by: Ingimar DeRidder
In 1850 the political division in the United States was so acute that there was great doubt if America could endure as a Nation. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem reminding her of the divine hand seen in its founding. He wrote, “The Building of the Ship.” The last stanza sounds like a plea and a prayer that America would survive.
Thou too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
‘T is of the wave and not the rock;
‘T is but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea!
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee, — are all with thee!
Once again there is some concern about America, (as we knew it) surviving. I pray she does, but while my hopes are with her, they are not in her. My hope and hopes are in God alone. In the year 1776 America’s Ship of State began to rise in the shipyards of providence and was launched for some divine purpose. Only God knows if that purpose has run its course, if she founders, sinks (like the once proud Spanish Armada), or is overtaken by pirates. In 1776 beautiful and majestic words were penned:
…..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.
We can only pray that America’s sons and daughters will come to their senses and remember the courage, craftsmanship, and careful considerations of the authors of both the Declaration and the Constitution, as well as the unseen hand that guided the founding fathers. Yet, our hope and faith is not in the Constitution or in the Government. Our hope is in a far more secure and greater power. David wrote, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock higher than I.” Some other words were also penned in 1776 by someone far less famous than Thomas Jefferson, but these words are much more powerful, life changing, and important. They are:
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
– Augustus M. Toplady