NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
July 4, 2010
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.
THE PRICE OF FREEDOM
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery . . . You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:1 and 13-14
Two hundred and thirty-four years ago, men fought a war because they believed in their right to be free. They took a stand for freedom against the tyrant king of England and paid the ultimate price for what they believed. Upon the foundation of their faith, tyranny was defeated and we regained our right to be free. Next Friday, on Independence Day, we celebrate their victory.
Over two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus fought a spiritual war because He believed in the right God had given all His children to be free. He took a stand for freedom against the tyrant Prince of this World and paid the ultimate price for what He believed. Upon the foundation of His faith, tyranny was defeated and we regained our right to be free. At Easter, the Christian world celebrates His victory.
Any student of history knows that the Revolutionary War did not make this nation free. Any student of the Bible also knows that the spiritual war Jesus won did not make all God's children free. There is a wide canyon of difference between the right to be free and actual freedom. That canyon is only bridged when we reach out to claim what is rightfully ours. And once that bridge head is established, it must be held on to, maintained and defended against the elements of tyranny that will inevitably come to tear it down.
Since the revolution, the men and women of this nation have fought in a civil war, two world wars, and numerous "regional" conflicts to defeat a variety of earthly tyrants. Since the first Easter, men and women have fought a continuing spiritual battle against the one who prowls "around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). The history of this planet bears witness to the truth that wherever men and women are free there will be tyrants enough seeking to take that freedom away. But it is equally true that tyrants (earthly and spiritual) will never find a victory as long as there are people who share the same selfless faith first demonstrated by Jesus on the cross at Calvary and then mirrored by the patriots at Valley Forge.
I hope all of you have a wonderful Independence Day. As you watch the fireworks light up the night sky Sunday, please join me in a heartfelt prayer of thanks to our Father. Thanks for our freedom. Thanks for those who have defended it in the past and those who defend it still today. And most of all - thanks for His Son and for the love and grace that sent Him to this world to set us free.
Sheltered under His wing and overwhelmed by His love,
It was a glorious morning. The sun was shining and the wind was from the southeast . . . Thomas Jefferson arrived early at the statehouse. The temperature was 72.5 degrees and the horseflies weren't nearly so bad at that hour. It was a lovely room, very large, with gleaming white walls. The chairs were comfortable. The moment the door was shut, and it was always kept locked, the room became an oven. The tall windows were shut, so that loud quarreling voices could not be heard by passersby. Small openings atop the windows allowed a slight stir of air, and also a large number of horseflies. Jefferson records that "the horseflies were dexterous in finding necks, and the silk of stocking was nothing to them." All discussion was punctuated by the slap of hands on necks.
The Declaration of Independence was read aloud once more, and debate resumed. Though Jefferson was the best writer of all of them, he had been somewhat verbose. Congress hacked the excess away. They did a good job, as a side-by-side comparison of the rough draft and the final text shows. Here in this hall Patrick Henry had once thundered: " I am no longer a Virginian, Sir, but an American." But today the loud, sometimes bitter argument stilled, and without fanfare the vote was taken from north to south by colonies, as was the custom. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted.
There were no trumpets blown. No one stood on his chair and cheered. The afternoon was waning and Congress had no thought of delaying the full calendar of routine business on its hands. For several hours they worked on many other problems before adjourning for the day.
What kind of men were the 56 signers who adopted the Declaration of Independence and who, by their signing, committed an act of treason against the crown? I imagine that many of you are somewhat surprised at the names not there: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Patrick Henry. All were elsewhere.
Ben Franklin was the only really old man. Eighteen were under 40; three were in their 20s. Of the 56 almost half - 24 - were judges and lawyers. Eleven were merchants, 9 were landowners and farmers, and the remaining 12 were doctors, ministers, and politicians. With only a few exceptions, such as Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, these were men of substantial property. All but two had families. The vast majority were men of education and standing in their communities. They had economic security as few men had in the 18th century.
Each had more to lose from revolution than he had to gain by it. John Hancock, one of the richest men in America, already had a price of 500 pounds on his head. He signed in enormous letters so "that his Majesty could now read his name without glasses and could now double the reward." Ben Franklin wryly noted: "Indeed we must all hang together, otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately." Fat Benjamin Harrison of Virginia told tiny Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts: "With me it will all be over in a minute, but you , you will be dancing on air an hour after I am gone.
These men knew what they risked. The penalty for treason was death by hanging. And remember: a great British fleet was already at anchor in New York Harbor.
They were sober men. There were no dreamy-eyed intellectuals or draft card burners here. They were far from hot-eyed fanatics, yammering for an explosion. They simply asked for the status quo. It was change they resisted. It was equality with the mother country they desired. It was taxation with representation they sought. They were all conservatives, yet they rebelled.
It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828, founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers (it was he, Francis Hopkinson - not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag). Richard Henry Lee, A delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks:
"Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law. The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost. If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens."
Though the resolution was formally adopted July 4, it was not until July 8 that two of the states authorized their delegates to sign, and it was not until August 2 that the signers met at Philadelphia to actually put their names to the Declaration.
William Ellery, delegate from Rhode Island, was curious to see the signers' faces as they committed this supreme act of personal courage. He saw some men sign quickly, "but in no face was he able to discern real fear." Stephan Hopkins, Ellery's colleague from Rhode Island, was a man past 60. As he signed with a shaking pen, he declared: "My hand trembles, but my heart does not."
Even before the list was published, the British marked down every member of Congress suspected of having put his name to treason. All of them became the objects of vicious manhunts. Some were taken. Some, like Jefferson, had narrow escapes. All who had property or families near British strongholds suffered.
Of those 56 who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds or hardships during the war. Five were captured and imprisoned, in each case with brutal treatment. Several lost wives, sons or entire families. One lost his 13 children. Two wives were brutally treated. All were at one time or another the victims of manhunts and driven from their homes. Twelve signers had their homes completely burned. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Yet not one defected or went back on his pledged word. Their honor, and the nation they sacrificed so much to create is still intact.
The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence proved by their every deed that they made no idle boast when they composed the most magnificent curtain line in history. "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."
My friends, I know you have a copy of the Declaration of Independence somewhere around the house - in an old history book (newer ones may well omit it), an encyclopedia, or one of those artificially aged "parchments" we all got in school years ago. I suggest that each of you take the time this month to read through the text of the declaration, one of the most noble and beautiful political documents in human history.
There is no more profound sentence than this: "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?"
These are far more than mere poetic words. The underlying ideas that infuse every sentence of this treatise have sustained this nation for more than two centuries. They were forged in the crucible of great sacrifice. They are living words that spring from and satisfy the deepest cries for liberty in the human spirit.
"Sacred honor" isn't a phrase we use much these days, but every American Life is touched by the bounty of this, the Founders' legacy. It is freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.
-Rush Limbaugh, As published in "The Limbaugh Letter" July 1996 edition
Copyright © 1998 - 2010 by Stephen J. Hall - Letters of encouragement to Christians written by Stephen J. Hall unless otherwise indicated. Notes from the Valley and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and encourage you along the way. If you are blessed by them, please feel free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you have something you'd like to contribute to a future edition or would like to ask us a question or make a comment, please contact us at: steveh.rbis@...
Your love, God, is my song, and I'll sing it! I'm forever telling everyone how faithful you are. I'll never quit telling the story of your love . . . ". (Psalm 89:1-3)