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“We Hold These Truths” Americans Have Wandered Out of History, Part III

by Rev. Nate Atwood

In the second installment of Rev. Atwood’s sermon on the biblical basis of our nation’s legal history, he focused on the definitive biblical aspects of the Declaration of Independence. Secular authors like Alan Dershowitz argue that its primary author, Thomas Jefferson, was a deist. This is the point at which we begin the third installment of Rev. Atwood’s sermon.

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Now some of you are thinking, “But Thomas Jefferson was a deist, not an evangelical Christian. How can we claim such firm Biblical footing for his document?” First of all, it’s important to note that Thomas Jefferson was not the sole author of the Declaration of Independence. In June of 1776 a committee of five people were tasked by the Continental Congress to write a Declaration. John Adams, the devout and deeply Biblical Christian, was the chairman of that committee. He tasked Jefferson with the work of writing as he recognized Jefferson’s literary talent. But it must be said that the work came out of Adams’ committee and under his oversight. It also must be said that while Jefferson was not an evangelical Christian, he was still deeply affected by the Biblical imprint of his time. Thus, in reflecting on the Declaration of Independence, he wrote, “We do not claim these rights under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of Kings.”

The truth of the matter is that liberty had been developing as a national idea for many years. Jefferson and Adams, as well as the whole of the Continental Congress, did not live or write in a vacuum. Franklin Cole, in a book entitled, They Preached Liberty, extensively studied the sermons preached from Colonial pulpits during the years leading into the Revolutionary War. His thesis was that all of the ideas found in the Declaration were first found in America’s pulpits. For example, in 1768, Reverend Daniel Shute of Hingham, Massachusetts, declared, “life, liberty and property are the gifts of the Creator.” (Sound familiar?) In 1770, in an election sermon Rev. Charles Turner insisted, “The Scriptures cannot be rightfully expounded without explaining them in a manner friendly to the cause of liberty.” In 1768 Rev. Richard Slater of Mansfield, Connecticut assured his listeners, “God never gives men up to be slaves till they lose their national virtue, and abandon themselves to slavery.”

Given this careful devotion to God in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, it is not surprising that when it was first read publicly on July 4, 1776, a bell was rung to call the people of Philadelphia together. That bell is the “Liberty Bell,” and you can still read on it the inscription placed on it for that day. . . . “Proclaim liberty unto all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.” In case you don’t recognize it, that’s a Bible verse Leviticus 25:10. In fact, this might well be called America’s verse. Yes, our forefathers knew it and built their lives upon this truth . . . it was God who gave us liberty. And because liberty came from God they entitled it “the holy cause of liberty.”

Furthermore, because liberty came from God and was therefore sacred, these signers of the Declaration of Independence were more than willing to die for their convictions. Adams and Jefferson survived the war without great loss. Other signers of the Declaration did not fare so well. Of those fifty-six men, five were captured by the British, tortured, and then executed. Twelve had their homes ransacked or burned. Two lost their sons serving in Revolutionary Army.
Another two had sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died in the war from wounds or the hardships of battle. Indeed, they did pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Such were the sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabblerousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. And they valued liberty, because they knew that liberty came from God and was therefore holy. Remember, these fifty-six men were the ones who added two more clearly Scriptural references to God to Jefferson’s version of the Declaration as it came out of Adam’s committee. The historical record is clear: they were motivated by their belief in God (God as He is defined by Scripture). No wonder they were willing to put their lives on the line. . . . After all, during the war one of the favorite slogans of the Americans was “No King but Jesus!”

In 1831, in Albany, New York the French author Alexis de Tocqueville recorded yet another July 4th celebration. Found in his book Democracy in America, in which this celebrated author repeatedly noted the unbreakable connection between American democracy and American faith in God, de Tocqueville recorded that on this particular July 4th he was awakened by the firing of guns in a federal salute and the ringing of all church bells. He came out to see what was going on
and was invited to join in a great parade, devoid of “any real military splendor” but marked by people from all walks of life, floats representing every conceivable occupation, and “three or four old soldiers, who fought with Washington, whom the city preserves like precious relics, and whom all the citizens honor.” They “carried with great pomp a tattered old American flag, bullet torn, which came down from the war of independence.”

De Tocqueville expected the parade to end in some fine government building but was surprised to see it ended, instead, in a Methodist church where the entire Declaration of Independence was read with “much warmth and dignity.” He recalled that the reading was preceded by “a prayer made by a Protestant minister . . . I recall this fact,” he said, “because it is characteristic of this country, where they never do anything without the assistance of religion.”

Let’s remember the lesson of history . . . religion can survive in the absence of freedom. But freedom without religion is tenuous at best and can even be dangerous. George Washington reminded the country of this truth in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” So how might you celebrate the 4th of July? I think the record of history I just went through should give you some ideas. I just hope you will celebrate it. I also hope that you will, as families worshipping together. And perhaps you’ll experience a moment such as I knew and which I recorded in my prayer journal….

See Part II and Part I.

About National Life Chain 2008

For how long will the destroyer kill and disgrace as innocent blood begs for mercy and justice? When will the churches awaken and “plead the case of the fatherless to win it [Jere. 5:28]”? Which pulpits in each community will rise up and lead? And how eminent is God’s Judgment against America and Canada?

Those and related questions accompany National Life Chain Sunday 2008, a peaceful public prayer witness to be held October 5 in over 1300 U.S. and Canadian cities and towns. Serious prolifers will line local sidewalks to seek God’s forgiveness and intervention, while holding signs that read Abortion Kills Children; Adoption: The Loving Option; Abortion Hurts Women; and Jesus Forgives and Heals. Idle talk, frivolity, and interaction with motorists are not welcomed.

Thus to all who deem human life sacred from fertilization until natural death, Life Chain asks: “Will you ‘tarry with us’ in prayer for one hour? Please do so.” The first duty of Life Chainers is to humbly receive the convicting ministry God has for us on October 5. Then, if we are receptive, God can witness through us to save lives and change hearts in each local community.

Surgical and chemical abortions have likely killed over 100 million preborn American and Canadian citizens; and, being mindful of other ruinous spiritual forces allied with abortion (homosexuality, pornography, cohabitation, illegitimacy, sexual epidemics, addictions, human embryo abuse and disposal, cloning), Life Chain believes only the church can erect a repentant wall and defeat the destroyers of Western Civilization. Over critical decades the church lost its way. Wrote George Grant in his prominent history of the pro-life movement: “… during much of the twentieth century, the memory of the church
was erased…. The community of faith forgot what it was and what it should have been…. the needy, the innocent, and the helpless lost their one sure advocate…. The only urgency that drove much of the church during this dark period was its own satisfaction.” And our denial endures with the killing.

Was the European church under Nazism our frail mentor? In Hitler’s Cross, Erwin Lutzer observed that “… only a few German Christians saw the Jews as their brothers and sisters…. If only the church had seen that when the Jews were persecuted, it was the Lord Jesus who was suffering!” Added German Theologian Helmut Thielicke: “The church had overlooked its greatest danger, namely that in gaining the whole world it might ‘lose its own soul.’” America and Canada’s holocaust is larger than Europe’s by far—with no Hitler to coerce us. Today, will we the church repent of our hypocrisy and truly value
unborn humanity? Both our culture and national security ultimately rely on our response.

Life Chain depends primarily on local pastors who will lead their congregations and parishes to their city sidewalks. Pastors may add to the prayer topics on the back of each sign, and they are encouraged to prepare their people for earnest intercession and reflection. Life Chain follows a Code of Conduct that respects all motorists and pedestrians; and while Life Chain believes the church must impact government, all political activity is suspended on National Life Chain Sunday.

For more information, go to the National Life Chain website.