A Special Sunday to Remember

Our 228th Birthday


"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for his own inheritance." Psalm 33:12

We turn 228 on July 4th, and with the Supreme Court's recent ruling, we are still "under God." But for how long, given militant secularism's continued onslaught to eliminate God from of our public square?

This July 4th also happens to be a Sunday, and such a Sunday on our nation's birthday might be a singular moment for us in the pulpit to remind our congregations of our "under God" heritage.

It might be timely for those in our pews to hear, perhaps for the first time, what our original colonists and Founding Fathers believed the New World and the American Republic were all about. Even before America became an official nation, there was an "under God" attitude in our land, an attitude that continued right through our nation's forming, and afterwards.

In fact, when Congress in 1954 added the words "under God" to our Pledge of Allegiance and in 1956 made "In God We Trust" our national motto, they were simply affirming a historical mindset. President Eisenhower said, after "under God" was added to the Pledge, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful resource in peace and war."

We can only give a sample here of what those original settlers thought; but consider the "Instructions for the Virginia Colony" in 1606: "Lastly and chiefly the way to prosper and achieve good success is to make yourselves all of one mind for the good of your country and your own, and to serve and fear God, the Giver of all Goodness, for every plantation which our heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted out."

And the words of Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation: "Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven."

The "Fundamental Orders of Connecticut" in 1639 said: "The Word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such people, there should be an orderly and decent Government established according to God."

We can fast forward to the last third of the 18th Century, the era of our nation's birth, and according to the Boston, Massachusetts, Committee of Correspondence, the pervasive attitude of many of the American patriots in Boston was, "No King but King Jesus!"

The Declaration of Independence was actually signed on July 2, 1776, and made public on July 4. But on July 3, John Adams, who became our second president, wrote his wife, Abigail, telling how he hoped the signing would be celebrated in the years ahead: "But the Day is past. The second of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epoch 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 celebrated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."

Abigail herself said about patriots: "A patriot without religion in my estimation is as great a paradox as an honest man without the fear of God."

Benjamin Franklin, during the Constitutional Convention when it had reached an impasse, rose and called for special prayer to "be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate at that service." In his earlier, profound remarks leading to that call, one paragraph is especially memorable: "I have lived, sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?"

Patrick Henry: "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here."

Our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, said: "The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. From the day of the Declaration...they [the American people] were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct."

And of course our U.S. Supreme Court said in 1892: "Our laws and institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teaching of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to the extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian... this is a Christian nation."

Who should be selected to rule? John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court, said: "Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers."

There were warnings. Thomas Jefferson: "The God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever."

And Daniel Webster: "If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible, our country will go on prospering... But if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity."

Much more of course could be quoted. Yet on Sunday, July 4th, perhaps the most appropriate thing we could do on our nation's 228th birthday is remember the dream our Founders had, and celebrate as John Adams wanted, "as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty."

Celebrating it as Adams wanted could be a fitting time to ponder the words of the late Peter Marshall, Sr., U.S. Senate chaplain, 1947-49: "The choice before us is plain, Christ or chaos, conviction or compromise, discipline or disintegration. I am rather tired of hearing about our rights and privileges as American citizens. The time is come, it now is, when we ought to hear about the duties and responsibilities of our citizenship. America's future depends upon demonstrating God's government."

Let us pray on the coming Sunday as Mr. Marshall prayed in the Senate: "Our Father, we pray for this land. We need Thy help in this time of testing and uncertainty...May we begin to see that all true Americanism begins in being Christian; that it can have no other foundation, as it has no other roots. To Thy glory was this Republic established. The advancement of the Christian faith did the Founding Fathers give their life's heritage, passed down to us. We pray that all over this land there may be a return to the faith of those men and women who trusted in God...Make us, the citizens of this land, want to do the right things. Make us long to have the right attitudes. Help us to be Christian in our attitudes...Make us willing to seek moral objectives together, that in united action this nation may be...resolute for righteousness and peace..."