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Happy Independence Day!
How wonderful it is that every Fourth of July we are blessed to be reminded of the great freedoms that we enjoy as citizens of this great nation. We celebrate through various ways the founding of this country and the sacrifices made by our founders and the countless patriots who have given their all on the fields of battle across the globe. We especially remember the idea of freedom so wonderfully stated and immortalized in the Declaration of Independence.
But the events that brought about the writing of that document and the thoughts that are encapsulated within it did not happen in a vacuum. Freedom sprang from the trials and tribulations of countless patriots and frontiersmen long before 1776. It also sprang from the pulpits of America.
Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, is sometimes credited with a statement that captures the very essence of this thought:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers - and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce - and it was not there . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution - and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
This statement reminds us of the grand Christian heritage of this country: how this country was founded on the principles grounded in the Word of God and by men who believed in the Word of God. Though many today attempt to deny the facts and even rewrite history, the truth is hard to ignore.
From the beginning when the Pilgrims first set foot on Plymouth Rock in 1620 our course was set upon the firm foundation of the Judeo-Christian ethic. It was the Puritan preachers such as John Robinson, Nathaniel Ward, Roger Williams, and Thomas Hooker who preached the Bill of Rights and representative government from their pulpits during the 1600’s long before they were enshrined in our Constitution.
It was in the next century that an evangelist from England by the name of George Whitefield set sail for America to lead one of the greatest revivals in history. He, along with many other fiery preachers, such as Jonathan Edwards, led what is now known as the Great Awakening. It was under the preaching of these men that our Founding Fathers sat. It was the influence of the Word of God that shaped some of the greatest minds of that generation and many to follow.
It was this preaching that launched a wave of clergyman who preached freedom and liberty from Georgia to New Hampshire. It was these preachers who the British called the “Black Robe Regiment”. It was this “Black Robe Regiment” that preached from their pulpits for two decades prior to the American Revolution. It was these American clergy who were faithful exponents of the fullness of God's Word, applying its principles to every aspect of life, thus shaping America's institutes and culture. They were also at the forefront of proclaiming liberty, resisting tyranny, and opposing any encroachments on God-given rights and freedoms.
However, Christian ministers did not just teach the principles that led to independence - they also participated on the battlefield to secure that independence. One of the numerous examples is the Rev. Jonas Clark. When Paul Revere set off on his famous ride, it was to the home of the Rev. Clark in Lexington that he rode. Patriot leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams were lodging (as they often did) with the Rev. Clark. After learning of the approaching British forces, Hancock and Adams turned to Pastor Clark and inquired of him whether the people were ready to fight. Clark unhesitatingly replied, "I have trained them for this very hour!"
Such personal commitment to the very words that they themselves preached gave rise to our Founders ability to recognize the importance of God, faith, and the Bible in the founding of this country.
John Adams said “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequite to the government of any other."
Fisher Ames, author of the final wording for the First Amendment wrote, "[Why] should not the Bible regain the place it once held as a school book? Its morals are pure, its examples captivating and noble. "
John Jay, Original Chief-Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, "The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts."
Robert Winthrop, Speaker of the U. S. House, "Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled either by a power within them or by a power without them; either by the Word of God or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible or by the bayonet."
George Washington, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim tribute to patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness—these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. . . . reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principles."
These men among so many others proclaimed their reliance on God and His Word and have left little doubt as to the underpinnings of our founding documents, our society, our government, and our country. But the matter today is not whether we are a Christian nation. As Abraham Lincoln put it,“My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
Is this nation still on God’s side? That is my prayer.
Sen. Kevin Grantham
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