Hypocrisy. Inconsistency. Convenient faith. Culture over God’s word. A deductive approach to Bible study.
I’ve got nothing against Patrick Henry himself. I simply believe Mr. Henry is representative of one of Christianity’s greatest problems today — and for all time. In my book he’s guilty of no more than we are; but an objective look at history often makes obvious the errors of today.
Patrick Henry is known for his famous quote, “Give me liberty or give me death.” That quote, with fuller context, is here:
“It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings. … Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things, which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it. Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves. … 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!“
Mr. Henry’s devotion to God will not allow him to stand passively by, as this new birth of a nation is oppressed by a former government. He has a responsibility to God and to his country to do otherwise. Note that his words of “chains and slavery” are describing a young America under British rule. It would be better to die than to allow this injustice.
Concerning that liberty and freedom, we should be suspicious of anyone who seeks to take away these rights:
“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”
And of his love of the word of God:
“The Bible is worth all the other books which have ever been printed.”
Let me remind us of just one verse from that great book — “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Mr. Henry, your thoughts:
“I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.”
That’s odd — but what about the importance of Christianity, Patrick?
“I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian religion.”
Speaking of property, it was Mr. Patrick Henry who stood before delegates planning to ratify the Constitution and advised against it. His argument:
“They’ll free your niggers.”*
* It seems Mr. Henry should have thought a little harder about his own words here: “The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”
– A special thanks to Andreas Kluth for calling to my attention this last Henry quote — in his “ode to Alexander Hamilton.”