The Fourth And Forgiveness- Jefferson and Adams

[As we celebrate the birth of our nation this weekend, it is important to remember that these people were regular people like us with common struggles to all of us. One of the most common issues we deal with as Christ-Followers is how to handle it when somebody does you wrong. What do you do with the bitterness and resentment that comes with people who attack you, let you down, and hurt you.  How does that square with “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another even as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  Here is a real life story of forgiveness from two of those who founded our country].

“It is the 4th?” said the patriarch of American liberty and the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.  It was indeed July 4th, 1826 and Jefferson lay dying on his bed on the Monticello hilltop. Upon learning that it was indeed the 4th, Jefferson said simply, “It is the 4th.’  It was almost as if he had willed himself to die on the day when the country had been born.   It was 50 years to the day since he had penned the document that established a country and then signed by the 56 founding fathers.  It was a declaration to which they pledged “their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Earlier that same morning, John Adams awoke and learning that it was the 4th of July said, “It is a great day. It is a good day.”  It rang true for the man that wrote of that great Independence Day 50 years earlier:

It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

What is plainly known among historians is that these two founders of liberty became bitter enemies and rivals for power. Their disagreement grew so sharp that they refused to speak with one another for a period of more than 12 years. But Benjamin Rush, the father of modern psychiatry in America, diplomatically helped the men to reconcile. Adams said of Jefferson, “I have always loved Jefferson and I still love him.” Jefferson wrote to Adams in his first letter after the bitter estrangement, “A letter from you calls up recollections very dear to my mind…It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause.  The men began exchanging letters and continued to do so for the last dozen or so years of their lives. They grew to respect and admire one another anew as the country matured. They began to see themselves as part of a grand continuum of liberty.

And as God in his providence would have it, both lions of liberty died on the same day within hours of one another.

David McCullough writes in his biography of John Adams:

That John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had died on the same day, and that it was, of all days, the Fourth of July, could not be seen as a mere coincidence: it was a “visible and palpable” manifestation of “Divine favor,” wrote John Quincy Adams in his diary that night, expressing what was felt and would be said again and again everywhere the news spread.

And what did these lions of liberty have to say about one another as their lives ebbed and ultimately extinguished?

Thomas Jefferson continued to address his co-founder and one time rival as “Friend.” John Adams’ last words were “Jefferson … still lives.”

No longer were they rivals in a Jefferson “vs.” Adams way. They returned to Jefferson “AND” Adams, two patirots united forever in a common cause bound forever by mutual respect.

“It is never too late to mend a quarrel” may be the most profound lesson that these founding fathers showed us.

Happy 4th of July!

One Response to “The Fourth And Forgiveness- Jefferson and Adams”

  1. Trisha Norket July 9, 2010

    Thank you so much not only for this information but for remembering our Veterans & those who currently serve during your sermon. I Love Happy Birthday America. When I said the Blessing on the 4th of July, I thanked God for who he is & all he has done for us & I ended with Happy Birthday America.

    I am sharing this with Stan. We are so patriotic we make people sick. Too Bad!! Stan is a Vietnam Veteran (1967) I am so grateful that he is healthy, not like some who came home. Stan really dealth with his Vietnam issues when John was killed as we went through our Grief Sessions. He still has some hard times but he will drop a tear in a heart beat. I am attaching a poem that he wrote. “Still Nineteen, Still in Nam” It may not mean a lot to you but if another Vietnam Vet reads it, they understand it completely. My sweet husband has written about 45 poems since John got killed. I really need to get them published.

    Thank you so much for who you are, Ray. I Love You & am going to miss you in Ethiopia. God is prparing us for a wonderful adventure & I know he will be with us every step of the way. I can’t wait.
    Thanks Ray & God Bless. I am also attaching our Prayer Calendar. I know you are praying for us!!

Leave a Reply