Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Jefferson’

 

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:

 

Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.godswordimages.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.ushistory.org.

 

Read Full Post »

eaab14ad79f81660b93f3032488a12eddc3a7b6e

Granville Sharp

(b. November 10, 1735)

Never had thirty-year old Granville Sharp seen such injuries: large swellings about the neck and head, gaping wounds, and a face hideously swollen, streaked with trails of dried blood.

The victim: Jonathan Strong, a young slave who’d been pistol-whipped by his master and left to die on the streets of London, 1765. Somehow Jonathan made his way to the house of Granville’s brother, William, a doctor. And there he sat, waiting in line outside William’s office, when Granville stopped by the house.

quote-the-boy-seemed-ready-to-die-he-almost-lost-the-use-of-his-legs-and-feet-and-to-compleat-his-granville-sharp-266227

The encounter would change Granville’s life forever.

His heart went out to the slave; they became acquainted. Jonathan’s story horrified Granville. To make matters worse, when Jonathan recovered, the master demanded he be returned. Granville determined to help Jonathan, even though he’d “never opened a law-book except the Bible in [his] life” (1).

Those defending the slave owner were evidently intimidated by the case Granville put forth. After a two-year legal battle, they never brought Jonathan’s case to trial.

7149324-Granville_Sharp_1769_Liverpool

Sharp helped other slaves win their cases against tyrant owners, becoming more and more involved in the abolition of slavery. One case in particular, that of James Somerset, helped to set an important precedent in England.

Somerset had escaped his master, been recaptured, and was about to be shipped to a Jamaican plantation when Granville and others became involved.  They helped the slave win his freedom, arguing that “no master ever was allowed here (in England) to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he deserted his service…therefore the man must be discharged” (2).

2006BB2012

Granville remained active in the abolition movement his entire life. He wrote frequent letters to many leaders in America and Britain, influencing their thinking about slavery and earning their respect. Among them: Dr. Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration), John Jay (first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams in America; John Wesley, William Wilberforce, the Archbishop of Canterbury in England; and General Lafayette of France.

But that was only one of his passionate pursuits. Another concern was the illegal treatment of the colonists in America. He published books and pamphlets to help their cause, catching the attention of Ben Franklin during one of his visits to England.

Granville gave Mr. Franklin 250 copies of his pamphlet about people’s natural rights as supported by the British constitution. Franklin sent them to America where several presses reprinted the booklet.

Sharp’s pamphlet influenced Thomas Jefferson as he drafted the Declaration of Independence, evidenced by at least several similarities in both documents.

In 1775, when war broke out in the colonies Granville was employed in the ordnance office (handling all matters concerning weaponry). He wanted nothing to do with the war, so he wrote to his employer: “I cannot return to my ordnance duty whilst a bloody war is carried on, unjustly as I conceive, against my fellow-subjects” (3).

Granville’s brothers agreed to support him, enabling him to pursue his studies, causes, and writing. In fact, beginning with his first book in 1765, Sharp published a new work, sometimes more than one, almost annually for the rest of his life (5).

sharp-title-page-Cropped-543x465

One of those books (with a thirty-six word title!) is now known as “Sharp’s rule” (1777). With his self-taught knowledge of ancient Greek, Granville demonstrated how eight passages of the New Testament had been mistranslated by some Bible scholars, leaving the reader to surmise that God the Father and God the Son were separate Beings. Sharp presented a thorough explanation that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One, according to the original Greek texts (4).

our-hope-the-appearing-of-jesus-christ-16-638

Yet Granville accomplished still more. In the mid-1780s, Sharp teamed with a Mr. Smeathman to establish a colony for freed English slaves on the west coast of Africa. (Many of them were homeless, subsisting on the streets of London with no hope of improving their lives.) But Smeathman died shortly after he and Granville established their partnership. Sharp continued the work nevertheless.

In April of 1787, the dream for that African colony became a reality with the founding of Sierra Leone. The colonists named the first settlement, Granvilletown.

220px-Province_of_Freedom

Sharp accomplished even more, as he served on a number of boards and societies, in support of mission efforts and philanthropic concerns.

Yet he did not see the fulfillment of his greatest dream—the abolition of slavery. The battle he began with the case of Jonathan Strong in 1765 finally ended in 1833, when slavery was completely abolished in the British Empire.

Sharp died in 1813.

Granville_Sharp's_tomb_inscription

His chief biographer, Prince Hoare, said that as he began to study Sharp he intended to “draw a veil over peculiarities of Mr. Sharp’s character,” out of respect for the dead. But when he finished his careful and comprehensive research, he realized Sharp’s “character to be of that high and dignified nature, to leave no necessity for such a precaution…I see nothing to veil.” (6).

Like many other forgotten heroes, Granville Sharp is among that great cloud of witnesses who fixed their eyes on Jesus and ran the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1-2a).

May his example and that of others–their faith, integrity, perseverance, and passion–push us along in the race marked for us.

______________________________

  1. history.ac.uk
  2. national.archives.gov.uk
  3. Dr. Daniel Wallace, www.bible.org
  4. christianity.com
  5. brycchancarey.com
  6. Dr. Daniel Wallace, http://www.bible.org

(Art & photo credits:  www.bbc.co.uk; izquotes.com; http://www.virtualtourist.com; http://www.collections.vam.ac.uk; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.en.wikipedia.org; )

Read Full Post »

Living Our Days

Gaining a heart of wisdom

A Season to Share

Because Life is a Journey Shared

Laurie Klein, Scribe

immerse in God, emerge refreshed

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Shelly Miller

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and devotions by Heidi Viars

Holley Gerth

Empowering You To Become All You're Created To Be

Healthy Spirituality

Nurturing Hearts Closer to God

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions