56 men signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, a document that would pave the way to freedom for all Americans, then and now.
Last week my husband preached a sermon about these men. He began with a simple question: “Can you name any of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence?”
The names that we should all know sprang to my mind first. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and who could forget John Hancock’s overzealous signature? But that was where the answers stopped. I didn’t know any of the other names.
My husband proceeded to tell us what happened to these men after they signed the historical document. Five of them were captured by the British, and tortured before they succumbed to death. Twelve watched as their homes were ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons to the Revolutionary war, while two men’s sons were captured. Nine of them fought and died in the war themselves.
These men were just like us. Many of them held jobs as lawyers and merchants. Some were farmers or plantation owners, and many were well-educated. Most had large families. And all of them, despite their differences, united for one common purpose: the pursuit of freedom. These men signed this document knowing the cost; they knew it could cost them their very lives.
Since my husband’s sermon, I can’t get these men out of my head. I find myself wondering if I would be so willing to sacrifice my time, my possessions, even my life, for freedom. Would I have had the courage to sign my name on that piece of paper?
As Americans, we are blessed to live in a nation of freedom. But that freedom was not free. Many lost their lives, gave up everything they owned, so that they could ensure the freedom of future generations.
Perhaps they were inspired by another man who laid down his life for freedom. As Christians, we are given freedom in Christ. But that freedom is also not free. Jesus died on the cross, paying the ultimate price, ensuring forgiveness for our sins, then and now, now and forever.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in human flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1-4
We are free in America because of the price those 56 men, and other men of that time, paid. More importantly, we are all free from bondage, from sin, and even death itself, all because of Jesus. Today may we recognize the price of those freedoms, and may we never take them for granted.
“You will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.” – John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail, April 26 1777