One stark difference between our nation now and what we saw a mere 60 years ago is how we treated and acted toward one another. Going all the way back to the Revolutionary War days, we viewed one another as brothers and sisters. Of course, you always had the miscreants and hoodlums who refused such understanding. That’s because it’s easier to rob and corrupt isolated people, with no neighbors or families looking out for their interests. In contrast to the ideas of thieves, the basics of who we were as citizens gave us a thought of family. This national mantra had to do with several philosophies. The first was the early Puritan understanding of Christian brotherhood. The second was fostered from the previous as brothers-in-arms during the Revolutionary War. The last had to do with the meaning of the word Federal. Federal comes from a Latin word meaning “covenant.” From the earliest Puritan days, before the Federal government came into existence, covenantal thought ran the towns and villages up and down part of the eastern seaboard. The basic necessity of this was for survival. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you was derived from Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31 as well as some Old Testament principles.
There has always been a long standing argument concerning how much of this attitude came with the Puritans, and how much came from other religious groups as they settled and mingled with the Puritans as well as other Englishmen. These Puritans brought what I call “covenant understanding on steroids” to the New World as a form of government. As part of the foundational rule of the aristocracy and nobility, the English viewed one another as brothers. Quite often there was a familial connection to whatever crown was on the throne at the time. There was also a carry-over understanding from feudal times of land ownership and nobility rule. This is how England formed her government.
The aristocratic noblemen were usually large landowners. They gave land for the towns to flourish and thrive. Farmers leased farms and made arrangements with the noblemen concerning the production of the land and how much would be given to the farmers in consideration for their work. Obviously, the feudal way of life was bitter and harsh. Over time, a more capitalistic form of economics in government became infused with the monarchal way of life. Even then, this left very little room for dissension in either religion or politics, or as was often the case, both. That’s because in much of the world, church and state were one.
But the Puritans who sailed to the New World had a very different view of what government should look like. Students of today are totally shocked to find how religious the early colonial government of America was. Many were theocratic in form and nature; some were more non-sectarian, like those in New York. Read this quote from John Robinson, pastor of the Pilgrim:
“Lastly, whereas you are to become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government, and are not furnished with any persons of special eminency above the rest to be chosen by you into office of government, let your wisdom and godliness appear, not only in choosing such persons as do entirely love, and will promote the common good, but also in yielding unto them all due honour and obedience in their lawful administrations…”1
The idea that men without special aristocracy, elitism or noble birth could and should govern themselves for the common good of all, started with these Puritans who birthed our form of government, and stayed with their descendants throughout the writing of our Federal documents. The idea of brotherhood extended throughout centuries, even as they were deliberating whether to form a militia which could be used to defend themselves against an ever hostile England. Patrick Henry makes these observations during the debate:
“And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which the gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House.” (The House of Burgesses) “Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received? Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.” (Remember that Jesus was betrayed with a kiss) “Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petitions comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir. These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort.”2
I’ve often read many statements like this throughout my study of American history. In my reasoning they are revealing, for if you had no covenant, no agreement of brotherly respect and love in Christian grace, why would you expect to have hope of reconciliation? There would and should be no expectation of brotherly love.
In modern times, we have let our individualism revert to selfishness by refusing to understand the difference between what is a true form of freedom and a lie, used exclusively by progressive socialists to promote a “feeling” of liberty, without the true intent of freedom. What do I mean by that and why would progressive-socialists do so? What I refer to is similar to a pastor’s preaching. Quite frequently, pastors like to get down to the nitty-gritty of where people live. This is to help, protect and warn folks what potential dangers can be revealed in everyday life.
Secularly, our press is supposed to tell the truth of what is really going on within various factions within a society. This will tell the rest of society where there is the potential to create problems for everyone else. When the press refuses to do so because it is politically incorrect, we then can be sold a lie. When the press uses that practice to lie about the political motives of those practicing politically correct dialog in contrast to telling the truth, progressive socialism then becomes communism. The populace has no idea what factions of our society are dangerous and they, in turn, then spout the same lies as the press or the military or the political parties or whatever other outlet picks up the practice. Why would progressive-socialists do so? Well, to hide the true intent of their desires. Those desires are to steal the nation’s wealth and freedoms through unnecessary laws, ordinances, rules and regulations.
Let me leave you this month with a quote from Daniel Webster, conservative lawyer and recurrent senator from Massachusetts (first elected 1822 and 1827-1841) as well as Secretary of State under three presidents (William Henry Harrison, John Tyler and Millard Fillmore). Let’s see what was important to statesmen from long ago in keeping our republic and its citizens safe:
“And let us remember that it is only religion, and morals, and knowledge, that can make men respectable and happy under any form of government. Let us hold fast the great truth that communities are responsible, as well as individuals, and that without unspotted purity of public faith, without sacred public principle, fidelity, and honor, no mere forms of government, no machinery of laws, can give dignity to political society. In our day and generation let us seek to raise and improve the moral sentiment, so that we may look, not for a degraded, but for an elevated and improved, future.”3
It seems what was important then, is not so very different from what’s important now. I hope we can begin to see why the idea and need for covenant is even greater. America has many enemies within and without our nation. In order for the early settlers to survive when the wolves were at the door, something had to keep them as a cohesive unit. They may have had a huge gulf between their belief systems, but they understood the need for both religious and non-sectarian covenant agreements. Those agreements could sustain the unity of the colonies when nothing else could. It could help them spot the lies of the proverbial “wolves in sheep’s clothing” trying to divide and conquer a country. Let’s learn how to spot the lies of the modern day press, presbytery, professors and politicians so that we may also look for “an elevated and improved future.”
1. John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 Vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1. In the public domain. l (roman numeral 50)
2. Public domain. All copies of this speech are not from the pen of Henry himself. They are garnered from the memory of those in attendance and reconstructed in a biography by William Wirt of Patrick Henry published in 1817. Site © 2008 Lillian Goldman Law Library, New Haven, CT. Accessed 3/2/16
3. Benjamin Franklin Morris. “Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic.” (Introduction by Byron Sunderland, Washington, D.C., April 16, 1863) Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 628 & 630 Chestnut St., Cincinnati: Rickey & Carroll, 1864. 277. In the public domain.