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Plymouth Rock Foundation’s E-News – April, 2011
by Dr. Paul Jehle, Executive Director
Lexington, Libya & Liberty
April 19 should be forever marked in the American mind as the day a few Americans stood their ground, refusing to surrender their God-given rights in the face British tyranny. Yet, there is more to the story than re-telling the drama of the 5 AM stand of 70 militia facing 800 British. Many of the seventy were members of Pastor Jonas Clark’s church. Pastor Clark stood close by on the road watching the events that morning as church member Captain John Parker (for whom the Minuteman Statue was dedicated in 1900 at the 125th anniversary), modeled the principles he had been taught from the Scriptures for over twenty years.
Recently, President Obama directed our military to begin bombing Lybia in support of those resisting the dictator Gaddafi. Amazingly, one month earlier, Obama asked Congress to increase foreign aid to the dictator’s government by up to 1.7 million! The President, however, did not ask Congress for a declaration of war (Article I, Section 8, clause 11) and from his remarks he thinks it is entirely his discretion who we might aid (militarily or financially) across the globe! As this is being written, there are concerns that the “pro-democracy rebel leaders” we, along with NATO may arm could be in league with Al Qaeda or other forces not friendly to the United States.
Are the rebels in Egypt and Lybia, among others, parallel to those who stood on Lexington Green? Are the lessons of 1775 and the actions of the Continental Congress in the face of British Tyranny similar to what the U.S. is doing today at home and abroad? When the men stood on the Green, did they understand their mission? Could there be lessons we can learn from Lexington 236 years later that relate to our current challenges?
Captain John Parker of the Lexington Militia was a deacon in Pastor Clark’s church. In addition to being a believer submitted to the Bible, his Militia was under the Continental Congress. The Americans were not rebels, for the vast majority of those who resisted British tyranny had been taught the Biblical doctrine of interposition by their Pastors. Simply put, the only lawful way to resist tyranny is to do so under duly constituted authority. Direct resistance is rebellion. Scripturally, only a defensive war in a just cause can be blessed by God. That is why Parker’s orders, engraved on the Lexington Militia line marker are so significant – “stand your ground, don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”
After Paul Revere alerted John Hancock and Samuel Adams at Pastor Clark’s home that the Regulars were coming, Clark was asked “are your men ready?” He replied “I have trained them for twenty years for this hour.” He wasn’t exaggerating. He had been ordained pastor in Lexington 1755. Jonas Clark had drafted the instructions for the colony on resisting the Stamp Act of 1765 and had also drafted Lexington’s boycott of English goods in 1774, giving clear instruction on the doctrine of interposition. He then preached the election sermon for the new legislature of Massachusetts in 1781 and ministered for more than 50 years until his death in 1805! Jonas Clark taught from the Bible that true liberty was a result of covenanting with God under the rule of law – God’s law.
When 16 year old William Diamond beat his drum to bring the Militia to the Green around 1:30 AM on April 19, and then again around 4:30 AM, he likely would have had 17 year old Jonathan Harrington, the fifer, play the most famous hymn sung during the Revolution. It was the song written by William Billings called Chester and known as our original National Anthem. Its first words were significant “let tyrants shake their iron rod, let slavery clank her galling chains. We fear them not! We trust in God! New England’s God forever reigns.” They had sung it in church and now they probably sang it on Lexington Green!
Captain Parker was 46 years old (one year older than his pastor) on April 19 but deathly ill with tuberculosis. In spite of this, after the initial conflict he prepared his men to ambush the British at what is now known as “Parker’s Revenge” on their way back from Concord. In addition, he led detachments of his Militia to Cambridge May 6-10 and June 17-18 after the battle of Bunker Hill. He died on September 17, 1775 to the grief of the 700 member community of Lexington and its sole church.
Pastor Jonas Clark, who had witnessed the entire event from the road, countered General Gage’s report “that the troops were fired upon by the rebels out of the meetinghouse and the neighboring houses as well as by those that were in the field; and that the troops only returned the fire.” He simply stated “as to the question ‘who fired first?’ if it can be a question with anyone… a cloud of witnesses, whose veracity cannot be justly disputed, upon oath, have declared in the most express and positive terms, ‘that the British troops fired first.’”
This agreed with his deacon Captain Parker, who only six days after the battle stated in his legal deposition “I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse and not to fire. Immediately said Troops… fired upon and killed eight of our party, without receiving any provocation therefor from us.” Most of the eight killed were shot in the back as they were obeying orders to disperse.
Why is this so important? It is important for Americans to remember that our War for Independence was both lawful and just. It was a defensive war fought in a lawful manner consistent with Biblical principles. It was not a rebellion and nor was it lawless. Where did the many Militia units get such teaching and why would they adhere to such Biblical principles? It was taught almost universally by the “black robed regiment” – the patriotic pastors who led the Revolution behind the scenes as well as taking up arms themselves. Lexington illustrates these facts clearly.
Today our President and Congress is neither just nor lawful. The Congress does not implement the very powers it has to reign in lawless wars and unjust military action. Our President ignores the clear Constitutional authority of Congress and sends our troops into a war that has no just cause and no clear mission of victory. Dictators are problems to be sure, but we have kept many of them around by giving foreign aid to “balance power” without Constitutional authority. We have frequently aided both sides of a conflict for decades. And then, we justify our actions by saying that we are patriotically supporting “freedom fighters” in the same spirit in which we won our Independence!
What we are witnessing around the globe is lawless rebellion in order to plant “democracy” that by its definition is the rule of the majority and not the rule of law. Thus, it can be seized by radical groups that will help trade one form of tyranny for another. If we would support true liberty, we better start at home and begin in our churches with Biblical explanations of why the law of liberty is what we want, not lawless “democratic” freedom. If there was such attention by the both the Militia and the British as to who fired first, it is obvious that true liberty was at stake. May God help us learn from our heritage.