This Day in Presbyterian History:
The Rebel’s High Priest
On this day of June 23, 1780, an American Revolutionary Battle took place in Springfield, New Jersey. Ordinarily we might think that this has no place in a historical devotional, but it does, because of the presence of the Rev. James Caldwell, pastor of the Elizabethtown Presbyterian Church.
Rev Caldwell was known as “the Rebel’s High Priest.” His congregation in present day Elizabeth, New Jersey, had provided forty line officers to the American Continental army. And Caldwell himself was the chaplain of Col. Elias Dayton’s Regiment in George Washington’s army.
This military campaign by the British and their German Hessian compatriots was a major push into New Jersey. They had a total of 6000 men. George Washington’s army, faced with diminishing supplies and desertions of men, had only about 3500, and not all of them at Springfield, New Jersey. So they were outnumbered 5 to 1 in their battles.
At the key point outside of Springfield, N.J., the American troops were out of wadding, the paper necessary to fire their muskets accurately. All along the line, there came cries of “Wadding! Give us wadding.” Rev. Caldwell was then riding up on his horse to encourage his men when he heard the cry for wadding. Riding back to the Springfield Presbyterian church and manse, he gathered the psalm hymn books, and threw them to the men. Referring to English hymn writer Isaac Watts, he called out “Give ’em Watts, boys, give ’em Watts boys.”
That line of “given them Watts, boys” has become the symbol of the forgotten battle of Springfield. The British eventually retreated from the battlefield, making the battle of Springfield an American victory. British troops never again entered New Jersey, with this battle being the last one up north in the Colonies.
Words to Live By: Rev. Caldwell would be killed a little over a year later, just as his wife had been killed at this battle. The sacrifices of all our American Revolutionary forefathers involved much sacrifice. The question naturally arises, what are we willing to give up for the sake of the victory of the gospel over the enemies of the faith?
Through the Scriptures: 2 Kings 4 – 6
Through the Standards: Rules to rightly understand the moral law
WLC 99 — “What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the ten commandments?
A. For the right understanding of the ten commandments, these rules are to be observed: 1. That the law is perfect, and binds every one to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience for ever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin. 2. That it is spiritual, and so reaches the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures. 3. That one and the same thing, in diverse respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments. 4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included. 5. That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times. 6. That under one sin or duty, all of the other kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto. 7. That which is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound according to our places to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places. 8. That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.”
WLC 100 — ” What special things are we to consider in the ten commandments?
A. We are to consider in the ten commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce them.”