Pastor Roger Anghis
August 22, 2010
Discovering America’s Christian Heritage
Part 10 – The Pastors Influence part 1
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
In the build up to the Revolutionary War the pastors played a pivotal role in the forming of the opinions and beliefs of those who took part in wrenching the Americas from the grasp of Great Britain. They didn’t just preach an inspirational message, they preached the Biblical values that became the foundation of this nation and then when the war broke out, they took off their robes and put on a uniform and went out to the battlefield with musket in hand. The idea of a conscientious objector did not come from the church.
When Paul Revere made his famous ride he was headed specifically to the home of Reverend Jonas Clark. The reason he was headed there was because Samuel Adams and John Hancock were staying with Reverend Clark. It is interesting to note that Reverend Clark was the political leader in Lexington and had helped write the resolution of separation for Massachusetts to separate from Great Britain. When Paul Revere got to Reverend Clarks home and announced that the British were coming, Adams and Hancock turned to Reverend Clark and asked him if his men were ready. His response was, “This is what I have trained them for”. When the alarm was sounded it was the bell in his church tower that was rung and 150 members of his church responded to the call.
There was another rider that night that we don’t hear about. His name is Wentworth Cheswell, an African- American teacher. Paul Revere rode west to sound the alarm and Wentworth rode north. When the British returned to Boston from Lexington they encountered stiff resistance from thousands that had gathered along the road. Most of these men were members of churches who were led in that fighting by their pastors.
The importance of the pastors in developing the principles that influenced the desire for independence cannot be ignored. John Adams commented on two pastors that he believed were instrumental in making the people aware of their Biblical rights, the Reverend Dr. Mayhew and Reverend Dr. Cooper. He stated: “Most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential [in the] awakening and revival of American principles and feeling.” There are many others that were influential in leadership during the Revolutionary War. Reverend George Whitefield, Reverend James Caldwell, Reverend John Peter Muhlenberg and his brother Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg to name only a few. You can read about these and many of the other pastors of the Revolutionary War by reading the books ‘Pulpit of the American Revolution’, ‘Patriot Preachers of the American Revolution’, and ‘Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution’.
Today we don’t hear much about the role of pastors and Christians in the founding of our civil government yet John Adams stated that “Pastors in particular and Christians in general were so influential in our move for independence.” It was because of the work of the pastors in shaping the worldview of the nation and the work of Christians in founding our government.
Reverend George Whitefield was urging American’s to separate from Great Britain because Great Britain was trying to force an established church on us; they were trying to take both civil and religious liberties away from Americans. He was the pastor that accompanied Ben Franklin to England to successfully protest the Stamp Act. He also did many things to help his state, Massachusetts, militarily prepare for the eventual war. He was such an inspirational leader that even though he died in 1770, six years before the war began, before the first troops left for battle they stopped by the church where Whitefield was buried (he was buried in a crypt under the pulpit of his church), listened to a sermon and then they all filed down into the basement, opened the sarcophagus and took a small piece of his robe so they could take part of their inspiration into battle.
In the Small House Rotunda in the Capitol there is a statue of the Reverend John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. He was a pastor in Woodstock, Virginia in the 1770’s. He pastured two churches, an English speaking Episcopalian church and a German speaking Lutheran church. He was also a member of the Virginia legislature. In 1776 the British were already up in arms against the colonies and had fought against Williamsburg and were threatening more. On January 24, 1776 Reverend Muhlenberg preached his Sunday sermon out of the book of Ecclesiastes, a time of peace and a time for war, removed his clerical robe and called his congregation to stand, militarily, against the ‘tyrants’. He assembled 300 men from his church that became the 8th Virginia Regiment. By the end of the war he was a Major General.
Reverend John Muhlenberg’s brother was also a minister in New York City but he did not think that it was proper to be political or fight the war. When the British attacked New York the British troops desecrated his church causing him to rethink his position. You find his portrait hanging in the Speaker’s Lobby at the Capitol building because he was the first Speaker of the House. These are two pastors that made a major contribution to the fight for independence.
Reverend James Caldwell was another influential pastor that not only preached independence, but he would also strap on his sword and musket and go to battle. In one rather intense fight just outside his church his men had run out of wadding for their muskets. Without wadding, their muskets were useless. He went inside his church and brought out his Watts Hymnals and had his men use the pages for wadding. This preacher was despised by the British to the point where they tried to assassinate him. His wife was killed instead which made him even more resolute and when he preached he would have his Bible on the pulpit and two pistols setting on the Bible and dared anyone to take his guns or his Bible.
To show how George Washington believed that his Christianity was vital to the stability of the new nation, in his farewell address he stated: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensible supports.” We have been led to believe that we should keep our Christianity and our politics separate and never allow the two to meet. The Bible does not teach that and our Founding Fathers did not believe that. Many quote a verse out of Matthew in their argument that we are to keep Christianity and politics separate; Matthew 22:21 “They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” We have to remember why Jesus made this statement. It was in reference to paying taxes. Jesus basically said that we should pay tribute to government and we should pay tribute to God as well. We have responsibilities to both.
Note another scripture declaring that godly men are to be involved in politics: Romans 13:4 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (5) Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. (6) For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.” This is, no doubt, the reason so many pastors were involved in the fight for independence. Notice in the 11th chapter of Hebrews, the Hall of Faith, all the heroes listed in verses 22-34 were involved in civil government Joseph, Moses, Samuel, and David. If God did not want His people involved in the civil arena, why are these men pointed out to us as examples.
During the Revolutionary War the pastors were called the Black Regiment, because of the black robes that they wore. The British despised the pastors. They believed, and rightfully so, that they were the ones that stirred up the people. When a pastor was captured by the British they were treated more severely than other prisoners. 1Timothy 2:1 “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; (2) For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Notice that we are to pray for our leaders before we pray for our families or our churches.
I have always said that it is insanity to put ungodly men and women in office and then pray that they do godly things. This present administration is proof that you have to pray 24/7 with very little if any results. This is why godly men and women must be raised up to set in places of authority. Ministers were so influential that many times during the War when Congress wanted the people to get an update on the progress of the War, they would issue a progress report to the ministers for them to read to their congregations. They were more influential than the news papers at that time.
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I would hope that the ministers of today begin to realize their proper role in our society. The pastors leading up to, during and after the Revolutionary War knew their role and proudly filled it. As it always was with Israel, it is with us today. When we let the leadership stray from our foundations, the whole nation, like sheep to the slaughter, follow. Demand that the pastors and other church leaders wake up to their true position in American society.
© 2010 Roger Anghis - All Rights Reserved
Pastor Roger Anghis is the Founder of RestoreFreeSpeech.org, an organization designed to draw attention to the need of returning free speech rights to churches that was restricted in 1954.
President of The Damascus Project, TheDamascusProject.org, which has a stated purpose of teaching pastors and lay people the need of the churches involvement in the political arena and to teach the historical role of Christianity in the politics of the United States. Married-37 years, 3 children, three grandchildren.
Web site: RestoreFreeSpeech.org