Abridging history makes it easier for public educators to teach the subject, but the abridgment can also be a molester of truth. A victim of historical abridgment is the role of pastors and providence in U.S. independence and The Revolution.
On the anniversary of The Battle of Lexington (April 19, 1775), I want to share remarkable elements of a story that are absent from most history books used in educational settings. I also want to show honor to a name that has largely been removed from our history: Jonas Clarke
Reverend Jonas Clark became the pastor of the Church of Christ in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1755. Liberty minded and well-versed in biblical principles, Clarke became a community leader, both spiritual and political. The much reviled Stamp Act of 1765 prompted Reverend Clark to sure his footing in the cause of liberty. From the pulpit, as well as in tracts and other publications, the reverend fervently warned against British tyranny and assertively encouraged his congregations and readers to stand up for their liberties.
Clarke’s home, and his church, were frequent meeting places for revolutionary leaders, such as John Hancock. Reverend Clarke was also responsible for nearly all government papers and documents used to represent the city. A side note: after the Revolutionary War, Reverend Clarke was instrumental in the creation of the Massachusetts Constitution and later the U.S. Constitution.
On the night of April 18th, 1775, a few of the colonist received word that the British Regulars were planning a seizure of military equipment stored in Concord, Massachusetts. The Regulars also had the mission to bring back the bodies of John Hancock and, my favorite founding father, Samuel Adams. Both men, particularly Adams, were responsible for spreading the cause of liberty throughout the colonies, and especially in the Boston area. Their names were spoken with disgust in the halls of King George. Hancock and Adams were despised by the Regulars.
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Boston, having been occupied by the Regulars since 1768, was no longer a peaceful place for Hancock and Adams. Many of the colonists feared for the safety of Hancock and Adams, therefor, Reverend Clarke, already very well acquainted with both men, was housing them in his home in Lexington on the night of April 18.
Having received word of the Regulars’ missions, Paul Revere began his ride of warning. Although he did warn all patriots on his path that “The Regulars are coming!” his first and primary goal was the house of Reverend Jonas Clarke, to warn Adams and Hancock, but also because Lexington had a militia, which was headed by one of Clarke’s deacons, John Parker.
Revere arrived at Clarke’s home around midnight and promptly rose the household. After hearing Revere’s information, Adams and Hancock asked the reverend if his people were ready to fight. Jonas Clarke answered, “I have trained them for this very hour!”[a]
Messengers were quickly sent out for more information, and Parker’s minutemen were rousted and quickly assembled on the church lawn. In the presence of Hancock, Adams, and their spiritual leader, the men loaded their guns with powder and ball. After some time, with no sign of the Regulars, nor word of confirmation from the messengers, Clarke and Parker thought it best to allow their flock rest. Their men were ordered to remain ready for the sound of bells and the drum.
Later on in the early morning of the 19th, British Regulars were spotted about one and one-half mile from the church. Clarke rang his church bell, and the call of the drum was heard. By the time the Regulars reached Lexington Common, Parker’s men were largely reassembled.
When the British Regulars were within firing range of the minutemen, one Regular began shouting, “Lay down your arms, you damned rebels!”[b]
The colonists did not lay down their arms. They were unsure of what to do, but as they were ordered, they did not fire — they were biblically authorized only to fire in self-defense. According to colonial witnesses, the Regulars began to fire intermittently, then a continual volley.[c]
The patriots of Lexington fired back, wounding some of the Regulars, but being out-numbered, these sons of liberty lost eight of their brothers. History calls the land of the battle “A field of murder, not of battle.”
In the end, Hancock and Adams remained safe and protected, and by the time the Regulars reached Concord, an immense militia of colonist had formed, to protect their military armament.
The sacrifice of the eight faithful and spiritual libertarians served the cause of liberty. Their fidelity to their unalienable rights caused a ripple effect through the colonies, causing their citizens to be firmly set in the cause of independence and liberty. Their actions forever changed the course of mankind. Jonas Clarke said, “From this day will be dated the liberty of the world!” [d]
Reverend Jonas Clarke so instilled biblical principles of liberty and natural rights in the hearts and minds of his city and community, I am convinced that it was providential that the first shots of the American Revolution took place at the footsteps of his church.
A month prior to the Battle of Lexington, the Governor of Connecticut asked his colony to participate in a day of fasting and prayer. “That God would graciously pour out his Holy Spirit on us, to bring us to a thorough repentance and effectual reformation; That He would restore, preserve and secure the liberties of this, and all the other American Colonies, and make this land a mountain of Holiness and habitation of Righteousness forever. That God would preserve and confirm the Union of the Colonies in the pursuit and practice of that Religion and virtue which will honour Him…”[e]
So, what day did Governor Jonathan Trumbull choose for fasting and praying? April 19. On the day of the beginning of the American Revolution, an entire colony, without knowing what was then occurring in Lexington, was fasting and praying for providential protection for all the colonies. This was the start of a new era of providence and liberty.
The eight sons of liberty who sacrificed their lives for our liberties:
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a. Franklin P. Cole, ed. They Preached Liberty, Indianapolis: Liberty Press, p. 39
b. Journals of the Continental Congress, Vol. II, May 10-September 20, 1775
c. Massachusetts Provincial Congress (1775). A Narrative of the Excursion and Ravages of the King’s Troops. Worcester: Isaiah Thomas.
d. Franklin P. Cole, ed. They Preached Liberty, Indianapolis: Liberty Press, p. 39.
e. Jonathan Trumbull, A Proclamation for a Day of Publick Fasting and Prayer, issued March 22, 1775, to be observed April 19. A Copy of the Proclamation is reproduced in Verna Hall, The Christian History of the American Revolution, Consider and Ponder, San Francisco: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1976, p. 407.