July 4, 1776 – on this day 245-years ago, the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, thereby officially separating the thirteen colonies from Great Britain, and instituting The United States of America as a separate and self-governing Republic.
To read the text of the Declaration of Independence in its entirety, you can find its transcription at the National Archives website here.
Two Observations Concerning the Declaration
Pay special attention to two features of the Declaration. First, that the signatories of this document finished it off in the last sentence with the following:
“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.”
A Calvinist, an Arminian, and a rather agnostic Christian where the precise dimensions of predestination and free will are concerned will each read and interpret this differently.
Speaking for myself, I spend a day like today pondering the mystery of how God’s authority institutes our authority to conduct our affairs, both as individuals and corporately.
The second thing you ought to pay attention to in the Declaration of Independence is that the key thing is not that we would sacrifice all we have in defense of our country or countrymen or liberties. We are no less Americans or Christians or Christian Americans if we have not died a martyrs death in proclaiming the gospel or defending our rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
As 1 Samuel 15:22 records,
“Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
Faithfulness and obedience, then, is the stuff nations and peoples are made of. So help us God, that is the stuff on which countries rise and fall.
Administered By Men Over Men
As James Madison puts it in The Federalist No. 51:
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
So then, the enigma of American liberty is that it is predicated on restraint and the obedience of our conscience to the Word of God, and God’s Law – also known popularly in the 18th century as Natural Law.
In other words, the mystery of government is that we must be subject to authority for God’s sake. And at the same time, we must recognize that human government itself needs to be subject to God’s authority for all our sakes.
Unless we understand such things as these, and how they were perceived by the Founding Fathers, we cannot understand the Fourth of July. And therefore, we cannot fully and truly celebrate it in all its glory.
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