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Reclaiming the Glory of Self-Government (3)

The great reformer, Martin Luther, underscored the principle of self-government when he said, “Love God and do as you please.” In other words, the man or woman who loves the Lord and lives in joyful obedience to God’s law is free to do as they please. Liberty is not the right to do whatever I want whenever I want. That is anarchy. Biblical liberty is the ability to do that which is virtuous. Moral freedom is the tap root of the Liberty Tree.

Our founding fathers clearly understood this connection between Christianity and self-government. In his Farewell Address, September 17, 1796, George Washington observed, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” 

President John Adams agreed. He wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

James Madison, our 4th President and the chief architect of the Constitution concurred: “We have staked the whole of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

Those who are lawless and rebellious demonstrate a complete lack of self-control and must necessarily be restrained by a government outside of themselves.  I love this quote by Edmund Burke, the great British orator and statesman during the time of the Revolution. It highlights the unbreakable link between liberty and virtue. He writes,

“What is liberty without wisdom and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils: for it is folly, vice and madness, without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

A large federal government is the sign of a lack of self-government among the people. When we are weak and lack self-control, “our passions forge our fetters.” Perhaps this explains our current predicament.

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