This Month in History
*American Seal adopted
*Jonathan Edwards ousted
*Matthew Henry's son's birth
*Philip Doddridge's birth
*Animal Cruelty Act passed
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" --Genesis 18:14
"This is a government of LAW, not men!" So said Chief Justice Marshall of the United States Supreme Court to the first generation under the present Constitution To that generation, his meaning was profound. To ours, it is over most Heads.
Most of us today would simply assume that the chief justice was saying that government function is by passing laws. He said no such thing. His generation, although by nose count were far more illiterate than today, had understanding. The Federalist Papers were written for public consumption and distributed in saloons and other public gathering places. They were powerfully persuasive and had much to do with winning support for the new Constitution. Today, they are reserved for study by graduate students, many of whom cannot even then make sense of them.
But Christians normally are the most astute people in the world politically, and our forefathers were no exception. They understood the difference between "law" and "laws" or, better, "decrees. " Law as such inescapably has to mean a universal, unchanging principle of good and
evil, or of right and wrong. This much was as clear to the pagan philosophers as it is to Christian thinkers, and one of the points of contact between the two in the early centuries was precisely this agreement on the reality of a universal, eternal moral law overruling all men.
Aristotle, for example, could teach that the purpose of government was to promote virtue. He had no need to qualify what virtue is or to allow in any way for the possibility that virtue might be other than what it is in another. The pagan philosophers were in accord with Hebrew Scriptures that there are four virtues --wisdom, courage, justice and temperance. The very idea of justice demands an eternal principle of right and wrong, the source of all laws.
Cicero, pointing to an unquestioned fact that law was the same in Athens as in Rome and in Carthage, and the same yesterday as tomorrow drew from that fact the certainty that there is a Lawgiver: "And that is God," he said.
Such an eternal law, which is somehow imparted to men sufficiently to enable us to rule the created order by it, is not only inseparable from Scripture but is made explicit there in the Ten Commandments.
The "statutes and judgments" so often seen of in Scripture refer to the decrees given to men to promulgate the details of the law, and of the court decisions by which guidance or precedence is given for specific cases. The Apostle Paul imputes a natural or intuitive knowledge of this law in the hearts of all men and therefore holds all accountable before God whether or not they have the benefit of Scriptures.
It has been said that it is impossible to make sense out of the Old Testament without presupposing this law, made known to men in their hearts, which is usually called "natural law."
Marshallís statement, altogether in line with this great stream of human faith, leaves no doubt about the matter. Had he been asked, "Whose law?" Quite possibly he might have replied "Ultimately, Godís." If our laws did not originate with God and were not necessarily drawn from Godís eternal law and in accord with it, then they had to be menís laws; and such a meaning would have reduced the chief justiceís words to absurdity, being self-contradicting. For if the laws have by which we are ruled are from men, then ours is a government of men after all. For all things ruled by law --God so rules, consummately. But if men make the laws, then men rule. And that is the great issue of life --Godís law or menís tyranny. For trying to rule by his own laws, for seeking to take the fruit of the tree of determining good and evil, Adam brought the whole race into ruin. But it was by that law, and in perfect justice, that Jesus Christ redeemed our race, and not only fulfilled the law but gave to men the means once more of government by it.
--T. Robert Ingram, Rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church and School, Houston, Texas Reprinted from The Presbyterian Journal, December 1, 1976
THREE THINGS THAT AMAZE ME
I never cease to be amazed at professing Christians --
1.) Who go to the world for their standard of music;
2.) Who go to the world for their standard of dress; and
3.) Who go to the world for its approval (called "accreditation") of their education.
Are not we to be a people "called out" from the world, to be a distinct people, an "holy nation," a "peculiar people," an "especial treasure" for our God?
Jean Francois Millet completed his painting in 1859 and sold it the same year for $400. Upon his death in 1875, it was sold the last time and for the amount of $150,000. It now hangs in the Louvre.
As a child, his mother would take him to see the new bells in the church tower which would amaze him as to their size and deep resounding tones. Each morning, noon and night all over France, these "Angelus" bells call men and women to prayer.
Such had a deep impression on his mind as a child, and when he was grown, he wanted to paint such a scene in which everyone could hear the "deep tones of the Angelus bell."
20, 1782 --The American Seal is approved by Congress and contains the "Eye of God" directly above the pyramid. The words, "annuit coeptis" signify, "He hath favored our undertaking."
22, 1750 --Jonathan Edwards is dismissed from his church by his own congregation. The cause for the dismissal lay in his requirement for a regenerated church membership.
24, 1697 --Matthew Henry has his 4th child, but calling to remembrance his fatherís death this day last year, he writes, "This child has come into a world of tears." In less than a year and a half, the child will die.
26, 1702 ĖPhilip Doddridge is born in London, England. Showing little sign of life, he is thrown aside as dead. Fortunately, an attendant will give him necessary care; and he will live.
29, 1906 --The Cruelty to Animals Act is passed by Congress.
In 1646, Edward Fisher, than a professor at Oxford, published a book entitled, The Marrow of Divinity. First appearing in England, the work made quite a sensation! The second part appeared in 1648. Thomas Boston found a copy, which had been brought to Scotland by a soldier of the Commonwealth returning from England. Briefly stated, it maintained:
1.) The Gospel strictly viewed, contains neither precepts nor threatenings, but is merely a declaration of the glad tidings of salvation. 2.) In it God makes a gift of Christ as a Saviour to sinners of mankind as such, warranting everyone who hears the Gospel to believe on Him for salvation. 3.) That saving Faith includes personal appropriation and assurance. 4.) Believers are entirely freed from the law as a covenant of works, though not as the law of Christ.
5.) The servile fear of Hell and hope of Heaven as a reward, something due to our works are not the proper motives to Evangelical and acceptable obedience. Boston entrusted Ebenezer Erskine to draft these points, which in turn were signed by 12 ministers. However, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland rejected it.