The Health and Happiness of the Body Politic

Preached at Coventry, April 1781.


Most of what we publish at American Reformer resources is election sermons. Today was no exception. John Huntington’s (1735-1794) 1784 election sermon is up now. But we thought it beneficial to also publish one of his other popular and preserved sermons, the Discourse below, delivered to his own congregation in 1781. It is shorter than his election day talk, clocking in at 7,500 words, but there is conceptual and thematic overlap between the two.  The full title is A Discourse, Adapted to the Present Day, on the Health and Happiness, or Misery and Ruin, of the Body Politic, in Similitude to that of the Natural Body.

Huntington’s text, in this sermon, is1 Corinthians 12:18. Compare his illustration and exegesis with John Winthrop’s Model of Christian Charity (1630) and you will discover much agreement. Huntington grabs onto the ancient metaphor of body and soul for describing the ideal, properly ordered commonwealth. The compound moral person; organic symbiosis. These are all intertwined metaphors. Food for thought: “a commonwealth should be as a living creature, every part acting in concert, and all actuated by the same living soul.” This is unity through order; a decidedly non-egalitarian picture, but one of congruence and compliment, and right orientation to the highest good. Order and station; life within a cosmically ordained hierarchy translated to social life inside of Providence. This is the predominant political vision even in the late eighteenth century. (Again, notice also the frequency but also the freedom, true freedom, with which Huntington deploys Scripture.)


But now hath God set the Members, every one of them in the Body, as it hath pleased him.

The attributes of Deity shine gloriously in all his works, in the whole frame of nature, in the course of providence, and most gloriously of all in the wonders of redeeming love.—The living and true God is clearly displayed on every side, and we can turn our eyes or our attention nowhere, but we may behold him; the heavens declare his glory, and the firmament his handy work; the sun when “he goes forth as a bridegroom from his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run his race [Psalm 19:5];” “the moon walking in brightness [Job 31:26];” the stars in all their courses, the earth with all its various productions, “the great and wide sea, in which are things innumerable both small and great [Psalm 104:25].”

All these display Jehovah’s glory, and according to their various natures and stations, bear testimony for him, and praise his adored name. The language of nature is universal and intelligible to all that have minds to understand, “there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.” And if we consider any particular creature in the great family of the Most High (for he is parent of all) we may behold much of the power, wisdom and goodness of the Creator discovered in that individual. Attend, for instance, to the formation of man, his very body, the mortal, the inferior part is fearfully and wonderfully made, and curiously wrought, it bears the natural image of Deity; and the spiritual, immortal part, the living soul allied to angels, and the father of angels, discovers yet more of the perfections of the universal parent, even his moral, as well as natural image, in its primeval state.

The human body is the well-chosen emblem which the great apostle keeps in his eye, in my text and context; and that with a view to illustrate the importance of health, order and sympathy, with due symmetry and subordination in the mystic body of Christ, that is, his beloved church in the world; and no passage of sacred scripture would more naturally lead into a proper discourse on that subject: But as I mean now to speak concerning the various duties of the body politic, from this text, my warrant is a full parity of reason; the emblem in my text is just as fitly adapted to the one case as the other. Order and harmony, symmetry and due proportion, subordination, mutual care and affection, in church and state, are equally necessary for the good of each, equally beautiful and beneficial; and if these are wanting in either, distempers will seize on the body, pain will ensue, much disorder will arise, and destruction or dissolution may be the fatal issue.

Therefore, now beloved, favor me with your attention, while I shall attempt to display the happiness of a state or nation, under the similitude of the human body in health and perfection, and the misery of a commonwealth, from opposite considerations.

How much of the divine wisdom, power and goodness is seen in the formation of the human structure? How useful? How beautiful? How complete in every part? We desire not a member more than we have, and we are very averse to the loss of anyone, though it be the least. What symmetry and proportion do we observe? What mutual harmony and sympathy? What convenience in the location and office of every limb and every member? We could not be willing to have one organ, limb or member placed anywhere in the body but where it is; we could not be willing to have one more or one less than we have; we would by no means have any one of our members, organs of limbs take the place of any other pertaining to the human body.

How loth should we be to have our head’s placed in our breast’s, or where our legs or feet are, or any where except where they are, above the body and all the members? How sad should we think it to have our legs and arms change place with each other? Or to have our toes on our hands and our fingers on our feet: Or were we to walk on our heads, we should find ourselves very miserable: Were our eyes and mouths placed on the opposite side of our heads, or in the body somewhere below, we should be frightful monsters in our own view. We cannot think of the least alteration in the number and situation of any of our members, but what would much displease us. God has formed and arranged the whole in his own infinite wisdom and goodness, and all is right, perfectly right; and well might the great Creator say of his own work, as it came out of his own hands, all is very good.

Every part, organ, limb and member of the human body act in perfect union and concert, guided and actuated by the same soul, the same will; all the parts assist one another in the performance of every action; all are fed by the same vital nourishment, have the same care one of another, and as the apostle in the context most elegantly describes it, “Whether one member suffers all the members suffer with it, or if one member be honored all the members rejoice with it [1 Corinthians 12:26].”

Every part of the human body finds and feels the need of every other part; the hand can by no means say to the foot, or the foot to the hand, I have no need of thee; nor can the eyes, or mouth or ears say so to any part of the body, or to any member of it, or any part, or member to them; every part of the body is far the more complete and happy for each particular part, and even the head needs the body and the members as much as they do the head.

Every part is just where it should be, and is framed and adapted to the very office it ought to perform, and we should shudder at the thought of any alteration in the number, office or situation of the respective members of the human structure; to lose an organ or a member, we justly account a great loss, and to have one superadded would be altogether as disagreeable to us; we would not lose an eye, perhaps, for the world, yet we should think it full as great an evil to have three eyes; the head we have, we cannot be willing to part with, but who of us would he willing to have two heads upon his shoulders? Two arms and two legs each of us want, but who would choose to have the number doubled? One mouth is a great blessing, but more than one would turn a man into a monster. Our number of ears we find exactly right; the fingers and toes we have are just enough for us; our vital parts are just such as we need, and they are placed within the body, just where we would choose to have them; and the same nutriment, blood and spirits, feed, supply and move the whole; and of this our reason and choice highly approve.

We see a fitness and great propriety that the head and the body, every organ and every member, should attend to their own business, and do their own offices respectively, and not in the least interfere with one another; but all keep their distinct places and functions. We choose the head should be above the body, and that four of the senses should have their seat in it, we choose that our ears should hear and our eyes see; we choose to smell with the nose and taste with the mouth; we also highly approve that the other sense, viz. that of feeling, should be diffused through every part of the body, and spread over the whole; and we should abhor that the senses should be confounded with one another, and intrude upon the peculiar offices of each other. What man is there that wishes to have his head and feet change places with each other? Or to have his breast and his back transposed? Who wishes to see with his ears, or hear with his eyes, or to taste with his nose, and smell with his mouth? Who would walk upon his hands, and with his feet handle the sword, the ax, or the reaper’s sickle? Or who would wish the sense of feeling confined to one part, and not spread through the whole body? We find all is best as God has ordered; “whatsoever God doth, nothing can be added to it, nor any thing taken from it [Ecclesiastes 3:14],” but what would make it far less perfect than it is. If the human body be perfect in every part, and enjoy perfect health, no man, no angel, no creature can mend it; so, it is with the body politic, according to the divine constitution, or the plain manifestation of the divine wisdom and will.

The infinitely wise and good Being has given us the sum and substance of the most perfect form of civil government in his word, or, to keep up the simile of the apostle, in my text and context, he has drawn out and formed a most perfect political man.

I mean that ancient plan of civil policy, delineated for the chosen tribes of Israel; there we find no king, no despot, no emperor, no tyrant, no perpetual dictator allowed of: We find the nation, by divine order, composed of a number of states, that is to say thirteen, called the tribes of the children of Israel.—Jacob had twelve sons, but then you know the tribe of Joseph was subdivided and became two tribes, i.e., the tribe of Ephraim and the tribe of Manasseh, which made thirteen united, free and independent states: Each of these managed their internal police within themselves; had each of them their legislative body, for their own state or tribe; also their judges, and courts of justice—these officers, whether legislative or executive, were called the elders of the tribes, and governed the particular tribe or state they were set over; and were appointed by the immediate voice of God, or were elective by the people, which is equally the voice of God, though in a different manner, for where God does not immediately indicate his will in some other way, then the voice of the people in cases of this nature, is the voice of God; and in the united states or tribes of Israel, officers were elected by the people at large, or by those to whom the people delegated power for that purpose, except when God himself immediately interposed in a special manner for their appointment; hence it was a well-known maxim, that whom God and his people chose to rule, he should be received as ruler; and God always acknowledged the election of the people as his own appointment, when he did not otherwise interpose in the matter.

Moreover, these Thirteen United States or tribes of Israel, had by divine appointment a general congress, with a president at their head; Moses was the first, Joshua succeeded him, so on till the days of Samuel, when the constitution was subverted; by whom the whole nation were united and cemented in all things that were of general concern to the whole nation, and who gave advice and direction to the elders of the tribes, or general assemblies of these United States; I mean the Sanhedrim or seventy elders, first appointed in the wilderness, in the days of Moses; these composed the great council of the nation, or General Congress; and thus all the States were united and consolidated in all their general and common concerns, and so long as they abode firm in this reasonable and divine constitution, supported it, and made the best of the happy privileges contained in it, they were in their civil policy as well as in their religion, far the happiest nation under heaven.[1]

Here God has marked out that form of civil government which is agreeable to his own will, adapted to the nature and state of mankind which secures the privileges of the subject, and affords all that liberty and equality which it is possible mankind should enjoy, I mean as to the general plan or drama of government; many circumstantials may, and ought to vary, according to the various peculiarities of different times, states and nations: I do not imagine that every nation ought certainly to consist of thirteen states or tribes, because it was so in Israel, after the tribe of Joseph became two, nor do I suppose it necessary that the general congress of a nation should consist of just seventy men, and neither less nor more; or that the general assembly of each state should always be composed of just as many members as the chosen elders of each tribe in Israel consisted of; nor do I imagine that the Most High in setting up that constitution, ever meant to direct or bind the nations of the earth as to those circumstances, which may admit of variation according to the different exigencies of a nation or state; but thus much in general God has plainly taught us, viz. that no king, no monarch, no tyrant, or despot, ought ever to be admitted to rule over his people, or any people under heaven; and hence, when Israel rejected that glorious form of government, and would have a king to govern them, God expressly declares they rejected him [1 Samuel 8].

The great ruler of all worlds has hereby taught us that all power and privilege to make and displace rulers is, under him, lodged with the people; and that since the days of miraculous divine interposition are ended, it is the right of the people to elect all their rulers, in every character, either mediately or immediately, and to set them aside whenever they cease to consult the public good and elect others in their stead.

That rulers, in every department, are for the good of the people, are to act the part of kind parents to them, and that the people, though they have the power of appointing and removing rulers as they see fit, yet ought to obey and honor them, while they remain in their respective offices, as dutiful and obedient children; and that every ruler, from the highest to the lowest, while in public office ought to do his own proper work and execute his own proper office, with wisdom, zeal and fidelity, and that every private person ought to abide in his own calling, and do the duties God has assigned him, and that rulers and ruled should all conspire together as one, to promote the common interest and best good of the whole, that there be no schism in the body, but that the head and body, every organ and every member have a sense of their necessity of, and dependence upon each other, and that all have the same care and mutual sympathy which is found in the natural body—these principles, I say, are the plain dictates of the voice of the Most High, not only as the reason he has given to man is his voice in every man, but also in that ancient form of government which God himself marked out for that people, which he had chosen to be his own peculiar people out of all the nations of the earth.

And as in the formation and structure of the human body we easily see the use, design, and proper business of each and every part, so from that plan of civil order and government which God has pointed out by the voice of reason and his own immediate voice from heaven, we may easily see the office and duty of every constituent part; and as the health of the body natural depends upon the proper functions union, and harmony of the parts, so does that of the body politic; and as a sensible defect in any part of the natural body, or jarring and discord among the various parts of it, gives pain to the whole, brings on sickness and distress, and ends in dissolution, unless a cure is obtained, even so it is in a community, a body of people, a state, or a nation.

The head that is placed on high above the body, no doubt points out the proper station of the legislature and ruling powers in a commonwealth: The seat of thought, council and understanding is in the head, there the eyes are placed to see and the ears to hear; there all the senses but one have their seat; the sensorium is there, the memory is lodged there; the head is situated where it may have the best prospect of all things, its business is to study, invent, compare, judge and direct what is best for the whole man; the head in its own situation, and with all its organs and senses, is well adapted for its own business; but how unfit a thing is it to walk upon instead of a foot, or to use in the place of an arm or a leg? If the head is clear and well, the brain and all the organs of it in good order, and a good understanding seated there, it will do its own proper office, to think, see, hear, speak and direct, which the whole body and all the members beside could not in any wise do: So the business of civil guides is a distinct business, which they are to attend to, and when the right persons, qualified persons are in that station, they have a work to do, and will wisely and kindly perform an important work, as distinct from that of a private person as the business of the head is from that of one of the fingers.

A good political head is as essential to the happiness of the body politic, as a good natural head is to the body natural, and the station of each ought to be esteemed equally honorable in relation to the body.

The natural ear, situate in the head, receives intelligence, the natural eye sees dangers, spies out the way in which the feet are to walk and the whole body have its course and motion, searches out the work of the members, directs them in their respective employments, and sees, or should see, that all is well done; or if anything is done amiss, reviews and points out proper amendments which the body and members perform.

And this is the end and design for which God has appointed civil rulers, or a political head to every commonwealth; they are to watch for, and collect all intelligence; they are able and necessary to guide and conduct, secure and guard the body; they are to search and point out the way in which the body politic is to walk and move, with proper employment for the hands and feet and every part, that every branch may be harmoniously employed and engaged for the good of the whole; should always maintain and exercise the same kind, wholesome, directive authority over the body politic, and every part of it, which the natural head does over the body natural. If the head should undertake to do the office of any other part, it would make miserable work of it, and become a plague to the whole body; even the little finger will do its own work better than the head can do the work of that finger; the head, though a most noble and honorable part of the man, is good for nothing in any other station or business but its own. I would not hereby insinuate that civil rulers are not fit to do the duties of private members of the commonwealth, were they in private capacity; doubtless those who are good public guides, would do very well in any character of life, were they placed in other station than that in which they are; also there are many men in private character that would make excellent civil guides, were they put in that station; all I mean is to shew the utter confusion that must ensue when rulers depart from their station and character, neglect their own business, and descend to that which is allotted to others; or when people in any other character and station, depart from the duties of their station; and take upon them the business of rulers; this is like changing the place of the head and the feet, it is “turning things upside down and must be esteemed as the potter’s clay [Isaiah 29:16].”

The arms and hands of the natural body are a very natural emblem of the executive powers in the commonwealth, both civil and military. It is true the same person may sustain several capacities, and be in several distinct offices; the same man may be a member of the legislative body, an executive officer, and a commander in the army, though perhaps it is not best for the community that this should be generally the case; yet, if so, such a person is of the head in one character, and of the arm in another, and ought to act very distinctly in his different capacities. The arms and hands are principal parts that effect and put in execution what is directed by the head, so all armies, and executive courts, and ministers of justice, with officers under their command, ought always religiously and conscientiously to obey the supreme council of the nation or state. Our arms and hands would be worse to us than nothing, if they would exert their strength without, or contrary to the direction of the mind, or counsel of the head; no life would be safe in our hands, no not even our own; so all the courts of justice, and all military powers must do as they are directed by the supreme power, they must have law, direction and warrant, from the whole people, given out by the proper mouth of the people; which, as in the body natural, so in the body politic, can never be found any where but in the head.

The understanding or head is good to direct, and the arms and hands are good to execute, they are strong, and active, and wonderfully necessary and beneficial, under such direction: but set the arms to hear and see and direct, and the head to strike the blow for the execution, and what then would ever come to pass? The head can do no work but its own and the arms and hands none but theirs; and as it is a great blessing to have a clear, discerning, judicious head, so it is to have strong arms; a good legislative and a good executive power are equally necessary, and each an inestimable blessing to a commonwealth, and God himself hath appointed both for the good of the body.

The vital parts in the human body most naturally allude to that which is common to the whole nation or commonwealth, as these are of general and common concern to the head and body, every member, every vessel, nerve, and fiber in the human frame; and as the vitals are well or ill, so is the whole man: The head, the body and every part are very sensibly affected by the state which the vital parts are in. These therefore stand in the similitude for the general principles, or prevailing spirit which is in the body politic, and by which a nation as such move and conduct themselves; so in days of old when rulers were very wicked as to the greater part of them, and the spirit and principles of the nation were very corrupt, the most tells them, “the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint [Isaiah 1:5-6].”

True religion and good morals deeply fixed in the souls of men and generally prevailing in a nation, communicate that health, strength, and vigor to every part, which make the political man active and honorable, powerful and happy, “righteousness exalteth a nation [Proverbs 14:34].” If the vital parts are all well the case is happy in the natural body; if the heart with all the adjacent parts are right, and all the blood and spirits that pass through the heart are good, the favor is great to that man; but if the vitals are much diseased, the whole mass of blood and animal spirits will be much infected thereby, and that inward disorder will soon be communicated to every part, and not the remotest member, not one nerve or fiber, not one gland or vessel in the whole system will long remain free from the awful contagion: Just so it is in a nation; if true religion and good moral principles prevail and rule, that nation is in health, and never fails of attendant honor, strength and glory; but if religion dies away, morality decays, infidelity, vice and iniquity prevails among the people in general, such a nation is in a sickly state, is greatly dishonored, greatly weakened, and unless a cure is obtained, the distemper must first or last prove fatal.

“Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? [Jeremiah 8:22]” It is very easy to see that it is especially incumbent on that order of men who are instructors in righteousness, and who should continually attend to the great things of religion, the health of the soul, and the morals of mankind, to act that part in the man politic, for the health of the body in this world and the world to come, which a sound heart and well-regulated vital parts do in the body natural; that by the blessing of God, without which they can do nothing, such spiritual and moral health and strength may be diffused through the whole community as that strength and glory, honor and blessing may rest upon the whole nation and dwell in it forever.

That order of men which in the body ecclesiastic are, under Christ, in the place both of the head and the vital parts, do in the civil community take only the place of the latter, and their proper place they must be careful to keep; their work is exceedingly important and beneficial to a community, when by the blessing of Almighty God on their labors, they are made instrumental of turning a people from their sins to the living and true God, from their vices, iniquities and immoralities to a life of religion, to the practice of holiness and virtue; for whenever a nation is happy, firm and stable and the times are blessed times, then “righteousness and holiness are the stability of their times and the strength of their salvation [Isaiah 33:6].”

And this order of men, as well as all others must keep their own place, and attend their own important and special duties, the heart and the vital parts can do the body no service, in any place but where they be; place the heart where the head is, and the head where the heart is, and the man would not survive the exchange; or remove any of the vital parts and join them on the foot, and they would be of less service than the toes, which indeed are proper and useful there. The inward parts are very precious to us, where they are, and for their proper functions; our life and all our natural comforts must depend on the good order of these; but even the heart, the most precious part of all, is good for nothing to us, but only in the place where it is, and for those very purposes for which it was made.

The body of man in general, and those strong and stately pillars which support the body, by means of which we walk or run, and which are as necessary to complete the man as the head, the heart, the arms, or any other part of the human structure; this body and these noble pillars, I say, with every adjoining part, denote the body of the people of which a nation is composed; they have union and connection with the whole; they have one common sympathy with the head, the arms, and the vital parts; they are nourished, supplied and kept in vigor, by that same nutriment, of which the head partakes, and by which it is nourished: Thus the industrious body of the people in a nation, by diligence and economy in their various callings, are the grand support and strength of the whole, and while they are well engaged, each one in his proper work, well united in virtue and good order, in love to the community, in a spirit of harmony and quietness, in frugality, industry and temperance, in patience and fortitude and in a becoming regard and affection to the whole, they are altogether as necessary to the head and the heart, as the latter are to them; neither can the eye say to the hand, nor the head to the feet, I have no need of you: If the people in general are not engaged to promote the strength and honor, wealth and happiness of a nation, if they do not uphold rulers and teachers, courts of justice and the military power, all must fall to the ground; these are the strong and noble pillars on which, under God, the whole civil fabric stands, and without those all the efforts of rulers and officers, in every department, must become empty and ineffectual as a vision of the night.

And it is of great importance that these keep their proper place, as well as every other order of men; it is altogether as monstrous to see the legs where the arms should be, as the arms where the legs should be; it is as great an evil to have the feet growing on the head as the head growing on one of the feet: As the people mainly support and uphold the whole, and as all rulers and teachers are for their good and though in stations of honor, are indeed to serve the people, so there is no scruple but that it is the right of the people to elect and remove their civil rulers as they find most for the good of the commonwealth; but, so long as rulers being made the head by the free choice of the people, are continued so by the same choice, then for people in general to assume the province of their rulers and civil guides, is exceedingly wrong. For people in general to turn guides and counselors, and refuse to be guided and counselled by rulers, to say what ought, and what ought not to be done, in the highest and most important concerns of the state, of which, indeed, most people are utterly ignorant, is just as if a madman should endeavor to pluck his eyes from his head, and place them in sockets made in his feet for that purpose, or wish his ears grafted on either leg, and the senses which are seated in the head removed to the lower parts of his body. The common people are no better, out of their place, than those I have spoken of before and in their proper place no less necessary and important.

The thoughts now suggested may lead us to some reflections exceeding proper for the inhabitants of these United States in the present day. I am indeed happy in speaking, at this time, to an audience very well affected to the common important cause we are engaged in, an audience that have a sense of the importance of unanimity, harmony and good order through the whole; yet even such a people can never have these good principles too deeply fixed in their minds; and from what has been said we learn the great wisdom and goodness of the Most High, in forming the political as well as the natural man; each according to the plain direction of his will, is alike perfect in every part, and in every member; and harmony, concord, unanimity, and mutual sympathy are alike necessary in each, that health, strength and happiness may prevail and abound through the body. What a wretched thing would the human body be, if the head and vitals, limbs, organs and members were alternately to change their places, and assume the offices of each other? If the head should say I will be one of the feet, and will exercise myself in walking, if the vital parts should say we will be the fingers and toes, and they shall come within the body and take our place, if the eyes should say we will no longer see but hear, and the ears should say we will leave off hearing and try how well we can see, if the arms should say to the legs, come let us change places and the legs should reply we will gladly take your place; we are tired of walking and running and supporting the body, we will henceforth handle the ax, the scythe, the sickle, the sword and the pen of the writer. In such a case what would the man be good for? Would he not be the most useless frightful monster in the universe!

Just so in the political man, the commonwealth, the head and every member must keep their respective places or it becomes a hideous and a horrid monster; the legislature must do their own business and none must interfere with them; the executive authority must do theirs without interruption; the military must act their own part, and every officer and soldier keep his own place and station; they that are set to instruct in the great things of religion, to promote virtue, and to mend the morals of men, must also attend to their own proper work, and then, by the blessing of God, the body, the whole civil man, the state, the commonwealth may expect health, strength, vigor and glory.

Let me tell you, my dear audience, that we of this nation have now for substance, that very same plan of government, which infinite wisdom and goodness pointed out to the chosen the much beloved tribes of Israel, in the constitution of which we see a political man perfect, or how the community ought to be organized and regulated, as clearly as we see in the formation of the human body, what is most convenient, fit and perfect for such a creature as man. We have our Sanhedrim, i. e. our General Congress, answering for substance to the seventy elders of Israel that were over all the tribes as their supreme council; we have our distinct states as they had their distinct tribes, and it is really worthy of notice that our number should be exactly the same, even in the first establishment of our independency.

Thus, “when the Most High divided to this nation their inheritance, and separated us from all the other sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel [Deuteronomy 32:8-9],” we have a General Assembly, in each of our States, the same, for substance, with the elders of each tribe or state in Israel of old: We have our courts, judges, and teachers formed on the same general plan, varying only in a few circumstances, which ought always to be the case, as times and the exigencies of States and nations are altered: We have the same rule to walk by which they had, viz. the perfect word of God, but in this we have much the advantage of them, the scripture canon is now complete, which then it was not, and we have the divine light abundantly clearer than they had; we have the same church, but with privileges much enlarged, the same ordinances but is a milder form, we are “grafted into that old, good olive tree, and partake of all the fatness of it [Romans 11:17];” and even in a civil and political view, we are the completest man, the best regulated commonwealth that ever the wisdom and goodness of God formed, except that I have been speaking of, and with that we are, for substance, the same.

And now, all we want for the most consummate happiness a nation can enjoy on this side heaven, is that the head, the vitals, the arms and hands, the body and every member be in good health, each keep their proper place, and every one do its own duty, and that no part impede, or interfere with any other: Every part has one common interest, we are all partakers of the same nourishment, and, to keep up the simile, the same blood and spirit are common to every part, and, Oh! may we find one common soul, and that a religious, holy and virtuous one, actuating and animating the whole, that rulers, teachers, and people may be one for God, and for the happiness of this nation, that all the wheels in church and state, in the army and navy, and in every department throughout the nation may be inspired and harmoniously turned like the glorious combination in the vision of the prophet, the whole machine moved together in the most glorious order.

“When those went these went, and when those stood these stood, and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them, for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels [Ezekiel 1:21].” Consult the first chapter of Ezekiel’s prophecy at large. Thus, a commonwealth should be as a living creature, every part acting in concert, and all actuated by the same living soul.

Though the offices and stations are various, yet the happiness or suffering is common; there is as much pain in the head or the heart, as in any of the members; high stations do not make men happy, but that man that does his duty well, whatever be his station, is a happy man: If the head or heart have sometimes more pleasure than the limbs, yet at other times their pain as much exceeds, and when I hear any of the common people murmuring against rulers, and manifesting bitter envy against them, as though such had peculiar happiness not common to the body in general, and as though they, the common people, were excluded the privileges and happiness of the great, I look upon it just as though the foot should say, “because I am not the hand I am not of the body.” And that person, whatever station he is in, who has not a tender concern for the whole, and a sympathy with the whole, is a putrid part or member, utterly past feeling, and calls for immediate amputation.

All persons that are unwilling to keep their respective stations, and do their respective duty, all incendiaries, all Tories and traitors, all that hold illicit correspondence with the common enemy, all that have any disposition to throw themselves and this favored nation into the arms of tyranny and despotism, all mal-contents that would stir up rebellion, anarchy, and confusion in the bowels of it, or in any part, all that do not rejoice in the common good and mourn in the common calamity, all extortioners and selfish wretches that would enrich themselves, though at the expense of the ruin of the nation, all such, I say, are the very excrement of the body politic, or they are well compared to a gangrene, or to baneful putrefaction which calls for the instruments of incision, that it may be discharged; or to any nauseous infection which must be purged out, or distemper that must be subdued, before perfect health can return, or desired strength and vigor be recovered.

We learn moreover, how exceeding thankful we ought to be for the happy and divine constitution God has favored us with, and how dreadfully wicked it is to murmur and complain about it. God can make the head, the vitals the body, and every member better than they are if he pleases, and let us all cry to him continually, to give more wisdom and grace to the whole; but a better form or model of government, a better plan we never can have.

When a man is sick and in pain, he does not complain that God has made him a man, nor does he want the Almighty should unmake him; no, he wants that every disordered part should be brought into good order; he would by all means be a man still, but a man in good health: Even so, let none of this nation desire any other, than that this most perfect political man may be in good health in every part. Since the fall, there must needs be troubles and the marks of the curse in all bodies, whether natural, ecclesiastical, or political; but let none wish for the annihilation of that which is the most perfect in its kind, that can ever be expected in this very imperfect state of things. If we have pain in our heads or vitals, or any other part, we do not want those parts destroyed but cured; and for this end we use all means, and for this we pray to that God in whom we live.

When I hear any person say, our political head is liable to err, and has made mistakes, and therefore I wish it was dissolved and that we had no such council to guide us, I look upon it as great a specimen of folly, as if I should hear a man say, “my head is in pain and therefore I wish it was cut off.” Whenever there be disorder in the body natural, ecclesiastical or civil, we should seek a cure by fervent prayer and by all proper means, and not the dissolution of the body: And as it is in God the natural body doth “live, and move and have its being,” just so is it with the body politic; in the former, if one part is disordered, the rest do not hate it and feel a bitterness towards it; but sympathize with it and contribute all they can to its healing and comfort; even so in the latter, we should all sympathize together, maintain a common feeling, and wheresoever the defect or failure is, every other part should “be watchful and strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die [Revelation 3:2].”—How soon would the human body die, if when a dangerous disorder has seized one part, the other parts would act as though they hated that sickly part, and would lend no kind assistance, to support, comfort, or heal it? Even so it is in the case I have been speaking of; if there be not mutual care, sympathy and kind assistance, in every part, dissolution and death must be the awful consequence.

Oh! may every ruler and every subject throughout these United States, have a deep, influential sense of all these things! may each one keep his proper place and do his proper duty, with wisdom, firmness, and vigor, and with an heart sincere in the sight of God: It is the glory and blessedness of man, whatever be his station, to serve God and his generation faithfully, according to the divine will.

And finally, there can be nothing more obvious from what has been said, than the absolute necessity we, and our whole nation stand in, of the powerful and effectual visitations of the divine spirit, in every part of the land; this, my dear friends, and nothing short of this will set us right as to our dispositions and vital principles of action; this would make us love our God supremely, and then we should “love one another with a pure heart fervently.” This would make us Christians indeed, and then we shall be patriots of real consequence:—Oh! then for this let us pray day and night, for this let us cry aloud and not spare, in this let rulers and subjects, ministers and people all unite as the most important favor on which all our happiness depends; for this let us all pray and not faint, “until the righteousness of our nation go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth [Isaiah 62:1-2].”


Image Credit: Independence Hall in Philadelphia, circa 1858-1863, oil on canvas, Joachim Ferdinand Richardt (1819-1895).

[1] “In support of what I have said as to the antient Jewish form of government, before that people were cursed with despotism, and its similarity, for substance to that of these United States, see Exodus 3:16; Exodus 18; Deuteronomy 1:16-17; Numbers 11; Deuteronomy 27; Judges 21:16; 1 Samuel 8; Ezra 10:7-8. Deuteronomy 19:12-21 […] Ezra, x. 14. Deu. xvii. 2. Chron. xix. Ezekiel 44:2-4. And many other places.”

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Joseph Huntington was born in 1735 in Windham, Connecticut, graduated Yale in 1762, and took up a pastorate in Coventry, Connecticut where he remained the rest of his life (d. 1794).

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