Independence Day is the day that America sets aside to remember its beginning; the beginning of the greatest experiment in personal freedom that history has ever known. “Give me liberty, or give me death,” was the heart-felt cry of the forefathers that secured that freedom. With that tenacious attitude, they would affix their names to the Declaration of Independence; the document that affirmed their steadfastness and unity in mission. This action placed them, their families and their very subsistence in jeopardy in the face of the ruling nation, England.
Ben Franklin said it best at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” Theirs was a resolve to break from tyrannical bonds and provide life, liberty and the ability to pursue happiness for every citizen, no matter the cost. They understood that to take this stand for truth and demand fairness and equity in government meant the possibility of paying for their decision with their lives and well-being. Their decision would take its toll on the signers.
As a result of signing the Declaration, there was a heavy price exacted on these fifty-six men of freedom:
. 7 lost their lives
. 2 lost their health
. 5 were taken prisoners of war
. 4 lost their wives
. 17 lost entire fortunes
. 5 experienced huge debt resulting from financing the war effort
. 4 lost children
The Crown sent twenty-five thousand troops to track down and kill these fifty-six rebels. Abraham Clarke, a lawyer and surveyor, could not be found. The British found and captured his two sons and put them on the prison ship Jersey, referred to as the “Hell Hole Jersey”, a death camp from which no one ever returned alive. Then the offer came to Clarke that his sons would be released if he would surrender and recant his signature. Abraham Clarke refused to go back on his words of pledge to the cause of freedom alongside his companions.
These brave men were not professional politicians, but representatives from the thirteen colonies from every walk of life. This body was made up of two of the wealthiest men in America, Charles Carrolton (merchant and plantation owner) and Robert Morris (plantation owner) as well as one of the poorest, Samuel Adams, a merchant from Boston. (When Sam Adams was elected to Congress he did not own a suit. His neighbors took up a collection to purchase a suit of clothes for him to wear to Congress.) These were land owners, lawyers, physicians, ministers and merchants of every sort.
You will predominantly hear that all these men were deists, atheists or agnostics in their religious beliefs. Jefferson, Franklin and James Wilson, a Pennsylvania lawyer, are the only ones that are known to be deists.
The truth is, however, that the majority were men committed to the Christian faith. A few examples and facts include:
. 29 of them held seminary or Bible school degrees
. Dr John Witherspoon was one of the best known Gospel evangelists of that day, was a long time member of Congress, serving on 100 committees.
. Sam Adams, known as the Father of the American Revolution – “I rely on the merits of Jesus Christ for the pardon of all my sins.”
. Dr Benjamin Rush, physician, Presbyterian – considered 1 of 3 most notable of the Founding Fathers, started the first Sunday school and Bible society in America.
. Roger Sherman, lawyer, Congregationalist – He was the only one of the signers to sign all 4 founding documents – Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Articles of Federation, Anti-Federalist Papers.
“God has promised to bestow eternal blessings on all those who are willing to accept Him on the terms of the Gospel that is in the way of free grace in the Atonement,” Sherman declared.
. John Adams was well known as a strong Christian leader. He wrote to Abigail of the first meeting of the Continental Congress and explained how powerful it was to begin with a three-hour prayer service and Bible study from Psalm 35.
. Lyman Hall was a minister from Georgia.
John Adams would relate to his wife that all the prayers of these leaders were being answered after a fifteen-day time of prayer and fasting. He said they were witnessing the “direct intervention of God.”
Of course, at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the odds heavily favored the British, especially on the water. The largest naval deployment to that date in New York Harbor was in 1776, when the British war ships’ masts were reported to “look like a forest in the harbor.” This was the most powerful navy in the world. The British Man-O-War was feared by rival navies on the high seas. They were undefeated for 300 years.
Enter the fledgling US Patriot Navy armed with small gunboats and the prayers of righteous men, pleading for their country. These small ships were no physical match for these powerful ships and experienced crews. But as the Congress worked and prayed they would realize the capture of 600 British ships. The US Navy began to take control and in 1778 John Paul Jones became a well-known naval hero as he captured the HMS Drake. The hand of God was with these dedicated patriots.
Sadly, how far we have drifted, as a nation, from our earliest moorings. We have weighed anchor and left the harbor of security and guidance from The Almighty and are attempting to prove that we can go it alone now. “Thanks for your help, God, but we can handle it from here.” This is a dangerous, dreadful and disastrous path to travel.
President Woodrow Wilson said, “The nation that does not remember what is was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do.” It seems that we are adrift now and we are told that we must trust people, who we know that we cannot trust, to guide us into the future.
In our current malaise of uncertainty, immorality and violence it is only logical to encourage our nation, leaders and citizens, to return to our safe harbor before all is lost and the death knell sounds for freedom and goodness. As President George Washington made his farewell address, September 17, 1796, he explained the foundations of America’s greatness. Thirty percent of his speech was laden with strong Christian admonition. He said, “Of all the habits and dispositions that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” We must return to our foundations and make them strong again.
How long can all the madness continue? How long can the freedoms we have enjoyed all our lives continue? Will the next generation understand what we are saying and why we are sounding alarms? Alexander Solzhenitsyn, writer, activist and critic of the Soviet Union, was imprisoned from 1945 to 1953 for speaking against the Russian government. Later in life, he spoke at Harvard University to the student body. He remembered the days of his youth under Communist control and oppression and he recounted hearing his grandfather and father speak of why the great Russian society had come to this dreariness. He remembered his grandfather commenting that it was because they had forgotten God. Solzhenitsyn then compared our situation and made the statement that we are experiencing these times because, “we have forgotten God.” He was promptly booed in masse by the Harvard student body.
America was founded on sound principles of freedom and righteousness and it has prospered for over 200 years as the greatest nation in history. The American experiment has been a success and it certainly could continue to succeed. All indications are that it will not. The alarm is sounding and the general attitude is to hit the snooze button and roll over, back in a deep slumber of apathy and self-indulgence.
But if the Church, the true people of God wake up and decide to pray and get serious again about what is true and important, America can return to the safe harbor and continue to stand as the light of freedom the world desperately needs. People still are risking everything to come to America to escape oppression and misery because of its open arms and promise of liberty and safe haven. If this ideal is lost, it will not be because God is unfaithful, but because America will have forgotten its moorings and safety in the God of blessing.
Are we ready, as our forefathers were, to take a stand for truth and our American way of life and freedom? I pray that we are and that a new army of rebels will be raised up to sound the alarm louder and encourage this country to return to the God of our fathers.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is The Lord.” Psalm 33:12