This week we celebrated Canada Day and Independence Day for the U.S.A. Both these great countries have great populations with intelligence and inventiveness, and souls that will continue the greatness of the land. I would like you to look upon our flag. A lot is represented in this great American symbol. We have thirteen stripes, representing the beginning of our country on July 4th with the 13 original colonies. Then there are fifty stars. That says something more. It shows the American unity and spirit.
Being born and mostly raised in the U.S., I would like to focus on the soul of this country, but I am sure it can be likened to Canada and many other countries as well.
There have been great obstacles for us to overcome as a people. The soul of our country contains the heritage and history of our people.
The soul is what has gone on before, what is going on today, and what will go on in the future. The mind of this great country is within you today. You have been given the key to this great land for it is the land of opportunity.
Let’s look for a moment at how this country survived after it received its freedom. After July 4th, 1776, chaos broke out in this country. In 1787, our country was in such chaos that the thirteen colonies thought they were going to go down. Many around the world believed that this was the end of the great experiment called the United States of America. A constitutional convention was formed. When these thirteen colonies came together, they were so disjointed that there was only one thing that could save them—God’s Spirit.
Benjamin Franklin knew this. He was 81. He rose and spoke to the convention. He said, “I am convinced that scripture is right when it says in Psalms 127:1: Except the Lord. Build the house. They labor in vain that build it. Gentlemen, I have lived a long time. I am convinced that God governs in the affairs of men. If the sparrow can’t fall to the ground without God’s notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without God’s aid? I move, gentlemen, that prayer imploring the assistance of heaven be held every morning before we proceed with business.”
Prayer is what this whole country was based on. It began with a dream—a dream to come to a country and be able to worship as you want to worship, to pray as you want to pray. It began with a dream to become whatever you wanted to become. After July 4, 1776, what happened to that dream? What is happening with it today?
I heard a commentator say recently that our economic challenges are the greatest that we’ve ever faced. We have been in greater difficulties and we have pulled out of those difficulties because of our greatness as a people and as a nation, and we will again.
Psalm 119:45 NIV I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
Every time we look at the flag, we see the dream manifested. We see what has happened between the time that there were thirteen dis-united states until the manifestation of our fifty United States.
Let me quote some history of our country’s development.
“By September of 1786, the United States were—the plural applies—as unstrung as the guitar leaning against my wall here.. The economy barely moved. Inflation was high triple digit. Jails bulged with debtors, criminals in those pre-credit card days. States waged vicious trade wars against each other. The total federal income in 1785 was less than a third of just the interest on the national debt. Printing presses flowed rivers of worthless paper money. It was so out of control that James Madison owed his barber $1,020 for one haircut.
The British, having lost the Revolution, determined to win the peace by strangling American commerce. The redcoats refused to leave frontier forts. Spain closed the Mississippi to American flatboats. Lacking a navy, America was humbled into paying the ruler of Morocco $10,000 to keep his hands off Yankee vessels.
Congress, sitting in New York, was hopeless and hapless. From October 1785 through the following April, a quorum showed up for only three days. Not three years before, Congress fled Philadelphia rather than be killed by the bayonets of mutinous, unpaid soldiers from the Revolution.
The law of the land was a deservedly forgotten political Edsel (the car) called the Articles of Confederation by which the thirteen states were as free as preschoolers in a sandbox to do as they pleased. No one was in charge. Had there been, most likely it would have been George Washington, but he was retired to Mount Vernon, dangerously low on money and filled with dismay.
In August 1786 he wrote: “I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union.” The Americans adlibbed victory in the Revolution, a war fought on a shoestring and often without shoe leather. What they were against was clear. What they were for was not. The Articles reflected this indecision.
John Dickinson of Pennsylvania drafted the Articles in 1776, right after the Continental Congress declared independence. Having thrown off one despotism, the thirteen colonies were not about to hurl themselves back into the fire by creating another. So there was no national executive under the Articles. Congress could ask for funds from the states but could not compel payment. Memories of stamp taxes were not easily forgotten. Nor were Crown judges. So the Confederation had no national court system.
As the war wound down, states became more deaf to appeals from Congress for cash. Congress asked for $8 million in 1782 to run the government at war’s end and $2 million in 1783 when peace came. The states responded with $1.5 million in each year. So Congress asked for an amendment to the Articles to permit it to levy a 5% tax for 25 years to pay off the war debt. An amendment required the approval of all thirteen states. Four said no.
Under the Articles, any major legislation required approval of nine states. So states opposed to anything could combine and exercise a veto by staying home until the legislation blew over. This sat well anyhow because delegates had trouble paying their landladies as Congress wandered all but penniless from Philadelphia to Princeton to Annapolis to Trenton to New York.
The Articles didn’t even provide for the common defense once peace broke out. So most states had their own navy or army or both. Without judges to appeal to, this meant the quickest solution to most interstate squabbles was to tax the neighboring state with higher import and export taxes. The winners were the states that had major ports and established merchant marines such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York. The losers were the New Jerseys, Connecticuts and Carolinas who had little or none of the above. They were taxed through the nose by those maritime states and resented it, deeply.
New Jersey paid 40,000 pounds a year in hard money to send and receive goods through New York and Philadelphia. In retaliation, it charged New York 30 pounds a month rental on the lighthouse at Sandy Hook. Maryland closed the Potomac to Virginians, and Virginia retaliated by charging Maryland tolls at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Massachusetts and Rhode Island wanted to retaliate against British shipping after the war, but Connecticut hoped to garner the trade from the mother country and wouldn’t go along.
Americans were Americans in name, not fact. A New Yorker said he wouldn’t send his son to school in Connecticut lest he pick up “the low craft and cunning so incident to the people of that country.” Note the world “country.”
The British delighted at the infighting among what London called the “disunited States.” Geography in the form of innumerable rivers and coastal bays divided the states. A letter to England from Boston could reach there faster than one mailed to Charleston. “Good roads,” said one American, “are like angels’ visits: few and far between.”
The British well recognized the potential of a vast nation that already contained 3.5 million people. English strategy was to divide and conquer, to foster divisions and perhaps see the confederation split into three manageable (to London) nations divided by economics and interest into South, Middle and North. Britain contemplated sending ambassadors to each state instead of one to the country as a while.
Well, money was out of hand. The dream was out of hand. Most people were on the very rim of bankruptcy. Marylanders, for instance, owed British creditors the staggering sum of 1.6 million pounds; this when the total federal income was $400,000.
By 1786, seven states were printing paper money backed mostly by wishful thinking and rarely accepted by the states next door. New York speculators crammed saddlebags with printed money and headed for the hinterlands hoping to fool the uninformed people before they learned the money was worthless.
Rhode Island, a paper money state, passed a law that creditors had to accept payment at face value regardless of the worth of the money. Rhode Island’s creditors departed Rhode Island, which was okay with the debtors but meant there was no one left to get credit from.”
So, what we have here is a country that has broken off from each other and so was failing. America was looked at by other countries that was no longer working kind of like buzzards that fly over a dead animal. When you look at our flag, you see that. You see the thirteen original countries that were not united. How did it become united? How did we get to the blue part of the flag where we see the fifty stars?
Today when people throw up their arms and say, “This will never work. Our country will never succeed now,” realize that God’s Spirit is in the mind of every person in this great land. God’s grace shines on this land. As hopeless as things have seemed in the past, when God’s working, the miracles come.
The miracles came through a piece of paper that united thirteen stripes on our flag. It got them to work together as one nation under God. I’m talking about the Constitution. It embodies the American spirit.
Psalms 145:18 The LORD is near to all them that call on him, to all that call on him in truth.
Emmett Fox talks about our Constitution when he said:
“The United States is not merely one more nation added to the list of nationalities. It stands for certain special ideas and special principles which have never been definitely expressed in concrete form in the world before. These ideas may be summed up in the conception of personal freedom and unlimited opportunity.”
The American Spirit may be an intangible but it IS very real thing in itself; but as far as it can be put into words, it has been expressed in the two great official documents of the American Republic, namely, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
These two documents are among the most remarkable ever written, and their effect upon the history of the world has probably never been surpassed. They are both quite short, not more than a few thousand words in length, but every thoughtful person anywhere, and certainly every American, should make themselves acquainted with them.”
To understand the American Constitution, one must realize that it aims at bringing about a definitely selected condition of things. It aims at a special way of life–a way of life that up to the present has only been found in completeness in the United States. It aims at personal freedom for the individual. It aims at the idea of substantial equality, and above all, at equality of opportunity. No civilization had ever before aimed at that.
The great Roman Empire had certain magnificent aims, but equality of opportunity was not one of them; they were always based on a foundation of slavery. The Middle Ages definitely rejected the idea of personal freedom and equality of opportunity, and aimed rather at discipline and uniformity.
We tend to take this freedom of opportunity—too much for granted. The people back in the time when it was written, the people of the Revolution, had to rally plan and think it out. They had to work for it. They had to make sacrifices for it. They had to fight for it, and in many cases, they had to lay down their lives for it. It did not come easily. The inspiration was there, but, as with every inspiration, it had to be brought out into practical expression, and that is always difficult. It’s always easy to copy another thing with slight alterations, but very difficult to do something really new and better. In this case, the inspiration came to the leader, to the Fathers of the Constitution, as we call them, but they could have done nothing alone if the people had not responded, and worked, and fought, to make it secure.
Colossians 4:2 Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
The power of this nation says that you have equality of opportunity. You have an opportunity as an American to dream. You have an opportunity as an American to go to God the way you choose to go to God. You have, as an American, the right to go into any state and know that it is part of your land because you are a part of the United States.
There are people who got together when all dismay was breaking loose. Between those thirteen stripes and the blue that represents the fifty states, there was prayer.
There was a piece of paper that was written by prayer-directed people who consented to the Mind of God. When they consented to that Mind that is within each one of us, the chaos became a haven. The chaos became a glory–the glory of Old Glory.
If your life is in dismay, if your parts don’t feel connected in any way, if your body is in dismay, if you feel like there are thirteen separate areas of your body and they are all shouting, perhaps you need to do what Benjamin Franklin did—pray.
As you pray, know that in your body and mind and soul, like the body and mind and soul of this great country, there is power beyond human seeing. There is a power beyond human dismay. That power is God.
It wasn’t our forefathers and foremothers who created this nation. It was the power of God working through our ancestors. If our ancestors had been left alone to work with their own wits, we would just have the thirteen stripes and it would only be a memory. We would not be here today in this land called America. Because of the Mind of God, we have what we celebrate on the weekend of July 4th.
We thank God for His great accomplishment – U.S.A. And we pray to Him to keep each of us strong and to keep our wonderful country safe, free, and always focused on prayer.