Our forefathers were ready to die rather than have the pagan philosophy of the idea of man established in the United States. The pagan idea of man was that the social order rested on the assumed natural inequality of men. The individual was regarded as of value only as he formed a part of the political fabric and was able to contribute to its uses, as though it were the end of his being to aggrandize the State. This was the pagan idea of man. The State was regarded of paramount importance, not the man, but the citizen whose physical and intellectual forces it absorbed. If this tended to foster lofty virtues and appended individual culture in the classes whom the State selected as the recipient of its favors, it bore hard on those whom the State virtually ignored—on laboring men, mechanics, the poor, captives in war, slaves, and women. The low view of man was exerting its full influence when Rome was at its height and glory. The wisest philosopher of antiquity could not rise above the pagan view of man that the soul of the individual belonged to the State.
The Christian idea of man was entirely different from that of the pagans. When Christianity appeared with its central doctrine that man was created in the Divine image and destined for immortality, a new spirit and a new power was started. Christianity stated that man is superior to the State, which ought to be fashioned for his use. The Apostle Paul makes this very clear in the 13th chapter of the Roman letter. The purpose of government was to protect good and punish the evil.
The struggle between the pagan and Christian elements was severe. Long after Rome crumbled the influence of paganism, under various forms, continued to operate, and especially the idea that man was made for the State flourished under the guise of Divine Rights vested in one of the privileged few who should control the thoughts of many.
Faith in God is the foundation of all our freedom. During the Reformation there arose above the low level of a corrupt political world a class of thinkers who grasped the idea that the State ought to exist for man, that justice, protection, and the common good ought to be the aim of government.
Among these was John Locke who caught the spirit of the Reformation and said in his “Of Civil Government,” 1689, “No one ought to harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or possessions, ….”
Samuel Adams, the Father of the American Revolution, said “…The right of freedom being the gift of God Almighty… The Rights of the Colonists as Christians…May be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver…which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.”
John Milton, imbued with the very spirit of the Reformation, defended the noble thesis that freedom is “the natural right of man.”
The history of the United States as an independent nation can properly be said to start with two great documents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Jefferson owed his ideas to Locke. Hamilton and Madison writing in the Federalist essays proclaimed the influence of the Constitution and thus influence other political writers.
Whence, then, did the ideas basic to American government originally start, and to what source must we look for a simple clarification of its original purpose? To ask these simple questions should be to answer them. The New Testament is the wellspring from which our political thought derives, and the idealistic goal of that thinking was a political and social system actively conductive to Christian practice. Alexis de Tocqueville notes that the American of his day held religion “to be indispensable to the maintenance of Republican institutions.” A Republican form of government depends on self-discipline, and self-discipline depends on Christianity.
The Apostle Paul expressed it this way to the church at Corinth, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Bernado (Tony) Teixeira (Te-shera) said in his book The Fabric of Terror, on page 13 in the author’s foreword: “To many of us, who still believe that the spiritual values of our civilization are a worthy heritage of our children, the gift of a pedantic or callous interpretation of the wheels of history and of the winds of political change is a poor gift indeed to cherish. Other values much closer to God are still permanent in our souls, and one of these values is the dignity of the human being. Without it, we shall revert to the law of the jungle, and tomorrow’s sunrise may become again the morning of endless night.”
In 1963 representative Donald C. Bruce told the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons: “By use of blatant lie and false innuendo, a handful of men are tearing our nation away from the path of freedom and individual responsibility, with all of its inherent rewards, towards the reactionary failure of the past, with its monolithic state, its deadening regimentation, and the moral decline that historically becomes its offspring.”
What is the answer? The writer of the book of Chronicles gives the answer in 2 Chron. 7:14: “If my people which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Firm Foundation — July 6, 1971
This article and more can be found within TBC’s Restoration History Library.