The Critical Importance of Faith in the Fight for Liberty
NOTE FROM STEWART RHODES:
In the lead up to Independence Day, I had a discussion with my uncle, Rex Ruth, about the importance of faith in the struggle to preserve liberty. I asked him to send me a Founding era sermon from one of the fiery preachers known as the “Blacked Robed Regiment” who helped to stiffen the resolve, and the spines, of their fellow Americans as they fought for their liberty in the Revolutionary War – and as they contemplated declaring their independence and permanently dissolving their political bands with Britain.
Below is what he sent me, with his introduction. I believe it helps to put that monumental decision, and what compelled them to do it, in proper context. And, even more importantly, it helps to impress upon us how the battle between liberty and tyranny is timeless and endless, and the central role faith always plays in stiffening our resolve, and our spines. I will add an additional short comment afterward about why I think it is so important for us today:
REX RUTH ON THE ROLE OF CHRISTIAN FAITH IN THE REVOLUTION:
As we Americans celebrate yet another 4th of July to commemorate the Declaration of Independence we should all ask what was the driving force behind its creation – was it all political? The answer could be surprising.
First of all, when one reads the writings of our founding fathers, one finds that they never separated the external liberty of man (i.e.) civil liberty from internal liberty (i.e. religious liberty) for they coupled one with the other by saying “…our natural born rights both civil and religious…”
The Colonists for the most part were taught by their clergy that Christ was the head of the Church and not man – King or otherwise; they were also taught by the clergy that their liberties came from their Creator therefor both internal and external liberty were inseparable gifts of God which no man could take away; and that accounts for the phrase “…we are, (through God) therefore we ought…” (by law)
To demonstrate how much they believed this, let us recall the events on the early morning of April 19th, 1775, when General Gage carried out his orders to send British troops to Concord and not only disarm the people by confiscating their guns and powder but also to deprive them of their leadership by arresting Samuel Adams and John Hancock. While trying to do so, the British Army had to pass through the little town of Lexington where a militia had gathered. Pastor Jonas Clark, Pastor of the Congregational Church there in Lexington, was so imbued with the biblical principles of self and civil government that he had taught those principles to his congregation. Not only that, he became the principal leader in his community of the resistance to the tyranny of King George III. To resist the King was to also resist the Church of England, as the King was its head.
Captain John Parker, the leader of the militia on Lexington Green that fateful April morning, was the Deacon of Clark’s church and many of the men standing on the Green were members of the church also. Rev. Clark had also held Sons of Liberty meetings in his parsonage and taught the men on the subject of self-defense and local self-government. He taught them it was their duty as Christian men to learn how to defend themselves and their community.
However, before the British troops even left Boston for Concord there was yet another Church that resisted them, known as the Old North Church, where the two lanterns were hung in the church steeple to warn the patriots of the route the King’s troops would take. As the church site describes it “the church sexton, Robert Newman, and Vestryman Capt. John Pulling, Jr. climbed the steeple and held high two lanterns as a signal from Paul Revere that the British were marching to Lexington and Concord by sea across the Charles River and not by land.”
On that fateful day, the shot heard round the world started the American Revolution which we Americans won.
To be sure, Pastor Clark, his congregation, and the leaders and members of the Old North Church were not anomalies. There were many more like them, and they and other ministers were students of John Locke, Montesquieu, von Puffendorf, Sydney, Blackstone and other thinkers and writers of jurisprudence, and professors of the science of God and government.
One other such Pastor was the Reverend Samuel West who preached an “Election Day Sermon” on May 29th, 1776 in Boston entitled
“On the Right to Rebel Against Governors”
In his sermon he stated (in part):
“…in what is called a state of nature, we are the subjects of divine law and government, that the Deity is our supreme magistrate, who has written his laws in our hearts…Had the human race uniformly preserved in a state of moral rectitude, there would have been little or no need of any other law besides that which is written in the heart…common sense and common honesty (tells us) that civil government is absolutely necessary for the peace and safety of mankind; (Yet) the same principles that oblige us to submit to government do equally oblige us to resist tyranny…this shows that the end and design of civil government cannot be to deprive men of their liberty or take away their freedom; but on the contrary, the true design of civil government is to protect men in the enjoyment of liberty…
Unlimited submission and obedience is due to none but God alone. He has an absolute right to command; he alone has an uncontrollable sovereignty over us, because he alone is unchangeably good; he never will or can require of us, consistent with his nature and attributes, anything that is not fit and reasonable; his commands are all just and good; and to suppose that he has given to any particular set of men a power to require obedience to that which is unreasonable, cruel, and unjust, is robbing the Deity of his justice and goodness, in which consists the peculiar glory of divine character, and it is representing him under the horrid character of a tyrant…
…It is an indispensable duty, my brethren, which we owe to God and our country, to rouse up and bestir ourselves, and, being animated with a noble zeal for the sacred cause of liberty, to defend our lives and fortunes, even to the shedding of the last drop of blood. The love of our country, the tender affection we have for our wives and children, the regard we ought to have for unborn posterity, yea, everything that is dear and sacred, do now loudly call upon us to use our best endeavors to save our country.
We must beat our ploughshares into swords, and our pruning-hooks into spears, and learn the art of self-defense against our enemies…we may apply with the utmost propriety that passage in Jeremiah xlviii, 10: “Cursed be he that doth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that Keepeth back his sword from blood.”
To save our country from the hands of the oppressors ought to be dearer to us even than our own lives, and, next the eternal salvation of our own souls, is the thing of the greatest importance-a duty so sacred that it cannot justly be dispensed with for the sake of our own secular concerns.
My reverend fathers and brethren in the ministry will remember that, according to our text, it is part of the work and business of a gospel minister to teach his hearers the duty they owe to magistrates. Let us, then, endeavor to explain the nature of their duty faithfully, and show them the difference between liberty and licentiousness; and while we are animating them to oppose tyranny and arbitrary power, let us inculcate upon them the duty of yielding due obedience to lawful authority…by this means we should be able to guard them against extremes of slavish submission to tyrants in one hand, and of sedition and licentiousness on the other.” – Reverend Samuel West, “Election Day Sermon,” May 29th, 1776.
So there it is, in short, that the notion of American civil AND religious liberty was not only expounded upon and asserted by the representatives of the people in their elected assemblies, but more importantly from the ministers who thundered liberty from the pulpit.
Therefore, this Fourth of July as you celebrate and read our Declaration of Independence, remember that in that one document, our fathers not only proclaimed freedom from the tyranny of men, but also gave a “Declaration of Dependence” upon God from whom we all as humans derive our natural born rights which none can take away nor can we give away.
ADDITIONAL THOUGHT FROM STEWART RHODES ON THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITH AND SPIRITUAL STRENGTH:
All I can add is this: One doesn’t have to be a Christian to be an Oath Keeper or patriot, but it surely does help. Knowing that this body is merely temporary, but your soul is eternal, and that you are a foot-soldier not just in the physical realm, but also in the spiritual battle between good and evil, tends to give you a “long game” perspective on what matters most, and what price you are willing to pay to attain it.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12
Today, faith still stiffens your resolve and your spine, as much as it did in 1775-1776. If, like me, you have let your spiritual faith and strength atrophy from disuse or misuse, then now is the time to restore, renew, and strengthen it. You will need it.
I never ask anyone to do anything that I am not willing to do, so let me make it clear that recently I have personally undertaken a journey of spiritual renewal and revitalization of my Christian faith after all too many years of neglect. Like the three legs of a sturdy stool, mind, body, and spirit must all be strong. To neglect any one of them is a terrible mistake and will leave you fundamentally weak. But the spirit is the most important of the three. Any of you who have seen me in-person recently know that I have lost a great deal of weight and am getting back into shape. That is the body. I work it out daily. But I have also been spending as much time each day strengthening my mind and my spirit. The body surely is important, to have a sound mind in a sound body, but the spirit must take highest priority. A man (or woman) who is “strong” physically and mentally but weak spiritually is still fundamentally weak and will fail when it counts.
To renew my faith and strengthen my spirit, I chose to be baptized again as an adult in April, and I began attending church every Sunday after too many years of absence. I now also read and study the scriptures daily, and pray, as well as meet in fellowship each week with other Christians for bible study and prayer. It matters. Along with reading the Bible itself, a tremendous help to me in this renewal of my faith was the incredible book “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis (the famed author of the Chronicles of Narnia). Even if, like me, you were raised Christian, I encourage you to read Mere Christianity to gain a deeper and fuller understanding of what the Christian faith is really all about. I simply cannot put into words what an exceptional book it is, or what a skilled teacher C.S. Lewis was (and still is, through his books). It changed my life. It is no accident that the book is a written compilation of radio addresses C.S. Lewis did for the BBC during some of the darkest years of WWII, as well as speeches he gave to the R.A.F. during WWII. Clearly, C.S. Lewis aimed to further stiffen that famously stiff upper lip of the British people by strengthening their faith. It will do the same for you.
If you do not consider yourself a Christian (perhaps because of all the terribly hypocritical Christians you have known!), then there is no better introduction to the faith than Mere Christianity. Read it with an open mind and give C.S. Lewis a chance to present his case. He may surprise you.
A wonderful followup is to then read C.S. Lewis’ delightfully witty “The Screwtape Letters” which is a fictional dialogue between a senior demon and his neophyte demon nephew, on how most effectively to tempt and damn human beings. It truly is “the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written” as the Amazon description says. I recommend that you read Mere Christianity first, as The Screwtape Letters then serve as a collections of examples, allegories, and parables that drive home the lessons of Mere Christianity. I have given both books to friends and family so many times now that I should buy them in bulk packs.
Commit to renewing your faith and your spiritual strength just as you renew your physical strength, or your mental strength. All three must be paid attention to, and all three must be exercised daily. Get strong in all dimensions. Again, you will need it. And it really is a matter of duty. Be “battle ready” in all aspects.
Let us celebrate the birthday of our Republic and our Independence, but let us not forget that while July 4, 1776 is when the official “birth certificate” was signed, this nation was really born in blood, fire, hot lead and cold steel, and the cries of dying men on April 19, 1775, and thereafter. And let’s not forget that it was their unshakable faith and reliance on the God of Hosts that gave them the strength to stand up, even when it meant certain death for many of them. That is what steeled the spines of men such as John Parker, Isaac Davis, and Samuel Whittemore on that momentous day. These were men of strong faith. Be likewise.
God bless America,
*the featured image above is of Pastor Jonas Clark of Lexington, MA