During the days of the Revolutionary war, Rev. Peter Miller served as the pastor of Bethany Reformed Church in Ephrata, PA. Later he left the German Reformed church to become a Seven Day Baptist minister. This move provoked the ire of one man, Michael Widman.
Miller was a talented and highly educated man. Thomas Jefferson actually requested that Miller translate the Declaration of Independence into seven different languages.
Michael Widman was also a resident of the town of Ephrata and he developed a hatred for Rev. Miller. Widman was a deacon at the Reformed Church and Rev. Peter’s withdrawal caused a notorious and frequently noticed hatred toward Rev. Miller. Widman’s abuse included punching him and spitting on him. Miller never spoke an evil word against his enemy.
Mr Widman owned a tavern in Ephrata and one evening was loudly boasting of his loyalty to the British cause. Little did he know there were two American spies in the tavern that night who heard his treasonous words. The men attempted an arrest and Widman escaped out a back door.
Widman ran to the British army looking for protection and offered to spy for them. Later Widman was caught, court-martialed and convicted of treason against the colonies and sentenced to die by hanging.
Rev. Miller was personally acquainted with General George Washington, as Washington had first met him at the Ephrata Cloisters. After Miller had heard about the sentencing of his personal antagonist, he arose early in the morning and walked seventy miles through the snow to find General Washington at Valley Forge, PA. After Washington heard Miller’s request for a pardon for Widman his response was a firm no for his “friend.” “My friend!” said Miller. “I have not a worse enemy living than that man.”
“What?” exclaimed Washington. “You have walked seventy miles to save the life of your enemy? That, in my judgement, puts the matter in a different light. I will grant you his pardon.”
From the scaffold Widman remarked, “There is old Peter Miller who has walked from Ephrata to have his revenge gratified today seeing me hung.”
Rev. Miller raised the pardon in the air and commanded the execution to halt. Miller and Widman walked together back to Ephrata as friends and neighbors.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. –Jesus
Happy Father’s Day to every one of you who are fathers! May we “raise the pardon in the air” to all thse around us who are in need of forgivenss and our love.
2 thoughts on “General George Washington Learns About Forgiveness”
Rev Miller acted biblically snd I fear I may not have been so gracious… the thought still lingers, altho they became friends after the pardon did Widman remain treasonous?
Happy Fathers Day Steve!
I have never heard this story. It is so, SO powerful! And challenging — what would I do for a friend, or “enemy”, for that matter/?
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