1777 JOHN DEVOTION. Rare Revolutionary War Sermon with the First Song Ever Published on the Fight for Liberty!
1777 JOHN DEVOTION. Rare Revolutionary War Sermon with the First Song Ever Published on the Fight for Liberty!
1777 JOHN DEVOTION. Rare Revolutionary War Sermon with the First Song Ever Published on the Fight for Liberty!
1777 JOHN DEVOTION. Rare Revolutionary War Sermon with the First Song Ever Published on the Fight for Liberty!
1777 JOHN DEVOTION. Rare Revolutionary War Sermon with the First Song Ever Published on the Fight for Liberty!
1777 JOHN DEVOTION. Rare Revolutionary War Sermon with the First Song Ever Published on the Fight for Liberty!

1777 JOHN DEVOTION. Rare Revolutionary War Sermon with the First Song Ever Published on the Fight for Liberty!

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An exceptional piece of Americana in terms of content, condition, scarcity, and its historic place in the origins of the American Revolutionary War.

John Devotion [1730-1802] was minister of Third Church at Saybrook, close friend of Ezra Stiles, and provocateur of the American Revolution. Charles P. Hanson notes in his Necessary Virtue: The Pragmatic Origins of Religious Liberty in New England, that Devotion was a particular purist in his zeal for the religious nature of the quest for American Independence. 

In an exceptionally rare and bold move, the sermon presented here, and referenced by Hanson, Devotion quotes Isaiah 8, "Say not, a Confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, a Confederacy." His intent is clear. Just as Israel should not have Confederations with the godless nations around them, neither should God's "New Israel." At the time, many of the more motivated politicians in the Colonies were attempting to form an agreement with France against England. Devotion was nearly alone in publicly rebuking this as an act of unbelief and the forming of an alliance with a godless nation. 

This puts him clearly in the camp with Stiles in viewing America as a "New Israel;" a language of American exceptionalism that will show up in the concluding song Devotion authors and appends to the sermon and which, in the case of Stiles, also provided language to George Washington in his thinking about the special nature of the new nation. Stiles sermon on the New Israel was highly commended by Washington.

The sermon here is riveting; Devotion describes the brutal rape of wives and daughters, the nobility of the sword, the identity of America as the New Israel, the "darling of America, George Washington, etc. 

The aspirational nature of the work is clear. The final lines of the song call America God's Queen among nations . . . that is, the order of the world is, in Devotion's eyes, God, American, Everyone Else. 

Most importantly, the original song appended to the end of the sermon, authored by Devotion, appears to be the very first song written post-beginning of the War involving the Battle for liberty. It engages the worship of God, the new Israel of America, and their War-time enemies in an act of imprecatory Psalm-like prayer and devotion. A very important artifact from the opening months of the Revolution.

Extracts of the sermon and the complete song are transcribed below.

Devotion, John. The Duty and Interest of a People to Sanctify the LORD of HOSTS. A Sermon, Preached before the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut, at Hartford, on the Day of the Anniversary Election, May 8th, 1777. Hartford. Printed by Ebenezer Watson, Near the Great Bridge. 1777. 39pp complete. 


"Should it please God to give us a name among the nations of the earth, it was necessary to discipline us to frugality, moral honesty, and self-government; or virtue, with a free trade, could no long dwell among us. When the God of Israel was about establishing them in national state, in a land flowing with milk and honey, he led them forty years in the wilderness, to humble them, and prove them, and know what was in their heart, whether they would keep his commandments. The circumstances into which he has cast us, answer this purpose, at least to prove us, and shew us there was such wickedness in our hearts, as would utterly disqualify us for good in our latter end unless it were checked, and purged out. May it have the happy effect also of humbling us. Who could have believed, ten years ago, that men could have been found in this land, who would have taken advantage of a scarcity, or of a neighbor's necessity, to extort double, yea, thrice the common value of a commodity? Had we cautioned a neighbor against such extortion ten years ago, would he not have said, "Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" Yet how many such have been found? Who could have thought that while we were complaining of oppression, and have so universally judged it right to withdraw ourselves from the domination of Britain, on that account, so many should be found guilty of this sin, which endangers u smore than all the armies of Britain? Are these sons of liberty? Are they not rather slaves of lust? For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought into bondage. Surely, in regard to their soul's salvation, they may as well be the slaves of other men's lusts as of their own. To these, add engrossers, the canker worms of a community, which destroy the fair fruits of the tree of liberty."

"A belief of the being of God, and of his providential government, is the foundation principle, without which there can be no religion. To this foundation principle, our God seems to be calling us. Where is his superintending influence more manifest than in the great affair of war? To what but his providence can we attribute it, that an army so great with an artillery so immense, with a navy sufficient to defy all we can do, have made no greater inroads upon us? If God had not done more for us than we have done for ourselves, what would our case have been! Infidels, henceforth cast away your infidelity, and join with us to sanctify the Lord of HOSTS himself, and let him be your fear, let him be your dread." 

"An Address to His Honor the Deputy Governor, the Honorable Assistants in Council, and Worthy Representatives of the Freemen of this State.

Honored Gentlemen,

In as much as civil institutions, are a substitute for lost innocence, used by God to curb the violent passions of men, and constrain them to regard righteousness, and social virtues: The work allotted to you, Gentlemen, in your legislative character, is very serious, solemn, and important; and ever ought to be entered upon, with a becoming sense of accountableness to him, whose is the Kingdom. Permit me first to say with due deference, 'Worship him all ye gods.' Nothing can better qualify you for this important service, than extensive knowledge, joined to the fear of the Lord. . . God has called you to be strong rods to correct the wicked; or in St. Paul's words, to be the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. In this view ye are ministers of God for good to his people, constraining them to live by civil rules to walk honestly as in the day."

"Every religious sect, within the above description* ought to enjoy a due proportion of the expense they contribute, for the support of this system, to employ if they please, teachers of it, according to their own tenets; but if they refuse to use it this way . . . "

"An Address to the Gentlemen of the Military Department; Especially Those of the Standing Army.


The calling to which God's providence and your country's distresses have called you, has justly been deemed honorable, ever since martial achievements have been subject matter of history. No cause, except that, when the Lord of Hosts was king in Jeshurun, has abounded with more honorable motives or more pressing inducements to valor, intrepidity and heroism. You draw the sword to defend an injured, oppressed people: - - - - you fight for friends, your children, your wives, and your religion. The enemy shone the last war, in martial glory, victories and conquests. Victory over them will blazon American arms. You are marshalled under a General, the darling of America [George Washington]. It is an honor to sustain a military post under him. You compose part of the first real standing army, of the States of America. - - - You fight for empire extensive. - - - You have before your eyes, that which can't but touch the spirit of men of honor, - - - your fellow soldiers redeemed from captivity, dragging along their emaciated infected carcasses, dying from town to town, proclaiming British barbarity, unspeakably greater, than ever we experienced, from the heathen savages of the wilderness. You go to the scene of action, to hear husbands bewail their chaste wives, rent from the embraces, and their virgin daughters ravished before their eyes. To you, under God, we look, and into your hands the sword is committed, to avenge your country's wrongs. . . Go forth humble, yet undaunted; let the sight of the enemy fire your martial souls, and American annals record your glorious deeds. . . Gentlemen of the sword, we thus bless you out of the house of the Lord." 

"These enemies [sins] among ourselves, endanger us more than all the embattled troops of Britons and mercenaries. To avoid oppression, we judge it lawful to resist Great Britain. Shall we shew ourselves the oppressors - - - dig our own grave, and seal our own destruction?"

"Why were our brethren victorious at Charleston in South-Carolina? Why did God suffer the seasonable supply of powder to fall into our hands, by the brave Capt. Mugford? Why was the manufacture of Salt-Petre brought to perfection in a few months? Why have we been favored with success near Harlem - at Trenton and Princetown, and the enemy driven back? These things should support our minds under the rebuke, and animate us to amend every thing that is amiss."

By the Author; Composed for this Occasion.

Afflicted, oppress'd, she cried to
Albion's King.
From tribes of America, the theme was supplication
Louring, Silent, Haughty, dumb the Monarch, 
Black tempest, vengeful fury on his brow.

Hark! Hark! Hark!

The grand council announces, nor whips nor scorpions
Bondage ceaseless, clanking chains:
Rivit them, sons of Mars, British forces, 
Brunswick's troops, Hessian bands
Native Indians, Affric's sabel sons,
Ships of war, thund'ring cannon, hissing bombs,
Confused noise of warriors, with garment's roll'd in blood.

Sons of Freedom, Daughters of America,
Join your plaintive moan to heaven's king.

Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself;
Make him your fear, make him your dread.
From the Christal throne,

I heard, I heard, I heard the solemn sound,

As of many waters,
Trust ye the Lord Jehovah,
Make him your help and shield.

Lo! The angel Gabriel comes.
From him that sits upon the throne;
All nations hear the great Jehovah's will;
America, henceforth, separate,
Sit as Queen among the nations.

Sister States, heaven's care, Philadelph the center:
Brotherly love the bond of union, heaven cement them,
Rays divine dart effulgence on the CONGRESS; 
Wisdom, firmness, moderation, virtue, still attend them.

Live, Live, Live

Beloved of the Lord, until he comes,
Whose right it is to reign:
Hallelujah, Praise the Lord. Amen."

Very good condition in c.1900 limp morocco binding, superbly preserved textually, and removal of a label on the marbled paper pastedown. 

*He recommends a simple orthodoxy test involving a  belief in Scripture as the rule of faith and conduct, of the messiahship of Jesus, and of the saving agency of the Spirit.