But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. – Romans 5:8-10
Peter Miller pastored a Baptist church during the American Revolution at Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Coming to the area in the 1730’s, Peter originally pastored Bethany Church, a German Reformed congregation. At the request of his friend Thomas Jefferson, he translated the Declaration of Independence into seven languages to help the world understand hat was happening in the colonies. He was well-known and deeply respected.
Michael Witman, a deacon at Bethany church, was deeply troubled and angered at Miller’s exit to become a Baptist preacher. Witman routinely harassed Miller and his congregation. He ridiculed them. He spread lies about them. One time Witman hit Miller in the face; on another occasion, Witman spit on him. Miller did not retaliate or respond. In fact, he never said anything bad about Witman’s abuse… he just took it.
Witman owned the local hotel and tavern. One evening during the winter of 1777-1778, two men came in to stay the night. Outspoken as always, Witman began expressing his loyalty to the British crown to his guests, without realizing they were American spies. Although he tried to escape by jumping out a window, Witman was captured and tried for treason before Gen. George Washington. He was sentenced to death on the gallows.
When Miller learned of Witman’s sentence, he grabbed his cane and walked sixty miles through the snow to Valley Forge, seeking a pardon for Witman from Washington. Washington told him that his friend would have to die.
“My friend!” said Miller. “I have not a worse enemy living than that man.”
Washington was stunned, changed his mind, and wrote out a pardon. Witman’s property would be confiscated, but his life would be spared. Miller hurried to West Chester, fifteen miles away, the site of Witman’s imminent execution.
Miller arrived as Witman was being led to the scaffold. When Witman saw him, he said, “There is old Peter Miller. He has walked all the way from Ephrata to have his revenge gratified today seeing me hung.”
He was wrong. Miller shouted out to stop the execution, waving the pardon document. Observers later reported that the two men embraced each other. The former enemies walked home to Ephrata as friends for the rest of their lives.
Miller understood the love of God.
God sent His Son into the world to die… while we were enemies. Unbelievable love… demonstrated forever as part of the Christmas Revolution!
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