What Was the Cost of Freedom?

July 2, 2011

Pastor's Study

As we celebrate Independence Day, there is a message that MUST be heard.  Although we celebrate the fact that we have freedom, we need to remember that Freedom isn’t Free.  When I went to Bible College in Atlanta, I was introduced to a ministry group called “Life Action.”  They sang a song that still reverberates in my life today, “What Was the Cost of Freedom?”  The final paragraph of the Declaration of Independence reads:

            “We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” (emphasis mine).

            These men were labeled as Traitors to the British Crown.  However, their belief that God had created all men equally “with certain unalienable Rights” (Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness) forced them to fight for their right to be free.  What did our freedom cost?

            Seventeen fought in the ensuing war.  Five of the signers were captured by the British during the war although only Richard Stockton of New Jersey is said to have been imprisoned solely for having signed the Declaration of Independence. He died after a year after he was released.

Colonel George Walton was wounded and captured at the Battle of Savannah. Captains Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, and Arthur Middleton were all captured during the siege of Charleston in 1780 and exchanged a year later, too late to protect their property which had been looted as had the properties of Hall, Clymer, Walton, Hooper and Gwinnett.  

Thomas Lynch of South Carolina was arrested in 1780 and held on board a British prison ship for a year. During his imprisonment, his plantation was sacked and his slaves (more than 130) were taken and believed sold to sugar plantations in Jamaica.

Twelve others had their homes ransacked and burned.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy and was forced to sell his home and properties to pay his debts. Colonel Thomas McKean of Delaware was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding.  

Legend has it when Thomas Nelson Jr was told the British General Cornwallis had taken over his home for British headquarters, he replied, “Blow the thing down.” Nelson’s house is still standing at Yorktown and there are cannonballs embedded in its east wall.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. His home on Long Island was destroyed by British calvary in the fall of 1776.  Altogether, eleven signers had their homes and property destroyed.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died of exhaustion and a broken heart. Morris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured by the British during the war. The son of John Witherspoon was killed at the Battle of Germantown.

 What kind of men were these 56 rebels who signed the Declaration of Independence? Twenty-two were lawyers and nine were judges. Stephen Hopkins had been Governor of Rhode Island. Eighteen of the signers were merchants or businessmen, 14 were farmers, and four were doctors. Although two others had been clergy previously, John Witherspoon of New Jersey was the only active clergyman to attend. He wore his pontifical to the sessions.

 These were men of means, interested in the well being of their fellow countrymen. 42 had served in their States legislature. They were well educated men. Seven had attended Harvard, four each at Yale and William & Mary, and three at Princeton. John Witherspoon was the president of Princeton and George Wythe was a professor at William & Mary. Nine of the signers were immigrants, two were brothers, two were cousins, and one was an orphan. They were slave owners and duelists, men who were good in business and men who were not. In short, they were ordinary human beings, thrust into an extraordinary situation. They put their lives on the line to preserve the country they loved. (copied)

             THAT is the cost of Freedom!!  I consider living in this country a blessing from God.  I believe that it is time we (the people) stop taking our liberty for granted.  We have the responsibility to protect and defend that which was given to us as so great a cost!  It was gain FOR YOU AND I at great cost.  And, by the way, it is preserved FOR YOU AND I at great cost.  Don’t take what God has given to us for granted – we might just lose it!!

About Pastor

My Family: My wife and I have been married for 30 years (wow! that's hard to believe.) We have four wonderful children and EIGHT perfect grandchildren!! Education: I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Pastoral Theology from Tennessee Temple University. After serving Bethel Baptist Church in Ontario, Canada as Youth Pastor and South Buncombe Baptist in Asheville, NC as Associate Pastor, we moved to Wake Forest, NC where I attended Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1995, I received my Master of Divinity degree (with languages.) From 1999-2001, I attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary pursuing my Doctor of Ministry degree in Expository Preaching. Ministry: I have had the privilege of pastoring three wonderful congregations (Montwood Baptist 1993-1997; Union Baptist 1997-2002; and, South Fork Baptist 2010-present.) In 2010, God brought a very special group of people into my life. South Fork has become much more than a ministry to my family - it has become our home. If you are looking for a Church to call home, you will not find a better group of people than the family that makes up South Fork.

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