One of the great early visionaries of the Republic was Rev. Manasseh Cutler. In the 1780s, Cutler set his sights on the Ohio Territory, the subject of David McCullough’s new book, “The Pioneers.” Joyce E. Chaplin writing for the New York Times said of McCullough’s book, “The history of the Ohio Territory as a story of uplift, of what can happen when the doers of good are let loose upon a place. This is American history as a vision of our better selves.”
This is who we are and where we came from. It’s true that the way that a people views its own history is the way it behaves. Take for example the book of Judges in the bible and the vicious cycle Israel found itself in as they forgot their God and drifted away and then remembered who they were and who their God is and came back. Or the story of young King Josiah who during his reign found the forgotten scriptures and when the word of God was read aloud, it brought national revival. Simply finding a clear picture of their nation’s history lead to a national revival. It was Daniel Webster who said “History is nothing more than God’s providence in human affairs”
Charles Kauffman, early writer of history textbooks on our national history before the early 1900’s wrote, “Notice that while the oppressors have carried out their plans in history there were other forces silently at work which in time undermined their plans as if a divine hand were directing the counterplan, whoever parouses the story of liberty without recognizing this feature will fail to fully understand the meaning of history” In other words, if you don’t understand what God has been up to you won’t get the truth of history
In the wake of the first Great Awakening, John Adams rejoiced that “the pulpits have thundered” and specifically identified several ministers as being among the “characters the most conspicuous, the most ardent, and influential” in the “awakening and a revival of American principles and feelings” that led to American independence. This is who we are, this is where we came from. As we celebrate the 243rd Birthday of America’s Independence and the 232nd year of our Constitution may the stories of John Locke’s Two Treaties of Government, Washington’s Crossing the Delaware and Benjamin Franklin’s profound and event altering speech at the Constitutional Convention never be forgotten.
It was September 13th, 1814 and the British had bombarded Fort McHenry throughout the night. A young lawyer, Francis Scott Key was dispatched to the British fleet to negotiate the release of an American Doctor. Finally, the British agreed to release Dr. Beane but would not let them leave until after the battle began fearing they had heard too much of the battle plans regarding their impending attack on Fort McHenry. The British fired 1500 bombshells that weighed 220 lbs with lighted fuses that were supposed to explode on impact, but many malfunctioned and exploded in midair. From specially fitted small boats the British also fired new concreive rockets that would trace a small wobbly arch of red flame throughout the sky. Americans had taken 22 of their own vessels in the harbor so that the ships could get no closer. As long as they were shelling they knew the fort stood. Then an eerie silence welcomed the morning.
What the young lawyer Key didn’t know was that there was an attack by land of Baltimore and when the British saw the resilience of these Americans they ordered a retreat. As Key began to catch a glimpse of the flag over fort McHenry he was inspired to pen the words that we today herald as our National Anthem. We all know the first verse, “O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thro’ the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watch’d, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there. O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” But may never forget the fourth verse, “O thus be it ever when free-men shall stand, Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation; Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land Praise the Pow’r that hath made and preserv’d us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
I pray that during this year’s Fourth of July celebration we will also be inspired. Inspired by the story of the pioneers and inspired to share our Nations Godly Heritage by passing these truths on to our children and grandchildren. May the doers of good still inhabit and be let loose upon a place and May God continue to Bless America!
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.