Independence Hall

By: Brian Sikma

As Americans gather with family and friends across our great nation to celebrate the greatest of our national holidays, it is a good time to reflect on where we as a people have come from, and where we are going. Nothing will stifle the possibility of our future success as a nation as much as a careless ignorance of our past. Similarly, a knowledge of our heroic and vivid history will inspire us to dream bigger dreams and tackle still greater challenges. History is not created in a vacuum.

Perhaps the greatest dream that we can have is to preserve this liberty that we enjoy so much today. The process of preserving and perpetuating liberty is not passive, but active. It demands a consistent series of actions on the part of individuals and local communities. It is a trust that should obligate every man, woman, and child in our country. It has been often said, and it cannot be said too often, that freedom is only one generation away from extinction. If anything, recent political and social developments remind us of just how fragile our experiment is.

When our founding fathers solemnly covenanted with one another and the millions of people looking to them to expend their “lives, fortunes, and sacred honor” in the defense of independence, they were standing for something far greater than themselves. Personal comfort and economic expedience all argued staunchly against independence. But deep in the soul of each man who, in effect, signed his own death warrant by signing the Declaration of Independence, was an unwavering commitment to a higher law. This higher law was referred to as “the laws of nature” and it declares that rights flow from the Creator, not a king, Parliament, or charter.

As Americans survey the landscape around them today, and see an ever expansive government attempting to become a social safety net for every individual, organization, and business, they should be skeptical about the direction of the country. Our present leaders have wondered from the path trod by our founders, and by the millions of everyday Americans who followed in their footsteps and forged our land. By simply returning to that path, that course of liberty lighted by freedom’s unfailing flame, we can once again return to a better day.

Just as our founders declared independence from England in 1776, we in our day must declare a new independence from the all-encompassing grasp of big government. This second declaration of independence must be preceded, or at least accompanied, by a great spiritual reawakening. Setting the stage for the political revolution of our founding was a nationwide awakening towards private virtue and deep spiritual values. A return to first principles in the public sphere must be paralleled by a return to individual virtue and personal responsibility.

Unless we understand the moral questions of what is right, what is wrong, why absolutes matter and why our rights are not universally true because an international body happens to say so, a return to first principles will be a futile exercise. We must commit now to building not a facade, but a strong structure with a sure moral foundation. The construction of this foundation is preeminently a personal, and not public, endeavor. To preserve liberty in our day, we must return to political first principles and personal responsibility coupled with individual virtue.

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Editor’s Note: The below post was written back in 2006, but because it is applicable today it is being republished.

By: Brian Sikma

Recently I was asked to come up with a list of patriotic quotes that relate to the coming 4th of July holiday. After reviewing different quotes I decided to take a look at some historical documents that played an important role in the early days of our nation. As I reviewed some documents I came across the “Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms”. This document was passed by the Second Continental Congress on July the 6th, 1775, almost a year before the Declaration of Independence. It’s purpose was to set forth the fact that the colonists were going to war to defend their unalienable rights. This call to arms was fundamentally different than the Declaration of Independence because it specifically stated that the Colonies did not want to separate from Great Britain. They were only fighting to regain their deprived rights.

As I read through this lesser known forerunner of the Declaration of Independence I was struck by the eloquence and clarity that it contained. In fact, except for the statement that the colonists were not fighting to separate from Great Britain, it reads similar to the Declaration of Independence. This document is somewhat obscure but I wanted to share with you several key quotes from it since it so clearly summarizes the views of our founding fathers on the issue of protecting our liberty.

This is from the last half of the 10th paragraph:

“We are reduced to the alternative of chusing an unconditional submission to the tyranny of irritated ministers, or resistance by force. — The latter is our choice. — We have counted the cost of this contest, and find nothing so dreadful as voluntary slavery. — Honour, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them, if we basely entail hereditary bondage upon them.”

and in the next paragraph:

“With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have been compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance, employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live slaves.” (Emphasis mine.)

Resolved to die freeman rather than to live slaves! Do we have that kind of commitment to our God given unalienable rights today? Today I’m afraid our nation too often talks the talk but does not walk the walk. We speak the language of freedom, both political and religious, and we speak of liberty, but how many of our fellow citizens understand that freedom is not free and that it must be maintained at a high price? We hear often of our “rights” but we do not hear often the words of our 2nd President, John Adams, who said “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion….Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

This coming July 4th, let us reflect on the great sacrifices that our Founding Fathers made for our freedoms. John Quincy Adams once said: “Posterity: you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope that you will make good use of it.” It would be foolish to argue that we have always made good use of our freedoms. To often we have been silent whenever Big Government or the Supreme Court has chipped away at our liberties. But although we may have not always done the right thing in the past we can do something about today. Today, we can and we must rise to the challenge and defend our freedom. We can share the message of our Founding with our fellow citizens and we can help enlighten our people with a knowledge of the true source of our freedoms.

Only when committed citizens rise up and defend the Judeo-Christian principles of our founding will our nation be able to continue to stand like a light house, beaming the message of freedom and liberty to all those that live in a world darkened by oppression and sin. America is truly the “Last best hope for mankind” and we must not neglect our duty to defend that hope.

This 4th of July, as we think of the sacrifices of generations before us, let us also commit to reclaiming our heritage from those who wish to expunge from the historical record the fact that this nation was founded on the general precepts of Christianity and the fact that our government is founded on the “laws of nature and of nature’s God”. Neither the Government nor any man, can revoke the unalienable rights that we enjoy. Let us use them wisely.