But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
I Peter 2:9
After 17 days of writing and 4 days of dialog and discussion, the Declaration of Independence was accepted by the Continental Congress as an explanation of the decision to pull away from the monarchical control of Great Britain. While we often think of the Declaration as the beginning of the American Revolution, it in fact was not; the colonies had been at war with England for a year by the time the Declaration was adopted. The purpose of the Declaration was to inform the colonies of the reasons behind the decision of their representatives in the Continental Congress to pull away from Britain.
And while 56 men would go on to sign the finalized document of the Declaration of Independence by 1777, on July 4th, 1776, there would only be two:
John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress and Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress.
They signed the document and sent it to John Dunlap, a printer, who then type-set and printed up 200 copies to be distributed throughout the thirteen colonies.
In bold face print.
On a document that defined and explained an act of treason.
John Hancock had been elected the president of the Continental Congress by the other delegates of that body. We most frequently associate his signature with the final draft of the Declaration, his flamboyant and bold cursive punctuating the power of the print.
Charles Thomson was not an elected delegate from one of the colonies, but was rather a very trusted and venerated man who was appointed secretary, admired for his scholarship and honesty. He was born in Ireland in 1729 and made his way to America with his father and brothers at the age of 11. Having lost his mother while still in Ireland, Thomson's father died of extreme sea sickness within site of the New World's shores and Thomson faced life in his new homeland as an orphan. He was taken in and educated by a blacksmith in Delaware and began his education. In 1756, he was adopted into the Delaware Indian tribe and was given the name of "Man of Truth."
Appointed as secretary to the Continental Congress in 1774, he was highly respected and admired. John Adams said of him that he was "the life of the cause of liberty."
Perhaps the fruit of his life is explained by his overarching passion.
And Thomson's overarching passion was this:
He was a man of the Book.
Thomson was an expert in Greek and Latin and a dedicated Biblical scholar. In 1808, his translation of the Bible into American English from the Septuagint was published. It remains one of only two translations of the Bible from Koine Greek directly into English~the rest of our translations are iterations of translations from the Koine Greek to ancient Latin to modern Latin to king's English to modern English.
Thomson also designed the Great Seal of the United States in 1782, the majestic Bald Eagle clasping the olive branches and arrows in its talons. Thomson made sure to embed imagery of the sovereignty and favor of God throughout the symbols of the Seal.
Thomson's ardor for the Word of God made him an unfailing advocate in the cause of liberty. His sense of justice and equality came directly from the words of the Book, in which all are declared free in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free.
Freedom comes when we declare we will no longer live under sin's tyranny. Freedom comes when we see the equality Christ extends to all those who accept Him. Freedom comes because God has declared freedom for the captive. Through the Spirit of holiness, Christ is declared the Son of God.
To announce. To tell it out. To bring to light.
To declare one's independence from that which has bound it.
Those original copies of the Declaration of Independence printed by John Dunlap are now known as the Dunlap Broadsides, with 25 copies remaining in existence today.
When the final copy of the Declaration was drafted in August of 1776, it made the rounds amongst the various delegates of Congress to be signed and received its final signature in January of 1777. Because Charles Thomson was not an 'elected' official, he was not asked to sign the final, frame-worthy copy.
But his invisible influence is still in evidence across its parchment. It was his office that served as the archive for the Declaration and the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. It was his reputation for truth and precision that held him in deep confidence to his peers.
And while Charles Thomson's name is generally overshadowed by the Jeffersons and Franklins and Washingtons in the annals of American history, it is Charles Thomson's courage, his courage to stand and declare freedom to a people captive to a tyrannical king in the midst of a bloody war, that still calls forth to us today.
It must have seemed familiar to him, the Declaration of Independence.
Because he had already been working for years on the translation of the original one, the Divine Declaration that brings total freedom.
Freedom in Christ.
Let freedom ring.