The Communist League, a subversive society bent on inciting riots across the Continent of Europe for the purpose of embracing communism, commissioned Karl Marx on January 26, 1848 to complete his Manifesto by February 1st. Of course Marx had already distilled his ideas after years of reflection, but these ideas and violent methods were so revolutionary that his own name would not appear on the publication until 24 years later in 1872! Once the “48’ers” as they were known began to riot all across Europe, their ideas and methods were condemned and many had to flee for their lives to other nations, including the United States!
So who was Karl Marx? Raised as a Christian, Marx wrote when only a teen “Union with Christ could give an inner elevation, comfort in sorrow, calm trust, and a heart susceptible to human love, to everything noble and great, not for the sake of ambition and glory, but only for the sake of Christ.” He saw Christ and His love as the true motive for people to get along. Falling out of relationship with his father, who may have been somewhat absent in his life, Marx turned to the occult and the devil. In his poem “Human Pride,” for instance, he writes in parallel to what the Bible says of Satan in Isaiah 14:12-15: “With disdain I will throw my gauntlet, full in the face of the world, and see the collapse of this pygmy giant whose fall will not stifle my ardour. Then will I wander godlike an victorious through the ruins of the world and, giving my words an active force, I will feel equal to the Creator.” Only bent on self, he had no obligation to earn a living, though he was gifted and brilliant. His family was thus abandoned and lived in poverty.
Friedrich Engels, Marx’s friend and co-author of the Communist Manifesto, was also raised as a Christian. However, he began to doubt his faith writing, “I pray every day, indeed almost all day, for truth, and I have done so ever since I began to doubt, but still I cannot go back. My tears are welling as I write.” When he first met Marx, he had called him “the monster possessed by ten thousand devils.” Marx and Engels wrote using all kinds of profanity as well as mocking the very people they were to reach. Marx admitted that “the Communist mob will never love us.” Both Engels and Marx elevated Satanism, slavery, discrimination, and antisemitism while promoting a system that would captivate over a third of the world’s population, leaving them as virtual slaves to their governments.
After the publication of the Manifesto in 1848 there were uprisings and violent riots all over Europe. Though some view these as spontaneous, unrelated demands by the working class for better conditions and pay, the cause can be traced to the writings of the small pamphlet that claims to be the most read political booklet of all time. These “revolutions” resulted in greater control from government and effectively traded one form of tyranny for another which was worse. The dialectic method of thinking and forced redistribution of wealth made things worse over time. Since the Pilgrims arrived nearly 250 years earlier, what could this Manifesto possibly have to do with them?
Marx wrote that the goal of his philosophy was communism. Though the word is out of vogue today, the concepts of Marxism and socialism that comprise its ideology of government control and forced redistribution of wealth are still taught on college campuses and universities around the world. The same ideas, in seed form, were practiced in England at the time of the Pilgims. Economic concepts such as the “common field,” “just price” and “wage ceiling” were aspects of government control to eliminate competition, the profit motive and insure that workers were paid a fair share. The financial investors of the Pilgrims were simply applying these accepted concepts and it became “the common course and condition”.
What the Pilgrims did by reasoning from Scripture was to refute the ideas that would one day be called Marxist, socialist and communistic. Marx and Engels did not invent such concepts, they have been around since sin entered the Garden of Eden. William Bradford writes, describing the year 1623;
“So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the adivce of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number… This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”
Simple study and application of Scripture in the wilderness where no King or constable is looking over your shoulder, produced innovative ideas that set a new direction for the production of corn in 1623. These ideas can be contrasted with the goals of the Communist Manifesto of 1848. The Manifesto called for the abolition of private property, establishment of a graduated income tax, abolition of the right of inheritance (and thus abolition of the family), centralization of the economy, communication, and transportation by the State, factories and production owned by the State, government control of labor, reduction of self-government, and free government education in public schools.
Bradford wrote in affirmation of private property; “…the taking away of property and bringing into community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God…”; in affirmation of private labor, “For this community… was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”; and in affirmation of the family, including the primary responsibility of parents to educate their children; “And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men… they deemed it a kind of slavery… it did diminish (those relations that God hath set amongst men).” The Pilgrims brought the simple ideas of self-government, private property, labor and the family to a wilderness, little realizing that they were establishing principles upon which a future nation of liberty would rest. The fact that our nation is practicing more of the ideas of Marx than the Pilgrims illustrates why we must remember our roots!
On January 1, 1776, while the British laid siege to Boston, George Washington raised the Grand Union Flag on Prospect Hill near his headquarters in Cambridge. It was the first flag of the united colonies. It was known as the Congress Colors, the First Navy Ensign and the Cambridge Flag and could be considered the official flag of the American Revolution. It had 13 red and white stripes and a blue field with the red cross of St. George of England and the white cross of St. Andrew of Scotland.
So, why did Washington raise a flag that was so similar to the emblem of England? A bit of history may be in order here. In 1603 King James I of England, who had been King James VI of Scotland, came to the throne as the monarch of both England and Scotland after Queen Elizabeth died. Though the two nations would not officially be joined until 1707, he combined the flags of England (St. George’s cross) and Scotland (St. Andrews cross) into one combined symbol. Thus, both Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620) sailed ships flying this combined Union flag representing the nation from which they sailed. Later, St. Patrick’s cross of Ireland (now just Northern Ireland) was added in 1801 to make England’s Union Jack of today. Thus, the United Kingdom is a combination of several nations into one kingdom and its flag bears out that history.
In Scripture, a banner is a standard that depicts, in picture form, the ideas for which people are willing to give their lives. Depicting spiritual and physical warfare, Isaiah 59:19b says “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” We are to lift up, as a standard (like a flag), the eternal ideas, drawn from God’s Word, in the midst of a flood of evil rising around us. One of those ideas is that civil government is ordained of God and thus we owe it respect.
In October of 1775 George Washington created the “Appeal to Heaven” flag for his naval cruisers he had built and financed himself. With the pine tree as a symbol of religious and civil liberty, it had obvious overtones of appealing to God for the justice of the cause. Another example was the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag inspired by the Culpeper minutemen of Virginia in 1776 emphasizing resistance to tyranny. But these flags were not official and though they depicted important ideas they did not carry the weight of the Grand Union flag raising that took place January 1st, 1776. After all, Washington had just become Commander in Chief the summer before, and Independence would not be declared for six more months. The new flag (by Besty Ross), based on independence, would not be created until 1777. So what was so significant about this flag raising?
The Colonists had appealed to England on September 1, 1775 with an “Olive Branch Petition” where they asked the British Parliament and Crown to reconsider the violation of their natural rights as stated in their Charters. On October 27, 1775, the King responded with an aggressive and forceful speech that virtually severed the colonies from the mother country, saying they were “in rebellion.” No discussion of rights, rule of law or due process were addressed. It was either total submission to tyrannical rule voluntarily or by force. The British flag at that time was also called the Grand Union flag. It had the two crosses merged together to fill the entire flag – and symbolically it depicted the fact that the Crown filled the entire nation with “prerogative” and tyranny.
The written speech of the King had been passed around the militia units in Cambridge and the troops were furious and began to burn it in their campfires. If emotional vengeance and lawless anger had been elevated by the leaders, it would have had terrible consequences. For months a new standard had been discussed that would balance the rights of the colonies with respect for the mother country. This new flag was not a flag of rebellion or anarchy. Since it contained the symbols of the original flag of England, the British, and some colonial troops, thought it was a flag of surrender to England! However, the crown emblem had been reduced in size and the main symbols were now thirteen bands alternating between red and white to signify the unity of the thirteen colonies and the fact that they would submit to the rule of law and not lawless power from the Crown. It was the first official step forward under the rule of law and away from an oath of loyalty to an individual alone.
When the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower, they planted the seed of submission to civil government as a God ordained institution. They sailed under a Patent and Charter from the King (the very one who had driven them out of England), flying the Union flag. Once landing out of the jurisdiction of their written documents, they wrote the Mayflower Compact and stated, “In the name of God Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign King James.” God, to the people, and then to the King (or civil government) was a new power flow that would affect generations to come. They thus avoided anarchy and lawless behavior. Though the Pilgrims could never have envisioned the Declaration of Independence, they planted a seed of independence under God and the rule of law, functioning by the Compact they wrote under the rule of law.
So what is the lesson we can learn from this flag raising on Prospect Hill in Cambridge? Though surrounded by evil and a rising tide of lawlessness just like the Colonists were under the siege of Britain in Boston, we must raise, as a banner, the proper balance of submission to the rule of law with the discernment of lawfully resisting, from a place of principled unity. We will have to do this, not just by our rhetoric, but by our actions. Most who desire to increase the size and scope of civil government do not understand that they will come to oppose its fruit in the future. People are not our enemy. We must serve others, love our enemies, and allow God’s providential Hand to move in His time. We must, however, raise the banner of the ideas of Christian self-government and submissive yet lawful resistance to tyranny! If we do this, our children and grandchildren will thank us! Let us raise up the banner of truth!
The 400 years of “silence” between the closing of the book of Malachi and the birth of Christ is not due to God’s inactivity but rather to no prophet speaking under divine inspiration. The writings during this time, like any other, depict the distinct intervention of God’s hand in the affairs of men. Though not inspired or on par with Scripture, these books called Apocrypha contain important events such as the miraculous story of Hanukkah recorded in 1st and 2nd Maccabees.
Martin Luther described the Apocrypha as “books which are not regarded as equal to the holy Scriputres, and yet are profitable and good to read.” In the Preface to the Geneva Bible, brought by the Pilgrims to Plymouth, the Apocryphal writings were described as “not received by a common consent to be read and expounded publicly in the Church… to prove any point of Christian religion save in so much as they had the consent of the other scriptures called canonical to confirm the same.” However, “as books proceeding from godly men they were received to be read for the advancement and furtherance of the knowledge of history and for the instruction of godly manners.”
On 25 Kislev (or December 15 on the Roman calendar), in the year 164 BC, an amazing event took place that recounted what was called the feast of dedication or the festival of lights. It is the story of how God miraculously preserved the Jewish people and how they commemorated their deliverance. If there had been no Hanukkah there would have been no Christmas. In other words, if the Jewish people had not been preserved, there would have been no context for the miraculous birth of Jesus the Messiah.
The Jews had returned to their homeland under the Decree of Cyrus, rebuilt the Temple and restored the walls around the city by 400 BC. The first two hundred years (400 to 200) they were devoted to God and fiercely stood against idolatry. But by 200 BC they were smaller in numbers, wealth and fighting men. During the reign of the Greeks Jews learned to speak Greek and the Old Testament was translated into Greek (called the Septuagint). This was God’s intervention to preserve them.
Antiochus III (198 BC) incurred heavy debts expanding his kingdom. His son Antiochus IV (called Epiphanes to signify his manifestation as “god”) came to the throne in 175, appointing Jason as High Priest in Judea. He was a cruel tyrant (as prophesied by Daniel 11:21-35). In 169 he entered the Sanctuary, took the golden altar, lampstand, utensils and hidden treasures to pay his debts. He plundered the city, burned it with fire and tore down Jewish homes. Anyone who owned a Torah was killed. A remnant, however, still studied the Scriptures secretly at night. When officers would come, they would play a game called dreidle, spinning wooden top while hiding th Torah. It is now used to honor Hanukkah with Hebrew letters meaning “a miracle took place here.” Antiochus minted his image alongside Zeus and proclaimed himself “god”, instituting idolatry and commanding the Jews to break God’s commands. He offered pigs on the altar to mock God’s law and profaned the Sabbath. Women were killed and their circumcised babies mutilated. Some chose to die as martyrs and others fled.
Mattathias, the high priest; 145 years old, was a faithful servant, with five grown sons who were pious and valiant. He lamented, “Alas! Why was I born to see this, the ruin of my people, the ruin of the holy city, and to dwell there when it was given over to the enemy?” When the officers attempted to bribe him to defect, he said, “Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to do his commandments, departing each one from the religion of his fathers, yet I and my sons and my brothers will live by the covenant of our fathers…. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside.”
When threatened with force to defile the altar on the Sabbath, he cried out, “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me!” He initially did not want to fight but fled to the mountains. After studying the Scriptures he recognized that self-defense was Biblical and formed an army. One year later, at 146 and on his death bed, he addressed his sons: “Arrogance and reproach have now become strong; it is a time of ruin and furious anger. Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our fathers. Remember the deeds of the fathers, which they did in their generations; and receive great honor and an everlasting name.” He put Judas in charge.
Judas overcame incredible odds. At one point he faced a force of 60,000 soldiers with only 5,000 men who were tired with no food. However he said, “It is easy for many to be hemmed in by few, for in the sight of Heaven there is no difference saving by many or by few. It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but strength comes from Heaven.” Heaven intervened once again and they won! In addition to praying before battles, after they won they would sing hymns of praise. Judas cleansed the temple, rebuilt the altar, removed idol worship and rededicated it on the 25th of Kislev (December 15), the very day it had initially been desecrated! After cleansing the temple they found they had only enough oil to light one lamp for one day. They began with the shemesh (center candle) and lit the others right to left in honor of the Hebrew language. Allegedly, it miraculously burned for eight days!
So why should Christians honor Hanukkah? We are to honor our Jewish roots and how God preserved His people (Romans 11:16-18). Though the Maccabees established political independence which lasted until 65 BC when Rome annexed Judea, the Jews had already compromised with Hellenistic thought. Though Herod would declare himself “King of the Jews”, he died in 4 BC, and in “the fullness of time” Jesus would be born in a manger!
But we should also honor Hanukkah because Jesus did! John 10:22,30,42 says: “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter…. (Jesus said) I and my Father are one…. and many believed in him there.” Jesus was the fulfillment of the Biblical feasts but also at the Feast of Dedication (lights) which He attended He declared that He was sanctified by the Father (John 10:34-36) which means dedicated in Hebrew. Jesus is the cleansed temple, the oil that never runs out and the shemesh that lights each candle! Remember that when you say “Happy Hanukkah” you are rehearsing a miraculous deliverance and preservation of the Jewish people to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus Christ, the light of the world that we might be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15)
155 years ago, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivered what has become his most famous address. He was not the main speaker and his remarks lasted all but two minutes. However, what he said captured the hearts and minds of Americans then, as well as serving as a reminder for us today. To understand its significance, we must be reminded about how strategic the battle of Gettysburg was and why Lincoln spoke on the battlefield only four months later. Lincoln’s remarks can also remind us of our Pilgrim roots as a nation and why we must continue to keep them alive.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. Though there were constitutional issues between the northern and southern states, the underlying issue was slavery. Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate troops of the south, entered Pennsylvania in June of 1863. He wanted to defeat the north on their own soil to force Lincoln to sue for peace. Only three days before the battle of Gettysburg, General Hooker was replaced by General George Meade, who kept the northern army between Lee and Washington, DC.
From a providential viewpoint, the American Revolution would never have been won by the Colonies had not God intervened. At the same, time, the South would never have lost the Civil War had not God intervened. The South was in revival and the North was forgetting its Christian roots. Though the South had a legitimate case against the North constitutionally, the South was morally wrong on slavery and it made God their adversary!
The fighting north of Gettysburg on July 1st was won by the South and Northern troops retreated through Gettysburg to Cemetery and Culp’s Hill. July the 2nd featured assaults by Lee on many fronts, but Meade’s troops held firm. It was on July 3rd that Pickett’s Charge (12,000 Confederate troops) would be repulsed with 1,100 dead and 4,000 wounded. A total of 51,000 soldiers died at Gettysburg making it the bloodiest battle. The town’s 2,400 residents had to bury or care for 21,000 following the battle. Rain caused the spread of disease as women cared for both northern and southern wounded not captured or removed. Most were buried right where they died but have since been moved to the main cemetery at Gettysburg or other southern cemeteries. Northern soldier’s graves are much better documented than the South.
When the date was set for a commemoration of the Union troops who had given their lives at Gettysburg, expectations were high for an amazing address. After all, Edward Everett had been chosen to speak, and he would deliver a memorized, two-hour, 13,000 word oration. He served as a Congressman, Senator, Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain and U.S. Secretary of State. He taught at Harvard and served as its President. But he was best known by this time as one of America’s most famous orators. It would be one of his last speeches, for he died a hear and a half later. When President Lincoln was asked to speak, he promised it would be “short, short, short.”
Everett gave a magnificent oration. It was historic, drawing on the ideas planted by the Pilgrims, Puritans and Patriots, and included a detailed history of the battle of Gettysburg, which many were hearing about for the first time. He also had a plea for reconciliation between the North and the South. A diarist wrote, “Mr. Everett was listened to with breathless silence by all that immense crowd, and he had his audience in tears many times.”
Then Lincoln followed for some dedicatory remarks. He began, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He dated the origin of the nation with the Declaration of Independence (1776), not with the ratification of the Constitution (1789). Our constitution rests on the Declaration and its truths. The Confederate States Constitution in contrast had no reference to the Declaration or that “all men are created equal.”
Lincoln stated, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” Lincoln implies that all who died are to be honored. Many had come to honor only the North, but both Everett and Lincoln called them higher.
He continues that theme when he states, “But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” The world has remembered what Lincoln said since the words speak of transcendent ideas and agree with the biblical, eternal truth.
Lincoln concludes “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The ideas of government by consent of the governed, rights from God and our goal to preserve liberty for our posterity are all ideas the Pilgrims brought to these shores nearly 400 years ago! The new birth of freedom is the way a nation is “born again,” renewing its dedication to its original covenant with God.
Everett wrote Lincoln “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Everett had said after Lincoln’s speech, “I venture in the spirit of prophecy that no one will remember what I said, but all will remember what he said.” History has proven Everett correct, but most importantly Lincoln’s address reminded us what makes our nation unique. We are not great because we are Americans. We are only great to the degree that we remain faithful to the ideas, drawn from the Bible, upon which our nation was founded.
In Tennessee there is a place called Pall Mall in Fentress County. The valley below is called the Valley of the Three Forks in the Wolf (the Wolf river forks into three branches at that point). This place is literally in the middle of nowhere. Like the Bible hero David who slew lions and bears in the wilderness long before he ever appeared on the scene to publicly kill Goliath, Alvin would grow up as the best marksman in the wilderness shooting turkeys and ducks; but God had a wider plan for him 100 years ago this month.
Alvin’s father died on Christmas day, 1911 on his 30th wedding anniversary when Alvin was 24 years old. Alvin then took full responsibility to provide for his mother and eight younger brothers and sisters. His two older brothers had already left home. Little did anyone know, especially Alvin, that he would end up being the most decorated war hero of World War I!
Alvin’s sinful lifestyle of drinking, carousing and cursing caused his family and hometown all kinds of problems until Melvin Russell, a circuit-riding preacher led him to the Lord on January 1, 1915. He was discipled by Pastor Pile in his home town. One of the teachings of his home church was “pacifism,” that no one who believes in God and Christ should go to war or kill anyone, even in self-defense, since the Bible said simply, “Thou shalt not kill.” When America declared war on Germany in 1917, York received his induction notice two months later but submitted his request to be exempt due to religious convictions. His request was denied, and Alvin walked twelve miles to submit to authority and fight for his country, but declaring his convictions not to be in direct combat.
On November 15, 1917 Alvin York said farewell to his family as well as his betrothed fiance Gracie (who was only 18 years old, though Alvin was nearly 30). After training at Camp Gordon, Georgia (where he excelled in markmanship), he was assigned to Company G, 328th Batalion 1st Platoon, 82nd Division. He asked advice from his company commander, Captain Edward Danforth, and battalion commander, Major Gonzalo Buxton, about his beliefs in not killing anyone under any circumstance. They reasoned with him from Scripture, showing him that murder was distinct from self-defense. They also showed him that the Bible forbids revenge but not defense since Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 22:36, “He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” If no one could ever fight, it would be allowing evil to triumph throughout the world. They then sent him home for a couple of weeks to pray and ask God what he should do. He returned ready to fight for his country! What a blessing to have such military commanders who know God’s Word!
In May of 1918 York arrived on the French shores to report for duty to break the supply line of the Germans utilizing the French railways. He was part of a company who walked through the mud to attack German machine-gunners and take the railway for the Allies. On October 8, 1918, a rainy, foggy and chilly day the troops move forward over the muddy road. German gun-fire is killing many Americans. Alvin sees the horrors of war and prays for both sides, committed to fight as a last resort.
At 6 AM of October 8 they were given orders to charge down a ridge into an open field to dislodge German machine-gunners. The charge began, but with no artillery support as promised hundreds died in minutes as the brush they hid behind was scraped from the earth. Three squads began to get behind the gunners but only 17 were left. After surprising German medics carrying wounded soldiers, they chased them into the woods and came upon over 20 Germans and Prussians eating breakfast unarmed. They took them all prisoners under the command of Corporal Bernard Early.
Suddenly the machine-gunners turned their turrets around and fired on the Americans holding their prisoners, instantly killing or mortally wounding 9 of the 17 Americans. They hid behind their prisoners, holding them captive, but the only one still firing on the ground was York. He was now in command due to the deaths of three Corporals. Now that the gunners realized the Americans were behind their prisoners, they had to quickly stand up before firing. Each time they stood up, York shot them in the head before they could fire their machine gun. It said the turkey contests had trained him for this at home! He took only one shot for each or he would have been killed. He kept calling for them to surrender, “That’s enough now! You boys quit and come on down!”
He now stood up since there was no more brush to hide him and kept killing machine-gunners. Suddenly a mounted charge of six soldiers came at him with fixed bayonets. Looking at them like ducks in formation, he picked off the outer soldiers in the back first and then only a few feet in front of him he killed the leader with one shot. One miss would have meant death, and if he had killed the leader, the others would have gone down into a roll and killed him since he couldn’t shoot in all directions at once. With only seven they had over 20 prisoners. Appearing larger other German troops surrendered.
German Lieutenant Vollmer was ordered by York to call a cease-fire, which he did. In York’s words: “I told him he had better. I covered him with my automatic and told him if he didn’t make them stop firing I would take his head next. And he knowed I meaned it. So he blowed his whistle and they came down out of the trench and throwed down their guns and equipment and held up their hands and begun to gather around. I guess, though, one of them thought he could get me. He had his hands up all right. But he done had a little hand grenade concealed, and as he come up to me he throwed it right at my head. But it missed me and wounded one of the prisoners. I hed to tech him off. The rest surrendered without any trouble.” In total he now had 129 prisoners and 3 officers. When one Ameican General said “Well, York, I hear you have captured the whole German army”, York said, “No, sir, I only got 132.” York wrote that night in his diary, “So I am a witness to the fact that God did help me out of that hard battle; for the bushes were shot up all around me and I never got a scratch.”
On April 18, 1919, Good Friday, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor. When offered $185,000 to promote himself he said, “Uncle Sam’s uniform ain’t for sale.” He married Gracie and they named their children Woodrow Wilson, Sam Houston, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson and Betsey Ross in honor of America. The State of Tennessee deeded a newly-built home to Alvin and Gracie. In 1939 he desired to open a Bible school to give children an education in Tennessee. In 1940 he signed a contract to film the Sargeant York Story (which I highly recommend), personally picking Gary Cooper to play him. But now he faced another battle – an 18 year conflict with the I.R.S. over income taxes. Ed Sullivan asked the American people to help York and the entire debt was paid! On September 2, 1964 York died at the age of 76. His wife, Gracie died in 1984 at the age of 84. It is heroes like Alvin York, a common every day American, that have made this nation great!
In history we find some of the best writings to be apologetics or in defense of rights. In 1774 the Continental Congress published its Declaration and Resolves stating in part: “…By the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts, have the following rights… life, liberty and property.” The British Parliament had passed the “Intolerable Acts” (laying siege to Boston, shutting down colonial assemblies, making British officials immune to criminal prosecution, and quartering soldiers) as punishment for the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Intending to isolate Boston, England was shocked by the response of Colonies sending in supplies and calling a day of fasting and prayer. And it was prayer the initial prayer of the delegates that was the source of the clarity written in the Declaration and Resolves.
The colonists, well instructed in the principle of the “lower magistrate,” created their own government by consent called the Continental Congress. This principle of resistance by the lower magistrate, drawn from the Reformation, stated that one must be submitted to the rule of law before any form of resistance can be legitimately given to civil authorities. Since England had begun to dissolve the colonial Assemblies, they formed their own so that any form of self-defense would be “under authority” and they would take no direct resistance against the British Empire. It was taught in the pulpits of America that direct resistance is rebellion and God would become our adversary. Spiritually speaking they were right for one must submit to God’s authority before successfully resisting the enemy (James 4:7).
When the Continental Congress first met on September 5, 1774 at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia, there was a sober atmosphere, knowing that England, their mother country, which had the greatest army on earth, was sending troops to force them into submission. The delegates were as conscious of submitting to God as the people that sent them. J. T. Headley, author of the book The Chaplains and Clergy of the Revolution, published in 1864, described the scene by quoting the letter John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:
“When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with Prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments, some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians and some Congregationalists, that we could not join in the same act of worship. Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said, ‘that he was no bigot, and could hear a Prayer from any gentleman of Piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his Country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia, but had heard that Mr. Duche’ deserved that character and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche’, an Episcopal clergy man, might be desired to read Prayer to Congress tomorrow morning.’ The motion was seconded, and passed in the affirmative.”
The date was September 7, 1774 when Jacob Duche arrived before the Continental Congress. He read several Prayers in the established form and then read the Psalter for the 7th of September which was the 35th Psalm. Adams writes to Abigail “you must remember this was the next morning after we had heard of the cannonade of Boston.” He then added, “it seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning.”
Adams went on to say “After this, Mr. Duche unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into extemporary Prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present… It had excellent effect upon every body here.”
Adams then quotes from part of Psalm 35 to his wife Abigail: “Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me; fight against them that fight against me; take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help; draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them.”
As recorded by Headley, Duche’ prayed:
“O Lord, our Heavenly Father, high and mighty, King of kings and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth, and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all kingdoms, empires and governments, look down, we beseech thee, on these our American States, who have fled to thee from the rod of the oppressor, and thrown themselves on thy gracious protection, desiring henceforth to be dependent only on thee – to thee have they appealed for the righteousness of their cause – to thee do they now look up for that countenance and support which thou alone canst give. Take them, therefore, Heavenly Father, under thy nurturing care, give them wisdom in council, and valor in the field. Defeat the malicious designs of our cruel adversaries. Convince them of the unrighteousness of their cause, and if they still persist in their sanguinary purpose, O let the voice of thine own unerring justice sounding in their hearts constrain them to drop the weapons of war from their unnerved hands in the day of battle.
Be thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable Assembly. Enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed – that order, harmony, and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety may prevail and flourish amongst thy people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigor of their minds. Shower on them and the millions they here represent such temporal blessings as thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ thy Son, our Savior. Amen.”
This was one of those moments in history that captured the moving of God’s Spirit. Washington was there with Patrick Henry, John Randolph, Richard Henry Lee and John Jay along with John and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts. In all, 56 delegates from every colony except Georgia attended. John Adams wrote “It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave Pacific Quakers of Philadelphia.” Amazingly, Jacob Duche, who had been used so mightily in that hour and throughout the year of 1775, when he saw things go badly in 1776 and 1777, turned away from his country, ran to the British, and fled Philadelphia for England. But let us remember that God reigns, not mankind. The Scripture read by Duche, ordained by God, and then spontaneously prayed, inspired a group of patriots who began their deliberations on their knees. This is what must happen again – oh may the Spirit of God fill delegates and move our Congressional halls again!
It may come as a surprise to learn that it was a prayer meeting in 1806 and the work of missionaries in 1820 followed by a major revival that began the process of bringing the Hawaiian Islands into the United States. In 1959 Congress gave its approval, in June 93% of the people of Hawaii voted to enter, and on August 21 President Eisenhower certified Hawaii as our 50th state. On July 4, 1960, the new flag of the U. S., with 50 stars, became official. But why did it take nearly 140 years?
During the Second Great Awakening, five Williams college students had their discussion on foreign missions interrupted by a thunder storm and ended up praying under the shelter of a haystack in 1806. The results of that meeting birthed the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in 1816. Henry Opukahai’a and his friend Thomas Hopu fled their native Sandwich Islands (original name of Hawaii) in 1807. College students at Yale befriended them and won them to Christ in 1815. Henry’s Memoirs sold over half a million copies, but he died of typhus in 1818. He had written “My poor countrymen, without knowledge of the true God, and ignorant of the future world, have no Bible to read, no Sabbath.” He inspired missionaries to return to his homeland!
The ABCFM sent Thomas as translator with Hiram Bingham along with Asa and Lucy Thurston to the Sandwich Islands in 1820. They were sent out from Park Street Church in Boston. Three years later, they were joined by Betsey Stockton, among others, who was the first single woman ever sent into missions from America. As an African American, she had been born into slavery, but now was a missionary to bring spiritual and natural freedom to the Sandwich Islands! Together these early missionaries created the Hawaiian alphabet, translated the Bible, taught reading, English, Latin, history and mathematics. They set up a newspaper, schools and churches and confronted drunkenness, vice and prostitution. In only a few years 8,000 students graduated from over 200 schools! By 1823 six high chiefs and Queen Kaahumanu herself were converted and wanted to be baptized!
In the years that followed, native Hawaiians defied superstitions, stopped polygamy, spread the gospel and turned the once pagan Sandwich Islands into a Christian colony in only 25 years! One amazing example of this was the conversion and testimony of Chiefess Kapiolani. Converted by 1824, she did the unthinkable in 1825, and that was break the tabu, visiting the crater of the volcano where Pele, one of their gods supposedly lived. Accompanied by missionaries, she was told not to defy the gods. A prophetess of Pele confronted her. She defiantly ate the berries that were forbidden and declared “Jehovah is my God. He kindled these fires. I fear not Pele. Should I perish by her anger, then you may fear her power. But if Jehovah save me, when breaking her tabus, then must you fear and serve Jehovah. The gods of Hawaii are vain. Great is the goodness of Jehovah in sending missionaries to turn us from these vanities to the living God.” Unharmed, she was a catalyst for the revival to continue!
Though President Pierce attempted to annex Hawaii in 1854, the Senate rejected it. Many ask if the gratitude toward the U.S. for sending these missionaries was so great (and it was), why did it take so long for Hawaii to become a part of the U.S.? The continuation of revival is often hindered by the sin of man. Though missionaries from the United States were the catalysts for such a massive transformation, the U.S. also became a source of imperialism and corruption that would set back the gains of true Christian reformation by decades. Directed initially by John Quincy Adams, America’s original foreign policy was non-interventionist, seeking to send missionaries so that a nation was changed voluntarily from within and then would desire greater harmony with the U.S. During the Civil War, this began to wane and the beginnings of an imperialistic domination began. Hawaii was given “protectorate” status from 1875 to 1887, where its products were favored and it was a “territory” of the U.S.
The long standing non-interventionist policy of the U.S. meant, in practical terms, that we would not fight another nation’s revolution, nor would we force them to adopt a certain form of government. If they, on their own, did win their independence, they would have to be able to maintain their freedom on their own for a time, and adopt, voluntarily, a government in harmony with our Constitution. Then, if they were attacked, we would defend them if in this hemisphere. In essence, this was the original 1823 Monroe Doctrine. At the start of President Grover Cleveland’s second term, a treaty for the annexation of Hawaii was under consideration. But Cleveland suspected something was terribly wrong. It was.
Beginning on the 14th of January, 1883, within 32 days, the government of Hawaii was overthrown, a Provisional government set up and the entire process of a new government and a treaty were all administered! Cleveland’s words to the nation were refreshing, but also filled with remorse and repentance for our government’s ungodly behavior. “Our country was in danger of occupying the position of having actually set up a temporary government on foreign soil for the purpose of acquiring through that agency territory which we had wrongfully put in its possession….A substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair…. The law of nations is rounded upon reason and justice, and the rules of conduct governing individual relations between citizens or subjects of a civilized state are equally applicable as between enlightened nations.”
After the Queen was restored to power, she traveled back to the United States to thank President Cleveland for standing up for the sovereign rights of her nation and against imperialism. A parade was held where the Queen was honored. In addition, once things were made right, the annexation of Hawaii did take place in 1898 under President McKinley. However, it was only a territory protected by the U.S. and there was no promise of Statehood. It appeared that our financial interests continued to take precedence over the self-government of the islands.
In the decades that followed the people of Hawaii demonstrated their loyalty to the United States, fighting in wars, and desiring to have more self-government and sovereignty under the Constitution (Article IV) than comes with just being a protected territory or colony. After all, to be a colony means the U.S. gets the benefit of a monopoly on trade but there is little reciprocity for the rights of its citizens. The lesson we must learn is simple. When we injure others and apologize, true restoration means that we treat them fairly and on an equal footing. This “imperialistic” attitude demonstrated toward Hawaii in the past still lingers today in our foreign policy. In any event, may the fragrance of true repentance and forgiveness be accompanied by restitution and restoration of equal relationships in our lives!