‘Blessed be the name of God from age to age,
for wisdom and power are his.
21He changes times and seasons,
deposes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.
I was awakened early this Fourth of July morning with a jolt. Long before my alarm sounded I was awakened with a strong realization: “Truly we are a blessed people!” And I couldn’t go back to sleep.
I thought for a while on the question that writer Peggy Noonan put to famed historian David McCulloch while they were at Mount Vernon. Noonan asked: “How did so many gifted men, true geniuses, walk into history at the same time, the same place, and come together to pursue so brilliantly a common endeavor?”
McCulloch replied simply: “I think it was providential.”
I then thought of one of history’s providential players, the Rev. John Witherspoon. Born far away from America in the small village of Gifford, near Edinburgh, Scotland, Witherspoon had trained to be a Presbyterian minister. Then from the far off colony of New Jersey he received the call the serve as president of a small Presbyterian college, the College of New Jersey, later Princeton. Packing up his wife and five children, Witherspoon sailed off to help this fledgling school established for the training of gospel ministers.
Landing on America’s shores in early August of 1768, Witherspoon professed an immediate love for his new country. Just six years later, on July 4, 1776, this immigrant to America would put pen to paper and commit his very life, fortune, and sacred honor to the American dream.
On that fourth of July, Witherspoon felt the providential moment before them and stood to address his fellow delegates. With a strong Scottish brogue he began:
There is a tide in the affairs of men, a nick of time. We perceive it now before us. To hesitate is to consent to our own slavery. That noble instrument upon your table, which ensures immortality to its author, should be subscribed this very morning by every pen in this house…For my own part, of property I have some, of reputation more. That reputation is staked, that property is pledged, on the issue of this contest; and although these gray hairs must soon descend into the sepulcher, I would infinitely rather that they descend thither by the hand of the executioner than desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my country.
Thanks be to Providential Tides—A blessed Independence Day!
Weekly Bible Classes with Tim Smith
Every Wednesday through the summer
At the Franciscan Renewal Center
(Garces Room of Piper Hall)
Wednesday Noon – 1:00 P.M.
Songs for Life’s Journey: The Psalms of Ascent
Wednesday Evening 7:00 P.M. – 8:00 P.M.
Profiles of Spiritual Maturity: The Letter of James