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(1865) Henry Highland Garnet, “Let The Monster Perish”

On February 12, 1865, Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, a former slave and now pastor of the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., became the first African American to speak in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. His sermon was delivered on Sunday, February 12, 1865 within days of Congresss adoption of the 13th Amendment banning slavery.  A number of Republican leaders thought the occasion merited a public religious service to commemorate the event.  They extended the invitation to Rev. Garnet.  His sermon titled, “Let the Monster Perish,” appears below.

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on mens shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.—Matthew 23:4.

IN THIS CHAPTER, of which my text is a sentence, the Lord Jesus addressed his disciples, and the multitude that hung spellbound upon the words that fell from his lips. He admonished them to beware of the religion of the Scribes and Pharisees, which was distinguished for great professions, while it succeeded in urging them to do but a little, or nothing that accorded with the law of righteousness.

In theory they were right; but their practices were inconsistent and wrong. They were learned in the law of Moses and in the traditions of their fathers, but the principles of righteousness failed to affect their hearts. They knew their duty but did it not. The demands which they made upon others proved that they themselves knew what things men ought to do. In condemning others they pronounced themselves guilty. They demanded that others should be just, merciful, pure, peaceable and righteous. But they were unjust, impure, unmerciful—they hated and wronged a portion of their fellowmen, and waged a continual war against the government of God.

Such was their conduct in the Church and in the state. We have modern Scribes and Pharisees, who are faithful to their prototypes of ancient times.

With sincere respect and reverence for the instruction, and the warning given by our Lord, and in