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Posts Tagged ‘Independence Day’

 

We hear it again and again, especially this time of year: few of our founding fathers were Christians, many were Deists. That is, they believed God created the universe and set everything in motion, but he does not participate in the affairs of humanity.

Those who perpetuate such statements are ignoring a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

Last Independence Day we noted thirteen signers of the Declaration of Independence who clearly put their faith in Jesus. Their quotes from documents, letters, and last testaments offer the proof. You can access that post at Faith in a Participatory God.

This post provides proof-of-faith for ten more men who signed the Declaration.

Some of the quotes are lengthy; feel free to skim read!

 

 

Josiah Bartlett, while serving as governor of New Hampshire, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792, calling for the people to:

“confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord” (1).

 

 

Samuel Chase, while serving as a circuit court judge in Pennsylvania, spoke to the defendant, John Fries, during his trial for treason, 1799-1800:

“I expect that you are a Christian; and as such I address you. Be assured my guilty and unhappy fellow-citizen, that without serious repentance of all your sins, you cannot expect happiness in the world to come; and to your repentance you must add faith and hope in the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ. These are the only terms on which pardon and forgiveness are promised” (2).

 

 

Samuel Huntington, while serving as governor of Connecticut, issued a Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer and Humiliation, March 9, 1791, including these remarks:

It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3).

 

 

Richard Henry Lee, while serving as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in 1774, joined Samuel Adams and Daniel Roberdeau to recommend:

“Thursday, the 18th of December next, for solemn thanksgiving and praise, that with one heart and one voice the good people may express the grateful feelings of their hearts, and consecrate themselves to the service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere acknowledgments and offerings, they may join the penitent confession of their manifold sins, whereby they had forfeited every favor, and their humble and earnest supplication that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance” (4).

 

 

Philip Livingston, in his last will and testament, wrote:

“First, I do resign my soul to the great most mighty and most merciful God Who gave it, in hopes, through mercy alone by the merits of Jesus Christ, to have a joyful resurrection to life eternal, and my body I commit to the earth to be buried decently and without ostentation” (5). (Dated May 18, 1778, and on file at the Family History Center in Texas.)

 

 

Thomas McKean, while serving as a judge, presented the following in a public address given to the defendant who had just been sentenced to death:

“It behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds [Acts 8:22]; to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins [1 Kings 8:50]; to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow—those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter [Ephesians 2:12]” (6).

 

 

George Read, known as “the Father of Delaware,” wrote “the first edition of her laws,” and the Constitution of the State. The requirements, stated in the Delaware Constitution, for holding office include:

“DELAWARE 1776. Article XXII. Every person who shall be chosen a member of either house, or appointed to any office or place of trust…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: “I, ________, do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed for evermore; and I do acknowledge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration” (7).

 

 

Richard Stockton, from his last will and testament:

“I think it proper here not only to subscribe to the entire belief of the great and leading doctrines of the Christian religion, such as the Being of God, the universal defection and depravity of human nature, the divinity of the Person and the completeness of the redemption purchased by the blessed Savior, the necessity of the operations of the Divine Spirit, of Divine Faith, accompanied with an habitual virtuous life, and the universality of the divine Providence, but also . . . that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; that the way of life held up in the Christian system is calculated for the most complete happiness that can be enjoyed in this mortal state; that all occasions of vice and immorality is injurious either immediately or consequentially, even in this life; that as Almighty God hath not been pleased in the Holy Scriptures to prescribe any precise mode in which He is to be publicly worshiped, all contention about it generally arises from want of knowledge or want of virtue” (8).

 

 

John Witherspoon, the only clergy among the signers, spoke the following in a sermon, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation through Christ, January 2, 1758:

“It is very evident that both the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New are at great pains to give us a view of the glory and dignity of the person of Christ. With what magnificent titles is he adorned! What glorious attributes are ascribed to him! All these conspire to teach us that he is truly and properly God – God over all, blessed forever” (9)!

 

 

Oliver Wolcott, in a letter to his daughter, Laura, April 10, 1776:

“Through various scenes of life, God has sustained me. May He ever be my unfailing friend; may His love cherish my soul; may my heart with gratitude acknowledge His goodness; and may my desires be to Him and to the remembrance of His name….May we then turn our eyes to the bright objects above, and may God give us strength to travel the upward road. May the Divine Redeemer conduct us to that seat of bliss which He himself has prepared for His friends; at the approach of which every sorrow shall vanish from the human heart and endless scenes of glory open upon the enraptured eye” (10).

 

Of course, not all founding fathers drafted and signed the Declaration of Independence.

The website, www.biography.com, lists eighteen men among the most influential of our founders (11):

  • John Hancock**
  • James Madison
  • John Adams*
  • Ben Franklin
  • George Washington**
  • Patrick Henry**
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Alexander Hamilton*
  • Thomas Paine
  • Samuel Adams**
  • Richard Henry Lee*
  • John Dickenson*
  • James Monroe
  • Roger Sherman*
  • Benjamin Rush*
  • George Mason*
  • John Marshall
  • John Jay*

 

The asterisks indicates those who included statements of faith in Jesus Christ in their writings. Two asterisks by a name indicates other posts on this blog that share their stories.

Count up the names with no asterisks: six.  Six who may have been Deists rather than Christians. That does not constitute “many.”

And why does it matter whether our founders were Christian and strived to live by Christian principles?

Perhaps Alexis de Tocqueville explained it best in his book, Democracy in America (1835):

 

(Alexis de Tocqueville)

 

Not until I went into the churches of America

and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness

did I understand the secret of her genius and power.

America is great because she is good,

and if America ever ceases to be good,

she will cease to be great.”

 

Therefore, we must beware of those who distort the facts of our Christian heritage and downplay the importance of Christian values.

We must be informed voices of Truth.

 

Notes:

  1. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  2. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/evans/N27848.0001.001/1:7?rgn=div1;view=fulltext , p. 203.
  3. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  4. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  5. Brad Cummings and Lance Wubbels, ed., The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012, p. 1612.
  6. William B. Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1847), Vol. II, p. 53. Quoted in The Founders’ Bible, 1733.
  7. http://reclaimamericaforchrist.org/2010/11/24/faith-of-our-founding-fathers/
  8. http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=78
  9. https://quotepark.com/authors/john-witherspoon/
  10. (from Letters of Delegates to Congress: January 1, 1776-May 15, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1978), Vol. 3, pp. 502-503. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  11. https://www.biography.com/people/groups/founding-fathers

 

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Some historians would have us believe most of our founding fathers were Deists, not Christians—that they believed in a distant God who created the universe but who does not intervene in human events.

Those historians are choosing to ignore the many sources that would indicate otherwise.

In honor of those who signed the Declaration of Independence 243 years ago today, and sacrificed much for our freedom, I present the following proofs of Christian faith. (This post is long; you have my permission to skim read!):

 

John Adams

  1. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813 John Adams wrote:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

 

Samuel Adams

  1. In his Last Will and Testament, attested December 9, 1790, Samuel Adams wrote:

“I…[rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.”

 

 

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792, Josiah Bartlett called on the people of New Hampshire…

. . . “to confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord.”

 

Charles Carroll

  1. In a letter written to Charles W. Wharton, Esq. on September 27, 1825, Charles Carroll wrote:

“On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts.

 

Elbridge Gerry

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise on October 24, 1810, Elbridge Gerry called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that…

…”with one heart and voice we may prostrate ourselves at the throne of heavenly grace and present to our Great Benefactor sincere and unfeigned thanks for His infinite goodness and mercy towards us from our birth to the present moment for having above all things illuminated us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, presenting to our view the happy prospect of a blessed immortality.”

 

John Hancock

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving in 1791, John Hancock called on the entire state to pray…

…“that universal happiness may be established in the world [and] that all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole earth be filled with His glory.”

 

John Hart

  1. In his last will and testament, John Hart wrote:

“Thanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27]…principally I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner…to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God.”

 

Samuel Huntington

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer, and Humiliation on March 9, 1791, Samuel Huntington wrote:

“It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 

Robert Treat Paine

  1. In The Papers of Robert Treat Paine (1992), editors Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson included Paine’s Confession of Faith from 1749:

“I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears.”

 

 

Benjamin Rush

  1. In his autobiography, Benjamin Rush wrote:

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations! . . . My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins [Acts 22:16]. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! [Revelation 22:20].”

 

Roger Sherman

  1. In correspondence to Samuel Hopkins in October of 1790 (as cited in Correspondence between Roger Sherman and Samuel Hopkins by Charles Hamilton, 1889, p. 26) Roger Sherman wrote:

“True Christians are assured that no temptation (or trial) shall happen to them but what they shall be enabled to bear; and that the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for them.”

 

James Wilson

  1. From The Works of the Honorable James Wilson, edited by Bird Wilson, 1804, James Wilson wrote:

“Our all-gracious Creator, Preserver, and Ruler has been pleased to discover and enforce His laws by a revelation given to us immediately and directly from Himself. This revelation is contained in the Holy Scriptures.”

 

John Witherspoon

  1. In a sermon titled, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ (January 2, 1758) John Witherspoon wrote:

“I shall now conclude my discourse by preaching this Savior to all who hear me, and entreating you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ; for “there is no salvation in any other” [Acts 4:12].”

____________________

 

These thirteen signers of the Declaration were obviously committed to Christian principles, based on their faith in a participatory God, who provides salvation to all who ask through his Son, Jesus.

Given more time and access to more resources, we’d surely find additional proofs for the Christian faith of other signers. It is verifiable that all of them were members of churches, many contributing significantly to their congregations with monetary support and service.

Would Deists consider it important to be contributing members of Christian churches?

We know this too: In the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the signers, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

I have to ask: Would the majority–if Deists–vote to include such a statement?

Seems more than unlikely.

 

Sources:

  1. The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012
  2. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  3. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2546951/posts
  4. www.libertyunderfire.org

 

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In a rented room not far from the State House in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson found himself surrounded with books and pamphlets as resources for a daunting assignment: to compose the first draft of a Declaration of Independence.

The others on the five-person committee had convinced Jefferson he was the best choice for the task. He had few enemies in the Continental Congress and was already known as an excellent penman, having drafted the Virginia Constitution.

Among Jefferson’s resources was the pamphlet, Vindication of the Government of New England Churches by Rev. John Wise. Originally published in 1717, it was reprinted in 1772 for its persuasive arguments backing the cause of liberty from British tyranny.*

Now why would New England churches have needed to defend themselves?

As early as 1687, the Anglican Church of England sought to extract tax revenue from the colonial churches. John Wise was the Congregational pastor of Ipswich, Massachusetts at the time. In a sermon he used scripture to assert that taxation without representation was tyranny. He also led the revolt against the Royal Governor, Sir Edmond Andros, in response to the tax levy.

Wise and other leaders were heavily fined and briefly imprisoned. But a group of Massachusetts citizens conducted a lawful “citizens’ arrest” of the governor and sent him back to England. As a result of their effort to be free from oppression, Ipswich became known as “The Birthplace of American Independence.”

 

 

John Wise’s experience with unlawful taxation and his persuasive arguments against tyranny made his work a likely resource as Thomas Jefferson prepared to draft the Declaration.

But where did John Wise obtain those compelling arguments? Surely they came from the Bible.

For example, Wise wrote: “Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man.”

Thomas Jefferson similarly wrote, “All men are created equal.”

 

 

That principle is found in Malachi 2:10.  “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?”

Another example of Wise’s influence includes: “The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all, and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, etc., without injury or abuse done to any.”

Sound familiar?

In the Declaration we read, “All men…are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Inalienable rights” are those God bestowed when he created humankind. Because they are from God himself, governments do not have the prerogative to take them away. Examples are found within our Bill of Rights. Others include: to earn a living and keep the profits of our labor, to move freely within the country or leave the country, and to live secure in our homes.

Such rights should be respected by all, because each of us was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  He is our Heavenly Father, who loves each of us passionately (Jeremiah 31:3) and desires we act justly toward one another (Micah 6:8).

 

 

What parent doesn’t desire that siblings live happily and peacefully together?

But“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” for all are only possible if we follow Jesus’ teaching of the Golden Rule: “In everything do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

Finally, one more example from John Wise:  “Only by the voluntary consent of individuals can a government have authority, since it must be delegated from the individual.”

Jefferson included similar reasoning in the Declaration. “To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Even kings are under the law of God, not above it. They have no right to arbitrarily make laws and decrees that benefit them but are unjust to the governed. Again, scripture makes such truth clear:

 

 

(“Woe to those who make unjust laws,

to those who issue oppressive decrees,

to deprive the poor of their rights

and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,

making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

–Isaiah 10:1-2 NIV)

 

With such inspiration from John Wise and others, Jefferson picked up his pen and began to write:

 

 

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

 

Indeed, the truths espoused by the Declaration of Independence are based on absolutes, ordained by our Creator God for our best welfare–as individuals, communities, and nations.

 

Lord, help each of us live out these self-evident truths.

________________________________

 

*One of the committee members, John Adams, wrote in a letter to his friend, Timothy Pickering, in 1822:  “There is not an idea in it [the Declaration] but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before…Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted and printed by the town of Boston before the first Congress met.”  According to Dr. Paul Jehle, Executive Director of the Plymouth Foundation, that pamphlet was Pastor Wise’s Vindication of the Government of New England Churches.  (“The Origen of the Declaration,” http://www.plymrock.org).

 

Resources:

 

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picnic-table

During my growing up years, the Fourth of July was usually celebrated at an extended-family picnic, attended by aunts, uncles, and lots of cousins. At least two tables were required for the hamburgers, hot dogs, numerous side dishes, homemade lemonade, watermelon, and Grandma’s pies and cookies.

But the highlight of the celebration didn’t happen until dark: sparklers and fireworks. What a delightful wonder to stare into a sizzling starburst and spin circles and figure-eights with a thread of light.

And then, after much painful waiting, the real show would begin. Fireworks.

A soft phoom alerted us to each explosion of color.

My favorite was a yellow-orange burst that would remain brilliant for several moments, as each spark gracefully drifted downward. The effect resembled a mammoth weeping willow tree, lit from within.

Independence Day celebrations on The Mall in Washington on July 4, 2008.

I wonder, how did the custom of fireworks become a tradition for Independence Day?

Here is what I discovered.

It began with founding father, John Adams, in a letter to his wife, on July 3, 1776. Just the day before, fifty-six patriots had signed the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Adams thought that would be the day the new nation would celebrate. Instead, it would be the day after, July 4, when the final wording of the Declaration was approved.

trumbull-large1

Following, in bold print, is an excerpt of Mr. Adams’ letter to Abigail. The inserted comments are my own thoughts.

“The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.”

John Adams correctly predicted the importance of this event to Americans. The first great anniversary festivals occurred the next year in Philadelphia and Boston. Such commemoration caught on quickly throughout the thirteen colonies.

435_colonialfourth

“It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.” 

Now that would be a worthy addition to our Fourth of July gatherings. Solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty might include prayers of thanksgiving and praise for our great nation, then asking God for his continued guidance and blessing upon America.

“It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.”

DCParade1Edit

That word, solemnized, caught my attention. It means, “to celebrate or observe with formal ceremonies or rites.” Although Mr. Adams and other patriots would no doubt approve of family picnics and parties with friends, our choices of activities ought to be respectful of the Declaration and the lives lost to achieve and uphold our independence.

“You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration and support and defend these States.”

Again, John Adams’ words were prophetic. Eight long years of toil, from 1775 to 1783, were required for the colonists to achieve freedom from Britain. The blood of 25,000 patriots paid for that freedom and the treasure of 400 million dollars.

Pyle-Painting

Of those who signed the Declaration, nine died in the conflict, five were captured and treated brutally, several lost family members, twelve had their homes completely burned, and seventeen lost everything they owned.

“Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory.”

Even with his vision of ravishing light and glory, Mr. Adams could not have imagined the growth of prosperity in America. No country on earth has enjoyed such rich and varied resources, provided such strong influence in the world, and so generously offered aid across the globe when needed.

1_aerial_farmscape

Then again, perhaps God did give Mr. Adams a glimpse into the future, when he wrote: 

“I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even though we [may regret] it, which I trust in God we shall not.”

Posterity has indeed triumphed, and John Adams was blessed to witness firsthand the beginnings of that triumph, as the thirteen colonies became a nation.  He helped negotiate the Peace of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War. He served as vice-president under Washington, and became the second U. S. president in 1796.  Before his death on July 4, 1824, he witnessed the Louisiana Purchase and the annexation of eleven more states.

United_States_1805-07-1809

  John Adams recognized that the principles which resulted in such triumph would never change:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow what I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”*

 Indeed. A republic such as ours cannot survive unless its citizens live by certain principles, including integrity, compassion, and personal responsibility. Such Christian principles cannot be legislated; they must come from the heart.

The ravishing light and glory John Adams declared for our nation can be achieved and maintained no other way.

God help us.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *     *

*This last excerpt from a letter to Thomas Jefferson, June 28, 1813.

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Church bells rang all across Philadelphia. Men on horseback rode far and wide to spread the news. People shouted and fired their guns. It was July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence had been approved by the Second Continental Congress.

In spite of the celebratory noise, those fifty-six delegates gathered in the Pennsylvania State House knew the gravity of their actions. By signing the declaration (which would not happen until August 2) they were guilty of treason against the British crown–punishable by hanging.

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of t...

Congress Voting Independence, a depiction of the Second Continental Congress voting on the United States Declaration of Independence. Oil on canvas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, Ben Franklin told the delegates that day, “Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

On what confidence were they willing to risk their lives against an enemy as strong as England? After all, the colonies were loosely organized, just a far-spread collection of farmers for the most part. They had no army or navy trained and ready to launch into battle. Small-town militias were all the Congress had to work with. And because the British were seizing guns and ammunition, the militias were disadvantaged further.

By contrast, the powerful British empire had a trained army and at least thirty ships ready for battle as the war began.

Perhaps those fifty-six delegates were reflecting on a providential event of September 7, 1774.  On that day, Rev. Jacob Duche had been invited to the First Continental Congress to begin the day’s proceedings with prayer. But Rev. Duche also read the psalm designated for September 7, from the Book of Common Prayer. The passage was Psalm 35.

English: Painting: The Rev Jacob Duche offers ...

Now it’s important to know that Congress had just been told Boston was under attack by the British. Depressing news to be sure. Here is an excerpt of what they heard:

“Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Arise and come to my aid.

“May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. Since they hid their net for me without cause…may the net they hid entangle them.

“You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them…O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my life from these lions” ((Psalm 35:1-17).

John Adams is the one who called the day’s reading “providential.” The whole psalm spoke directly to their situation.

Yet, even with such promises still in their minds, those delegates knew full well that war would mean deprivation for everyone, suffering for most, and death for many. They were potentially signing a death warrant for themselves and/or their sons. What would cause such willingness to sacrifice themselves?

John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail:

“I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration…I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in the day’s transaction.”

The end is worth the means: that posterity will triumph. They sacrificed so very much so that we, their posterity, might enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured, imprisoned, and treated brutally. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All of the delegates were, at one time or another, the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned.

Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word.

Such conviction, strength of character, courage, and perseverance; such willingness to suffer is difficult to fathom.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Heavenly Father, it pains us to realize that thousands upon thousands have died for the cause of liberty. May we always remember: our freedoms have been purchased for us at a Very. High. Price. May we never take those freedoms for granted, or, worse yet, abuse them.

It also pains us to realize that your Son, Jesus, had to die, to liberate us from death. May our lives be characterized by heartfelt gratitude, motivating us to live for you and not for our own selfish desires.

Strengthen us, Lord, to please you and honor our dead heroes. You deserve our obedience; they deserve to be respectfully remembered. Always.

And last, we pray for those who are now serving in the military, protecting our freedoms today. Watch over them and bless them, we pray.  Amen.

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