October 14

On this day in 1774, while the First Continental Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, James Manning and Isaac Backus were granted permission to speak to the delegates from Massachusetts. Manning read an article entitled “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty” and Backus explained it.

Part of the article read: “It appears to us that the true difference and exact limits between ecclesiastical and civil government is this, That the church is armed with light and truth, to pull down the strongholds of iniquity, and to gain souls to Christ, and into His Church … while the state is armed with the sword to guard the peace, and the civil rights of all persons and societies, and to punish those who violate the same …. I before declared that the Scripture is abundantly clear for a free support of ministers, but not a forced one; and observed, that there is as much difference between them, as there is between the power of truth in the mind and the power of the sword in the body.”

John Adams, the leader of the Massachusetts delegation, after four hours of discussion with the Baptists declared, “Gentlemen, if you mean to try to effect a change in Massachusetts’ laws respecting religion, you may as well attempt to change the course of the sun in the heavens.”

Fortunately for the nation which came out of that Congress, there were other leaders who were not so blind and bigoted as were Samuel and John Adams.