Attempts to found democracies, or rather, true lawful liberty, are doomed to failure unless they are built on a proper foundation. What follows is another article discovered today during my foray into an old dusty volume :
THE FOUNDATION OF TRUE LIBERTY.
Some time since an interesting Sabbath School celebration was held in a town in the interior of this State. On one of the banners borne in the procession, there was a beautiful tree, spreading its tall and stately branches in every direction, and beneath it was a volume, in which its roots were deeply fixed, and from which it derived all its nourishment and strength.—The tree was Liberty, that volume the Bible. The idea was not only beautiful, but true. The Bible is the great protector and guardian of the liberties of man. There never has been on earth true liberty, apart from the Scriptures and the principles of the Bible. This remark is fully sustained by the history of the world. Go to the plains of Babylon, and the entire history of that Empire, until its destruction by Cyrus, is a history of the most absolute despotism. Egypt and Persia were equally strangers to civil liberty. The same was true, with some slight modifications, of Greece and Rome. Facts spread on every page of the world’s history, point to the Bible as the only basis of the temple of freedom.
Where the Bible forms public opinion, a nation must be free. “Christianity,” says Montesquieu, “is a stranger to despotic power.” De Tocqueville, “it is the companion of liberty in all its battles and all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, the divine source of its claims.” The Abbe de la Mennais, whom the late writer distinguishes as one of the most powerful minds in Europe, speaks eloquently of the Divine author of Christianity, “the great republican of his age.” Everywhere the men whose minds have been imbued with the light and spirit of the Bible, have been the devoted friends of civil liberty. Such were the Lollards in England, the adherents of Luther in Germany, and of Knox in Scotland. Such were the Huguenots of France, who fled their country, or sealed their testimony with their blood on the fatal revocation of the edict of Nantes. Such were the Puritans, who, with the courage of heroes and the zeal of martyrs, struggled for and obtained the charter of liberty which England now enjoys. Hume, with all his hostility to the Bible, says, “the precious spark of liberty had been kindled and was preserved by the Puritans alone, and it was to this sect the English owe the whole freedom of their Constitution.
Pass we to the period of the American revolution! Who were the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Who were the men, whose wisdom in council, and whose daring in the field, delivered us from foreign oppression, and made us a free and independent nation? Who was Washington? His character is settled beyond all dispute—his sentiments are known and recorded. The infidel can never refer to him for authority. The Atheist can never enroll him among those who believe the universe is without a Father and a God. His examples and his opinions are to travel down with the richest influence to future ages, and his purity of life in the cabinet and the camp, his reverence for the Bible and the institutions of religion, are to be spoken of with the profoundest regard by millions yet unborn.
Who was Patrick Henry, the man who struck the notes of freedom to which this nation responded, and were changed from subjects of a British king to independent freemen? He has not left his religious sentiments in doubt. In his will is found the following passage : “I have now disposed of all my property to my family—there is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the religion of the Bible. If they had that, and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.”
Who was Samuel Adams, on of the brightest stars in the constellation of great names, that adorned that era? “Adams,” says his biographer, “was a Christian. That last production of his pen was in defence of Christian truth, and he died in the faith of the gospel.”
And who was Roger Sherman? His biographer says, “few men had a higher reverence for the Bible; few men studied it with deeper attention, and a few were more intimately acquainted with its doctrines?” And who does not know that Livingston, and Stockton, and Witherspoon, and Benjamin Rush, bowed with profound reverence to the teaching of the Bible, and drew from its precepts their strongest incentives in their self-sacrificing labors? The Bible, then we say it without the fear of successful contradiction—the Bible, in its influence more than any thing else, has made us what we are—a free and independent nation. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupt public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.
[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 442-443.]