Thomas McKean was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a President of Congress, a Ratifier of the U.S. Constitution, a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, a Governor of Pennsylvania, and a Governor of Delaware. While serving on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1778 he heard the case of Respublica v. John Roberts. Roberts was sentenced to death after a jury found him guilty of treason. A few days before his execution, Chief Justice McKean called Roberts to appear before him and issued the following stern words of advice:
You will probably have but a short time to live. Before you launch into eternity, it behooves you to improve the time that may be allowed you in this world: it behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds; to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins; to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer, and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow – those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter. It behooves you to seek the fellowship, advice, and prayers of pious and good men; to be persistent at the Throne of Grace, and to learn the way that leadeth to happiness. May you, reflecting upon these things, and pursuing the will of the great Father of light and life, be received into the company and society of angels and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect; and may you be qualified to enter into the joys of Heaven – joys unspeakable and full of glory!
Though 236 years old, these wise words still serve as sound advice for us who are alive today. McKean was a man with impeccable credentials to speak to the bedrock issues of life. And he did not hesitate to use his position of great prominence as a platform to speak wisdom to those in need.
America today desperately requires leaders with similar character and courage who are determined to lead our nation in a direction God can bless.