Subject: America’s Christian Heritage – “No King but Jesus!”
Revelation 11:15 “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”
Can you name the battle cry of World War II? If you said, “Remember Pearl Harbor”, that’s right. How about World War I? Maybe a little harder to remember (we forget so quickly): “Remember the Lusitania”, where the sinking of this civilian luxury liner by a German U-boat rallied Allied forces against Germany. The Texas war of independence? “Remember the Alamo”. Now, what about the American Revolution? What was the battle cry that rallied our founding fathers against King George III of Britain?
The three battle cries mentioned above are taught to our children in schools across America. When it comes to this nation’s very first battle cry, the Battle Cry of the American Revolution, most people don’t know there even was one. It has been successfully removed from our nation’s classrooms. The story is worth telling.
On April 18, 1775, John Adams and John Hancock were at the home of Reverend Jonas Clarke. British General Gage announced to the colonists that if they would lay down their arms, all would be forgiven, except for Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were singled out as the instigators. That same night, Paul Revere arrived at Reverend Clarke’s home to warn them that the Redcoats were approaching.
The very next morning British Major Pitcairn shouted to an assembled regiment of Minutemen; “Disperse, ye villains, lay down your arms in the name of George the Sovereign King of England.” Reverend Clarke responded with what is known as the Battle Cry of the American Revolution: “We recognize no Sovereign but God and no King but Jesus.” Reverend Clarke became the leader of the militia in Lexington.
This nation is founded on Jesus Christ Himself. As another great patriot, Patrick Henry, boldly declared: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians: not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
But the founding of America as a nation of people loyal to Jesus Christ wasn’t invented there. This battle cry of “No king but Jesus” is taken from the very founding of the First Century church, and is recorded for us by a secular Roman governor of the region of Bithynia, whose name was Plinius Secundus. In 112AD, he wrote a letter to the Roman Emperor Trajan that explains how he dealt with Christians who refused to bow to Caesar as king because they recognized only one Lord and king: Jesus Christ. Here’s his letter, preserved for history, to remind us that we as Americans owe the founding of our nation to the same Person who founded the first church – the Lord and Savior of men, Jesus Christ:
“Having never been present at any trials of the Christians, I am unacquainted with the methods and limits to be observed either in examining or punishing them, whether any difference is to be made on account of age, or no distinction allowed between the youngest and the adult. Whether repentance admits to a pardon, or if a man has been once a Christian it avails him nothing to recant; whether the mere profession of Christianity, albeit without the commission of crimes, or only the charges associated therewith, are punishable. In the meantime, the method I have observed towards those who have been denounced to me as Christians is this: I interrogated them whether they were in fact Christians; if they confessed it, I repeated the question twice, adding the threat of capital punishment; if they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. A placard was put up, without any signature, accusing a large number of persons by name. Those who denied they were, or had ever been, Christians, and who repeated after me an invocation to the gods, and who offered formal worship with libation and frankincense, before your statue, which I had ordered to be brought into court for that purpose, together with those of other gods, and who finally cursed Christ – none of which, it is said, those who are really Christians can be forced into performing – these I thought it proper to discharge. Others who were named by the anonymous informer at first confessed themselves Christians, and then denied it; true, they said, they had been of that persuasion but they had quitted it, some 3 years, others many years, and a few as much as 25 years previously. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, and they cursed Christ.”
Why were the early Christians the target of persecution by Rome? The answer is the same as why early America became the target by Britain. Because both recognized no king but Jesus.