A charming conversationalist, eloquent preacher, and empathetic counselor, Samuel Cooper was pastor of the influential and affluent Brattle Street Church in Boston, Massachusetts, from 1746 to his death. In this capacity, he was one of the chief, albeit behind-the-scenes, intellectual proponents of the American Revolution in that city. He was the pastor of patriots John Hancock, James Bowdoin, and John Adams; an intimate friend of Samuel Adams and James Otis; and a regular correspondent with Benjamin Frankin.
Cooper, as an ordained Christian minister, could be without reservation a partisan for American independence because he saw no fundamental conflict between liberal political principles and biblical principles. He came to this conclusion not only through his study of Scripture but also through his understanding of natural law. It was his conviction that there could be no contradiction between God’s general revelation in nature and his special revelation in Scripture, as God is the author of both. In Cooper’s words, “The sum and substance of both tables of the law is written on the heart of every man.” Though biblical law never contradicts natural law, it does go beyond it. Many truths cannot be known through nature alone; thus, “from the book of nature, we must pass to the book of revelation.” But, for Cooper, political principles are not of this class.
Thus, for Cooper, we do not need “a special revelation to teach us that men are born equal and free, that no man has a natural claim of dominion over his neighbors,” and other such principles of republican government. These principles are written by God in the natural law and are therefore accessible to human reason apart from special revelation; they are, according to Cooper, “the plain dictates of that reason and common sense with which the common parent of men has informed the human bosom.” Moreover, it is “a satisfaction” that these principles are also “confirmed and impressed … by the instructions, precepts, and examples given us in the sacred oracles.“ In this way, Cooper could conclude that ”reason and Scripture will forever sanctify” America’s Founding principles.
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