In all things, there are at times a mixing of the good and the bad, the righteous and the evil. It is true in our churches as it is true in our government, where those without a basic respect for morality, and constitutional values work to undermine what America has stood for the last 200 years. Knowing that the evil often resides with the good on the earth, some of the early states included a clause in their constitutions designed to limit how those documents were used, and what kind of men would use them.
Several state’s Framers established that the people should require their elected representatives “adhere to fundamental principles” in life and government. Those constitutional clauses were: Massachusetts, Part I, Article 18, New Hampshire, Part I, Article 38, Vermont, Chapter I, Article 18, North Carolina, Article V, Section 21, and Illinois, Article VIII, Section 18. It was put best by the Framers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. With a couple of minor word changes, these old state constitutions said (from New Hampshire’s):
“A frequent recurrence to the fundamental principles of the constitution, and a constant adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, industry, frugality, and all the social values, are indispensably necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty and good government; the people ought, therefore, to have a particular regard to all those principles in the choice of their officers and representatives: And they have the right to require (Vermont adds, “in a legal way”) of their lawgivers and magistrates an exact and constant observance of them in the formation and execution of the laws necessary for the good administration of the government.”
The early constitutions were framed around fundamental principles.
More than any other time in U.S. history, since the early 1990s America’s capitol has been rocked by scandals. It would be easy to fault our elected officials for their failures. But, it is often harder to turn an introspective eye upon ourselves and realize that our votes, or lack thereof, put the scandals and the potential scandals into office. We must ask with each candidate and each office the questions that go beyond positions on the issues. We must also take into account the candidate’s lifestyle on “justice, moderation, temperance, industry, frugality, and all the social values,” as the early state constitutions encouraged us to do. We should ask the candidates about religion and morality, and a candidate’s perspectives and beliefs on American history. Our Founders called it a “right” for the people, and they said it was “necessary.”
We must say, absolutely.
If you’ve learned anything from these American Genesis articles, I hope it is what America was, is now, and what it can become if we return with whole hearts to the values and beliefs of those who went before us. Those values were the foundation of our country. They are the values that first set America upon the course of greatness.
The Founders were not perfect, but they built a system of governance that worked; based upon the principles they valued most from the their shared experiences, history, and the scriptures. No other system of government has been held in such high honor as America’s. No other nation in history has stood as the primary and lasting example of freedom as America.
The Founders intended to separate government from religion but never intended to separate religion from government. They never intended to ban prayer from classrooms, lunchrooms, and graduations. They wished for each citizen to exercise as much liberty as possible, in a responsible manner as guided by a biblically influenced culture—not a religiously oppressive government.
The Foundering Fathers are dead, but their ideas still live today. By their actions they bound us, their descendants, to ideals which made America a “light to the nations” and the first truly Christian country in the modern era. We are bound, and responsible for the legacy the Founders left to us. It is because of this that we must:
“Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing…” (Job 8:8-9)
Tomorrow: Christian Principles in 26 State Constitutions