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Summary: Independence Day Sermon. How the Founding Fathers ordered their values and how Christians everywhere are to commit to Jesus’ values.

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Grant S. Sisson

Countryside Christian Church, Shreveport, LA

2009-06-28

One of the most profound things I learned in graduate school was taught to me by one of my professors. He is now my Counselor Intern Supervisor, my mentor, and my good friend, Tom Moore. It was really more of a question than a profound fact to puzzle over. On an essay final exam, he asked, “What do you hold sacred?” By “hold sacred” he meant “what is it that means so much to you that you would die for it? What is it in your life that means so much that you simply will not have it any other way?” Once you can answer that question you know the foundation of your value system. It is what you look to as your North Star to navigate your life by. When you come to the end of your life, you will judge yourself by how true you have been to this deepest and most treasured value.

In our world today we are deluged with the thought that we must be tolerant. I believe that we should be tolerant – of people, not of values that are inconsistent with God’s Truth. Many value lives of peace and prosperity – peace meaning being allowed to enjoy our prosperity without interference. But this leaves us with a selfish outlook; what about those in this world who are less fortunate? Do we want to not be bothered by them either? And what of those who have valued peace above all else in history – Neville Chamberlain gave away Europe’s chance to avoid WWII by his policy of appeasement. By valuing peace above freedom he gave away the world’s chance to have peace. Are peace and prosperity values that are to be held above all else? How do we order what’s important in life?

I ran across a Paul Harvey piece that I want to share with you. As we approach the 233rd anniversary of our great nation, I think it a good thing to remember the values that these men sacrificed so valiantly for.

“THEY PAID THE PRICE

Americans, you know the 56 men who signed our Declaration of Independence that first 4th of July--you know they were risking everything, don’t you? Because if they won the war with the British, there would be years of hardship as a struggling nation. If they lost they would face a hangman’s noose. And yet there where it says, "We herewith pledge, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor," they did sign. But did you know that they paid the price?

When Carter Braxton of Virginia signed the Declaration of Independence, he was a wealthy planter and trader. But thereafter he saw his ships swept from the seas and to pay his debts, he lost his home and all of his property. He died in rags…

Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five times in five months. He served in Congress without pay, his family in poverty and in hiding.

Vandals looted the properties of Ellery and Clymer and Hall and Gwinnett and Walton and Heyward and Rutledge and Middleton. And Thomas Nelson, Jr. of Virginia raised two million dollars on his own signature to provision our allies, the French fleet. After the War he personally paid back the loans wiping out his entire estate; he was never reimbursed by his government. And in the final battle for Yorktown, he, Nelson, urged General Washington to fire on his, Nelson’s own home, then occupied by Cornwallis. And he died bankrupt. Thomas Nelson, Jr. had pledged his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor…

Thomas Heyward, Jr. was captured when Charleston fell. John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside while she was dying; their thirteen children fled in all directions for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves and returned home after the War to find his wife dead, his children gone, and his properties gone. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart…

John Hancock, history remembers best, due to a quirk of fate--that great sweeping signature attesting to his vanity… One of the wealthiest men in New England, he stood outside Boston one terrible night of the War and said, "Burn Boston, though it makes John Hancock a beggar, if the public good requires it." He, too, lived up to the pledge.

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration, few were long to survive. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes--from Rhode Island to Charleston--sacked and looted, occupied by the enemy or burned. Two of them lost their sons in the Army; one had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 died in the War from its hardships or from its more merciful bullets. I don’t know what impression you’d had of these men who met that hot summer in Philadelphia, but I think it’s important this July 4, that we remember this about them: they were not poor men, they were not wild-eyed pirates. These were men of means; these were rich men, most of them, who enjoyed much ease and luxury in personal living. Not hungry men-- prosperous men, wealthy land owners, substantially secure in their prosperity. But they considered liberty [to be] so much more important than security, that they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. And they fulfilled their pledge--they paid the price, and freedom was born.

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