The destinies of nations
A Christian American farmer once addressed the legislature, saying, “This is no time for ceremony. The question before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the majesty of heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings...
“...There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged!... Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace, but there is no peace. The war is actually begun!...Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
These are excerpts from the speech given on March 23, 1775 by Patrick Henry. Henry understood first hand the oppression of government over religious expression. The British government and the Episcopal Church were trying to stamp out the Baptists by persecuting them--even holding them under water until they nearly drowned. Upon news of one such beating, Henry rode his horse some 50 miles to attend the trial of two pastors who were accused of preaching the gospel. During the trial, Henry interrupted and asked the court if he heard it right that these men were on trial for “preaching the gospel of the Son of God?” Henry was instrumental in changing the laws against religious persecution.
Christians in America were not always so concerned about themselves and their self-improvement, or paranoid about supporting their country, or arguing over extra-biblical teachings, that they didn’t take seriously what was happening to them and their nation. Romans 12:21 points out to: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” The fact remains as Henry said, “There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations.” We are seeing in the news how one person can make a difference, and how God uses whom he chooses to express his will on earth. Let us all be open to the will of the Lord as we live our lives each day, and as Peter and the Apostles said in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” We might be surprised how God will use us as he chooses in the destiny of nations and of men.