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Those Blasted Presbyterians: Reflections on Independence Day
The Chief End of Man ^ | 7-4-14 | Don Sweeting

Posted on 07/04/2014 10:22:04 AM PDT by ReformationFan

“We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against him, let us not pay the least regard to it.” Book Four, Calvin’s Institutes

“I fix all the blame of these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians.” So one colonist loyal to King George wrote to friends in England.

Around the same time, Horace Walpole spoke from the English House of Commons to report on these “extraordinary proceedings” in the colonies of the new world. “There is no good crying about the matter,” he said. “Cousin America has run off with the Presbyterian parson, and that is the end of it.”

The parson of which he spoke, was John Witherspoon—a Presbyterian minister, as well as a descendant of John Knox. At the time, Witherspoon was president of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). He was also the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence.

From the English perspective, the American revolution was often perceived as a “Presbyterian Rebellion.” And its supporters were often disdained as “those blasted Presbyterians.”

The Presbyterian Revolution Most American Christians are unaware of the fact that the American Revolution, as well as the new American state, was greatly shaped by Presbyterians and the Calvinism that was at its root. Some modern-day Presbyterians have moved light years away from the convictions of these early colonists.

An estimated three million people lived in the colonies at the time of the Revolutionary War. Of that number, “900,00 were of Scotch or Scotch-Irish origin, 600,000 were Puritan English, while over 400,000 were of Dutch, German Reformed and Huguenot descent. That is to say, two thirds of our Revolutionary forefathers were trained in the school of Calvin.” (Carlson, p. 19)

As one historian puts it, “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. It is estimated that more than one half of all the soldiers and officers of the American Army during the Revolution were Presbyterian.” (Carlson, p. 16)

To the man, Presbyterian clergy joined the Colonialist cause. It was said that many of them led the Revolution from the pulpit. In doing so, they paid a heavy price for their support for independence. Many lost family members or their own lives. Some had their churches burned to the ground.

The Presbyterian Drive We forget that many of the early American colonists had left England precisely because Presbyterian Christianity was rejected. After its brief reign as the established church through the English Civil War and the work of the Westminster Assembly, Britain returned to Anglicanism. Thousands of non-conforming Presbyterian ministers were then ejected from their churches. Some, such as the Covenanters, were martyred in a period that came to be known as “the killing times.” Rigid laws of conformity drove many to seek a better life somewhere else. After 1660, many Presbyterians began to make their way to the colonies in North America. It was these individuals who brought a new strength to the colonies as they inched their way forward towards independence.

They had little loyalty, and often outright hostility, to the crown of England. They were armed with the theology of John Calvin, mediated through John Knox, and solidified during the English Civil war. It was a theology which devalued the divine right of human kings, and elevated the worth and dignity of the individual under God. This theology shaped the early American understanding of civil liberty.

It shaped our founding fathers. The idea of human equality which influenced John Locke, who in turn, influenced our founding fathers, was learned from the Puritans. Locke’s father had been on Cromwell’s side during the English Civil war.

It also shaped the general population under the influence of the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening was a massive 18th century religious revival that shook the colonies. It was promoted by preachers such as Gilbert Tennent and George Whitfield who travelled up and down the coast calling for a return to a robust Christian and Biblical faith. Emphasizing the new birth and a Calvinist theology, the Great Awakening had an immense influence on colonial sentiments in the generation just preceding the American Revolution.

Consider then, some of what was at work in the American consciousness preceding the revolution. There was the memory of their horrid experience in England. There was the worry that Anglicans would establish this same kind of church in the colonies. There was a persistent fear of the imposition of bishops who were viewed as “holy monarchs,” (monarchy in any form was considered bad)! There was a belief in the absolute sovereignty of God. God alone is Lord of all and the author of liberty. There was a corresponding belief in the absolute equality of individuals (king and peasant, clergy and laity) under God’s law. There was the belief that no human should be entrusted with absolute power, given our radically fallen human nature. There was a belief that there should be a separation of powers in any new government that is established. And because of their experience in England, there was the belief that religious freedom and freedom of conscience should be respected.

In other words, for these Presbyterians, liberty is affirmed, but it is not an absolute liberty. It is always to be lived out under the sovereign creator God. It was this theology, a theology rooted, not just in Calvin, but in the Bible, which ultimately gave the colonialist the will to resist.

The Presbyterian Legacy So this year, as we celebrate our independence once again, and as we think of early American courage, and the genius of our founding fathers, let us not forget those blasted Presbyterians who sought to understand liberty in light of the Bible. A liberty which conceived of a nation and its entire government under God.

Sources: Our Presbyterian Heritage, Paul Carlson (Elgin: David C. Cook, 1973)Presbyterians: Their History and Beliefs, Walter L. Lingle and John W. Kuykendall, (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988), The Emergence of Liberty in the Modern World, Douglas F. Kelly, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1992)


TOPICS: Evangelical Christian; History; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: americanrevolution; donsweeting; independenceday; johnwitherspoon; pcusa; presbyterian; presbyterians; rebellion
No. Not the modern day PCUSA version. These fellows were true Presbyterians.
1 posted on 07/04/2014 10:22:04 AM PDT by ReformationFan
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To: ReformationFan

“Cousin America has run off with the Presbyterian parson, and that is the end of it.”


2 posted on 07/04/2014 10:22:28 AM PDT by ReformationFan
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To: ReformationFan

Looking the number of Presbyterian members back in 1984 at 3.1 million and the number today (2013) 1.8 million I expect to see them drop to less than a million by 2029 assuming that the 5% decline stays at that rate.

The rate in the drop in membership was just under 1% in 1984. It crossed over the two percent threshold in 2005, then over three percent in 2008, and over five percent in 2012.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbyterian_Church_%28U.S.A.%29

That rate my continue to increase as PCUSA becomes more PC!


3 posted on 07/04/2014 10:54:10 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: ReformationFan; drstevej; OrthodoxPresbyterian; CCWoody; Wrigley; Gamecock; Jean Chauvin; jboot; ...

Happy Presbyterian Rebellion Day!

4 posted on 07/04/2014 11:25:37 AM PDT by Gamecock (There is room for all of God's animals. Right next to the mashed potatoes and gravy.)
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To: Gamecock

Happy Presbyterian Rebellion Day to you too, sir!

Hoss


5 posted on 07/04/2014 11:52:24 AM PDT by HossB86 (Christ, and Him alone.)
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To: HossB86

And also to you!


6 posted on 07/04/2014 12:21:35 PM PDT by Gamecock (There is room for all of God's animals. Right next to the mashed potatoes and gravy.)
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To: ReformationFan; Alex Murphy; metmom
And its supporters were often disdained as “those blasted Presbyterians.”

Meh. We are called worse here on FR every day!

7 posted on 07/04/2014 12:24:38 PM PDT by Gamecock (There is room for all of God's animals. Right next to the mashed potatoes and gravy.)
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To: ReformationFan

the great Pity of it all...

squandering this wonderful God-loving, noble and courageous heritage.....

all the way down to the Hellpit of today’s PCUSA

shame
shame
shame


8 posted on 07/04/2014 12:27:56 PM PDT by faithhopecharity ((Brilliant, Profound Tag Line Goes Here, just as soon as I can think of one..))
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To: faithhopecharity

There is always a remnant of God’s people.


9 posted on 07/04/2014 12:41:36 PM PDT by Gamecock (There is room for all of God's animals. Right next to the mashed potatoes and gravy.)
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To: Gamecock

Great article. Thanks for the ping.


10 posted on 07/04/2014 1:00:41 PM PDT by HarleyD ("... letters are weighty, but his .. presence is weak, and his speech of no account.")
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To: Gamecock

yes indeed.

the remnant in PCUSA (if still any there) should definitely move across the street to a better/real church

there are still other Presbyterian denoninations/congregations that belive in the one true God...
and of course there are many other varieties of churches (with a range of doctrines) that also believe in the one true God

INMO, getting as far away fron the now-Satanic PCUSA is an imperative for any sincere believer


11 posted on 07/04/2014 1:03:25 PM PDT by faithhopecharity ((Brilliant, Profound Tag Line Goes Here, just as soon as I can think of one..))
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To: faithhopecharity

I think the PCUSA forfeited its right to be called Presbyterian when they excommunicated J. Gresham Machen(father of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) back in the 1930s.


12 posted on 07/04/2014 2:07:02 PM PDT by ReformationFan
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To: Gamecock
Consider then, some of what was at work in the American consciousness preceding the revolution. There was the memory of their horrid experience in England. There was the worry that Anglicans would establish this same kind of church in the colonies.

There was a persistent fear of the imposition of bishops who were viewed as “holy monarchs,” (monarchy in any form was considered bad)! There was a belief in the absolute sovereignty of God. God alone is Lord of all and the author of liberty. There was a corresponding belief in the absolute equality of individuals (king and peasant, clergy and laity) under God’s law. There was the belief that no human should be entrusted with absolute power, given our radically fallen human nature. There was a belief that there should be a separation of powers in any new government that is established. And because of their experience in England, there was the belief that religious freedom and freedom of conscience should be respected.

In other words, for these Presbyterians, liberty is affirmed, but it is not an absolute liberty. It is always to be lived out under the sovereign creator God. It was this theology, a theology rooted, not just in Calvin, but in the Bible, which ultimately gave the colonialist the will to resist.

Happy Presbyterian Rebellion Day!

13 posted on 07/04/2014 3:03:21 PM PDT by Alex Murphy ("the defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades")
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To: ReformationFan

An interesting point. Certainly Princeton today — while containing some bright scholars — is far from its founding tradition. And very largely in the modernist or liberal camp Marchen viewed as Un-Christian. And of course PCUSA is about as anti-Christian as is possible to be without , say, just bowing down outright to Mecca or Satan by name. The effect is the same though. A genuine tragedy. I feel churches can be open science and varying Biblical perspectives without abandoning the essence of true faith.


14 posted on 07/04/2014 3:19:30 PM PDT by faithhopecharity ((Brilliant, Profound Tag Line Goes Here, just as soon as I can think of one..))
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To: ReformationFan

What is interesting is that the Presbyterians revolted against a German king, who had probably a Lutheran upbringing (though nominally CoE)


15 posted on 07/07/2014 12:34:40 AM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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To: Gamecock
Hardly. I think the Religion Forum is much more theologically respectful these days. There is no point in calling P's "those b P's" when one can argue politely and get polite responses in return.

There are much bigger fish to fry --> the gaymafia are advancing against all churches along with militant secularism and at the same time Islam is obliterating the ancient church of the East and the Christians in Syria.

This is not a time to sling mud at an ally one disagrees with when there are two blood-thirsty enemies attacking.

16 posted on 07/07/2014 12:37:59 AM PDT by Cronos (Obama’s dislike of Assad is not based on Assad’s brutality but that he isn't a jihadi Moslem)
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