Thursday, July 5, 2012

Declaration of Independence

The best way to celebrate the 4th of July is to read the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence is only 1323 words, it fits on two pages of a Microsoft Word document, and it would take less than fifteen minutes to read. Yet it changed history.

If you didn’t have an opportunity yesterday to read the Declaration, you can find it here:

Like any rich document I discover something new every time I read the Declaration. One sentence that jumped out at me this year was the following:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

The 56 signers of the Declaration recognized that governments should not be changed for easy or simplistic reasons. Almost half of the Declaration demonstrated the injuries that King George had caused. In some ways the Declaration was a cautious statement, appealing to natural law for the change of government in the 13 colonies. It was both radical and conservative at the same time.

It took Thomas Jefferons seventeen days to write the Declaration and the 2nd Continental Congress a few days to make the final changes.

As I read the Declaration this year I couldn’t help but think of the people of Syria. The oppression of the people of that country by Bashar al-Assad must be similar to the oppression of King George III.

Twelve of the 56 signers were Presbyterian; the only clergy person who signed the document was John Witherspoon—a Presbyterian pastor.

May we never forget how the Declaration of Independence changed the course of history. It is worth reading at least once a year.

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