Providence Today: Independence Hall

Speaker 1:
I’m standing in front of the wonderful place of the birth of American constitutionalism and our American independence. This is called Independence Hall today. That’s not what it was originally called. It was called the Pennsylvania State House and my understanding is that the name of Independence Hall was actually result of Lafayette coming back to visit America after the American revolution, many years later. And he talked about the great hall where independence was created, and that became the name that has stuck with the Pennsylvania State House ever since.

Speaker 1:
Now, as we look at this building, 1732 was the year that it was built and George Washington, whose statue’s out front was also born in 1732. So I like to think of them as twins meant for each other. The reason this building is so important is because in the lower left hand area where these four windows are, that’s the room where the declaration of independence was crafted. And then later in 1787, they came together again to talk about the new constitution, the Articles of Confederation were failing and they developed it.

Speaker 1:
So some of the things that I think we should know about are, first of all, the declaration that was crafted here written by Thomas Jefferson, along with a committee of others actually makes reference to God in four occasions. It’s something that is largely stripped out of our public discourse. But, we should not forget that when those men gathered here and the challenges they were facing from the British government, as they were talking about their rights as British citizens, their constitutional rights that they felt were being stripped from them.

Speaker 1:
They referred to deity in the following ways. First of all, they said, we’re endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. They talk about the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. They say for the rectitude of our intentions, we appeal to the Supreme Judge of the World. And then it concludes with a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence we mutually pledged to one another, our lives, our fortune, and our sacred honor. There was a recognition then that God was the source of Liberty.

Speaker 1:
It reflected that idea of what we found in the bell that was the top, the Liberty bell that’s now displayed just right over here. The Liberty bell says at the top Leviticus 25:10 proclaimed Liberty throughout the land onto all the inhabitants thereof. It’s a biblical reference to the source of Liberty. What we should remember as we think about that, those same ideas of deity then will shape the constitution. Sometimes people speak about the American constitution being a godless constitution. But what we find is that those four references to deity shape the kind of government created by our founders.

Speaker 1:
The framers, they were creators. They were creating a new form of government and so they created a legislature. Remember the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. They recognized that there was a need for a judiciary, the Supreme Judge of the World they created a Supreme court. And for the executive office, the one who implements the presence of law, well, there’s a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence. So the executive is the one who implements the protection of the constitution for all the people. It’s a remarkable balance, in fact, when they created the constitution, their last words are in the year of our Lord, 1787. They referenced the kingdom of Jesus Christ in the way of referencing time, we still do it to this day. We may feel that we are no longer thinking about God, but when we say the year 2019, when I’m here speaking today, it’s 2019 years in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Speaker 1:
Further, think about this, that the most biblical expression of the constitution is the recognition of the inability of human beings to deal with power in a just manner. One of the things the scriptures teach us is our fallenness, our depravity, our brokenness. And so the way our founders dealt with it was by the separation of powers, they separated power between the states and the federal government. They limited powers by enumerating them. They limited by making a constitution. They added to the bill of rights, a limitation on what government could do because all other rights were reserved to the states. The offices had terms and the people then had a right to elect their own elected officials, according to that. Constantly separating power to control it. That is a recognition, as we find right in the minutes of James Madison of political depravity.

Speaker 1:
George Washington, whose statue is here, actually wrote a letter as he was becoming the newly elected president of the constitution. It’s 85 pages long and in it he talks about the future likelihood of the survivability of the constitution. And he says, “the blessed Religion revealed in the word of God or remain an eternal monument to show what human beings can do in their depravity to corrupt the best of institutions.” My goodness, that it’s a mouthful. But if you translate, he’s saying, I happen to share with you the Christian faith. It is revealed to us in the word of God and it is an eternal revelation. It will be a monument to show us that people in their depravity or sinfulness can destroy good things that were intended to be beautiful. What was he referring to?

Speaker 1:
My interpretation is he’s referring to the law of Israel and the law courts that actually were used in a way to condemn just man and bring him to the cross, the crucifixion. Washington says we can take what is good and use it for ill. And so Washington is reminding us that the constitution is only as good as the people who govern under it. The constitution is our covenantal bond. Well, if you’re enjoying some of the things we’re learning here in Philadelphia about faith and freedom, we hope you’ll download our free app. It’s called the Faith & Freedom Tour app that you can get easily free downloadable gift, or you can go online providenceforum.org, and you can learn more. And so thanks a lot for being with Providence Today.

 

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