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Affluent Christian Investor | September 20, 2017

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The American Covenant: How American Independence Arose from the Colonial Pulpits

Declaration of Independence (painted by John Trumbull) (1819)

Declaration of Independence (painted by John Trumbull) (1819)

The American Compact is a covenant which secures God’s Law, referenced as Natural Law, for His children’s freedom, articulated by our Forefathers and Founding Fathers as Liberty. The sole purpose of civil government is to secure this liberty. The only just and righteous civil government is one obedient to God’s Law and instituting a government designed by God. The model of such a government, as explained in Scripture, is the government from the Sinai dessert of the ancient Hebrews. The American colonial clergy clearly understood this and purposely and deliberately orated this from the pulpit; the Hebrew republic and the Laws of God. From the Colonial pulpits this message was all the same – the same source which was God and His Word; Divine Law. All of their sermons on liberty, God’s Law, Natural Law, Compacts, and just Rulers emanate from the same source; God and His Word.

Throughout this article series exists much overlap, but that is simply a result of the single source from which these Colonial pastors reference; God and His Word. Dr. Alice Baldwin, in 1928, as an expansion of her doctoral thesis, uncovers the profound wisdom and message which derived from the American pulpit from the time of the Pilgrims and puritans up through the Revolutionary generation. The American clergy were on fire with, not only the Word of God, but, shaping and articulating how Scripture disclosed the role of a just and godly civil government. Dr. Baldwin gives us a unique and amazing window into our founding and foundation of the American experience which must guide us to this day.

Duke University historian, Dr. Alice Baldwin, in her extensive 1928 study of the Colonial pulpit, states unreservedly,

“No one can fully understand the American Revolution and the American constitutional system without a realization of the long history and religious associations which lie behind these words [life, liberty and property]; without realizing that for a hundred years before the Revolution men were taught that these rights were protected by divine, inviolable law.”[1]

Dr. Alice Baldwin reported in 1928 that the direct tie to Scripture of the American founding and its incorporating compacts eluded historians. Dr. Baldwin revealed,

“The significance of the belief in the binding character of law upon God and man seems to have escaped many who write of the Revolutionary philosophy. It is fundamental to any understanding of American constitutional thought. God’s government is founded on and limited by law and therefore all human governments must be so founded and limited, if patterned after His.”[2]

This is the framework of the Federal Constitution within the Declaration of Independence under Natural Law (God’s Law as articulated in Scripture). Dr. Baldwin explains that the 1600s and 1700s New England clergy,

“founded their theology and church polity upon the law of God as revealed in the natural law and the written word, so from the law of God they developed their political theories.”[3]

Founding Father, and first American President under the Articles of Confederation, Elias Boudinot[4] declared the Bible

“the most valuable book in the world…both to the wise and ignorant [and]…the Alpha and Omega of knowledge.”[5]

Essentially the history of colonial compacts taught the Americans exactly how to operate and execute this type of social and governing system. “These charters, even though from England,” reveals Dr. Donald Lutz, “did accustom the colonists to running their own local governments and to doing so within the framework of a document, a charter, that legitimized and limited their political activity…the American political tradition were covenants or compacts written by the colonists.”[6]

Influenced by Enlightenment writer John Locke, the Colonial pulpits, years before the Revolution, preached the fiery message of the colonists falling back into the state of nature due to the Crown breaking their Compact. This was critical to them as justification to also becoming independent. This was Scriptural to the Colonial clergy. Dr. Baldwin writes,

“the sermons applied this doctrine to the right of the majority and to the making and changing of constitutions. Compacts and their sacredness were a constant theme…the King in permitting the charters to be broken had been guilty of breaking the compact and therefore released the colonies from allegiance.”

As a result of the breaking of the Compact, many of the pastors preached and declared that “the colonists were necessarily thrown back into a state of nature and resumed all rights which they had originally possessed.” [7] This was a direct acknowledgement of fundamental rights bestowed upon the people by God the rightful King.

Specific jurisdiction of authority was not only articulated by Reverend Samuel Rutherford in 1644 in his treatise on just government, Lex, Rex, but he was using direct Biblical references for his arguments on government and its responsibilities and limitations. Taking from the New Testament book of Romans, Rutherford writes,

“No prince [government] hath a masterly or lordly dominion over his subjects, but only a free, ingenuous, paternal and tutorly oversight for the good of the people. (Rom. Xiii. 4.).”[8]

The clergy of the 1600s and 1700s of colonial New England believed and preached that the only just government was founded on compact, or covenant, and based on Scripture where reason and nature emanated revelation as the voice of God.[9]

The Colonial clergy recognized this view of the entering into a civil society in their sermons leading up to the Constitutional Convention. The fiery and popular minister Jonas Clark of Lexington articulated this concept of government and society and natural rights writing in regards to State and civil constitutions:

It may be observed that it appears to us that in emerging from the state of nature into a state of well regulated society, mankind gave up some of their natural rights in order that others of greater importance to their well-being, safety and happiness, both as societies and individuals… a civil Constitution or form of government is of the nature of a most sacred covenant or contract entered into by the individuals which form the society, for which such Constitution or form of government is intended… That the main and great end of establishing any Constitution or form of government among a people or in society, is to maintain, secure and defend those natural rights inviolate.[10]

In 1710 a Massachusetts Minister Ebenezer Pemberton proclaimed, “The Original of Government is Divine. It is from God, by His Sovereign Constitution and Appointment.” The very same sentiment roared fifty years later, during the rise of protests leading up to the Revolution, as Minister Benjamin Stevens of Kittery, Massachusetts declared, “Liberty both civil and religious is the spirit and genius of the sacred writings.”[11] The fire of the spirit of liberty and freedom, as scriptural and as binding for government, had remained ever present since the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620. Civil government, it was preached in a 1669 Election Sermon, was defined as, “from the Light and the Law of Nature and the Law of Nature is God’s Law.”[12]

These truths of liberty and Biblical truths continued after July 1776 to be the foundational underpinning of many of the New England clergy as momentum built for a new constitution. The moral compact must underprop the structural compact. The Colonial ministers knew this and their pulpits continued upholding these truths. In 1783 Reverend Isaac Backus wrote,

“The American revolution is wholly built upon this doctrine, that all men are born with an equal right to what Providence gives them, and that all righteous government is founded in compact or covenant, which is equally binding upon the officers and members of each community.”[13]

Pastor Backus is clearly reiterating the source of the Preamble of the Declaration articulating our Fundamental Rights.

The clergy of Colonial New England poured from the pulpit their view of polity directly from Scripture.

“The Old Testament furnished many illustrations of covenant relations, of the limitations placed upon rulers and people, of natural rights, of the divine constitution, etc. The New Testament gave authority for the liberties of Christians, for the relations of Christians to those in authority over them, and for the right of resistance. Indeed, there was never a principle derived from the more secular reading that was not strengthened and sanctified by the Scriptures.”[14]

The colonial clergy shared completely this same moral objective and issued this oratory throughout the century and a half leading up to the American Revolution. In 1713, Pastor John Bulkley of Connecticut spoke to this very point, which most ministers did as well during the 15 decades between Plymouth and Lexington; using the very language which would be set into the Federal Compact and other State Compacts Pastor Bulkley states,

“Its not in the Power of Rulers to make Laws they please, Suspend, Abrogate or Disanul them at pleasure…As for Mens Civil Rights, as Life, Liberty, Estate, &c…yet all must be done in due Subordination to those Laws of God that have made it a Sin in any to invade these Rights of a People.”[15]

[1] Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 50.

[2] Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 25.

[3] Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 29.

[4] Elias Boudinot, one of our primary Founding Fathers, served in the New Jersey Congress for three terms, a delegate to the Continental Congress and served as its President from 1872 to 1783, served as commissary general of prisoners at the request of George Washington, signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, co-designer of the Great Seal of the United States, trustee of the College of new Jersey (Princeton University), Director of the U.S. Mint from 1795 to 1805, and founder of the American Bible Society in 1816 and its first president.

[5] Elias Boudinot, 2009 (originally published in 1801), The Age of Revelation: The Age of Reason Shewen to be an Age of Infidelity, (Power Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. xxii.

[6] Donald S. Lutz, 1988, The Origins of American Constitutionalism, (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press), p. 37 and p.38.

[7] Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 162.

[8] Rev. Samuel Rutherford, 2014 (originally published in 1644), Lex, Rex: The Just Prerogative of King and People, “Question XXX: Whether or No Passive Obedience be a Mean to which We are Subjected in Conscience, by Virtue of a Divine Commandment; and What a Mean Resistance Is. That Flying is Resistance.” (Lexington, KY; Edinburgh, Scotland: Robert Ogle and Oliver & Boyd), p. 153.

[9] Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), pp. 32-33.

[10] Jonas Clark, June 1778, from Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), pp. 173-174.

[11] Benjamin Stevens, 1761, “Massachusetts Election Sermon,” in Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 29.

[12] John Davenport, 1669, “Massachusetts Election Sermon,” in Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 34.

[13] Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 176, footnote 11.

[14] Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 10.

[15] John Bulkley, 1713, “Connecticut Election Sermon,” in Alice M. Baldwin (Joel McDermon, ed.), 2014 (originally published in 1928), The New England Pulpit and the American Revolution (originally titled, The New England Clergy and the American Revolution), (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press), p. 49. The same tone, language, and moral objectives was repeated throughout the period of early-mid 1600s through the Revolutionary period by clergy.

Jim Huntzinger began his career as a manufacturing engineer with Aisin Seiki (a Toyota Group company and manufacturer of automotive components) when they transplanted to North America to support Toyota. Over his career he has also researched at length the evolution of manufacturing in the United States with an emphasis on lean’s influence and development. In addition to his research on TWI, he has extensively researched the history of Ford’s Highland Park plant and its direct tie to Toyota’s business model and methods of operation.

Huntzinger is the President and Founder of Lean Frontiers and a graduate from Purdue University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology and received a M.S. in Engineering Management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He authored the book, Lean Cost Management: Accounting for Lean by Establishing Flow, was a contributing author to Lean Accounting: Best Practices for Sustainable Integration.

 

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