Happy Independence Day
by Rev. David T. Myers
On this Independence Day, we reflect on what freedom means to us as Christian Presbyterians. Among all the benefits which we enjoy as Christian citizens, chief among which should be the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience as regulated by His Word, the Bible. That didn’t happen by accident, of course. We must thank at least in word the signers of the Declaration of Independence who were ready to sacrifice everything so that we might enjoy the blessings of this nation today. And of the 56 signers of that historic document, 12 individuals, or 21% of the fifty-six signers were Presbyterian in conviction, or in some way possessed close ties with the Presbyterian church.
While the Presbyterian Church was never thought of as being the state church of the new nation, still countless Presbyterian congregations were thought of as being the building blocks of the new nation. There was a reason why a member of the British Parliament commented during the American Revolution that Cousin America has run away with a Presbyterian parson. Further, there was a particular hatred of the Presbyterianism by British officers and troops. They burned down countless Presbyterian churches, destroyed their Bibles and pastoral books, or used their buildings for hospitals, stables, and storage centers. During the years of the Revolution, presbyteries often met for business far from their normal locations during peace time.
So as I simply list the names of those twelve Presbyterian signers of the Declaration of Independence, how many had you heard of before, and what do you know of their lives? They are: Benjamin Rush (of Pennsylvania), James Smith (of Pennsylvania), George Taylor (of Pennsylvania), James Wilson (of Pennsylvania), Abraham Clark (of New Jersey), Richard Stockton (of New Jersey), John Hart (of New Jersey), and John Witherspoon (of New Jersey), Philip Livingston (of New York), William Floyd (of New York), Matthew Thornton (of New Hampshire), and Thomas McKean (of Delaware).
Some of these will be covered at relevant dates in this historical devotional. But all of them need to be remembered by you for their faithful commitment to God and country.
Words to Live By: It would be a great spiritual exercise for you or one of your family to study the background of each of these men for a daily or Sunday home devotional to share with the members of your family, or just for yourself, or for your congregation. Many of them shared great hardship due to their commitment to our nation. May we be just as eager to stand up for righteousness today, whether in our homes, or at our work places, or in society at large.