Rays of Ravishing Light and Glory

Savannah_Flag_Marshall_House_2014Patriotism is on the decline according to one poll. An underwhelming 28% of Americans consider America the greatest country in the world. Which means 72% think it…ain’t.

To that 72%, I would ask: Exactly which country do you think rocks in the free world? (Pardon my loose reference to the lyrics of a song that mocked the politics of the 1980s and the subsequent Bush 41 administration but still managed to emerge as an icon of patriotism.)

To myself, I must ask: Does acknowledging that our country is a bit of a mess at the moment (understatement of the century) qualify me as unpatriotic?

God forbid.

And speaking of God, which a majority (it would seem) despises to do these days, consider the fact that our Declaration of Independence references God multiple times. Although the sole purpose of the document was a declaration to the world of America’s freedom from British rule, it nevertheless contains language that reveals to us how God was regarded (and that He actually was regarded) in 1776.

I won’t attempt to dissect the document as though it is a Christian manifesto (because it’s not), but suffice it to say that references are made to God as Lawgiver, Creator, Supreme Judge of all the World, and Protector of Divine Providence. Such qualities and language are consistent with (but not exhaustive of) the Christian view of God as revealed in the Bible.

I’m not saying that 100% of the colonists in 1776 were Christians, or even that America was on the road to becoming a Christian nation; but what I am saying is that the general context in which independence was proposed, adopted and fought for consisted of a community in which a large number of individuals called themselves Christians, understood Christian language, and adopted a reformed protestant view of life.

Consider further the 1776 National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer, which took place on May 17, 1776, during the fight for America’s independence. Here’s an excerpt from that document, which can be found in the Journals of the Continental Congress:

Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction, Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies; and by inclining their hearts to justice and benevolence, prevent the further effusion of kindred blood.

That doesn’t sound like a petition to just any old god to me. And incidentally, this was the second National Day of Prayer. The first one occurred in 1775.

When further considering American history in this vein, John Adams wrote these words to his wife, Abigail Adams, on July 3, 1776, concerning America’s independence:

I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. — I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. — Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory.

(In point of fact, Adams was actually referring to July 2nd, not July 4th, as the “Day of Deliverance.” Technically, it was on July 2nd that the Second Continental Congress, assembled in Philadelphia and representing the thirteen original colonies, voted 12 to 1 in favor of independence. On the 4th, all 56 delegates adopted a revised Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson—a document that would not be officially signed until nearly a month later.)

Was John Adams correct in his “prophecy”? From the most patriotic to the mildly apathetic, from sea to shining sea, we seem to have preserved and mastered the parades, games, and illuminations (fireworks), but what about all the rest—most namely “solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty”? Not because John Adams said it ought to be so, and not because the Declaration of Independence may or may not refer to God in no uncertain terms, but rather in response to the God revealed in the Bible—the God who indeed is, was, and always will be Creator, Lawgiver, Righteous Judge, and Sovereign over the affairs of the world and all that He has created.

Let each man and woman self-examine and be found a true patriot. But more than that, may men and women in this great country (and every other country on the globe) bend the knee to God Almighty, who stands ready through the “merits and mediation of Jesus Christ” to forgive those who are truly repentant of their sins.[1] In that (and only that), true and lasting freedom lies.

For the true Christian in America today, we have much to be thankful for this Independence Day. God has granted us religious freedom to worship the Triune God whenever and wherever we choose. (To bring this about, many fellow Americans have given their lives.) For true Christians everywhere, we can be thankful this day and every day that God the Father sent His Son (Jesus) to suffer and die for our sins—and that Jesus willingly suffered the agonies of the cross for us, died, was buried, and rose from the dead. We can be thankful that God, through the Holy Spirit, brought us to faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Paramount to any written declaration penned on earth is the eternal promise that for those who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, our names are written in heaven.

God bless America. God bless you.

[1] John 1:29John 3:36John 8:31

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