A Prayer changes the History of the Mississippi State Legislature in the 19th Century

In the year 1849 I was stationed at Baton Rouge, and married Miss Frank E. Stuart, whose honored sons and one living daughter now rise up and call her blessed.

Passing over several years in which I was engaged as the pioneer of temperance and prohibition work, I found myself the pastor at Macon, Miss[issippi], during the war, where a singular episode occurred.

The Mississippi Legislature, driven out of Jackson by the Federal army, took refuge at Macon. In the course of legislation, a bill putting all ministers in the State up to sixty years of age in the army, and favored by Governor Clarke, passed to its third reading, before the final vote was taken. Hon. Locke Houston, speaker of the House of Representatives, invited me to open the session with prayer.

In the course of the prayer I invoked the Divine Father: “Have compassion on the members of the Mississippi Legislature, who, without the fear of God before their eyes, have laid violent hands upon the ordained ministry of Thy church, placing carnal weapons in their hands, bidding them to go forth to war as instruments of wrath and blood, instead of messengers of love and peace.”

“O Lord, for this wicked act, which stands out in all its gloomy isolation without any parallel among the civilized nations of the earth, we invoke pardoning mercy.”

“O Lord, let not this vile act of legislation fall in dire disaster upon the lives of our people.”

Continuing in this strain of thought, and holding them up before the great Jehovah of all worlds, was somewhat startling in its nature.

Their indictment before the august Chancery Court of Heaven was something unexpected, and greatly surprised them; and when the final vote was taken they reversed their previous action and struck out of the bill all ministers engaged in their regular work.

This prayer, and its results, invoked the wrath of the governor, and much of the secular press.

–The Rev. John W. Harmon, Select Sermons (Paulding, Mississippi, 1894), pp.2-3. The author is my great great grandfather (!)–KSH.

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Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Economics, Politics, * Religion News & Commentary, Church History, Harmon Family, Methodist, Other Churches, Politics in General, State Government

4 comments on “A Prayer changes the History of the Mississippi State Legislature in the 19th Century

  1. Kendall Harmon says:

    You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.

    –Eleanor Roosevelt

    All serious daring starts from within.

    –Harriet Beecher Stowe

  2. Rob Eaton+ says:

    Whether a prayer, really, or taking advantage of the free license to preach to the assembly, a marvelous moment of boldness showing clarity of calling in the midst of society’s press. I am reminded of the work and testimony of E.M. Bounds.
    There was also probably an unmerited sigh of relief by all the c.o.’s who had found refuge in Mississippi pulpits.
    You are blessed to have such a witness within your family heritage.

  3. MarkABrown says:

    Bringing the Lord into the conversation alters the balance of power and the perspective of the participants. What an inspirational heritage for Harmon descendants.

    Mark Brown
    San Angelo, Texas
    August 8, 2009

  4. NoVA Scout says:

    Wonderful account. Many thanks for posting that.