THE MAN WHO FIRED THE SHOT HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD
By Chuck Baldwin
April 19, 2012
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 Independence began.
of approaching British troops by Dr. James 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
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 great
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.
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.
Caldwell was called “The Rebel High Priest” or “The Fighting Chaplain.”
Caldwell is most famous for the “Give ’em Watts!” story.
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 course.
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
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.
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:
“[M]ounting 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, rev. 1976.
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 here.
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. Print.)
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
I invite readers to visit my Black Regiment
web page to learn more about my attempt to resurrect America’s
Black-Robed Regiment. Go here.
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
Readers should know that my constitutional attorney
son, Tim, and I have co-authored a blockbuster book dealing with Romans
13. The book is entitled, “Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission.”
And it can be ordered here.
Plus, I also delivered four messages
dealing with Romans 13. The message series is entitled, “The True
Meaning of Romans 13.” These four video messages have been recorded on
one DVD and may be ordered here.
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!