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Independence Day 2015

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Independence Day 2015

4 July 2015

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands 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, 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 Authority of 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.

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Fourth of July is our Independence Day. It is a day we remember the sacrifice and honor the spirit of the founders of this American republic. The generation that struck for secession from Great Britain possessed a depth of intellect, courage and piety rarely equaled in our history. What do we need to understand about their Declaration and War of Independence?
First, we must understand their political tradition. The Declaration of Independence is not a radical, revolutionary document. These historic words followed legal and historical precedent. Thus, the Declaration of 1776 was conservative, not innovative. Tradition, not societal revolution, was its native soil. Reaching back hundreds of years, the Declaration found its legal roots in other statements and covenants which restricted the centralized power of English monarchs. Echoes of the Magna Charta of 1215, which placed the English king on a legal par with the nobles, can be heard when one reads the long train of abuses of King George III. When William of Orange arrived in England to ascend the throne in 1688, Parliament required him to sign the English Bill of Rights and agree to restrictions on the crown’s power. When the American colonies declared their independence (which some did as individual states even before the Continental Congress), they followed this historical tradition and protested King George III’s abuses of power. The founders signed the document of ’76 to protect their political inheritance as Englishmen. The American republic was forged from the fires of tradition, not innovation.
Second, we must understand their Bible. Stirring the blood of the colonials were the pages of Holy Scripture. The American pulpit of the mid-18th century had been anointed by the Great Awakening from the 1730’s to 1750’s. The preaching of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennent, Samuel Davies, and countless others grounded the colonists’ faith in the sovereignty of God, the sinfulness of man, and the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. Conservative, orthodox Christianity grounded the historical and cultural vision of the founders. In fact, some of the English called this the “Presbyterian Rebellion,” due to the prominence of Presbyterian pastors and leaders supporting the American cause. The writings of John Calvin, John Knox, and Samuel Rutherford constructed a strong tradition in Presbyterian and Reformed history which supported the rights of the people to resist tyrannical governments. It was a pastor, Rev. Jonas Clark, who led the Massachusetts Minutemen to collide with the British regulars at Lexington in 1775. There was an undeniable influence wielded by “The Black Robed Regiment,” which King George III dubbed the company of clergymen who helped fan the flames of independence. What made these preachers’ message so compelling? The God whom these ministers preached demanded a hearing. He summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting. Thundering from heaven, this God tolerated no rival. His Law was absolute, His Sabbath sacred, His Son supreme. “No King but Jesus” served as the motto for many an American soldier. With musket in one hand, and Bible in the other, these men rose from their knees to defend their liberties and their homes.

May our observances this Independence Day display reverence for the spirit of the founders. The secessionists of 1776 are worthy of remembrance and imitation. They were not “rebels.” Nor were they “traitors.” Worst of all accusations, they were not “terrorists.” They were patriots. Theirs was an ancient tradition of political liberty. Theirs was an ancient faith anchored in sacred writings. And for posterity, they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. May we do the same.

Yours in Christ,