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Apr 19

The Battle of Lexington – 240 Yrs Ago – Lessons for Us

Today, April 19th, is the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Lexington.

Once known as Patriot’s Day, this day has been viewed as the commencement of the American War for Independence. It is also the day that produced “the shot that was heard ‘round the world”. Paul Revere galloped his midnight ride late in the evening of April 18th. Yet, there is much about this day that has not been taught for over 100 years.

The deeper story of Lexington is a story about an unknown pastor, a small congregation, and how in the Providences of God the commencement of armed hostilities took place there.

Pastor Jonas Clark was a young man of 25 when he took his position as the pastor of the Church at Lexington in 1755 for the annual fee of 80 British pounds and 20 cords of wood. He settled into the country pastor’s vocation of farming and preaching to his flock.

But God was laying the groundwork for something more profound. It happened that Jonas Clark’s wife was a cousin to John Hancock. With Boston and Lexington being just a short distance away, Clark and Hancock interacted frequently on the ideas of self-government, freedom, and independence.

One historian remarked that it was hard to know who influenced who more. But, by the mid to late 1760s, Pastor Clark was preaching and teaching on these themes on a regular basis to his congregation, providing almost a decade of teaching on these topics up to 1775.

“Earnestly, yet without passion, he discussed from the pulpit the great questions at issue, and that powerful voice thundered forth the principles of personal, civil, and religious liberty, and the right of resistance, in tones as earnest and effective as it had the doctrine of salvation by the cross.

Long before it was certain that the quarrel must come to blows, he had so thoroughly indoctrinated his people with these great truths, that no better spot on the continent could have been found for the British first to try the terror of their arms, and make the experiment to subjugate the Colonists by force. His congregation was ripe for revolution, ready to fight and to die rather than yield to arbitrary force”

On the night of April 18th, John Hancock and Sam Adams were in his house. The British were all over the area. If Hancock and Adams were found they would be tried and likely face serve punishment or death. A watch of ten men were set up around the house.

The British were coming for the gunpowder and munitions at Lexington and Concord. By land or by sea would be communicated by Paul Revere and other messengers, but the real question of the evening was; “would the men of the church at Lexington fight?” The resolute answer of Jonas Clark is that they would. They had been trained for ten years for such a time as this. They would stand.

Early on the morning of April 19th, about 70 men of Lexington faced the oncoming march of 1200 to 1500 British troops. The small band was determined not to fire first, but to provide what resistance they could.

 

The British captain yelled, “ye villains, ye rebels, disperse; damn you, disperse!” A shot was fired in the air. A command was given to the British troops “fire! By God, fire!” A cloud of smoke. Eight men were killed, ten wounded. Observers said it was a divine miracle that not more were killed or wounded.

The patriots fell back and the British marched on to Concord. By this time the people of Concord had been able to disperse and conceal much of their public stores of gunpowder and munitions.

But meanwhile, word of the morning of Lexington was traveling across the roads, paths, and fields and patriots were rushing to the aid of their communities. The British did not know the hornets nest they had kicked.

The British began a hasty and fearful retreat back to Boston as the patriots pursued them with a fury.

By the end of the day the colonial loss totaled 49 killed, 34 wounded and 5 missing. The enemy’s losses in killed, wounded, and missing was about 300.

In review of that day;

“It was to a congregation educated by such a man that Providence allowed to be entrusted the momentous events of the 19th of April, events which were to decide more than the fate of a continent and that of civil liberty the world over. 

"No single individual." says a distinguished man, "probably did so much to educate the people up to that point of intelligence, firmness, and courage, as their honored and beloved pastor."

If he had been opposed to resistance, or an advocate of timorous, non-committal measures, where would have been the fiery cross that flew from limit to limit of the thirteen Colonies, and set the hearts of men on fire, and made the shout, " to arms ! to arms !" roll like thunder over the land!”

Indeed, the skirmish at Lexington by the end of the day had become a thunderclap heard round the world.

What lessons can we take from this for today?

  1. God is at work behind the scenes in ways that we may not see or understand. We may not see it at the time, but He is at work in the affairs of men.
  2. Education in personal, civil, and religious liberty is key. These principles and ideas need to be taught and embraced widely if we are to be a free people and to defend our liberty
  3. Everyday people make a big difference. The unknown heroes of that day who with courage and boldness took a stand set into motion a revolution that would change the world. We are called to do the same.
  4. Pastors, we need you today. Where are such men as Jonas Clark? With almost every institution failing, we need the pulpits of the church to be ablaze with the preaching and teaching of character, righteousness, freedom, liberty, sacrifice, and the power of the gospel of Christ.
  5. Take a stand. Because the men of Lexington stood, others rallied to their cause. It is just as true today. Liberty is worth fighting for.

Above all, keep in mind that the battle is not yet over. Not a day passes without the struggle for liberty beginning anew. The guns of Lexington resound today as loudly as they did 240 years ago.

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