Oh America, Plead with Your God

Thomas Hooker on National Judgment 

Jeremiah 14:9 “We are called by thy name, leave us not.”

Thomas Hooker (1586-1647), distant relative of the more well-known Richard Hooker (1554-1600), arrived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1633 from England aboard the Griffin with fellow passengers Samuel Stone and John Cotton. Born in 1586 and a graduate of Emmanuel College, Hooker was appointed to the church of St. Mary’s in Chelmsford, Essex in 1626 where he became renowned for his preaching and lectureship. However, under Archbishop Laud, in 1629, Hooker was cited and summoned to the Court of High Commission for his Puritan practices and teachings. He was to be arrested and tried for his Puritan ways. In danger of having his ears cropped or face branded, Hooker absconded and fled to Holland for several years before taking the great journey to New England. There he would become known as the “father of Connecticut” having migrated there to found the Connecticut Colony as well as being instrumental in the development of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. But, before all of this and prior to his departure from his native land, he preached a final sermon titled “The Danger of Desertion.”

At this juncture in our nation’s history, any God-fearing American Christian must ask: are we suffering the judgment of God? Moreover, to the degree that we are, what is to be done? Hooker’s sermon provides critical insights from Scripture into what it looks like for a nation to suffer under God’s judgment and what it should do given such a severe state of affairs. 

Expounding on Jeremiah 14, Hooker recounts how the people of God sought the Lord in order that his presence would not leave them, “This is the great request of the saints, they desire not to be left of God, though God may justly leave them.” Hooker applies this to the nation of England. Hooker’s choice of Jeremiah 14:6 reflects an assumption common among the Puritans, one which causes evangelicals today great discomfort. It was the belief of the Protestants that God covenanted with nations. 

Through the blood of Jesus Christ, God purchased the nations, and for Hooker, England was one such nation. God had delivered them from captivity and bondage. Furthermore, for Hooker, God may “justly leave off a people, and unchurch a nation.” One need look no further than England today to see just such a nation.

There were three primary manners in which God may depart from a people, according to Hooker:

  1. He takes away his love from a people as well as his means. For Hooker, the means of God are varied, but in this case, he refers to God’s active care flowing from his presence. The means are the ways in which God has ordained right worship and provides security for a people.
  2. God takes away their protection by taking down their walls of defense: magistrates and ministers. The magistrates and ministers of God serve as a wall of defense for a nation covenanted with God, and God will remove these two means of protection when God leaves a people.
  3. The teaching and counseling become rotten with bribery and false teaching.

Hooker asks: 

“May God cast off a people, and unchurch a nation? Then let it teach us to cast off all security for miseries are nigh by all probabilities. When we observe what God has done for us, all things are ripe for ruin, and yet we fear it not, we promise safety to ourselves, and consider not that England is like to be harrowed, we cannot entertain a thought that England shall be destroyed, when there are so many professors in it; we cannot be persuaded of it, according to the conviction of our judgments, either it must not be, or not yet, as if it were impossible for God to leave England, as if God were a cockering Father over lewd and stubborn children: God may leave a nation that is but in outward covenant with him, and why not England?” 

Hooker preached about the formerly Christian regions of Palestine and Denmark and begged his hearers to see that England may find itself in such disrepute as these if they were not to plead with their God. He entreats his countrymen to not believe their Christian numbers to be so great as to prevent God’s departure. “Do not say there are many Christians in it, can God be beholding to you for your religion? No surely, for rather then he will maintain such as profess his Name and hate him, he will raise up of these stones children unto Abraham; He will rather go to the Turks, and say you are my people, and I will be your God.” One cannot rest on the laurels of former generations or the quantity of Christians in a nation as if that would stave off the judgment of God. Although the number of Americans claiming to be Christian has dropped by nearly a third in the last half-century, still 64% of our nation attests to be Christian. However, this in no way will hold at bay the judgment of God. 

Hooker called on his countrymen to turn back to God by parting from their rebellious ways and pleading with God not to depart. It is not gold, wealth, and prosperity “that makes God to be their God.” But it is God’s ordinances that bring his presence. Hooker called people to right worship and to find their prosperity in God. 

For God to remove his presence from a nation, would be a sure sign of his judgment. Better to have God than any material comfort. England must, according to Hooker, not become weary in their worship and affection for God. Otherwise, they risk the fires of hell. “Mark what I say, a hundred Hells thou has deserved, and in those Hells to lie a hundred years, nay forever.” Hooker warns that a king or monarch is not safe from this wrath if they become weary of God and do not worship him rightly. Hooker, in typical fashion, presses the hearer to make a decision if they will follow God or not. And if not, they will suffer destruction. 

“For this is our misery, if that we have quietness and commodity we are well enough, thus we play mock-holy-day with God, the gospel we make it our packhorse, God is going, his glory is departing, England has seen her best days, and now evil days are befalling us. God is packing up his gospel, because nobody will buy his wares, nor come to his price.”

Referencing Amos 4:12, Hooker declares that God will make England desolate. He pleads for their inheritance, their children, that they will not have the gospel if there is not repentance and reform. 

What must be done? First, room must be prepared for the King of Kings. This can only be done by turning from sins and lusts. “But now let every soul forsake his uncleanness, and God will come to that soul.” Second, the will of the people must submit to the will of God. Third, they “must welcome the King and give him entertainment” in their worship such that they are glad to submit to King Jesus and his word. “This is the sin of England. We bear an ill will to God and his word, God has done much for us of this land.” And fourth, the people must remain faithful to God. “You that live under the means, and will not walk in them, what great condemnation will be to you, over to them that have not the means, as it is said of Capernum Matthew 18, so say I to England. Thou England which was lifted up to heaven with means shall be abased and brought down to hell. For if the mighty works which have been done in thee had been done in India or Turkey, they would have repented of this. Therefore, Capernum’s place is England’s place, which is the most insufferable torment of all. And mark what I say, the poor native Turks and infidels shall have a cooler summer parlor in hell than you.”

Do we see signs of God’s presence departing from America today? What might Hooker say of our people and nation? We see corrupt and incompetent magistrates. We see ministers abandoning their posts as heralds of the gospel of Jesus Christ, failing to call people to repentance from sins. We witness the scorn of proper worship in favor of “summer at the movies” and entertainment (and not the kind with which the King is pleased). We see people who seem to have no use for God and we suffer for it. The end of the line, when a nation is judged, is the land lying desolate which we see with falling birth rates leading to population collapse. This time it will not be an invader which renders us childless but ourselves. 

The judgment of God is heavy against America. Our sins rise high to God and summon his wrath. Child sacrifice odiously referred to as reproductive justice and human butchery beyond our wildest nightmares under the guise of gender-affirming care mark our day. And where are our walls? Our hedges and walls are broken down. Our magistrates seem uninterested in enacting laws to prevent such barbarity. Too busy are they with proceduralism, special interests, and lobbyists (bribery). The current crop of ministers are undeterred because we are a rich and powerful people. Like King Hezekiah, they enjoy their current station thinking “will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?” while exile awaits future generations. They willingly relegate themselves to the sidelines in the name of being a faithful presence in Babylon, relinquishing their calling and birthright for a seat at the table of the New York Times and the respect of God’s enemies. 

There is a way for a nation to retain the presence of God. “If that a people do outwardly worship God, and sincerely mend things that be amiss, they may continue.” The only way out of judgment is repentance, turning away and putting away wickedness. Many evangelical Christians find the idea of America being in covenant with God noxious. They prefer to think of America as Babylon. But even Babylon was responsible for their sins before God. Others of a more dispensational variety prefer to think of America as the new Israel (a concept closer to representing our Protestant forefathers but still off the mark). Instead, writings from our Protestant tradition are filled with the biblical assumption that nations are responsible to God collectively. Those on the left are onto something regarding this idea although their calls for corporate repentance are based more on a culture of covetousness and grievance studies than God’s law. For the Puritans, as well as within the broader Protestant tradition up until the middle of the twentieth century, the destiny of a nation under God’s providence was understood to be dependent on the nation’s moral character and fealty to the things of God and the prosperity of a nation a godly blessing for godliness. 

Today, we may say with Hooker, “America’s sins have been great, yes and their mercies great. America has been a mirror of mercy, yet God may leave us, and make us a mirror of his justice.” The judgment of God is an invitation to turn back to God and seek his mercy. While we suffer under judgment with God’s means of protection torn down, we can always return to God. We must plead with God not to depart, lest we perish and become like Capernaum. America must repent, make room for the King, and submit to his will. Then, and only then, can we have the prosperity we truly need.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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J. Chase Davis

J. Chase Davis is Lead Pastor of Ministry of The Well Church in Boulder, Colorado. Chase is married to Kim and they have two sons. He is the author of Trinitarian Formation: A Theology of Discipleship in Light of the Father, Son, and Spirit (2021) and hosts the podcast Full Proof Theology. He was a 2023 Cotton Mather Fellow with American Reformer.

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