As a nation, we are about to celebrate Independence Day or as it is more often referred to the Fourth of July. It is a federal holiday that commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence 241 years ago on July 4, 1776. It is a day of fireworks, parades, picnics, concerts, baseball games, political ceremonies, long weekends, excessive heat, and no mail. It is a day of celebrating the history and traditions of the United States or as she is referred to in that great document, “the thirteen united States of America”, “these States”, “the united States of America”, “Free and Independent States”, and “Independent States”.
Our legal divorce from Great Britain actually occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress, in closed session, voted to approve a resolution of independence proclaiming these United States independent from Great Britain. On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote the following to his wife Abigail:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it 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, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
He missed it by a couple of days.
From the 16th century until today, if there was or is a political or religious argument, fight, battle, or war in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, or these United States there was or is a Presbyterian involved. In 18th century, the word “Presbyterian” was used as a derogatory or unflattering adjective or as a noun with less than flattering synonyms: a Calvinist, a dissenter, a republican, a liberal, a Whig, a fanatic, an anti-monarchical rebel, a hot brained Zealot, a dissenter, hot-headed, etc. In our modern world, Presbyterians are often seen as liberal extremist or conservative nuts, depending on the commentator’s personal politics.
This was excessively clear during our nations struggle for independence, 1765 through 1783. In April of 1775 with the British attack of Colonial military supplies at Lexington and Concord and with many other incidents Presbyterian pastors and elders were there fighting, encouraging others to fight, and providing a religious context from which to interpret the war. This war eventually blossomed into a worldwide conflict, during which the Patriots and near the end with French, Spanish, and Dutch allies, fought the British and Loyalists in what became known as the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783). But for the loyalist, the Tories, and King George III the American Revolutionary War was a Presbyterian rebellion. In many ways, it was a “holy war” that pitted Anglicans against dissenters, who were often labelled as Presbyterians.1
It was a political conflict with a strong religious dimension. Isaac Atkinson, a Maryland loyalist of that time, said that “it was a religious dispute and a Presbyterian scheme.”2 Thomas Smith, a Pennsylvanian loyalist of that time, said “that the whole was nothing but a scheme of a parcel of hot-headed Presbyterians.”3
Friends, enjoy this Fourth of July, go on a picnic or two, enjoy a baseball game, and don’t forget to thank God for all the blessing that we have. Those things which have been purchased with the sweat and blood of others. Remember that the greatest gift we have received is the love shown to us by God in the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was His blood that paid for our redemption. Test your life and all of its attributes, as did the Patriots, with the truth found in God’s Word.
“but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV)
1 Gardiner, Richard, “The Presbyterian Rebellion: An analysis of the perception that the American Revolution was a Presbyterian war” (2005). Dissertations (1962 – 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3172505. http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3172505.
2 Peter Force, American Archives, Fourth Series, Vol. III:1584.
3 “Minutes of the Committee of Safety of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1774-1776,” from the original in the library of General William Watts Hart Davis, Doylestown, Pennsylvania; entry for August 21, 1775, in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 15 (1891), 266.