"By the Dawn's Early Light"
On this anniversary weekend of our nation, I want to focus upon America, the greatest nation on the face of the earth. I say that because I believe the facts bear it out. America did not become great because of her vast resources, her superior intellect, or her sheer willpower. America became great because God made her great. America was founded as a Christian nation. All who come to these shores can worship in freedom, but never forget this is a Christian nation. The Bible says in
Proverbs 29:2, "That RIGHTEOUSNESS exalts a nation…”
Psalm 33:12, "Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”
God honored America in the past because America honored Him and upheld His STANDARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. This nation was forged out by men who recognized their dependence upon Almighty God. In fact, many of the founding fathers had more respect as lost sinners for the living God and His Word, than many believers in the church today. They knew that neither they, nor this nation could make it without the assistance of God.
Our founding fathers were men of CONVICTION who stood for what they believed no matter what the cost.
Our founding fathers were men of CHARACTER, who lived by the right not by the expedient.
Our founding fathers were men of CREATIVE wisdom. They didn't form a democracy based on the changing whims of each passing generation. Rather, they formed a republic based on the unchanging, eternal absolutes of God and His Word.
Our founding fathers were men COMMITTED to God, to His authority, and to the foundational principles of His Word. They did not hesitate to legislate morality. For the first 160 years of our history, most laws were based on the laws of God.
John Quincy Adams on July 4, 1821 said, "From the day of the Declaration…they (the American people) were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of conduct."
James Madison the fourth President of the United States said, “We have staked the whole of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
It is interesting that all 50 states acknowledge God in their state Constitution: For example,
The charter of Rhode Island in 1638 states, "We submit our persons, lives, and estates, unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and to all those perfect absolute laws He has given us in His Holy Word."
In the 1776 Preamble of Maryland’s Constitution, it states, “We, the people of the state of Maryland, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious liberty…”
In the 1776 Preamble of Pennsylvania’s Constitution, it states, “We, the people of Pennsylvania, grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of civil and religious liberty, and humbly invoking His guidance…”
In the 1818 Preamble of Connecticut’s Constitution it states, “The people of Connecticut, acknowledge with gratitude the good Providence of God in permitting them to enjoy.”
In the 1844 Preamble of New Jersey’s Constitution we find, “We, the people of the state of New Jersey, grateful to Almighty God for civil and religious liberty which He hath so long permitted us to enjoy, and looking to Him for a blessing on our endeavors.”
In the 1868 Preamble of North Carolina’s Constitution we find, “We the people of the State of North Carolina, are grateful to Almighty God, the Sovereign Ruler of Nations, for our civil, political, and religious liberties, and we are acknowledging our dependence upon Him for the continuance of those.”
In the Pledge of Allegiance as adopted by Congress on June 14, 1954, are the words we repeated earlier, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Our beloved national Anthem uses these words in the 4th stanza, "Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto, "In God is our trust!"
You will discover, upon investigation, statements indelibly etched on many of our national monuments in Washington D.C. All bear unmistakable testimony to the fact America is one nation under God, founded for the furtherance of the gospel and the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Next time you travel to Washington D.C. remember to look for these:
Inside the Capitol building you will see in the rotunda a picture of the Pilgrims about to embark from Holland on the sister Ship of the Mayflower, the Speedwell. The great chaplain, Brewster, has open on his lap the Bible, and there very clearly are the words, 'The New Testament according to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." On the sail is the motto of the Pilgrims, "In God We Trust, God with Us."
Engraved on the metal cap on the top of the Washington Monument are these words: "Praise be to God."
In the Supreme Court courtroom above the head of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court are the Ten Commandments.
In the Senate across from the eyes of the President of the Senate, who is the Vice President of the United States, are the words, "In God We Trust." Above the American flag that is behind the Speaker of the House of Representatives you will find large words inscribed in the marble, "In God We Trust."
On the walls of the various rooms of the Library of Congress you will find statements such as these:
"What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God,"
"The Heavens declared the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork."
"Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding."
It has, without question, been established that our forefathers paid a great price so that their posterity could live in freedom. Dare we be willing to pay any less a price for the same ends, today?
One who dared to stand for the price of freedom was Francis Scott Key the author of our nation anthem, The “Star Spangled Banner.” The story of our national anthem may best be understood in the broader context of the events, the emotion, and the witness to bravery that led up to its writing. The War of 1812 and the battle for Baltimore, in particular, are important parts of the story. One can see the hand of God moving, for had this battle gone any other way, Key's poem that inspired our anthem would never have been written, and our nation may not have become the "the land of the free."
Not many years had passed since America had gained her independence from England in the Revolutionary War. Then, in 1812, the United States was again at war with the same enemy. Americans were angry over British interference with their trade and their impressments of unwilling American sailors into the British Navy. America declared war on Great Britain for these acts on June 18, 1812.
The war went well for America at first but with England's defeat of Napoleon's France, England was able to give her full attention to the United States with devastating and humiliating effects. In August of 1814, British Major General Robert Ross landed his force of 5,000 seasoned troops near our capitol, defeated a much larger American force, drove into Washington, and set on fire the capitol building, the president's mansion, and numerous other structures. President Madison and his wife, Dolley, barely escaped with their lives.
Leaving a ruined Washington behind, the British now turned toward Baltimore, Maryland, the third-largest city in the country. It was to be a combined land and sea attack. General Ross, an Irishman and British hero, landed his troops at North Point, Maryland, where he met heavy resistance from the Maryland militia. Ross was killed and the British army halted their land advance.
Meanwhile, at Fort McHenry, rockets and mortar shells exploded everywhere, spreading fire and raining shrapnel. The fort, under the command of Major George Armistead, had a defending force of just 1,000 men. Their smaller guns could not reach the British ships which stayed just out of their range, but the Americans held on and refused to surrender.
Now to the story of our national anthem and the "Star Spangled Banner" that inspired it. When Major Armistead took command of Fort McHenry in 1813, he commissioned Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore flag maker, to make two flags. One was a large garrison flag for which she was paid $405.90 and a smaller one, a storm flag, for which she was paid $168.54. Mary Pickersgill had her daughter, two nieces, and an indentured African-American girl help her. The large garrison flag was sewn from common wool and cotton. It measured 30×42 feet with stars about two feet in diameter and stripes two feet wide. This was the flag that would inspire Francis Scott Key's poem that would become our national anthem.
Prior to the battle for Baltimore that took General Ross' life, friends of Dr. William Beanes, who was being held on a British ship eight miles away down the river as a prisoner of war, had asked Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key to join John S. Skinner, the American prisoner-exchange agent, on a humanitarian mission to seek the doctor's release. Boarding the British ship under a truce flag on September 3, Admiral Cochrane and General Ross, who was aboard at the time, refused, believing Dr. Beanes to be an informant for the enemy. Having been shown letters from British soldiers who testified to the kindness and care of the doctor, they then consented to his release, but detained them for some days until the battle was over, fearing they might divulge their plans to the Americans if they let them go.
During the assault on the fort, the British, landing a direct hit, threw aside caution and moved their ships closer as the battle raged through the stormy night. With the vessels finally coming within range of Fort McHenry's guns, the determined defenders trained all their cannons on the British ships and managed to so damage them that they were forced to withdraw. Admiral Cochrane ordered a land attack against the rear of the fort in an attempt to scale its walls, but it also failed when the guns of nearby Fort Covington drove the attackers off. By dawn the British could see that all hope of taking the fort and the city were gone.
At 7:30 a.m. on September 14, 1814, British Admiral Cochrane called off the assault. Because of a heavy rainstorm, Major Armistead had flown the smaller storm flag through most of the battle, but at dawn, with the British retreating, he ordered the large garrison flag raised as the troops in the fort, no doubt with loud cheers, fired their guns and played "Yankee Doodle." Three months later, the war ended. It is widely believed that the successful defense of Baltimore and Fort McHenry played a large part in the British decision to sign a truce. Francis Scott Key and the others had been permitted to return to the truce ship but under heavy guard so they could not leave or signal the shore. He had been on deck all through the night anxiously watching the battle unfold. When the bombardment ended and he saw the British withdrawing, he could see through the morning mist on that September 14 morning the large garrison flag flying over the American fort. Deeply moved, he wrote, on the back of a letter he had in his pocket, the poem that would become our national anthem. Originally entitled "The Defense of Fort McHenry," it had four stanzas. The middle two were eventually dropped from the anthem, probably because they contained some language unfavorable to the British who became our friends. (Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.) The last verse became the second and it was set to a popular tune of the day and was renamed "The Star Spangled Banner" in 1815.
In 1890, the military adopted it and ordered it played at the raising and lowering of the flag. Both the Army and Navy designated it the national anthem in 1917 for ceremonial purposes and Congress and President Hoover made it official on March 3, 1931.
Today, there are those who would change our national anthem to something less militant. With forces around the world plotting to destroy this country and deprive us of, in Jefferson's words, "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," "The Star Spangled Banner" has no equal and must not be replaced. We should insist it be sung properly, as written, with all standing, hats off, hands over hearts. We should insist schools teach it to our children and insist it be sung regularly in a patriotic opening. (California law provides for this even though some schools ignore the law.)
We should further insist that our schools teach our official National Motto, "In God We Trust," probably taken from Key's line "In God is our trust," and not be intimidated by the few who loudly want it dropped. I hope that as Americans we will remember the spirit of Major Armistead and the brave men of Fort McHenry as well as the heroes on the ground who, though often 'outgunned and outmanned, stopped the British advance on Baltimore.
For many the first verse of "The Star Spangled Banner" is very familiar:
O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad strips and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, The bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
The second verse of "The Star Spangled Banner" is rarely sung. Many probably do not even know it exists. With our country again at war, we should include it every time we sing our national anthem:
On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam, I
n full glory reflected now shines in the stream: 'Tis the star-spangled banner!
Oh long may it wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Here is the 4th verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner":
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Christians should remember that many of those who fought and died for our country in the Revolutionary War and again in 1812 were devout Christians who did not believe that faith in God should keep them out of politics and the defense of America. Nor did they believe that the name of God has no place in national life. They were unashamed in their belief that America is a "heaven-rescued land" and that it is imperative that we proclaim "In God is our trust" to our nation. The need for this caliber of Christian is as great as ever. May the words of our national anthem remain true as long as God allows our great nation to exist!
America has a heritage that cries, "We cannot go without God." Psalm 33:11-12 says "The counsel of the LORD standeth forever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…" As a preacher of the Word of God, it is my duty and responsibility to preach the whole counsel of the Word of God, and to stir up your spiritual and moral conscience with a renewed zeal in "RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Please follow me in your Bibles to several passages of scripture that I encourage you to underline for future reference:
Proverbs 14:34, "RIGHTEOUSNESS exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people."
Proverbs 28:12, "When RIGHTEOUS men do rejoice there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden."
Proverbs 29:2, "When the RIGHTEOUS are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”
Jeremiah 4:2, "The Lord liveth in truth, in judgment or justice and in RIGHTEOUSNESS…"
By now you should have discovered the key word in these passages is the word RIGHTEOUS or RIGHTEOUSNESS. It comes from the Hebrew word meaning to "BE or TO MAKE RIGHT" in a moral sense. We are at an hour in our nation where we must do something about this verse. The issue we are faced with today is a MORAL issue, an issue of “RIGHTEOUSNESS.” We must continually remind our elected officials that "RIGHTEOUSNESS elevates a nation to greatness."
It was the French Statesman Alexis de Tocqueville in the early 19th century who wrote this about America. “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with RIGHTEOUSNESS did I understand the secret of her genius and power.”
What made America great were the flaming PULPITS of God's men proclaiming the righteousness of the Word of God, and God's people living RIGHTEOUS lives from the MORAL ABSOLUTES of this book.
It is no accident that our nation has enjoyed fantastic freedom. In Proverbs 14:34 again we read, "Righteousness exalts a nation…." Our nation was steeped in RIGHTEOUSNESS, and as a result enjoyed Freedom. Today we must maintain that freedom by continually being the moral conscience of the nation. Please listen:
When we lose our freedoms we lose the platform for the preaching of the Word of God.
When we lose our freedoms we lose the context for the establishment, and the development and the expansion of the church, through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Where in all the world has the gospel made its greatest impart – France, India, Africa, or Russia? The gospel has made its greatest impact, unparalleled in human history, in these United States. Why? Because of the freedom we have as a result of obedience to the Word of God and its MORAL ABSOLUTES. But
Let us lose our concern for MORAL RIGHTEOUSNESS,
Let us not speak out for MORAL RIGHTEOUSNESS,
Let us be silent on MORAL RIGHTEOUSNESS,
Let us say that it is not our responsibility,
and before long we will find that our freedoms have disappeared! Our freedoms to rejoice will be turned to slavery and mourning. And as a result, it will not be long before the impact the gospel has made on this nation will not only be denied but eventually gone.
Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing." That's exactly what too many of us have done, absolutely nothing. We are too busy making money, watching TV, fixing our yard and doing things that don't have eternal consequences to save this nation.
You and I live in a democratic republic, a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That makes us the ultimate decision-makers, and before God, we are ultimately responsible for what takes place in this nation.
The only hope for returning this nation back to God is for those of us who name the name of God to turn back to God and become once again the moral consciousness of this nation. "When there is a deep concern for MORAL RIGHTEOUSNESS on the part of the people, and they live and express themselves to that end,
There is rejoicing.
There is religious and national freedom.
There is the hand and blessing of God upon that people.
There is the unparalleled opportunity for preaching the Word of God."
II Chronicles 7:14 reads, "If my people which are called by my name shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn form their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Remember this:
Nations do not repent, individuals repent.
Nations don't turn from their sins, individuals turn from their sins.
Nations do not get right with God, individuals get right with God.
America is but a reflection of our heart and lives. May we do all we can to stand for RIGHTEOUSNESS, so that the next generation can still have "One nation under God."
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “By the Dawn’s Early Light” then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior let me know? Please send an e-mail to, pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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