Friday, September 17, 2021

Constitution Day-- Will It Survive?

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Today is "Constitution Day."

On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time to sign the document they had created.

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the US Constitution by thirty-nine brave men who had prayed to Almighty God for direction in creating the document they would sign, and American citizens would ratify through their elected leaders.

It is an exceptional document that has given the world a truly exceptional nation.

Some thoughts on the miraculous birth of our enduring Constitution and America's exceptionalism. 

Be informed, not misled.

Constitution Day is celebrated each year on this day. The level of recognition often depends on the worldview of the current president.

On Constitution Day 2019, President Trump said:

"Two hundred thirty two years ago, the Framers of the Constitution met in Philadelphia and set our country on a bold course toward a more perfect Union. John Adams called the drafting of the Constitution 'The greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen' and since its ratification, this exceptional document has remained the bedrock of the rule of law for our Nation."

Thomas Jefferson said:

"The example of changing a constitution, by assembling the wise men of the State, instead of assembling armies, will be worth as much to the world as former examples we have given them. The unquestionably the wisest ever yet presented to men."

Our Constitution is often called a "miracle document."

The Constitution is a "miracle document" because it has been so enduring, while most all other attempts by other nations have not endured.

If you study the events that led up to the Constitutional Convention, you discover that it's a miracle the convention ever even convened.

The spirit of rivalry, suspicion, and jealousy among the individual states was so intense they agreed on almost nothing. Little Rhode Island even refused to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention.

There were tariff wars, boundary disputes---they even fought over how much of the debt created by the Revolutionary War each state owed.

The economy was in shambles, business was paralyzed, and lawlessness was on the rise

The writers of the document were well aware of the increasing interest in "enlightenment," but their legal mentors, including John Locke, were Christian. He and others like him had written their "philosophies of law" which profoundly influenced our Founders.

The distinguished gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia clearly represented the thinking of America at that time.

And they recognized the difference between values rooted in God's Word, as opposed to evolving, relativistic values.

America was not a religious community or conclave, but there was a Christian consensus in the country.

While the states disagreed on almost everything, they shared one thing---a conviction that God intervenes in the affairs of men.

George Washington had pleaded for this convention to take place for so long, he almost didn't attend. His brother had just died, his mother and sister were seriously ill, and he was in such pain from rheumatism that he could barely sleep at night. And he was worried that some of the most trusted leaders in the country were losing confidence in the Congress and even in republican principles.

So he attended the convention.

James Madison and others pointed out that had Washington not attended, the Constitution would have likely not been drafted.

There are accurate historical accounts of the difficulties the men had in coming to an agreement. In fact, the disagreement often became heated. Some of the men walked out.

Emotions and disagreement were so strong that the period lasting until July 26 became known as the 'crisis period."

Franklin's historic call for prayer.

During the "crisis period" when the temperature and tempers threatened to go through the ceiling, 81-year-old Ben Franklin, the second most respected man in the colonies after Washington, rose to make what has become a famous plea: that prayers be held in the assembly every morning before the delegates proceeded with the agenda. In his address, he also requested that one or more of the city's clergy be present to officiate in that service.

Prayers have opened both houses of Congress ever since.

Shortly after the prayers began, the Connecticut Compromise was presented by delegate Roger Sherman---a dedicated Christian and Bible student---who called for each state to share equal representation in the Senate and allow the House of Representatives to be based on population.

As prayer preceded business each day, more and more progress was made which led to the final draft that we know as the Constitution of the United States of America.

Franklin's call to prayer was the turning point in creating our Constitution. I believe his words are also a clarion call to us today as we wallow in confusion, unable to even define who we are as a nation.

Franklin said this is part: 

"In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings?"

He noted that they had prayed when they went up against the British--the most powerful military in the world at that time, but now they had forgotten God and prayer.

He was right, miracle after miracle had occurred in the founding of this nation and our Declaration of Independence under God.

When I study the history of America I am fully convinced that we are a miracle nation. 

  • It was a miracle that Columbus found this part of the world. 
  • It was a miracle that the early colonists survived and built a nation during those first 156 years. 
  • It was a miracle that they rebelled against the motherland and an even greater miracle that they won the Revolutionary War against overwhelming odds. 
  • It was a miracle they survived the confederacy period (1774-89) and still another miracle that they founded "upon this continent a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal"---equal under God, equal before the law, equal opportunity.
It's a miracle that our nation stands today---but we are faced with unparalleled challenges from within and without.

Ben Franklin continued in describing the solution. It would not only be the Founder's solution---it would be our solution today. If we would embrace it:

"I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth---that God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the scared writings that 'except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial  local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age..."

I personally believe---deeply believe, that the solution to the chaos in our country today can only be resolved as God's people humble themselves in prayer before Almighty God---turn from our sins asking His forgiveness and guidance. And blessing.

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful.