Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Plea for Something Greater Than More Government

I’ve discovered a new source of incredible reading material lately. The Federalist Papers were written in 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Eighty-five articles were written on various topics, but the primary purpose was to encourage people to support the ratification of the United States Constitution by the thirteen states then in existence.

I would love to expound on each of these eighty-five at some point, but I fear I would quickly lose readers. An article on The Federalist Papers just doesn’t grab most people. That’s a little unfortunate, but also understandable. What I would like to point out is the incredible faith and ability to reason that these men had. They can write on a topic with such grace and beauty that I am left in awe. I intend to give one example here.

In Federalist #51, James Madison is discussing the idea of limited power of the government – a timely subject given the recent news headlines. His point is directed along the lines that government power must be limited, because government possesses the same flaws as man. His words on this topic specifically:

“It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Madison’s treatment of this subject using the comparison of men and angels is brilliant. When put in this light, the concept becomes relatively simple. If men had the character of angels, they would not need government oversight because their lives would be pure and free from corruption. Since men are not angels, we require such oversight. But, unfortunately, the government is made up of men – who, once again, are not angels. One look at the day’s news will reveal the corruption that is rampant in our government officials. This flaw in government’s character means that the power of the government must also be limited, because left unchecked, the government will begin extorting the people it is supposed to serve – all for its own ends. Does that sound familiar?

And so we are left with the third choice – that is, a government of men watching over men. And this naturally implies that there will be imperfections and injustice along the way. If you are looking for the government to always do the right thing, or settle things fairly and impartially, you will be left wanting. It is a system which has distinct advantages and often serves very well but it is rooted in the imperfection of man, which means that it will go through periods of injustice and inequity.

What we need is an overseer that is fair, just, good, and who never changes. And for this, we have a solution. The Lord God is exactly who we need in times such as this. We can look to Him for wisdom and instruction – on secular topics such as politics, economics, philosophy, and ethics. If our political leaders would return to this fact, then our nation would once again live under God’s blessing and power. Even a casual observation of the founding fathers words reveals their great faith and belief in God as the Creator and Ruler of all. Patrick Henry said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” And John Jay, one of the authors of The Federalist Papers and the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court said, “God has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Imagine how our nation would be changed by leaders such as this today.

Is it too late to expect this to happen in our nation? No – with God, all things are possible. We should be frequently on our knees in prayer for our nation, our leaders, and our fallen world. That is one of my resolutions for 2009.

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