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There's no doubt that it's a different kind of 4th this year. For many of us fireworks are canceled, parades are canceled, celebrating is supposed to be done in masks, six feet apart, possibly separated from those that we love, and loud voices are out there telling us that patriotism is "treason." Cancel culture is out in full force. May I suggest to you that now more than ever, we have all the more reason to get serious about Independence Day. The ultimate act of patriotism on the 4th is celebrating . . .and celebrating BIG! I hope this post will be encouraging, educational and will inspire you to celebrate with all your might on the 4th of July!
Many of you know that independence from England was actually declared on July 2nd…..but that it took 2 days to approve the final wording of the document so that's why we celebrate on the 4th! It was a miracle in itself that 13 very different colonies with very different circumstances, different loyalties to the crown, had come together in agreement to – after years of petitioning – move towards independence. And there was incredible drama surrounding those final days of debate…..not the least of which was how that final vote came down.
But what was it that they were considering that day? One of the most important traditions you can establish with your family right now is to read the words of the Declaration of Independence together. (Click HERE for a post with some resources for that) Recognize the transcendent principles expressed in its lines…..not just good ideas but “God ideas” that had never before been expressed as the foundation of a nation. Ideas like:
· rights to life, liberty and property being given to us by our Creator meant that they weren’t granted to us by the civil government …..and that the civil government couldn’t take them away
· that these rights were “inalienable” or attached to the very fact that you were a person….
· that that meant the civil government had to protect your private property, to ensure that you received a fair trial if you were ever accused, that you weren’t seized or held improperly
· that legitimate governments were formed by voluntary consent of the people governed and must include representatives of the people
· that civil government had a role limited to protection and establishing justice but also requiring those duties
· that there was a higher, unchanging standard of law to which everyone was bound, including the king and Parliament.
· that there is a practical covenant between civil government and the people and that if it is broken there is a biblical process of petitioning, fleeing if practicable but then defensively resisting in order to either bring the king back under the law or to establish new civil leadership that WILL uphold these ideas.
…..and all of these ideas….these revolutionary ideas that we today simply hear and take for granted. . . NOTHING like this had ever been seen before! Its words brought grown men around the world to tears when they read them…they were awe- inspiring because they reflected what was TRUE….they were biblical. They literally flowed from the ideas about civil government that began with the Hebrew people in the wilderness, were recovered and established as English law by King Alfred the Great, were further refined in Magna Charta and then written about during the time of the Reformation. THESE were the sources of our Declaration and Constitution.
Today, we’re told that that’s not true, that our founders were just slave-holding, enlightenment thinkers and so we should just “burn the system down.” May God forbid. That sweeping generalization is patently untrue and deliberately deceptive….but that’s another essay. If we all took the time to really understand these 56 signers and the time in which they lived, we’d come away with a deep appreciation and immense respect for what they accomplished. Was it perfectly applied to everyone in that moment? No. But it was a near-perfect foundation upon which to build. With this revolutionary document, these men set the stage for the greatest expression of individual liberty that had ever been seen.
Let me ask you - no, I’ll speak for myself. I often do not live up to the standards of Scripture in which I fully believe. I know that God’s Word is truth and His commands are righteous and I call myself a Christian, but I still (often) get it wrong. Yet, I don’t “burn down” or throw away my Bible when I (or others) don’t live up to its glorious truths. It’s still the standard. My job is to ask God to bring my “wandering heart” into compliance.
I’m not suggesting that the Declaration of Independence was “inspired” in the same way that Scripture was but I am telling you – unequivocally- that it is based on “God ideas” about man and civil government and that those ideas are worth defending . . . and celebrating!
So, back to Philadelphia and the story of what we celebrate. You see, each colony could send as many delegates as they liked to this Continental Congress but, at the end of the day, all the members of their delegation had to come to an agreement and cast one vote for the colony. In the case of Delaware, there were three in the delegation but one, a man named Caesar Rodney, had been forced to return to Delaware as he was needed in his role as Brigadier General of the Delaware militia. This left two delegates participating in the debate in Philadelphia-Thomas McKean favoring independence and George Read opposed. All those present acknowledged that they needed to move forward as one….that having even one colony in dissent would leave room for the British to occupy that colony, use it as a base of operations and split the opposing colonies. Wise and cautious opposition had continued to lay out its case but as July 1st dawned, opinions were moving. It was becoming clear that even reluctant South Carolina would vote for independence on the condition that every other colony did. But Delaware….Delaware was deadlocked. Knowing Caesar Rodney’s strong patriotic position, McKean sent word, urging Rodney to return in time for the next day’s session in order to swing Delaware for independence. Rodney received that message in the evening, immediately mounted up and began a harrowing ride through violent thunderstorms, swollen rivers and muddy roads, covering 80 miles in one night. He literally arrived, mud-spattered and still in boots and spurs, just in time to cast his decisive vote. (Watch a clip from HBO's John Adams miniseries depicting this solemn moment HERE). But you see, there was even more at stake for Caesar Rodney.
Unlike the other signers, there are no full face portraits of Caesar Rodney. That’s because he suffered from facial cancer….cancer that was advancing and that could now only be treated by doctors in England. When Caesar Rodney voted for independence and signed his name to the Declaration, he truly gave his life for liberty. Rodney is featured on the Delaware quarter, in full gallop…hurrying to do what he knows is right. Until last week, a statue of Rodney was the centerpiece of a square in Washington, Delaware.
As some try to tear down the foundations, I encourage you to celebrate them! America is not perfect, but she has brought incomparable freedom and opportunity to her people and to the world. Her greatness, however, is rooted in the ideas upon which she was founded….not just “good ideas” but “God ideas,” ideas worth defending and celebrating with everything we have. This is why the final words of the Declaration proclaim “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.”
Celebrate BIG today, read the words of the Declaration (or watch HERE as I explain a bit and read it) and pledge, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, to be-and to raise- men and women with that same principled commitment to truth.
Here’s a bonus: I just can’t help but attach a couple of extra resources for you….quotes from the Adams cousins which help us feel the gravity and the God-focused thinking of that day:
Samuel Adams said that “we have this day restored the Sovereign to whom all men alone ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and with a propitious eye beholds his subjects assuming that freedom of thought and dignity of self-direction which He bestowed on them. From the rising to the setting sun, may His kingdom come.”
John, writing to his wife Abigail said “This day will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."