The Free and The Brave

“Then the chief captain came and said to him, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman?’  He said, ‘Yes’.  And the chief captain answered, ‘With a great sum I obtained this freedom.’  And Paul said, ‘But I was free born.'”

-Acts 22:27-28

“And herein is a true saying: One sows and another reaps.  I sent you to reap that whereon you bestowed no labor: other men labored and you are entered into their labors.”  -John 4:37-38

Recently, I was watching one of WME’s TV programs when I was struck by something that Maurice Taitt (a member of our Board of Directors) said during the section entitled “Lesson for the Day.”  Maurice mentioned that he recently had studied the words of our national anthem.  “The Star Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key after he witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  Maurice was impressed by the fact that all four verses ended with the words, “…O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

The “Star Spangled Banner” was not the only song that was a candidate for the US national anthem.  Before 1931, other songs served as official American hymns.  “Hail, Columbia” served the purpose for most of the 19th century, and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” was also a de facto anthem.  But the “Star Spangled Banner” was recognized for official Navy use in 1889 and by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916.  Finally, it was made the national anthem by a Resolution of Congress on March 3, 1931.

As I was looking at the words of “Hail Columbia,” I was struck by the fourth and fifth lines of the first verse.  After hailing the revolutionary heroes who fought hard for freedom, it says: “And when the storm of war was gone, Enjoy’d the peace your valor won.”  Those words are poetic nonsense; they are not true.

So what is the truth?  What happened to those fifty-six men who concluded the Declaration of Independence by pledging to one another “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”?

All became the objects of vicious manhunts.  Their homes were plundered; their estates destroyed.   The wives of some were captured and treated with great brutality resulting in death.  Some became penniless refugees living in caves and woods.  Holdings were confiscated; families were driven from their homes.  Timber, crops and livestock were taken; children were removed from their families, never to be seen again.  Some were betrayed by British sympathizers; some were dragged from bed, brutally beaten, thrown in jail and starved.  Some died broken men, while some endured in ruined health.  Some bled their credit and fortunes dry; some died early and impoverished; others survived on charity.  Of the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence, nine died of wounds, five were captured and imprisoned, twelve had their homes completely burned, and seventeen lost everything they owned.  Some, like the heroes of Hebrews 11, refused deliverance.

But not one of these fifty-six patriots defected or went back on his pledged word.

In the TV program I mentioned, Maurice Taitt observed that bravery and freedom are companion characteristics of a people; but he wondered aloud how we the people of the United States compare in 2013 with those fifty-six men of 1775?  Do we discern a tendency to sacrifice freedom on the altar of fear and bravery on the altar of safety?

Your citizenship may be free by right of birth, but it is not cheap.  Others obtained this liberty at a great price.  Fifty-six heroes sowed, and 300 million are reaping today.  But be assured that neither in our natural or our spiritual life will freedom from slavery, terror and sin ever exist without the bravery to lay down our lives for country and for Christ.

By John G. Cathcart


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