Our Lives, Our Fortunes and Our Sacred Honor

Written by Jeff Carlson on .

Declaration of Independence SigningAll of us at Carlson Report want to wish you and your family a very happy Independence Day. We live in times no less momentous than the Founding Fathers and Signers of the Declaration of Independence faced 244 years ago today. May this brief article remind us of our heritage and freedoms as Americans. May this article also remind us that freedom is never free and that someone must always be willing to pay a price to maintain those freedoms or tyranny and slavery will return, as we are currently witnessing. May we all renew our calling today, as the Lord's people, to stand up for our faith in the face of many challenges, and never forget that all freedom in this life and the next are ultimately connected to the Lord Jesus Christ and the price that was paid for our freedom from sin on the cross.

As we look back 244 years ago today, the most famous words in American history come from the Declaration of Independence. So, on this 4th of July weekend, we look back and thank the Lord for those American leaders that laid a foundation of sacrifice to give us everything we have as Americans. Here are the two most famous lines in the Declaration, one at the beginning and one at the end. The Declaration opens with these words,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
And closes with these 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.
Those great words that frame our Declaration cover the great themes in the Bible, whether people fully understand them or not. They discuss the great purposes and goals of the Founders at the beginning, but also closes with the cost they were willing to pay. In a similar way, the Bible opens in Genesis 1 with the Lord's great purposes in Creation and culminutes with how much it cost the Lord to pay for them through the cross. So, may we think deeply on this day of celebration as a witness to what we hold dear as Americans, but more importantly what we have as Christians.

The following short discussion from WallBuilders Ministry outlines some of the costs and trials that were paid by the 56 men that signed the Declaration to begin our Nation.

Most of the signers of the Declaration experienced great hardships during the Revolutionary War, up to and including death (many of them actually did not live to see the national independence for which they had personally pledged their own "lives, fortune, and sacred honor"). Additionally, two were wounded in battle: George Walton and Thomas Heyward, both of whom were held as prisoners for a time. Arthur Middleton was also captured and held as a prisoner, as was Richard Stockton. And many of them (17) lost their homes or property, including Josiah Bartlett (home set on fire), William Ellery (home set on fire), Lewis Morris (much of his property was destroyed and his house was "greatly injured"), Richard Stockton (lands devastated, library burned), John Hart (house ransacked, mill and crops destroyed), George Clymer (belongings destroyed), Lyman Hall (all his property was confiscated), Francis Lewis (library burned, house plundered), the Rev. John Witherspoon (his house was invaded and his cherished theological library was burned), George Wythe, and others. Many were forced to flee their homes, escaping just in time to avoid capture; including Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, George Clymer, Thomas Jefferson, Arthur Middleton's family, Lyman Hall, Francis Lewis, and William Floyd. Some of the signers also dealt with severe family hardship or loss: Abraham Clark had two of his three sons held as prisoners, tortured, and abused; Francis Lewis' wife was held as prisoner for several months during which time her health so deteriorated that it resulted in her premature death; John Witherspoon's oldest son, James, was killed during the Battle of Germantown. These are some of the many examples; and the wives of the signers also endured unspeakable hardships.
How ironic then, that our nation is still in a battle for freedom, but this time the battle is with ourselves, not England. Many people are saying that America is in a new "civil war" as a nation, very similar to the Civil War from 1861-1865, with some of the same issues still being fought over. But many people seem to have forgotten that on this same weekend, that celebrates our Independence, the Battle of Gettysburg had just finished 157 years ago to the day. America won that great battle, as over 150,000 men fought and died during 3 incredible days on July 1-3, 1863. The Battle of Gettyburg marked a turning point in the Civil War that led to the end of slavery and a new birth of freedom for America, as President Abraham Lincoln would later say in his famous "Gettysburg Address" delivered at the battle site. 

That tremendous battle, and the Civil War itself, holds very important and personal meaning for me and everyone in our nation, especially at this critical time. You see, my great, great grandfather, Private Saunders Leroy VanCamp, was actually at the Battle of Gettysburg fighting for the Union as part of the 145th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was wounded on July 2 and lay all night in a wheat field with a wound that should have taken his life. Somehow, miraculously, he lived and came back to Michigan to start a family. I was born 92 years later, a living descendant of the battle of Gettysburg and the bloodiest war in American history that cost over 600,000 lives.  All of those 600,000 lives were given to pay a price for the sin of slavery that ultimately point to the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death for all sin. The cross must be our final answer in any attempt to seek justice in this life or the next.  As as result, any and all attempts at finding some sort of vague social justice without the cross must and will fail. 

So on this special weekend we stop and thank all our veterans, like my great, great grandfather, who all fought so that America could move forward to build the greatest nation in world history. America is a precious gift to the world. There has never been a nation like it and without the heartfelt sacrifices of its people America cannot be America.  So as we sit back and enjoy a day of rest, liberty and freedom because of the lives and sacrifices of many others these last 244 years, let us commit our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to make our nation and churches places of freedom and honor to our Lord and all we have been given in Him.
Happy Independence Day to all.