The Influence of the Colonial Clergy on Culture and Civil Government

Part One: Laying the American Cultural Foundation

For over 167 years the American colonies were known as a bastion of religious liberty. Their very founding was based upon the desire of peoples whose religious beliefs required a life style and practice which was either forbidden or at best tolerated in their own country. The first to settle in the colonies at the time of the “great religious exodus” came from England. Those early colonists were called Pilgrims and Puritans. They escaped from oppression and religious persecution to find freedom and liberty to practice their Faith as their conscience and the bible lead them. However, not long after their arrival many others, from various countries and Faiths, joined them: Lutherans from Germany & Sweden; Dutch Reformed from Holland; the ever persecuted French Huguenots (or Calvinistic Protestants), and from Great Britain also came Quakers, Baptists, Catholics, Scots and Scots/Irish Presbyterians.

In the beginning of our country the settlers had one thing in common: the Christian Faith. Their adherence to the law of God laid down in the Old Testament served as the moral, ethical, and legal foundation on which they would build a new country.

Though there were several sects (today we call them denominations) of Christianity, all were Trinitarian Christians. This is not to say there was always great harmony, for in early Boston for example, Quakers were considered heretics and by law were not allowed in the city. But eventually, this “old world” intolerance would subside and there arose among the colonies a religious and civil liberty, and a greater acceptance of one another’s differences, more than mere “tolerance.” The world up to this time had never known this kind of freedom.  After the late 1600’s true freedom, apart from petty differences arose, and attempts at union began among the colonies. Freedom to travel was unlike anything in Europe. Among the colonists was a desire to live their lives by the standards of the Scriptures as they understood them and their conscience dictated; but no national church was ever considered. Liberty of conscience and the freedom to practice ones faith, as one understood it became the accepted norm. But the goal of these many Christians was not religious liberty alone. They sought to build a country, a nation whose laws reflected the Laws of God and whose King was Christ alone. A country where free men live under the Commands of Christ, and not men, and where liberty of conscience under the law of the gospel rules in the hearts of men and dictates their civil and religious duties.

 They looked for a “city whose builder and maker was God” as John Winthrop of Boston explained that they desired to build “City on a Hill” for the whole world to see. This was their single aim and ambition. To this end they came, “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith … a voyage to plant a colony in the Northern parts of Virginia,” and so they did.

The first constitutional government in the New World was penned aboard the small ship Mayflower. This Mayflower Compact formed the foundation of our popular government yet to come. The historian Wellman in his book, The Polity of the Pilgrim Church, published in 1856, writes,

“Our popular government lay in embryo on board the Mayflower…the idea born there, and embodied in civil institutions…grew with the growth of the colonies, gradually expelling from the thoughts and affections of the people all other theories of civil government, until finally it enthroned itself in the national mind, and then embodied itself in our national government.”

Who taught these wayfarers, these Pilgrims, about the need of civil government? Who other than their own beloved pastor, the Reverend John Robinson? This man of God, an early separatist and puritan, because of persecution in England, led his congregation to Holland where they enjoyed liberty of conscience to worship God as they believed right. But after a few years the influence of the Dutch on their children became too much. They after all were Englishmen. So Pastor Robinson and the Scrooby Church (they were from Scrooby England) desired to go to the New World. Therefore this small band of English separatists whom we now know as Pilgrims, devised a plan to return to England and then to the British colony of Virginia.

Reverend Robinson continued to teach his people the importance of obedience to God’s law, and to obey the civil law (as it followed the law of Christ). He taught them to live as God’s covenant people, “compacted together.” This idea of “compact” became the foundation of not only their Church government but also their civil “Compact” or government in the “Northern parts of Virginia.” You can read in William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation” the Story of the early years at Scrooby, their removal to Holland and the reasons and eventual plantation of that Church in the Plymouth Colony in what is today Massachusetts.

By 1638 the principles of self-government were so entrenched in the hearts and practice of the American colonists that it was uncommon that the cities and townships didn’t elect their own rulers and representatives. Constitutional, representative government became the American norm and Christianity the “law of the land”.

Not long after the founding of Boston in 1638 several families removed from there and settled in Connecticut and established the three towns of Hartford, Windsor and Westerfield. To secure for themselves a good government they united together and founded the commonwealth of Connecticut. When it came time to draft an instrument of government they called upon the Reverend Thomas Hooker to preach a sermon in order to commemorate this momentous event. On Thursday, May 31, 1638 Thomas Hooker took his sermon text from Deuteronomy 1:13, “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” The sermon was recorded and formed the basis of their covenant and the new colony’s constitutional government. It was this sermon which laid the foundation for representative government in Connecticut. We know it today as The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. His sermon ended with these words “ As God gave us liberty, let us take it.” The “Orders” first served the colony as it’s Charter then as its State Constitution until 1818.

The principles laid down by Hooker were as follows, they affirmed that –

  1. “The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.
  2. The privilege of election must be exercised according to the blessed will and law of God.
  3. Those who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates have also power to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them”

The reason for this proclaimed Hooker is “because the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people.”

When we consider the history of the Church for two thousands years, or our own history, we should stand in awe at the influence the word of God has had. If only we believed in the power of the Gospel, as did our Fathers. Today if only our rulers, pastors, elders and deacons would lead in “making disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe (obey) all things” Christ “Commanded” and to reconstruct the culture after the Law–word of God, which is the “prefect law of liberty” this is true freedom! Ben Franklin is reported to have said, “He who will introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity will change the world.” We must believe this.

The two terms leader and ruler are not necessarily synonymous. Many leaders in the church are not its rulers. Often elders, deacons and pastors who are to “rule well” and “lead the people” fall very short. Not desiring to make waves they are in reality only followers. Often fearful of what their peers or the world might say if they were to become “too dogmatic” or radical.

 The entire home school movement is a testament to this fact. Home school leaders came to the forefront when pastors, elders and church leaders would not. Modern home schooling is now more than 30 years on the American educational front burner and still the majority of pastors and church leaders send their children to public secular schools. Then after 12 years of anti-Christian indoctrination they wonder why their sons and daughters rebel against all that is godly and right and forsake the Faith. Can 4-12 hours per month of Sunday school and Children’s Church ever take the place of 120 hours of anti-Christian secular indoctrination, peer pressure and moral relativism?

Our churches today, for any practical purposes, are culturally irrelevant. This is due essentially to the lack of real biblical leadership. In its place we see a wholesale retreat into the “sanctuary” and condemn the world for it being what it is with no attempt to redeem the world for Christ’s sake. What happened to the spirit Elijah? Of Amos? Of Luther and Knox?  Or the Colonial clergy who by strength of character, fear of God, sense of duty and integrity stood against those things which exalted themselves against God and His Anointed, Jesus Christ in their day. Where are the true men of God, the servants of the Most High? Today we here “We need to keep church and state separate.” Or “Politics is dirty and as Christians we are to have nothing to do with politics.” What if Knox believed that? Or Stephen Langton? Or John Robinson , Thomas Hooker , or John Owen ?

 When the enemies of Christ cried out for “academic Freedom” the church opened the doors to our colleges. When the progressives took over the teachers colleges, the church and her “leaders” gave no resistance. And now we have lost the majority of our schools and colleges to multiculturalism (idolatry), humanism (anti-Christian faith), post modernism and atheism. These are the “established” religions in America today. And Christianity with its “closed mindedness” and dogmatisms is out nor tolerated in any of the classrooms and halls of academic learning.

 Once Christianity was the major influence in American culture, today we have cloistered ourselves behind the walls of our church buildings and proclaim victory! There was a time when the Christian Faith set the standard for law, government, education and the “public welfare.” Today we seek out the “ungodly” for “accreditation” for our colleges and schools. We further look for their favor by announcing that “our teachers are certified.” and shrink back from defending Christ, Christianity and God’s Word, as the only objective foundation for truth, justice and all areas of life. We, as a church, have ceased to be an influence on the world around us. It is as if we need the approval of dead men on how we ought to live, or their consent to our “free exercise of religion.” Religion, by which I mean Christianity, is excluded from public life. Christian prayer and bible reading, displays of the Ten Commandments and Manger scenes have been removed from our schools and all civic activity. Our “leaders” are satisfied to have just a “place at the table” as if one voice among equals. There is no equal to Christianity. If they do not believe God’s word, which says, there is only one God, one Faith, one Savior, one truth, then there is no “understanding in them.”

What then is a leader” In Part Two we shall consider clergymen who were in deed and practice both leaders and rulers in their time.

The Influence of the Colonial Clergy on Culture and Civil Government.

Part Two: The Black Brigade.

From our very founding through the war for Independence the American clergy exerted a great influence in the development of our political theory. For a hundred and fifty years leading up to the War for Independence the colonial clergy taught their parishioners the “whole counsel of God.” There were no public schools, as we understand them today. Children were either taught at home or in the “church house” by the pastors. Some times the church would higher teachers, or individual graduates from Harvard, Yale or some other college and would open a private school. However they all taught Grammar, ciphering, logic, history but most importantly “the Creed, The Catechism, the Lords Prayer, the Ten Commandments,” These untiring men of God took their calling serious. Often a pastor would stay in the church as the pastor his whole life. He was their shepherd.

In the early 1700’s there was a great revival and it swept the land over till the effects of the preaching of God’s word was felt by all. Notables in this “great awakening” were Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. So powerful was their influence felt that even young Benjamin Franklin, accused by many as being a deist, became a close friend with Dr. Whitefield. (Franklin has a role yet to play, but that is another story.) By 1760 the whole of New England was under the religious zeal of the “great awakening.” The middle colonies by this time welcomed Presbyterians from Scotland, “covenanters” who lost the war in England and fled to the New World where their Faith could openly be practiced. They also settled in North and South Carolina with their cousins the Scots-Irish Presbyterians. Throughout these colonies civil freedom, liberty and Christianity were married. To do harm to one was to harm the other.

For ten years leading up to the Revolution, the king of England attempted time and time again to impose taxes on the colonies. And for ten years the representatives of the several colonies petitioned the King, and listed their grievances at such unlawful taxation. To them it was a matter of legal jurisdiction. It was a political maxim, “No taxation without representation.” “We have no representation in Parliament; therefore you can not tax us.”

But this was only one principle violated. If you read the Declaration of Independence Jefferson lists 27 grievances “for a candid world to see.” How could anyone object to a mere 2% tax on goods? The principles after all were at stake. The king had broken his “Compacts” with the colonies. This was an act, which placed the colonies, later states, in a “state of nature”, and therefore after a decade of “usurpation’s and abuses” “Petitions” and “Assertions of Rights” the colonies sought their independence from the Crown. They were “Crown colonies” and did not consider themselves under the rule of Parliament by Charter or Compact.

             At the time of the Revolution many were not in favor of separating from Great Britain. Those who opposed independence were called “Tories.” One such Tory was Peter Oliver. Upon writing a friend in England of the great sway the ministers had over their congregations he stated, ”As to their pulpits, many of them were converted into the gutters of sedition, the torrents bore down all before them. The clergy had quite unlearned the gospel, & had substituted politicks in its stead.” 

In the sermons of the patriot ministers, who were responsible for one fifth to one fourth of the total political thought in this decade, we find expressed every possible refinement of the reigning political thought.” So wrote Clinton Rossiter in his book, Seed Time in the Republic.  He continues “Had ministers been the only spokesmen of the Rebellion, had Jefferson, the Adam’s, and Otis never appeared in print, the political thought of the Revolution would have followed almost exactly the same line – with perhaps a little more mention of God, but certainly no less of John Locke.”

Did you get that? “Every possible refinement of the reigning political Faith” was espoused by the colonial clergy. Sermons were not only expositions of the Written Word, the Scriptures, but of news, commentary, political philosophy, sound economics and principles of freedom. The clergy’s influence through their “Election Sermons,” “Artillery Sermons,” sermons preached at the “muster of the Militia,” “Sunday Sermons” and their personal example are a deep and flowing well of Christian political philosophy and true God fearing leadership. These pastors, ministers and clergy were slanderously referred to as “the black brigade.” However, they wore this badge with honor, for they were the true leadership in this cultural war. Often they joined the fighting troops and became part of the real regiments. They served as chaplains and often as officers in the field.

After drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson, upon an inquiry of his work wrote, “I have written nothing which was not the general sentiment of the American people.” Who taught the people? Who gave them this clearly American “political Faith?”

Many noteworthy clergymen could be mentioned. Some may be familiar to you. Most have been excluded from the annals of history. Others have faded into obscurity and America has forgotten her “colonial Fathers” in the Faith, and the “Black Brigade.” Allow me to introduce you to one of the great luminaries of our American patriot clergy, a general of the black brigade in their American cultural war.

It was well reported that “most of the ministers of colonial America could discuss as well as any man the doctrines of resistance, inalienable rights and government by the consent of the governed.”

One such pastor was the Reverend Jonas Clark. Reverend Clark was the pastor of the Congregational Church at Lexington. Up to this time an obscure New England village. It was in this small town where Jonas Clark trained his congregation, “all the while Providence prepared to catapult them and a nation into a war for independence.”

Reverend Clark was a farmer and village pastor. His salary was eighty pounds a year and twenty cords of wood. It is said, “he enjoyed the pursuits of a retired and quiet life of a country preacher.” “His voice was powerful and agreeable, and when excited by his subject, which was often the case, it extended far beyond the bounds of the meeting house, and could be heard by those who were in the immediate neighborhood.”

When trouble between the colonies and the Mother country commenced he became known throughout the entire region as one of the most uncompromising patriots of the day.

“Earnestly, yet not without passion, he discussed from the pulpit the great questions at issue, and that powerful voice thundered fourth the principles of personal, civil, and religious liberty, and the right of resistance, in tones as earnest and effective as it had the doctrines of salvation by the cross.”

Pastor Clark so thoroughly instructed his people with these truths, that T.J. Headley writes “that no better spot on the continent could be found for the British first to try the terror of their arms, and try to subjugate the colonists by force. His congregation was ripe for revolution, ready to fight and die rather than yield to arbitrary force.”

Clark’s wife was cousin to John Hancock and on the evening of 18 April 1775, Mr. Hancock and Sam Adams were visiting the Clarks. Hancock and Adams were criminals in the eyes of the Crown and the British army was looking for them. In the wee hours of 19 April the cry went out and was heard the countryside over, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” The British governor sent soldiers to Lexington and Concord to confiscate the local armory and look for the two outlaws Hancock and Adams. The two fugitives were warned in time and escaped, but the congregation of Reverend Clark was ready.

On the morning of 19 April 1775, a mist lay over the Green. The British regulars marched on Lexington. The Minutemen of Clark’s church musters on the Green and the Red Coats lined up ready for battle.

Would these humble farmers, mechanics, merchants and craftsmen fight? Would they turn and run? These were Christian men with families and businesses. Would they dare to resist trained British regulars? Clark knew they would. Had he not trained them for such an hour as this? They did fight, and the “shot heard round the world” was fired upon these free men who knew the cost of liberty and were willing to spill their blood if need be.

Eight men died that day, all from the congregation of Jonas Clark. You can still hear the words spoken by Captain Parker of the Lexington Militia, “Do not fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war, let it begin here.” These were the words spoken from a fearless deacon in the church. Eight men died. Not one died in vain. All gave their lives willingly for the great cause of liberty.

Reverend Clark was known as a man of the Book. He understood the necessity of biblical law. He was no anarchist. He knew men needed civil-government. And he believed civil-government to be an institution established by God. To him it was never a “necessary evil” but instrumental for our good. “And when that government no longer served the welfare of the people,” he would argue, “It ought to be altered or replaced.”

Reverend Clark was chosen as a delegate to the Massachusetts State Constitutional convention where he played a most influential role in the drafting of that document. A few years after the War, he was elected a delegate to the 1788 ratification convention for the purposed new federal Constitution1drafted the year before in Philadelphia. While in convention he said, “I will support the ratification if it contained a Bill of Rights.”

What was it that inspired this man? What did he teach his congregation that stirred them to resistance to tyranny? What was it that filled their hearts with such passion for liberty? How can it be that free men would choose to defend their sacred rights rather than live under a benevolent tyrant like King George III? After all, they still owned their farms. The Crown protected them from invasion and foreign wars. It was well admitted that as British subjects they enjoyed greater liberty than many nations of Europe. For most lived under absolute monarchs with little of no personal freedoms.

What impassioned these farmers, merchants, and tradesman to so fully through off “the yoke of bondage?” The answer lies in the sermons preached Sunday after Sunday in the little church at Lexington pastored by Jonas Clark (and in all the churches of the American colonies). Maybe we can gain some insight into the man if we consider and ponder an excerpt from one of his sermons:

            “Tis not indeed pretended that any one man or number of men have any natural right or superiority, or inherent claim or dominion or governmental authority over another man or body of men. All men are by nature free and equal and independent in this matter. It is in compact, and compact alone, that all government is founded. The first steps,” says Clark “in entering into society, and towards establishment of civil government among a people, is the forming, agreeing to, and ratifying an original compact for the regulation of the state, describing and determining the mode, the departures, and powers of the government, and the rights, privileges and duties of the subjects. This must be done, adds Clark, “by the whole body of the people, or by their leaders or delegates of their choice.”

Jonas Clark, a humble man by all accounts, both in temperament and living, was a leader of the first rank. He was not just a theoretical expositor of natural rights, but a true believer as well. He was with his congregation on the green that fateful morning. He prayed with them, wept over their deaths and comforted the widows and orphans of the eight patriot heroes of Lexington. Pastor Clark not only ruled his church as a duly elected minister and teaching elder, but lead them in the eight-year struggle to preserve their God given, “unalienable rights.” He was a true church “ruler” and “leader.”

What does it mean to be a leader? By definition it is to lead. We elect and chose our church rulers. We follow them believing them to be “men of God” who fear God, have understanding and faith, and will not compromise the commands of their Savior. Many are. But how is it then that so many Christian families in America send their children to the Egyptian school of paganism (public school) and most Christian pastors, elders and deacons do too? True Christian leaders would “lead” their congregations out of the dens of anti-Christian socialism and teach their congregations the Law of God, the doctrines of grace, and obedience to their Sovereign Lord and God.

Leadership is not measured by how many we have in church on Sunday. It is however weighed is heaven how we have taught our members to love, fear and obey God, and to keep His commandments. Conviction not preference makes men out of broken earthen vessels. If we truly believe we will fight for the “crown rights of Christ” for then we truly understand. On the other hand preferences are easily replaced.

The Laws of New England, to the year 1700 and The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of Massachusets; are two examples of the legal and moral use of Scripture for their cities and settlements. These two works acted much like our civil codes of today.

Wellman, Polity of the Pilgrim Church, 1886, noted in CHOC page 147

Massachusetts Body of Liberties 1641, See also The Book of the General Lauues and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of Massachusetts, 1641 (CHOC Page 257-261)

The Christian History of the United States Constitution (CHOC), Pub. by F.A.C.E., page 249-257

Matthew 28:19-20, read Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses

God Rules In America, Historic Quotes from Founding Fathers and Presidents, pub. by American Destiny, page 38, 2001

John Knox led the reformation of the Scottish Church, laid the foundations for civil reforms, and opposed Queen Mary and the Crown government when it opposed God’s law.

Stephen Langton siding with the Barons drafted Magna Charta, the Great Charter of English and eventually American civil liberties.

John Robinson was the pastor of the Scrooby Church, whom we know as Pilgrims.

Thomas Hookers sermon on Deut. 1:13 formed what later became the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and the basis of that colonies civil government.

Owen served Oliver Cromwell during the Commonwealth, as his pastor, friend, counselor and helped draft the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order

Ephesians 1:4; Isaiah 8:20

Chaplains and Clergy of the American Revolution, T.J. Headley, page 74

Ibid. ,  Pg. 75, 76

Jonas Clark, Election sermon, 1781

s), and from Great Britain also came Quakers, Baptists, Catholics, Scots and Scots/Irish Presbyterians.

In the beginning of our country the settlers had one thing in common: the Christian Faith. Their adherence to the law of God laid down in the Old Testament served as the moral, ethical, and legal foundation on which they would build a new country.

Though there were several sects (today we call them denominations) of Christianity, all were Trinitarian Christians. This is not to say there was always great harmony, for in early Boston for example, Quakers were considered heretics and by law were not allowed in the city. But eventually, this “old world” intolerance would subside and there arose among the colonies a religious and civil liberty, and a greater acceptance of one another’s differences, more than mere “tolerance.” The world up to this time had never known this kind of freedom.  After the late 1600’s true freedom, apart from petty differences arose, and attempts at union began among the colonies. Freedom to travel was unlike anything in Europe. Among the colonists was a desire to live their lives by the standards of the Scriptures as they understood them and their conscience dictated; but no national church was ever considered. Liberty of conscience and the freedom to practice ones faith, as one understood it became the accepted norm. But the goal of these many Christians was not religious liberty alone. They sought to build a country, a nation whose laws reflected the Laws of God and whose King was Christ alone. A country where free men live under the Commands of Christ, and not men, and where liberty of conscience under the law of the gospel rules in the hearts of men and dictates their civil and religious duties.

 They looked for a “city whose builder and maker was God” as John Winthrop of Boston explained that they desired to build “City on a Hill” for the whole world to see. This was their single aim and ambition. To this end they came, “for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian Faith … a voyage to plant a colony in the Northern parts of Virginia,” and so they did.

The first constitutional government in the New World was penned aboard the small ship Mayflower. This Mayflower Compact formed the foundation of our popular government yet to come. The historian Wellman in his book, The Polity of the Pilgrim Church, published in 1856, writes,

“Our popular government lay in embryo on board the Mayflower…the idea born there, and embodied in civil institutions…grew with the growth of the colonies, gradually expelling from the thoughts and affections of the people all other theories of civil government, until finally it enthroned itself in the national mind, and then embodied itself in our national government.”

Who taught these wayfarers, these Pilgrims, about the need of civil government? Who other than their own beloved pastor, the Reverend John Robinson? This man of God, an early separatist and puritan, because of persecution in England, led his congregation to Holland where they enjoyed liberty of conscience to worship God as they believed right. But after a few years the influence of the Dutch on their children became too much. They after all were Englishmen. So Pastor Robinson and the Scrooby Church (they were from Scrooby England) desired to go to the New World. Therefore this small band of English separatists whom we now know as Pilgrims, devised a plan to return to England and then to the British colony of Virginia.

Reverend Robinson continued to teach his people the importance of obedience to God’s law, and to obey the civil law (as it followed the law of Christ). He taught them to live as God’s covenant people, “compacted together.” This idea of “compact” became the foundation of not only their Church government but also their civil “Compact” or government in the “Northern parts of Virginia.” You can read in William Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation” the Story of the early years at Scrooby, their removal to Holland and the reasons and eventual plantation of that Church in the Plymouth Colony in what is today Massachusetts.

By 1638 the principles of self-government were so entrenched in the hearts and practice of the American colonists that it was uncommon that the cities and townships didn’t elect their own rulers and representatives. Constitutional, representative government became the American norm and Christianity the “law of the land”.

Not long after the founding of Boston in 1638 several families removed from there and settled in Connecticut and established the three towns of Hartford, Windsor and Westerfield. To secure for themselves a good government they united together and founded the commonwealth of Connecticut. When it came time to draft an instrument of government they called upon the Reverend Thomas Hooker to preach a sermon in order to commemorate this momentous event. On Thursday, May 31, 1638 Thomas Hooker took his sermon text from Deuteronomy 1:13, “Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.” The sermon was recorded and formed the basis of their covenant and the new colony’s constitutional government. It was this sermon which laid the foundation for representative government in Connecticut. We know it today as The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. His sermon ended with these words “ As God gave us liberty, let us take it.” The “Orders” first served the colony as it’s Charter then as its State Constitution until 1818.

The principles laid down by Hooker were as follows, they affirmed that –

  1. “The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God’s own allowance.
  2. The privilege of election must be exercised according to the blessed will and law of God.
  3. Those who have the power to appoint officers and magistrates have also power to set the bounds and limitations of the power and place unto which they call them”

The reason for this proclaimed Hooker is “because the foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people.”

When we consider the history of the Church for two thousands years, or our own history, we should stand in awe at the influence the word of God has had. If only we believed in the power of the Gospel, as did our Fathers. Today if only our rulers, pastors, elders and deacons would lead in “making disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe (obey) all things” Christ “Commanded” and to reconstruct the culture after the Law–word of God, which is the “prefect law of liberty” this is true freedom! Ben Franklin is reported to have said, “He who will introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity will change the world.” We must believe this.

The two terms leader and ruler are not necessarily synonymous. Many leaders in the church are not its rulers. Often elders, deacons and pastors who are to “rule well” and “lead the people” fall very short. Not desiring to make waves they are in reality only followers. Often fearful of what their peers or the world might say if they were to become “too dogmatic” or radical.

 The entire home school movement is a testament to this fact. Home school leaders came to the forefront when pastors, elders and church leaders would not. Modern home schooling is now more than 30 years on the American educational front burner and still the majority of pastors and church leaders send their children to public secular schools. Then after 12 years of anti-Christian indoctrination they wonder why their sons and daughters rebel against all that is godly and right and forsake the Faith. Can 4-12 hours per month of Sunday school and Children’s Church ever take the place of 120 hours of anti-Christian secular indoctrination, peer pressure and moral relativism?

Our churches today, for any practical purposes, are culturally irrelevant. This is due essentially to the lack of real biblical leadership. In its place we see a wholesale retreat into the “sanctuary” and condemn the world for it being what it is with no attempt to redeem the world for Christ’s sake. What happened to the spirit Elijah? Of Amos? Of Luther and Knox?  Or the Colonial clergy who by strength of character, fear of God, sense of duty and integrity stood against those things which exalted themselves against God and His Anointed, Jesus Christ in their day. Where are the true men of God, the servants of the Most High? Today we here “We need to keep church and state separate.” Or “Politics is dirty and as Christians we are to have nothing to do with politics.” What if Knox believed that? Or Stephen Langton? Or John Robinson , Thomas Hooker , or John Owen ?

 When the enemies of Christ cried out for “academic Freedom” the church opened the doors to our colleges. When the progressives took over the teachers colleges, the church and her “leaders” gave no resistance. And now we have lost the majority of our schools and colleges to multiculturalism (idolatry), humanism (anti-Christian faith), post modernism and atheism. These are the “established” religions in America today. And Christianity with its “closed mindedness” and dogmatisms is out nor tolerated in any of the classrooms and halls of academic learning.

 Once Christianity was the major influence in American culture, today we have cloistered ourselves behind the walls of our church buildings and proclaim victory! There was a time when the Christian Faith set the standard for law, government, education and the “public welfare.” Today we seek out the “ungodly” for “accreditation” for our colleges and schools. We further look for their favor by announcing that “our teachers are certified.” and shrink back from defending Christ, Christianity and God’s Word, as the only objective foundation for truth, justice and all areas of life. We, as a church, have ceased to be an influence on the world around us. It is as if we need the approval of dead men on how we ought to live, or their consent to our “free exercise of religion.” Religion, by which I mean Christianity, is excluded from public life. Christian prayer and bible reading, displays of the Ten Commandments and Manger scenes have been removed from our schools and all civic activity. Our “leaders” are satisfied to have just a “place at the table” as if one voice among equals. There is no equal to Christianity. If they do not believe God’s word, which says, there is only one God, one Faith, one Savior, one truth, then there is no “understanding in them.”

What then is a leader” In Part Two we shall consider clergymen who were in deed and practice both leaders and rulers in their time.

The Influence of the Colonial Clergy on Culture and Civil Government.

Part Two: The Black Brigade.

From our very founding through the war for Independence the American clergy exerted a great influence in the development of our political theory. For a hundred and fifty years leading up to the War for Independence the colonial clergy taught their parishioners the “whole counsel of God.” There were no public schools, as we understand them today. Children were either taught at home or in the “church house” by the pastors. Some times the church would higher teachers, or individual graduates from Harvard, Yale or some other college and would open a private school. However they all taught Grammar, ciphering, logic, history but most importantly “the Creed, The Catechism, the Lords Prayer, the Ten Commandments,” These untiring men of God took their calling serious. Often a pastor would stay in the church as the pastor his whole life. He was their shepherd.

In the early 1700’s there was a great revival and it swept the land over till the effects of the preaching of God’s word was felt by all. Notables in this “great awakening” were Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. So powerful was their influence felt that even young Benjamin Franklin, accused by many as being a deist, became a close friend with Dr. Whitefield. (Franklin has a role yet to play, but that is another story.) By 1760 the whole of New England was under the religious zeal of the “great awakening.” The middle colonies by this time welcomed Presbyterians from Scotland, “covenanters” who lost the war in England and fled to the New World where their Faith could openly be practiced. They also settled in North and South Carolina with their cousins the Scots-Irish Presbyterians. Throughout these colonies civil freedom, liberty and Christianity were married. To do harm to one was to harm the other.

For ten years leading up to the Revolution, the king of England attempted time and time again to impose taxes on the colonies. And for ten years the representatives of the several colonies petitioned the King, and listed their grievances at such unlawful taxation. To them it was a matter of legal jurisdiction. It was a political maxim, “No taxation without representation.” “We have no representation in Parliament; therefore you can not tax us.”

But this was only one principle violated. If you read the Declaration of Independence Jefferson lists 27 grievances “for a candid world to see.” How could anyone object to a mere 2% tax on goods? The principles after all were at stake. The king had broken his “Compacts” with the colonies. This was an act, which placed the colonies, later states, in a “state of nature”, and therefore after a decade of “usurpation’s and abuses” “Petitions” and “Assertions of Rights” the colonies sought their independence from the Crown. They were “Crown colonies” and did not consider themselves under the rule of Parliament by Charter or Compact.

             At the time of the Revolution many were not in favor of separating from Great Britain. Those who opposed independence were called “Tories.” One such Tory was Peter Oliver. Upon writing a friend in England of the great sway the ministers had over their congregations he stated, ”As to their pulpits, many of them were converted into the gutters of sedition, the torrents bore down all before them. The clergy had quite unlearned the gospel, & had substituted politicks in its stead.” 

In the sermons of the patriot ministers, who were responsible for one fifth to one fourth of the total political thought in this decade, we find expressed every possible refinement of the reigning political thought.” So wrote Clinton Rossiter in his book, Seed Time in the Republic.  He continues “Had ministers been the only spokesmen of the Rebellion, had Jefferson, the Adam’s, and Otis never appeared in print, the political thought of the Revolution would have followed almost exactly the same line – with perhaps a little more mention of God, but certainly no less of John Locke.”

Did you get that? “Every possible refinement of the reigning political Faith” was espoused by the colonial clergy. Sermons were not only expositions of the Written Word, the Scriptures, but of news, commentary, political philosophy, sound economics and principles of freedom. The clergy’s influence through their “Election Sermons,” “Artillery Sermons,” sermons preached at the “muster of the Militia,” “Sunday Sermons” and their personal example are a deep and flowing well of Christian political philosophy and true God fearing leadership. These pastors, ministers and clergy were slanderously referred to as “the black brigade.” However, they wore this badge with honor, for they were the true leadership in this cultural war. Often they joined the fighting troops and became part of the real regiments. They served as chaplains and often as officers in the field.

After drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson, upon an inquiry of his work wrote, “I have written nothing which was not the general sentiment of the American people.” Who taught the people? Who gave them this clearly American “political Faith?”

Many noteworthy clergymen could be mentioned. Some may be familiar to you. Most have been excluded from the annals of history. Others have faded into obscurity and America has forgotten her “colonial Fathers” in the Faith, and the “Black Brigade.” Allow me to introduce you to one of the great luminaries of our American patriot clergy, a general of the black brigade in their American cultural war.

It was well reported that “most of the ministers of colonial America could discuss as well as any man the doctrines of resistance, inalienable rights and government by the consent of the governed.”

One such pastor was the Reverend Jonas Clark. Reverend Clark was the pastor of the Congregational Church at Lexington. Up to this time an obscure New England village. It was in this small town where Jonas Clark trained his congregation, “all the while Providence prepared to catapult them and a nation into a war for independence.”

Reverend Clark was a farmer and village pastor. His salary was eighty pounds a year and twenty cords of wood. It is said, “he enjoyed the pursuits of a retired and quiet life of a country preacher.” “His voice was powerful and agreeable, and when excited by his subject, which was often the case, it extended far beyond the bounds of the meeting house, and could be heard by those who were in the immediate neighborhood.”

When trouble between the colonies and the Mother country commenced he became known throughout the entire region as one of the most uncompromising patriots of the day.

“Earnestly, yet not without passion, he discussed from the pulpit the great questions at issue, and that powerful voice thundered fourth the principles of personal, civil, and religious liberty, and the right of resistance, in tones as earnest and effective as it had the doctrines of salvation by the cross.”

Pastor Clark so thoroughly instructed his people with these truths, that T.J. Headley writes “that no better spot on the continent could be found for the British first to try the terror of their arms, and try to subjugate the colonists by force. His congregation was ripe for revolution, ready to fight and die rather than yield to arbitrary force.”

Clark’s wife was cousin to John Hancock and on the evening of 18 April 1775, Mr. Hancock and Sam Adams were visiting the Clarks. Hancock and Adams were criminals in the eyes of the Crown and the British army was looking for them. In the wee hours of 19 April the cry went out and was heard the countryside over, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” The British governor sent soldiers to Lexington and Concord to confiscate the local armory and look for the two outlaws Hancock and Adams. The two fugitives were warned in time and escaped, but the congregation of Reverend Clark was ready.

On the morning of 19 April 1775, a mist lay over the Green. The British regulars marched on Lexington. The Minutemen of Clark’s church musters on the Green and the Red Coats lined up ready for battle.

Would these humble farmers, mechanics, merchants and craftsmen fight? Would they turn and run? These were Christian men with families and businesses. Would they dare to resist trained British regulars? Clark knew they would. Had he not trained them for such an hour as this? They did fight, and the “shot heard round the world” was fired upon these free men who knew the cost of liberty and were willing to spill their blood if need be.

Eight men died that day, all from the congregation of Jonas Clark. You can still hear the words spoken by Captain Parker of the Lexington Militia, “Do not fire unless fired upon. But if they want a war, let it begin here.” These were the words spoken from a fearless deacon in the church. Eight men died. Not one died in vain. All gave their lives willingly for the great cause of liberty.

Reverend Clark was known as a man of the Book. He understood the necessity of biblical law. He was no anarchist. He knew men needed civil-government. And he believed civil-government to be an institution established by God. To him it was never a “necessary evil” but instrumental for our good. “And when that government no longer served the welfare of the people,” he would argue, “It ought to be altered or replaced.”

Reverend Clark was chosen as a delegate to the Massachusetts State Constitutional convention where he played a most influential role in the drafting of that document. A few years after the War, he was elected a delegate to the 1788 ratification convention for the purposed new federal Constitution1drafted the year before in Philadelphia. While in convention he said, “I will support the ratification if it contained a Bill of Rights.”

What was it that inspired this man? What did he teach his congregation that stirred them to resistance to tyranny? What was it that filled their hearts with such passion for liberty? How can it be that free men would choose to defend their sacred rights rather than live under a benevolent tyrant like King George III? After all, they still owned their farms. The Crown protected them from invasion and foreign wars. It was well admitted that as British subjects they enjoyed greater liberty than many nations of Europe. For most lived under absolute monarchs with little of no personal freedoms.

What impassioned these farmers, merchants, and tradesman to so fully through off “the yoke of bondage?” The answer lies in the sermons preached Sunday after Sunday in the little church at Lexington pastored by Jonas Clark (and in all the churches of the American colonies). Maybe we can gain some insight into the man if we consider and ponder an excerpt from one of his sermons:

            “Tis not indeed pretended that any one man or number of men have any natural right or superiority, or inherent claim or dominion or governmental authority over another man or body of men. All men are by nature free and equal and independent in this matter. It is in compact, and compact alone, that all government is founded. The first steps,” says Clark “in entering into society, and towards establishment of civil government among a people, is the forming, agreeing to, and ratifying an original compact for the regulation of the state, describing and determining the mode, the departures, and powers of the government, and the rights, privileges and duties of the subjects. This must be done, adds Clark, “by the whole body of the people, or by their leaders or delegates of their choice.”

Jonas Clark, a humble man by all accounts, both in temperament and living, was a leader of the first rank. He was not just a theoretical expositor of natural rights, but a true believer as well. He was with his congregation on the green that fateful morning. He prayed with them, wept over their deaths and comforted the widows and orphans of the eight patriot heroes of Lexington. Pastor Clark not only ruled his church as a duly elected minister and teaching elder, but lead them in the eight-year struggle to preserve their God given, “unalienable rights.” He was a true church “ruler” and “leader.”

What does it mean to be a leader? By definition it is to lead. We elect and chose our church rulers. We follow them believing them to be “men of God” who fear God, have understanding and faith, and will not compromise the commands of their Savior. Many are. But how is it then that so many Christian families in America send their children to the Egyptian school of paganism (public school) and most Christian pastors, elders and deacons do too? True Christian leaders would “lead” their congregations out of the dens of anti-Christian socialism and teach their congregations the Law of God, the doctrines of grace, and obedience to their Sovereign Lord and God.

Leadership is not measured by how many we have in church on Sunday. It is however weighed is heaven how we have taught our members to love, fear and obey God, and to keep His commandments. Conviction not preference makes men out of broken earthen vessels. If we truly believe we will fight for the “crown rights of Christ” for then we truly understand. On the other hand preferences are easily replaced.

The Laws of New England, to the year 1700 and The Book of the General Lawes and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of Massachusets; are two examples of the legal and moral use of Scripture for their cities and settlements. These two works acted much like our civil codes of today.

Wellman, Polity of the Pilgrim Church, 1886, noted in CHOC page 147

Massachusetts Body of Liberties 1641, See also The Book of the General Lauues and Libertyes Concerning the Inhabitants of Massachusetts, 1641 (CHOC Page 257-261)

The Christian History of the United States Constitution (CHOC), Pub. by F.A.C.E., page 249-257

Matthew 28:19-20, read Matthew Henry’s commentary on these verses

God Rules In America, Historic Quotes from Founding Fathers and Presidents, pub. by American Destiny, page 38, 2001

John Knox led the reformation of the Scottish Church, laid the foundations for civil reforms, and opposed Queen Mary and the Crown government when it opposed God’s law.

Stephen Langton siding with the Barons drafted Magna Charta, the Great Charter of English and eventually American civil liberties.

John Robinson was the pastor of the Scrooby Church, whom we know as Pilgrims.

Thomas Hookers sermon on Deut. 1:13 formed what later became the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, and the basis of that colonies civil government.

Owen served Oliver Cromwell during the Commonwealth, as his pastor, friend, counselor and helped draft the Savoy Declaration of Faith and Order

Ephesians 1:4; Isaiah 8:20

Chaplains and Clergy of the American Revolution, T.J. Headley, page 74

Ibid. ,  Pg. 75, 76

Jonas Clark, Election sermon, 1781

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