Fifty-six men signed a document that meant life or death for them. It officially declared America’s independence from the tyranny of the British Crown and if the war was lost, these men would be hanged for treason. It was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. It was 442 days after the first volleys were shot at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.
The document resulted from hundreds of events prior to July 4, 1776. The first significant event was likely the 1765 Stamp Act to raise revenues for England and oppress the Colonies as having “taxation without representation.” That Act was repealed in 1766.
There were other issues, but the Tea Act in 1773 to aid the faltering East India Company created a monopoly on the American tea trade. The succeeding “Boston Tea Party” destroyed tea valued at 18,000 pounds in the Boston Harbor. The British Parliament, enraged at the blatant acts of destruction, enacted Coercive Acts in 1774 establishing formal British military rule in Massachusetts. This was followed by the first Continental Congress to consider American resistance.
Thomas Gage, the British governor of Massachusetts, in April 1775 encountered American militiamen at Lexington and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. The Continental Congress passed measures abdicating British authority in the Colonies. As the entire thirteen colonies watched, mounting support for resistance developed. After Thomas Paine published his pamphlet Common Sense, which sold more than 500,000 copies, there was widespread support in the spring of 1776 to form their own government and declare independence.
Virginian Thomas Jefferson wrote the famous lines, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The second part presents a list of grievances that justified rebellion. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted to approve separation from Britain. Two days later, on July 4, the declaration was formally adopted by 12 colonies. New York approved it on July 19. On August 2, the declaration was signed.
The American War for Independence would last for five more years. The Patriot triumphs at Saratoga, the bitter winter at Valley Forge, the intervention of the French, and the final victory at Yorktown in 1781 all played significant milestones in the war for independence. In 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain, the United States formally became a free and independent nation. If the war was lost, the 56 signers would have been hanged. Many died during the war, but America is free today, because of their courage and bravery to do what was right.
Today, we have an even greater freedom than living in America. Freedom from the oppression and tyranny of sin is provided freely to all who will put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ died to remove the penalty of sin. His death on the cross satisfied the righteousness of God and removed the sin barrier between God and man. All who trust in Jesus Christ, die to their own abilities and can live for Jesus Christ. The cross is the greatest symbol of freedom in the history of man. Freedom from sin is the greatest liberty that can be obtained. Consequently, God calls on us to live in that freedom and not let sin reign in our lives. Paul said it best,
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Rom 6:12-13 NKJ)
And Paul wrote,
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage…For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13 NKJ)
You can have true freedom today, if you accept that Jesus Christ is truly man and fully God in one person. He went to the cross for you and me. Everyone who accepts His work on the cross will inherit eternal life, which is an eternal relationship with the God of the universe. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Enjoy true freedom and remember freedom is not free!