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1) Henry’s speech was a call to action. What did he want his fellow Virginians to do? How did he justify his desire? In what ways did Henry address the concerns of those who did not agree with him?
2) Slavery was a common theme in Henry’s speech. What specific imagery did Henry use to illustrate his message? Why would those images have resonated so strongly with his audience?
3) Throughout his speech, Henry referenced a variety of Biblical themes. What are some of the most striking references Henry used? Why would these themes have resonated with his audience?
Patrick Henry gave an incredible speech on March 23, 1775 addressing and expressing the idea of freedom for slavery. He did so boldly and respectfully. Without using scripture in his way of deliverance, he still did so using the character in which he believed Jesus would have delivered it, with great respect yet, not escaping the point. He said, “I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen.” (Wirt, William. 1973.) Speaking of those he had just spoken before him and expressing their common ideas which were very opposite of his own. Henry speech was a call to action for liberty, independence, and freedom. In the Bible there is a man by the name of Peter who is often referred to as Apostle Peter. In his first epistle, 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, and honor the king” In these few words alone there are four ideas of respect that is mentioned. It addresses the respect that we should show to men, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, God Himself, and to those who God as appointed to govern over us.
In this particular passage of scripture respect comes from the word, Honor. It is a noun and a verb. In the verb form it is read, timao and it means to honor. (Vine’s Greek New Testament Dictionary, 2013) One article describes it as to place a great value on something. (Houdmann Michael. 2013) The definition that we are familiar with and has now become a society tradition is no where the authentic definition ordered by God. Today respect is based upon the freedoms that the people are allowed to practice as it pertains to the constitution; freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc. (The Constitution of the United States: A Transcription. 2013) Today, respect is all about how much money you have and how important your earthy rule is. This idea is totally against the instruction of God toward one another. Philippians 2:3, instructs us to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
God’s idea is for everyone to respect everyone in remembering each person as being of Him. Made in His image and a gift to us in which He was proud of when He created that person. For this very reason we should treat others with respect and honor because their souls carry an eternal value that money cannot touch. (Luke 10:33-34; 1 Corinthians 10:33) After viewing the Zimmerman case, one would wonder if respect for one another is still stuck in the discrimination and slavery times. Respecting one another included loving all who believe in Christ, whether they are of a different race or not, hold a different value status, or believe differently. To die because a young boy chose to wear a hooded sweat shirt to go by skittles at night is unheard of or is it? We don’t know the figures God has placed to govern over us personally however, we are even called to respect them fully and their ways and choices, trusting God is in control of all things. It is Gods will to place them in office and it is our jobs to respect them. (Romans 13:1-7))
Apostle John wrote repeating what he heard Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35; 15:12; 1 John 3:23). In addressing the President, Henry said, “nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery” (Wirt, William. 1973.) Freedom of freedom brings up the scriptural thought, whom the Son sets free are free indeed (John 8:36) Because of the sins of Adam and Eve, we are born into sin. It is Jesus who opened the doors to walk through toward freedom. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Henry quoted in the beginning of his speech, “It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.”
I believe that truth in which Henry speaks of is God’s truth. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28). When Jesus sees us He has no eyes of favoritism. He loves us all and treats us all with that great love. In this scripture we see God addressing how displeased He is at the idea of slavery. Slavery and freedom doesn’t compare in the eye sight of God. In fact Jesus lets us know that those who put themselves in what they call the place of being first or above in indeed placing themselves in the last position because, it is them who sins when they do so. (Matthew 20:16) This is the idea in which Henry alluded to as he addresses the listeners on that very important day. Using the Lords own words put weight on his platform because they lived in a time where the name of the Lord was highly respected by the people.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Timothy 2:1-15) Later in his speech he mentioned the words, “Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly c:oncern their temporal salvation?” These are the words that ring so profoundly from the book of Mark 8:18. Henry was trying to convey to the listeners to open your eyes and see what is really happening. Even Jesus’ disciples did not see, hear, or understand Jesus clearly. Henry was sending out a warning when he said, “Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.” He was speaking of a betrayal of death.
Remember the story when Jesus was betrayed with a kiss that turned Jesus over to the hands of the chief Sanhedrin priests as a bargain exchange for a measly handful of thirty silver coins which led to Jesus’ death. Judas was right in Jesus’ face daily. He worked with Jesus, and was chose to follow Jesus and to be one of His disciples. Judas handled the money! Henry was telling the people in so many words that the truth is written on the wall, right in their faces, and yet they are not able to see. Henry desperately was trying to wake them up and to educate them, making them aware of the spiritual warfare they were involved in. The devil had convinced the majority at that time with another lie. Henry wanted to expose his lie. Henry said, “We have prostrated ourselves before the throne” In other words he said we have done all that we can and obviously what we have done is broken. The term prostrate is a term that symbolizes the epitome of effort put in. Therefore, Henry is saying there is no other way to fix this problem but to fight for it.
They tell us, sir that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance, by lying supinely on our backs, and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. (Wirt, William. 1973.)
Here Henry was taken the idea from Number 13:33, when the Israelites felt they had on power when they went to spy on the Promised Land. The Bible tells us that there were a total of ten men who were sent out to explore the land. Eight of them returned beleaguered due to what they saw while there. While describing what they say they reported how they left feeling as small grasshoppers compared to the people on the Promised Land. In to her words, they were too frightened to go there to the land that God had promised to them. This was of thinking landed them back into the wilderness for another forty years. Henry wanted the people to see their full potential. He wanted them to see themselves as God see’s them. Whereas, all things are possible through Jesus Christ.
There is no situation larger than God? If the people seemed defeated in the slavery decision situation, Henry encouraged them people to stand firm and not be like the Israelites. He wanted them to press on and fight. Henry said, “Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.” (Wirt, William. 1973.) Henry fully agreed with the Lord when he said, “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. 2 Chronicles 20:1-29 says, “for the battle is not yours but God’s.” And that is the truth! Jesus operates in the Spirit and so does Satan. We can when any spiritual battle unless we go through Jesus. Jesus is the true defeater of all things. This is why his words resonated with his audience. He spoke the real truth and to end his speech with, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” stamped his with God’s approval and validation.