The Declaration of Independence contains a theological teaching because the ultimate source of our rights and duties is God. There are four references to God in the Declaration:
- The "laws of nature and of nature's God" entitle the United States to independence.
- Men are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."
- Congress appeals "to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions."
- The signers, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence," pledge to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.
The term "nature's God" refers to that which responsible for human (and the rest of) nature being what it is. It is a way of speaking of God insofar as God is knowable by human reason. In other words, our minds, unassisted by divine revelation, can figure out that there is such a thing as human nature, and that there are laws or rules that we must follow if we are to live justly and well. Reason can see that if we violate those laws, we will suffer such evils as death, slavery, or misery. A New England preacher explained the concept in this way: "The law of nature (or those rules of behavior which the Nature God has given men, . . . fit and necessary to the welfare of mankind) is the law and will of the God of nature, which all men are obliged to obey. . . . The law of nature, which is the Constitution of the God of nature, is universally obliging. It varies not with men's humors or interests, but is immutable as the relations of things." (Abraham Williams, Election Sermon, Boston 1762.)