JULY 4, 1776, some 238 years ago, the Declaration of Independence was approved and the battle was on. This world famous document — today studied daily around the world– for the first time declared to a watchful world that the only true way to be free and independent from the chains of powerful men was to be dependent upon the Creator of the universe. This firm reliance in providence is what gave the Founders the resolve and courage to set forth upon the greatest journey in modern history.
In patriotic boldness John Hancock signed first, saying, “The price on my head has just doubled.” Rumor has it that Hancock wrote so big as to allow the King to read it without his glasses. Benjamin Franklin while signing said “We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately.”
These men knew the risks to not only their fortunes but to their very lives. They risked it all. Some gave all. Are we today cut from that cloth? Are there any George Washingtons among us today?
The original draft of the Declaration boldly declared slavery an abomination. However, two southern colonies prevented the language from remaining, and thus without unanimous consent, the language was removed upon the final draft. Make no mistake, the Founding Fathers, some even as slave holders themselves, were true abolitionists.
“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” — Thomas Jefferson
“Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” — John Adams
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” — Ben Franklin
These three men would also comprise a committee set forth by the Continental Congress to come up with ideas for the Great Seal of the United States of America. Today that final design can be found on the back of the one dollar bill. However, the very first design included a depiction of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea (following the smoke and fire of God) with Pharaoh and his army being swallowed up by the rushing waters. The motto circling the image declared, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
The Founding Fathers, being the children of the Great Awakening era, knew their Bibles and knew the significance of God’s providence in history. They studied philosophy, they studied government. They knew that for government to truly be an instrument of the people, by the people and for the people, it must begin with faith in God. Only a virtuous people will be good public servants. These rulers would be of their own, choosing from among themselves.
The liberty bell in Philadelphia — cracked during the revolution — declares this truth. It holds the inscription of Leviticus 25:10 “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
Today we are told by an all powerful IRS that the churches and pulpits of America are no place for political rhetoric. Churches today face fines and loss of non-profit status if they dare speak out on their view of politics and government. It wasn’t always this way.
Leading up to the revolution was a group of patriot soldiers known as the black robe regiment. These men were the patriot clergymen who gave rousing sermons to their congregations and to town hall meetings held in their churches all across the colonies. These speeches were vital and instrumental in getting the word out to the people, encouraging and educating the colonists about the need for revolution if freedom was indeed their desire.
Today we call this networking and mobilization. It has become the foundation upon which success is achieved in both our personal and professional lives.
These black robed clergy knew that without God — life, liberty and the pursuits of man — are all truly nothing more than what we now refer to as “survival of the fittest.”
Soon after the Declaration, the Continental Congress assigned a paid Chaplain to each Regiment of George Washington’s continental army. Washington himself asked all soldiers to attend religious services and prayed himself for the “blessing and protection of Heaven” and to “endeavour so to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.”
We are a nation adrift — we’ve been lost at sea for so long most no longer remember when or where we set out on this journey and certainly have no clue what-so-ever on where we are headed. We are like lost children who have forgotten their parents and who only know but where they stand.
Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence: 17 lost their fortunes, 12 had their homes destroyed, 5 became prisoners of war, 1 had two sons imprisoned on the British starving ship Jersey, 1 had a son killed in battle, 1 had his wife die from harsh prison treatment and 9 of the signers died during the War.
When Samuel Adams signed the Declaration, he said: “We have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
John Adams prophesied: “I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” Continuing he said, “I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration…Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory…Posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even though we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.”
Today we face a broken world, divided people, discontent, fear, political crisis, war, famine, moral depravity, licentiousness, covetousness and selfishness beyond comprehension.
Today I wonder if we do still believe that all are created equal. Do we acknowledge that they have a Creator? Do we still believe in unalienable Rights? While we pursue our wants and pleasures and so-called happiness, do we as a people still believe in Life or Liberty?
Do we truly still hold these Truths to be self-evident?
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