Summer 2006

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Celebrating America’s Birthday
This Fourth of July, America
will celebrate its 230th birthday.
Neither our closest allies
nor our fiercest enemies have
experienced the stability with
which we have been blessed. In
fact, during the time that America
has flourished under the
Declaration of Independence,
France has had fifteen different
governments. And Brazil has
had seven since 1822; Poland,
seven since 1921; Afghanistan,
five since 1923; Russia, four since
1918; and the story is similar for
other nations throughout Europe,
Africa, South America, and
the rest of the world.

Some describe this remarkable
achievement as “American
Exceptionalism” – a term coined
in 1831 by Alexis de Tocqueville, a
famous French visitor to America
who penned the classic, Democracy
in America. As De Tocqueville
expressed it:

The position of the Americans is quite exceptional, and it may be believed
that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one.

However, such a description
should never be a cause for any
sense of American superiority.
On the contrary, Psalm 75:6-7
indicates that such achievements
are from the Lord and therefore
should be a cause for an appreciative
humility. As President John
Adams rightly observed:

It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation’s humble
acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling providence.

Understanding this truth, earlier
generations frequently incorporated
thankfulness to God as an
integral component of Independence
Day celebrations. In fact,
on the original Independence
Day in 1776, John Adams had
recommended:

[This day] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn
acts of devotion to God Almighty.

America regularly celebrated
Independence Day with a
recognition of our gratitude to
God Almighty. For example,
on July 4, 1837, some sixty-one
years after the Declaration of
Independence was first issued,
John Quincy Adams delivered
an oration in which he noted
that America’s two most popular
holidays (Christmas and the
Fourth of July) were inseparably
intertwined:

In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly
linked with the birthday of the Savior. It forms a leading event in the progress
of the Gospel dispensation. The Declaration of Independence first organized
the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission on Earth [and]
laid the cornerstone of human government on the first precepts of Christianity.

Does the Declaration of Independence actually embody what Adams described as “the
first precepts of Christianity” – does it truly incorporate Biblical principles?

To answer that question, consider
the philosophy that undergirds
the Declaration. Where
did the signers find the ideas of
God-given inalienable rights,
religious freedoms, liberty of
conscience, individualism, limited
government, full republicanism,
etc. – ideas that have now
made the Declaration the most
successful government document
in the history of the world?

James Otis (the mentor of both
Samuel Adams and John Hancock)
identified the source of many of the
signers’ ideas when he declared:

The authority of Mr. Locke has . . . been preferred to all others.

John
Locke
(1632-1704) was an
English theologian and political
philosopher, and Declaration
signers such as John Adams,
Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson,
Benjamin Rush, and many
others sang his praises. John
Quincy Adams even affirmed:

The Declaration of Independence [was] . . . founded upon one and the same
theory of government . . . expounded in the writings of Locke.

Locke authored numerous works that influenced America (including the original
constitution of Carolina, 1669), but his writing that most influenced the Founders’
philosophy in the Declaration of Independence was his Treatise of Government.
In fact, signer of the Declaration Richard Henry Lee declared that the Declaration
was “copied from Locke’s Treatise on Government.”

Locke’s Treatise (actually two separate treatises combined into one book)
is less than 400 pages long; but in the first treatise, Locke invoked the Bible
in 1,349 references; in his second treatise, he cited it 157 times. Imagine! In
the primary work influencing the Declaration of Independence, Locke referred to
the Bible over 1,500 times to show the proper operation of civil government. No
wonder the Declaration has been such a successful document!

(Locke’s Two Treatises of Government is still available today from most
major booksellers; I highly recommend this work for modern readers.) Clearly,
the Bible (and what Adams had called “the first precepts of Christianity”) did
indeed rest at the base of the Declaration of Independence, and therefore the
Fourth of July. So selfevident was this fact that generations later, President
Abraham Lincoln reminded the nation:

These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said
to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that
all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain
inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness.” . . . [T]hey established these great self-evident truths that
. . . their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence
and take courage to renew that battle which their fathers began, so that truth
and justice and mercy and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be
extinguished from the land. . . . Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught
doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence
. . . let me entreat you to come back. . . . [C]ome back to the truths that
are in the Declaration of Independence.

As we commemorate this year’s
Fourth of July, let’s remember
John Adams’ admonition to
celebrate it “as the day of
deliverance, by solemn
acts of devotion to God
Almighty.”

To aid in that pursuit,
President Ronald
Reagan once offered
a prayer request
that is still worth
honoring this
Fourth of July:

Let us ask that God’s light may illuminate the minds and hearts of our people
and our leaders so that we may meet the challenges that lie before us with
courage and wisdom and justice. In prayer, let us recall with confidence the
promise of old that if we humble ourselves before God and pray and seek His
face, He will surely hear and forgive and heal and bless our land.

A Few Famous July Fourth Orations
1793 • Elias Boudinot
During the Revolution, Boudinot was in charge of securing the release of captured
American soldiers from the British; he then became President of the Continental
Congress. Also, he was a Member of the first federal Congress where he helped
frame the Bill of Rights, the first attorney admitted to the US Supreme Court
bar, a noted theologian, and the first president of the American Bible Society.

Who knows but the country for which we have fought and bled may hereafter
become a theatre of greater events than yet have been known to mankind? May
these invigorating prospects lead us to the exercise of every virtue – religious,
moral, and political. May we be roused to a circumspect conduct – to an exact
obedience to the laws of our own making – to the preservation of the spirit
and principles of our truly invaluable Constitution – to respect and attention
to magistrates of our own choice. . . . And may these great principles in
the end become instrumental in bringing about that happy state of the world
when – from every human breast joined by the grand chorus of the skies – shall
arise with the profoundest reverence that divinely celestial anthem of universal
praise: “Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth! Good will towards men!”
[Luke 2:14].

1794 • Dr. David Ramsay
Ramsay was a noted physician, a member of the Continental Congress during the
American Revolution, and a famous historian.

We ought, in the first place, to be grateful to the all-wise Disposer of
Events Who has given us so great a portion of political happiness. To possess
such a country with the blessings of liberty and peace together with that
security of person and property which results from a well-ordered, efficient
government is – or ought to be – [a] matter of constant thankfulness.

1798 • Noah Webster
Webster is considered one of America’s three most significant educators, being
titled the “Schoolmaster to America”; he was also a soldier in the American Revolution,
and a legislator and judge afterwards.

[O]ur fathers were men – they were heroes and patriots – they fought – they
conquered – and they bequeathed to us a rich inheritance of liberty and empire
which we have no right to surrender. . . . Yes, my fellow freemen, we have
a rich and growing empire – we have a lucrative commerce to protect – we have
indefeasible [inalienable] rights – we have an excellent system of religion
and of government – we have wives and children and sisters to defend; and
God forbid that the soil of America should sustain the wretch who [lacks]
the will or the spirit to defend them. Let us then rally round the independence
and Constitution of our country, resolved to a man that we will never lose
by folly, disunion, or cowardice what has been planned by wisdom and purchased
with blood.

1824 • George W. Adams
George Washington Adams was the son of John Quincy Adams and grandson of John
Adams.

The effects of this Declaration are now everywhere visible. Look through
the country and behold our accumulated blessings: see nature robed in beauty,
fertile in rich luxuriance; see health and plenty everywhere around you; see
a dense and settled population stretching from the cold regions of the North
to the exuberant [rich] valleys of the South, from the prolific intervals
of the East to the flourishing prairies of the West; see your shores washed
by two oceans and the soil your own. Are not these motives for rejoicing?

1826 • George Bancroft
Bancroft, a distinguished historian, has been titled “The Father of American
History”; he also served as the Secretary of the Navy, was responsible for the
founding of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and then served as the Secretary of
War – known today as the Secretary of Defense.

From the omnipotent Power Who dwells in the unclouded serenity of being,
without variableness or shadow of change [ James 1:17], we proceed as from
the Fountain of Good, the Author of Hope, and the Source of Order and Justice,
now that we assemble to commemorate the revolution, the independence, and
the advancement of our country! . . . The festival which we keep is the festival
of freedom itself – it belongs not to us only but to man. All the nations
of the earth have an interest in it, and humanity proclaims it sacred! . .
. Trusting in the Providence of Him, the Universal Father, let the country
advance to the glory and prosperity to which – mindful of its exalted privileges
– it aspires! Wherever its voice is heard, let it proclaim the message of
liberty and speak with the divine energy of truth [and let] the principles
of moral goodness [be] consistently followed in its actions! And while the
centuries – as they pass – multiply its population and its resources, let
it manifest in its whole history a devoted attachment to public virtue, a
dear affection for mankind, and the consciousness of its responsibility to
the God of nations!

[These orations are available in our book: Celebrate
Liberty! Famous Patriotic Speeches & Sermons
]

* * *

The following two proclamations are applicable to this Fourth of July. The first,
issued in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan for that year’s National Day of Prayer,
contains sentiments that befit the Fourth of July. The second, issued in 2003
by Texas Governor Rick Perry, also is appropriate. Enjoy!

1988 • Ronald Reagan
“Americans in every generation
have turned to their Maker
in prayer. In adoration and
in thanksgiving, in contrition
and in supplication, we have
acknowledged both our dependence
on Almighty God and
the help He offers us as individuals
and as a Nation. In every
circumstance, whether peril or
plenty, whether war or peace,
whether gladness or mourning,
we have searched for and sought
God’s presence and His power,
His blessings and His protection,
His freedom and His peace,
for ourselves, for our children,
and for our beloved land.

That was surely so at the very
beginning of our Nation, in
the earliest days of our quest
for independence and liberty.
It could only be thus, for a
people who recognized God as
the Author of freedom; who
cherished the ancient but ever
new words of Leviticus [ch.
25, ver. 10], ‘Proclaim liberty
throughout all the land unto
all the inhabitants thereof ’ and
who cast those words where they
would ring out forever, on the
Liberty Bell; who affirmed along
with Thomas Jefferson that the
God Who gave us life gave us
liberty as well.

So did they believe, those
who gathered in Carpenters’
Hall in Philadelphia in 1774,
the members of the First
Continental Congress. They
had come together, in times that
tried men’s souls, to deliberate in
the united interests of America
and for our ‘civil and religious
liberties.’ John Adams later
wrote his wife Abigail about
what followed: ‘When Congress
first met, Mr. Cushing made a
motion that it should be opened
with prayer.’ Some delegates
opposed the motion, citing
differences in belief among the
members; but Sam Adams, that
bold lover of liberty and our
country, arose to utter words of
healing and unity. ‘I can hear
the prayer,’ he said, ‘of anyone
of piety and virtue who is . . . a
friend to his country.’ He went
on to suggest that a clergyman
of a persuasion other than his
own open the First Continental
Congress with prayer.

And so it happened. Because
Sam Adams gave voice to all
the goodness, the genius, and
the generosity that make up
the American spirit, the First
Continental Congress made its
first act a prayer – the beginning
of a great tradition.

We have, then, a lesson from
the Founders of our land, those
giants of soul and intellect
whose courageous pledge of life
and fortune and sacred honor,
and whose ‘firm reliance on the
protection of Divine Providence,’
have ever guided and inspired
Americans and all who would
fan freedom’s mighty flames and
live in ‘freedom’s holy light.’ That
lesson is clear that in the winning
of freedom and in the living of
life, the first step is prayer.

Let us join together,
Americans all, throughout
our land. Let us join together,
in factories and farms, in
homes and offices, in places
of governance and places
of worship, and in outposts
everywhere that service men and
women defend us. Let us, young
and old, join together, as did the
First Continental Congress, in
the first step – humble, heartfelt
prayer. Let us do so for the love
of God and His great goodness,
in search of His guidance and
the grace of repentance, in
seeking His blessings, His peace,
and the resting of His kind
and holy hands on ourselves,
our Nation, our friends in the
defense of freedom, and all
mankind, now and always. . . .”

2003 • Rick Perry
Whereas, the words of President George Washington ring true now as they
did more than 200 years ago, ‘Almighty Father. Bless us with Thy wisdom in our
counsels and with success in battle, and let our victories be tempered with
humanity. Endow, also, our enemies with enlightened minds, that they become
sensible of their injustice, and willing to restore our liberty and peace. Thy
will be done. Amen.’; and
Whereas, as these words show, prayer has been a vital part of our shared
national life since before the founding of our nation and state, providing comfort
and direction in times of crisis and conflict, and reminding us of the calm
assurance that God cares for us . . .
Whereas, many brave and courageous men and women of the United States
Armed Forces who have been deployed in the Middle East and around the world
to keep freedom and protect liberty now find themselves in harm’s way and in
need of our prayers and petitions to God on behalf of their safety and wellbeing;
and
Whereas, it seems right and fitting that the people . . . should join
with the soldiers in their foxholes, the pilots in their planes, and the sailors
on the seas and stand in solidarity with them through prayer for their safe
return and the resumption of peace in the region and throughout the world;
Now, Therefore, I . . . [urge] prayers and petitions for peace and safety
on behalf of our troops deployed in the Middle East and around the world, that
they may return home safely to the care and comfort of their families and that
we may return to our daily lives of peace and calm.”

 


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