To illustrate how the Declaration and the Constitution work together, Lincoln cited Proverbs 25:11: "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." For Lincoln, the principles of the Declaration—that we are granted by our Creator with inalienable rights—are the apples of gold. "The Union, and the Constitution," Lincoln wrote, "are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made for the apple—not the apple for the picture."
For me, this is the essence of freedom: to be a child of God whose God-given rights and responsibilities are respected by her government under the Constitution. What makes all of us Americans isn't our ancestry or our skin color but our belief in this freedom. This isn't the kind of freedom that says, "Whatever feels good, just do it." It's the kind of freedom that says, "Don't tread on me." It's the kind of freedom that shouts that men and women aren't just as free as their government or their king will allow them to be. Freedom is our birthright. We are free as a consequence of being made in the image of God—even if you don't believe in God. Not only that, but we are equally free; no person or group of persons is less free than any other.
Too many voices in America today sound the wrongheaded belief that these truths are no longer so self-evident. Some of these voices come from Washington, but many more come from our universities, our high school textbooks, even our churches. These skeptics think we have outgrown our founding principles, that even the wisest men and women in 1776 and 1787 couldn't possibly have been wise enough to create an effective government for America in the twenty-first century.
Some find the words of the Founders too limiting for their bloated vision of government. After all, government that is true to the ideals of our Charters of Liberty is government that is limited. If government exists to protect our God-given rights—and not to bail out big banks, buy car companies, take over our health care, and tell us which light bulbs we can use—then that government does a few things, does them well, and gets out of the way in order to allow its citizens to realize their potential.