WILL WE EVER HEAR THIS CALL IN ANY CHURCH TODAY?
One of the most dynamic patriots who helped free America from the burdensome rule of King George of England was a man named Patrick Henry. I remember as a child hearing about him in school. One thing that interested me was that he was born in Studley, Virginia, just across the Chesapeake Bay from where I was born in Maryland. He was born in May 1736, the same month I was born. Only, we were a few years apart since I didn’t arrive until 1938. Patrick Henry’s father John Henry immigrated from Aberdeen, Scotland. My father immigrated from Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Patrick’s father was well-known and financially successful, and that’s why my similarities with Patrick end. Patrick grew up as part of a high-class member of the Virginia gentry. Patrick Henry was educated in local schools, while at the same time being tutored by his Father.
At the age of 15, Patrick Henry’s father opened a new store and put Patrick in charge. The business didn’t last long, and Patrick had his first taste of failure. Then his father gave him some land and he tried growing tobacco for three years, but that didn’t go too well either. Then his father assigned Patrick to manage his tavern while studying to become a lawyer. Once he secured his license to practice law, Patrick knew he had found his calling. One of the first legal cases he argued in court had to do with fixed farm prices. The prices were not set so much to reward the farmers or benefit the customers, but to generate revenue that would help pay for other government projects.
Back in those days before the constitution was written, they followed the laws of England. Under such laws, the clergy in the Church of England was paid out of taxes gathered by the British government. But Patrick felt that the British government should not be sending money to support the local clergy in America. This should be done locally. Patrick won the case which became a precedent in American law. This put Patrick in the spotlight and ended up getting him elected to the House of Burgesses in Virginia. Once there he became more and more interested in the movement that sought to free America from British rule. So, he joined in the effort to produce a correspondence between the colonies and the British crown related to their freedom.
Then, in March of 1773, Patrick along with Thomas Jefferson and Richard Henry Lee formulated a standing committee in which he played a leading role in setting up the First Continental Congress in 1774. As a result, Patrick was elected to this Congress. But things did not go well with the British government. They were unwilling to give this new nation its freedom from British rule. So, on Thursday evening, March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry made his most famous speech. It went like this: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me Liberty, or give me Death!” The crowd that gathered to hear this speech jumped up and shouted their approval.
But what really takes my breath away is that Patrick Henry made this speech in Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. As I read this, my thoughts produced a picture where I saw a sinner who wanted to be free from the bondage of sin; who was tired of serving the devil as a slave, coming into church and after hearing an old fashion salvation Gospel preached, stands up and cried out, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be bought at the price of chains in slavery to sin? Almighty God, help me! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, O God! Give me Liberty, instead of Death! – Dr. Robert R Seyda