Sermon Topic - The Black Regiment
An informative and motivational sermon on the pivotal role those bold and courageous preachers played during the founding of this great nation. We desperately need that kind of pulpit patriotism from our preachers and churches today if America’s heritage and posterity is to survive the current and looming onslaught of well organized and calculated evil from our own government and forces around the world.
by Jeff Strite
1 Peter 4:17-4:19
1776. That was the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. But did signing that declaration actually make America a free and independent nation? No. There was still a long, and costly conflict that needed to be fought with THE superpower of the day.
• America only had a rag-tag army that was poorly paid (if they were paid at all)
• They had few, if any, uniforms.
• Their weapons were often what they brought from home.
• If they had any cannons, they were those taken from the British.
• And the soldiers often had to survive without adequate food and shelter.
By contrast, they faced one of the most feared armies in the world. British troops were the best trained and equipped of any army of the day. Other nations looked at this conflict and doubted if these colonial soldiers could ever succeed. Few doubted these “Freedom fighters” would prevail.
But they did! And one of the reasons they prevailed was that they had a secret weapon. A secret weapon so powerful that even King George feared it.
That secret weapon was a powerful brigade of soldiers that Britain referred to as the “Black Regiment.” They were such a powerful force for the cause of freedom that, before the Revolution started, the British governor of Massachusetts made the statement that if this Black Regiment ever came out in force to support the Revolution, England would lose.
So, what was this “Black Regiment”? And what was it that made Britain fear it? (Does Anybody Know Who They Were?)
The Black Regiment was the preachers throughout the Colonies.
Their weapon was the Bible. And their battlefield was the pulpit.
They were called the “Black Regiment” because they wore black robes when they preached. (Some sources refer to them as the “Black Robed Regiment”)
It was their moral leadership and influence that enabled America to become a free and independent nation.
These preachers preached what they preached, because they believed that the very essence of Christian religion was the idea that liberty is a sacred gift from God and that the united Colonies of America had been chosen by God to guard the sacred lamp of liberty.
Thus, on the first anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, a preacher named Jonas Clark declared: “From this day will be dated the liberty of the world.”
Resistance to England became a sacred duty to a people who were, on the whole, a highly religious people. And they were led in their resistance to the tyranny of England by their preachers.
• It was a preacher named Jonathan Mayhew who observed that England imposed heavy taxes on the Colonies without allowing them to be represented in the Parliament. And so he coined the phrase that became a battle cry for the Revolutionaries: “No taxation without representation”
• It was a Presbyterian minister named John Witherspoon who preached on the similarities between the bondage of Israel in Egypt with the bondage the colonies suffered under England. You might know Witherspoon’s name – he was one of those who signed the Declaration of Independence.
• Samuel Cooper was a Congregational minister who actively preached on the Revolution to an audience that often included John Adams, Samuel Adams, Joseph Warren and John Hancock.
• And then there was the preacher named Peter Muhlenberg. How many of you have ever seen the movie the “Patriot” with Mel Gibson? Muhlenberg was the preacher who served as the model for the preacher in that movie. One Sunday, he stood in his pulpit and preached from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and he concluded his sermon with these words:
“The Bible tells us there is a time for all things, and there is a time to preach and a time to pray… and there is a time to fight, and that time has come now. Now is the time to fight!”
At that point Muhlenberg stripped off his preaching robes to reveal a military uniform, pulled a musket out from behind the pulpit and began leading men in battle. He, at Valley Forge, as well as the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, was instrumental in leading the Colonial army to victory, including Yorktown – the battle which effectively ended the war.
These were just 4 of the hundreds of preachers across the colonies who made up the Black Regiment. And they helped lead America to become a free and powerful nation.
These preachers had two basic messages:
1st - The King of England was a tyrant and was opposing God’s will by oppressing them.
And 2nd - The only way to free themselves from this evil ruler was to appeal to God.
Thus, one of the constant themes from their pulpits was the same as our text this morning:
“… it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God…” 1 Peter 4:17
Before Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, it called the nation to fasting and prayer. And whenever Congress met – it opened each session praying to God to guide them in their decisions and to protect the colonies and their army.
The General they had chosen to lead that army, George Washington, believed that holiness and prayer were essential if the army was to ever prevail against Britain. And George Washington’s religion was not just a “personal/private thing”. Washington IMPOSED Christian morality on his soldiers.
In one of his “General Orders”, Washington declared; “The General most earnestly requires and expects a due observance of those articles of war established for the government of the army which forbid profane cursing, swearing and drunkenness; and in the like manner requires and expects of all officers and soldiers not engaged on actual duty, a punctual attendance on Divine Service to implore the blessings of Heaven upon the means used for our safety and defense.”
These were not suggestions by General Washington. These were marching orders. George Washington believed they could not be successful in war if they angered the God who he felt watched over this nation.
Most of the men who led our nation into war in 1776 were influenced by the “Black Regiment. The Black Regiment laid the foundation for our nation to become a free Country. Even after the war, this Black Regiment continued to lay the foundation for our country so that it would become a powerful and great nation that it is today.
And what was that foundation that they laid? It was a foundation of repentance and humility. They preached that IF God’s people continually humbled themselves and sought God’s guidance, God would bless their nation and America would continue to be a great and influential country.
They knew well the passage that declared: “If my people, who are called by my name, will 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.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
And so not only did they preach that the colonies needed to rise up against England but they also preached that the Colonists needed to spend time in fasting and prayer or else they would fail.
They believed that “… it was time for judgment to begin with the family of God…” 1 Peter 4:17
That was the message of the Black Regiment back in the beginning. And that continues to be the message for America to this day. The Church’s job is always to call people to repentance. The Church’s job is always to declare that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that EVERYONE must humble themselves before God and seek His will.
God has always called His people to confront their leaders with the need for righteousness.
• John the Baptist confronted King Herod about his immoral marriage.
• Jesus confronted the Pharisees about their hypocrisy.
• Peter confronted the Sanhedrin about their role in crucifying Christ.
Jesus said we need to be light and salt in a dark and foul tasting world. The church has been called to stand for God’s Holiness and righteousness in an unholy and unrighteous world.
And for nearly 200 years the church did that. Then in 1954, a Senator from Texas changed that. His name was Lyndon Baines Johnson and he passed an amendment to the tax code of that year. His objective was to silence his political opponents and anyone else who’d expose him for what he was. His amendment threatened non-profit organizations like churches who would attempt to speak out against politicians such as himself. AND from that day to this the church has increasingly backed off on immorality in politics.
I recently talked with a relative of mine who isn’t a Christian. She receives our church newsletter and some of the things I’d written there had upset her. These comments were political in nature (though I rarely deal with politics, I often rail against immorality in the politicians). She said that if I continued to speak out against certain kinds of immorality I might end up in jail. I told her I doubted that would happen any time soon… (PAUSE) but even if it were to happen, and the government were to make preaching against immorality illegal, then they’d probably have to arrest me to stop me. BECAUSE that’s what God has called me/church to do!!! And God forbid that we should ever cease standing for Holiness because we’re afraid!
God forbid we should cease preaching righteousness because we fear losing our tax exempt status of our buildings.
But Peter tells us that judgment needs to start with the Family of God. Repentance needs to start with us. Holiness needs to begin in our church and in our homes, in our own lives.
As Ephesians 5:3-8 tells us, “Among you (Christians) there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”
Live as Children of light. Why? Why is that so important?
1st – Because the world isn’t going to listen to hypocrites. The world knows what Jesus preached. The world understands what the church should stand for. But why would they listen to us if our lives aren’t any different than theirs? Why would they listen to us if we laugh at the same dirty jokes they do?
… if we watch the same immoral TV shows and movies they do?
… if we’re just as greedy and selfish and rude as they are?
… if on our Facebook, we insult others or talk about things good Christians shouldn’t.
Why should they listen to us?
If your life/mine – is no different than theirs - why should they change?
If our lives are no different, we may be paving the way for their eternity in hell.
So, first we need to apply Holiness to our own lives because the world doesn’t listen to hypocrites
AND 2nd – We need to be dedicated to holiness and righteousness because that may be the only thing that saves our nation from God’s judgment.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed lately but our nation has descended into a moral quagmire.
• You can’t pray in School
• You can’t bring a Bible to school.(Though you can take it into the prisons?)
• Christians have lost their jobs because they talk to others about Christ or let it be known they don’t approve of certain lifestyles.
• Some states are endorsing same-sex marriage.
• The American Psychiatric Society recently had a conference in Baltimore where many of the psychiatrists present said pedophilia was normal(http://www.pointofview.net/site/News2page=NewsArticle&id=17910&news_iv_ctrl=1201)
• And as we noted last week – New York banned God from the Ground Zero ceremonies
• And the list could go on and on and on….
It’s almost as if those in charge in America have decided to go out of their way to bring God’s judgment down on our nation. As we read in Ephesians 5 because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.
The Bible tells of us of nations who were destroyed for doing far less than this! What could be done to hold back God’s wrath? What could stay the hand of God’s judgment on our nation?
The Bible tells us WE can. By dedicating ourselves to personally being holy and righteous before God.
In Genesis 18, we read that God visited Abraham in the plains of Mamre, and told him “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” 18:20-21
Now, realizing that God intended to destroy these wicked cities, Abraham said “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it?” Genesis 18:23-24
The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Genesis 18:26
Then Abraham bargained with God, and asked God if He would spare the city for 40/ 30/ 20 and finally 10 righteous people in the city. And God said He’d spare the city if ONLY 10 righteous people lived there.
Cities back then were not as large as they are today. But Sodom was a major trade center and I’d suspect Sodom may have had as many as 2000 people living there. If that’s true… only ½ % of those living there needed to be holy for Sodom to be spared.
Glenn Beck recently said that if we could just get 10% of our leaders to make the right decisions – we can change this nation. Now, he may be right… but if we could just get ½ % of those living in America to live holy lives for Jesus – we could save our nation.
And that ½ % has to start with us.
CLOSE: The following words were written on the tomb of an Anglican bishop in the crypts of Westminster Abbey, “When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits, I dreamed of changing the world. As I grew older and wiser, I discovered the world would not change, so I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change only my country. But it too, seemed immovable. As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt, I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me, but alas, they would have none of it. And now as I lie on my deathbed. I suddenly realize that if I had only changed myself first, then by example I would have changed my family. From their inspiration and encouragement, I would then have been able to better my country, and who knows, I may have even changed the world.”
“… it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God…” 1 Peter 4:17
It’s time for God’s people to re-enlist in the Black Regiment for God.