When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness.
Along with Fourth of July barbecues, fireworks and parades, this is a day for remembering and giving thanks. What our nation’s founders did on this day was a first in the history of the world! When the 55 signers of the Declaration of Independence affixed their ‘John Hancock’ to that document they were setting up the first country in the history of the world established on what philosophers call Natural Law. That is, they were beginning a country based on the idea of a universal sense of right of right and wrong.
Those farmers, lawyers, businessmen and physicians did not see themselves as granting rights to anyone, but simply recognizing “certain inalienable rights” coming from the Creator. They were taking bold action based solely on “self-evident truths” available to anyone willing to reason it out.
Putting the idea of God-given rights, or, Natural Law, into the wording of Declaration of Independence began on June 11, 1176. It was then that young Thomas Jefferson, with his lawyerly, logical mind began putting together the moral grounds for the patriots’ cause. In draft after draft Jefferson wrote about “nature’s God” as the author of rights. Jefferson wrote with the conviction that the signers of the document would have to render account to God for what they were about to do.
John Adams copied Jefferson’s final draft and showed it to Benjamin Franklin, the other member of the drafting committee. It was either Franklin or Adams who added the word “Creator” to the document, wanting to emphasize even more their conviction about the sole source of the people’s rights.
Then on July 2 the Second Continental Congress voted to add yet two more references to God in order to buttress the moral founding of the nation. Along with their appeal to “nature’s God”, and the “Creator”, they made appeal to “the Supreme Judge of the world”. They cast themselves on the “protection of Divine Providence”.
The Declaration’s signers saw themselves acting only as “legislators” in the original intent of the word: legis (“law” from the Latin lex) + lator (Latin, “to carry”). That is, they saw themselves as ‘carrying over law’ from God’s moral realm into written form. Governments derive authority to govern only from God (See Romans 13:1-7), and their rule is not absolute. Only God is absolute.
Today’s Scripture is but one of many found in the Bible about Natural Law, or God’s moral law written on human hearts. Here the apostle Paul asserts that what God requires of people is “written on their hearts” and knowable by creatures made in God’s image. Further, Paul says that the “conscience also bears witness” to these self-evident truths. That means that even those without the Bible know instinctively that the killing of innocent humans is wrong, or, that stealing is wrong.
Increasingly the secular culture scorns the idea of absolute moral standards, scorns the idea of Natural Law along with a Creator and God-given rights. Tragically, when morals are reduced to mere personal taste, or, standards are condemned as “bigotry”, only those with the most power will rule over us. Then, only might will be right. Then, only the state will be absolute!
The Fourth of July, 2016, is a day for reading the Declaration of Independence along with the news, thanking God for our Founders, and getting down on our knees and praying.
Grace and peace,