Part V: The Story of Pastor Peter Muhlenberg
By Dr. Bill Miller
This is the final article in a series remembering the role of the “Black Regiment” in the history of America. The Bible says that liberty comes from the presence of God (2 Corinthians 3:17), and it was liberty that the people of America wanted with all their hearts. If we are open to giving God the credit for the creation of this exceptional country, it follows that He would assign a seemingly impossible role to the people who were leading and nurturing His churches. By the end of the Revolutionary War, it was the British military and King George himself who blamed America’s black-robed Pastors for the loss of their colonies.
How could pastors have made such an impact? To start with, they provided Bible-based morality for opposing British authority, which reassured average American Christians that revolution was justified in the sight of God. Pastors were also the most effective at recruiting troops for the militias and General Washington’s regular army. It was they, as well, who led their people into the battles by day and ministered to the wounded and dying at night. It was indeed the “Black Regiment” that held the new country together until American military capability could grow enough to get the ultimate victory over the strongest military power in the world.
This month we remember one of the most famous of the “Black Regiment,” Peter Muhlenberg, who became the Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Woodstock, Virginia, in 1772 at the age of 25. Christian historians say he not only taught his congregation what the Bible says about salvation but also what it says about liberty. He preached that liberty is a God-given right and that it was the government’s responsibility to protect and defend that right for its people.
In 1774, Pastor Muhlenberg was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he became friends with Patrick Henry and George Washington. The patriot preachers of that day saw no contradiction in mixing politics and religion as the Lord led. Consequently, Pastor Muhlenberg was present in St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday, March 23, 1775, to hear Patrick Henry’s famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech. From the moment of his friend’s passionate address, Pastor Muhlenberg began preparation for a significant change in his life.
On January 12, 1776, General Washington made him a Colonel over the just-authorized 8th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. On Sunday morning, January 21, Pastor Muhlenberg came to his pulpit to deliver a farewell sermon. The church was filled with an overflow crowd because of great anticipation that something momentous was about to happen. At the end of his impassioned message, he removed his black robe to reveal his new Colonel’s uniform and stepped down from the pulpit to greet the people. That day almost 300 men enlisted under his banner and followed this special Pastor into history.
He became one of the most influential officers in the Continental Army, rising to the rank of Major General and becoming a courageous member of General Washington’s inner circle. He led many men into many battles where they always fought bravely and tenaciously. One battle, in particular, is historical. The Continental Army had trapped British General Cornwallis in Yorktown, Virginia, with the French Navy’s help. Ultimately, it was General Muhlenberg’s troops that broke through the key British defensive position leading to their surrender on October 19, 1781, and the effective end of the Revolutionary War. General Muhlenberg became a celebrated war hero, and though he never returned to the pulpit, his story represents the very essence of the “Black Regiment” and American exceptionalism.
Submitted by Dr. Bill Miller, Granbury, Texas. Dr. Bill is the founder of Make A Way Ministries, a nationally recognized credit and financial counseling ministry. He has written hundreds of articles and more than 40 books over the past thirty-plus years, eleven of which are presently available on Amazon. In late 2018, Dr. Miller published an important book on the subject of national border integrity called The Truth about Open Borders explaining from Scripture God’s views on borders. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 817-533-9499.