July 31, 2011

Philip and the Eunuch

After Stephen’s stoning, the Believers were persecuted and many were imprisoned. The young man who witnessed Stephen’s death was very active in this. “Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.” (Acts 8:3) What the council hoped would be the end of the radical movement actually served to spread it. Believers went out of Jerusalem to many other places, where they preached the Gospel.


Philip (the Evangelist not the Apostle), another of the men chosen to minister to the widows, left Jerusalem and went to Samaria. Philip converted many of the Samaritans and “when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-17)

Consider for a moment the change of heart the disciples had experienced. While with Jesus, they had wanted to avoid traveling through Samaria and were appalled when he spoke to the Samaritan woman. Now, the leading disciples go to Samaria themselves and accept Samaritans into the fellowship of the believers. “Now after Peter and John had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, proclaiming the good news to many villages of the Samaritans.” (Acts 8:25)

The Holy Spirit works to bring together and into communion all who are estranged and separated from one another. Philip himself is instrumental in bringing another outcast into the household of faith. Here is the story of Senai Solomon (his name isn’t in the Bible-I made it up), court official and treasurer of Candace of Ethiopia as he reported to his queen upon his return.

“Most gracious and beneficent ruler, Candace Amanitare, Queen mother of all Ethiopia and daughter of the sun, I have returned from my travels to distant Jerusalem. By your gracious favor you, most lovely queen, allowed me to journey there. I have completed important trade alliances along the way for your iron and gold. However, I bring a more valuable message than good commerce.”

“What can this be? You, my trusted minister have been gone for a long season. You left when the sun was at its lowest and return now when it is at the zenith.”

“My lady queen, the journey itself is a moon turning of time. Each stop for trade was a matter of days. As the gracious Candace knows, to gain the advantage in trade, I must be patient until the other party is satisfied.”

“Yes, I know all that. I have become impatient waiting for word of your success. Tell on.”

“Let the daughter of the sun remember how you spared thought for my faith. A moon turning I spent in the holy city of Jerusalem, site of my heart’s desire. I saw the mighty Temple of the One God of the Hebrews and stood at the doors.”

“What is it like, this temple built by the mad king under the thumb of Rome?”

“I can only tell of the shining glory of the outside and the awesome murmur of prayers from beyond the doors and the scent of sweet incense on the breeze. What is beyond the Courtyard I cannot tell you, gracious queen.”

“Why is this? How could anyone refuse admittance to my most trusted minister? I sent you with letters of introduction to the governor and to the high priest.”

“Indeed, I did give the letters to those men. The governor was not in residence, but his tribune honored me with a grand banquet in your honor. High Priest Caiaphas was at the banquet. He is a broad man without humor who only deigned to attend out of duty to the governor’s title and yours. It is the Law of the Jews that no man, maimed as I am in my manhood, can enter the courts of the temple. This I knew, but hoped…”

“You know I would undo what my father did to you.”

“It is of no matter. I drew near to the holy precincts and felt the presence of God. However, it was what happened on my way back to your side, my queen, that I must tell of.”

“Say on, then. Do not keep us in suspense.”

“I was in my chariot, so comfortably provided by your kind majesty, on the road to Gaza. Even in the heat of the sun, the canopy provides shade. It is a luxurious way to travel and I thank you my queen for your consideration. As we traveled, I read from a scroll obtained in Jerusalem. It was confusing to me and I wished someone could explain it to me. Even as I wished for that, a man ran alongside the chariot.”

“How extraordinary. Was there much traffic on the highway?”

“None, my lady, that is why I was surprised when he spoke. ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ he said. I responded that I did not and showed him the passage.”

“What is this curious reading?”

“Here in the scroll is where I found the words. ‘As a sheep led to the slaughter or a lamb before its shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.’ It is from the Hebrew prophet Isaiah.”

“Indeed a strange statement.”

“Yes, I asked the stranger who the prophet was speaking about. He told me the most amazing things. The man spoken of in the scroll is one Jesus of Nazareth. He was born into Israel as redeemer of all humanity. The stranger, whose name is Philip, told me how the rulers turned against this rabbi and crucified him.”

“How then can he redeem anyone? Dead men cannot rule.”

“This man, Jesus, did not come to rule. He came to die. However, he did not remain in the grave. After three days, he arose.”

“Senai Solomon you mock me. No one, once dead, comes out of the grave, not even the rulers of Ethiopia, the children of the sun.”

“Forgive me, mighty and merciful Candace, I too was skeptical. The man Philip told me how Jesus was seen by many after the resurrection and even ate with his disciples. I had heard rumors of this in Jerusalem, but dismissed it as ramblings of drunkards. Philip was not drunk with anything except the spirit of God. He explained many other scriptures that foretold Messiah.”

“I have heard of Messiah who will come and free Israel. If this Jesus were Messiah, Rome would be vanquished.”

“My queen, I did raise that question. Philip opened my eyes and heart to understand how scripture has been misused to prophecy a warrior king like David, when God’s own word clearly tells of one who will bring healing and restoration and reconcile all creation to God.”

“I can see that you are changed by this conversation. We will speak more of this.”

“One last word, by your leave, gracious queen.”

“Very well.”

“We came to water at the oasis of Ein Yael. Half expecting rejection, I said, ‘Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ Without hesitation Philip took me, maimed as I am and outcast from worship in the temple, into the water. He baptized me there in the name of Jesus, the Messiah. I came out of the water refreshed and more alive than I have felt in years. No longer did my deformity matter. In God’s eyes, I was whole.”

“I wish you had brought this man with you that I might hear him.”

“Indeed my queen, I would have, but when we came up out of the water, he was gone. It was as if he vanished into the sands of the desert. I have returned to tell you and all who will listen about this Jesus who restores all things.”

“We will speak again. You are changed and it intrigues me.” (Acts 8:26-39)

The eunuch was reconciled to God, despite his deformity. In Jesus we are reconciled to God despite our failings and defects. It doesn’t matter how scarred we are or what we have done. God loves us. How can we break down the walls of prejudice and welcome those who are ‘different’ into communion with us?

The Book of Acts says, “Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.” Azotus is about 20 miles north of Gaza and Caesarea is another 60 miles further north.” This means that Philip went through Jamnia, Joppa, and other towns while going up the coast. He shared the Gospel with all he met, but we do not hear anything further about his ministry. Tradition holds that he was the first bishop of Anatolia (Turkey).

Next week we will meet Saul/Paul, the most recognized evangelist of the early church.

July 24, 2011

Stephen-Contention, Jealousy, Martyrdom

Last week we saw how Peter stood up to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish priestly council, even though he was only a fisherman and not a learned rabbi. Today we meet Stephen, a Greek Jew, who was brought before the council. His story also exposes contention and jealousy within the early church. First we learn of the complaints by the Hellenists, or Greek speaking Jews, against the Hebrew Jews. Then we see that jealousy against Stephen’s preaching by members of the ‘Synagogue of the Freedmen’. These were probably Jews enslaved by Romans and now freed. They have returned to Jerusalem and are zealous for their faith. The reaction of ‘the twelve’ and of the council is very different.


Chapter 6 introduces Stephen. In the early church “the disciples were increasing in number, [and] the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.” Even though the church is still young, there is dissension over perceived favoritism. The leadership acts swiftly and decisively. “The twelve called together the whole community…and said, “…select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word. [so] They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:1-6)

Rather than letting the discontent fester and cause greater discord, the twelve apostles confront the issue and provide a resolution. Seven Greek Jews (we can assume that from their names) are chosen to see that all the widows are cared for. The men are ‘ordained’ for their task by the laying on of hands, just as deacons and priests still are.

Stephen, esp., is filled with the Holy Spirit. He “did great wonders and signs among the people.” Not everyone was pleased with this, though.Those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.” Using false witnesses they had Stephen arrested for blasphemy and “brought him before the council.” (Acts 6:7-15)

Perhaps because he was Greek and not Jewish, the ‘freedmen’ confront Stephen. When they cannot refute his facts and faith, they turn him over to the council. Like Peter, Stephen has to give an account of his beliefs in front of the leadership of Israel. The response of the council is entirely different from the twelve. They become enraged at Stephen’s witness.

In Chapter 7, Stephen’s rebuttal to his accusers is an overview of the history of the Jewish people from Abraham through Solomon. You can imagine the leaders of Israel nodding as he recites the story of their faith. At the end, his tone changes, though. “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are for ever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.” (Acts 7:1-53)

It is not surprising that “they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.” Anyone intent on saving their life would have quit talking. “But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:54-58)

Stephen’s testimony was not finished. He continued to emulate his Lord. Even as he was being stoned “he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.” (Acts 7:59-60)

The Sanhedrin felt threatened by the testimony of Stephen and other apostles. They thought that his death would be a lesson to the other followers of Christ. Certainly it had an effect on the ‘young man named Saul’. In Chapter 8, we’ll see that Saul persecuted the members of the church.

How do you and I respond to those who don’t agree with our way of worship or our precise belief system? Do we act like the apostles and seek a solution and reconciliation or like the council with rage and stoning? Ever since the beginning of the church, there have been divisions over dogma and doctrine. What will it take for us all to see that we are servants of the “One God and Father of all”? What can you and I do to foster healing of differences?

Next week we’ll hear the story of the eunuch’s encounter with Philip-in his own words.

July 17, 2011

Hearing the Drummer

How do you feel when you get in trouble for doing something right? Do you feel persecuted? The First Letter of Peter says, “For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. (I Peter 2:19-21) That's not a very comforting passage. I wonder if Peter was thinking back to his early ministry when he wrote those words.

At first everything was going well. Crowds of people were converted. “Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles…the people held them in high esteem…believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women.” Not only that, “they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by…” (Acts 5:12-16)

It must have been a heady sensation for Peter and the other apostles. I’m sure he knew he was doing the work of God and fulfilling Christ’s call on his life.

Not everyone was thrilled with these sensational happenings. The high priest “being filled with jealousy” arrested the apostles. However, an angel releases them from jail so that in the morning, the temple guards report, “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” (Acts 5:23)

The apostles are discovered preaching in the Temple again and brought before the Council. “We told you not to preach,” they tell Peter and the others. They answer bravely “We must obey God rather than human authority.” (Acts 5:28-29) These were no longer the backward, provincial fishermen of two months earlier. They were not intimidated even by the rulers of the people.

It is then that Gamaliel, a Pharisee stands up. He reminds his fellow leaders of other supposed messiahs like Theudas and Judas the Galilean. Then he says, “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” (Acts 5:38-39) 

The Christian rock group DC Talk sings about this choice in My Will "If it's Your will, then nothing can shake me."
I'm setting the stage for the things I love, And I'm now the man I once couldn't be
Nothing on earth could now ever move me, I now have the will and the strength a man needs


(chorus)
It's my will, and I'm not moving, Cause if it's Your will, then nothing can shake me
It's my will, to bow and praise You, now have the will to praise my God


Complexity haunts me for I am two men, Entrenched in a battle that I'll never win
My discipline fails me, my knowledge it fools me, but You are my shelter, all the strength that I need


I'm learning to give up the rights to myself, the bits and the pieces I've gathered as wealth
Could never compare to the joy that You bring me, The peace that You show me is the strength that I need


Don't you know we've got to be children of peace
It's Your will, It's Your will
 DC Talk video

The council orders the apostles beaten and tell them not to preach Jesus. Instead of stopping or intimidating the leaders of the movement, “they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name…[and] did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. (Acts 5:40-41)

It is easy to give up when the ‘going gets tough’ and when we meet opposition to our calling. Henry David Thoreau says, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Our drummer is our Lord. When armies used to march into battle the drummer, kept beat so that the troops stayed together and marched in formation.

Christ, our drummer, leads the way. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps…When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (I Peter 2:21-24)

Our Lord Jesus is our drummer. It is when we return to listening to God’s music and God’s call that we know “For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25)

Each of us follows a drummer. Who or what is the drum-beat of your life?

Next week we’ll look at the courage of the first martyr of the church-Stephen. He reminds us that sometimes the drummer leads into battle, but not all return home.

July 10, 2011

Secrets of the Heart

A couple of weeks ago we looked at a pivotal event in the early church. Peter and John healed a lame beggar and were arrested. “The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family.” (Acts 4:5-6) They demand to know “By what power or by what name did you do this?”


Once again, Peter is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and preaches to them about “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” Only a couple of months earlier, this same Peter cowered in the courtyard of the High Priest and denied knowing Christ. Now, he is chastising the rulers of the Temple. They are amazed and “when they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.” (Acts 4:14)

In a vain effort to stop the teaching, the Council “ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” Peter and John boldly reply, “‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

I wonder how often we listen to the voices of friends, family, those in authority, etc. rather than hearing the word of God in our hearts. Perhaps too often. The Holy Spirit is always more ready to guide us with the “still small voice” than we are to listen. Peter and John listened to the Holy Spirit and courageously gave their response, to which the leaders had no response. Their action encouraged the other followers of Christ.

When Peter and John return to the rest of the apostles and converts there is great rejoicing and prayers of thanksgiving were offered. “When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:31)


One aspect of the early church is that “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common…There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need." (Acts 4:32-35)

However, not everyone was honest. What happened to Ananias and Sapphira must have been shocking to the believers. The couple sold their property, but did not give all the proceeds to the apostles. Peter sees through the deception and confronts Ananias, the husband, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” (Acts 5:1-5) At Peter’s words, Ananias falls down dead.

Peter gives Sapphira a chance to be honest, but she too lies and “she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” (Acts 5:10-11) It is no wonder that “great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.”

The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that they kept some of the money back, but that they lied about it. Do we ever hold back part of our gifts from God? It may not be money that we withhold. It could be our willingness to follow the urging of the Holy Spirit. God “knows the secrets of our hearts.” (Psalm 44:21) Denying our gifts, our ministry, our calling is a form of lying to God.

The Lord tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” The prophet tries to deny the call of God, “I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” He is told “Behold I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:4-10) Jeremiah goes on to preach judgment on the people of Judah and Israel, but also the promise, “I know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

God’s promise is to give us good, a future, and hope and our response is to give all to God, just as Peter and John and the early followers did. Are there secrets in your heart the only God knows? Have you heard them whispering in a still small voice? Can you offer all you are and have to God?

Next week we’ll look at the courage of Peter and the apostles when they meet resistance and persecution from the leaders of the people.

July 3, 2011

July 4, 2011

The Declaration of Independence.

Take time to read it, and consider the courage it took for the men who put their signature on this document. They called upon their faith and their patriotism and their belief in what was right to draft and sign this document that changed the face of the world in 1776 and continues to impact our lives today, here and around the world. They pledged their “Lives, Fortunes and sacred Honor” in the passionate belief that freedom was better than the King’s “absolute Tyranny over these States”. May we remember what it cost them and those who continue to defend our right to live free, and the rights of those around the world who are also seeking freedom from oppression of any sort.

As Christians, we too are called to pledge our "Lives, Fortunes, and Sacred Honor" in service of our Lord. See my newsletter this month for thoughts on this.


IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton
North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton
Massachusetts:
John Hancock

Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott
New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton

Next week we'll return to meditations on the action of the Holy Spirit in the lives of men and women of the early church and gain inspiration from them.