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Faces on Faith: Freedom’s holy light

By Staff | Oct 22, 2019

Rev. Dr. Stephen LeBar

“Long may our land be bright with freedom’s holy light.”

What was Samuel Smith thinking of when he penned the words of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in 1832? Samuel was a Baptist minister and journalist, born in Boston, and a student at both Harvard and Andover Theological Seminaries.

The melody had been around Europe in several variations, including “God Save the King.” Beethoven and Haydn had incorporated the melody into some of their compositions.

In about 30 minutes on a rainy day, Samuel wrote the lyrics. The first three verses encourage and invoke national pride, while the last verse was specifically reserved as a petition to God for his favor on and protection of the United States of America.

Smith gave Lowell Mason the lyrics, and the song was first performed in public on July 4, 1832, at a children’s Independence Day celebration at Park Street Church in Boston.

Harvard was founded by Puritans 18 years after Plymouth Rock. The college’s first presidents insisted that there could be no true knowledge or wisdom without Jesus Christ. The school’s “Rules & Precepts” adopted in 1646 stated, “Everyone shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.”

A Supreme Court ruling in 1892 states: “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. In this sense our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian. This is a religious people.”

Our founding fathers purchased with their own blood the freedom that made our nation great. Our early leaders knew the tremendous cost and sacrifice that had been paid to secure this freedom, and they gratefully acknowledged that God had granted and preserved our freedom.

The Bible states that a nation’s destiny is in God’s hands. “From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God.” (Acts 17:26-27)

What was Rev. Samuel Smith thinking? It seems apparent that he was thinking about God’s part in establishing our freedom.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us, “Don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do anything you want. Use it as an opportunity to serve each other with love.” (Galatians 5:13)

The Rev. Dr. Stephen LeBar is the interim senior pastor at the Sanibel Community Church.