forth his arguments and maintain his points with all boldness; then if his doctrine is false it will be confuted, and if it is true (though ever so novel) let others credit it. When every man has this liberty what can he wish for more? A liberal man asks for nothing more of government.”

 “Is it the duty of a deist to support that which he believes to be a threat and imposition? Is it the duty of a Jew to support the religion of Jesus Christ, when he really believes that he was an impostor? Must the papists be forced to pay men for preaching down the supremacy of the pope, whom they are sure is the head of the church? Must a Turk maintain a religion opposed to the alcoran{ Koran-ed.}, which he holds as the sacred oracles of heaven? These things want better confirmation. If we suppose that it is the duty of all these to support the protestant christian religion, as being the best religion in the world—yet how comes it to pass that human legislatures have right to force them so to do? I now call for an instance where Jesus Christ, the author of his religion, or the apostles, who were divinely inspired, ever gave orders to or intimated that the civil powers on earth ought to force people to observe the rules and doctrine of the gospel. Mahomet {Mohammed-ed.} called in the use of law and sword to convert people to his religion; but Jesus did not, does not.”

 “It is the duty of men to love God with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves; but have legislatures authority to punish men if they do not? So there are many things that Jesus and the apostles taught that men ought to obey which yet the civil law has no concerns in. That it is the duty of men who are taught in the word to communicate to the teacher is beyond controversy, but that it is the province of the civil law to force men to do so is denied.”

 “Never promote men who seek after a state-established religion; it is spiritual tyranny–the worst of despotism. It is turnpiking the way to heaven by human law, in order to establish ministerial gates to collect toll. It converts religion into a principle of state policy, and the gospel into merchandise. Heaven forbids the bans of marriage between church and state; their embraces therefore, must be unlawful. Guard against those men who make a great noise about religion, in choosing representatives. It is electioneering. If they knew the nature and worth of religion, they would not debauch it to such shameful purposes. If pure religion is the criterion to denominate candidates, those who make a noise about it must be rejected; for their wrangle about it, proves that they are void of it. Let honesty, talents and quick despatch, characterise the men of your choice. Such men will have a sympathy with their constituents, and will be willing to come to the light, that their deeds may be examined. . . .”

 “That God is good, and that men are rebellious – that salvation is of the Lord, and damnation is of ourselves, are truths revealed as plain as a sunbeam”


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