Patrick Henry’s declaration, “Give me liberty or give me death,” is one of the most recognizable quotes in American history. Speeches such as his motivated early colonists and instilled a patriotic ideology that lasted for generations.
Henry firmly adhered to the sovereignty and providence of God. Biblical lessons and Christ’s teachings shaped Henry’s worldview. He believed that morality and government practices should always intertwine with Scripture.
In one speech, Henry declared, “An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left for us… There is a just God [Isaiah 45:21] who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us [1 Samuel 8:20; 2 Chronicles 32:8].” [i]
Like the early Puritans, Henry affirmed God’s active presence in the world and all earthly affairs. He believed that God created every nation and government. A nation honoring the Lord could have a more personal relationship with the Creator and even receive His blessings.
Biographer William Wirt (1772–1834) explained of Henry:
He had no doubt, that God, who in former ages hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he might show forth his power and glory in the redemption of his chosen people. It was for the people to determine whether they were worthy of this divine interference, whether they would accept the high boon now held out to them by heaven.[ii]
His beliefs dramatically differed from certain Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Notably, Jefferson cleaved to a worldview of deism, denying an active and personal Creator. Henry, on the other hand, maintained no assurance in humanity, always clinging to the idea that morality and such standards were found only in God, “I am but a poor worm of the dust—as fleeting and unsubstantial as the shadow of the cloud that flies over your fields and is remembered no more.”[iii]
Patriots like Henry realized that a just cause for freedom and liberty was slowly advancing in the colonies, emphasizing a theme of submission and hope found only in the Lord’s will.
Loraine Boettner explained such an understanding, “The principle of the sovereignty of God when applied to the affairs of government proved to be very important. God as the supreme Ruler, was vested with sovereignty; and whatever sovereignty was found in man had been graciously granted to him.”[iv]
Similar to the beliefs of Oliver Cromwell and Stonewall Jackson, Henry faced his nation’s fate without fear, acknowledging that it was in God’s hands and that the Lord’s plan would always prevail, regardless of the outcome.
Holding firm to the Lord’s standards that gave the early patriots hope, Henry felt that by God’s grace, the Lord might bless the colonists with independence and freedom.
If people surrendered to God and the movement focused on liberty within the tenets of Christianity, confidence could only grow, confirming that the Lord was with their cause. H.H. Meter explained such logic, “This very principle of the sovereignty of God operated as a mighty defense of the liberties of the subject citizens against tyrannical rulers.”[v]
A fair question remains: is God with nations or individual people? Both Cromwell and Jackson longed for a Christian army. Henry dreamed of a Christian Virginia and nation. God is with His sheep and His church worldwide. Undisputed is that the United States of America has a rich history and connection to Christianity. The biblical principles of the faith are present throughout the U.S. Constitution.
Today’s nation differs vastly from the one Henry fought to establish. However, American patriots still exist, plenty who still proudly proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. If any country has hope, it is through these individuals who continue to make up a significant portion of the voting bloc.
Often referred to as evangelical-conservative voters, the patriotism of the old is still alive through many of these Americans. Despite acknowledging that their country is imperfect, they appreciate the past and attempt to stay informed about their nation’s history.
Today’s patriots are not ashamed of their country or its extensive connection to Christianity. In their eyes, it is through the principles of Christianity that freedom roars, a concept that founded the nation, ended slavery, rescued humankind in two world wars, and continues to face darkness and tyranny to this day.
Sure, this voting bloc is worried about the direction and current state of the nation, but like Henry, they surrender to the divine decree of God and, most positively, will not give up on their country.
Faith in Christ is the foundation of any hope in this world. The late patriots knew this, and it is up to today’s Christians to mirror such an understanding. While darkness might exist, it is through Jesus Christ that the salt and light of this earth appear.
[i] Patrick Henry, Sketches of the Life and Character of Patrick Henry, (Philadelphia: James Webster Publishing, 1818),120-123.
[ii] Ibid., 139.
[iii] Ibid., 153.
[iv] Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1932), 392-393.
[v] H.H. Meeter, The Fundamental Principles of Calvinism, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), 92.