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On This Very Day
The Constitution of the United States of America was signed on this day, September 17, in the year 1787. America has lived for 236 years under the “glorious banner” of the Constitution. It has fortified our rights, outlined our revolutionary form of government, and protected our very lives.
But perhaps we have lived so long under its good graces that we have nearly forgotten that our lives could be otherwise. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said:
“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” (“A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America,” March 30, 1863.)
These words are perhaps more true today than when President Lincoln first uttered them.
During his first inaugural address in 1789, President George Washington also acknowledged the hand of God in the founding of this nation. He said: “No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency” (First Inaugural Address, 30 Apr. 1789).
Ezra Taft Benson, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and religious leader said of the Constitution:
“I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed his stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of heaven selected and sent some of his choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government as a prologue to the restoration of the gospel and the second coming of our Savior.”
He outlined four things we can do to “befriend the Constitution in this critical hour”:
First and foremost, we must be righteous. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Second, we must learn the principles of the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free…it expects what never was and never will be.” (Here is a link to the text of the Constitution.)
Third, we must become involved in civic affairs to see that we are properly represented.
Fourth, we must make our influence felt by our vote, our letters, our teaching, and our advice.
Those who have gone before us and worked so hard to fortify our freedoms can reasonably expect nothing less.
John Adams—American statesman, writer, and revolutionary leader wrote: “Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.”
May we live worthy of the privileges so generously bestowed upon us by the framers of the Constitution and by God himself.