Thursday, July 3, 2014

Freedom and Common Sense


Thomas Paine
 

It’s common these days for the media and popular culture to discount the effect of Christianity on the formation of this country. 

The Declaration of Independence, signed by 56 men who risked their lives and all their property with those signatures, clearly has Biblical influence from beginning to end.

Joseph Mattera, in an article about the Declaration last year, wrote, “The Declaration of Independence, which is the foundation of our nation’s Constitution, is so imbued with a biblical worldview that it would be controversial to read it aloud in many public schools, as well as other venues, because of the current secular movement toward removing Christianity from the public square.”

It’s also not generally taught in public schools that the idea of complete separation from Britain was shocking to many colonists prior to 1776. But, when King George hired 20,000 German troops to fight the colonists, he angered many Americans and public opinion began to turn.

Then, in February of 1776, Thomas Paine, an English printer who had come to America, wrote a stirring pamphlet called “Common Sense.”

The pamphlet sold by the tens of thousands. Almost everyone read it and talked about it. George Washington had it read to his soldiers.

Common Sense galvanized public opinion and is justly credited as being a major force in the formation of this country.  It’s not unreasonable to say that Common Sense made the Declaration of Independence possible.

While space prohibits reprinting the entire document here, I would like to share an excerpt of one of Paine’s major points from it:

Near three thousand years passed away, from the Mosaic account of the creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a king. Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary cases where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of Republic, administered by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had none, and it was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title but the Lord of Hosts. And when a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous homage which is paid to the persons of kings, he need not wonder that the Almighty, ever jealous of his honour, should disapprove a form of government which so impiously invades the prerogative of Heaven.

Monarchy is ranked in scripture as one of the sins of the Jews, for which a curse in reserve is denounced against them. The history of that transaction is worth attending to.

The children of Israel being oppressed by the Midianites, Gideon marched against them with a small army, and victory thro' the divine interposition decided in his favour. The Jews, elate with success, and attributing it to the generalship of Gideon, proposed making him a king, saying, "Rule thou over us, thou and thy son, and thy son's son." Here was temptation in its fullest extent; not a kingdom only, but an hereditary one; but Gideon in the piety of his soul replied, "I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you. THE LORD SHALL RULE OVER YOU." Words need not be more explicit: Gideon doth not decline the honour, but denieth their right to give it; neither doth he compliment them with invented declarations of his thanks, but in the positive style of a prophet charges them with disaffection to their proper Sovereign, the King of Heaven.”

Paine is referencing Judges 8 to make his point that we should not be ruled by kings, but by the LORD. He goes on, in subsequent lengthy paragraphs, to reference 1 Samuel 8, and the Biblical admonitions against having a king rule over a people.

Near the end of the document, Paine writes:

“For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe that it is the will of the Almighty that there should be a diversity of religious opinions among us. It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness; were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle I look on the various denominations among us to be like children of the same family, differing only in what is called their Christian names.”

Today’s Praise

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter (2:16 ESV)  

 

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