No other theory is adequate to explain or comprehend the Declaration of Independence. It is the product of the spiritual insight of the people. We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren sceptre in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshiped.
So concluded President Calvin Coolidge in a speech on the occasion of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He spoke about the founding fathers of this nation. He spoke about our spiritual heritage. Many of our early settlers sought freedom from persecution because of their religious beliefs. Others sought freedom from tyranny and the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. They were motivated and guided by a creator who heard the cries of their hearts. Our founding fathers understood this. That is why they included these words in the Declaration of Independence which they signed without regard for their own lives or fortunes:
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.
The story of our early settlers of this nation is the story of Abraham.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8)
To be sure, our founding fathers were flawed as was Abraham. Yet, they were guided by faith in a Creator and by His divinely inspired words and precepts that have stood the test of time. They often failed to live up to the vision that God had given them. Nevertheless, over the years they struggled for the rights and freedoms of all this nation’s citizens as well as those of other nations. They did so to the extent of shedding their blood in courageous struggles both home and abroad.
Once we were a great missionary nation. Where do we stand today? Have we broken our Covenant with God made by the early settlers of our land? Are we now a nation that denies both the New Testament and the Old Testament? Do we deny who we are? Do we no longer standby the nation of Abraham? Do we ignore our Constitution and consider it no longer relevant? Are we no longer a nation under God?
Recently, Queen Elizabeth celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. I am reminded of the words of Rudyard Kipling spoken at another queen of England’s diamond jubilee two centuries before:
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe—
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
England did not heed the prophetic warning. Once a great missionary nation, she has collapsed and fallen as her Christian faith has fallen.
What about America? America had a sacred covenant with God. Will we keep that covenant? Will we honor the Covenant Maker? Will we remember from where we have come? This is not about politics. It is not even about patriotism. It is about staying the course. Let us give thanks that Abraham stayed the course:
For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.