This week we will take a look at some commentary on the six steps necessary for effective citizenship. The six verbs previously provided are a straightforward sequence for action. These same six verbs can apply equally to Bible reading and study. Consider the order in which they occur.
Read, study and teach the Constitution…read the document, study the original intent, and teach it to others. Reading the Constitution can be done in half an hour. Studying the original intent and thus gaining further insight and knowledge into its practical application today can be accomplished by reading some of the excellent early commentaries, such as Justice Joseph Story’s 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution or his 1854 Familiar Exposition of the Constitution or William Rawle’s 1825 A View of the Constitution of the United States. One extensive reference I have found most useful is Original Intent, The Courts, the Constitution, and Religion by David Barton. This writing is condemned by the Southern Poverty Law Center so it must be pretty accurate. Also, the Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay will help citizens understand the theories that went into the drafting of the Constitution. I am currently reading it and am amazed at the foresightedness of our Founding Fathers. All of the works are available today. Many modern constitutional commentaries are sound, but many are not. Anytime a commentary differs with the simple, easy-to-understand, explicit language of the Constitution, reject the commentary and go with the simplicity of the original document itself…so too with commentaries on the Bible. After reading and studying the Constitution, be sure to teach that knowledge to others…especially our future generations that will one day take up the reins of government.
Next we are to perceive (recognize), defend, and assert the Constitution. Once there is familiarity with the Constitution, it becomes much easier to perceive when something is constitutionally wrong or when its principles are being attacked. Whenever that occurs, as responsible citizens we must stand up and defend it. But as important as it is to defend the Constitution and our constitutional rights, it is even more important to assert them…that is, to go on the offense with them. The National War College in Washington DC teaches the brightest American military officers both the philosophy and the tactics necessary not just to engage in war but also to win that war. Offense is one of the key doctrines taught…but defense is not. Defense is considered only a temporary condition during which assets are reorganized in order to go back on offense. Going on offense, and then sustaining a strong offense, is the key to regaining a sound government. As the Bible affirms in Proverbs 21:22, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the stronghold in which they trust”…that is, he goes on offense. So don’t just defend constitutional rights; assert them.
The first two steps to restoring America’s government are to read and know the Bible, and the the Constitution. The third step is found in the Book of Luke. Jesus’ disciples witnessed many miraculous displays of His divine power. Yet when they were approached by a man who asked help for his son, the disciples found themselves unable to do anything for him. At other times Jesus prodded the disciples to acts of spiritual maturity that were counter intuitive to their thinking…such as extending continual forgiveness to those who offended or injured them. Challenged by their own shortcomings in so many areas where Jesus had shown Himself strong, they understandably turned to Him and asked, “Lord, increase our faith!” [Luke 17:5]. Jesus’s response to them was interesting…and probably totally unexpected. Rather than telling them to pray more, live more Godly lives, or study the Scriptures for longer periods, He told them the story of a hardworking servant. After a hard day’s work in the field he came home to even more work at home serving his master. For this he didn’t even receive a ‘Thank you’.[Luke 17:9] Ending the story, Jesus told His disciples, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'” [Luke 17:10]. Jesus’s solution to their request was to talk to them about doing their duty…about learning to do what was right even when they didn’t feel like it, when no one noticed, and when no one appreciated what they did. Doing one’s duty is a sign of spiritual maturity. This specific spiritual character was frequently expressed in previous generations:
“The man who is conscientiously doing his duty will ever be protected by that righteous and all powerful Being, and when he has finished his work he will receive an ample reward”. Samuel Adams, signer of The Declaration [Adams, Writings, vol. 3, pg. 349]
“All that the best men can do is, to persevere in doing their duty…and leave the consequences to Him who made it their duty; being neither elated by success, however great, nor discouraged by disappointments, however frequent and mortifying”. [John Jay, The Life of John Jay, With Selections From His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers, vol. 1, ed. William Jay, New York: J and J Harper, 1833, pg. 174]
“We must go home to be happy, and that our home is not in this world. Here we have nothing to do but our duty, and by it to regulate our business and our pleasures”. John Jay, Original Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court and Coauthor of The Federalist Papers [Ibid, vol. 1, pg. 345]
“And having secured the approbation of our hearts, by a faithful and unwearied discharge of our duty…let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him who raiseth up and pulleth down the empires and kingdoms of the world as He pleases”.
John Hancock, Signer of The Declaration [John Hancock, as quoted by Louie R. Heller, Early American Orations: 1760-1824, New York, The MacMillan Company, 1912, pgs. 48-49]
“The sum of the whole is, that the blessing of God is only to be looked for by those who are not wanting in the discharge of their own duty”. John Witherspoon, Signer of The Declaration [John Witherspoon, The Domination Over the Passions of Men: A Sermon Preached at Princeton on the 17th of May 1776, Being the General Fast Appointed by the Congress Through the United Colonies, Philadelphia, Bookfellers, 1777, pg. 32]
Christians must regain the concept of duty and would do well to adopt the phrase that characterized the efforts of John Quincy Adams: “Duty is ours; results are God’s”. [John Quincy Adams, as quoted in Elbridge S. Brooks, Historic Americans: Sketches of the Lives and Characters of Certain Famous Americans, New York, Thomas Y. Crowell and Company, 1899, pg. 209]
What are the duties that a Biblical Christian must perform in order to restore good government? Next week we will start to look at four I have been able to identify.
– Bob Munsey