Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thanksgiving on the Fourth of July

    At the U.S. Constitutional Convention in 1787 Benjamin Franklin urged his colleagues to pray, making this observation: "In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. – Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor." This was not pious cant. American independence does indeed owe much to divine providence.
    At the outbreak of the war the odds seemed heavily in favor of the British. The Americans had only a rag-tag army, were poorly organized, and were entirely lacking in funds. They were opposed by the finest army in the world at the time. Washington's army would disintegrate through desertions every winter, and the militias were unreliable in combat. At one point we were betrayed by one of our top generals (Benedict Arnold). The fact that we eventually won the war was due primarily to poor planning and execution on the part of the British, the intervention of the French near the end of the war, and a series of fortuitous circumstances. The unlikely and improbable became an accomplished fact.
    What did the favorable outcome of the war bring us? What are its abiding results?
    The immediate result, of course, was our independence, and release from all the grievances that had occasioned the war in the first place. Our ancient rights and liberties as an English speaking people had been preserved.
    But in the succeeding years the distinctive character of American life emerged: representative democracy, the abolition of class distinctions, the private ownership of property and the unrestricted freedom of religion. Feudal distinctions and impairments were swept away, and government of the people, by the people, and for the people was firmly established.
    Franklin went on in his speech to say "I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs 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 probable that an empire can rise without his aid?"
    Would it not be appropriate, on this Fourth of July, for those of us who are Americans to take a few moments to acknowledge God's past mercies, and to ask Him for His blessings on the nation in the future?

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