Before An Election by Former Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall

As part of my patriotic hymn series, especially in light of the hotly argued and very divided election before us, consider these words Before an Election by Reverend Peter Marshall, who twice served as Senate Chaplain (1947-1949).

Before an Election appears as hymn #689 in Hymns for the Family of God.

Lord Jesus, we ask Thee to guide the people of this nation as they exercise their dearly bought privilege of franchise.  May it neither be ignored unthinkingly nor undertaken lightly.  As citizens all over this land go to the ballot boxes, give them a sense of high privilege and joyous responsibility.

Help those who are about to be elected to public office to come to understand the real source of their mandate–a mandate given by no party machine, received at no polling booth, but given by God; a mandate to represent God and the truth at the heart of the nation; a mandate to do good in the name of Him under whom this country was established.

We ask Thee to lead our country in the paths where Thou wouldst have her walk, to do the tasks which Thou hast laid before her.  So may we together seek happiness for all our citizens in the name of Him who created us all equal in His sight, and therefore brothers.  Amen.

Marshall spoke many words of wisdom and witticisms during his tenure as a preacher and chaplain.  America needed a preacher like Marshall and the world needed him even more.  You see, his ministry began in 1931, less than 5 years after his setting foot on Ellis Island as a 25 year old Scottish immigrant with 2 weeks worth of money to his name.  While he began by digging ditches in New Jersey, God was preparing him to deal with the United States and its place in the world.  Marshall’s ministry at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C and in the Senate was steadfast through WWII and lasted until 1949 when the Korean War was about to begin.

America–indeed the whole world–was in turmoil.

To a nation reeling from war after war, Marshall’s consistent words of Christian affirmation captured the attention and hearts of a Senate which had commonly ignored such invocations and prayers before Marshall arrived.

His style was confrontational and convicting even while endearing his audience to him through a visible and audible sincerity of passion and non-ecclesiastical manner.  He was among the most familiar preachers in America at that time and his sudden death from a heart attack at the age of 46 claimed him at the peak of his career and popularity.

According to Electric Scotland,

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Dr. Marshall preached to the midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. At the last minute, he felt led to change his prepared sermon. Within the hour, the Class of 1942 learned of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. The sermon he preached was “Go Down, Death.” This was the first of Dr. Marshall’s dramatic, powerful, and prophetic sermons during World War II that his son, Peter John, published after the September 11th attacks in “The Wartime Sermons of Dr. Peter Marshall”.

Among his most notable and pithy quotes are:

Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for—because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”– in a prayer offered at the opening of the Senate session, dated April 18, 1947

The world has enough women who know how to be smart. It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need women, and men, too, who would rather be morally right than socially correct.”–from a sermon entitled Keepers of the Springs preached in the 1930s

Teach us what freedom is. May we all learn the lesson that it is not the right to do as we please, but the opportunity to do what is right. Above all, may we discover that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”–Opening of the Senate day, April 24, 1947.

before an election peter marshall


Categories Articles and Devotionals, Devotionals | Tags: | Posted on July 27, 2016

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