THE BRITISH WERE TAXING the colonists without representation. King George III, a devout Christian had recently declared himself and parliament sovereign over the colonies in "in all cases whatsoever;" and British troops had just arrived in Boston to enforce royal supremacy. During this turbulent time the colonists, more than ever, turned to their ministers for guidance, thereby giving them a unique role in history. They not only were preaching the Gospel but also helping to create a nation. Their roles were both prophets and statesmen.
In Concord, Massachusetts, William Emerson (grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson) was one such prophet and statesman. As a minister he tried to analyze the rapidly changing events in the light of Scripture. In the spring of 1775 he was quickly propelled from being an ordinary country preacher into taking part in what he called "the greatest events taking place in the present age."
By March, Emerson and other patriots in Concord were aware that British spies had infiltrated their town and had informed British General Thomas Gage about a hidden armory, where the local "Sons of Liberty" were stockpiling weapons. Emerson began to fear for the safety of his town. On March 13, he preached a sermon to the Concord militia that would alter the course of history. He had the power to either promote or discourage a call to arms. What would he say? Was it God's will for America to fight for independence? After much prayer and study, he came down on the side of armed resistance.
He reminded the militia of the inevitable "approaching storm of war and bloodshed." He asked them if they were ready for "real service."
He explained that readiness depended not only on military skill and weapons but also on moral and spiritual resolve. He challenged them to believe wholeheartedly in what they were fighting for and trust in God's power to uphold them, or else they would end up running in fear from the British.
He argued for colonial resistance on grounds they had been standing by their liberties and trusting only in God yet had been "cruelly charged with rebellion and sedition by the Crown.
"For my own part, the more I reflect upon the movement of the British nation..... the more satisfied I am that our military preparation here for our own defense is.....justified in the eyes of the impartial world. Nay, for should we neglect to defend ourselves by military preparation, we never could answer to God and to our own consciences of the rising generations."
The colonists should go forth into war, assured that "the Lord will cover your head in the day of battle and carry you on from victory to victory." Emerson was convinced that in the end the whole world would realize "there is a God in America."
On April 19, 1775, British troops marched as predicted on Lexington and Concord. Before they reached Concord, patriot silversmith Paul Revere had made his famous ride into town, warning of approaching redcoats. Because the colonists were warned, Emerson and other minutemen from nearby towns were assembled and ready. The first shot, the famed shot heard 'round the world,' was fired, and the war for independence began. Three Americans and twelve British soldiers were casualties in that first battle.
Throughout the war for independence, ministers such as Emerson were the single most influential voice of inspiration and encouragement for the fighting colonists. For many ministers the religious aspects of the war was exactly the point of the revolution---gaining freedom in order to create a new order in which God's principles would rule.
----The One Year Christian History, by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten