On Thursday, America will celebrate Independence Day, a federal holiday that commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. On that day, fifty six brave men signed a document that many of them thought was their death warrant. By declaring the legal separation of the thirteen British colonies from Great Britain, these courageous souls were declaring war on the world’s super power. Their action was not universally applauded. Some of the Puritan colonists believed rebelling against the crown was an act of rebellion against a sovereign God who enthroned the king. After an eight and half year war (1775-1783), the colonists defeated Great Britain and gained their true independence. Three observations:
First, America was founded on Christian principles. Most of the founders were orthodox Christians in their thinking. A few were deists, those who believe in God as the Creator but don’t believe He takes an active role in ruling the creation, but they were in the minority. All of the signers believed in a Creator. They believed the rights of Americans were derived from a sovereign Creator. An often quoted phrase from the Declaration: 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. This statement is clear evidence the signers were men who not only believed in God, but who recognized His omniscience, omnipotence, and ownership of His creation.
Second, the Great Awakening influenced the American Revolution. The Great Awakening was a period in American history (1730-1740) when men like George Whitfiield and Jonathan Edwards preached a pure Gospel that resulted in thousands being regenerated and drawn to Christ. These new converts begin to read and study and found their government was not rooted in scripture. Biblical principles of personal land ownership, individual liberty and religious freedom were being ignored by the British crown. As they grew spiritually, they became intent on breaking the bonds of Great Britain’s tyrannical rule.
Third, the primary reason the Pilgrims (and others) came to America was to seek religious liberty. They wanted a place they could worship as they pleased. As the colonies grew, Great Britain set up the Church of England as the state-sanctioned church and that did not set well with people who had fled their homeland to escape the very thing they now faced in their new homeland. Religious liberty fueled the American Revolution. The Danbury Baptist traded letters with Thomas Jefferson expressing their concern that America’s new government was headed down that same path of sitting up a state church.
Granting the right and liberty to citizens to express and practice whatever religion- or lack thereof- was a hallmark of the document. So was the recognition the Creator was the final authority in granting rights. Modern Americans want liberty with no responsibility- tolerance with no patience- relevance and no truth and rights, but no responsibility. As our nation celebrates the 243rd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration, remember America’s founding and continued existence is from the hand of a sovereign Creator. May He spiritually awaken our nation!