Land of the free

Farmville Enterprise July 10, 2019

“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.” On July 4, 1776 the Continental Congress approved the final wording of the Declaration of Independence. Almost one month later, on the second of August, 56 men signed this historic document.

Christianity had a profound influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States but there were other significant influences as well. Many were orthodox Christians while a number were Deists who believed that a supreme being created the world but did not interact with humans after that point or intervene in any way. Some were Theistic Rationalists who believed parts of the Bible were divinely inspired but used reason to decide which parts were and which were not. They believed God did intervene in human affairs. Here are some encouraging points about five of the signers of the Declaration of Independence whose lives were guided by their Christian faith.

Benjamin Rush became one of the most well-known physicians of his day, making it a practice to bring medical help to the poor in Philadelphia. He was the Surgeon General of the Continental Army, helped start several colleges and wrote the first American chemistry textbook. He also was an advocate for free public schools plus improved education for women. Rush founded America’s first Bible Society, held up the Bible as the best book to be read in schools, and helped start the Sunday School movement. Openly opposed to slavery, Rush worked alongside African-American leaders Absalom Jones and Richard Allan during the Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793.  “My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”

John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States and second governor of New York, also opposed slavery. He was president of the American Bible Society and authored several of the Federalist Papers.

Samuel Adams was a leader in the Boston Tea Party and helped organize the Continental Congress. Once the Governor of Massachusetts, Adams said, “The name of the Lord, says the Scripture, is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe [Proverbs 18:10]. Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better.”

Noah Webster, known as the father of American scholarship and education, edited the Federalist Papers, published spelling books for schools and compiled an American Dictionary of the English Language. He started his dictionary project in 1807 and finished it 26 years later. Webster opposed slavery and had strong words to say about the immense value of Christian education.

Finally, Patrick Henry, the first and sixth post-colonial governor of Virginia, believed the Bible was the book above all books and saw the gospel of Jesus Christ as foundational for society. He was a criminal attorney with exceptional oratory skills. At the end of his life Henry was increasingly worried about the spread of Atheism and Deism.

These fine Christian men understood the importance of freedom of religion and freedom from religious persecution. Since nations are made up of people and people are flawed by nature, there never has been a country that did not enable awful injustice at times. We should not be blind to the bad but certainly should celebrate the good, especially on national holidays.

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