My Country, It Is Of Thee, Of Thee I Sing!
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! Psalm 33:12
Perhaps no other words soothe and assure the human spirit as do the words freedom and liberty.
Both are gifts of God. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. Amen!?
During America’s adolescent years, a young seminary student experienced this encouraging sense of assurance. In 1831, at the age of 23, he boldly wrote—My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing…” otherwise known as the song “America.”
“‘Tis” And “Thee”“’Tis” is an archaic form of the contemporary English contraction “it’s” so simply means “it is.” “Thee” is an obsolete second person singular form of “you.” However, “Thee” has been forever ingrained in our vernacular because of its use in Christian hymns, creeds, and liturgies, especially with reference to God. And most people are familiar with the King James Bible’s use of “thee” as translated for both God and a person.
Samuel Francis Smith And My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee
The hymn’s author, Samuel Francis Smith, was born in Boston on October 21, 1808. He attended Harvard College (now University) and graduated in 1829. Subsequently, he attended Andover Theological Seminary, the oldest graduate school of theology in the United States.
During Smith’s first year at Andover, he came into contact with Lowell Mason, a hymn publisher. Mason had a large number of German songs and materials that needed to be translated to English. Learning of the young seminarian’s proficiency in the German language, he enlisted Smith’s help in this effort.
One cold February evening, Smith was translating “Gott segne Sachsenland” (God Bless Our Saxon Land), a song set to a melody in Muzio Clementi’s Symphony No. 3. Clementi had used the theme of God Save the Queen in this symphony, often called the Great National Symphony, as a tribute to his adopted country of Great Britain.
Deeply moved by the words of this song, the young student wrote an American patriotic hymn to the same melody. Samuel Smith later said, “I instantly felt the impulse to write a patriotic hymn of my own adapted to this tune. Picking up a scrap of paper which lay near me, I wrote at once, probably within half an hour, the hymn ‘America’ as it is now known.”
One of Smith’s friends gave a copy of “America” to the pastor of Park Street Congregational Church in Boston. There it was first performed by the Juvenile Choir at an Independence Day Sunday School Rally on July 4, 1831. “America” was first published in 1832.
In the years following, Smith became a Baptist pastor, college professor, hymnist, journalist, and author. He was also a passionate advocate of missions. He became editor of many publications of the Baptist Missionary Union (BMU). After 14 years of serving as a pastor, he took a job as editorial secretary of the BMU and served there for 15 years.
In addition to “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”, Smith wrote over 150 other hymns. In 1843, he also partnered with Boston Baptist minister, Baron Stow, in the compilation of a Baptist hymnal “The Psalmist”.
Samuel Smith died suddenly in November, 1895, while on the way to a preaching engagement. Seventy-five years later, in 1970, he was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
Though he did many things as a pastor and professor, as well as being an avid champion of Christian missions, he is best known for his first year’s work at seminary—“My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”.
Lyrics To My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee:
My country, ’tis of Thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of Thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!
My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love Thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.
Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom’s song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.
Our fathers’ 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.
My Country, It Is Of God
These words were written by a 23-year old graduate student(!). The 1830’s represent a much different time—a time when Christianity and patriotism were still mainstream. That Samuel Francis Smith joined love for God and love for country in one song is remarkable.
According to today’s mainstream media, neither Christianity nor patriotism are mainstream. But surely your mother told you not to trust strangers? And when did God’s people ever accept a non-believer’s worldview on such an important subject as faith and land?
Though Smith’s love for God and love for Country together in one song may seem remarkable, considering the historical context, it really is not. Even today, I believe there are more God-loving patriots than any of us realize.
Fourth Of July Gratitude
On this Fourth of July, I am thankful for being a Christian and especially for living in a free society within the greatest country on Earth. It is my prayer that it remains free and that God will send both revival and the saving of many souls to this great nation.
It is disheartening to see many of today’s 23-ish year olds (and older) denounce this country and its history. Even some say they want to move.
Nowhere Like America On Earth
Should a person decide that America is intolerable and as a result they absolutely must move, the fact remains that they would be unable to find another country on earth that has such freedom and opportunity for its citizens. Another democracy like the United State of America exists exactly nowhere.
No other country allows the first amendment freedoms that citizens of the United States largely take for granted—speech, press, religion, gather peacefully, petitioning the government.
No other country has an internal system of checks and balances on equal branches of the government in order that one governing branch, or group of individuals, doesn’t assume dictatorial or authoritarian rule.
No other country allows the free exchange of ideas, or the ability to market those ideas, and receive income for those ideas known biblically as the “fruits of their labor.” Had Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, or Apple’s Steve Jobs been born in England, Canada, Indonesia, China, etc.—the world would be without Amazon, Facebook, and iPhones—or perhaps the names associated with them would belong to another American dreamer. In no other country on Earth would these people have been allowed to dream, build that dream, put that dream in the marketplace, and subsequently become billionaires—nowhere! Besides America, a country allowing its citizens this kind of freedom does not exist.
America Is A God Thing
The Founding of America and its founding principles etched on parchments are God things.
As in all walks with God, America has had its share of blessing and its share of trials and tribulations. Like a toddler learning to walk, so this great country has had its joys in success and falls of grace. And never discouraged, or without a sovereign Father watching over us, this nation always got back up and tried again. America has had her share of ups and downs. And America has learned and grown stronger and steadier along the course because of them.
God’s Making Of The Holy Nation Of Israel
Even God’s chosen nation and people also experienced trials and tribulations. Spending almost 400 years in the scorching sun of Egyptian slavery, Exodus 1 records that as God’s people multiplied, Pharaoh set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens (Exod. 1:11). The Egyptians ruthlessly made their lives bitter with hard service making bricks and working in the field (Exod. 1:14). After God spoke to Moses about bringing the people out as promised to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Exodus 6:9 says “…but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”
In the midst of these severe trials and tribulations, we see that God never left His people and was working continually in order to fulfill the covenant promises. In abject circumstances, He blessed the Hebrew families with children (cf. Ps. 127:3-5). And amid the despair of broken spirits, God listened, watched, planned, and finally prepared Moses to set His people free (cf. Exod. 2:23-3:2).
And God did it! He did exactly what He said He was going to do. He delivered His people from slavery and took them to the blessings of the Promised Land. And what blessing! What prosperity! What freedom!
But where there is complacence and disobedience, there will be trial and tribulation…
The chosen nation of Israel has had its share of ups and downs. And many have wondered “Why, God? Why were your people treated so harshly by other nations?” Though theological answers based on the Word of God could be devised, which may or may not be correct, Scripture assures us that the higher ways and thoughts of God uses all things, situations, and circumstances to create a people devoted to Him.
In retrospect, the Jewish people have literally changed the landscape of the planet. Their history with God found in the Old Testament of Holy Scripture is contained in the most published book ever written. For the many who suffered (and still suffer today), retrospect thoughts do not lessen the unimaginably pain, but by faith we know, their lives were not lived in vain.
Through Good Times And Bad, America Is Still Free
The United States has all kinds of people who have endured both good times and hardships. But on this July 4, by God’s grace, Americans still live in a free country. We are recipients of the amazing gift of liberty; a road paved by the steps and stops of many before us, even as we take our own steps and endure our own stops, as our Lord God directs the way.
Ups and Downs? Yes. Trials and tribulations? Yes. Along with every other nation on the planet, we have had and will continue to have our share of these. But what makes America (and Israel) different is that we are the beloved of an Almighty God. And He has given us liberty! We are free!
In Christ There Is Spiritual Freedom
And for those who are in Christ, there is spiritual freedom(!). Freedom in Christ brings indescribable and untouchable joy.
Today, as followers of Christ in America, let’s remember that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matt. 9:37). There is urgent Kingdom work to be done—the saving of souls. In order to get it done, our Lord and Savior exhorts us to move forward and stay focused.
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
And praise God that we are free to worship Him and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.
This country. It is of God. Of God, let us sing!
Happy Independence Day!
Sweet Land Of Liberty!
Let Freedom Ring!
Happy Fourth of July!
Until Next Time—
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:13
p.s. The words of the Declaration of Independence emote such beauty and majesty. For me, they always bring to mind the teaching of 2 Corinthians 5:14-16. Because Christ’s love controls us, or “compels us” as the NIV says, we regard no one according to their outward appearance. But we see others as God see them, having the unique potential that God gives to every person. From God’s viewpoint then, His followers give to all people the respect with which we are to treat one another, regardless of differences.
Following is the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Note that government doesn’t give rights to people, but they are endowed by their Creator. From a biblical viewpoint, we understand this as “God’s steadfast love for His creation.”
Declaration Of Independence
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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…