A Plea For Liberty
Patrick Henry (May 29, 1736 – June 6, 1799) was an American attorney, planter and politician who became known as an orator during the movement for independence in Virginia. A Founding Father of our nation, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia, from 1776 to 1779 and from 1784 to 1786.
On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry sounded one of the most famous calls to arms in American history. During a meeting of the Second Virginia Convention at St. John’s Church in Richmond, the 38-year-old lawyer and politician gave an impassioned plea urging Virginians to form militias to defend themselves against the British. Henry’s brief address—which closed with the famous line “Give me liberty or give me death!”— swayed the Convention in his favor, and his words became a rallying cry during the march to war that soon followed: here is the last paragraph of that famous speech:
“Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Refused to sign the U.S. Constitution
Continuing liberty was so on the mind and heart of Patrick Henry that he refused to sign the U.S. Constitution because the document lacked a legitimate Bill of Rights which would protect the rights of States and the freedom of individuals. Although James Madison is regarded today as the “Father of The Bill of Rights,” it was Patrick Henry, more than any other, who forced him to introduce those amendments, which have since become a bulwark against governmental oppression. Without the pressure from Patrick Henry and his party, first in the convention, and then in Congress, it is doubtful if the U.S. would have had a federal bill of rights in its present form.
Note: The Bill of Rights was written in 1791 and comprise the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. To date there have been a total of 27 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the last one being added in 1992 regarding congressional pay rates.
Guardians of Liberty
Our nation was fortunate to have had Patrick Henry around following the origin of our Constitution. Without him and others like him our young nation may have slipped right back into the same sort of government that we had rejected. There have been other such guardians of Liberty throughout the ages who valued liberty even above safety. Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist, humanitarian, and an armed scout and spy for the United States Army during the American Civil War. She labored hard for liberty and said:
“I had reasoned this out in my mind, there was one of two things I had a right to, liberty or death; if I could not have one, I would have the other.” Harriet Tubman
Much later Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would lead a movement to continue that fight for liberty for which he said:
“A piece of freedom is no longer enough for human beings…unlike bread, a slice of liberty does not finish hunger. Freedom is like life. It cannot be had in installments. Freedom is indivisible–we have it all, or we are not free.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Since the beginning of time liberty has always been something that must be fought for and guarded against loosing. There is always a foe who wants to take it away. There is also the fool who doesn’t value its invaluable worth until its gone.
Paul, Guardian of Liberty Galatians 1:1-5, Ephesians 2:8-9
Long before America was ever discovered by its natives (not Columbus), The Apostle Paul was sent to Galatia (around A.D. 53), to be a “guardian of liberty” for new believers there.
Judaizers were Jewish Christians who believed that a number of the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament (OT) were still binding on the New Testament (NT) Church. They insisted that Gentile (non-Jewish) converts to Christianity abide by OT rites, especially circumcision. They also taught that Paul was not an authentic apostle.
Paul, not unlike Patrick Henry, feared that freedom fought for (by the gospel of Christ) would be lost if he did not speak up forcefully to correct misconceptions. Not unlike Martin Luther King Jr., Paul labored to extend liberty to all believers in Christ not excluding the Gentile believers. Paul introduced himself as one sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father (which makes him an Apostle). He then states the fact that Jesus alone “gave” himself for our sins in order to rescue us from evil; establishing the fact that we are saved by the grace of God and not by our own works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Good News? Galatians 1:6-12, Ephesians 1:7, 12-14, Luke 4:18
The Greek word “Gospel” translated means “Good News”. When we hear the good news of Christ and believe we are saved from our sin and become God’s child through faith. He gives complete freedom to those who are His (Ephesians 1:14). Jesus Himself described this purpose of giving freedom as His mission (Luke 14:8). Paul rebuked those who were listening to the bad news of the Judaizers. They were perverting (corrupting/ poisoning) the gospel of Christ. Paul condemns any who would dare teach a doctrine contrary to what Jesus lived and taught. That condemnation is sure and even frames the last words of the Bible (Revelation 22;18-19). Are you following the gospel of Christ alone? There is no other good news. Don’t be deceived by those perverts of the day that add or take away from what Christ established in His blood. Guard the truth of the gospel, it alone is liberty!