On July 4, 1831, the song we know today as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” was sung for the first time at a children’s Independence Day celebration at a church in Boston. Starting with an existing tune, seminary student Samuel Francis penned the lyrics in just 30 minutes. Ths song served for many years as an unofficial national anthem for the USA. It remains today one of our nation’s favorite patriotic hymns. It is also my personal favorite.
“My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” This may sound old-fashioned and maybe even naive to some people, but I believe it. I sincerely believe that God was behind the founding of the United States of America. I don’t believe that the USA was a chance product of changing times, migration patterns, political realities, or changing philosophies. I believe that God was the primary force in the forming of a nation that would be a strong force for good, for freedom, and for God.
This belief is not just my own. It’s been a belief of Americans almost from the beginning. I’ve been reading great American speeches all afternoon in preparation for Sunday worship, and I’ve been struck how leader after leader and president after president recognized the hand of God in the forming and guiding of our country.
Patrick Henry, in one of the most famous speeches in colonial American history, said, “We shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations and who will raise up friends to fight our battles with us.” Abraham Lincoln called upon God regularly in all of his speeches, closing his second inaugural address with the thought, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” In another of America’s most famous speeches, John F. Kennedy reminded us that America’s founding belief was that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
I love America. I love the land, the people, the constitution, the form of government, and the flag. I’m not blind though. I recognize that there are problems still to be solved in America. There are some trends and issues that are deeply troubling to me. But I still love America. I believe that God formed our nation and He is not yet through with us.
I close with the final verse (as penned by Samuel Francis) of this great song. It is a prayer we still need to pray:
Our father’s God to Thee, author of liberty, to thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, with freedom’s holy light, protect us by Thy might, Great God our King.