BY SEVERAL CONTRIBUTORS
Independence Day is celebrated on July 4. July 4, 1776 is the day that the Continental Congress introduced to the world the Declaration of Independence, which separated the American colonies from the British Empire. The document had been signed and ratified two days earlier on July 2.
It is a Jewish tradition for the youngest child at the annual Passover meal to ask the family patriarch, “What makes this night different from any other?” That question opens the door for regular remembrance of a special working of God in the lives of the Israelites. What would you say if the youngest person in our church asked you, “What makes July 4 different than any other day?”
While July 4, or Independence Day, does not have the same biblical and spiritual stature as the Passover celebration, it is our country’s most important holiday, and it has a surprisingly rich spiritual heritage.
As we understand this holiday–and the Declaration of Independence–we can see a spiritual parallel to what Jesus did to purchase our independence from the penalty of sin.
Our Nation’s Freedom
I. The Cost of Pursuing Our Nation’s Freedom
A. The writers of the declaration separated themselves from their own past. A growing hostility between the American colonies and Great Britain led the colonists to list their grievances against the tyrannical King George II that demonstrated why Britain had forfeited her right to rule.
B. The writers of the declaration literally gave their lives.
Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,
5 were captured by the British and tortured before they died.
12 had their homes ransacked and burned.
2 lost their sons in the war.
9 either died from war wounds or from hardships suffered in the war.
II. The Godly Nature of Our Nation’s Freedom
A. The Declaration of Independence is firmly based on scriptural truth.
“We have the law of God written on our hearts . . .” (Romans 1:14-15). This verse recounts the fact that God has revealed His higher law to men in Scripture, in nature and in the human conscience.
B. The Declaration of Independence is written with God’s perspective in mind.
“We are endowed with certain inalienable rights . . .” In his book Defending the Constitution, Gary Amos mentions that Christianity gave birth to the concept of unalienable rights centuries before it found its way into the Declaration.
Thomas Jefferson borrowed the idea of a law of nature and of unalienable rights from a 600-year-old Christian legal heritage.
III. The Treasure of Our Nation’s Freedom
A. Our freedom dare not be taken for granted.
Although we often complain about encroachments on our liberties, we have many reasons to celebrate.
Americans enjoy more freedom than any other country.
We have the right to express our opposing opinions.
We can worship openly with no fear of arrest or hindrance.
B. We must pray for those who are still under great restriction–even persecution–for their faith.
The doors seem to be closing again in Russia.
In many Islamic nations, Christians are denied basic freedoms of press, speech and association.
In China, Communism is valued more than faith in God.
Our Spiritual Freedom
I. The Cost of Pursuing Our Spiritual Freedom
A. Jesus was separated from God on the cross (Matthew 27:46). Jesus said, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!” God cannot look on sin so He had to turn away from His own Son so Jesus could fully bear our sins.
B. Jesus gave His life for mankind (John 10:18).
“No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.”
Jesus gave up His life willingly in order to purchase our salvation.
II. The Godly Nature of Our Spiritual Freedom
A. All of Scripture points to the need for reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21).
“. . . we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
We are Christ’s ambassadors of peace, being used by God to bring back into friendship with God those who have been estranged through sin.
B. God planned and initiated our great salvation (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
” . . . for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
It was God’s intention to provide the ultimate cure for our sin problem.
III. The Treasure of Our Spiritual Freedom
A. We are forever set free from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23).
“The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Salvation is a free gift; we just need to accept it.
B. We are co-inheritors with the Lord (Colossians 1:12).
“. . . giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
We have all the power of heaven at our fingertips on earth.
C. We are set free from sin to serve God (Romans 6:18).
“. . . having been freed from sin, you became slaves to righteousness.”
All of us serve a master. We are now able to serve our true Master by what He accomplished for us.
We, as believers in the Lord Jesus, must never take for granted our freedom in the United States which was purchased with a great price. We need to exercise our freedoms, enjoy our freedoms and pray for those who don’t have the same freedoms. Conversely, we should never take our spiritual freedom for granted. It was purchased at a great price on our behalf.
Obtain a copy of the Declaration of Independence and read it carefully.
Pray for our national, state and local leaders.
Give praise and thanksgiving for the freedoms that we enjoy and the sacrifices that were made to ensure them.
Pray for the millions of believers who do not have the same freedoms and are persecuted for their faith.
Have a time in your worship service periodically where believers share their testimony of receiving spiritual freedom.
H.B. London Jr., Vice President, Ministry Outreach Division
Stan Kellner, Manager, Pastoral Care, Ministry Outreach Division
Steve Watters, Social Research Analyst, Public Policy Division
The Declaration of Independence
Signed July 2, 1776
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers form the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.. Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.
He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.
He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:
For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing taxes on us without our consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:
For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:
For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:
For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:
For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.
We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
Signers by State:
New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samual Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania. Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina. William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr., Arthur Middieton
Georgia. Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
Independence Day Quotations
In contemplating the effect that separation from England would mean to him personally, John Adams wrote:
If it be the pleasure of heaven that my country shall require the poor of offering of my life, the victim shall be ready, at the appointed hour of sacrifice, come when that hour may. But while I do live, let me have a country, and that a free country!
On July 3, 1776, the day following the approval by Congress of the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, regarding the gravity of the decision:
It is the will of heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distresses yet more dreadful If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect, at least: it will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, Jollies and vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor and destroy us…. The furnace of affliction produces refinements in states, as well as individuals.
As the Declaration of Independence was being signed, Samuel Adams declared:
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.
Shortly after the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Alexander Hamilton stated:
For my own part, I sincerely esteem it a system which without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.
Alexander Hamilton, who led his household regularly in the observance of family prayers, wrote to his friend James Bayard in April 1802, revealing the important connection between Christianity and constitutional freedom:
In my opinion, the present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banner bona fide must we combat our political foes, rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provided for amendments. By these general views of the subject have my reflections been guided.
I now offer you the outline of the plan they have suggested. Let an association be formed to be denominated “The Christian Constitutional Society,” its object to be first: the support of the Christian religion, second, the support of the United States.
The Gettysburg Address
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
November 19, 1863
Memorial Day Quotations
In his first general order to his troops, General George Washington called on:
Every of officer and man . . . to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of his country.
After the Battle of the Cross, a soldier recounted to Chaplain Bennett his observation of General Stonewall Jackson.
I saw something today which affected me more than anything I ever saw or read on religion. While the battle was raging and the bullets were flying. Jackson rode by, calm as if he were at home, but his head was raised toward heaven, and his lips were moving evidently in prayer.
Chaplain Jones writes of a captain in the Georgia Brigade who was converted at one of the prayer meetings. The captain professed publicly:
Men, I have led you into many a battle . . . Alas! I have (also) led you into all manner of wickedness and vice . . . I have enlisted under the banner of the Cross, and mean, by God’s help, to prove A faithful soldier of Jesus . . . I call upon you, my brave boys, to follow me, as I shall try to follow ‘the Captain of our salvation.’
In 1775, after preaching a message on Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” John Peter Muhlenberg closed his message by saying:
In the language of the Holy Writ, there is a time for all things. There is a time to preach and a time to fight.
Provincial Congress of Massachusetts 1774 reorganized the Massachusetts militia, providing that over one-third of all new regiments be made up of Minutemen. The minutemen, known as such because they would be ready to fight at a minute’s notice, would drill as citizen soldiers on the parade ground, then go to the church to hear exhortation and prayer. Many times the deacon of the church, or even the pastor would lead the drill. They proclaimed, “Our cause is just,” and believed it was their Christian duty to defend it. The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts charged the minutemen:
You … are placed by Providence in the post of honor, because it is the post of danger…. The eyes not only of North America and the whole British Empire, but of all Europe, are upon you. Let us be, therefore, altogether solicitous that no disorderly behavior, nothing unbecoming our characters as Americans, as citizens and Christians, be justly chargeable to us.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY FOCUS ON THE FAMILY, 1997. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.