The text of the Declaration of Independence (and for that matter, the laws set forth in the U.S. Constitution) did not emerge out of a moral vacuum unrelated to the writers’ own beliefs, but rather are the product of the reasonings of those who created them.
America’s Founding Fathers had the benefit of thousands of years of history to draw on when establishing their government. They could see what had failed in the past.
Our founders knew that there had been times when governments had absolute authority and persecuted the church. At other times the official church virtually controlled governments. The founders saw that neither of these extremes were ideal.
They developed a system of government well-equipped to stand the test of time… achieving extraordinary balance between liberty and law, and consistent with biblical concepts.
To fully understand the influence the Bible had on the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, we must READ THE FOUNDERS OWN WORDS.
Their own words make it crystal clear that the Founding Fathers were NOT NEUTRAL on the question of religion as the basis of government and society.
In a ten-year study undertaken at the University of Houston, researchers examined 15,000 documents from America’s founders and determined that 34% of their quotations came from the Bible, much higher than any other source.
Let’s look at just a handful.
Quotes of Signers of The Declaration of Independence
• John Hancock– (1st signer of the Declaration of Independence) “Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. … Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”
• John Adams– (2nd US President) “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
• Samuel Adams– (Father of the American Revolution) “I conceive that we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world that the rod of tyrants may be broken to pieces, and the oppressed made free again; that wars may cease in all the earth, and that the confusions that are and have been among nations may be overruled by promoting and speedily bringing on that holy and happy period when the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and all people everywhere willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is Prince of Peace.”
• Benjamin Rush– (Surgeon general of the Continental Army, called the father of public schools, founded the first American anti-slavery society) “The only foundation … a republic is to be laid in Religion. Without this, there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”
By “Religion”, he meant Christianity- autobiography- “My only hope of salvation is in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”
Also- “If we were to remove the Bible from public schools, we would be wasting so much time punishing crimes and taking so little pains to prevent them.”
• John Witherspoon– (President of Princeton College, only clergy member of the Continental Congress) “Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not [I do not hesitate] to call him an enemy of his country.”
“You are all my witnesses, that this is the first time of my introducing any political subject into the pulpit. At this season, however, it is not only lawful but necessary, and I willingly embrace the opportunity of declaring my opinion without any hesitation, that the cause in which America is now in arms, is the cause of justice, of liberty, and of human nature.” May, 1776
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are said to be DEISTS. Deists reject the idea that man can have a personal relationship with the Creator who intervenes in the affairs of men.
In truth, their own words demonstrate more spiritual confusion than Deism… since they speak of that very thing!
• Thomas Jefferson– “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.”— ie., God intervenes in the affairs of men!
• Benjamin Franklin. During the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin requested a break and called for prayer at a time when it was much needed. “…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 possible that an empire can rise without His aid?” Who knows where we would be today without that prayer?
“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped.”
The Declaration of Independence Text
• 56 signers acknowledged God in this document more than once, and RISKED EVERYTHING by signing.
Note the last line: “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.”
• Beginning with the Declaration of Independence, the writer’s spelled out very clearly whom they owed their obedience to and to whom their ultimate trust laid.
“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…” Unalienable means “Not to be separated, given away, or taken away.”
”…that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The signers acknowledged a CREATOR, and that our RIGHTS COME FROM HIM, and that these rights are NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN AWAY and that governments are instituted to PROTECT these rights.
Where did they get these ideas?
God prophesied to Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel what He would see to it that this ruler learned: Daniel 4:32- “and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”
John 19:11- Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.
Colossians 1:16- For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Romans 13:1- Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
And in cases where one must choose whom to obey because the options oppose each other. Acts 5:29 provides instruction. But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Again, the signers acknowledged a CREATOR, and that our RIGHTS COME FROM HIM, and that these rights are NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN AWAY and that governments are instituted to PROTECT these rights. It’s BIBLICAL!
Let’s continue the Declaration text
” …That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The Founders are clearly describing a REPRESENTATIVE FORM OF GOVERNMENT!
• The Old Testament shows that Israel demanded that God give them a king, BUT MONARCHY was not GOD’S WILL for government structure.
1 Sam 8:6-7- But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
• Scripture states that God’s ULTIMATE INTENT for government structure is what is called a THEOCRACY.
Theocracy means God rule. It is a form of government where God is recognized as the Supreme Being and the government is structured around His revelation. It is the system of governmental rule that is by divine guidance.
That’s exactly what God wanted for Israel: to be ruled by the one true God. But the Hebrews— wanting to be like the nations around them— rejected that.
Gideon expresses God’s intention for their Government plainly in Judges 8:22-23 ESV- Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.”
And Isaiah brings up another point about government structure.
Isaiah 9:6-76 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Ever wondered why as soon as Isaiah mentions that the responsibility of government will rest upon the shoulder of Jesus (“the child born”)… he begins describing the character of Jesus? Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty, Everlasting, Father, The Prince of Peace?
Because when Jesus returns to the earth and establishes his Kingdom, He will be an AWESOME RULER… UNLIKE ANY RULER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD… any king, any czar, any dictator, any prime minister, any president… UNLIKE any political party or governmental system… unlike communism, socialism, or even democracy.
He will rule with the love of a father, the wisdom of the ancients… and He will usher in peace on earth as never before!
Listen again. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever.
Ultimately, God knows that governments will stack up across the millenniums as evidence one truth: ONLY JESUS CAN TRULY RULE AND REIGN OUR WORLD SUCCESFULLY.
But in the meantime… if we are not called by God— as Israel was— to be a theocracy… and if we are waiting on the 2nd coming of Jesus… what’s the BIBLICAL GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE?
The Founders of our great nation believed it was REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT which yields LIBERTY… and they got their ideas from what had worked and not worked in history… and from the Bible.
Prov 11:14- For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers. (representatives)
Ex 18:21- 21 Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.
Deut 1:13- ‘Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’
The founding pastor of the church Lyn and I pastor gave us a copy of a book centered around a quote from Ben Franklin.
When asked as he left Independence Hall on the final day of deliberation at the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, what form of government the Continental Congress had decided on, his response was brief, but potent, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Our job, 242 years later, is the SAME because our freedoms- fought for by sweat, blood, and tears- still need defending.
Our fight today, may not be like our fathers— who fought in WWII. But the BATTLE RAGES in a DIFFERENT FORM… because our enemy, the devil, hates our democracy.
Satan favors governmental control which little by little leads to tyranny. He hates free speech, and any freedoms which can lead to salvation, freedom in Christ, and the expansion of the Kingdom of Light.
• John Hancock’s call to action is just as relevant today as it was then. “Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. … Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.”
Today, as we celebrate the Independence Day, let us declare INDEPENDENCE from anything that separates us from the liberty God has called our nation to, and from anything that separates us from the principles in our never-outdated founding documents.