Sir William Jones, the renowned eighteenth-century English jurist and scholar, once remarked of his native England, “We live in the midst of blessings till we are utterly insensible of their greatness and the source from whence they flow.” Sadly, the same could be said of the American people today.
Even with all the problems we face, we are blessed to live in the most prosperous, politically stable, and free nation in the history of the world. Despite this glorious inheritance, many Americans have turned their backs on our national foundations. They indignantly sneer at the biblical morality we once shared, and they speak with contempt of the founding fathers and other faithful men who have—by their vigilance and sacrifice—secured, maintained and preserved our republic for future generations.
More than anything, we need to rediscover some foundational truths. What was the source of our blessings of liberty, prosperity, and security? Put differently, what was the source of American exceptionalism?
Without a doubt, we should know deep in our bones that our national greatness flows from Christ and our public faith in Him. After all, we have been a bible nation from the very beginning. Our national birth certificate—the Declaration of Independence—articulated many of the biblical principles that would come to undergird our system of government. As Samuel Adams remarked, the American founding “restored the Sovereign to whom alone men ought to be obedient.”
Furthermore, our founders attested to God’s intervention on our behalf during the War for Independence, and they believed He providentially guided them as they structured a nation founded upon the idea of liberty under God’s law.
For these reasons, early Americans celebrated Independence Day with worship and gratitude for God’s protection, favor, and blessing. Writing to his wife Abigail immediately after joining with his fellow delegates in voting for independence, John Adams presciently foresaw both the importance of the event in which he had just taken part and the traditions that would be celebrated by successive generations of Americans:
I am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations [fireworks] from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.
Yes, John Adams predicted that Independence Day would be celebrated with fireworks, parades, sports, and guns! How’s that for a prediction come true?
But also notice that John Adams says Independence Day ought to be celebrated by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. As the source of all blessings, God deserves our worship and thanksgiving today. He has given us our liberty, and He has allowed us to live in a nation that has generated more opportunity and human flourishing than any other.
When we gather for BBQ and fireworks this Independence Day, let’s set aside some time to follow the example of early Americans. I would encourage you to lead your family and friends in prayer and worship, thanking God for all He has done for the United States and asking for His help as we rebuild our nation on its founding principles.