Thursday, July 22, 2010

The General Assembly of Vermont by David Barton

For example, when the General Assembly of Vermont asked the Rev. Peter Powers to address them in an “election sermon” a discourse on the application of Biblical principles to civil government, Powers agreed. On March 12, 1778, he addressed the Assembly in a message entitled “Jesus Christ, the True King and Head of Government” based on Matthew 28:18. Powers declared: We have renounced the tyrant of Britain and declaimed loudly against monarchial power and have set up a free people. We own no other prince or sovereign but the Prince of Heaven, the great Sovereign of the Universe.

To Him we swear allegiance and promise, through His abundant grace, to keep His laws. The General Assembly of Vermont ordered that address to be printed and distributed among the people. Throughout the struggle, the clergy played an important role from both sides of the pulpit. From the back side of the pulpit, they exhorted the people and provided Biblical guidance through numerous topical sermons, election sermons, and artillery sermons a discourse on the application of Biblical principles to the military.

In fact, John Adams listed the Rev. Dr. Mayhew and the Rev. Dr. Cooper as two of the “characters most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential” in “an awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings in 1775.” From the front side of the pulpit, the clergy were often directing the troops as military leaders and officers as, for example, the Rev. John Peter Muhlenberg. On January 21, 1776, Muhlenberg preached to his Virginia congregation concerning the crisis then facing America. He recounted to them how America had been founded in pursuit of religious and civil liberties and how they were now in danger of losing those liberties.

He concluded with these words: In the language of Holy Writ ECCLESIASTES 3, there is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away. And then in a loud voice, he quoted from verse 8, saying: There is a time to fight and that time has now come! His sermon finished, he offered the benediction, and then deliberately disrobed in front of the congregation, revealing the uniform of a military officer beneath his clerical robes. He descended from the pulpit, marched to the back door of the church, and ordered the drums to beat for recruits. Three hundred men joined him, and they became the Eighth Virginia Regiment. Pastor John Peter Muhlenberg went on to become one of the highest-ranking officers in the American Revolution, attaining the rank of Major-General.

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