A Framework for Selecting Leaders: Divine Institutions - Part 2
Decision Making in the Voting Booth Lesson #02
October 21, 2008
Father, we’re reminded that You have revealed Your thinking to us. Paul says in 1 Cor. 2 that we have the mind of Christ, and as we study Your Word, we learn to think as You think, and we learn to think about Your creation as You have designed it, we learn to think about Your creation as You have made things both physically and, as well as spiritually and socially, and that as the Creator of all things You have spoken to all things and informed us to give us a framework for how we can think about everything within Your creation.
Now Father as we study Your Word, we pray that You would help us to understand what we are studying that we can put these things together and under the ministry of God The Holy Spirit, that we will learn to think more consistently in terms of Your Word and all the areas of our life.
We pray this is Christ’s Name. Amen
Well, once again, we are in that 4-year cycle that Americans love so much, celebrating our freedom and our right to vote and participate in choosing our leaders. And it’s always such a fun and exciting time, and we have an election, I think it’s two weeks from today, and I don’t know about most of you, but I hear many people who are rather tired of this whole election cycle. It seems like we’ve had people running for president ever since the last election four years ago.
So I’m trying to help us think a little bit this week, starting Sunday with this series, Decision Making in the Voting Booth, and this gets to be such a serious subject sometimes that we have to have a little humor every now and then. I always like Maxine because she has a way of communicating one kind of wisdom. “They hold elections in November because it is the best time for picking a turkey.” So, we won’t mention any names at this point.
Well, on Sunday I began this series because as Christians, we need to learn how to think about every area of life from a biblical framework. Now that word “framework” is a very important term. And what that tells us is that within the Word of God, there are things that are taught, things that are revealed that address every area of life in a broad sense, so that that gives us a structure for thinking about everything that may not be specifically addressed.
And the Word of God gives us a value system for evaluating things and making decisions. The Bible emphasizes words like “discernment,” words such as “wisdom” which have to do with taking what God says in His Word and then applying it in a skillful manner to all the different things that we face in life.
And when it comes to an election, we are going to make a choice. And we choose one of several candidates, in some cases, we choose the one we believe to be the best one. And we make various value statements such as, “This is the best candidate.” “This one is qualified to be in this particular office.” “This is a good choice; that is not a good choice.”
Whenever you use any of these value-judgment words, you imply that there is some sort of system, some standards that exist outside of us to which we appeal in order to make these kinds of decisions and these kinds of judgments. If you are going to say one is better than the other, on what basis are you making that choice? What’s the information, what are the facts, what’s the data that go into making an informed decision that one is better than another, one is worse than another, one is good and one is bad?
It is through a study of God’s Word from Genesis to Revelation that we build this kind of a framework for understanding everything within God’s creation. There is a framework for understanding law, there’s a framework for understanding society and the way society should function, there are oughts, there are shoulds, and because there are these oughts and shoulds and musts that are in the Scripture, that structures that framework for us so that we can make decisions that are consistent with the oughts, shoulds, and musts that are in Scripture. And that gives us an ethical standard for evaluating God’s Word.
So we get into books such as Proverbs, which are considered wisdom literature. And that word “wisdom” that we have there is a Hebrew word that means skill at living. It is the ability to take the raw data of Scripture, to put it all together, and then to make decisions that are consistent with that.
The best way to evaluate this or perhaps use an analogy on this is thinking about natural science. When God created the earth, He loaded the earth with all these natural resources and all these beautiful plants and animals. And yet, it was just, as it were, raw data as far as man was concerned.
When God created Adam, there was no data on God’s creation; there was no information, there was no categorization, there wasn’t even vocabulary because Adam had not yet named the animals. So there was no categorization, classification, or analysis. God told Adam to name the animals. He began to name the domestic animals that were within the garden. That was the initial idea, but we are still doing that, aren’t we?
We discover new species, new animals; we’re still categorizing and classifying those animals. We’re still in the process of discovering all that we can about God’s creation and taking all of that data, putting it together, sifting it, and coming up with new information, new applications in areas of technology, areas of medicine, areas of science—all of these things. That’s the process.
By analogy, the Word of God is the same way. God reveals this to us in the context of narrative literature, history, wisdom literature, legal literature, epistolary literature, poetry. The beauty of the way God has revealed this to us is that if He had just given us a systematic theology with all the doctrines categorized, we would read it all through once, say “Good, that answers all my questions,” we’d close the book and put it on the shelf.
But because God gave it to us the way He did, we have to mine that data bank of the Scriptures over and over and over again. Each time we go back to it, we discover new things, we see new relationships, new correlations, and we build this structure of doctrine or theology. It is out from that that we develop applications. That falls under the category of wisdom or skill at taking that and then applying it within our life.
Well, the area where we’re working on application right now is one that is very real to every American citizen or should be, and that is in the area of voting. How do you make decisions in the voting booth, especially when you may have two good candidates, and the choice is between one that is good and one that is better? Or as is so often the case it seems, one that is not good and one that is worse. How do you go about making those particular choices?
I began this on Sunday and I wanted to establish a basic understanding of my premise and basic rationale in this series that will probably be three or four lessons. So I summarize this in three syllogisms. I hope that this makes what I said on Sunday morning a little more clear for some of you.
[Here’s the] First Rationale
The major premise is that all citizens of the U.S. have a responsibility that is implicit in their citizenship to vote intelligently and wisely to preserve and defend the Constitution. It is the same thing that the president swears to, that military officers swear to—to preserve and defend the Constitution, which is the basis for the blessing of freedom which we have. That’s major premise.
The minor premise is that all Christians are mandated to do whatever they do, including voting, to the glory of God.
So all Christians are mandated to do whatever it is they do, whether it’s a plumber, an electrician, somebody that’s working in technology, whether it’s a doctor, whether you’re working with your hands or working with your brain, whether you are a mother or housewife, a father, whatever it is you’re doing, we do everything to the glory of God, and all of our responsibilities within that we are to do to the glory of God to the very best of our ability.
Here’s our conclusion: All Christians who are citizens of the United States should vote wisely and intelligently to preserve and defend the Constitution, for this glorifies God.
That’s our conclusion. That all Christians have this as their responsibility. It’s not just a responsibility to vote wisely and intelligently but to do so within a biblical framework of doing it to the glory of God. Not just doing it because that is what you do as a citizen, but because you are a believer, you have a transcendent motive.
The major premise: The U.S. citizen, like the President of the U.S., is to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. This comes out of our first major premise in the previous rationale.
The minor premise here is a little different. In order to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, we should understand the thinking which it embodies.
If you’re going to preserve and defend something, then you need to understand what it is, why it is the way it is, and you need to understand these threats that come against it. So in order to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, we should understand the thinking which it embodies and the source of that thinking. Where did these ideas come from?
Conclusion: Therefore, the United States citizen in order to vote intelligently and wisely must understand the thinking embodied in the U.S. Constitution, so that he can vote in a way that preserves and protects our heritage.
We are not going to overthrow the Constitution, by the way, the U.S. Constitution has been in effect for about 218 years or 219 years.
I forget the exact date, but longer than, in that timeframe, France has had four or five governments, and Russia’s had four government since the early part of the 20th century, and many other nations have had many other forms of government. I can’t count how high, in terms of how many governments, the Mexicans have had in that length of time. It’s one of those high numbers that they talk about in Revelation.
But what is it that gave this sort of stability to our government? I’m arguing it’s because it derived its fundamental principles out of the Word of God.
The thought system which is embodied in the founding documents of this nation derives from Christian theism broadly and the Bible specifically.
I began to show that on Sunday morning at the end, and we will develop that even more this evening.
Minor premise, which derives from the first rationale: All Christians who are citizens of the United States should vote wisely and intelligently to preserve and defend the Constitution, for this glorifies God.
What’s the Conclusion? By understanding the biblical framework that lies behind the Constitution, a Christian can then vote more intelligently and wisely to preserve and protect the Constitution and the freedom it recognizes.
If you are a post-modern or secular humanist or a modern atheist and you go back and reinterpret the Constitution in light of your modernist views, then what you end up with is something that is completely divorced from what the founding fathers intended because you are inventing this out of whole cloth.
That’s what I talked about as well on Sunday morning, that the assumption that I am bringing to this that underlies this entire approach is that in order to understand and interpret the Constitution, we have to understand its original historical context and the culture out of which it came in order to preserve and protect that. Interpretation depends on a proper literal, historical hermeneutic.
I use this chart. I said today we live in a world where there has been a battle. It developed out of the thought systems that came into existence in the 19th century. And instead of the view on the right—notice I constructed this so that the right view would be on the right and the left would be on the left—the view that one interprets the Constitution in terms of its original intent, called the originalist, or sometimes strict constructionist, textualist, are conservatives. And on the left, there’s the loose constructionist or revisionist or liberals.
I was pleased to note that after the last class, I had five or six people at least in the congregation emailed additional information to me that this last Thursday, which would have been the 16th of October, the Supreme Court justice, Clarence Thomas, in his Wriston Lecture to the Manhattan Institute stated, “Let me put it this way; there are really only two ways to interpret the Constitution – try to discern as best we can what the framers intended or make it up. No matter how ingenious, imaginative or artfully put, unless interpretive methodologies are tied to the original intent of the framers, they have no more basis in the Constitution than the latest football scores.
“To be sure, even the most conscientious effort to adhere to the original intent of the framers of our Constitution is flawed, as all methodologies and human institutions are, but at least originalism has the advantage of being legitimate and, I might add, impartial.”
Because you are dealing with original intent, it has a standard; there’s objectivity. That’s what the justice is saying. So we have something we can all appeal to. This was the role of judges and the role of the Supreme Court up until the early part of the 20th century. Because there was this huge culture shift—you’ve heard the term “culture wars”— Because there was this huge culture shift or worldview shift that occurred in the 19th century that was exhibited in naturalism, secular humanism, there was a shift away in the field of knowledge from objectivity and certainty of knowledge and a shift away from a biblical way of thinking that had characterized the founding fathers and characterized the generations of the 17th and 18th centuries and no longer characterized the majority of early 20th century Americans. So this lead to the gradual erosion of originalism and strict constructionism in the Constitution and began to change our culture.
I pointed out that Bible-believing Christians believe that the Bible should be interpreted literally, and by extension, literal interpretation, which includes the author’s original intent, is the way that all writings should be interpreted. Whether you are trying to interpret a Shakespearean sonnet, or you are trying to interpret the instructions to fill out your tax form, or to make really relevant for many of us, trying to interpret the instructions from FEMA on how to fill out your forms to submit to FEMA in light of the recent hurricane. Whatever it is, you are interpreting those documents in terms of authorial intent. You are saying, “What do they mean by this?” See that’s how we interpret things.
When you think back when you were 16 or 17, or 18, or 19 you got that first love note from a girl or a guy that you were interested in, and you looked at it and they said something and you said, “Well, what do they mean by that?” See you understood innately because that is the way God made us, that to understand something, we have to understand what the author intends, and we cannot read into it whatever we want to. We cannot just make it up out of whole cloth. And that is exactly what has happened to often in the judiciary.
So as I pointed out in the chart that I had up a minute ago is that we have two presidential candidates:
McCain, on the right. He’s an inconsistent originalist, but he rejects judicial activism, at least theoretically.
But on the left, we have Obama, who is a consistent revisionist and has voted against originalists on the two times he had serving as a U.S. senator, and he affirms judicial activism. I believe that this is the single most important issue in this election for a president only serves four or perhaps eight years, but his appointments serve for several decades.
I believe that if Obama is elected as president, that he will change the Court in such a way that we won’t win it back for two generations, if ever. So, this is the most important aspect of this election, I believe, the most important criteria.
Now as I ended last time I went on to address the thinking of the founders because if we’re going to understand why and how they produced these incredible documents—the Declaration, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, various state constitutions, various other founding documents—if we’re going to understand these documents, where did they get these ideas? Where did they come from?
And I pointed out that when this question was posed by the next generation to John Adams in 1816, he said these ideas came from the pulpits in America. That it was the preacher’s proclaiming and teaching the Word of God going back to the early Pilgrims and Puritans. This is the source of these ideas and numerous studies have documented that, that it is the pastors in the pulpit and the Word of God that supported that.
Then I went through several of the testimonies and statements made by founders, especially in their wills, indicating their views of Scripture and their views of God and their views of Christianity.
I am just going to conclude with the last one I used the other day, which was a quote from Benjamin Rush.
Benjamin Rush said, “My only hope of salvation is in the in the infinite, transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly!”
This was expressed by dozens and dozens and dozens of the founders, those who signed the Declaration, those who signed the Constitution.
Now in 1776, after they signed the Declaration of Independence, and they passed it around to the colonies, the place where they sent it was to the churches. They didn’t send it to the town hall, or the town square, the town crier, or to the mayor. They sent it to the pastors to be read in the pulpits.
But they knew that once word was out—and the word spread quickly—that this country had declared its independence from Great Britain, they knew that they had a problem, because the instant they declared independence from Great Britain, all of the colonial charters ceased to exist.
So at that instant, there was no more state law or colonial law in each of these colonies, so those who had met in the Constitutional Congress there in Philadelphia went back to their home states to help write their state constitutions. And in the way they wrote their state constitutions, we come to understand a lot more about their thinking and what they had in mind.
Men like Samuel Adams helped write the Massachusetts constitution; and Benjamin Rush and James Wilson helped write the Pennsylvania constitution; and George Reed and Thomas McKean helped write the Delaware constitution. And all of these colonial constitutions were written, as least in part, by men who had been in Philadelphia and signed the Declaration of Independence.
So let’s look at some of these state constitutions to see what they said.
In the Delaware State Constitution, it stated, “Everyone elected and appointed to office shall make and subscribe the following declaration, to wit: I do profess faith in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God, blessed forever more, and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”
Now this is not to go to seminary or Bible college. This is to serve in any elected position anywhere in the state or appointed position. And notice the emphasis is on the character and belief system of the individual that that is what is important. Not how many degrees he has, not how much experience he has serving in public office, but on his character and belief system.
In the Pennsylvania Constitution, we find the following statement: “Each member [of the legislature], before he takes his seat, shall make and subscribe the following declarations, viz: I do believe in one God, the Creator and Governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked, and I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine Inspiration.”
See they add that phrase in there that He is the “rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked” because they want every legislator to know that you’re not just accountable to the people, but when you die, you are going to be accountable to God. This weighed so heavily on the conscious of John Adams that he said he feared the fiery torments of hell because that would last a long time. He wanted to make sure he did things correctly.
The Massachusetts State Constitution, written by Samuel Adams, states, “[All persons elected must] make and subscribe the following declaration, viz: I do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have firm persuasion of its truth.”
And in the North Carolina State Constitution: “No person who shall deny the being of God, or the truth of the Christian religion, or the divine authority either of the Old or New Testaments or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the state, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department, within the state.”
No Jehovah’s Witnesses, no Mormons, no atheists, no secular humanists, and nobody who works for the ACLU. None of these people could have subscribed to these kinds of documents.
So when you hear the modern distortion of that separation of church and state clause—actually that phrase is not in the Constitution or Bill of Rights—but when you hear that mentioned, you need to remember that what they had in mind is not what has been put into practice in the U.S. for the last 70 or 80 years.
The founders of this nation believed that a person had to be a Christian and had to believe the Bible was the inspired Word of God, or he was not qualified to serve in civil government.
Now why did they think that? Because they understood Jeremiah 17:5 that the heart is deceitful and wicked above all things, who can know it? In fact, both Washington and Hamilton commented that it was on the basis of that verse that they put in the separation of powers between the legislative, the executive branch, and judicial branches because they knew that man was inherently evil, and that it was very easy for depraved, sinful man to turn government into a force for tyranny that would destroy freedom and liberty. Remember that freedom and liberty are not freedom to go do what you want to do, it is freedom from government interference, freedom of tyranny of the government.
So they were concerned about the thought system, the belief system that someone had, not because they were establishing a theocracy, but because they understood that within a broad sense, only within the framework of biblical Christianity was there an appreciation for real freedom and real liberty that could allow for people to reject it.
Of course, they couldn’t serve in government, but they could go make a million dollars and they could go make their fortune and own half the state and do whatever they wanted to. They had freedom to live their lives apart from government interference; they could be an atheist; they could do whatever they wanted to do., the government wasn’t going to interfere, but if you were going to serve in the government, you had to subscribe to certain beliefs, otherwise it would lead to the destruction of the nation.
In 1892, the Supreme Court recognized that each of the then forty-four states in the union had some type of God-centered declaration in their state constitution. After citing over 60 precedents, the Supreme Court then concluded, “There is no dissonance in these declarations. There is a universal language pervading them all, having one meaning; they affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation, this is a Christian nation.”
Now that’s not an acceptable conclusion for many people today. Both Christians and non-Christians attempt to change this and say, “Well, how can you have freedom in a Christian nation?” That’s because they do not understand what real freedom is all about. They think if you are going to have a Christian nation, that’s going to force everybody to be a Christian.
They also think that this means that everybody marched in lockstep in terms of their Christianity among the founding fathers. And that’s not true. There were some that were Roman Catholic; there were some that were Methodist, there were some that were Episcopalian and some Presbyterians. The vast majority came out of a Presbyterian-influenced background, but they were not forcing their views on anybody else.
They also had many other ideas that influenced the culture at large at that time, just as it does in every generation, but the vast majority of the ideas came out of the Bible, as I demonstrated last time.
The founders of the Republic viewed themselves as establishing a Christian nation and not a theocracy. For example, one of the early representatives in Congress from Virginia was John Randolph of Roanoke. He was very much inclined toward Mohammedanism (as he put it), toward Islam. He was lead to the Lord and discipled by Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner. He later, as he matured, became a very strong believer and had tremendous influence in many different areas.
The founding fathers had a set body of beliefs that are embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and those structures of government flow out of—they are not the only way in which you could apply the Bible to government, but that is where they come from—it’s an outworking of biblical truth.
Well, the next question that concerned the founders was how do we pass this on to the next generation? It is very easy to lose it. You have one generation that understands these principles and has fought hard and won the freedoms on the battlefields, and now the next generation can come along and lose it. So we have to educate them; we have to pass this on.
So education was crucial. In fact, many of them were involved in the establishment of universities, and colleges, and schools, and public schools, and many of them wrote textbooks and many of them wrote history books because they understood how vital it was to pass this information along to the next generation.
One of these men was Noah Webster. We refer to him when we refer to the modern version of the dictionary that he originally wrote. He was an educator, a lexicographer, founder of educational institutions, and he translated his own translation of the Bible that came out in 1833. He served in the Connecticut House of Representatives, and he also served as a county judge. In 1776, he served in the Continental Army under the command of his father.
From 1783 to 1785, he published at Hartford a three-part tool for educating the young. The first was a spelling book, second he had a grammar, and third a reader, entitled “The Grammatical Institute of the English Language.” It was a pioneer American work in its field, and it soon was used in every school in the U.S. It was a primary text all the way through the 19th century.
He also wrote a book on American history, and in the preface of that book, he writes, “In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed… No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.”
Noah Webster served in the legislatures of two different states, and he was one of the first of the founders to call for a Constitutional convention. He was personally responsible for writing Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. He also helped established Amherst College, and he wrote many other textbooks other than the one on American history.
He wrote, “Our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles—and this does not refer to Republican Party or Democrat Party. This refers to the standard that this nation is a republic. It was founded to be a republic, not a democracy. The early founders thought a democracy was a “mobocracy.” When we pledge allegiance to the flag and the republic for which it stands, we are affirming that we believe this nation is a republic and not a democracy.
So he says that our citizens should early understand that the genuine source of correct republican principles is the Bible, particularly the New Testament or the Christian religion.
Now in his History of the United States, which was published in 1833, he included a number of cut-outs called “Advice to the Young,” and this was intended to be a textbook for young children coming up through school. In his advice #49, he focused on the right of voting. We should pay attention to this—such wisdom.
He says, “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, ‘just men who will rule in the fear of God.’ —this is a quote that we’ll look at later from Exodus— The preservation of a republican government—that is the kind of government embodied in the Constitution— The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes;
Corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded. If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine Commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the Laws. Intriguing men can never safely be trusted.”
Interesting. Don’t vote for a pretty face.
I am going to summarize this. He says five things with the consequences of electing bad men to public office. Notice the emphasis again is on character.
1) They will corrupt government.
2) They will make laws that aren’t for the general welfare, but for “selfish or local purposes.”
3) They will appoint other corrupt men to execute their laws.
4) They will squander the citizens’ taxes upon those who are unworthy.
5) They will violate the citizens’ rights.
Notice the emphasis is on recognizing that the money from the citizens is the citizens’ money. It’s not their money. They will violate the citizens’ rights.
I want you to notice also that he puts the responsibility not on the bad rulers, ultimately, but on those who foolishly neglect the Divine Commands; the voters who neglect the Divine Commands, who neglect Bible doctrine. And because they neglect Bible doctrine, they vote bad men into office. Of course, you will all notice the last statement about don’t elect intriguing men; don’t be caught up in the façade.
Benjamin Rush was another who wrote about the importance of education. And he says in his autobiography, “The only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government … is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”
So we should note three things:
First, they clearly saw the biblical principles and how those principles were connected to good citizenship. If we are going, as believers, to exercise our responsibilities as citizens to the glory of God, then we have to understand those biblical principles. Biblical principles are what lie behind the documents that established the laws of the land.
Second thing, they clearly saw the consequences of disobeying those principles—not the principles in the law, but the principles behind the law, which are the principles in the Word of God; the principles of Bible doctrine. The principles that are revealed in God’s Word.
And third, we see how the consequences that they outlined have come to us. They have landed on our doorstep over the last 75–100 years, and each decade becomes increasingly worse.
Now our comfort is that God is in control. We know that God is in control, and we know that as believers we understand the same principle they did, and that is that cursed is the man who trusts in man, for the arm of flesh is weak, and we can’t trust in men, and we can’t trust in anything other than God. And so that does not mean that we throw away our vote and stay home and pray, because we have a responsibility.
I haven’t noticed that any of you sit outside praying for somehow gas to be put into your car. I think everyone of you has gone down to the gas station and put gas in your car, while you pray that God will make sure that you have gas and that you can get where you need to go, because we understand, on the one hand, we pray to God, but, on the other hand, we have certain responsibilities that we must fulfill.
Now what we see in all this is that these founders, founding generation and subsequent generations had an extremely high view of God, extremely high view of the Bible. Noah Webster wrote, “The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society—the best book for regulating the temporal—by that he means secular—concerns of men.”
Andrew Jackson, a generation later said, “That book [the Bible], Sir, is the Rock upon which our Republic rests.”
Not long after the formation of this country, at the conclusion of the War for Independence, Congress met, and one of the first things that they did was to authorize a man by the name of Aitken to print and publish a Bible under the authority of the U.S. Congress. This was known as the Aitken Bible, and here is a facsimile of its title page.
Over here on this particular side, you’ll see the resolution from the United States Congress. If you look on the left side, “The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments, newly translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations.” This is from the King James Version. It’s printed and sold by R. Aitken at Popes Head, and I can’t read the rest of it. My glasses aren’t good enough. So, you can’t read any of that either, so I blew it up for you.
“Resolved—this is the statement of the United States Congress—Resolved. That the United States in Congress assembled highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an influence of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work, they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States, and hereby authorize him to publish this Recommendation in the manner he shall think proper.”
So we would not see the United States Congress today doing that.
Another thing that was typical of that era is election sermons, and here’s a facsimile, the cover of an election sermon. This one was preached before His Excellency John Hancock, Governor of Massachusetts, Sam Adams, Lieutenant Governor, and the Council, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
So the whole state government is assembled, and they would open up their assembly every year and have a pastor come in and preach. Sometimes these sermons would be two or three hours long, and they would pray profound prayers—prayers that would make you weep; prayers that would make their hearers weep.
At one time when they were sitting in Congress before they wrote the Declaration of Independence, they had the pastor of—I forget the church in Philadelphia—come in, and he preached for a couple of hours. John Adams wrote home to his wife that this was the most profound psalm he had ever read, and he encouraged her then to go read it.
Throughout these election sermons - sermons that related to citizenship, and the government, and the right role of government—there were certain passages that would surface frequently. We have looked at some of these …
Proverbs 20:28 “Loyalty and truth preserve the king …”
But where do loyalty and truth reside? Where does that come from? That assumes an external standard and that the king is under the authority of truth. The king is not an autocrat, they rejected the whole idea the divine right of kings, the divine right of government, but that the government was under the authority of God who produces truth.
They derived this from their study of the Old Testament. They, especially the Puritans, especially, loved to study the Old Testament, and they understood the implications and warnings of 1 Samuel 8 against a large government and a strong, centralized power.
This was another reason why they specifically spelled out the responsibilities and the powers to the states and kept that away from the federal government. They understood that the government was under truth and under law, and that was divine law.
Proverbs 20:28 “Loyalty and truth preserve the king and he upholds his throne by righteousness.”
There is an ethical foundation to governing. It is not just a matter of having an MBA or having a PhD in economics or a law degree; there is an ethical standard that is inherent to leadership.
Proverbs 29:4 “The king gives stability to the land by justice …”
Justice implies a standard. Where do these candidates go to for their view of righteousness, of right and wrong? What informs their thinking?
Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
So we don’t legalize sin; we don’t legalize homosexual, sodomite marriage. We don’t legalize many things that have been legalized because it is sin. There are people who think you do not legislate morality.
Well, you can’t force people to be moral, but the very foundation of any law is you ought to do something and you ought not to do something else, and that’s morality. Morality informs every single law that we make. So there must be an ethical dimension there.
Proverbs 29:2 “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice …”
Because there’s justice in the land. And true justice; the same for the rich as for the poor, the same for the elderly as for the children.
Proverbs 29:12 “If a ruler pays attention to falsehood”—Let’s paraphrase that: “If a ruler thinks according to a fraudulent worldview—all his ministers become wicked.”
Sort of opened that verse up for a few people, didn’t it? If a ruler thinks within a false world view, all his ministers become wicked.
Proverbs 29:2 “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan.”
Now the point I’m making in all of this is that in our word today, you often hear people, especially right now in this stage of the election, people have been concerned with two broad issues: the one broad issue is national defense, which we’ll talk about when we get to the fourth and fifth divine institutions, and the other area is just economics because of what’s been going on in the economy; the recession.
We may actually be in one now, but for the last 18 months, the liberal media has been screaming that we are in a recession, even though the figures did not support that. Certainly, there were areas of the country that were slower than other areas of the country, but now we may actually be in a recession. We won’t know until we see some figures in three or four months, but they’ve generated a self-fulfilling prophecy where they just managed to scare the heck out of everybody and make everybody think that we are in a recession; and therefore, we ought to throw out the current administration. It’s all about economics.
I remember hearing people who had voted life-long Republicans back in the ’90s, and everything was going so well for them in the stock market in ’96 that they, for the first-time in their life, voted for a Democrat; voted for Bill Clinton. Why? Well, because, “My money’s doing so well in the market.” So economics took priority over everything.
But if you look at the Word of God, the priority is never on economics; it’s on ethics; it’s on righteousness. And when the nation in the Mosaic Law, when they were righteous, God took care of them economically. Before the Mosaic Law, when you had people like Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, when they were living their life before God, God took care of them. When they had righteousness in their life, God supplied and took care of their economic needs.
And we have the same principle stated by Jesus in Matthew 6:33.
Ethics and righteousness are a priority, not how it’s going to impact your 401K, not how it will impact your Social Security check, not how it’s going to impact your job, not whether or not this person or that person gets in, he’s going to see that legislation gets passed, and you’re going to get more money or the company you work for is going to get a government contract. Those should never influence your decision making, because we’re to make a decision for what is right
So “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness –which can only be defined by God’s Word—and all these things shall be added unto you.”
In context “all these things” are the details of life; prosperity, economic stability. All of those things result from the priority of ethical righteousness.
So there is a very important responsibility for people who are to go to the polls and vote. They are to analyze these issues and vote in righteous men. What happens when there are not righteous men? Well, unfortunately, that’s too often the case, and we have to vote against the one who is less righteous.
As I’m emphasizing here, we have a high responsibility, as John Adams stated, “We electors have an important constitutional power placed in our hands: we have a check upon two branches of the legislature … It becomes necessary to every [citizen] then, to be in some degree a statesman: and to examine and judge for himself … the political principle and measures. Let us examine them with a sober … Christian spirit.”
What is the framework that we are to use to evaluate our choices? It is going to be the Word of God and the truth of God’s Word.
So we’ve seen some of the ways that the Bible has impacted the individuals and some of the ways the Bible has impacted their view of government. They understood that foundationally this was within the realm of ethics and morals because an unethical, immoral people who did not understand righteousness could not perpetuate the government that they were establishing in the Constitution.
Charles Carroll, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, in a letter to James McHenry wrote, “Without morals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime and pure … are undermining the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free governments.”
James Madison, who was the fourth President of the United States, wrote, “We’ve staked our future on our ability to follow the Ten Commandments with all of our heart.”
Now, I can just hear a number of people screaming “theocracy” right now. But they weren’t forming a theocracy! If you think this is a theocracy, you do not understand what a theocracy is, #1, and you don’t understand Bible doctrine #2! Because they were not forming a theocracy.
Nobody in their right mind would ever read the Constitution and Declaration of Independence and think they were establishing a theocracy. They were establishing a republic where there was freedom, but they understood that that had to come out of a certain framework, and that framework was established by the Bible.
They understood that the first control had to come from the Bible because man’s heart was evil, and his thoughts turned to evil continually because of total depravity. The second control was law, external law, the written law of the land. They understood that law was over government and that law had its source in God.
The primary source for understanding and interpreting law in the English-speaking world at that time was Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Law, which were the recognized authority on law and the recognized tool for interpreting law and handling legal problems in the United States and by the United States Supreme Court from 1776—that’s preceding the republic, but it was foundation on the thinking that early—up until 1920. Blackstone’s commentaries were endorsed by almost every founding father.
Blackstone recognized that all law had to derive ultimately from the Bible, that laws could not contradict God’s direct decrees. However, he understood when the Bible did not address a specific area, then we were free to set our own policy. For example, in the arena of murder, that is expressly forbidden by the divine command that is “Thou shall not kill.” The Hebrew means “Thou shall not murder.” But then when it comes to developing a law on import and export laws and regulations, then that would be up to the individual nation to derive laws that would be righteous and just. This was the foundation.
But they recognized there is this external authority of law and that there is the internal problem of man’s sin that could only be dealt with through his spiritual relationship with God. This was something they struggled with going back into the colonial period.
In the 1660s, the colony of Carolina sought help from John Locke, who authored their first constitution. Locke’s idea was that a good constitution would protect the people even if bad men were in office. Good government would be secured through righteous laws even if there were poor leaders, for the poor leaders would be bound by the righteous laws. So he’s thinking only in terms of that external control of the law. But as we see when we have just laws, when there are unjust men, then those just laws become corrupted.
At the same time he was writing the constitution for the Carolinas, William Penn was putting together the foundational government for the colony of Pennsylvania. Penn believed that a long constitution with righteous laws would not be enough because he understood total depravity. Penn believed that something else was needed: you had to have good men with integrity. Penn understood that integrity could come only from God’s Word.
William Penn wrote, “Governments, like clocks, go from the motion men give them … Wherefore governments rather depend upon men, than men upon governments. Let men be good, and the government cannot be bad … But if men be bad, the government [will] never [be] good.”
Penn understood that the goodness of government was not simply dependent upon righteous laws but the integrity of men.
He wrote, “I know some say, ‘Let us have good laws, and no matter for the men that execute them.’ But let them consider that though good laws do well, good men do better: for good laws may [lack] good men...but good men will never [lack] good laws, nor allow bad ones.”
So he understood that there was this internal problem with man, so there’s got to be an internal check and that can only come from the Word of God and from eternal truth.
This establishes the thinking that characterized the founders of this nation that informed the writings of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. And this is the worldview that is embedded in those documents. What happened?
Well, what happened was that there was a gradual erosion that occurred in the 19th century with the influence of the Enlightenment coming out of Europe. The Enlightenment had begun back in the 1660s, and as the impact of that thinking snowballed, then you had a major shift in the way people thought about knowledge with Immanuel Kant in the 1770s, about the same time as the American Revolution. And then you had the development of European thought during the 1800s that rejected supernaturalism; rejected God.
You had the whole rise of naturalism, you had the rise of Darwin, the rejection of God as Creator and what the founders believed to be institutions that were built into the fabric of God’s creation, like marriage, and family, and government and justice and righteousness that within a Darwinian framework, these are just products of time + chance and they’re no longer built-in absolutes, they are just social conventions that people found worked. Then you developed various elements of idealism, pragmatism, and other “isms” that come out of late 19th century.
But as you see the rise of secular humanism in that period, a couple of things come out of secular humanism. One is the idea that religion is really something private: it is just between you and God and it’s nobody else’s business.
So in contrast to the founders, who clearly stated that it was important to know the spiritual thinking of the relationship of God that a leader would have, they said that no, that’s not relevant. You just need to know their practical skills; you don’t need to know their character.
So there was this bifurcation that occurred that there is the spiritual life on the one hand and everything else on the other hand. It’s consistent with a Kantian epistemology—the idea that the Bible only addresses salvation in the spiritual life and it doesn’t address the practical things of life, such as budgeting, such as governing yourself or governing others, governing the family, governing the nation. It doesn’t affect any of those, just your spiritual life, and so it really doesn’t affect politics. But that wasn’t the view of the founders.
It’s the result of the 19th century and the ideas of the 19th century that lead to the chaos, and the collapse, the erosion that we saw in the 20th century. The 20th century is the result of the 19th century. The ideas that we’re wrestling with now that many of us do not like are the ideas that came out of the 19th century.
What gave this country stability, what gave it prosperity, what built its strength were the ideas of the 17th and 18th century—those so-called archaic ideas of the Bible, not the modernistic ideas of the 19th and 20th century.
The Bible emphasizes the fact that character actually matters. And this is seen in the statements of the founders. I’m going to take a couple more minutes before we wrap up.
One of the election sermons preached to the Connecticut legislature was preached by Rev. Matthias Burnett in 1803. In that sermon, he stated, “Feeble would be the best form of government without a sense of religion and the terrors of the world to come—that’s the idea of accountability. We’ll get into with the first Divine Institution. Banish a sense of religion and the terrors of the world to come from society, and you leave every man to do that which is right in his own eyes.
“The man who is not actuated by the fear and awe of God, has in many cases no bond or restraint upon his conduct, and therefore is not fit to be trusted with the nation’s welfare. Think not that men who acknowledge not God or his laws will be corrupt in office.”
That is exactly where we are today: everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. They believed that man should have character, and they often went to Exodus 18:21, which is the episode where Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, comes to him and gives him advice on how to organize and administer justice for the people.
In Exodus 18:21 he says, “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God.”
That’s your priority is character and the spiritual life.
Rev. Matthias Burnett said, “Look well to the characters and qualifications of those you elect and raise to office and places of trust … Let the wise counsel of Jethro be your guide—that’s the passage we just looked at—Choose ye out from among you ‘able men, such as fear God, men of truth and hating covetousness and set them to rule over you.’ ”
And another election sermon, Rev. Chandler Robbins in 1791 wrote, “How constantly do we find it inculcated in the sacred writings, that rulers be ‘just men, fearers of God, haters of covetousness—quoting the same passage from Exodus 16—because, a gift blindeth the eyes of the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.’ ”
Noah Webster wrote, “It is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens—that is, not selecting Godly men for office—that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, the breaches of trust, peculations and embezzlements of public property—that rings awfully true today, doesn’t it?—which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country; which disgrace a republican government.”
Rev. Matthias Burnet says, “Finally, ye whose high prerogative it is, to invest with office and authority or to withhold them, and in whose power it is to save or destroy your country, consider well the important trust … which God has put into your hands. To God and posterity you are accountable for them … Let not your children have reason to curse you for giving up those rights, and prostrating those institutions which your fathers delivered to you.”
The problem we have today is not a new one. I think it is new in terms of the degree but it’s not new. In the election of 1801, there was not at that point a distinction made between president and vice president, so you could vote for four different people, and they ended up having a runoff between Jefferson and Aaron Burr. It was clear that the people had rejected John Adams; he served only one term as president and so the result was a tie in the Congress between Burr and Jefferson.
At the time, Burr was known to be a man who was irreligious. He did not care much about the Bible or spiritual things, even though he was the grandson of one who is considered one of the greatest preacher and theologians in America. He was the grandson of Jonathan Edwards, but he had absolutely no spiritual interests.
And at the time Jefferson, who had been very close to the Adams at one time, Jefferson was espoused to be and it was rumoured that he was an atheist at worst and maybe only a deist, but that he was also a very unprincipled man.
So this left them with a conundrum. They have a choice between two men that many did not think were worthy.
And Abigail Adams, trying to decide, thought through this issue, and she wrote to her sister in 1801, “Never were a people placed in more difficult circumstances than the virtuous part of our countrymen are in at the present crisis. I have turned, and turned, and overturned in my mind at various times the merits and demerits of the two candidates.
“Long acquaintance, private friendship and the full belief that the private character of Jefferson is much purer than Burr, inclines me to Jefferson. But have we any claim to the favor or protection of Providence when we have against warning, admonition and advice chosen as our chief Magistrate a man who makes no pretensions to the belief of an all wise supreme Governor of the World ordering or directing or overruling the events which take place in it? If we ever saw a day of darkness in America, I fear this is one.”
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study and reflect upon the impact of Your Word in our history. Father, we pray for our nation. We pray for those who lead it; we pray for those who are going to the polls to vote. We pray that You would just move those who have a right sense of understanding to go and vote.
Father, we know that this nation is preserved and has been preserved because of the right thinking of many believers down through the ages, and though in the last 15 or 20 years, the percentage of believers that have gone to the polls has been in serious decline. We pray that that would reverse itself. And that those who know the truth would apply the truth, and that in this election that there would be a change, that there would be a turn.
But we recognize that You are the sovereign God who orders the affairs of man, and that You are the God that controls the destinies of man and the destinies of this country. And so we rest in You because we know that cursed is the man who trusts in man because the arm of flesh is weak. And we know that no matter how things turn out, we can relax, we can be happy, we can have stability because our happiness is not based on who’s in the White House or which party controls Congress or the Judiciary. That is because You are sitting on Your Throne in heaven and we can rest secure in Your Plan.
We pray this is Christ’s Name. Amen.”