The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time:
the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them.
–Thomas Jefferson, in “A Summary View of the Rights of British America”
Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just:
that his justice can not sleep forever…
― Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia on the need for abolition of slavery
Would Thomas Jefferson, architect of our Declaration of Independence celebrated on July 4, tremble for his country today?
I believe he would, even considering how his views were radical in his day, his religious convictions unconventional. He wrote that foundational document even as his own home and property was managed by slaves of African descent. He personally understood the moral quicksand on which he stood so tenuously – a conflict he felt as close as his own bedroom: story telling may romanticize the relationship, but what liberty was there for the slave who bore their six mixed race children?
Jefferson personally recognized and mourned our abuse of our liberties secured and maintained through the blood shed by our forefathers, our brothers, sisters and descendants, no matter what color their skin.
Today we are sinking deeply in that same moral quicksand, having done no better than Jefferson at forging a personal and ethical foundation on which to firmly stand. We need only to look at who we place in the White House and who we see in the mirror.
We have squandered our autonomy with selfishness rather than selflessness borne out of gratitude for the gift of freedom. We strive to secure and protect what is ours before we worry in humility if others have what they need first. We trample daily on others’ rights in the name of self-determination and freedom of choice, especially discarding the defenseless for their imperfect genetics, undesired gender or simply being ill-timed and inconvenient.
Just whose life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is at stake here?
History as recorded in the Word and elsewhere shows when everyone does as they see fit, there is no immunity from judgment and wrath:
In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
And how well is that working out for us?
It took a true servant King who sacrificed Himself to save us from destroying ourselves and each other.
He is still waiting for our response. Still waiting…
Let us remember with conviction today the only true source of our life and liberty — His justice does not sleep.
What else does this craving, and this helplessness,
proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness,
of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?
This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him,
seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are,
though none can help,
since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object;
in other words by God himself.
His Truth is marching on…