“Duty is ours, results are God’s”
– John Quincy Adams
A Psalm of David. “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? … 4 In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change;” – Psalm 15:1, 4 NKJV
The above verses are from the short but powerful Psalm 15. The psalmist is describing the character qualities of those who will be in heaven, or in the presence of the Lord. Notice the last phrase as it is so convicting to all of us who are attempting to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, (2 Timothy 3:12).
The life motto of John Quincy Adams is cited above.
His entire career was given to the service of his country including as a diplomat, secretary of state, U.S. senator, U.S. President, and finally a U.S. congressman. In the latter position, his primary objective was to bring an end to slavery in the United States. Unfortunately, he entered Congress at a time when it was unwilling to consider the subject, so the antislavery measures he introduced were regularly defeated; nevertheless, he persisted. In fact, because he kept the issue of slavery in the forefront at a time when the subject was so unpopular, death threats were frequently made against him. He lamented, “The best actions of my life make me nothing but enemies.” John Quincy Adam, Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Philadel[hia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1876), Vol. IX , p. 26, entry for October 25, 1833.
In 1835, Congress even passed a “gag order” to prevent him from talking about the subject, but he refused to relent. – William H. Seward, The Life and Public Services of John Quincy Adams (New York: Miller, Orton, & Milligan, 1856) pp. 300-303.
Adams regularly invoked Luke 4 and Isaiah 61 as the motivation for why he worked so relentlessly against slavery.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,” – Luke 4:18 ESV
For his unwavering opposition to slavery, he became known as “The “Hell Hound of Abolition,” and for his rousing defense of the antislavery cause, he was called, “Old Man Eloquent.”
On a handful of occasions across his seventeen years in the House, a few of his efforts did succeed.
In 1841, with bad eyesight and trembling hands, Adams used his skills as an attorney and orator to defend fifty-three Africans who had been kidnapped and made slaves. He delivered a speech before the supreme courts that lasted for nine hours and spanned three days. He won the case and this story is told in the Hollywood movie Amistad.
John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the U.S., was a man that lived the reality Psalm 15:4 “… he that swears to his own hurt and does not change.”
What about you? Is there some area that you need to continue your commitment even though it “hurts?”
The next time your child or grandchild hears from a schoolteacher that our Founding Fathers were “for slavery” or that they were not as moral as we have been told, have them tell the story of John Quincy Adams. Practice with them ahead of time even now to recount the story so they are prepared.