Stability is an underpinning to a free and prosperous society. This stability, in turn, is the underpinning to a growing and prosperous economy. But in order to develop and maintain stability, a society must also understand what has led to this circumstance – one must know its history and scripture. Here is a look into some of this crucial American history.
John Locke, in his treatises The Reasonableness of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures and A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity, declared God as King, Jesus as King, and that the law of nature parallels in both reason (law revealed in Scripture) and revelation (law revealed in nature). Locke wrote:
As men, we have God for our King, and are under the law of reason: as christians, we have Jesus the Messiah for our King, and are under the law revealed by him in the gospel…be obliged to study both the law of nature and the revealed law, that in them he may know the will of God, and of Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent.
…it being a part of the law of nature, that man ought to obey every positive law of God.
Gary Amos also concluded from Locke’s treatise that “Locke declares that once God establishes a law of nature, or moral law, in creation and Scripture, it is not subject to change by man.”
The great British jurist William Blackstone, shared the same theory on revealed law; writing in Commentaries on the Law of England that “when [God] created man, and endued him with free will to conduct himself in all parts of life, He laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that free will is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws. Considering the Creator only a Being of infinite power, He was able to unquestionably to have prescribed whatever laws He pleased to His creature, man.” Blackstone, along with Locke, had direct influence on the philosophy, jurisprudence, and political structure of America.
Blackstone, arguably the most influential jurist in Western civilization, took his jurisprudence philosophy from the belief “that the English common law could be reduced to a clear system, that the English common law was based on the law of nature and nature’s God, that there were objective answers to legal questions.” Blackstone’s judicial belief was the essence of the American jurisprudence. Northwestern University legal scholar Stephen Presser notes that “Blackstone meant that it would be better for society to live by fixed and predictable rules than to be governed by the idiosyncratic concepts of justice of individual judges.” Presser further discloses that Blackstone’s philosophy of law created “the systematic nature of law, its divine origin, its moral superiority and moral clarity, and its notion that precedent should govern – were adapted early into American law."
God as the governmental King had been part of the rhetoric from the pulpit for many years in the American colonies. It was an accepted understanding of Colonial America. In his 1710 election sermon Pastor Ebenezer Pemberton orated:
The Power of the greatest Potentate on Earth is not Inherent in him, but is a Derivative…For God is the Source and Original of all Power; there is no Power but what is derived from him, depends on him, is limited by him, and is subordinate to him, and accountable…Rulers are to be the Guardians of their Peoples’ Religion and Property, their Liberties, Civil & Sacred…
Hence Rulers of all Orders, ought to conform to and regulate themselves in all their Administrations, by this Divine Standard…by unalterable principles and fixed Rules, and not by unaccountable humours, or arbitrary will…It is a Statute of the Great Law-giver of the World, that they which Rule over men be Just…Rulers have Power, but it is a limited Authority; limited by the Will of God…
“Rulers as God’s delegates,” writes Dr. Alice Baldwin. Not only did the Founding Fathers insert these principles into the founding compact, they literally inserted the exact same language. Our Founding Fathers only did what had already been established in America. It was new to history, but not new to the colonies.
University of Wisconsin professor Stephen Lucas, in his discussion on the stylistic nature of our Founders and their rhetorical authorship, notes in regards to the Declaration of Independence, that “the preamble is a paradigm of eighteenth-century Enlightenment prose style, in which purity, simplicity, directness, precision, and, above all, perspicuity were the highest rhetorical and literary virtues.” In scholar Pauline Maier’s American Scripture: Making the Declaration of Independence, she notes the same pattern of our Founders following the common rhetorical practice of the 18th century–in writing style, structure, language, and content. In fact Lucas also notes that the Declaration’s preamble is an eloquent “five sentence – 202 words” version of John Locke’s Second Treatise which is thousands of words of explanation. Experience, ample ability, and a very tight timeline pushed the Founding Fathers to this historical achievement.
As the Revolution was about to break Reverend Elisha Fish delivered much the same vision–sixty-five years after Pastor Pemberton–of the American government. The only proper, civil government working as God’s proxy:
The covenant between prince and people most naturally represents the covenant between God and his creatures. God creates his people, therefore they are bound to a sacred regard of the covenant of their creator: But the people in a political sense create the prince; therefore this covenant should be maintained with the greatest regard of any social covenant of a civil nature on earth, and the breach of this covenant is greater on the side of the Prince than the people, for it is against the whole body…If the prince sin against the subjects, it is against his political creators, and in that view aggrivated.
This station of the people serving as God’s proxies in civil government obligates them to serve the people by being obedient to God and His truth, justice, and righteousness. Serving the people in only this manner is serving God and an obligation to God’s Laws – thus the oath of office. It is, as had begun with Moses, whether individuals in civil service or the civil government, that they act, legislate or adjudicate, as conduits of God’s Law to the best of their ability. In Exodus Moses gives this statement to Jethro, his father-in-law, “’Well, because the people come to me with their disputes, to ask for God’s decisions,’ Moses told him. ‘I am their judge, deciding who is right and who is wrong, and instructing them in God’s ways. I apply the laws of God to their particular disputes.” Moses is acting as a conduit for God’s Laws, not as the source of the laws.
In 1742 Reverend Nathaniel Appleton of Massachusetts clearly spelled out this obligation of civil service. “If [those serving in civil government] do not have a principle of righteousness and holiness ruling in their hearts, they will deviate from the rule and neglect the pattern – even though it is of God Himself. But a habit of righteousness, a principle of true justice and goodness, will help them not only to understand the rules of justice in the Word of God, and to see the wisdom and justice of the divine conduct.” As Reverend Charles Chauncy declared in 1747, “there cannot be government without a right of legislation, so neither can there be this right but in conjunction with righteousness."
Also, people as proxies of God are positioned directly to judge those whom they selected to govern them since we are all equal under God – as His creation made in His image. The people, as God’s proxies, judge others on His behalf by judging against His Law. Author Eric Metaxas summarizes this eloquently:
…the idea that everyone could have a direct relationship with God led to the idea that earthly authorities could be judged and should be judged. If God was the ultimate judge and the Judge above all other judges, then surely each person could consider whether those in authority over him were exercising that authority in accordance with God’s principles – or not in accordance with God’s principles, which is to say, in a way that could be considered tyrannous…By making each person see that God wished to have a direct relationship with every one of his children, no matter their cut out of the equation…The Gospel of Christ was the most powerful sociological leveler in history, and although the message had existed for seventeen centuries, it would burst into full bloom only now?
The application of God’s Law in the application of the law, application of good government, and application in one’s personal or organizational ethics, is the underpinning to a stable and prosperous society and economy.
Jim Huntzinger is the President and Founder of Lean Frontiers, Inc., which develops knowledge and learning communities on the Lean Enterprise for business and industry. With a background and experience in manufacturing and operations, he has also extensively researched the history and development of American manufacturing and also published several books on the lean business model, manufacturing history, and economics.