Come Ye Thankful People!
By FRC Senior Fellow Bob Morrison
This year, especially, we give thanks for free government. We are thankful for our Constitution, the oldest in the world. We thank God for the system of checks and balances ingeniously embedded by the Founding Fathers in our Constitution as a safeguard for our liberty. We also thank God for regularly scheduled elections and the promise they give of pulling our nation back from the brink.
In this Year of Our Lord, 2014, we are thankful for our fellow citizens who made the effort to register their deepest concerns and who voted their values on November 4th. These citizens shared our alarm at the dizzying pace of change -- change that brings not hope but the threat of a government untethered, unlimited, and unresponsive. Government is not persuasion, George Washington warned us, it is force. Like fire, it must be carefully tended and scrupulously applied.
For more than a hundred years, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Americans listened attentively to Election Sermons delivered by biblically inspired pastors and priests. These sermons were dedicated to awakening in a free people a lively sense of their responsibility to the Lord for the exercise of their franchise. Voting was common in colonial New England, as well as in other colonies. We Americans were a self-governing people long before we were what Washington called “a Sacred Union.”
Our friend Matt Spalding tells the story of Capt. Levi Preston, one of the Minutemen who fought the British at Concord Bridge in 1775. In his wonderful book, We Still Hold These Truths, Matt relates how an aged Levi Preston responded to a young interviewer decades after Independence was won and our Constitution was adopted.
Captain Preston: What prompted you to risk your life that April day? Was it the oppressive Stamp Act? “I never saw any stamps,” old Levi answered. Was it the tax on tea? “I never drank a drop of the stuff. The boys threw it all overboard.” Was it your reading of Harrington, Sydney, and Locke on the principles of liberty? “Never heard of `em,” Levi responded, “we read only the Bible, the catechism, Watt’s Psalms and Hymns, and the Almanack.” Then what was it? Old Levi Preston looked his young questioner squarely in the eye and answered: “Young man, we had always governed ourselves and we always meant to. The British didn’t mean we should.”
We need that Spirit of `75 today. We need to know what Americans in the past have done to give inspiration and guidance for the tasks before us. President Reagan said it well in his Farewell Address: “If we forget what we have done, we will forget who we are.”
One of the most remarkable things we Americans have done is to produce a rich harvest of autumn bounty. Americans’ tables this Thanksgiving will be filled with a full and nourishing variety of food and drink. This is no accident. American farmers are the most capable and productive in the world. We are so used to this holiday cornucopia that we seldom stop to realize how rare it is.
Another thing we have done is to create a health care system that helps Americans live longer lives and gives us the promise of even greater medical advances. We must not give up the unique character of our health care system. Some advanced countries, long accustomed to socialized medicine, have not seen a new drug patented in decades. We are so used to media messages on the inadequacies of our health care system that we risk overlooking the special benefits it affords to all Americans and to people from around the world. How many Ebola patients are flown to England for treatment under their socialized health scheme?
Perhaps the first prayer we should offer this Thanksgiving is a prayer for grateful hearts. We hope we have been rescued from a headlong rush toward despotism. We know as we gather for this Thanksgiving feast that much remains to be done. But at least freedom has a chance. So let us pray and sing as we share in the Lord’s gracious Provision:
Come, ye thankful people, come,
Raise the song of harvest home!
All is safely gathered in,
Ere the winter storms begin;
God, our Maker, doth provide
For our wants to be supplied;
Come to God's own temple, come;
Raise the song of harvest home!
** From everyone at FRC, Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with family and look for the Update to return on December 1.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.