Date of this Version
Stiles' best-known work is this 1783 election sermon, which was delivered at Hartford, Connecticut, at the annual election of the governor, state representatives, and senators. True to the spirit of his Puritan ancestors, Stiles sounds a number of time-honored American themes newly adapted to the rising prospects of the young United States of America. What was once a tribal Errand into the Wilderness of New England Stiles now translates into God’s federal covenant with all citizens of the United States—no matter what their parochial creed or particular denomination: “The political welfare of God’s American Israel” is “allusively prophetic of the future prosperity and splendour of the United States.” And in the persona of the Hebrew lawgiver surveying the Promised Land from Mount Pisgah, Stiles divines that “the States may prosper and flourish into a great American Republic; and ascend into high and distinguished honor among the nations of the earth.” If conversion, spiritual purity, and church discipline were of utmost importance to his Puritan forebears, post-revolutionary clergymen like Stiles are more concerned with freedom of religion for all, democratically elected governments, westward expansion, and scientific discoveries that promised the “inevitable perfectibility of man and of his political institutions begun in America.” Her “civil constitutions” conquer the impediments “which obstruct the progress of society towards perfection,” while spreading the seeds of liberty (like the grace of God) through the rest of the habitable world. This civil millennium about to begin in the young nation, however, does not belie Stiles’ abiding belief in the fall of Antichrist, the conversion of the Jews, their return to the Holy Land, and the Second Coming of Christ at the end of a thousand-year period of unprecedented bliss just looming on the horizon.
Stiles' 30,000-word discourse must have taken more than two hours to deliver. This online PDF version runs to 99 pages and can be printed on 52 sheets of letter-sized paper.