‘There is a time to preach and a time to fight’ – John Peter Muhlenberg via American Minute
by Bill Federer
He preached a message on Ecclesiastes 3:1:”For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
He closed his message by saying:
“In the language of the Holy Writ, there is a time for all things. There is a time to preach and a time to fight. And now is the time to fight.”
This was John Peter Gabriel Muhlenburg, a 30 year old member of the Virginia House of Burgesses…and a pastor.
At the end of his sermon, January 21, 1776, John Peter Muhlenburg threw off his clerical robes to reveal the uniform of an officer in the Continental Army.
Drum began to roll, men kissed their wives, then walked down the aisle to enlist.
The next day, Pastor Muhlenberg led 300 men of his church to marched off and join General Washington’s Continental Army as the 8th Virginia Regiment.
John Peter Muhlenberg was born OCTOBER 1, 1746, and he died the same day sixty-one years later, OCTOBER 1, 1807.
As a youth, he lived with relatives in Germany from 1763-1767, and returned to America to finish his schooling at the Academy of Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania).
He served Lutheran congregations, though he was ordained as an Anglican minister, as was the requirement in Colonial Virginia.
John Peter Muhlenberg heard Patrick Henry’s famous speech, “Give me liberty or give me death,” in 1775, and was moved to enlist.
General George Washington personally asked him to raised soldiers and serve as their Colonel.
John Peter’s brother, Fredrick Augustus Mulenberg, was a Lutheran minister in New York who opposed John Peter joining Washington’s army:
“You have become too involved in matters which, as a preacher, you have nothing whatsoever to do…”
Then the British bombarded New York and burned Fredrick’s church right in front of him, resulting in Fredrick joining the patriotic cause.
John Peter Muhlenberg fought until the end of the war, being promoted to the rank of Major-General.
He endured the freezing winter of Valley Forge and saw action at Brandywine, Germantown, Monmouth, and Stonypoint.
He helped force British General Cornwallis to surrender at Yorktown.
After the war, John Peter Muhlenburg was elected to Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council in 1784, and then Vice-President of Pennsylvania in 1787.
In 1789, he was elected a Representative to the first U.S. Congress.
In 1790, he was a member of the Pennsylvania’s State Constitutional Convention and in 1793, was the first founder of the Democratic-Republican Societies.
John’s father, Henry Muhlenberg, was a founder of the Lutheran Church in America.
John’s brother, Fredrick Augustus Mulenberg, was also elected to the U.S. Congress and became the first Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Both ordained pastors, John and Frederick Muhlenberg served in the first session of the U.S. Congress which passed the First Amendment, making sure that the new Federal Government would never “prohibit the free exercise” of their religion, nor take away the freedom of speech, press, the right of the people peaceably to assemble, or petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
John Peter Muhlenberg was elected a U.S. Senator in 1801.
He served as a Trustee of the University of Pennsylvania, which honored him with a statue.
In 1889, the State of Pennsylvania placed a statue of John Peter Muhlenberg in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall.
His statue is in front of the Shenendoah County Courthouse.
John Peter Gabriel Muhlenburg was memorialized in a poem by Thomas Buchanan Read, titled “The Rising,” published inWilliam Holmes McGuffey Fifth Eclectic Reader(Cincinnati & New York: Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co., revised ed., 1879, Lesson LXV, pp. 200-204):
…Within its shade of elm and oak
In vain their feet with loitering tread
The pastor rose: the prayer was strong;
He spoke of wrongs too long endured,
The stirring sentences he spake
And, rising on his theme’s broad wing,
Even as he spoke, his frame renewed
Rose, as it seemed, a shoulder higher;
When suddenly his mantle wide
When Berkley cried, “Cease, traitor! Cease!
The other shouted, “Nay, not so,
In this the dawn of Freedom’s day
And now before the open door-
So loud and clear, it seemed the ear
And every word its ardor flung
“Who dares”-this was the patriot’s cry,
A hundred hands flung up reply,
In Washington, D.C., at the corner of Connecticut Ave. and Ellicott St., there is a bronze memorial to John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, with the inscription:
JOHN PETER GABRIEL MUHLENBERG
…THE “FIGHTING PARSON OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION”
American Minute is a registered trademark. Permission is granted to forward. reprint or duplicate with acknowledgement tovwww.AmericanMinute.com