Tuesday, July 4

The Dominion of Providence

Born in Scotland, educated at Edinburgh, and a leader among the Presbyterian Jacobites during the great Rising of 1745, John Witherspoon came to America in 1768 to be president of Princeton College. He has been called the most influential professor in American history, not only because of his powerful writing and speaking style but because of the vast number of leaders he trained and sent forth. Nine of the fifty-five participants in the Federal Convention in 1787 were his students--including James Madison. Moreover, his pupils included a president and a vice-president, twenty-one senators, twenty-nine representatives, fifty-six state legislators, and thirty-three judges, three of whom were appointed to the Supreme Court.

His sermon, The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men caused a great stir when it was first preached in Princeton and published in Philadelphia early in the summer of 1776. The sermon was an exposition of Psalm 76:10, "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." It later proved to be one of the most influential provocations to independence.

The fact that a man of faith like Witherspoon was a leading member of the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration, a mentor to a host of the Founding Fathers, and a preacher whose sermons actually influenced public policy is the sort of thing that ought to drive our modernist-diversity-mavens in Congress, on the federal bench, in our public classrooms, and on the tube to utter distration--if only any of us actually remembered him.

Perhaps the recent article by Roger Kimball in the Wall Street Journal bemoaning his forgotten status can help to change that. One can only hope.

1 comment:

David C. Massee said...

Witherspoon is a great example of a faithful man who trusted in Divine Providence. The greatness of America was founded on such people. Thank you for the reminder of our forefathers and the call for such faithfulness.