Deposited Authority Part 3
In the century preceding the Declaration of Independence, New England clergy consistently preached a Bible based political theory declaring the limited authority of earthly rulers. They taught that the duty of civil leaders was first to God but expressed in serving their constituency. For, according to their understanding of the Bible in this New Testament age, God made his chosen leader known through the agency of men.
The New England Clergy of the 18th century were not advocates of a particular form of government; they simply taught that those who exercised authority over their fellow man were responsible for protecting the God given rights enjoyed by free citizens. Thus, rulers must preserve the life, liberty and property of the people or they are in opposition to God’s law. From the middle of the 17th century “life, liberty and property” was a common phrase in use by the clergy. It is important to recognize one cannot understand the colonial war for independence and the American constitutional system that grew out of that experience without a realization of the long religious association upholding these words. In short, for a hundred years before the war for independence, men were taught that these rights were protected by God’s inviolable law (Baldwin, The New England Clergy And The American Revolution).
The duties of godly government may be accomplished through king and parliament, a confederation of states, a republic and so on; success in the godly duty does not depend upon a particular form of government. Nor is failure to fulfill the heavenly mandate a specific characteristic of any political arraignment but is a tendency of every human political endeavor.
The New England clerics also understood the biblical principle of human depravity and that no man can be trusted with unchecked power. This fundamental truth was at the core of the political theory taught by the New England ministers. Moreover, it was a central truth informing the development of the constitutional government with separation of powers adopted by this nation in 1789. However, a major component of the political compact springing from the pulpits of 18th century clerics is missing today.
Sinful man naturally seeks to usurp the sovereignty of God and wield power for himself. The quest for autonomous man is evidenced in the compulsion to increase State control through centralization of power. The constitution of the United States was designed to thwart this impulse in the arrangement of the national government and in retaining a measure of civil sovereignty for the states. Indeed, the original intention was to create a “divided” national government that worked in partnership with the states. Yet maintenance of the arrangement requires diligence on the part of citizen and statesman alike. It also requires education from the pulpits and in the schools. A lack of diligence and education has brought us to the crisis we face today.
At the adoption of the United States constitution, it was commonly understood a government exercising authority in an unconstitutional manner acted illegally. Thus, the people and the states had the duty to resist such governments. Therefore, the people and the civil leadership of states and counties, have the duty to keep the national authority in check and they do so by declaring unconstitutional edits null and void. It is this biblically derived doctrine of nullification we must relearn and revive today.
I will return to this topic in a couple weeks.
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