BLACK ROBE REGIMENT
It was Sunday morning early in the year 1776. In the church where Pastor Muhlenberg preached, it was a regular service for his congregation but a quite different affair for Muhlenberg himself. Muhlenberg’s text for the day was Ecclesiastics 3 where it explains, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted….”
Coming to the end of his sermon, Peter Muhlenberg turned to his congregation and said, “In the language of the holy writ, there was a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away.” As those assembled looked on, Pastor Muhlenberg declared, “There is a time to fight, and that time has now come!” Muhlenberg then proceeded to remove his robes revealing, to the shock of his congregation, a military uniform.
Marching to the back of the church he declared, “Who among you is with me?” On that day 300 men from his church stood up and joined Peter Muhlenberg. They eventually became the 8th Virginia Brigade fighting for liberty.
Frederick Muhlenberg, Peter’s brother, was against Peter’s level of involvement in the war. Peter responded to Fredrick writing, “I am a Clergyman it is true, but I am a member of the Society as well as the poorest Layman, and my Liberty is as dear to me as any man, shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at Home when the best Blood of the Continent is spilling?…so far am I from thinking that I act wrong, I am convinced it is my duty to do so and duty I owe to God and my country.”
During the war there were rumors that the British wanted to hang Peter’s father, Henry Muhlenberg. Henry wrote, “Toward evening came a report that they were near-by and going to take me. I cannot flee, much less leave my sick wife behind, so I must await whatever God’s holy providence and governance…has ordained for me and commit it to him, the Lord of Lords…” Miraculously, the British never came for Henry Muhlenberg.
Peter Muhlenberg was a great soldier. He became a Major General under Commander-in-chief George Washington. Baron Steuben, in general orders, requested “General Muhlenberg to accept his very particular thanks for his gallantry and good dispatches.” Because of his actions, Muhlenberg was given command of one thousand light infantry. Muhlenberg finished the war strong and is portrayed in a painting displayed in the United States Capitol Rotunda of the surrender of the British at Yorktown.
After the war, Muhlenberg continued to serve his country. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives not once, but three times. He was also elected to the Senate in 1801.
Peter’s brother, Fredrick, had a change of heart to his brother’s doings. Fredrick became elected to the House of Representatives and was Speaker of the House twice.
Peter Muhlenberg passed away in 1807 at the age of sixty-one. He was a great patriot as can be seen on his tombstone which reads, “He was Brave in the field, Faithful in the Cabinet, Honorable in all his transactions, a Sincere Friend and an Honest Man.”
The above is one story of one pastor who chose the path of Liberty and Freedom. There were hundreds of such men and women during that awful epoch of our American History who chose the path that Pastor Muhlenberg took. There were many such brave souls who opted to sacrifice all for God, Family, and Country during that period of the Birth of our Nation and during other such battles as these, before and after this Revolution. It was and is the birth pains of the founders of this Nation and those who descended after bear. Our Nation is not so very old…it has not been long since it was first conceived and birthed. Indeed, we are still being birthed…but now in a very different way. What is being birthed is not what the Creator envisioned or created, nor what our forefathers and mothers hoped to realize. It is not at all what they bled and died for.
Each of us have inherited in some form the genetic material of these people who came seeking Liberty and Justice; these people who bore up under severe hardships from their countries of origin, despotic rule that came in the form of societal structure….religious, political, familial, educational.
The pastors of that day, and their congregations, were living out of what had come over 100 years prior…where religion and politics were woven into the same fabric. There was no separation between the two spheres. This Revolution against Britain would culminate in a totally different awareness and way of life than had ever been lived on this planet; and may never be seen again in the present state of things. What remained was a hope and a promise….a Republic. And this Republic was created out of the awareness that the people who then inhabited this country were a moral and upright people. These folks who now inhabited this New World (this New Eden that Christopher Columbus saw), were living out what they saw as a life and a country that was fashioned entirely by their Creator. The Constitution and Declaration of Independence was and is a covenant between the people of America and their Heavenly Father. It was written for a Christian people who are fully able to internally govern themselves. Thus, the meaning of a Republic that was inspired by God’s Word and spells out the mission of God’s children on Earth.
As of then, the pastors of today need to be as dedicated to all those Men and Women of God who have taken up their covenant oaths to defend true Liberty, Freedom, and Justice.