Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day.....

HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!photo: My dining table dressed in patriotic colors of red, white, and blue, with all the symbols of freedom that mean so much to me gathered as a centerpiece for our family celebration. I have assembled a Holy Bible, the American and Christian flags, a fragrant lit candle that symbolizes Christ as the true light to freedom, a teddy bear with hat and flag drum to represent the soldiers who fight for our freedom, wooden fire crackers as a reminder that we have cause to celebrate, and a place setting for each family member to share the celebration with.

What does Independence Day mean to most of us? Firecrackers? Picnics? Parades? This is our grand national holiday-the glorious Fourth of July, when Americans manifest their patriotic enthusiasm in various ways. The military marks the day by firing a salute of 13 guns and reading the Declaration of Independence. All over the country, church bells are rung in memory of the Liberty Bell that proclaimed independence. This most famous bell was actually made in England, and around its rim are these prophetic words: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

The earliest celebration in 1776 was a very exciting and cheerful occasion. At last the colonies were independent from England. There was yelling and screaming, bonfires were lit, and people paraded and danced in the streets.

This holiday commemorates the formal adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. On that day in 1776, 13 American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, which has become one of the greatest documents in the long struggle of mankind for freedom from oppressive government. This document has been quoted by freedom fighters on every continent, from Communist China to South Africa! It is easy to look back and just assume that the Declaration of Independence from our forefathers was just one of the steps down the road to liberty. In fact, it was the breaking point-the final step-before war.

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These men were saying, “We declare ourselves to be a free nation.” They were coming against the strongest military power in that day. There was no Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no country in existence. This was a small group of men who, as the leaders of our country, said they believed it was their right to choose their own destiny. We can all praise God for their commitment. Let us give thanks for our forefathers, who were willing to confront the establishment of their day to secure the freedoms we have in this most influential nation in the world-a nation that stands as a bastion of freedom.

Fifty-six American leaders in the Continental Congress stepped forward to sign the final document, at enormous personal risk. Tragically, many Americans today have no idea of the great sacrifices that were made by the founders of our nation.

What happened to the signers? Five signers were captured by the British and brutally tortured as traitors. Nine fought in the War for independence and died from wounds or from hardships suffered. Two lost their sons in the Continental Army. Another two had sons captured. At least a dozen of the fifty-six had their homes pillaged and burned.

(photo source)

What kind of men were they? Twenty-five were lawyers or jurist. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers or large plantation owners. One was a schoolteacher, one a musician, and one a printer. They were men of means and education, yet they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty could be death if they were captured. Most of them had wealth and the easiest thing for them to do would have been to accept the undemocratic British Rule, buy favors from them, and live a nice comfortable life. But they didn’t; they put their own lives, their families, and all their property at risk.

(photo source)

In the face of the advancing British Army, the Continental Congress fled from Philadelphia to Baltimore on December 12, 1776. It was an especially anxious time for John Hancock, the President, as his wife had just given birth to a baby girl. Due to the complications stemming from the trip to Baltimore, the child lived only a few months.

Richard Stockton, a New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice, had rushed back to his estate near Princeton after signing the Declaration of Independence to find his wife and children were living like refugees with friends. They had been betrayed by a Tory sympathizer who also reveled Stockton’s own whereabouts. British troops pulled him from his bed one night, beat him and threw him in jail where he almost starved to death. When he was finally released, he went home to find his estate had been looted, his possessions burned, and his horses stolen. Judge Stockton had been so badly treated in prison that his heart had been ruined and he died before the war’s end. His surviving family had to live the remainder of their lives off of charity.

Carter Braxton was a wealthy planter and trader. One by one his ships were captured by the British navy. He loaned a large sum of money to the American cause, it was never paid back. He was forced to sell his plantations and mortgage his other properties to pay his debts.

Thomas McKean was so hounded by the British that he had to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Continental Congress without pay, and kept his family in hiding.

Vandals or soldiers or both looted the properties of Clymer, Hall, Harrison, Hopkinson and Livingston. Seventeen lost everything they owned. Thomas Heyward, Jr., Edward Rutledge and Arthur Middleton, all of South Carolina, were captured by the British during the Charleston Campaign in 1780. They were kept in dungeons at the St. Augustine Prison until exchanged a year later.

(photo source)

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the family home for his headquarters. Nelson urged General George Washington to open fire on his own home. This was done and the home was destroyed. Nelson later died bankrupt.

(photo source)

Francis Lewis also had his home and properties destroyed. The British jailed his wife for two months, and that and other hardships from the war so affected her health that she died only two years later.

(photo source)

“Honest John” Hart, a New Jersey farmer, was driven from his wife’s bedside when she was near death. Their thirteen children fled for r their lives. Hart’s fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For over a year he eluded capture by hiding in nearby forests. He never knew where his bed would be the next night and often-slept in caves. When he finally returned home, he found his wife had died, his children had disappeared, and his farm and stock were completely destroyed. Hart himself died in 1779 without ever seeing any of his family again.

Such were the stories and sacrifices typical of those who risked everything to sign the Declaration of Independence. These men were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security and property, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall and straight, and unwavering, they pledged: “And for the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

What an incredible story! This group of men were the founding fathers of freedom, they founded that freedom on faith. Long ago, before our founding fathers, there was another even smaller group of such men who were willing to give up all and to follow a cause they believed in. They were the Apostles. They gave their lives for the creed in which they followed and believed.

There was Stephen who was stoned to death for telling others about Jesus. His death was not in vain, a young man who stood near, Saul, who was later converted and became Paul who faithfully served the Lord and wrote much of the New Testament.

James, the son of Zebedee, was arrested by King Herod Agrippa who had decided to stop the spread of Christianity by striking its leaders. He had James arrested and sentenced to death on the basis of one man’s testimony. However, when this accuser saw James’ extraordinary courage and steadfast joy, even when condemned to die, the man was deeply touched in his heart. There on the spot, the accuser made the decision for Christ. He boldly cried out, “I want to follow Jesus also. I am a Christian.” He begged forgiveness. He too was sentenced to death for his decision for Christ. Minutes later, the two were beheaded together.

James, the Just, was one of Jesus' younger brothers. The chief priest, scribes, and Pharisees were trying to get him to deny Jesus as the Messiah. He had openly preached Jesus as the Messiah and the resurrected Son of God on almost every street corner in Jerusalem. Through his preaching, his prayers, and his example, James converted many people to Christ. James refused to cooperate. Standing on the temple roof he proclaimed, “Jesus is the promised Messiah! He is sitting at the right hand of God, and shall come again in the clouds of heaven, to judge the quick and the dead!” James was pushed from the roof breaking his legs. Rocks were thrown at him to stone him to death. It was a blow to the head from which James died instantly while bowed in prayer for those who were persecuting him.

There was Philip who traveled to Samaria, where he led an early revival that was accompanied by signs and great miracles. He then went to what is now know as Turkey and Syria where he taught and planted churches in many cities in this region. Finally, he came to Hierapolis in Phrygia. The idol worshipers there would not listen to the Gospel he preached, even though the Lord worked several miracles there. Some ancient historians say they whipped him, threw him in prison, and later crucified him. Other historians say he was tied to a pillar and stoned to death. Either way he too died for the cause of Christ.

Matthew, who wrote the book of Matthew, who went to Ethiopia. There he accomplished much,with teaching as well as with miracles. Ethiopia’s King Aeglippus favored the Christians, but when he died, an unbelieving heathen took the throne. King Hytacus had Matthew arrested while he stood teaching in his church. He was dragged outside, nailed to the ground with short spears, and beheaded.

Jude, brother of James, who was also known as Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus, who wrote the book of Jude. He was also the younger brother of Jesus and James the Just. He traveled to Mesopotamia, Syria, Arabia, and Persia (present day Iran), reaching as far as Edema. There, he preached boldly against worshipping idols and making heathen sacrifices. The pagan priests were losing followers and money because of Jude’s teaching so they attacked him with sticks and clubs, beating him to death.

There was Simon, the Zealot, who was also known as Simon the Canaanite. He preached the Gospel in Egypt, North Africa, Mauritania (an island in the Indian Ocean), and in the islands of Great Britain. Some historians say he was crucified in Great Britain in 70 A.D. Others say Simon left Great Britain and went to Persia, where he found Jude. Together they steadfastly continued teaching and preaching until Jude’s death in 68 A.D. Later that same year, Simon was painfully tortured and crucified by a governor in Syria.

Andrew, Peter’s brother, who went voluntarily face to face with Aegaeas, the governor of the city of Patras, to persuaded him not to persecute the many Christians there. The king became angered at Andrew’s words. “Enough!” the governor commanded. “Do not teach such things anymore or you will be fastened to the cross with all speed.” Andrew answered, “If I were afraid of the death of the cross, I would not have preached about the majesty, honor, and glory of the cross.” He was then sentenced to death by crucifixion. As Andrew was lead to the cross he spoke these words, “O cross, most welcome and long looked for! With a willing mind, I joyfully come to you, being the disciple of Him who hung on you. The nearer I come to the cross, the nearer I come to God; and the farther I am from the cross, the farther I remain from God.” For threedays, the apostle hung on the cross. As long as he could move his tongue, he instructed all who stood nearby, encouraging them, “Remain steadfast in the word and doctrine which you have received, instructing one another, that you may dwell with God in eternity, and receive the fruit of His promises.” His last words were a prayer spoken to God to be received. His spirit was then committed into the hands of the Heavenly Father.

Bartholomew boldly preached the Gospel for 37 years. Starting in the heathen cities of what isnow Turkey, he then traveled to India. The King of Armenia wanted him to stop preaching and threatened him. He wanted him to make sacrifices to the god Ashtaroth or be put to death. Bartholomew refused and was sentenced to be tortured, first beat with rods, then to be suspended upside down on a cross and skinned alive. Despite all this he was still alive and exhorted the people to believe in Jesus and worship the true God. Finally he was beheaded. Bartholomew was united with Jesus, his Lord.

There was Thomas, who went to India and North Africa. He was able to convert many in these countries. He went to Calamina, India, where the people worshipped an image of the sun. He destroyed the image and put a stop the their idolatry. The sun god’s priest’ were furious. Theytook him before their king and he was sentenced to be tortured with red-hot metal plates and thrown into a glowing furnace. To the amazement of all, the fire did not hurt him-he was still alive in the midst of the furnace. The priests were so angry they threw spears at him. One of the spears pierced his side. He fell there dead.

Mark, the first bishop of Alexandria, preached to Gospel in Egypt. He was burned and buried in a place named Bucolus during Trajan’s reign.

These men were willing to give up home, family, wealth, and health, even life itself for the cause of Christ. On the day these men died, they too declared their independence and freedom from oppression to worship and preach about the one true God.

(photo source)

These groups of men also had to come against strong military powers of their day. Today, as in these past examples of bravery, the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Apostles are not the only ones to proclaim liberty and freedom, or to suffer and die for a cause they believe in. In the past, in the present, and in the future, we will always have the soldiers who serve our country, at the risk of life itself, to thank for carrying on the long ago legacy of the pursuit of freedom. We can praise God for their commitment and dedication regardless of the personal risks involved. The price of freedom is indeed high, let us all celebrate and appreciate the privilege we have in living in a free nation. Today, we salute the men and women of the past and the present all for their support in upholding our nation with service to God and country!

Let Freedom Ring,

Miss Sandy


Cindy Is Crafty said...

Happy 4th, Miss Sandy!

Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

It saddens me when I hear a young person refer to their hero as a rock star or professional athlete. These men are what the definition of a hero truly is. With each stroke of their pen they knew that their signature could be as good as signing their own death warrant.
Images and words such as these make my heart sing with pride for what our country has endured. Happy 4th of July!

Barbara H. said...

Thanks for this wonderful post!

Happy 4th to you!

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I can tell you have put a lot of thought into it. Thank you so much and happy fourth of July to you too Miss Sandy.

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

Hadn't read all of the information about the true Patriots until makes me weep to think of their devotion. Somehow I hope that they know what fruit that devotion has borne.

Thanks for giving us plenty to think about. Do you also love the song that is heard here: ? It reminds me of the analogy that you've made today.

Have a blessed weekend!

Helen Read said...

Thank you so much Sandy, for posting this powerful post! Such a moving tribute to our founding fathers - who, I'm afraid would be mortified to see how their words and their intentions have been so distorted by many today who would not want us to know! Also, such a wonderful parallel to the apostles and disciples of Jesus - whose lives also changed the whole course of history.
Character and truth count!!

Heather@Mommymonk said...

It's always such a treat to stop by here. I love the connection you've made between the Fathers of our Faith and the founding fathers of this nation. They both endured much for the sake of freedom.

The Feathered Nest said...

What a beautiful post Sandy. You always amaze me with such wonderful posts....each one a work of art in it's own right. It's amazing really how much has been sacrificed for this country and the freedom that we all enjoy! I love the analogy with the Apostles ~ such truly amazing sacrifice for their beliefs!

Please do not waffle about your are so very talented and I would love for you to enter the challenge. It's not about whose is better, what it's about is you creating. You're so very talented and I still, to this day, treasure the gifts you've made and sent me! Cheering you on dear friend,

The Feathered Nest said...

Thank you Sandy for your sweet comments and I'm a night owl so I'm still up!! Wishing YOU sweet dreams ~ xxoo, Dawn

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