This Week’s Memory Verse: But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27 NIV)
Take a moment and pray that the Lord will speak to you in this time of study.
Read Romans 4:18-21 (GW translation)
When the First Continental Congress reconvened on July 4, 1776, the Resolution for Independence as adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, with New York abstaining (they later voted in favor on July 15th). Congress then began to discuss the wording of the Declaration. The changes demonstrated confidence and strong reliance upon God, as delegates added the words “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the rectitude of our intentions.”
In the center section are the complaints against King George that made independence necessary. Surprisingly, the reason given by modern history books—“taxation without representation”—is not at the top of the list. In fact, it was 17th in a list of 27 grievances, including 11 points on abuse of representative powers, seven on abuse of military powers, and four on abuse of judicial powers.
The revisions continued into the late afternoon of July 4, when at last, church bells rang out over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted.
One of the most widely held misconceptions about the Declaration is that it was signed on July 4, 1776 by all the delegates in attendance. In fact, it wasn’t officially signed until August 2. On that day, John Hancock, the president of Congress, was the first to sign. He signed with a flourish, using a big, bold signature centered below the text, twice the size of any other. He claimed that he wanted his name large enough for King George to read it without his spectacles. (However, the king never received a copy with Hancock’s signature.)
Then, one by one, the other delegates were called upon, beginning with the Northern – most states. Each man knew what he risked: to the British this was treason and the penalty for treason was death by hanging. Benjamin Franklin said, “Indeed we must all hang together. Otherwise we shall most assuredly hang separately.” William L. Ellery, a delegate from Rhode Island, inched his way to stand near the desk where the delegates were signing their names. He was curious to see their faces as each committed to a supreme act of courage. Ellery later reported that he was not able to discern real fear on anyone’s face. One man’s hand shook badly: Stephen Hopkins, also from Rhode Island, was in his 60s and was quick to explain, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.”
A pensive and awful silence filled the room, as one delegate after another signed what many at that time believed to be their own death warrants. The only sound was the calling of the names and the scratch of the pen. Then the silence and heaviness of the morning were interrupted by the tall, sturdily built Col. Benjamin Harrison of Virginia. He told a slender Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, “I shall have a greater advantage over you, Mr. Gerry, when we are all hung for what we are now doing. With me, it will all be over in a minute, but you, you’ll be dancing on air an hour after I’m gone.”
In the end, no signer was hung for treason, though many suffered greatly for their stand. For these men, who mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor, this was more than a declaration. It was more than a document. It was a covenant, the most solemn and most sacred of human agreements. They understood that God Himself was a witness of their actions that day.
In declaring their independence from earthly power and authority, our Founding Fathers declared their dependence upon Almighty God: “with firm reliance on the protection of divine Province.” Like the Pilgrims before them, they fully expected God to keep His side of the covenant as they obeyed His Word and followed His Spirit. (1)
They were not disappointed.
(1) Adapted from “Under God” by Toby Mac and Michael Tait
Devotional studies this week are based on the sermon “An American Story – Francis Scott Key” by Pastor Nate Atwood. If you would like to hear the sermon in its entirety, go to KPC.ORG/WATCH & LISTEN.