True Heroism and the Rule of Law
Chief Justice Roy Moore said, in his speech at the unveiling of his Ten Commandments monument:
"Today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded and for those simple truths which our forefathers found to be self-evident; but once again, we find that those cries have fallen upon eyes that have seen not, ears that hear not our prayers, and hearts much like that nether millstone.
[* * * * *]
"But today, [...] many judges and other government officials across our land deny that there's a higher law. They forbid teaching your children that they're created in the image of Almighty God, and that while they purport all the while that it is government and not God who gave us our rights. Not only have they turned away from those absolute standards which form the basis of our morality and the moral foundation of our law, but they have divorced the Constitution and the Bill of Rights from these principles. As they have sown the wind, so we have reaped the whirlwind, in our homes, in our schools and in our workplaces.
[* * *] It is axiomatic that to restore morality, we must first recognize the source of that morality. From our earliest history in 1776, when we were first pleased to be called the United States of America, our forefathers recognized the sovereignty of God."
(Speech by Justice Moore at monument's unveiling ceremony was printed as APPENDIX C to Glassroth v. Moore, 229 F.Supp.2d 1290, 1321-1324 (M.D. Ala. 2002).)
Standing tall for truth--such a stand is true heroism. Heroic--because often there is hardship involved, and one seldom hears the applause and accolades of approving crowds. It seems that, too often, those who stand for the things that matter most in life find their achievement amazingly downplayed, even ignored. Yet there is glory in their perseverance--the greatest glory, and honor, too. The slighting of such fine characters by the rest of the world does not make their perseverance any less honorable, but more so. For unlike flashy heroics, for which people expect to receive the reward of fame, holding firm to the right principles carries its own reward, and doesn't depend on accolades conferred by others.
"God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism."
-- Romans 2:6-11
Especially when acknowledging the truth incurs personal risk to oneself--and thus the temptation to deny truth is correspondingly strong--then a person's courageous adherence to what he knows is right, is heroism, just as much as the acts of those who risk their lives on the battlefield. The truth-seeker often endures criticism, yet the cost is eternally rewarding, both now and in the future, when one adheres to Heroism of the Highest Kind. And Heroism for the Highest Cause is praising, defending, and acknowledging the God-given higher law.
That there is such a higher moral law--predating, but expressed by, the Ten Commandments--is evident:
"All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)"
-- Romans 2:12-15
Because the God-given higher moral law (written down in the Ten Commandments but consisting of principles predating the actual writing of the tablets) applies to all human beings, the principles of this law are universal. No person is exempt from them, whether or not anyone acknowledges their authority.
"Let God be true, and every man a liar." -- Romans 3:4
Truth will still be true, and God will still be Himself, regardless of whether anyone acknowledges this, or regardless of whether anyone even exists to acknowledge that fact.
Human beings deciding that they, alone, can make up their own moral code--this was the first sin of all humanity and the great lie that seduced the very first humans:
"[...] and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." -- Genesis 3:4 (quoting Satan's lie)
It was for openly acknowledging and professing this truth--that there is a God-given higher law--that the Chief Justice of the Alabama state court system was removed from office. But such removal is true honor and glory.
Such people as Roy Moore are rare, yet there needs to be more of them. And we should applaud their efforts.
He can truly be called, "Your Honor".
"True religion is the more amiable and excellent in persons of high station, not only because it is so rare, but because their examples have a commanding influence, and the world around them are engaged to follow their steps. When the graces of the Christian life are connected with the luster of earthly dignity and power, they constitute a most lovely character, and such persons become ornaments and blessings to the age in which they live."
-- Aaron Burr, Sr., President of Princeton College (1757)
"Your serious consideration of the state of religion in your country, I think most naturally leads you to the making such laws as may be further necessary for the more effectual discouragement of vice and wickedness, and for giving countenance to virtue and true religion; everything that the legislature can do for advancing the honor of the only true GOD and His Eternal Son the Savior of mankind, will be the best basis wherein to build their hopes of the future welfare and happiness of themselves and their posterity, even in this world. I am sensible what I am saying on this head may become the scorn and ridicule of some monsters in wickedness, who would fain scoff a GOD and His religion out of the world; yet while I have the honor to sit in the first seat of government among you, if I may be capable of doing anything that may tend to a better reformation of men's lives and manners, I shall think it one great happiness of my government; and I wish I may be able by my example to give force and energy to my commands for the good execution of the wholesome laws of this province."
--- Governor Jonathan Belcher
of Massachusetts and New Hampshire
(December 16, 1730)
"His [Governor Belcher's] unshaken integrity and uprightness in all his conduct, his zeal for justice and to have it equally distributed, have rendered him the admiration of the present, as they will of future generations. The prospect of worldly interest, earnest solicitations of friends, or fear of loss, seem to have had no influence to move him from what appeared to be his duty. [*****] His steadily opposing a corrupt, designing party [....] who were raising their fortunes on the ruins of the province [...] laid the foundation of those false and ill-natured representations which were made against him at the British court and caused his removal from those governments, so that it is hard to say, whether his advancement to, or his removal from, them was the greater honor."
-- President Aaron Burr of Princeton College (1757)
"But though he was one that was great among men, exalted above others in abilities and greatness of mind, and in the place of rule, and feared not the faces of men, yet he feared God. He was strictly conscientious in his conduct, both in public and private. I never knew the man that seemed more steadfastly and immoveably to act by principle, and according to rules and maxims, established and settled in his mind by the dictates of his judgment and conscience. He was a man of strict justice and fidelity. Faithfulness was eminently his character. [* * *] He was remarkably faithful in his public trusts. He would not basely betray his trust, from fear or favor. It was in vain to expect it; however men might oppose him or neglect him, and how great soever they were: [* * *] And as he was a friend to truth, so he was a friend to vital piety and the power of godliness, and ever countenanced and favored it on all occasions."
-- Jonathan Edwards, speaking of Chief Justice John Stoddard of Massachusetts (1748)
For people thinking of God's interest, instead of their own worldly interest (and even at the expense of it), are like a few diamonds gleaming on a beach of sand.
Jesus said His people were to be salt and light to the world:
"'You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.'" -- Matthew 5:13
Salt is a preservative.
"There is a passive courage, ever necessary in an accomplished ruler, as much it may be as an active [courage]. The pillar stands regardless, though the weather beat on it or though dirt be cast on it."
-- Dr. Benjamin Colman (1730)
"God has set: As well as in the nature of things, as in His Word. Government is not a creature of man's lust and will, but of Divine constitution, and from a necessity in the nature of things. The very being and weal of society depends thereon.
"Government was not in the original of it assumed or usurped by any one man. For instance: Not by Lamech before the Flood, nor by Nimrod after it. Indeed, the spirit of tyranny and the lust of dominion seem to have begun in them, but order and rule was before them. Mankind naturally went into that, and these were the men who made the first breaches on it--[...] who have had some of their likeness in every place and through all generations, that would turn the world upside down and overthrow the foundations which God has laid.
"In a word, magistracy, like the other ordinances of Heaven, stands by the power and blessing of God, who effectually owns it and works by it [... .] [*****]
"As government is the pillar of the earth, so religion is the pillar of government. Take away the fear of God's government and judgment, and human rule utterly falls or corrupts into tyranny. But if religion rules in the hearts and lives of rulers, God will have glory, and the people be made happy.
"FATHERS of our country, let me freely say to you that the devotion and virtue of our humble, but illustrious ancestors (the first planters of New England), laid the foundation of our greatness among the provinces: And it is this that must continue and establish it under the Divine favor and blessing. Emulate their piety and godliness and generous regards to the public, and be acknowledged the pillars, the strength and ornament of your country!"
-- Dr. Benjamin Colman (1730)
"'You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.'" -- Matthew 5:14-16 (quoting Jesus)
"A city on a hill cannot be hidden" became the motto of the Puritan founders of America. They believed they had a sacred duty--to set an example, an example of the Christian freedom that joys in higher law principles.
"'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.'" -- Matthew 5:17-19 (quoting Jesus)
God lays upon all a universal obligation to realize that there is such a thing as His higher moral law, the existence of His principles. Acknowledgment of that law is merely acknowledgment of truth. It is the true meaning of the phrase "rule of law".
God thought so highly of His own law that He died to uphold it:
"There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. [***] Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law." -- Romans 3:22-26, 31
The following quotes are illustrative of the true definition of "rule of law" (law ruled in accordance with the higher moral law--as opposed to the false "wall of separation between morality and government" philosophy). These words were written in 1740 by William Cooper (father of American patriot Samuel Cooper):
"We have been saying, GOD has in kindness to men appointed that they should be governed by men; yet, He has been too good and kind to leave them to be governed by men according to their arbitrary will and pleasure. The end of government is the public peace and safety; when therefore this is neglected, and the ordinance of government only made an engine of tyranny and oppression; when the Constitution is subverted, the liberties and properties of the people invaded, their religion and laws made a sacrifice to the superstition, ambition, or covetousness of the prince that is over them; [...] every man is under higher and earlier engagements to the community in general than he is to the supreme magistrate."
"Whatever the 'wise men after the flesh' may think, the rules of religion steadily pursued by those entrusted with the public affairs of a people, will be found to conduce more to the true ends of government, than all the maxims of carnal policy."
"And though GOD has not prescribed any one form of government in Scripture, yet He has therein given general rules to be observed by all that are in government. The civil magistrate's commission is thus limited by the great Monarch of the world: 'He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God' (2 Samuel 23:3)."
"Surely no one can doubt whether the foundation of civil government is laid in Divine institution [....]"
"[....] Government is from God as the Author of nature."
"THEY [civil rulers] should openly profess the religion of Christ, publicly espouse His cause, and zealously promote it as far as ever their authority and influence will reach, and should strenuously set themselves against everything that is opposite to His interest [....]"
"TRUE indeed, the care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate, nor may he extend his power to force articles of faith or modes of worship on the consciences of men--for conscience is exempt from every jurisdiction but Christ's. Yet we must not run into the other extreme and say that the magistrate has nothing to do in matters of religion."
"As they [civil rulers] rule by Christ, so they are obliged to rule for Him, and therefore to protect and encourage the practice of His holy religion [....]"
"And as we must put our people 'in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates' (Titus 3:1), so we must put magistrates in mind to be subject to the Lord Jesus Christ and use their power in a subserviency to the interests of His kingdom."
"They [rulers] must not [...] persecute His saints, silence His ministers, hinder the free exercise of His holy religion, or do anything that may obstruct the work of the Gospel [....]"
"The rules of obedience laid down in the Gospel oblige none to submit to unlawful impositions."
The Rule of Law is not one judge's opinion
"The rules of obedience laid down in the Gospel oblige none to submit to unlawful impositions." That's the key issue in the dispute over the meaning of the rule of law, and what it means for a civil official to be "above the law".
In the case of where an judicial order goes directly against God's legal principles, then the judge who issued the unlawful order or imposition is acting "above the law"-- acting like his opinion supersedes or is above God's moral authority. Though separating morality from law through interpretive judicial opinions is a judicial philosophy that many lawyers in modern secular society are trained to believe in, yet merely training people in that philosophy doesn't make it right. Germany extensively trained its people in a secularized mindset prior to the rise of National Socialism: That's how the nation was able to permit and even tolerate Hitler's rise to power. The few Christians who dared speak out about the wrongness of that thinking were not tolerated or allowed freedom of speech in the long run--because why should any nation have freedom of speech if such freedom is against a so-called "rule of law" dominated by the view that the Leader of the Fatherland is the ultimate authority? And the Leader of the Fatherland didn't like freedom of speech if it didn't coincide with his views. For according to this way of thinking, the law is whatever one man says it is.
If a nation ever completely adopts this mindset, then the rise of tyranny in that nation is inevitable--with the people educated to accept it. The American founding fathers knew this, because they had people like William Cooper to tell them so: "[...] the ordinance of government only made an engine of tyranny and oppression; when the Constitution is subverted, the liberties and properties of a people invaded, their religion and laws made a sacrifice to the [...] prince that is over them [....]"
Suppose in such a secularized world, where men made up all the moral codes of life, a fictional society should emerge where stealing and murder were legal; where people could be treated unequally on the basis of their opinions and beliefs, their cultural status, or some other criteria; and where the government defined the parameters of life and the very definition of humanity itself. Christians obviously could not obey a judge's order to steal, to murder, or to be unfair toward another. Their critics would probably say, "They are not following the rule of law," or "They are acting like they are above the law." But the whole point is: Such a society itself is above the higher law--the law that should be the basis for all humanly-devised legal codes. God gave executives, legislators, and judges the authority to rule, yes--but he didn't give them the authority to ignore and go against His Law. That was what William Cooper meant when he said, "The rules of obedience laid down in the Gospel oblige none to submit to unlawful interpositions."
Not just any judicial ruling falls into that category--only judicial orders and decisions that try to force someone to go against the God-given higher moral law. And--trying to force a public official to ignore God's principles in his public decisions--including requiring that he recant his position that there is a God-given higher moral law--is actually forcing him to act above the law. Indeed, what government is doing when it says none of its officers can acknowledge or follow the higher law, is this: Government is declaring itself, not God, the ultimate source of the moral code upon which legal codes are based. Government is saying there is no higher authority than itself (higher moral law? what are you talking about?!) Government is replacing God with itself, thus declaring that it is god.
So said the former Soviet Union.
So, incidentally, said the Caesars--except they thought their own persons were divine. What Christians were persecuted for in the Roman Empire was not anything having to do with following the regular, ordinary laws of the land--there is abundant evidence in the writings of the Ante-Nicene Father, Tertullian (c. 145-220), to indicate that Christians were the most law-abiding people. What the Roman Empire couldn't stand was that, not only was Christianity flourishing, rivaling, and supplanting Roman pagan religion, but also Christians refused to deny God: they refused to say that the highest power was the supposed divinity of the Roman Emperor.
So, ironically, a 21st-century movement professedly dedicated to "separation of church and state" can achieve exactly the opposite: a weird theocracy--a merging of divine authority and human government--so that the government is the god, the ultimate source of moral and legal authority.
In complete contrast to this was the view of America's founding fathers, who knew: That all government officials, no matter what their offices are--local, state, federal, or transnational--are themselves subservient to the higher moral law.
John Webb, a Great Awakening supporter of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, wrote an illuminating discourse titled The Government of Christ (1738) in which he laid out the basis for rulers' authority and the rule of law. (Governor Belcher conveyed Whitefield in the governor's own coach to preach in Webb's church.) Significantly, William Cooper and Dr. Benjamin Colman were also friends of this group. Whitefield wrote in his Journals that, after preaching at Dr. Colman's meeting house on October 7, 1740, he, on October 8: "Went with the Governor, in his coach, to Mr. Webb's meeting-house, where I preached both morning and evening, to very great auditories. Both times, Jesus Christ manifested forth His glory." The governor, who welcomed the election sermons in 1730 by Colman, in 1738 by Webb, and in 1740 by Cooper, all of whom were among the governor's favorite local ministers (another favorite was Thomas Prince, whose sermon on the Puritan founding of America is a classic), made clear what the definition of the rule of law was:
"Wednesday, October 15. Perceived Governor Belcher to be more affectionate than ever. After morning prayer, he took me by myself, and exhorted me to go on stirring up the ministers; for, said he, 'reformation must begin at the house of God.' As we were going to meeting, he said, 'Mr. Whitefield, do not spare rulers any more than ministers, no, not the chief of them.' I preached in the open air to some thousands. The Word fell with weight: it carried all before it. After sermon, the Governor remarked, 'I pray God, I may apply what has been said to my own heart. Pray, Mr. Whitefield, that I may hunger and thirst after righteousness.' [...] O that we may meet in Heaven!"
So wrote Whitefield in his Journals.
When Whitefield had first come to Boston in 1740 at the invitation of Benjamin Colman, after having been greeted by the governor's son when Whitefield was "within four miles of the city" on September 17, Whitefield met Governor Belcher while in the company of the colony's secretary, Josiah Willard:
"Friday, September 19. I was visited by several gentlemen and ministers, and went to the Governor's with Esquire Willard, the Secretary of the Province, a man fearing God, and with whom I have corresponded some time, though before unknown in person. The Governor received me with the utmost respect, and desired me to see him as often as I could."
Besides being a friend to Whitefield and Webb, Josiah Willard was the son of Samuel Willard, whose work, The Character of a Good Ruler (1694), had defined the "good ruler" concept. This sermon laid a written foundation for America's Christian heritage.
Governor Belcher believed in the enactment of laws encouraging and promoting morality, and in this endeavor, he had Josiah Willard's assistance. Great Awakening minister Joseph Sewall (1688-1769) (Thomas Prince's co-pastor at Boston's Old South Church, where Jonathan Belcher regularly attended), said of Josiah Willard in A Tender Heart Pleasing to God (1756):
"He deeply mourned our public sins and declensions. He carried the apprehensions of them with a heavy heart, was courageous to bear his testimony against them, and to stand up for and promote the truths and ways of CHRIST, which are the cause of GOD, as an Overseer of the [Harvard] College, as a Commissioner for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Indians, and as a public magistrate in the General Assembly [....] [T]o him is in a great measure owing some of our excellent laws, wherein we are distinguished above the rest of the world, against all kinds of prophaneness, immorality and licentiousness, and for the preservation of religion, justice, temperance, and good order among us."
Josiah Willard, like his father, was a man after Governor Belcher's own heart, for, said Sewall:
"He [Josiah Willard] firmly believed [...] that the unsearchable doctrine of the Divine Trinity is most plainly revealed in SCRIPTURE, and so interwoven with the entire frame of the Christian revelation and religion, that if this Divine doctrine be taken away, the wondrous fabric of Christianity would fall to pieces, and the utmost confusion introduced in the minds of its professors. And he was grieved, that he could scarce enjoy any rest, at the pernicious attempts of some among us to undermine this great and fundamental doctrine."
It was first for Christ, and secondly for people like Willard, that Jonathan Belcher, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and their whole company of good cheer warriors sought to reveal the errors of deism. Their efforts slowed down and retarded the growth of a philosophy which flowered in twentieth-century society under the name of secular humanism (a.k.a., religious secularism).
Note that Willard stood up to promote the ways of Christ--when he was a civil magistrate. Not only that, but he was described as an important lawmaker, being mainly responsible for some of Massachusetts' "excellent laws". He, as well as his governor, lived the good ruler concept--which inherently requires acknowledgment of the sovereignty of God.
The governor's comment, "do not spare rulers [...] no, not the chief of them" concisely stated the main theme that the ministers, especially Webb and Cooper, laid out in their interlocking treatises on the definition of the rule of law and a ruler's rightful authority. Even the highest ruler is subject to God's law, Governor Belcher believed. Every ruler is obligated to follow that law, and that was certainly his viewpoint and his practice during the whole of his twin governorships of Massachusetts and New Hampshire (1730-1741) as well as his later governorship of New Jersey (1746-1757).
Included within this Christian worldview was a vision for a nation whose laws were based on the Ten Commandments. Whitefield stated the case thus in his sermon Britain's Mercies, and Britain's Duty, Represented in a Sermon Preached at the New Building in Philadelphia, On Sunday, August 24, 1746 (preached in the year Jonathan Belcher was appointed Governor of New Jersey):
"And why should we not observe GOD's statutes and keep His laws? Dare any say that any of His commands are grievous? Is not CHRIST's yoke, to a renewed soul, as far as renewed, easy; and His burden comparatively light? May I not appeal to the most refined reasoner, whether the religion of JESUS CHRIST be not a social religion? Whether the moral law, as explained by the Lord JESUS in the Gospel, has not a natural tendency to promote the present good and happiness of a whole commonwealth, supposing they were obedient to it, as well as the happiness of every individual? From whence come wars and fightings among us? From what fountain do all those evils which the present and past ages have groaned under, flow, but from a neglect of the laws and statutes of our great and all-wise Lawgiver JESUS of Nazareth? Tell me, you men of letters, whether Lycurgus or Solon, Pythagoras or Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, or all the ancient lawgivers and heathen [pagan] moralists, put them all together, ever published a system of ethics [in] any way worthy to be compared with the glorious system laid down in that much despised book (to use Sir Richard Steele's expression), emphatically called the Scriptures? Is not the Divine image and superscription written upon every precept of the Gospel? Do they not shine with a native instrinsic luster? And though many things in them are above [us], yet is there anything contrary to the strictest laws of right reason? Is not JESUS CHRIST in Scripture styled the Word, the [...] Reason? And is not His service justly styled [...] a reasonable service? What if there be mysteries in His religion? Are they not without all controversy great and glorious? Are they not mysteries of Godliness, and worthy [of] that GOD who reveals them? Nay, is it not the greatest mystery that men who pretend to reason, and call themselves philosophers, who search into the arcana natura, and consequently find a mystery in every blade of grass, should yet be so irrational as to decry all mysteries in religion? Where is the scribe? Where is the wise? Where is the disputer against the Christian revelation? Does not everything without and within us conspire to prove its Divine original? And would not self-interest, if there was no other motive, excite us to observe GOD's statutes and keep His laws?"
Note that Whitefield reaffirmed that "the moral law" was the basis for human government! This was a view Governor Belcher also shared; it was what he meant when he told Whitefield, "do not spare rulers" (from the moral law's commands and authority).
Viewed together, these discourses laid out the Christian doctrine of government that undergirded later American Revolutionary sermons that were to come. (Compare these sermons with Samuel Langdon's, for instance.) William Cooper (who himself fathered a Revolutionary preacher in Samuel Cooper) even talked about the "free exercise" of religion, as something no human ruler could ever deny or take away. These sermons laid the groundwork for the superstructure of the doctrine of God's sovereignty over human government. That was the meaning of their titles: The Government of Christ, and The Honors of Christ Demanded of the Magistrate. And of course, Colman talked about religion being the pillar of government in his Government the Pillar of the Earth.
Their recorded remarks and writings explain the true meaning of "rule of law"! Government officials (including judges) cannot, said Webb, "make their own will their only rule". (A parallel comment to "[D]o not spare rulers [...] no, not the chief of them" when it comes to reminding them of God's sovereignty and their duty to acknowledge Him and follow His law.) The comments of the mid-eighteenth century group of God's people acting within the Great Awakening movement comprised the pre-Revolutionary basis for American government. Without words such as these, Americans would not have had the noble, overarching philosophy so necessary for freeing themselves from the tyranny of the British government of that time. And that American basis was built strongly on the government's acknowledgment of God.
Deniers of that history and resisters against the acknowledgment of God in public life will never be able to do away with that Christian heritage. The Great Awakening group of God's people will always be there in history: Always at the back of one's mind, one will always know that they were there.
Listen to what John Webb said in 1738:
"Is the government of the world committed into the hand of our Lord Jesus Christ? Then all the rulers of the land, are to be considered as the subjects of Christ; and, as far as He has made Himself known to them, they are expressly bound to honor Him in all their administrations.
"For, as Christ is Lord of all, He keeps the reins of government in His own hands; and disposes of states and rulers according to His own sovereign will and pleasure. And therefore He has given to none of the princes of the earth; no, not to the greatest of them, a power to act their own will, in an arbitrary and despotic manner; or to make their own will their only rule, in the exercise of that power committed to them: But, in all their administrations, He requires they should have a strict regard to such laws, as He has made known to them, either by providence or grace.
"And if such as we usually call sovereign princes on earth, owe this subjection to Christ, as absolute Lord of Heaven and earth; all subordinate rulers and judges in a state, are, doubtless, under as great obligations to yield an entire subjection to the laws of Christ, in their administrations, of justice and judgment among the people: Nor will the pretense of obedience to the laws or instructions of the higher powers excuse them, or any else, in breaking in upon the known rights of mankind, or transgressing any of the laws of nature or revelation, when there happens to be an inconsistency between them, as sometimes there has been, through the weakness or wickedness of men in power: But, in this case, the known rule, by which the Apostles of our Lord governed and justified themselves, is to take place, Acts 5:29. 'We ought to obey God rather than men.'
It is therefore the duty and interest of all in authority among men, whether supreme or subordinate, to eye the Lord Jesus Christ as sovereign Lord of all; to set His laws before them, as the general rule of their administrations; and, as near as they can, to imitate Him in all those moral perfections, which shine so gloriously in the administration of His government."
Public officials possess authority to judge other people only to the extent they don't transgress the boundaries of their God-given authority:
"God presides in the great assembly;
he gives judgment among the 'gods':
How long will you defend the unjust
and show partiality to the wicked?
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless;
maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.
Rescue the weak and needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
They know nothing, they understand nothing.
They walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.
'I said, "You are 'gods';
you are all sons of the Most High."
But you will die like mere men;
you will fall like every other ruler.
Rise up, O God, judge the earth,
for all the nations are your inheritance."
-- Psalm 82
Truly, Earth would be a utopia and a paradise if all rulers followed God's principles! For His standard of justice quoted above would create perfect happiness for all mankind.
God's thoughts about rulers who think nothing of casting off His law are clear, also:
"Why do the nations conspire
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the LORD
and against his Anointed One.
'Let us break their chains,' they say,
'and throw off their fetters.'
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
'I have installed my King
on Zion, my holy hill.'
[* * * * *]
Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry
and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him."
--- Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12
American Revolutionary leaders believed in the truth of those verses; they didn't just acknowledge God for the better control of society, or use religion as some form of social management.
In the year in which William Cooper preached his election sermon (1740), a future ardent American patriot graduated from Harvard College (at a time, incidentally, when Governor Jonathan Belcher was one of the Harvard Overseers). In 1775, at the beginning of the American Revolution, one year before the Declaration of Independence, this patriot, Samuel Langdon, called for limited government and the removal of corrupt government officials. Most importantly, Langdon called for the nation to return to the true principles of Christianity and the morality of the Ten Commandments. It was the abandonment of true Christianity, Langdon said, that caused the British government to be the way it was in 1775.
An American patriot like Langdon did not view the ancient republic based on the Ten Commandments as a theocracy--to the American patriots, "Ten Commandments government" was a true republic. That's why they weren't afraid of placing the American republic under God's sovereignty. Langdon even implied that the "civil polity of Israel" was the "excellent general model" the American patriots were striving to achieve in America!
(It should be noted that Langdon was not only "a very zealous whig" (favored individual rights and liberties), but he also supported the ratification of the United States Constitution. Says one biographer: "In 1788 he [...] occupied a seat in the New Hampshire Convention, in which body he took an active part, and had an extensive influence in removing the prejudices which prevailed against the Federal Constitution."
Langdon said, in 1775:
"We must keep our eyes fixed on the supreme government of the ETERNAL KING, as directing all events, setting up or pulling down the kings of the earth at His pleasure, suffering the best forms of human government to degenerate and go to ruin by corruption; or restoring the decayed constitutions of kingdoms and states, by reviving public virtue and religion, and granting the favorable interpositions of His providence. [* * *]"
"The Jewish government, according to the original constitution which was divinely established, if considered merely in a civil view, was a perfect republic. The heads of their tribes, and elders of their cities, were their counselors and judges. They called the people together in more general or particular assemblies, took their opinions, gave advice, and managed the public affairs according to the general voice. Counselors and judges comprehend all the powers of that government, for there was no such thing as legislative authority belonging to it, their complete code of laws being given immediately from God by the hand of Moses. And let them who cry up the divine right of kings consider, that the only form of government which had a proper claim to a divine establishment, was so far from including the idea of a king, that it was a high crime for Israel to ask to be in this respect like other nations; and when they were thus gratified, it was rather as a just punishment of their folly, that they might feel the burdens of court pageantry, of which they were warned by a very striking description, than as a divine recommendation of kingly authority.
"Every nation, when able and agreed, has a right to set up over itself any form of government which to it may appear most conducive to its common welfare. The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model, allowing for some peculiarities; at least some principal laws and orders of it may be copied, to great advantage, in more modern establishments.
"When a government is in its prime, the public good engages the attention of the whole; the strictest regard is paid to the qualifications of those who hold the offices of the state; virtue prevails--every thing is managed with justice, prudence, and frugality; the laws are founded on principles of equity rather than mere policy, and all the people are happy. But vice will increase with the riches and glory of an empire; and this gradually tends to corrupt the constitution, and in time bring on its dissolution. This may be considered not only as the natural effect of vice, but a righteous judgment of heaven, especially upon a nation which has been favored with the blessing of religion and liberty, and is guilty of undervaluing them; and eagerly going into the gratification of every lust."
[* * * * *]
"By all this we may be led to consider the true cause of the present remarkable troubles which are come upon Great Britain and these colonies; and the only effectual remedy.
"We have rebelled against God. We have lost the true spirit of Christianity, though we retain the outward profession and form of it. We have neglected and set light by the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and His holy commands and institutions. The worship of many is but mere compliment to the Deity, while their hearts are far from Him. To many the gospel is corrupted into a superficial system of moral philosophy, little better than ancient Platonism. And after all the pretended refinements of moderns in the theory of Christianity, very little of the pure practice of it is to be found among those who once stood foremost in the profession of the gospel. In a general view of the present moral state of Great Britain it may be said: There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, their wickedness breaks out; and one murder after another is committed, under the connivance and encouragement even of that authority by which such crimes ought to be punished, that the purposes of oppression and despotism may be answered. As they have increased, so have they sinned, therefore God is changing their glory into shame. The general prevalence of vice has changed the whole face of things in the British government.
"The excellency of the constitution has been the boast of Great Britain, and the envy of neighboring nations. In former times the great departments of the state, and the various places of trust and authority, were filled with men of wisdom, honesty and religion, who employed all their powers, and were ready to risk their fortunes and their lives for the public good. They were faithful counselors to kings; directed their authority and majesty to the happiness of the nation; and opposed every step by which despotism endeavored to advance. They were fathers of the people, and sought the welfare and prosperity of the whole body. They did not exhaust the national wealth by luxury and bribery, or convert it to their own private benefit, or the maintenance of idle useless officers and dependents; but improved it faithfully for the proper purposes, for the necessary support of government, and defense of the kingdom. Their laws were dictated by wisdom and equity; and justice was administered with impartiality. Religion discovered its general influence among all ranks, and kept out great corruptions from places of power.
"But in what does the British nation now glory? In a mere shadow of its ancient political system? In titles of dignity without virtue? In vast public treasures continually lavished in corruption, till every fund is exhausted, notwithstanding the mighty streams perpetually flowing in? In the many artifices to stretch the prerogatives of the crown beyond all constitutional bounds, and make the king an absolute monarch, while the people are deluded with a mere phantom of liberty? What idea must we entertain of that government, if such an one can be found, which pretends to have made an exact counterbalance of power between the sovereign, the nobles, and the commons, so that the three branches shall be an effectual check upon each other, and the united wisdom of the whole shall conspire to promote the national felicity; but which in reality is reduced to such a situation that it may be managed at the sole will of one court favorite? What difference is there betwixt one man's choosing, at his own pleasure, by his single vote, the majority of those who are to represent the people; and his purchasing in such a majority, according to his own nomination, with money out of the public treasury, or other effectual methods of influencing elections? And what shall we say, if in the same manner, by places, pensions, and other bribes, a minister of state can at any time gain over a nobler majority likewise, to be entirely subservient to his purposes, and moreover persuade his royal master to resign himself up wholly to the direction of his counsels? If this should be the case of any nation from one seven years' end to another, the bargain and sale being made sure for such a period, would they still have reason to boast of their excellent constitution? Ought they not rather to think it high time to restore the corrupted dying state to its original perfection? I will apply this to the Roman senate under Julius Caesar, which retained all its ancient formalities, but voted always only as Caesar dictated. If the decrees of such a senate were urged on the Romans as fraught with all the blessings of Roman liberty, we must suppose them strangely deluded, if they were persuaded to believe it."
[* * * * *]
"Our late happy government is changed into the terrors of military execution. Our firm opposition to the establishment of an arbitrary system is called rebellion, [...] and all the colonies are united in the great cause of liberty.
[* * *] Submission to the tyranny of hundreds of imperious masters, firmly embodied against us, and united in the same cruel design of disposing of our substance and lives at their pleasure, and making their own will our law in all cases whatever, is the vilest slavery, and worse than death.
"Thanks be to God, that He has given us, as men, natural rights, independent of all human laws whatever; and these rights are recognized by the grand charter of British liberties. By the law of nature any body of people, destitute of order and government, may form themselves into a civil society according to their best prudence, and so provide for their common safety and advantage. When one form is found, by the majority, not to answer the grand purpose in any tolerable degree, they may by common consent put an end to it, and set up another; only as all such great changes are attended with difficulty, and danger of confusion, they ought not to be attempted without urgent necessity, which will be determined always by the general voice of the wisest and best members of the community. If the great servants of the public forget their duty, betray their trust and sell their country, or make war against the most valuable rights and privileges of the people; reason and justice require that they should be discarded, and others appointed in their room, without any regard to formal resignations of their forfeited power."
What the American Revolution was about, was a fight against tyranny. A nation, which boasted of its balanced constitution, was acting in a despotic way contrary to that constitution: British officials were "making their own will our law in all cases whatever," and that rule of men asserted to be the rule of law "is the vilest slavery, and worse than death"--so thought Langdon, so thought the American patriots.
The slavery they fought against, was an incorrect view of the rule of law.
In contradiction to this, Langdon asserted the legal doctrine of natural rights: "Thanks be to God, that He has given us, as men, natural rights, independent of all human laws whatever [....]" (emphasis added).
Furthermore, the British government was fighting against Christianity! Langdon talks about a persecution of Christians in his day:
"If God be for us, who can be against us? The enemy has reproached us for calling on His name, and professing our trust in Him. They have made a mock of our solemn fasts, and every appearance of serious Christianity in the land. On this account, by way of contempt, they call us saints; and, that they themselves may keep at the greatest distance from this character, their mouths are full of horrid blasphemies, cursing and bitterness, and vent all the rage of malice, and barbarity. And may we not be confident that the Most High, who regards these things, will vindicate His own honor, and plead our righteous cause against such enemies to His government, as well as our liberties.
Our righteous cause. That's why the American Revolution was a righteous cause: Because it was fought to uphold God's righteousness!
The American Revolution was fought to uphold natural rights and the public acknowledgment of God! Americans fought to affirm the connection between law and morality, and the sovereignty of God over government! And the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights were the legal framework to safeguard their natural rights and to establish the true rule of law--which is the United States Constitution itself, not an incorrect legal opinion which declares certain things "unconstitutional" as defined by current standards of political expediency. (This is mixing politics with law.) To say that judicial opinions which go against the Constitution itself are "the law" is to say that the rule of one or a few judges is "the law"; this is actually a modern philosophy promoting a wall of separation between morality and government that would have greatly offended America's founders.
Americans upheld the rule of law; the rich, corrupt Empire to which they then belonged, did not. But Americans knew the meaning of the rule of law, and the rich, corrupt Empire apparently had forgotten. And that willful amnesia, said Langdon, was constitutional corruption. Americans launched a restoration movement to restore the constitutional principles of government again.
Has America now forgotten?
In the Interim ....
"In sum, we are persuaded that Texas does not violate the First Amendment by retaining a forty-two-year-old display of the decalogue. The Ten Commandments monument is part of a display of seventeen monuments, all located on grounds registered as a historical landmark, and it is carefully located between the Supreme Court Building and the Capitol Building housing the legislative and executive branches of government. We are not persuaded that a reasonable viewer touring the Capitol and its grounds, informed of its history and its placement, would conclude that the State is endorsing the religious rather than the secular message of the decalogue.
To say this is not to diminish the reality that it is a sacred text to many, for it is also a powerful teacher of ethics, of wise counsel urging a regiment of just governance among free people. The power of that counsel is evidenced by its expression in the civil and criminal laws of the free world. No judicial decree can erase that history and its continuing influence on our laws--there is no escape from its secular and religious character. There is no constitutional right to be free of government endorsement of its own laws. Certainly, we disserve no constitutional principle by concluding that a State's display of the decalogue in a manner that honors its secular strength is not inevitably an impermissible endorsement of its religious message in the eyes of our reasonable observer. To say otherwise retreats from the objective test of an informed person to the heckler's veto of the unreasonable or ill-informed--replacing the sense of proportion and fit with uncompromising rigidity at a costly price to the values of the First Amendment. A display of Moses with the Ten Commandments such as the one located in the United States Supreme Court building makes a plain statement about the decalogue's divine origin. Yet in context even that message does not drown its secular message. So it is here."
Van Orden v. Perry, No. 02-51184 (United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit) (November 12, 2003) (Higginbotham, Circuit Judge).
The superiority of the Ten Commandments over all other codes, secular or religious, is self-evident to any serious truth-seeker. The Ten Commandments are so wonderful, so great and just, that even alongside other documents, they stand out, as words of transcendent worth, to all who really want to see their value. The utter superiority of God's law leaps off the page, out of the frame, and overwhelms all the documents around it. Those who don't want to see truth will not acknowledge this, of course--but that doesn't make the superiority of God's principles any less true. Their inherent worth is real--regardless of whether any human being acknowledges that or not. God knows His own Law's worthiness, and inevitably He will stand up for that Law's honor and glory, again and again (as He already did, with Jesus' death to vindicate God's standard of justice).
For "the Scripture cannot be broken":
"Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your Law, "I have said you are gods"? If he called them "gods," to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken--what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'?"
-- John 10:34-36 (internal quote from Psalm 82)
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."
--- Isaiah 55:8-11
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ARE GOOD CHEER SIGNS FOR ALL TIMES
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
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