Altar Call - Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
July 1, 2001

Freedom Sunday is a good time to pause and quietly give thanks for our heritage

For many people today is Freedom Sunday. As we worship today we will remember the sacrifices made by the founding fathers of our country. The Fourth of July celebration on next Wednesday calls for more than fireworks, ribs and watermelons; it will not be complete without some time on our knees in prayer.

We who enjoy living in America in the beginning of the 21st Century owe so much to those who paid a great price to gain our freedom and establish this land as a free nation. In these days I enjoy re-reading the records of the Continental Congress debates and the decisions brave men made in the summer of 1776.

The question they faced was this: should the Thirteen Colonies separate themselves from Great Britain? Imagine what it must have been like to have been present when John Adams stood up and said:

"Before God, I believe the hour has come. My judgment approves this measure, and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life, I am now ready here to stake upon it. And I leave off as I began, that live or die, survive or perish, I am for the Declaration. It is my living sentiment, and by the blessing of God it shall be my dying sentiment. Independence now, and Independence for ever!"

Adams made that impassioned statement on July 1st. The next day the historic vote was taken and the Thirteen Colonies voted to separate from Great Britain. Peter Marshall describes the scene like this: "A hush fell over the room. The late afternoon sun fired a brass candlestick on the green felt tablecloth, a pair of spectacles, the silver knob of a walking stick. Men gazed out thewindow, some with tears in their eyes. A few prayed. Their chairman, John Hancock, broke the silence: ‘Gentlemen, the price on my head has just doubled!’" (The Light and the Glory)

Then, according to Marshall, the men chuckled as Sam Adams rose to speak: "We have this day restored the Sovereign, to Whom alone men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven and...from the rising to the setting sun, may His Kingdom come!"

It touches my heart to realize that these men fought long and hard to bring to reality their vision of a new nation "under God." When the choice for independence was finally made, John Adams quickly dispatched a stirring letter to his wife, Abigail, saying that the day "ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forevermore."

Those who signed the Declaration of Independence paid dearly for their courageous decision. In the struggle that followed many lost everything, including their lives. What we should remember with gratitude is that the founding fathers looked to God for protection, guidance, and approval. We should be so wise in these days when a great effort is being made by many to separate our nation, not from Great Britain, but from God.

In 1787 as the struggle to become a strong and free nation continued, old Ben Franklin rose to his feet when the Constitutional Convention was on the verge of collapse, and made this appeal to turn to God: "And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? 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?"

Perhaps, as we celebrate our sacred freedoms this week, we should rephrase old Ben’s question this way: Can our great empire continue without His aid? Obviously it cannot. And since that is true, we should all include in our celebration sincere prayers asking His help to become truly "one nation under God."