On September 8 the Reverend Peter J. Marshall died suddenly of a massive heart attack while working out in a gym. His funeral was held on September 13 at a church in his hometown of Orleans, Massachusetts, located on Cape Cod. He was 70 years old.
He was the son of two very famous Christian parents. His father, Dr. Peter Marshall, was a Scottish immigrant who came to this country in 1927. He quickly became recognized as one of Christendom’s most eloquent preachers. He became pastor of the “Church of the Presidents” in Washington, D.C. — The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Later he was appointed twice to serve as the Chaplain to the United States Senate. He died of a heart attack in 1949 at the age of 46.
Following his death, his wife, Catherine, wrote a best selling book about his life that was titled, The Man Called Peter (1951). The book was converted into both a play and an Oscar-nominated movie (1955). Catherine continued writing, producing more than 20 books. Many of these were compilations of her husband’s sermons and prayers. But her most successful books were a series of novels, the best known of which was Christy, published in 1967.
Peter John Marshall emerged from the shadow of his famous parents 32 years ago in 1977 when he published his seminal study of the Christian heritage of our nation, The Light and the Glory, 1492-1793. This book went through 24 printings before a revised and expanded second edition was published in 2009. He subsequently wrote two sequels, From Sea to Shining Sea, 1787-1837, and Sounding Forth the Trumpet, 1837-1860. He was working on the fourth book in the series, one about the Civil War, when he died.
After corresponding with Peter for several years, I had the privilege of getting to know him personally earlier this year when our ministry hosted a conference in the Dallas area that featured him speaking on the Christian heritage of our nation and the current challenge to it. We also shot three television programs with him which we put together in a video album called “America’s Christian Heritage.”
During the time I spent with him, I was greatly impressed with his commitment to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, and I was blessed by his passion for the Christian heritage of our nation. He proved to be an eloquent prophetic spokesman, calling this nation back to its Judeo-Christian roots and constantly warning that if we did not repent, God was going to pour out His wrath upon us.
When he returned home, he called and asked if I would provide him with an endorsement that he could post on his website. I was delighted to do so. Here’s what I wrote: “The Reverend Peter Marshall is a prophetic voice God has raised up to remind this nation of its spiritual heritage, its blessings and its purpose, while calling the nation to repentance before it is too late.”
Each week, Peter would post an essay on his website about our nation. The essays were always insightful and powerful. They never minced words.
The last essay he posted before his death was concerned with the mosque to be built at ground zero in New York City. He blasted the mosque as an exercise in “moral blindness.” He said it is nothing more than “the planting of the Islamic flag on the site of an Islamic victory.” He emphasized that the building of the mosque at that site is an act of moral indecency, equivalent to the Japanese building a Shinto shrine adjacent to the Pearl Harbor monument. He pointed out that President Obama had defended the constitutional right of Muslims to build the mosque, but he had refused to comment on the moral propriety of doing so. “That is simply moral cowardice,” he observed.
The week before, his essay was titled “A Time to Stand Up and Speak Up.” In it he bemoaned the downward spiral of our society into paganism. He concluded the essay with these words:
People need to find the courage to stand up and fight for the legacy given to us by our forefathers, even if it costs us our job or a recommendation for grad school or acceptance by the family, or whatever.
One courageous person can make a great impact.
Settle it in your heart, Christian, that you are not going to sit idly by and watch our beloved America slide into a secular swamp of sin and chaos.
Stand up and speak up. Do it for the Lord. Do it for your children and grandchildren. As the hymn says: “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”
It can certainly be said of Peter Marshall that he was faithful to the Lord and to the heritage that was bequeathed to him by his mother and father. The voice of Peter Marshall is going to be sorely missed.
The Peter Marshall website can be found at