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Sunday, February 07, 2016

Virtuous Society

By Douglas V. Gibbs (Excerpt from Doug's upcoming book, "Concepts of the United States Constitution")

Benjamin Franklin wisely determined that “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”

Franklin may not be historically known as being a champion of theological thought, but his writings suggest that he not only recognized the importance of a civilization being grounded in some kind of system of moral values, but that as he got older he recognized the importance of praying to the Creator, and living one’s life in line with the virtues provided by a Judeo-Christian foundation.

During the first few weeks of debate during the Federal Convention in 1787, the viciousness of the confrontations became so bad that the members of the delegation were getting no work accomplished towards the creation of a new United States Constitution. Benjamin Franklin, the elder statesman in the room, said nothing as the men battled. After about four weeks of quiet observation, Franklin finally spoke, providing Godly encouragement the convention needed to become the Miracle of Philadelphia that would launch the greatest republic in history.

Benjamin Franklin is often referred to as a deist, or an agnostic. Franklin's faith is mysterious because there is ample evidence, mostly accented by his less-than-Christian actions (especially when it came to the ladies), that Franklin was not necessarily a devout Christian. Despite the questions surrounding the depth of Franklin's faith in God, his respect for Christianity and his recognition of the existence of the Judeo-Christian God is unmistakable.

One such example of his reverence towards the Christian religion emerged after Franklin's death. He was an ambassador to France from 1776 to 1785 and was a beloved figure of the French. In 1790, Jacques Mallet Du Pan, a French journalist and leader, indicated in his historical memoirs that Franklin had given the French political advice in regards to being a virtuous society. "Whoever should introduce the principles of primitive Christianity into the political state would change the whole order of society." An interesting piece of advice from the Pennsylvania statesman who is often considered a deist by historians.

As he got older, Dr. Franklin recognized the miracles that were emerging around him. These miracles left him no choice but to come to the conclusion that only divine Providence could be credited with the founding of the United States of America.

During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, after watching the failed debates of his combative colleagues, Franklin made an unexpected request. After four weeks of quiet observation, Franklin reminded his colleagues that they were on their knees during the American Revolution. He suggested that during the Constitution Convention, they should once again drop to their knees in prayer, and do so before each session of the convention.

“In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth - that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments be Human Wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest.”



Franklin’s recommendation was debated for a few days, with Alexander Hamilton leading the opposition. After a couple days, however, it was decided that, though they could not afford a member of the clergy to lead them in prayer inside Independence Hall, they would walk down the street to the nearest church and appeal to heaven to give them the wisdom and the strength to construct a new constitution capable of standing the test of time, and protecting, preserving, and promoting the union of sovereign States.

The tradition of prayer before each session of the United States Congress is directly tied to Franklin’s request during the Summer of 1787 in the Constitutional Convention.

The delegates generally recognized the truth in the same manner that Franklin did. Without a people being virtuous, freedom cannot be maintained. Without virtue, a culture has no choice but to become something other than a virtuous society. Without the standards of morality being practiced in society, individuals seek corruption and violence. Therefore, as a result of the flawed nature of human nature, the new central government was limited in its scope and powers. The new American System was devised based on the structure of the Mosaic System presented in Deuteronomy of the Holy Bible, allowing the new federal government to only act upon certain authorities through the direct, or indirect, advice and consent of the States, the People, and the representatives of the people voted into office by direct, and indirect, election.

The trouble with creating a new central government is that historically, oligarchies always rise tyrannically through the centralization of government. Therefore, creating the new federal government involved a delicate balancing act. While a stronger government was needed in order to handle the external issues that the States may not be able to accomplish individually, the new federal government also must be limited in such a manner that it did not eventually become a tyranny.

Virtue is an important part of that balancing act. Without a populace that is virtuous, moral, and informed, leaders seeking power may easily fool the people, encouraging them to vote into power those who would compromise their liberty.

As government seeks to expand, and virtue diminishes, society itself becomes a vicious place. To contain the corruption and violence, the expanding government increases the powers of law enforcement. The excuse is normally to preserve “the common good.” Regimes seeking statism say they must force the violent and corrupt into submission, while in reality the increase of control is simply an authoritarian move towards a police state. With greater control being exhibited by the powerful ruling elite, eventually the society is doomed to become a system where the people are enslaved by powerful government forces, and tyrannical government regulations.

As the Tytler Cycle suggests, bondage cannot cease to be a condition of society unless there is a spiritual awakening, and it takes a spiritual awakening in order for a populace to become courageous enough to seek and achieve liberty, and the abundance that normally accompanies free systems. Without being a virtuous society, not only is bondage inevitable, but escaping bondage becomes impossible.

At the end of the Declaration of Independence, two phrases attract one’s attention when considering the influence of God upon the endeavors of the Founding Fathers. They wrote, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, Fortunes and sacred Honor.”

As Franklin suggested, during the American Revolution, the founders recognized the importance of recognizing, and relying upon, the protection of God. Blanketed in protection, these men were willing to put on the line everything that was important to them, not only for themselves, but for their Posterity (those not yet born).

The final two words of the final sentence of the Declaration of Independence reveals how big the founders realized their endeavor was. In addition to putting on the line their lives and fortunes, they were even willing to pledge to each other their “sacred Honor.”

Sacred Honor is something much larger than mere honor. When we hear the word “honor,” we think of persons that are honorable in the way they keep their word, and follow through with good and sound actions. Honor is something to be protected, as we see in the Japanese Culture, and something to teach, as we have experienced in our own society. But, do we truly understand the next step up? At what point does honor become something that is sacred?

John Liberty of Red State, in his article titled, “Sacred Honor - The Last Words of the Declaration of Independence,” wrote near the end of his article, “There is no honor in taking from others or in subjecting others to pain, suffering and tyranny. Honorable men have the ability to see tyranny and the backbone to stand against it, though all they own may be taken from them as they fight by whatever means necessary to ensure liberty for themselves and their fellow citizens. There is no more honorable pursuit than the cause of liberty for the common good.”

Sacred Honor is a unique quality in the character of people, and of civilizations. Sacred Honor is not possible without a culture recognizing the difference between good and evil, without following some kind of Golden Rule (do onto others as you would have them do onto you), and Sacred Honor is not possible in a society that is unwilling to act when confronted by evil.

The key in understanding Sacred Honor is to also recognize that in order for a person, or a nation, to practice Sacred Honor, they must be honorable in the first place.

According to the Founding Fathers, tyranny was something that not only needed to be resisted, but something they were willing to enter into a bloody revolution to resist.

Among today’s deconstructionists, it is argued that according to their secular understanding of biblical dogmatism, it is sinful for Christians to rise up against a tyrannical government. They use this argument in order to try to prove that the Founding Fathers were not Christians. Quoting Jesus, the deconstructionists tell us that we should “turn the other cheek,” and that, as Romans 13 explains, “the powers that be are ordained of God.”

In response, we recognize that God’s Higher Powers supersede the Highest Powers, and for God to command unlimited submission to unjust government is a direct contradiction to God’s Nature.

Psalms 1:1-3 – “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But, his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

Psalms 2:1-3 – “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

I Peter 5:8-9 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about: seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world”

It is clear that as a virtuous people we are commanded to resist evil. As our American System succumbs to tyrannical power-brokers, it is our duty (and our right, according to the Declaration of Independence), to “alter or abolish” the government, and “institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” The Founding Fathers understood that to maintain a system of liberty, the citizenry must not only be moral and virtuous, but vigilant in protecting and preserving their liberty.

John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

George Washington, in his Farewell Address, said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensible supports.”

Samuel Adams told us, “The sum of all is, if we would most truly enjoy the gift of Heaven, let us become a virtuous people; then shall we both deserve and enjoy it. While, on the other hand, if we are universally vicious and debauched in our manners, through the form of the Constitution carries the face of the most exalted freedom, we shall in reality be the most abject slaves.”

In the Declaration of Independence, the term “Sacred Honor” was not used lightly. The word “Sacred” is a word that conveys the message that our Honor must be Godly. The word “Honor” reminds us that we must do the honorable thing because it is the right thing to do.

If we are not a virtuous society, we are not capable of understanding concepts like natural rights, the rule of law, or the principles of limited government contained within the pages of our own United States Constitution. To adhere to a moral standard, we must recognize that the standard of morality exists in the first place, as does the concepts of good and evil, and right and wrong. If we are a people that follow such standards, our morality compels us to do what is right, to organize based on a rule of law that protects natural rights, and to follow the legal standards established by the Creator of the rule of law.

In the Declaration of Independence, Natural Law, and therefore our Natural Rights as members of a society that operates in accordance to the Rule of Law, are indicated as having four particular traits.

The first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence declares that the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle” the people to the “separate and equal station” of “the powers of the earth.”

The second paragraph declares that these truths are “self-evident,” we are “endowed by our Creator” with these truths, and that our rights are “unalienable.”

In short, the following characteristics regarding our Natural Rights exist:

a) We are entitled to them;

b) Our rights are self-evident;

c) We are endowed by our Creator to have those Natural Rights (they are God-given);

d) And our Natural Rights are unalienable (we cannot be separated from them).

In order for our Natural Rights, and the Rule of Law, to be “self-evident,” we must be able to recognize them in their original form. Only a virtuous society is capable of this. If they are self-evident, which means we are a virtuous society, then we will naturally recognize that we are entitled to our liberty, our rights are God-given, and that the principles of freedom and Natural Rights are unalienable.

The final question is simply, are we willing to defend liberty?

Final sentence of the Declaration of Independence:

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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