Dear friends in Christ,
The month of July is, of course, most noted in America for Independence Day. But as the revolution became more and more likely, the Christian church had some difficult decisions to make. The following is an excerpt from an online article posted by christianitytoday.com.
“Events moved quickly in the years before independence. As late as 1761, during the French and Indian War, Congregational ministers in Connecticut pledged absolute fidelity and submission to the king of England (the head of the Anglican Church). By the mid 1760’s, after Britain had begun taxing the colonies, many of these same clergy were denouncing the king and justifying non-submission.
“During the Revolutionary era, the pulpit played a key role in encouraging dissent. The political activism of these black-robed ministers earned them the name ‘the black regiment.’
“In July 1775, as tensions with the British rose, the Continental Congress called for a day of prayer and fasting. Most ministers used the occasion to preach for the colonial cause, but Anglican clergyman Jonathan Boucher spoke instead on the need to obey constituted authority. Concerned about his safety in proclaiming such an unpopular view, he carried into his pulpit not only his sermon manuscript but also a loaded pistol.
“At the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress ordered copies of the Declaration first to be sent not to town clerks or newspapers but to parish ministers, who were ‘required to read the same to their respective congregations, as soon as divine service is ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s day after they have received it.’
“During the war, more than a hundred colonial ministers served as chaplains in the Continental Army, and a lesser number of Anglican clergy, sympathetic to the loyalist cause, joined British regiments. As a result, many congregations found themselves with empty pulpits during the war.”
There has always been tension between living as a faithful citizen of a country and living as a faithful Christian. Sometimes the state puts us into conflict with our faith. Sometimes our faith puts us into conflict with the state. Most of the time, thank the Lord!, we live in both kingdoms at the same time in relative peace. But we must always keep the two kingdoms in their proper and God-given place.
God works in both kingdoms (the state and the church) all the time. He works in the state to provide order and peace to the citizens of that country, to punish evildoers, and to commend those who do good to their neighbor. He works in the church to provide that which the state cannot give—eternal salvation to sinners through the forgiveness of sins offered in His Word and Sacraments. Yet, although these two kingdoms must be kept separate so that they may do what God gives them to do, the one will have impact on the other. When they conflict with each other, we know the Bible says that we ought to obey God rather than man. Easier said than done. May God grant us the wisdom and the faith to live His will.
In His service and yours,