Pastor Sam Crosby
San Saba’s First Baptist Church
June 27, 2017
The beloved patriotic hymn, “America,” was written by a 24-year-old Baptist seminary student by the name of Samuel Francis Smith. He was studying at Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts in 1831. It was first performed by a children’s choir in Boston on July 4, 1831. The song served as the unofficial national anthem for nearly 100 years before the adoption of “The Star Spangled Banner” in 1931. The hymn acknowledges God as the author of liberty and appeals for God’s protection as our King (The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History).
The song, which celebrates freedom, was written about the nation but to the Lord. It also recognizes the sacrifice of those who died and the fulfilled dream of the Pilgrims who sought for a place to worship God freely and without coercion. The author is grateful to the Creator for such a wonderful nation of liberty.
Smith marries patriotism and faith in this song. There is both a strong devotion to the country and gratitude to the God of his fathers for the gift of such a land. The author labels freedom as holy and rooted in God Himself. His words are not unlike the Declaration of Independence which proclaims: “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.”
History traces a long list of godly men who were devoted to America. The song expresses the sentiment that America is a gift from God and established by the hand of God. The founders frequently expressed their dependence on God and the conviction that if America strays from its Christian roots it will suffer. President John Adams wrote, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The nation, it seems, was founded by people of faith and for people of faith.
Christians do not worship America nor equate America with the Kingdom of God. But we do thank God for such a wonderful country and acknowledge it is only by God’s providence that such a nation exists. We pray for the nation and for its leaders. We act as salt and light in the midst of the spiritual decay. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and the Bible as truth, and work to share the gospel of Christ throughout this land and to the ends of the earth. The prayer and hope of many is that America, by the mercy of God, will have one more spiritual awakening.
On the top of the 555-foot Washington Monument, the tallest building in our capital, is the Latin phrase Laus Deo, which means, “Praise be to God.” May God truly be praised in our land.