(Anna Morken, author. Anna is a Summer 2023 intern with Wisconsin Family Council.)
It was June 1776. The American Revolution had raged for over a year, and the hope that the British Empire would grant the colonists the rights that they were fighting for had all but dissolved. The colonists had begun to talk of separation from Great Britain.
On June 7, in Philadelphia at the Second Continental Congress , Richard Henry Lee of Virginia brought forth a motion saying that the colonies should declare independence from Great Britainn. John Adams of Massachusetts seconded the motion. A committee consisting of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston was formed to draft a declaration of independence to justify their decision to separate from Britain should they do so.
The document they produced was our beautiful Declaration of Independence. The document contains three main sections. The first section contains an explanation of the natural rights of man. The second section contains a list of twenty-seven grievances against the British King. And the final section contains the actual declaration of independence from Britain. On July second, the Continental Congress voted upon the declaration, and on July fourth it was adopted, officially cutting off ties with Britain.
This week we celebrate the nation that was born when the declaration was adopted. In the 247 years following the declaration, America has been through many wars and struggles, both internal and external, including 45 peaceful changes of power. Understandably, much has changed since the signing of the declaration. Unfortunately, not all of those changes have been positive.
One sentiment that has greatly changed since 1776 is our nation’s perception of God. Although many Americans today deny or resist God, most of our founding fathers at a minimum acknowledged God, and many worshipped Him as devout believers. Although some may consider the Declaration of Independence to be a secular document, it actually contains four mentions of God, each of which demonstrates the founders understanding of God’s nature and power.
The first mention of God occurs in the very first sentence of the declaration which refers to the source of power being the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The beginning of this powerful document openly acknowledges from Whom power comes. The founders recognized that they had not created the power to establish a nation, but rather that power was given to them from God.
Second, God is referred to as the Creator Who endows humans with unalienable rights. In other words, God is the granter of human rights and the Creator of natural law. A year before the Declaration of Independence Alexander Hamilton wrote, “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for, among old parchments, or musty records. They are written, as with a sun beam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of the divinity itself; and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”
Third, God is called the “Supreme Judge of the world.” Our founding fathers recognized that justice is God’s idea, not man’s. He judges the actions of all people and ensures that ultimately true justice will prevail.
Fourth, the final sentence of the declaration says, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” The founders entrusted themselves to God, the “divine Providence,” Who they believed had protected them and would continue to do so.
The Declaration of Independence laid the foundation for our Constitution. References to natural law, inalienable rights endowed by our Creator, the Supreme Judge of the World, and more, are principles that were reflected in and fleshed out in practical ways in our governing document that gave us a Republic that requires self-governing, three separate but equal branches of government, and important protections for some basic rights.
From beginning to end, the Declaration of Independence displays the founders understanding of and trust in God. Although our nation has drifted much since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, we still have much to celebrate this Independence Day. Thanks to the wisdom of our founding fathers and the faithfulness of God, at least some of our unalienable rights are still largely protected. This week, let us thank God for the blessing of America and commit ourselves to doing what we can to restore God to His rightful place in our nation.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council, reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
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