Over 30 years ago I came across this account of Patrick Henry, that great champion of liberty, of his defense of some Baptist field preachers, who were being threatened by the government authorities. Since we are approaching Independence Day, July 4th, 2011, I felt it would be a good time to republish this article that has blessed me and others. I have revised and expanded some things that complement the story. Be sure and follow all the links for some interesting reading. Our America is not as it once was. I am praying for revival. But, in this day we see many things that Christians and American patriots have held dear disappearing before our eyes. Only God can change this pattern if He is pleased to do so. If He is not, soon the "land of the free and the home of the brave" will be a memory. Pray with me, in Jesus name, that God will turn the tide. Amen!
Spotsylvania County, Va.-June 4, 1768. Patrick Henry, in defense of three Baptist preachers, John Walker, Louis Craig, James Child, dragged before the magistrate and indicted with disturbing the peace.
The pitch was at its height . . . The judge said: "Sheriff-discharge those men!
Patrick Henry heard about it and decided to defend them and aid in their acquittal. The indictment brought against them was "For preaching the Gospel of the Son of God contrary to the statutes in that case provided and, therefore, disturbers of the peace.
The clerk was reading the indictment in a slow and formal manner. . ."For preaching the gospel". . . when a plain dressed man entered the courtroom and sat at the bar. He was known to the court and lawyers, but a stranger to the mass of people who had gathered on the occasion. This was Patrick Henry. He had ridden some 50-60 miles from his Hanover County home to volunteer his services in their defense. He listened to the reading of the indictment with marked attention. The first sentence which had caught his ear was "For preaching the Gospel of the Son of God". (1)
When the indictment had been read and the prosecuting attorney had submitted a few remarks, Henry arose, stretched out his hand and received the paper and then addressed the court.
“May I please, your worship, I think I heard read by the prosecutor as I entered this house the paper I now hold in my hand. If I have rightly understood, the King's attorney of this colony has framed an indictment for the purpose of arraigning and punishing by imprisonment three inoffensive persons before the bar of this court for a crime of great magnitude as disturbers of the peace!
May it please the court. . . What did I hear? Did I hear it distinctly or was it a mistake of my own? Did I hear an expression as of a crime that these men whom your worship is about to try for a misdemeanor are charged with what?"
(Low and heavy tone)
". . For preaching the Gospel of the Son of God!”
Pausing amidst the most profound silence and breathless astonishment of his hearers, he slowly waved the paper three times around his head and lifted up his eyes to heaven with extraordinary and impressive energy exclaimed "Great God!"
The exclamations, the action, the burst of feeling from the audience were all over powering.
Mr. Henry continued: "May it please your worship in a day like this when truth is about to burst her fetters, when mankind is about to be raised to claim their natural and inalienable rights, when the yoke of oppression which has reached the wilderness of America and the unnatural alliance of ecclesiastical and civil power is about to be dis-served. . .a period when liberty, and liberty of conscience is about to awake from her slumberings, and enquire into the reason for such charges as I find exhibited here today in this indictment.”
Another fearful pause with the speaker alternatively casting his sharp piercing eyes on the court and the prisoners and resumed: "If I am not deceived according to the content of the paper I hold in my hand, these men are accused of preaching the Gospel of the Son of God! (looking up to heaven again).
Another long pause during which he again waved the paper three times around his head while a deeper impression was made on the audience.
Resuming the speech "May it please your worship, there are periods in the history of man when corruption and depravity have so long debased the human character that man sinks under the weight of the oppressor's hand and becomes his servile, his abject slave! He licks the hand that smites him! Bows in passive obedience to the mandates of the despot! And in this state of servility he receives his fetters of perpetual bondage. But may it please your worship such a day is passed away. From the period when our fathers left the land of nativity for settlement in these American wilds; For liberty, for civil and religious liberty, for liberty of conscience to worship their creator according to their concepts of heaven's revealed will. From that moment they placed their feet on the American continent, in deep imbedded forests sought an asylum from persecution and tyranny. From that moment despotism was crushed. Her fetters of darkness were broken and heaven decreed that man should be free - free to worship God according to the Bible. But may it please your worship; permit me to enquire once more, For what are these men about to be tried? This paper says for preaching the Gospel of the Son of God.
Great God! For preaching the Saviour to Adam's fallen race!"
Another pause . . . loudly-"What law have they violated?" Then for the third time in a slow dignified manner, he lifted his eyes to heaven and waved the indictment around his head. , .
(From the original article in Western Voice, July 29, 1949. This magazine is no longer published).
How much America has changed since those early days! It has changed drastically in the 61 years since the discontinued Christian paper from Colorado published the preceding words. Now it is more likely you would hear lawyers for the ACLU argue that these preachers had violated the rights of all the non-Christians such as Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Wiccans, Satanists, and atheists, communists, etc. etc.. Then likely one of these liberal, God-hating, self important judges would agree with the ACLU, and penalize the preachers in some way. It should not be that way! This is not Red China, Cuba or North Korea. But you and I know that this harassment is becoming more prevalent as it once did in the Soviet empire. In an effort to stamp out all vestiges of Christianity, Judges are more and more antichrist.
Some years ago I heard about a very good plan to change this, anticipating today’s threat level. The plan is for a constitutional amendment that congress has to sponsor, is that ALL judges, at every level, including U.S.Supreme Court Justices, would be elected by the people. This would make them accountable, and if any judge was found guilty of any crime, he would be forever banned from serving again as a judge or an attorney! Sounds pretty good to me, and it needs to be done right away. Liberal judges are legislating from the bench.
What has brought this nation to its present sad state regarding religious freedom and morals? We are in a time when in the view of so many; right is wrong and wrong is right! In Patrick Henry’s time, it was clear to most what was right, and what was wrong. But thanks to values clarification taught in the schools today (i.e., what is right for you may not be right for me), children have no ethical guide. You see, when the Bible is thrown out, or largely regarded as irrelevant, anything goes.
I’ll tell you simply from the Word of God how we got here; “The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17). All unrepentant wicked that ever lived, at any time, and die in that unregenerate state, shall be turned into hell. The Bible, especially the words of Christ Himself bear this out.
The psalmist David is speaking of any nation, at any time—“ALL the nations that forget God.” This is supported by verse 16 “The LORD is known by the judgement which He executeth: the wicked is snared in the works of his own hands.” Then he says “Higgaion. Selah.” Literally--“Pause and think on this.” All the nations of the world will be judged by Jesus Christ when He returns. We know this from passages like Matthew chapters 24 and 25. Yet some nations will go “down the tubes” before that. It was prophesied that once world power Egypt would be brought down and be a secondary nation, and it is until this day.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD: and the people whom He hath chosen for His inheritance” (Psalm 33:12).You may say “wait a minute, this is only concerning Old Testament Israel, His chosen people.” Yes, that is the primary meaning. But, so much in the Bible has expanded meaning. This is true here when you consider the words of Simon Peter “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him that called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10). He is saying much the same thing Paul said in Ephesians 2:19-20: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” I suggest you read these two chapters for yourself.
What does this have to do with the United States of America? Much indeed. The very foundations of this nation are Christian. I did not say “we are a Christian nation” per se. (2) We have a nation that was meant to be Christian. But, no nation has ever really attained to an absolutely Christian nation, not even America. But, in our heritage there is much that is Christian, and who would dare to say that God has not blessed this “land of the free and home of the brave”? On the way over to this land seeking to find freedom from persecution, the Pilgrims drew up the Mayflower Compact which begins thus: “In the name of God, Amen.”(3) The Plymouth colony was set up with a government that sought to honor Christ. (4) The Puritans in Massachusetts and Connecticut set up their colonies on strict Christian principles. Those who did not adhere were punished.(5) William Penn started Pennsylvania for the persecuted Quakers.(6) Maryland was started for Catholics.(7) Balance of religious freedom for all came later with Roger Williams who had been banished by the Puritans. He is recognized as starting the first Baptist church in America in Rhode Island. Baptists have always stood for religious freedom for all. (8)
Incorporated into the Declaration of Independence (9) by largely Christian men is acknowledgement of “our creator” and “nature’s God.” The U.S.Constitution (10), while giving freedom of religion to all, it did not decree freedom from religion. In other words, to endeavor not to offend a person of another religion or no religion at all, they were not obliged to take rights from Christians. This is what those who would remove God from everything in public life would like to do; banish Christ from everything. We must wake up, and pray, and stand against this tyranny, with God’s help.
I have used the resources of the internet for those of you who wish to study subjects mentioned much further than I could in a short (for me, anyway), article. God bless you.
(1) Patrick Henry was interesting, well worth further study.
(2) As such. I am no Latin expert, but I use this one and Anno Domini (A.D. = year of our Lord), and Deo Volante (D.V. = Lord Willing), sometimes others. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Per_se_%28phrase%29
(3)The Mayflower Compact, like the Magna Charta, is one of the world’s great historic documents, and definitely ordained of Almighty God. http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/revolution/mayflower.htm
(4) God honored them. The study of these Pilgrims should be done more than just at Thanksgiving Day. Also see The Pilgrim Fathers of New England by John Brown, Heritage Books, 1989 reprint. http://plimoth.org/discover/colonial-life/mayflower-compact.php
(5)Every thing you have heard about Puritans isn’t true. They were Godly, strict, but witty and compassionate. We received many things as Americans from them. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_upon_a_Hill
(6) Penn’s Woods= Pennsylvania. Largest city Philadelphia =city of brotherly love, named after the town in Revelation 3:7. Penn is another interesting character. http://www.quaker.org/wmpenn.html
(7)Except for where the Spanish and French established colonies, there were few Catholics here, until Maryland was established. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Maryland
(8)There is dispute over William’s establishment of the first Baptist church in America. There can be no dispute that he was the first minister to plead for toleration of other faiths. This had to be for many reasons, not the least of which that the various Christian sects were not even tolerating each other, even if they only differed in minor things. America could not exist as America without some co-existence. http://www.constitution.org/bcp/religlib.htm
(9)Read this wonderful document. Your grandchildren may not be able to do so! www.ushistory.org/declaration/
(10) You won’t read this in one sitting, but should read it. http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_reli.html#original
I certainly did not intend to write a book, or a lengthy essay. You can, of course, ignore the references, or ignore the entire thing if you like. But, I feel very passionate about this country, and its heritage. Having traveled many places in this old world, I have seen there is nowhere like America. Sadly, now America is looking less like the America I once knew. There are many enemies. We have sown the wind as a nation, and we are reaping the whirlwind. American Christians would rather play than pray. Carnality abounds. If we Christians are the salt, has it lost its savor indeed?
I know Christ will return before long, or I will go to be with Him ere long, but what of our children and grandchildren if Jesus does not return soon? We don’t know the day or the hour, but are not ignorant of the times and seasons. If the apostle John could say: “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know it is the last time.”(1 John 2:18) ; how much nearer now?
Really, as always, all we can do as a people is throw ourselves on God’s mercy as
2 Chronicles 7:14 says: “If my people, who are called by my name (Christians), shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” That is a promise from God you can apply if you are a Christian. God bless you! (cw)
ADDENDA: MORE ON PATRICK HENRY AND OUR CHRISTIAN HISTORY
Patrick Henry’s speech to the Virginia Convention, Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775 (The Biblical allusion is from Jeremiah 6:14).
“There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave…. It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!—I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
AMERICA’S CHRISTIAN HISTORY- W.F.BELL
Psalm 16:6 – “Yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Hebrews 11:38 – “Of whom the world was not worthy.”
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, founded in 1636, “to train ministers,” has on its college seal the word, Veritas, Latin for “divine truth.” Its motto was, “For Christ and the Church.” Its founders believed, “All knowledge without Christ was vain.” [In honor of John Harvard, 1607-1638]
Yale University, New Haven, CT, founded in 1701 by ten Congregational ministers, had as its purpose, “To plant, and to propagate the blessed Reformed, Protestant Religion, in the purity of its Order and Worship.” And 100 years later, it was reported by a faculty member: “Yale College is a little temple: prayer and praise seem to be the delight of the greater part of the students.” [In honor of Elihu Yale, 1649-1721]
Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, founded in 1746 by the Presbyterian Church. Its first president was Jonathan Dickinson, who said, “Cursed be all that learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.” [Originally “The College of New Jersey;” the burial place of Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758, third President of Princeton, who graduated from Yale in 1720]
Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, our Third President: “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever” (1781).
Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004, our Fortieth President: “If we ever forget that we are ‘One nation under God,’ then we will be a nation gone under” (1984).
Francis Scott Key, 1779-1843, lawyer and poet; author of “The Star Spangled Banner” (1814), which became the National Anthem in 1931. Listen to the fourth verse:
O! Thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just;
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust.”
And the star spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
And in 1817 Key wrote:
Lord, with glowing heart I’d praise thee,
For the bliss thy love bestows,
For the pardoning grace that saves me,
And the peace that from it flows.
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