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Sabbath Rest: War Weary
When Phillips Payson gave the 1778 annual election sermon in Boston, he knew his audience of legislators were as weary of war as if they had been fighting for one hundred ...

Sabbath Rest: War Weary

When Phillips Payson gave the 1778 annual election sermon in Boston, he knew his audience of legislators were as weary of war as if they had been fighting for one hundred years. With no end to the conflict in sight, Payson stepped up to the pulpit with the dual messages of hope and perseverance. He also knew it was an honor to be chosen to preach this annual message to government leaders.

“It seems as if a little more labor and exertion will bring us to reap the harvest of all our toils; and certainly we must esteem the freedom and independency of these states a most ample reward for all our sufferings,” exhorted Payson.

Payson shared their suffering not as a pastor but as a compatriot. He had participated in the earliest stages of the war. When the British fled Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Payson led a group that captured eleven soldiers and killed one. He embraced the cause of freedom as his own. Thus, he used Galatians 4:31 (KJV) to remind his listeners they were “not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”

“In this, the greatest of all human causes, numbers of the virtuous Americans have lost their all,” he reminded the congregation reverently. But he corrected his choice of words, choosing to clarify the sacrifice of those who had fallen: “I recall my words they have not lost it; no, but, from the purest principles, have offered it up in sacrifice upon the golden altar of liberty. The sweet perfumes have ascended to heaven, and shall be had in everlasting remembrance,” he continued.

Payson called upon his audience to use the “blood of our friends and countrymen, still crying in our ears” as motivation to keep going and to arouse the fire of their passion.

He decided to paint a motivational vision of what a free America would look like. He hoped by “anticipating the future glory of America” they would find courage to keep going. “In this light we behold our country, beyond the reach of all oppressors, under the great charter of independence, enjoying the purest liberty; beautiful and strong in its union, the envy of tyrants and devils, but the delight of God and all good men,” preached Payson.

He then turned his message into a patriotic prophesy. Their new country would be “a refuge to the oppressed; the joy of the earth; each state happy in a wise model of government, and abounding with wise men, patriots, and heroes,” he predicted.

“Hail, my happy country, saved of the Lord! … Hail, happy posterity, that shall reap the peaceful fruits of our sufferings, fatigues, and wars!” Payson joyfully proclaimed.

And like us today, Phillips Payson knew that one way to overcome difficulties was to focus on the end result: freedom for the oppressed.


Thank you for reminding me to look to your purpose in life for hope when times are hard. And although I may not see all the fruits of my labor, I trust you to reap a harvest in my life and legacy.

“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.…Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman”

(Galatians 4:26, 31).

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