July 4, 2014
Today's Coffee Break is a departure from our new series on Dealing with Fear. Because we celebrate Independence Day as a nation, I just felt to make some comments and observations and requests to all of you on this 4th of July. We will return to our series on fear next week.
Today's photo is a bit unusual, I know. Most folks have normal grandchildren -- don't they? Some folks, like the Capeners, have kids, grandkids, and even great-grandkids who just like to break the mold! (Something tells me that we did too!) Today's picture was on the front page of the Anchorage Daily News. This is our grandson, Joseph Picasso, who was yelling "USA" chants at the USA-Belgium World Cup soccer match.
Joseph, and his brother, Anthony, are both nationally-recognized soccer players, and they are sports fans of every stripe (pun intended)! Because many of the attendees at the soccer match had painted their faces with USA flag colors, Joseph did one better and painted the upper half of his body and then draped the flag, Superman style. Some young folks are trailblazers and stand out from the crowd. (grin) Joseph is highly patriotic and wanted everyone to know he was supporting America's team. We are rightfully proud of our grandson(s). Too bad we didn't get to participate in or attend Joseph and Anthony's soccer matches. We were thousands of miles apart during these matches and during this time of their lives.
During the past few days I've been remembering some of Benjamin Franklin's writings, his speeches, and the importance he placed on our nation's foundations as being rooted in our relationship with God. Perhaps his most famous oration occurred when he was addressing the Federal Convention in 1787 as the delegates were struggling to come up with a Constitution for the new nation:
The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes and ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, some we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of Government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.
Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend?
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 men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that "except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it."
I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.
I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations 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 in that service."
Franklin, as well as all of the Framers of the Constitution, realized the value of religion in society. And they realized the value of prayer in the weightier matters of politics. As it turns out, Dr. Franklin was not senile at all as some have suggested in more modern times; he was simply asking for divine assistance in what proved to be the formation of our American system. Perhaps there were no "official" prayers during the Convention, but denying that the delegates wanted God's blessing and direction—now that would be senility.
Was that simply a political expression, or an attempt to curry favor with his outspoken Christian compatriots? Was it a "deistic" expression? I hardly think so. You hear the ring of conviction in Benjamin Franklin's plea; and it is a notable shift from those things we read from Franklin's writings in his earlier years. My personal sense is that as he sat there in that Federal Convention, the words he had heard the fiery Evangelist, George Whitefield, preach years before rang in his ears. There was indeed a realization on his part that except the Lord order the establishment of America as a nation, this country would soon fold under the weight of the anarchy of Godlessness.
It was on November 4, 1800, that Charles Carroll of Carrollton -- the one Roman Catholic who signed our Declaration of Independence -- wrote to another of the founding fathers, James McHenry, and said in part, "Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, [and] which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, and [which] insured to the good eternal happiness, are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments."
He might just as well have been writing to today's ACLU -- an organization which has gone out of its way to "decry the Christian religion" and "undermine the solid foundations of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments" under the premise that government has no right to enact morals and Biblical standards for behavior.
There's a quote I find eminently appropriate for our 4th of July celebrations. It comes from Leviticus 25:10, and appears as a quotation on the nation's Liberty Bell: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land to the inhabitants thereof."
In looking for the name of the individual(s) who commissioned the making of this bell, I was trying to find out who called for the inscribing of the Scripture verse. It appears that our history has omitted the name of the person who actually proposed this, but the order for the casting of the original bell with scripture verse intact came from an order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania for the State House in Philadelphia (also known as Independence Hall) in 1751. Although we have no concrete evidence to back it up, it would appear that the commissioning of the bell was to commemorate William Penn's Charter of Privileges written 50 years before.
To put the quote from Leviticus in context, here is the first paragraph of William Penn's preamble to that Charter of Privileges:
"BECAUSE no People can be truly happy, though under the greatest Enjoyment of Civil Liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Consciences, as to their Religious Profession and Worship: And Almighty God being the only Lord of Conscience, Father of Lights and Spirits; and the Author as well as Object of all divine Knowledge, Faith and Worship, who only doth enlighten the Minds, and persuade and convince the Understandings of People, I do hereby grant and declare, That no Person or Persons, inhabiting In this Province or Territories, who shall confess and acknowledge One almighty God, the Creator, Upholder and Ruler of the World; and professes him or themselves obliged to live quietly under the Civil Government, shall be in any Case molested or prejudiced, in his or their Person or Estate, because of his or their conscientious Persuasion or Practice, nor be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious Worship, Place or Ministry, contrary to his or their Mind, or to do or suffer any other Act or Thing, contrary to their religious Persuasion."
The Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London cast the very first Liberty Bell, but its metal composition was so brittle that the very first time the bell struck, it cracked. John Pass and John Stow, who were local Philadelphia founders, offered to melt and recast the bell and strengthen its composition. The new bell was completed and hung in March, 1753. The first time it rang, however, the city fathers didn't like its tone, so Pass and Stow recast it a third time. They completed the work in short order, and in June, 1753, the bell was re-hung. Although some of the city fathers still didn't like the tone of the new bell, the majority of citizens agreed that it was a good sounding bell, and this time the bell stayed.
That bell cracked almost a hundred years later, although the date of its initial crack is in question. That crack, however grew in proportion on February 22, 1789 in honor of George Washington's Presidency when it tolled for several hours. An attempt to repair the crack some 57 years later resulted in only extending the flaw, and the bell has not been rung publicly since. The bell was recast and a replacement donated by Henry Seybert in 1876 at the Centennial Anniversary Celebration.
The name, "Liberty Bell," however, was not the name the bell was known by until 1835. In fact, the bell had no name per se until R. G. Williams published Volume 1, No. 2 of The Anti-Slavery Record in February of 1835. His comment is worth reprinting here:
"The Liberty Bell. Being in Philadelphia a few days since, I was invited after viewing the room in which the Declaration of Independence was signed, to ascend the tower of the State House, to take a view of the city. The view was delightful. On our ascent, we did not fail to examine the celebrated Bell. It weighs 2300 pounds, and was cast 23 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. On that occasion it was rung, and has been run every 22d February and 4th of July since. It is remarkable that the following inscription was on the bell when it was cast. It was considered a sort of prophecy: "PROCLAIM LIBERTY THROUGHOUT ALL THE LAND, AND TO ALL THE INHABITANTS THEREOF." May not the emancipationists in Philadelphia, hope to live to hear the same bell rung, when liberty shall in fact be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of this favored land? Hitherto, the bell has not obeyed the inscription; and its peals have been a mockery, while one sixth of "all inhabitants" are in abject slavery."
In fact, Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation almost 29 years later fulfilled the prophecy, and the Liberty Bell became a prophetic symbol of the freedoms we enjoy in Christ as Americans. It commemorated to a certain degree the words of those Mayflower settlers whose compact and covenant began, "In the name of God…Having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith… "announcing the fact that this nation's very beginnings were undertaken "for the Glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith."
The signs and symbols, the Scripture references that abound in our founding fathers' commentaries, and their labors of love and covenant to establish this great nation make abundantly clear that they purposed to have "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
America has, because of its degeneration and promiscuity, fallen into the hands of the lawless who think nothing of ignoring our foundations, the Constitution which was written to provide checks and balances against the tyranny of a few, and the blood of our founding fathers who bled and died in order to see that this nation was founded in and with a covenant relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Never has there been a greater crisis for this nation's existence in its 238 year history than we face today.
This is why I call upon every believer to join in daily prayer and intercession for the removal of the wicked and the raising up of righteousness at every level of governance and influence across this nation: from the White House (and its various cabinets) to the Senate, to the House of Representatives, to governors and state legislatures, to city and county governments.
We have been a free and independent nation, but our independence has caused us to stray from our dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ for His governance in this land. It's time to reverse thing, folks!
Happy Independence Day, America!
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