Celebrate Liberty with the Declaration!

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This article was published in the Summer 2023 issue of GO! Christian Magazine.

We celebrate Independence Day with parades, barbecues and picnics, and enjoying spectacular fireworks. A wonderful tradition we can add to the celebrations will make the event even more meaningful. We can read the Declaration of Independence – to ourselves, our children, or with our family and friends.

Imagine how this bold declaration must have sounded to its first hearers outside the Philadelphia State House (now Independence Hall) in July of 1776. It must have frightened many people to hear that their little colonies would be joining together to fight the world’s most powerful nation, Great Britain. Envision their shouts of protest, “Who are we to fight against the world’s most powerful army? We will all die!”

It must have saddened those who wanted to remain loyal to the king. Perhaps some cried out, “Let us not give up seeking the Lord to soften the king’s heart toward us!”

There were undoubtedly those who shouted triumphantly when those words of truth rang true in their hearts. They had given the king plenty of chances to resolve their concerns peacefully, but his hardened heart was like Pharaoh’s. “Yes, we will rise as David and fight the mighty Goliath!”

The First Independence Day

On July 4th, 1776, the Continental Congress officially approved the Declaration of Independence. A few weeks later, 56 Founding Fathers signed the document, making themselves traitors in the eyes of Great Britain and legally subject to the death penalty.

According to Wallbuilders’ founder, David Barton, all but two of the signers were Christians. They believed that God was the author of liberty. The words of Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration’s writer, engraved on the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., declare: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”

Why Read the Declaration of Independence?

Have you ever read this courageous document? Did you know that it takes less than 15 minutes? More importantly, why should any American read the Declaration of Independence? The short answer is, “So it never happens again.”

The Declaration explains the “Why” of our Constitution – its purpose, mission, and fulfillment of liberty. Listed in the document are the colonists’ grievances against the unjust acts of King George III. The Framers took these grievances and wrote them into the new Constitution. For each act of oppression, there is a constitutional section, clause, or protection to prevent such abuse from happening again. When we read the Declaration, we can appreciate how precious our Constitution is in keeping our freedom.

How to Read the Declaration

You can easily find a transcript of the Declaration at www.archives.gov. Set aside fifteen minutes to read through the document. For your first time through, do not worry if you don’t immediately understand all the words. Although our English language has changed over the past 247 years, you will be surprised by how much you comprehend. You will most likely have a deeper appreciation for the freedom you enjoy.

What are the Parts of the Declaration?

Paul B. Skousen’s book, How to Read the Constitution & The Declaration of Independence, explains the five parts of the Declaration of Independence.

1. Preamble: The first paragraph is the Preamble, which states the document’s purpose. Here we find the first reference to God in the Declaration, “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

2. Assertion: The second paragraph asserts “that all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” God is called the “Creator” who “created” men equal. Unalienable rights are impossible to take away or give up because God furnishes them to everyone.

We find in this section eight principles of liberty: 1) self-evident truths; 2) laws are of God and of nature; 3) all humans are equal; 4) rights endowed by God are unalienable; 5) these rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; 6) governments must protect rights; 7) governments are permitted to exist by the people; and 8) people may change a government that doesn’t protect their human rights.

3. Charges: What the king did. Here we find a list of 27 grievances against King George III and his government, proving they were enemies of freedom. As you read this section, imagine the turmoil and loss the colonists suffered under tyranny.

4. Defense: What the Colonists did. This section follows the charges against the king with the words, “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.” This section has two paragraphs rehearsing the colonists’ many efforts to address their concerns with the king peacefully.

5. Declaration: We stand independent. We find the Framers’ declaration of independence in this last paragraph. God is “the Supreme Judge of the world.” The Framers also stated they had “a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.” Imagine their courage to trust God as they sent this declaration to an angry king and his mighty army!

The Cost of Freedom

The last sentence of this enduring document says, “And for the support of this Declaration, 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 signers believed in God’s gift of liberty so profoundly that they pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to each other in support of the declaration. This pledge indeed cost many of them their lives and fortunes.

Because the Framers were willing to make such great sacrifices for their families, country, and future generations, we can still enjoy God’s gift of liberty. May we cherish the Lord’s gift and seek Him in its keeping.

In preparation for Independence Day, perhaps we can set aside a few minutes to read the Declaration of Independence with one another, just as they did in July of 1776. As we celebrate, we can reflect on how wondrously God worked within our Founding Fathers to preserve our precious gift of liberty.

As a member of the Bay County Chapter Moms for Liberty, https://www.facebook.com/m4lbcfl, Judy Ransom coordinates a Madison Meetup, a book club for reading and discussing our founding documents.

CLICK HERE to download your free commemorative copy of the Declaration of Independence. Sign your pledge to read the Declaration of Independence on July 4th.

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