On the evening of October 1, 1835, the congregation slowly gathered for the sermon. It was “open carry” in this small town, and all the “pew sitters” brandished their weapons. The rambunctious crowd slowly settled down as the beloved elderly preacher took his place in front. They all knew Reverend W.P Smith as the local Methodist minister. He had officiated the weddings and burials of their families and friends. Rev Smith was one of them. He also knew the tragedy of war, and was a combat veteran of the Battle of New Orleans. Having Pastor Smith speak to them was comforting and encouraging. You see, this was no ordinary service. The next day, this “congregation” would attack the Mexican army.
Gonzales, Texas, is located where the Guadalupe and San Marcos Rivers converge, southeast of Seguin. Since 1825, it had served as the capital of De Witt’s colony and was named after the former Governor of Coahuila. In many ways, it was a forgettable community with no national recognition. But there was an unrest there, that stirred the hearts of the common man for freedom. This small town provided the spark that was needed to launch the Texas revolution for independence.
Years before this day, the Mexican army had given the town a cannon to protect itself from Indian attacks. But as the Texans became more militant against the Mexican government, they demanded that the town of Gonzales return the cannon. When they refused, the Mexican Army came to take it back. The town had united around the cannon, and were prepared to fight for it and their freedom. With tears, Naomi De Witt cut a large piece of silk out of her wedding dress to serve as a banner to unite the community. The new flag was a white field without a border. In the center was a drawing of a cannon, and directly over the cannon a five pointed star. Under the cannon were the defiant words: “COME AND TAKE IT.”
As the aged minister thumbed his Bible, there was a sense of destiny among all that were present on that historic evening. Though history did not record Pastor Smith’s exact text, it could have been Psalm 118:5 - “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free.” Or it could have been Galatians 5:13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” We do know that the focus of his sermon was the liberty recently achieved in the 1776 American Revolution, and the struggle of the colonies to be free of the bondage of Britain.
At just the right time in the message, Pastor Smith inspired his warrior congregation with these words, “the same blood that animated the hearts of our ancestors in ’76 still flows in our veins!” Can you feel the surge of revolutionary fervor as this Texan Army rose up to do battle? Throughout the fight for freedom in Texas, you will find the respect for God’s Word and the love of freedom serving as the driving force of our Lone Star heroes.
When that cannon shot scrap iron at the enemy, the “Lexington of the West” catapulted Texas history into a whole new chapter. God and Texas was on the lips and in the hearts of our leaders. May we do the same!