During the tumultuous year of 1775, Reverend Jacob Duché preached his sermon, The American Vine, to the Continental Congress on July 20, 1775. Duché preached as an Anglican minister in Philadelphia and was born in Philadelphia in 1737 and studied at Cambridge University before he was ordained as an Anglican clergyman by the Bishop of London. Duché became a member of the elite class in Philadelphia, and in 1761 he was asked to serve on the Board of Trustees at the College of Philadelphia, now known as the University of Pennsylvania. He was invited to deliver the opening prayer at the First Continental Congress and elected to open the Second Continental Congress with prayer due to his ability to connect with many Christian denominations. He served briefly as the official chaplain to the Continental Congress in 1776. His first prayer to Congress at the Continental Congress cited Psalm 35, which was very appropriate for the political climate of the time and became a unifying moment for the men present. Because this Psalm deals with David’s appeals to the righteous God for help against his enemies that have punished and persecuted him, many colonists found it symbolic of political conflict they were facing.
The American Vine, his second sermon to congress, served as the opening prayer to the Second Continental Congress on May 10, 1775. Duché cited Psalm 80 as his primary biblical source and created an analogy of America as a vine planted by England to match the analogy the psalmist uses of Israel as a vine planted by God. Psalm 80 is about those in Israel after their enslavement in Egypt and is a calling for God to answer the prayers of the people, focusing on the individual responsibility of each person to repent and monitor their behavior. In American Vine, Duché asserts that the British and the colonists are jointly to blame for their political conflict. His solution to the problem was that the colonists needed to repent their sins and reform their lives to adhere more closely to the laws of God. Duché’s sermon was printed and distributed throughout the colonies and the reaction was very positive. After his preaching of the American Vine, Duché began to retreat from the political sphere. He had a personal and internal struggle with the idea of revolution and independence from Britain, and had trouble preaching something he did not fully support. Duché preached the American Vine on a fast day. Fast days were used as a way to restore proper order and favor with God in response to a calamitous event. The primary purpose of the fast day was to publically recognize times of trouble and collectively repent sins and ask God for forgiveness. This context will present information about Duché’s life and career, fast days and their importance in Revolutionary America and an explaination of Psalm 80, as well as an annotated version of the sermon.