America has just celebrated the 135th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence; a celebration of 135 years as the freest people to ever live on the face of this earth. At this particular point in our nation’s history, we should either remember or begin to realize (as the case may necessitate) that, as the old saying goes, “Freedom isn’t free.” Our freedom came to us at a great price, it will remain with us at a price, and if lost to us, we will pay a great price because of its loss.
THERE IS A PRICE THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN PAID FOR THE INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM OF AMERICANS
A Price Paid During the American Revolution
There’s a price that has already been paid for freedom in America. It was paid by our Revolutionary Ancestors who shared the sentiments of those who signed the Declaration of Independence under the following words: “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.”
After John Hancock signed the Declaration, he said, "the price on my head has just doubled." Benjamin Franklin solemnly said, "We must hang together or most assuredly we shall hang separately." And hanged they would have been; but they would have suffered unspeakable torture before death and incredible indignities following their deaths had they been captured. The sentence for treason in colonial England is too gruesome to print in this bulletin, but a description is available on the internet under the words, “drawn and quartered.”
Our revolutionary ancestors were deadly serious about the cause of freedom. Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 17 served in the military, 17 served in the military, 11 had their homes destroyed and 5 of them were hunted down, captured and imprisoned. Signer, Abraham Clark had two of his sons imprisoned on a British starving ship (so called because of the numbers of prisoners who were allowed to starve to death on such ships). John Witherspoon's son was killed in battle, and Francis Lewis' wife was arrested and died because of the cruel treatment inflicted upon her by her jailers. Many of the signers who had “pledged their fortunes,” lost everything they had in the fight for independence, and nine of them died in the war itself.
Following the signing, John Adams wrote: “You will think me transported with enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not."
It is estimated that there were some 6800 American battlefield deaths during the War for Independence. Approximately 10,000 died from disease, 8500 died in British prisons and 8,445 were wounded. The sacrifice of their belongings and their blood was a sacrifice our patriot ancestors had to make, and were willing to make in order for Americans to be a free people.
A Price Paid in Recent Times
Our Revolutionary ancestors understood that their sacrifices constituted only the down payment necessary to secure our liberty, and that to remain free, their posterity would have to make faithful installments in terms of personal sacrifice if they wanted to remain a free people. This is why, when after the framers had finished their work on the Constitution, and a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “What have you given us Mr. Franklin,” he answered, “A Republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
Thomas Jefferson warned, “In matters of power let no more be heard of the confidence in man but bind them down from mischief by the chains of the constitution, understanding, as all of the founders did, that while our freedom would be faced with threats from abroad, the greatest danger to it would be from within, specifically from a government allowed to slip out of its Constitutional moorings. James Madison said, “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
Thomas Jefferson also admonished us that, “The price of freedom is eternal diligence.” And because, as the old saying goes, “There is no trouble like homemade trouble,” guarding our freedom demands particular watchfulness here at home. This is why those entering military service, and our highest elected officials including the President and every congressman and judge, take an oath wherein they swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” (Emphasis mine). Notice that this oath is not to support and defend the President or any presidential administration. It is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against anyone who would venture to disobey or violate it.
In modern times, American men and women by the tens of thousands have struggled and worked and fought, bled and died, paying whatever price was deemed necessary to keep people in this country free. They understood the critical connection between an individual’s freedom and the peace, prosperity and happiness he and his posterity would be able to enjoy. Throughout most of our history, Americans have been fairly discerning in terms of recognizing that which threatened their freedom, especially here at home whether it was in the form of the demagoguery or incompetence of politicians or laws and regulations that were clearly unconstitutional, and therefore dangerous to liberty.
The American people, until recently, understood that our individual freedom depended upon our remaining a Constitutional Republic, a people from the top to the bottom who were all alike under the rule of law embodied in the United States Constitution. For the most part, they understood and concurred with the words of Alexander Hamilton, who said, “If it be asked, What is the most sacred duty and the greatest source of our security in a Republic? The answer would be, An inviolable respect for the Constitution.” We desperately need a renewed understanding of this today, along with a willingness to pay the price to remain a free people. (Next week: The Price of Preserving Freedom).
THERE IS A PRICE THAT MUST BE PAID TO PRESERVE THE INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM OF AMERICANS
The price of securing our freedom has never been fully paid in America. It never will be. Our founding fathers, in winning our independence, created an escrow account that required succeeding generations to make consistent deposits of diligence, courage and sacrifice in order for our Republic and our individual freedoms to survive. Sadly a great many Americans have defaulted in making these deposits over the last fifty years especially, and the last twenty years specifically. It’s time for American to once again get serious about paying the price that our continued existence as a free people demands. While this involves a number of things, I’ll attempt to sum them up into two areas.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). This was God’s explanation for why His people, once so powerful, happy and free, were descending into the dark and dismal abyss of enslavement to a cruel, totalitarian government. Ancient Israel had plenty of potential foreign enemies, but her most dangerous enemies were self-seeking godless leaders who had arisen from within (see Psalm 94). But God pinpointed the root of their problem when he told them that it was their ignorance that had destroyed them.
The same explanation applies, in large measure, to why America is now also descending into the dark and dismal abyss of enslavement to a cruel, totalitarian government. We have become a people uneducated as to our heritage and the principles of freedom. High percentages of our people, young and old, can’t even distinguish any appreciable difference between a communist form of government and a Constitutional Republic. Neither can they tell the difference between collectivism and free enterprise. How has this happened?
“Education,” said Edmund Burke, “is the cheap defense of nations.” Because John Adams understood this he wrote, “Children should be educated and instructed in the principles of freedom.” But this hasn’t been, and isn’t being, allowed to happen in most of the public school system, and this neglect has placed us in a frightening situation. “If, Said Thomas Jeffeerson, “a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
The dumbing down of Americans relative to freedom hasn’t happened by accident, it has been made to happen. Is anyone naïve enough to think that there is no connection between the dismal state of education in America today and what is listed as number 17 in a communist publication entitled Communist Goals for America which was read into our Congressional Record in 1963: “Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers' associations. Put the party line in textbooks.”
Because public ignorance is the favorite tool in the socialist’s (Part of educating yourself involves the understanding that socialism, progressivism, Nazism, fascism and communism are, for all practical purposes, synonymous terms) tool box, the agenda of our enemies has been, and is, the dumbing down, by design, of the American citizenry— an agenda that has been achieved almost entirely.
A wise man once said that, “Freedom begins between the ears”. Therefore a nation whose people have little or nothing between their ears except for what they’ve been taught in public schools about freedom and our American heritage is in deep trouble. To illustrate: A few years ago, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni commissioned a simple, basic quiz consisting of questions normally asked of high school students. Not even a quarter of those about to graduate from great liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Williams, or from world-famous universities such as Harvard and Duke, passed the test. To reiterate: America is in deep trouble.
It is high time for Americans to familiarize themselves with such foundational documents as The Constitution of the United States and The Bill of Rights and to educate themselves as to how our Constitution is being undermined and our God-given rights leeched away by a treacherous government. There are plenty of books to read as well as information obtainable on the internet.
“Ignorance may or may not be bliss, but it certainly isn’t freedom, except perhaps in the minds of those who prefer darkness to light and chains to liberty.”—Elmer Davis
Our ancestors would never have won our independence if all they’d done were sit around and complain and bleat like sheep hoping for sympathy from their oppressors. They knew, as Edmund Burke said, that “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing.” So they did something. And what they did was out of a sense of responsibility for the stewardship of the country and the rights that they believed God had given them.
The words of Samuel Adams to his countrymen are words that we, in this day when freedom is at stake once again, are words that we should take to heart today: “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
Pastors and their congregations were at the forefront of the struggle for independence from beginning to end. They believed, as their pilgrim ancestors had believed, that God had given them this land so that they could be free; free to worship and free to evangelize. They believed God wanted them free to prosper so that their prosperity could be used to make America a citadel of gospel truth to the whole world. They believed that freedom was not something allowed to them by government, but something that belonged to them by divine right.
Christians need to take the lead today in getting engaged in the cause of freedom. This may take the form of blogging on the internet, becoming active with a patriot group locally, writing letters to congressmen or to newspapers., being present at patriotic rallies and protests. Finding good, Christian candidates for office and getting behind them to help them get elected or running for office yourself in some capacity are some of the most powerful things you can do.
The most familiar exercise for beginning typists years ago was to practice over and over the sentence: “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” “Now,” right now, is the time for all good men, women and young people to come to the aid, to get engaged in cause of saving our Republic and our freedoms. “This Republic was not established by cowards; and cowards will not preserve it ... This will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.—Elmer Davis (Next week: The Price of Losing Freedom).
THERE IS A PRICE THAT WILL BE PAID IF INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM IS LOST IN AMERICA
Thanks to the sacrifices of our ancestors American became a sovereign nation under a government, crafted in such a way, to provide for a small federal government endowed with less than 20 powers, with all other governmental authority to be the prerogative of the individual, sovereign states. This arrangement was embodied in our United States Constitution has made Americans the freest, most prosperous and powerful nation on earth.
Just to the degree that individual freedoms continue to be lost to us, to that degree, us, our standard of living and our national security has been downgraded. Our government is now under the control of those who neither appreciate our American heritage or believe in individual rights in the way our founders or our fathers and mothers believed in them. This observation has nothing to with any sort of conspiracy theory, but it has everything to do with concrete truth in terms of the radical transformation of America that is now underway.
Our founding fathers warned that what is happening today would inevitably happen if we were neglectful of two things, one virtue and the other, vigilance. Abraham Lincoln recalled this admonition when in a speech, he reminded the American people that that such virtue and vigilance as a people diligence is our greatest protection against a rogue government: “While the people retain their virtue and vigilance,” he said, “no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can very seriously injure the government in the short space of four years.”
As to virtue, John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” "If we would enjoy this gift of Heaven,” his cousin Samuel Adams echoed, “Let us become a virtuous people.” But America now apparently lacks the virtue necessary to the survival of our country.
Neither have Americans maintained the vigilance essential to our survival as a free people. For many decades after the revolution, Americans jealously guarded their individual freedom against any encroachments upon it by government. And during those times Americans remained a happy and prosperous people. But in the last 50 years or so Americans carelessly allowed elected officials to stealthily steal away rights that historically were considered God-given and inalienable, forgetting the words of men such as James Madison, who warned: “There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
Americans has become careless and increasingly corrupt; accordingly, our freedoms, already dramatically diminished, are about to irretrievably disappear, for as John Adams said, “Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” If freedom is lost in America we will realize that the burden that should have been borne to keep freedom only weighed ounces – the burden that will have to be borne when it is lost will weigh tons.
The Price Our Posterity will Pay if Freedom is Lost in America
History demonstrates that a nation of people can lose their freedom very quickly. The barrage of new regulations, the dictatorial powers assumed by the President, the lack of concern by our Congress for the will of the people and the blatant disregard by our government for the rule of law (The United States Constitution) could cause this to happen to us almost overnight. The tendencies of our government towards totalitarianism and the technology that is available to them to implement represents more than a grim possibility. In Joshua’s day, it took only one generation for a virtuous and free people to sink into paganism and bondage.
“We are moving towards socialism”, Stephen Leacock warned his fellow Canadians, “We are moving through the mist; nearer and nearer with every bit of government regulation, nearer and nearer through the mist to the edge of the abyss over which civilization may be precipitated to its final catastrophe.” So it is with us.
If our Constitutional Republic is transformed into what our leaders have in mind, our children and grandchildren will pay a terrible price for our irresponsibility. They will experience what millions have experienced wherever Marxists and socialists have ascended to power. The Russian people, after 1917 became and remain nothing more than human resources under their communist rulers, and it took only a couple of decades for Mao Tse Tung and the communists to stamp out every vestige of individual freedom in China.
A totalitarian government has nothing to offer our posterity but lives filled with hardship and hopelessness. Socialist economic policies have saddled our children with $46,000 in debt that they will pay in taxes. But the price they will pay is liberty is ultimately lost in America will be far beyond anything calculable in dollars and cents.
The Price We will Pay Personally if Freedom is Lost in America
This generation of Americans will also pay a terrible price if freedom is lost here. We will know the grief of the aged Israelites whose children came to them asking about how it used to be in Israel when people were free, saying, “We have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us … “ (Ps. 44:1) How sad it will be for us if the freedom and prosperity known to us becomes nothing than something for our posterity to hear about, but never experience themselves.
And we will pay a price in terms of guilt if we allow freedom to be lost here—the guilt of knowing that, when we could have made a difference, we didn’t. Think of the pangs of guilt we’ll feel should children one day ask us, “Back then, when America’s freedom was under assault, during that epochal time, what did you do in the cause of liberty?”
“You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done.” – Ronald Reagan