Do you know how much the Lord loves us? Do you know what a blessed country we live in? He sent us to the freest of all nations. We were built up by a virtuous people. We became great because our forebears were willing to sacrifice for the good of the whole; not only to sacrifice their lives but also their bad habits, their petty and not so petty contentions, their jealousies, their lands, their homes, their laziness. It is so hard for me to write what is in my heart so much easier to verbalize but let me try.
The Pilgrims who came to Plymouth Rock came because they wanted religious freedom. Not only did they want religious freedom but they wanted a unified society. They set up a charter, a compact saying in essence that they were willing to give up their shortcomings, pettiness, jealousies, laziness for the good of the whole. They wanted to succeed more than they wanted to be right. And because of this they eventually did succeed though it was a long, hard process. Was it worth it? Absolutely! They didn’t give up. They tried and tried again until they got it right for them.
Move on to the Revolutionary time period. Four of our first five presidents came from this very stock that landed at Plymouth Rock. Do you think that they had been taught to sacrifice for the good of others? Do you think they had been taught to improve themselves? I would postulate that they had indeed.
Before the Revolutionary War started the people of the 13 Colonies wanted to let King George and others know what was going on in the Americas. They were not okay with taxation without representation. They were not okay with being treated subpar though they too were citizens of the Crown.
At this time separating from the great nation of Britain had been spoken of a bit but many of the Founding Fathers did not think that the people were ready for such a monumental act. They thought the people were not virtuous enough. They were concerned about the pettiness, the arguments, the selfishness of the people. They were concerned about the indolence, the mannerisms the separation of classes that was beginning in the Colonies having been brought over from Britain. You see, since the time of the Pilgrims we as a people had worked very hard, were self sufficient and were simple . We were a frugal, loving group of people Our manners were simple. Our customs were simple. We were not extravagant or flamboyant. We were a simple people who loved God.
A number of our Founding Fathers did not think we were ready as a people to be free. The newspapers picked up these concerns and printed examples of our great shortcomings. As the people read the newspapers in their homes they thought to themselves, “Hey, I can give this up. I can let go of x whether it was not buying from British vendors or letting go of grievances or being more honest or whatever.” The people as a whole chose this, individually. They were not forced to it and as they chose to sacrifice they became more virtuous. This love of all that is good, this virtue, changed the Founding Fathers views and caused them to realize that we could indeed separate ourselves from Britain. We as a people were willing to sacrifice for freedom, to change to become more virtuous just as the people from the Mayflower were willing to sacrifice for freedom, to become more virtuous.
How critical virtue is. It made the difference in the course of our history. Virtue itself is not free. It has to be learned, earned and proven. Are we a virtuous people today? Are we willing to sacrifice as our forebears did? It’s interesting that the same theme is found throughout time. Pettiness, jealousies. It goes back to the beginning of man with Cain and Abel. No wonder one of the ten commandments says “Thou shalt not covet.” Exodus 20:17.
And how about today and we as a people? Are we willing to let go of our own lackadaisical nature? Instead of wanting what everyone else seems to have are we willing to be grateful for what we do have? Are we willing to work off what we have now if we owe on it? Are we willing to love and forgive and give our neighbor the benefit of the doubt? Are we willing to stand up for truth, to be a virtuous people-a lover of all that is good? As Samuel Adams wrote, “I thank God that I have lived to see my country independent and free. She may long enjoy her independence and freedom if she will. It depends on her virtue.” And as John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Concluding with Benjamin Franklin’s words, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” May we be virtuous that we may remain free is the overwhelming desire of my heart and soul.