Sunday, December 11, 2011

Leadership of American Clergy

Jedidiah Morse made the following declaration in his work Annals of the American Revolution:

“The prayers and public discourses of the clergy,...who were friends to their country, (and there were few who were not) breathed the spirit of patriotism; and as their piety and integrity had generally secured to them the confidence of the people, they had great influence and success in encouraging them to engage in its defense. In this way, that class of citizens aided the cause of their country; and to their pious exertions, under the Great Arbiter of human affairs, has been justly ascribed no inconsiderable share of the success and victory that crowned the American arms.”

This declaration was made on December 6, 1774 by the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts under the leadership of John Hancock.

“When we contemplate the friendship and assistance our ancestors - - the first settlers of this province - - received from the pious Pastors of the Churches of Christ, ...we cannot but acknowledge the goodness of Heaven in constantly supplying us with preachers of the Gospel whose concern has been the temporal and spiritual happiness of this people; In a day like this, ...we cannot but place great hopes in an Order of Men, who have ever distinguished themselves in their country's cause, and do therefore recommend to the Ministers of the Gospel...that they assist us in avoiding that dreadful slavery with which we are now threatened by advising the people of their several congregations...”

The leadership of the Christian clergy was the primary wellspring which encouraged Americans throughout the various colonies to graciously volunteer aid to Boston during the Port Bill. Alice Baldwin declared:

“Beginning in 1767 and continuing throughout the War, the ministers did all in their power to encourage the non-importation agreements and manufactures. There are many instances in each of the New England colonies of all-day spinning bees held in the rooms and on the lawns of the minister's homes...One good clergyman [Rev. Judah Champion of Litchfield, Conn.] during the war felt so keenly the need of clothes for the soldiers [in the cold northern winter] at Quebec that he excused the women of the town from afternoon service and set them all to spinning on the Sabbath Day...Frequently before the end of the day the minister would address the women and girls on the issues of the time...In this manner the ministers showed knowledge of human nature by arousing competition between the town and town, and between churches in the same town, and even between married and unmarried women, as well as by making the whole affair a great social occasion through having the men come to supper and join in an evening of fun with music and singing of songs written by the 'Sons of Liberty.'

The motivating force behind the organization of colonial militia were the clergymen. The 'minutemen' were formed from the male membership of churches and deacons would often become their drill masters.

Richard Frothingham wrote:

“On the days of drill the citizen soldiers sometimes went from the parade ground to the church where they listened to exhortation and prayer.” 

Frothingham records the admonition what was given to the Minute-men by the Provincial Congress:

“You are placed by Providence in the post of honor, because it is the post of danger;...The eyes not only of North America and the whole British Empire, but of all Europe, are upon you. Let us be, therefore, altogether solicitous that no disorderly behavior, nothing unbecoming our character as Americans, as citizens and Christians, be justly charged to us.”

On April 15th, the Provincial Congress led by John Hancock proclaimed a Day of Fasting and Prayer:

“In circumstances dark as these, it become us, as Men and Christians, to reflect that, while every prudent measure should be taken to ward off the impending judgments; the same time, all confidence must be with-held from the means we use; and without whose blessing that the best human counsels are but foolishness - - and all created power, vanity. It is the happiness of his Church that, when the powers of earth and hell combine against it, and those who should be nursing fathers become its persecutors - - then the Throne of Grace is of easiest access - - and its appeal thither is graciously invited by the Father of Mercies, who has assured it that when his children ask bread he will not five them stone.”

Deacon John Parker under the auspices of Reverend Jonas Clarke of a church in Lexington, Massachusetts led the most historic band of minutemen. Deacon Parker had been a captain during the French and Indian War. The clergymen of Lexington had become the principal leaders in town meetings discussing liberty and government since the Stamp Act of 1765. Jonas Clark had become the author of almost every crucial state paper representing the expression of sentiment in the town. The private home of Reverend Jonas Clarke frequently became a meeting place where men such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams would meet. On the evening of April 18th 1775, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were visiting Reverend Clarke. They were not aware that British troops would march to Lexington to seize and destroy military supplies and capture the two patriots. A house guest of Reverend Clarke asked if the men of Lexington would fight if necessary. Reverend Clarke had preached to his congregation for several years concerning the duty of self-defense and God given inalienable rights.

He confidentially responded by declaring: “I have trained them for this very hour; they would fight, and if need be, die, too, under the shadow of the house of God!” The men of Lexington were thoroughly knowledgeable and well prepared in the Scriptures concerning the issues of the day. The first shots of the American War for Independence occurred on the lawn of Reverend Clarke's church.

The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams written by William Wells' records the story of the battle that occurred in Lexington and Paul Revere's role in the historic event.

“If the British went out by water, he would display two lanterns in the North Church Steeple, and if by land, one, as a signal that the news might be conveyed to Lexington, should the communication with the peninsular be cut off. Having instructed a friend to that effect, he was rowed across the Charles River. It was the young flood, the ship was winding, and the moon rising. Landing in Charlestown, Revere found that his signal had been understood, and rode toward Lexington.” 
“After several adventures on the way, in which he narrowly escaped capture, he reached the house of Mr. Clark about midnight, and gave the alarm. He was just in time to elude the vigilance of the British in Boston; for Earl Percy, having accidentally ascertained that the secret was out, gave orders to allow no person to leave the town. Revere found the family at rest, and a guard of eight men stationed at the house, for the protection of Adams and Hancock. He rode up, and requested admittance, but the Sergeant replied that the family before retiring had desired that they not be disturbed by any noise about the house. 'Noise!' replied Revere, 'you'll have noise enough before long. The Regulars are coming out.' He was then admitted.
“About one o'clock on the morning of the 19th, the militia were mustered on the green near the meeting-house, and messengers sent for additional information. By two o'clock the countrymen numbered one hundred and thirty. The guns were loaded with powder and ball in the presence of Adams, Hancock, and Clark. One of the messengers returning with the report that no troops could be seen, and the weather being chilly, the men were dismissed with orders to appear again at the beat of the drum...”
“Colonel Smith had marched his column but a few miles, when the ringing of bells and firing of guns satisfied him that the country was alarmed. He immediately detached six companies of light infantry, under the command of Major Pitcairn, with orders to press forward, and secure the two bridges at Concord, while he sent back for reinforcements. By capturing those whom he met upon the road, Pitcairn prevented the news of his approach from going before him, until he came with in a mile and a half of Lexington meeting-house, when a horseman, who had succeeding in eluding the troops, galloped into the village. Then, about seventy townspeople assembled as the drums beat, and at the sound of the British halted to load. The advance guard and grenadiers then hurried forward at double quick, and when within five or six rods of the Provincials, Pitcairn shouted, 'Disperse, ye villains! Ye rebels, disperse! Lay down your arms! Why don't you lay down your arms and disperse?' Most of the minute-men, undecided whether to fire or retreat, stood motionless, having been ordered by their commander not to fire first. Some were joining the ranks, others leaving them, when Pitcairn in a loud voice gave the word to fire, at the same time discharging his pistol. The order was obeyed at first by a few guns, which did no execution, and immediately after by a deadly discharge from the whole British force. A few of the militia, no longer hesitating, returned fire, but without serious effect. Parker, seeing the utter disparity of forces, ordered his men to disperse. The Regulars continued their fire while any of the militia remained in sight, killing eight and wounding ten. The village green, where this event took place, had been aptly termed by the historian, 'a field of murder. Not of battle.'”
“The firing as soon over, and the royal troops remained masters of the field; but the sacrifice of that little band revolutionized the world. It was the first scene in the drama which was to carry with it the destinies of mankind.”
“Adams and Hancock, as the soldiers made their appearance, were persuaded to retire to the adjacent village of Woburn, their safety being regarded as of utmost importance. Passing through the fields, while the sunlight glistened in the dew of the fresh spring morning, Adams felt his soul swell with uncontrollable joy as he contemplated the mighty future, and with prophetic utterance of his country's dawning independence, he exclaimed, 'Of what a glorious morning is this!...”

The Reverend Jonas Clark preached:
 “From this day will be dated the liberty of the world!”

Nearly a month earlier, the Governor of Connecticut called upon the colony to observe a:

“Day of public Fasting and Prayer...that God would graciously pour our his Holy Spirit on us, to bring us to a thorough repentance and effectual reformation; ...That he would restore, preserve and secure the liberties of this, and all the other American Colonies, and make this land a mountain of Holiness and habitation of Righteousness forever. - (and) That God would preserve and confirm the Union of the Colonies in the pursuit and practice of that Religion and virtue which will honour Him...”

The day selected by Governor Jonathan Trumbell for a “Day of public Fasting and Prayer” was “Wednesday, the nineteenth Day of April” 1775.

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