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The Power of the Church: John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg Fight Like a Man or Die Like a Dog

By Rick Williams
May 01, 2004
“And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon .” — Is. 39:7

God has given us a rich Christian heritage in America and one that is full of exemplary men, to whom we can look for examples and encouragement in wicked times like these. One worthy example, well worth studying, was the Lutheran Pastor, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg.

Muhlenberg was born the eldest of eleven children1 on October 1, 1746. His father, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, was the principal organizer and patriarch of American Lutheranism. Young Peter studied theology under his father’s tutelage. He was ordained as a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1768 and pastored several small flocks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In 1772, Muhlenberg accepted a pastorate in the Northern part of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, in the small village of Woodstock where many Germans had migrated.2 What happened there, in January of 1776, should steel the nerves of every Christian in America today.

Muhlenberg had been elected to the Virginia legislature in 1774, and was exposed to the growing rumbles for independence. Muhlenberg was also present at St. John’s Church in Richmond when Patrick Henry shocked the assembled multitude with his “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech. As Muhlenberg listened to Henry, his pulse quickened and his heart sensed the voice of God. Many who heard the words of Patrick Henry, including Muhlenberg, were being moved by winds not of this world. Christ was marching through history and Muhlenberg did not want to be left behind. George Washington entreated Muhlenberg to join the cause for American independence. It was not a hard sell. Muhlenberg enlisted in the Continental Army under George Washington and was commissioned a colonel. He returned to his humble congregation in Woodstock with a great burden on his shoulders and a greater fire burning in his heart.

Reverend Muhlenberg mounted his pulpit on a cold January morning in 1776 and instructed those in the congregation to turn in their Bibles to Ecclesiastes chapter 3. He looked solemnly over the men, women, boys, and girls before him and began to read verses one through eight.

Muhlenberg recounted the tyranny of King George, the Stamp Act, and the events taking place in Boston and other cities in the Colonies. His voice rose and filled with emotion as the injustice of it all assaulted his sense of righteousness. The congregation was spellbound. Muhlenberg closed with these words:

“In the language of the Holy Writ, there is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray, but the time for me to preach has passed away.”

Then, in a voice that shook the rafters of the church, Reverend Muhlenberg trumpeted,

“And there is a time to fight, and that time has now come!”

With that, Muhlenberg threw off his clerical robes to reveal the full dress uniform of a Militia Colonel. The effect was dramatic. With mouths wide open, the shocked congregation watched as Muhlenberg stepped into the aisle of the church and ordered a drummer at the church door to beat for fresh recruits. While the church bells tolled and the news of this most unusual service spread throughout the small hamlet, and the surrounding countryside, the typically quiet country church turned into a hub of activity and excitement. Before the day’s end, Colonel Muhlenberg had enlisted nearly 300 men in his regiment. The 8th Virginia would become known as the German Regiment.

Muhlenberg would soon mount the same white horse that had so often carried him on pastoral duties and lead his regiment to fight for the liberty in which he so ardently believed. When a relative criticized Muhlenberg for abandoning his church, Muhlenberg responded with the following words:

I am a clergyman, it is true, but I am a member of society as well as the poorest layman, and my liberty is as dear to me as to any man. Shall I then sit still and enjoy myself at home when the best blood of the continent is spilling? Heaven forbid it! Do you think if America should be conquered I should be safe? Far from it. And would you not sooner fight like a man than die like a dog?

Muhlenberg would go on to “fight like a man,” become a war hero, and rise to the rank of major-general. After the war, Muhlenberg became active in politics and from 1785-1788 served as vice president of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania under Benjamin Franklin. He served three terms in Congress and was also elected a United States Senator.

John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg serves as an excellent example to teach us that the church cannot sit still while spiritual blood is spilling. Dying like a dog is not a nice way to go.

Lessons to Learn
As we witness our nation reaping the whirlwind of a feminized church and culture, it is important we remember that early in the history of our republic, the vast majority of churches were led by men, like Muhlenberg, who by today’s neutered standards, would likely be yanked from their pulpits and immersed in sensitivity training. The type of manly and godly leadership exhibited by Muhlenberg are just not palatable to the effeminate3 culture that now rules American political and theological thought.

Sadly, many of our churches are today populated by spiritual crossdressers who “love this present world” more than they love liberty or the Christ who gives it. These poor sexless creatures cower in the shadows while history passes them by. We would all profit by following Muhlenberg’s example and donning our spiritual uniforms. Crossdressers don’t make good soldiers.

Notes

1. One of Muhlenberg’s brothers, Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg, became the first Speaker of the House of Representatives.

2. Muhlenberg could preach fluently in either German or English, and often did both to benefit his mixed congregations.

3. The word “effeminate” is not in Microsoft Word’s thesaurus. Our feminized culture has become very pervasive.


Topics: American History, Biography

Rick Williams

Rick Williams is a businessman, writer, and publisher (VirginiaGentleman.com). He is the author of The Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen, published by Pelican Publishing (ISBN 9781589803107) and co-authored Christian Business Legends published by the Business Reform Foundation (BusinessReform.com). He does not advocate secession but he would like to be left alone.

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