One of the principal forms of political discussion in the American colonies in the years before independence was what were called “election day sermons.” The term “election day” did not mean the day voters went to the polls to choose delegates, as with us, but the day the newly chosen delegates were inaugurated. According to the practice of the time, each new colonial legislature invited a prominent minister to address its members about God and political duty as they were about to take up their burdens.
In the year of Our Lord 1775, the Massachusetts Bay legislature invited the prominent Congregationalist minister Samuel Langdon to deliver the election sermon. Langdon, who had taken up the presidency of Harvard University the previous year -- Harvard was not then as it is now -- took as his text the following passage from the first chapter of the book of Isaiah, who was one of the greatest of Old Testament prophets. I wonder whether we too might find it instructive to consider Isaiah’s words on our own “election day.”
How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross, your wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Every one loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the fatherless, and the widow's cause does not come to them.
Therefore the Lord says, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: "Ah, I will vent my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city."
Perhaps Langdon did not make sufficiently clear that the Lord of Hosts was speaking to the people of Israel, not to the Americans. But he was not wrong to hope that God would combine mercy with justice in His dealings with all nations, including ours.