By Chuck Baldwin
(Editor’s Note: This is a great article about the role of religion in the early days of the colonies. A good companion article is Who Should Be The State’s Mortal Enemy?)
April 19, 1775, should be regarded as important a date to Americans
as July 4, 1776. It’s a shame that we don’t celebrate it as
enthusiastically as we do Independence Day. It’s even more shameful
that many Americans don’t even remember what happened on this day
back in 1775. For the record, historians call this day, “Patriot’s
Day.” More specifically, it was the day that the shot was fired that
was heard ’round the world. It was the day America’s War for
Being warned of approaching British troops by Dr. Joseph Warren,
Pastor Jonas Clark and his male congregants of the Church of Lexington (numbering 60-70) were the ones that stood with their muskets in front of the Crown’s troops (numbering over 800), who were on orders to seize a cache of arms which were stored at Concord and to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock (who were known to be in the area, and who had actually taken refuge in Pastor Clark’s home).
According to eyewitnesses, the king’s troops opened fire on the
militiamen almost without warning, immediately killing eight of Pastor Clark’s parishioners. In self defense, the Minutemen returned fire.
These were the first shots of the Revolutionary War. This took place
on Lexington Green, which was located directly beside the church-house where those men worshipped each Sunday. Adams and Hancock were not taken. They owed their lives to Pastor Clark and his brave Minutemen–albeit eight of those men gave their lives protecting Adams and Hancock.
According to Pastor Clark, these are the names of the eight men who
died on Lexington Green: Robert Munroe, Jonas Parker, Samuel Hadley,
Jonathan Harrington, Jr., Isaac Muzzy, Caleb Harrington, and John
Brown, all of Lexington, and one Mr. Porter of Woburn.
By the time the British troops arrived at the Concord Bridge,
hundreds of colonists had amassed a defense of the bridge. A horrific
battle took place, and the British troops were routed and soon
retreated back to Boston. America’s War for Independence had begun!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these two elements of American history are
lost to the vast majority of historians today: 1) it was attempted gun confiscation by the British troops that ignited America’s War for
Independence, and 2) it was a pastor and his flock that mostly
comprised the “Minutemen” who fired the shots that started our
With that thought in mind, I want to devote today’s column to
honoring the brave preachers of Colonial America–these “children of
the Pilgrims,” as one Colonial pastor’s descendent put it.
It really wasn’t that long ago. However, with the way America’s
clergymen act today, one would think that preachers such as James
Caldwell, John Peter Muhlenberg, Joab Houghton, and Jonas Clark never existed. But they did exist; and without them, this country we call the United States of America that would not exist.
Caldwell was a Presbyterian; Muhlenberg was a Lutheran; Houghton was a Baptist; and no one really seems to know what denomination (if any) Jonas Clark claimed, although one historian referred to Clark as a Trinitarian and a Calvinist. But these men had one thing in common (besides their faith in Jesus Christ): they were all ardent patriots who participated in America’s War for Independence, and in the case of Jonas Clark, actually ignited it.
James Caldwell was called “The Rebel High Priest” or “The
Fighting Chaplain.” Caldwell is most famous for the “Give ’em
During the Springfield (New Jersey) engagement, the colonial militia
ran out of wadding for their muskets. Quickly, Caldwell galloped to
the Presbyterian church, and returning with an armload of hymnals,
threw them to the ground, and hollered, “Now, boys, give ’em
Watts!” He was referring to the famous hymn writer, Isaac Watts, of
The British hated Caldwell so much, they murdered his wife, Hannah,
in her own home, as she sat with her children on her bed. Later, a
fellow American was bribed by the British to assassinate Pastor
Caldwell–which is exactly what he did. Americans loyal to the Crown
burned both his house and church. No less than three cities and two
public schools in the State of New Jersey bear his name.
John Peter Muhlenberg
John Peter Muhlenberg was pastor of a Lutheran church in Woodstock,
Virginia, when hostilities erupted between Great Britain and the
American colonies. When news of Bunker Hill reached Virginia,
Muhlenberg preached a sermon from Ecclesiastes 3 to his congregation
He reminded his parishioners that there was a time to preach and a
time to fight. He said that, for him, the time to preach was past and
it was time to fight. He then threw off his vestments and stood before his congregants in the uniform of a Virginia colonel.
Muhlenberg later was promoted to brigadier-general in the Continental
Army, and later, major general. He participated in the battles of
Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, and Yorktown. He went on to serve in both the US House of Representatives and US Senate.
Joab Houghton was in the Hopewell (New Jersey) Baptist Meeting House
at worship when he received the first information regarding the
battles at Lexington and Concord. His great-grandson gives the
following eloquent description of the way he treated the tidings:
“Mounting the great stone block in front of the meeting-house, he
beckoned the people to stop. Men and women paused to hear, curious to
know what so unusual a sequel to the service of the day could mean. At the first, words a silence, stern as death, fell over all. The Sabbath quiet of the hour and of the place was deepened into a terrible solemnity. He told them all the story of the cowardly murder at Lexington by the royal troops; the heroic vengeance following hard upon it; the retreat of Percy; the gathering of the children of the Pilgrims round the beleaguered hills of Boston; then pausing, and looking over the silent throng, he said slowly, ‘Men of New Jersey, the red coats are murdering our brethren of New England! Who follows me to Boston?’ And every man in that audience stepped out of line, and answered, ‘I!’ There was not a coward or a traitor in old Hopewell Baptist Meeting-House that day.” (Cathcart, William.
Baptists and the American Revolution. Philadelphia: S.A. George, 1876,
As I said at the beginning of this column, Jonas Clark was pastor of
the Church of Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775, the day
that British troops marched on Concord with orders to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, and to seize a cache of firearms. It was Pastor Clark’s male congregants who were the first ones to face-off against the British troops as they marched through Lexington. When you hear the story of the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington, remember those Minutemen were Pastor Jonas Clark and the men of his congregation.
On the One Year Anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, Clark
preached a sermon based upon his eyewitness testimony of the event. He called his sermon, “The Fate of Blood-Thirsty Oppressors and God’s
Tender Care of His Distressed People.” His sermon has been
republished by Nordskog Publishing under the title, “The Battle of
Lexington, A Sermon and Eyewitness Narrative, Jonas Clark, Pastor,
Church of Lexington.”
Order the book containing Clark’s sermon at:
Of course, these four brave preachers were not the only ones to
participate in America’s fight for independence. There were
Episcopalian ministers such as Dr. Samuel Provost of New York, Dr.
John Croes of New Jersey, and Robert Smith of South Carolina.
Presbyterian ministers such as Adam Boyd of North Carolina and James
Armstrong of Maryland, along with many others, also took part.
So many Baptist preachers participated in America’s War for
Independence that, at the conclusion of the war, President George
Washington wrote a personal letter to the Baptist people saying, “I
recollect with satisfaction that the religious societies of which you
are a member have been, throughout America, uniformly and almost
unanimously, the firm friends to civil liberty, and the preserving
promoters of our glorious Revolution.” It also explains how Thomas
Jefferson could write to a Baptist congregation and say, “We have
acted together from the origin to the end of a memorable
Revolution.” (McDaniel, George White. The People Called Baptists.
The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1918)
And although not every pastor was able to actively participate in our
fight for independence, so many pastors throughout colonial America
preached the principles of liberty and independence from their pulpits that the Crown created a moniker for them: The Black Regiment
(referring to the long, black robes that so many colonial clergymen
wore in the pulpit). Without question, the courageous preaching and
example of colonial America’s patriot-pastors provided the colonists
with the inspiration and resolve to resist the tyranny of the Crown
and win America’s freedom and independence.
I invite readers to visit my Black Regiment web page to learn more
about my attempt to resurrect America’s Black-Robed Regiment. Go to:
This is the fighting heritage of America’s pastors and preachers.
So, what has happened? What has happened to that fighting spirit that
once existed, almost universally, throughout America’s Christian
denominations? How have preachers become so timid, so shy, and so
cowardly that they will stand apathetic and mute as America faces the
destruction of its liberties? Where are the preachers to explain,
expound, and extrapolate the principles of liberty from Holy Writ?
Where are the pastors to preach the truth about Romans chapter 13?
I am absolutely convinced that one of the biggest reasons America is
in the sad condition that it is in today is because the sermons
Americans frequently hear from modern pulpits deal mostly with
prosperity theology, entertainment evangelism, feelgoodism,
emotionalism, and Aren’t-I-Wonderful ear tickling! This milquetoast
preaching, along with a totally false “obey-the-government-no-matter-what” interpretation of Romans 13, have made it next to impossible to find Christian men with the courage and resolve to stand against the onslaught of socialism, corporatism, and, yes, fascism that is swallowing America whole.
America cut its spiritual teeth on the powerful preaching and
exemplary examples of men such as James Caldwell, John Peter
Muhlenberg, Joab Houghton, and, yes, Jonas Clark. We need them as much today as we did then–maybe more!
>i>Chuck Baldwin is a syndicated columnist, radio broadcaster, author, and pastor dedicated to preserving the historic principles upon which America was founded. He was the 2008 Presidential candidate for the Constitution Party. He and his wife, Connie, have 3 children and 8 grandchildren.
Please visit Chuck’s web site at http://chuckbaldwinlive.com