Does Independence Day Still Matter?

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July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day in the United States. There are cookouts, family gatherings and fireworks. There’s swimming, sporting events, boating, playing games, and a lot of other activity. Some even use this time to just spend their holiday doing nothing. But what does July 4th signify as we celebrate our Independence Day?

Some of us show gratitude toward the original 13 Colonies in their stand for liberty. In remembrance of their departure from the British Kingdom in 1776, we realize that July 4th is so much more than cooking on a grill! However, a disappointingly smaller number of us realize that Independence Day is also much more than simple political freedom or a license to self-indulgence.

It is historical fact that this country was founded upon the principle that men are made in the image of God and, as such, are free. We are free to worship God in the manner we think best. We are free to direct our own lives without burdensome governmental oversight. We are free to conduct business without excessive taxation. We are free to comport ourselves according to the direction provided in God’s Word, the Bible.

History also shows that both English and American law reflected a strong identity and conformity to the laws and institutions contained within the Bible. American society in particular displayed a strong adherence to maintaining the standards of the New Testament in what was – and what was not – acceptable behavior. Unfortunately, the actions of the British government did not allow for that freedom, and so the framers of the Constitution sought to establish a form of government which would allow the people to govern themselves according to their conscience.

Independence Day is about the foundation set forth in the Declaration of Independence, and is summarized in one sentence;

“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.”

It’s important to know what motivated the founders of our republic; their views of the origin of life, personal accountability  and the individual’s obligations toward society influenced everything they did. By understanding how they viewed humankind and responsible government we gain an understanding of why they formed things the way they did.

The Declaration of Independence (DoI) provided the reasons for why the original American colonies decided to end their association with British rule. It lists certain activities of the Crown and contrasted those activities with a universal standard (or principle); in that comparison it was shown that the abuses of the Crown were found to be in violation of that standard. The principle was that, as creator of humankind, God was sovereign over the affairs of all men – including kings – and that God made humans to be free. The DoI also asserted that government was instituted to facilitate that freedom, not subvert it! That very principle is what is meant by the term “the laws of nature, and of nature’s God.The principles espoused in that document are eternal, and they should still be employed in how we expect our government to be run and – ultimately – what we represent as a nation.

What did the Founding Fathers intend for our government to look like? Did they mean to create an atheistic nation which removed all forms of religion and moral standards from public life? Hardly. In fact, beginning with the DoI and spelled out in the US Constitution, the Founding Fathers codified the formation and continuing operation of government around the principle that our rights are derived directly from God and not from the state. There is an insurmountable body of evidence which supports this as a reality. In fact, the rationale of the colonists was that the government of Great Britain (headed by George III) had repeatedly violated the ordinances of God (as outlined in the DoI), and therefore was disqualified from rulership over them.

“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.”

What was (and still is) the underlying concept of the quote? It’s that all men are created. Not only does this document state the obvious, but it also states that any authority we have as human beings is given by that same Creator. They are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…

We derive our rights from the Author of life, Who is God. Not just a “god,” but the God of the Bible! The God they referenced was not Allah, it was not Vishnu, and it was not any other god but the One God revealed in Scripture. The overwhelming weight of historical evidence bears this out. The concepts of personal autonomy and accountability to the God of creation relied upon the common understanding prevalent at the time, which assumed that the people knew (or at least knew of) the God of the Bible. Our Independence Day was as much related to free worship as much as it was freedom of self-government!

That explains a lot about the confusion we see being played out in American society today. What was once a universally understood standard of conduct (as portrayed in the Bible) has been subverted into a free-for-all of emotion and hedonism. Our laws were designed around the core concept of Biblical godliness and right versus wrong behavior:

  • Thievery was illegal because You Shall Not Steal.
  • Adultery was illegal because You Shall Not Commit Adultery.
  • Liable/Slander was illegal because You Shall Not Bear False Witness.
  • Generosity toward the needy was called for because It is better to give than to receive.

When people seek to fulfill their personal desires (regardless of Biblical instruction) a conflict will ensue. The government of the United States was founded upon the principles of the Word of God and, while not mandated by the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution, the rights and privileges we enjoy are intertwined with  a responsibility to know what the Word of God claims as the truth. It is the standard to which we are to hold people accountable for their actions. Once you start to deviate from the principles found in the Word of God then misunderstanding, illogical interpretation and confusion are the natural (and expected) results.

Independence Day brought the liberty envisioned by the Founding Fathers, but it was not based upon an unrestrained indulgence in personal lifestyle. It was presented as a vehicle to allow men (and women) the freedom to operate under the direction of God and His Word without undue interference from government! It did not set chapter and verse into law because there was no need to do so.

The common understanding of the day was that Christian thought and governance were right and proper, and that way of thinking was reflected in the state statutes which governed the people for over 200 years. To deviate from that pattern is to invite chaos.

Let’s take a minute and look at what some prominent Americans thought about our national heritage, the influence of Christianity and the Bible upon our society, and to Whom we ultimately  are responsible for our conduct;

”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.”

Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813.

“In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity.”

John Quincy Adams, An Oration Delivered Before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport at Their Request on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1837 (Newburyport: Charles Whipple, 1837), pp. 5-6.

“To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. All efforts made to destroy the foundations of our Holy Religion ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation… in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom… Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government – and all the blessings which flow from them – must fall with them.”

Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, Exhibiting the Present Dangers and Consequent Duties of the Citizens of the United States of America, Delivered at Charlestown, April 25, 1799, The Day of the National Fast (MA: Printed by Samuel Etheridge, 1799), p. 9.

“[Governments] could not give the rights essential to happiness… We claim them from a higher source: from the King of kings, and Lord of all the earth.”

John Dickinson, The Political Writings of John Dickinson (Wilmington: Bonsal and Niles, 1801), Vol. I, pp. 111-112.

“Let us enter on this important business under the idea that we are Christians on whom the eyes of the world are now turned… [L]et us earnestly call and beseech Him, for Christ’s sake, to preside in our councils. . . . We can only depend on the all powerful influence of the Spirit of God, Whose Divine aid and assistance it becomes us as a Christian people most devoutly to implore. Therefore I move that some minister of the Gospel be requested to attend this Congress every morning . . . in order to open the meeting with prayer.”

Elias Boudinot, The Life, Public Services, Addresses, and Letters of Elias Boudinot, J. J. Boudinot, editor (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1896), Vol. I, pp. 19, 21, speech in the First Provincial Congress of New Jersey.

“Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement.”

Independent Chronicle (Boston), November 2, 1780, last page; see also Abram English Brown, John Hancock, His Book (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1898), p. 269.

“[T]he religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles… This is genuine Christianity and to this we owe our free constitutions of government.”

Noah Webster, History of the United States (New Haven: Durrie and Peck, 1832), p. 300, ¶ 578.

“Had the people, during the Revolution, had a suspicion of any attempt to war against Christianity, that Revolution would have been strangled in its cradle… In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity… That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.”

Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the First Session of the Thirty-Third Congress (Washington: A. O. P. Nicholson, 1854), pp. 6-9.

“The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.”

Patrick Henry, Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches, William Wirt Henry, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), Vol. II, p. 592, to Archibald Blair on January 8, 1799.

“Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. . . . What a Eutopia – what a Paradise would this region be!”

John Adams, Works, Vol. II, pp. 6-7, diary entry for February 22, 1756.

“I recommend a general and public return of praise and thanksgiving to Him from whose goodness these blessings descend. The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the source from which they flow.”

William Jay, The Life of John Jay (New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833), Vol. I, pp. 457-458, to the Committee of the Corporation of the City of New York on June 29, 1826.

“A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest, while we are building ideal monuments of renown and bliss here, we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven.”

James Madison, Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (New York: R. Worthington, 1884), Vol. I, pp. 5-6, to William Bradford on November 9, 1772.

“[P]ublic utility pleads most forcibly for the general distribution of the Holy Scriptures. Without the Bible, in vain do we increase penal laws and draw entrenchments around our institutions.”

Bernard C. Steiner, One Hundred and Ten Years of Bible Society Work in Maryland, 1810-1920 (Maryland Bible Society, 1921), p. 14.

“I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.”

Benjamin Rush, Letters of Benjamin Rush, L. H. Butterfield, editor (Princeton, New Jersey: American Philosophical Society, 1951), Vol. I, p. 475, to Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788.

“One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations.”

Joseph Story, Life and Letters of Joseph Story, William W. Story, editor (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1851), Vol. II, p. 8.

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”

George Washington, The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XI, pp. 342-343, General Orders of May 2, 1778.

If we, as a nation, continue to depart from Biblical morality and prudence we will suffer from a fate which will only bring increasing turmoil, despair and ruin. May God grant us the wisdom to return to Him so that we can experience a real Independence Day!

 

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author and are not not necessarily either shared or endorsed by iPatriot.com.

Mark Wilson Stockman

Mark has a Master of Divinity and been involved in church leadership for the past 30 years as a deacon, elder, teacher, men's ministry facilitator and youth pastor. A Registered Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing as well as a CCRN, he has spent nearly 20 years in the healthcare field specializing in the areas of critical care, renal care, neurosciences and trauma.

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