The Declaration

Washington's Tomb

Washington’s Tomb

I have roamed the hallowed grounds of Mount Vernon, the home, gardens, fields and enterprises of George Washington that tell the story of a great American. His story is our story, how we became a nation. He did not compose our Declaration of Independence, but became the force behind it.

It was 239 years ago that brave Americans finally had enough of tyranny, so they drafted and signed a document for the ages. It was a declaration that placed their lives and fortunes in jeopardy. They did so with determination, and with reliance on Almighty God.

It only took three weeks to draft, revise and adopt it, but the ideas expressed were developed over years and couched in deep conviction. The context of the American grievance was a specific understanding about freedom under God, and such language found its way into the famous text.

They believed it was time for a nation to assume “the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them.” They were men “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” who appealed to the “Supreme Judge of the World” to vindicate their honorable intentions. “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Consider those phrases. The Founders believed freedom is inherent in creation, not granted by government. They relied on a Creator God who was involved in the affairs of men and nations. Believing that God is necessary to sustain good government, George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

The Patriots wanted the world to know their intentions were not of greed, power, or war-mongering. They simply wanted freedom. They understood that God is capable of peering into the human heart. May God give America leaders today that have selfless, patriotic intentions, and are courageous enough to worship the Creator rather than creation.

The name ‘Providence’ describes a God who guides human history to the purpose he intends, and was Washington’s oft-used name for God. He and his fellow statesmen believed that God’s hand was guiding their struggle for independence and freedom. Some pivotal events of the Revolutionary War were so improbable that it’s no wonder Washington favored this name.

Should not a nation founded with such ideas of God be guided by them as well? Does not the yearning for freedom still drive Americans to resist tyranny from without (murderous terrorists) or from within (misappropriated taxes, burdensome regulations, legalized immorality)? Should not our Constitution is be used to preserve religious freedom rather than restrict it?

Though Washington did not sign the Declaration, he does have his own lasting declaration. The family tomb at Mount Vernon is a quiet place to reflect while standing mere feet from the greatest American in history. There the family engraved these words of Jesus as Washington’s declaration to those who visit: “I am the resurrection, and the life. He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” That is real freedom!