The Presbyterian Parson’s Rebellion

“Real Protestants fight!”

The above was a catch-phrase of a friend of mine, Jeff Ziegler, who introduced me to the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation over 20 years ago. Prior to that time, I was content to describe myself as a “Christian.” But over the years, I’ve come to realize that there are biblical principles worth fighting for. Now more than ever, we need men with Reformation zeal to lead the battle to reclaim our culture on many fronts, the family, the church and all aspects of society.

“Give ‘em Watts, boys!”

~ The Rev. James Caldwell and his famous hymnals.

One of the plagues that pietism has wrought in the church is the timidity of modern Christians. We have become afraid to become bloodied for our faith. This was not the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles. It was not the faith of the early church fathers, great martyrs such as Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna and Justin of Rome. It was not the faith of Irenaeus, Tertullian, Athanasius and Augustine, men who were willing to contend for sound doctrine in the church. It was not the faith of great martyrs throughout history culminating in the Reformation period and the great Reformers among the Scottish Presbyterians, the English and American Puritans. It was not the faith of the great Reformed Revivalists such as Edwards, Whitefield and Brainerd, who were willing to pour out their lives for the backslidden church, who worked in the ditches to claim the dregs of society for Christ.

By “Reformed theology” and “Calvinism,” I am not merely talking about the Five Points of soteriology outlined at the Synod of Dordt in 1619. Calvinism is a comprehensive worldview. It is the only worldview that was able to resist the “Divine Right of Kings” of the Middle Ages and the tyranny of socialism and communism in the 20th century.

In the 21st century, we need a Puritan Storm Rising to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the civil state is “God walking on earth.” We need the engine of the Protestant Reformation revived in full force in order to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare to abortion on demand

I don’t hold out much hope for traditional Reformed and Presbyterian churches. Most of these bodies would be unrecognizable to their founders. Rather I see the principles of the Reformation seeping through a wide swath of evangelical churches and forging them into a network — as Reformed doctrine did during the time of the First Great Awakening.

One of the first articles I wrote after having encountered Jeff Ziegler’s teaching was Two Views of Government, an explanation of the opposite worldviews of Puritanism and Pietism that have vied for dominance in the evangelical church.

This is not to say that Whitefield and Wesley cannot work side by side in the coming awakening. To the contrary, although Calvinism was on the wane in America by the end of the 18th century, many of the great social reforms of the 19th century were fueled by the fervor of Evangelical Arminians. These Christian reformers were undergirded by an abiding belief in the covenantal purposes of God in history.

While I have a great admiration for many Christian leaders in our current day, I would gladly trade the shipwrecked, pietistic vessel of 21st century for the time tested Puritan battleship of America’s founding.

Let’s be clear about one historical fact. The United States of America is not merely a “Christian nation,” but as the following article will show, the American Revolution of 1775 was birthed out of the Knoxian and Cromwellian revolutions of the 1500s and 1600s in Scotland and England. It would do us good to examine both the character of the men who led these movements and the doctrines they preached and taught.

The following article by Harry Seabrook contains numerous little known quotes from renowned historians showing that the impetus for America’s War for Independence was forged in the fires of the Protestant Reformation.

Throughout the article I’ve posted some relevant clips from the video series, God’s Law and Society. Here George Grant explains where the term the Presbyterian Parson’s Rebellion originated.

Video: The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
Click play to connect to youtube

The colonial army during the Revolution was also called The Black Robed Regiment because of the number of pastors who rallied their congregations to support the cause of freedom. Here Pastor Phil Volman calls for a Black Robed Regiment to arise in our day.

Video: The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
Click play to connect to youtube

America’s Calvinist foundations

by Harry Seabrook

It is estimated that two-thirds of the three million Americans at the time of the Revolutionary War were Reformed Protestants, and even that leaves out the many Episcopalians, who had a Reformed confession in the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the descendants of the French Huguenots. Presbyterians, above all, were responsible for convincing the colonists to revolt even though, prior to the war, about 40 percent of the population was pro-British.

“Whatever the cause, the Calvinists were the only fighting Protestants. It was they whose faith gave them courage to stand up for the Reformation. In England, Scotland, France, Holland, they, and they only, did the work, and but for them the Reformation would have been crushed…. If it had not been for Calvinists, Huguenots, Puritans, and whatever you like to call them, the Pope and Philip would have won, and we should either be Papists or Socialists.” ~ Sir John Skelton

“[Calvinists] are the true heroes of England. They founded England, in spite of the corruption of the Stuarts, by the exercise of duty, by the practice of justice, by obstinate toil, by vindication of right, by resistance to oppression, by the conquest of liberty, by the repression of vice. They founded Scotland; they founded the United States; at this day they are, by their descendants, founding Australia and colonizing the world.” ~ French atheist Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893)

“Calvinism has been the chief source of republican government.” ~ Lorraine Boettner

“In Calvinism lies the origin and guarantee of our constitutional liberties.” ~ Goren van Prinsterer

Historian George Bancroft called Calvin “the father of America,” and added, “He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty.”

“John Calvin was the virtual founder of America.” ~ German historian Leopold von Ranke

“The Revolution of 1776, so far as it was affected by religion, was a Presbyterian measure. It was the natural outgrowth of the principles which the Presbyterianism of the Old World planted in her sons, the English Puritans, the Scotch Covenanters, the French Huguenots, the Dutch Calvinists, and the Presbyterians of Ulster.” ~ George Bancroft

Video: The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
Click play to connect to youtube

It is no wonder that King James I once said: “Presbytery agreeth with monarchy like God with the Devil.” In England, our First War for Independence was referred to as the “Presbyterian Rebellion.”

A Hessian captain (one of the 30,000 German mercenaries used by England) wrote in 1778, “Call this war by whatever name you may, only call it not an American rebellion; it is nothing more or less than a Scots-Irish Presbyterian rebellion.”

Another monarchist wrote to King George III: “I fix all of the blame for these extraordinary proceedings on the Presbyterians. They have been the chief and principle instruments in all of these flaming measures. They always do and ever will act against government from that restless and turbulent anti-monarchical spirit which has always distinguished them everywhere.”

In a letter from New York dated November 1776, the Earl of Dartmouth was informed by one of his representatives: “Presbyterianism is really at the bottom of this whole conspiracy, has supplied it with Vigour, and will never rest, till something is decided on it.”

John D. Sergeant, a member of the Continental Congress from New Jersey, credited the Scots-Irish with being the main pillar of support for the Revolution in Pennsylvania. A New Englander, not supportive of the Presbyterians, agreed, calling the Scots-Irish, “the most God-provoking democrats this side of Hell.”

Prime Minister Horace Walpole rose in Parliament to say: “There is no use crying about it. Cousin America has eloped with a Presbyterian parson,” referring to John Witherspoon, president of Princeton University (the “seminary of sedition”), and the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. Witherspoon was not only one of the founding fathers, he was the instructor of the founding fathers. Nine of the 55 delegates at the Constitutional Convention had been students of Witherspoon’s. In fact, David Barton notes that 87 of the 243 founding fathers graduated from Presbyterian Princeton, so it is hardly surprising that the founders created a republic.

Video: The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
Click play to connect to youtube

“When Cornwallis was driven back to ultimate retreat and surrender at Yorktown, all of the colonels of the Colonial Army but one were Presbyterian elders. More than one-half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterians.” ~ J.R. Sizoo

“From 1706 to the opening of the revolutionary struggle, the only body in existence which stood for our present national political organization [republicanism] was the General Synod of the American Presbyterian Church… The Congregational Churches of New England had no connection with each other, and had no power apart from the civil government. The Episcopal Church was without organization in the colonies, was dependent for support and a ministry on the Established Church of England, and was filled with an intense loyalty to the British monarchy. The Reformed Dutch Church did not become an efficient and independent organization until 1771, and the German Reformed Church did not attain to that condition until 1793. The Baptist Churches were separate organizations, the Methodists were practically unknown, and the Quakers were non-combatants.” ~ Dr. W.H. Roberts

Only the Presbyterian Church lined up solidly behind the colonists, and without them independence would not have been possible. Oh, and that Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson? It came along a full year after Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Charlotte, North Carolina, wrote their own declaration of independence. The Mecklenburg Declaration, written on May 20, 1775, “by unanimous resolution declared the people free and independent, and that all laws and commissions from the king were henceforth null and void,” as Lorraine Boettner writes.

Jefferson’s biographer notes: “Everyone must be persuaded that one of these papers must have been borrowed from the other.”

George Bancroft observes that the Mecklenburg assembly consisted of “twenty-seven staunch Calvinists, one-third of whom were ruling elders in the Presbyterian church, including the President and Secretary, and one was a Presbyterian minister.”

Ephraim Brevard, who drafted the document, and after whom Brevard, NC, is named, was a Presbyterian ruling elder and a Princeton graduate.

“[Patrick Henry’s] mother drilled him in Presbyterian or Calvinistic theology, which provided the backbone for the American resistance to British tyranny. As one author has noted, Calvinism ‘has been able to inspire and sustain the bravest efforts ever made by man to break the yoke of unjust authority…’ It has ‘borne ever an inflexible front to illusion and mendacity, and has preferred rather to be ground to powder, like flint, than to bend before violence, or melt under enervating temptation.’ By the time of the American Revolution, approximately two-thirds of the colonial population had been ‘trained in the school of Calvin.’ Henry, through his mother, was a spiritual descendant of Calvin and represented the liberating element of a Reformed theology and world-view.” ~ Isaac Backus

Video: The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
The Presbyterian Parson's Rebellion
Click play to connect to youtube

One example among many in the “Black Regiment” (of parsons) was the Rev. James Caldwell of the First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown, New Jersey. Caldwell also served as chaplain to the Continental Army. A Redcoat murdered his wife by firing into his home. Leaving his children in the care of the townsfolk, Caldwell rejoined the fight, which had moved to Springfield. When wadding for ammunition ran low, Caldwell ran to the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield and returned with as many hymnals as he could carry. Tearing out the pages, he yelled, “Put Watts into ‘em, boys! Give ‘em Watts!” He was killed in battle one year later.

This was a man who carried pistols with him to church and laid them on the pulpit before he began the sermon. One of the nine orphaned Caldwell children became a U.S. Supreme Court clerk and worked for the cause of African colonization. A town in Liberia is named Caldwell in his memory. War hero Lafayette, George Washington’s close friend, and the man who incidentally was given the honor of naming a cousin of mine from five generations ago (Carolina Lafayette Seabrook), took another of the Caldwell children home with him to France.

During the feudal era, bishops rode to war at the head of armies. There was a time in America when this was still the case.

Taken from Western Voices World News

Your comments are welcome

Use Textile help to style your comments

Suggested products