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coming. A preacher, who fell short of what was expected of him as a good citizen, soon received a hint that his people were displeased and disappointed ;2 but there were few of their profession who needed spurring; and, if any of them hung back for a while, their hesitation disappeared as soon as muskets had been discharged
That clergyman who, on the afternoon of Lexington, at the head of his parishioners attacked and captured a provision convoy in the rear of Lord Percy's column, had been refused the use of a Whig pulpit because he was suspected of being lukewarm in the colonial cause; but his Toryism lasted no longer than the moment when the red-coats passed in front of his window on their march to Concord. There stood lately, and perhaps now stands, a quaint stone and brick meeting-house at Rocky Spring in the Cumberland Valley, where, at a certain point in a discourse, the Presbyterian congregation of Scottish-Irishmen rose to their feet, and declared their readiness to march at once to the aid of General Washington. One of the mothers, who grudged her son as food for powder at so short a notice, then and there protested in homely and cutting phrases; -- a remonstrance to which the preacher replied by marching with his people as their captain ; and a very good captain he made.3
The ministers, however, who abode in their parsonages did much more for the Revolution than if they had gone
1 “Wee have a strong weakness in that, when wee are speaking, wee know not how to conclude. Wee make many ends before wee make an end." So wrote, in 1641, the Reverend Nathaniel Ward, author of The Simple Cobbler of Aggawam in America, and the confession still held good in the fourth generation of New England preachers.
2 Shortly after the battle of Bunker's Hill John Adams wrote to his wife, inquiring whether a certain clergyman preached against oppression, and bidding her tell him that the clergy in Philadelphia thundered and lightened every Sabbath. “They pray for Boston and the Massachusetts. They thank God most explicitly and fervently for our remarkable successes. They pray for the American army.” 3"Quit talking, Mr. Craighead,” (she said, “and gang yersel' to the
You are always preaching to the boys about it, but I dinna think ye'd be very likely to gang yersel'. Just go and try it !” Article on the Country Church in America by William B. Bigelow; November 1897.
off in a body to the war. A new Government, — with a volunteer army, and a loosely organised political constitution, ---- was immeasurably strengthened by the circumstance that at least one person of good education, and long-established authority, who was at the same time a keen and indefatigable champion of the popular party, was planted in every town, and in most of the larger villages. The clergy made it their business to see that staunch patriots, and shrewd men of affairs, were returned to Congress; that war taxes were generously voted, and conscientiously paid ; that the ranks of the local Company were replenished with recruits; and that whoever had once enlisted should stay with the colours until his time was up. A farming lad who tired of campaigning, and was tempted to return home without leave, knew well that, - even if his sweet-heart forgave him, and his father was secretly glad to have him back for the hay-harvest, he should never dare to face the minister. From first to last, in each district throughout the continent, there was a leader and adviser always at hand to encourage those who were more timorous, and less constant, than himself; whether amid the doubts and misgivings of the crucial period when men were first taking sides, or in the terror and anxiety consequent upon the early disasters of the Republic, or throughout that fit of utter weariness which settled down upon the public mind during the later stages of the lingering struggle. There was no exaggeration whatever in the report made to Lord Dartmouth by his principal American correspondent. Religion, (this gentleman wrote,) had operated as much as any other cause to the general distraction; and his Lordship would be greatly mistaken unless he regarded the conflict as mainly a religious war.1
The Episcopalian clergy of America were not so universally Tory as the Presbyterian and Congregational
1 Ambrose Serle to Lord Dartmouth ; New York, November 1776. “Your Lordship,” (Mr. Serle wrote shortly afterwards) “can scarcely conceive what Fury the discourses of some preachers have created in this country."
ininisters were Whig;1 but those of them, who stood for the Crown, formed a large majority among their brethren; and they were very hot partisans indeed. For the most part they confidently believed that the hour had come, late in time, when Archbishop Laud's plan for securing Church government in the colonies might be successfully adopted. That prelate, in 1638, had proposed to send a Bishop across the ocean, and to support him “with some forces to compel, if he could not otherwise persuade, obedience.” Early in the war a missionary of the Propagation Society, who had recently left New York, reported at the Annual Meeting in London that the rebellion would undoubtedly be crushed, and that then would be the time to take steps for increasing the Church in America by granting it an Episcopacy; but after the battle of Trenton, and the collapse of Howe's campaign, the prospect of that consummation was removed into a less near future. There was, however, one portion of the American population already at the absolute disposal of the British Government; and, in their treatment of those unlucky people, the royal authorities prematurely showed their hand. The commander of a garrison town where many officers of the Revolutionary army, who had been taken in battles, were living on parole, announced himself as having been informed that the rebel prisoners had held private meetings for the purpose of performing Divine Service agreeably to their religious principles. Such meetings, (he told them,) would no longer be allowed; but seats would be provided at the Parish Church, where it was expected that they would observe the utmost decency. One of the most esteemed among the prisoners replied in an address not deficient in dignity and pathos; but the policy was maintained, and the Americans who had been captured at Long Island and Fort Washington were given the choice of abstaining from all attendance
1 In Garden's Anecdotes it is alleged that no fewer than five-and-twenty clergymen of the Carolinian Established Church were in favour of the Revolution ; but the statement requires confirmation.
on public worship, or of taking part in prayers for the slaughter and discomfiture of their own friends and comrades.1
While the Episcopalian Church reigned supreme in all districts over which the Royal standard floated, outside the British lines it nowhere remained dominant, and in many places it very soon became a persecuted body. The Anglican Establishment in the Southern Plantations went down beneath the first gust of the tornado. Ecclesiastical endowments and privileges were extinguished as automatically, instantly, and irrevocably as Feudal dues and services disappeared throughout rural France so soon as the peasants learned that the Bastille had fallen. Moreover, in July 1775, the Virginian Convention ordained certain alterations in the Communion service, and in the fifteenth, and the three following sentences, of the Litany. All mention of the King and the Royal Family was to be expunged from the Prayer-book; and the blessings of Heaven were thenceforward to be invoked on behalf “of the Magistrates of this Commonwealth.” It was as drastic a test as the command laid upon primitive Christians to burn frankincense on Jupiter's altar; and it was encountered with almost as much courage and devotion.
Soon after Washington assumed command in New York, he sent word to Doctor Inglis, then Assistant Rector of the Trinity Church in that city, that he
1 It was an action, (so the remonstrance ran,) "totally unworthy of the Christian character, and even short of Heathen tenderness and forbearance. For we read in Scripture that Paul, then a prisoner in Rome, dwelt for two years in his own hired house, and relieved all that came unto him, preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence; no man forbidding him. This only was our desire ; and this we think was our duty. Can it be expected that we could, with the least sincerity, join in prayer for the daily destruction of our brethren? Rather than join in such hypocritical petitions, and perhaps be insulted with serinons calculated to affront us, we have resolved to refuse our attendance on Divine worship, and at our own dwellings silently to spend our returning Sabhaths, in the best manner we can, by reading and meditation, until it shall please the Almighty to restore us again to peace, and to our afflicted families and friends."
would be glad to have the prayers for the King and the Royal Family omitted. The American General was sincerely desirous to be present at the services of his own Church; but a person of even less ingrained veracity than George Washington would have scrupled to join in supplications for the victory of a monarch against whom he had set in line of battle twenty thousand soldiers, carrying pouches filled with bullets which had been cast" from the metal of His Majesty's statue. Doctor Inglis, at the time, took no notice of the General's message, and not long afterwards told him plainly, and to his face, that, with an armed force at his disposal, he could, of course, shut up churches, but that it was beyond his power to make clergymen depart from their duty. The Reverend Jacob Bailey was summoned before a Provincial Committee of Safety, to explain why he refused to read the Declaration of Independence in public. Bailey, — who was an itinerant missionary, married, and with a young family, — replied that he had formerly taken an oath of allegiance to George the Second, and held himself bound thereby not to renounce, but to pray for, George the Third. During the first six months of 1775 the Reverend Jonathan Boucher, of Annapolis in Maryland, always preached with a pair of loaded pistols lying on the cushion in front of him; and indeed, with no aid from fire-arms, he was well known to be more than a match for any single member of his congregation. But, though valiant, he was not foolhardy; and the day came when he solemnly and sadly told his people from the pulpit that they would see his face there no more; but that, as long as he lived, he should cry, with Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet, “God save the King
1 Some cowardly fellows set a burly ruffian of a blacksmith upon Mr. Boucher. The rector at once knocked down his assailant ; but took neither pride nor pleasure in the achievement. He somewhat plaintively and shamefacedly described himself as having acquired, in all that region, greater honour by his act of prowess than would have been accorded to him there if he had possessed the brain of Isaac Newton.