Lexington’s Brave Parson
Note: A version of both parts of this article appeared in the Times Examiner about four years ago. I wrote them at that time so that we who are the descendants of determined and stalwart patriots would remember our history and those who made it, and would appreciate their sacrifices. Today I republish them, not so much that we merely remember our patriot ancestors’ determination, but that we might emulate their example in all ways necessary.
Throughout much of the night of April 18, 1775, the tired man rode his lathered “verygood horse” along the muddy road that led past the small settlements and homesteads belonging to the people of his colony. Mud and road grime spattered both man and horse, but both were concerned only with the completion of the night’s dangerous work—the horse to find rest and food, and the man to warn his fellow colonists of the extreme danger swiftly closing in on them. His mount felt the urgency of its rider—some type of calamity was imminent, it realized as it gathered its last reserves of strength. The man was shouting strange words as he stopped briefly at desolate lone homes, or hurried through the silent dark streets of the few small groupings of homes in his path—words that sounded like, “To arms, to arms—the regulars are out!”
That man was a well known silversmith named Paul Revere, a member of the patriotic group, Sons of Liberty, in his home town of Boston, in the colonial Province of Massachusetts. But Revere had a secondary mission to complete before dawn’s light: To get safely to the house belonging to Lexington’s Parson, Rev. Jonas Clark, and warn him and his two house guests, John Hancock and Samuel Adams, that a force of around 700 British regular troops was coming to arrest those two patriots, primary leaders driving the increasing sentiment for separation of the English colonies of North America from the British Crown, and also to confiscate all of the powder and shot and muskets stored in the armory at Concord, a nearby village. Later, as the British military force closed in on the small hamlet of Lexington, but before Revere arrived, his two houseguests asked Parson Clark if he thought that the militia of the town would resist the Crown’s troops. History has recorded his reply to them: “I have trained them for this very hour; they will fight, and if need be, die too, under the shadow of the house of God.” And eight of them did just that, a few hours later, on the ground upon which our country, the U.S.A., was “conceived”.
It’s interesting to conjecture, in light of those lessons from history and their disregard on the part of many Americans today, just what different sort of country we might find ourselves living in if, in our present day, Christian Clergy had that same attitude and an equal determination to resist tyranny that God’s men like Rev. Clark had in our past. Would we find ourselves living in the strong and true constitutional Republic envisioned by our Founders, where the concepts of duty, honor, patriotism, love for God and His Word, respect for the laws of the land, and respect for our fellow men, were the normal order of the day? I’d like to conjecture that would be the case, but such is not reality in today’s America, because most Americans (including most of our clergy), over the past century or more have never been taught that many colonial pastors believed in having a Bible in one hand and a loaded musket in the other hand. Many colonial clergy, particularly those considered as belonging to “The Black Regiment” (for the black robes they wore while preaching), not only preached the necessity of liberty for ALL Englishmen (which they considered themselves to be), but also practiced their beliefs by delivering fiery sermons on the Sabbath morning and then, after lunch, participating in militia drills and firearms practice with some of the members of their church on the village green.
Modern Americans have been so conditioned to react negatively to the concept of their pastor/priest/rabbi preaching FOR constitutional concepts, preaching AGAINST societal sins and shortcomings, and taking a stand FROM THE PULPIT for or against political candidates or for or against proposed laws, that the thought of preachers/pastors/priests/rabbis delivering what were called “ELECTION SERMONS” (as they did back in colonial times) is deemed to be “unconstitutional” and “anti-American” and a “breach” of the NON-CONSTITUTIONAL “wall of separation between church and state”. What nonsense that deliberate falsehood has engendered!
Dr. Catherine Millard, an authority of colonial times and beliefs, has written: “Independence was boldly preached from Scripture throughout the original 13 colonies before and during the American Revolution. The pastor’s address brought about enthusiasm; his prayers brought about courage, and his parting blessing—encouragement and resolution….Prior to the American Revolution there were chaplains in the Colonial wars… and at the conclusion of the war, these chaplains became pastors of Protestant Churches, preaching frequently on “The Divine Right of Resistance”, as opposed to “The Divine Right of Kings”. Thank God that they did.
Additionally, many pastors in colonial days made certain that their sermons were published in local newspapers, on broadsides distributed throughout the community, or printed into tracts for wider distribution. I fear that many modern Christians would have a “hissy fit” if, as a local, state, or national election drew near, their pastor/priest/rabbi would preach a strong “election sermon”, and review for their congregations the Biblical standards that Christians and people of faith should consider and abide by as they cast their ballots, and then had it published by a local news source. I wonder how many “church people” would react negatively to “interference in politics”, to “bringing the world into the church”, by their pastor? More to the point, I wonder how long it has been since you heard YOUR pastor resist the unconstitutional and unscriptural mandate from “Caesar” to not bring “politics into the pulpit”, and do what most colonial pastors AND many pastors up until the past 80 or so years also did, which is preach about “worldly things and politics” as events around them mandated? Hmmmm?
Samuel Adams, often called “the firebrand of the American Revolution”, and even the “Father of the American Revolution”, published an article around this time titled, The Rights of the Colonists as Christians, in which he wrote:
“The right to freedom, being the gift of God Almighty, the rights of the Colonists as Christians may best be understood by reading and carefully studying the institutions of The Great Law Giver and the Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in The New Testament.”
One of the colonial pastors who heeded Adams’ words was the aforementioned Rev. Jonas Clark, one of hundreds of pastors comprising the “Black Regiment”, mentioned above. These spiritual leaders didn’t consider themselves to be “soldiers for the Crown”, but instead referred to themselves as “soldiers of the Cross”, for they firmly believed that the God they served was on the side of liberty for the colonies.
As far back as 1760, a royal governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Pownall, warned that if these ministers (many of whom were Presbyterians) ever joined together to resist the power of England, then it might be impossible to stop the colonies’ demands for freedom. He reminded his fellow royalists, “The spirit of their religion…will, like Moses’ serpent, devour every other passion and affection.” Years later, after hostilities between the colonies and England had begun, English Prime Minister Walpole commented in Parliament, “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson”.
Rev. Jonas Clark (sometimes spelled ‘Clarke’) was born on Christmas Day, 1730, and was graduated from Harvard College in 1752. Ordained in 1755, he married Lucy Hancock Bowes in 1757 (Lucy was either John Hancock’s granddaughter or his cousin, according to different sources). Jonas Clark was a well-educated farmer who owned and cultivated 60 acres of land, and served as Lexington’s village Parson (pastor). He was also the organizer and leader of the Lexington Militia Company (often referred to as a “Training Band”, that most Americans have long called “Minute Men”), that had the distinction of being the first group of Americans (well, British Americans, technically) to defend their soon-to-be-born country. The Lexington Militia was led by a 46 year old Captain named John Parker. But it may not have existed at all had not this stalwart man of God organized his own church’s members for their mutual defense. Thanks to Parson Clark the small village of Lexington was well prepared to be the place that I believe God chose as the scene of America’s first official battle for independence, for the events of April 19, 1775 (Lexington’s Battle Green and the Old North Bridge) were to decide the fate of our entire continent and change the history of the future.
With the vast host of problems we Americans face today as a nation, many “blasé” and “sophisticated” people ask why we should bother to commemorate the history changing “Battle of Lexington” every April 19th. Once celebrated as “Patriot’s Day”, today that date isn’t even recognized by a majority of Americans (although the battle IS annually re-enacted in the City of Lexington, Massachusetts). Not only is our seminal history virtually forgotten today, and remembered only by a relative handful of loyal Patriots, but I believe it can be said that the U.S.A. is slowly perishing because our clergymen—our preachers, pastors, reverends, ministers, priests, bishops, rabbis, whatever we call them—no longer apply the lessons of both history AND Scripture to every area of our lives, and usually neglect to focus on personal, civil, and religious liberty. What would the “Church”, the “Body of Christ”, be like in our time if it was filled and led by brave shepherds like Jonas Clark, who not only taught his people the Holy Doctrine of Salvation By Faith Alone—In Jesus Christ Alone, but also the Biblical right of the people to resist the tyranny of unbridled power? My heart flutters just thinking about it.
According to an article from the blog, “Institute On The Constitution”, published by The American View, Feb. 20, 2014, “Clark typically delivered four sermons a week which were rarely less than one hour long. Over the course of his lifetime, he wrote and preached nearly 2,200 sermons. His style was vigorous, animated, and instructive. He preached with an uncommon energy and zeal, and was said to have an agreeable and powerful voice. He lived his life according to the Gospel which produced a man in spirit and temper of the highest character and who lead an exemplary life of faithful practice of the virtues he had preached to others. Even during his lifetime, he was considered a patriot and a leader of impeccable integrity and skill. Through the way he lived his life and the sermons that he preached, his flock was spiritually and mentally prepared to take a noble stand for liberty at the famous Battle of Lexington.”
Have you ever pondered, as I have, that if Parson Jonas Clark returned to his country today, what would he think when he discovered that so many of his fellow Christians, and their pastors, had turned into veritable “milk toasts” of subservience to the State via the incorrect application of Romans 13? Would he ask: Are there no evils in your midst that are eroding your liberties? Why haven’t you pastors educated yourselves about the dangers and the evils facing us, which are eroding our liberty and our faith, and warned your flocks to resist and eliminate them? I truly fear that should Parson Clark return to visit us today, he’d be disappointed in all of us, and we’d surely find ourselves the uncomfortable subjects of many of his sermons!
Could it be that our pastoral “men of God”, INCLUDING those they are supposed to lead, have succumbed to the siren song—the fatal “lure”-- of Caesar’s 401 (c) (3) tax-exempt status, and refuse to obey God because they fear their fellow men? Could it be that our “men of God” have, for far too long, allowed themselves to be controlled, or intimidated, by “threats” from slimy politicians, or from their Boards of Elders and/or Deacons, or influential and/or wealthy members who themselves are either woefully uninformed or who have sold their souls to the “god of this world”, all of whom are fearful of “rocking the boat” and drawing the ire of some local chapter of the “Anti-Christian Liberties Union” (ACLU) or some other group of “God Haters” or “Church/State Separatists” or “anti-conservatives” like the corrupt and thoroughly anti-American and far left wing Southern Poverty Law Center that so many in our own government and many of our citizens consider to be ‘unbiased’ and ‘truthful’? I pray that these things have not contributed to our mostly powerless pulpits and the cringing unconcern of far too many Americans and Christians, but if not, then WHAT has?