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What Founding Fathers' Warnings Mean for Today’s Presidential Candidates
Posted by Temmy
Fri, July 05, 2024 5:16pm




ABC News has shifted President Biden’s interview tonight with George Stephanopoulos to primetime. Seldom in American history has so much ridden on a single conversation, but this is just one example of the continuing turmoil regarding Mr. Biden’s future. According to the New York Times, he has told key allies that he knows he has only days to salvage his presidential candidacy.

In light of today’s news, consider this warning from one political leader to his colleagues:

We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and by-word down to future ages.

Was this a reflection of our current political climate? Actually, these words were spoken by Benjamin Franklin on June 28, 1787, at the Constitutional Convention. According to James Madison, Franklin was deeply concerned about “the small progress made and the different sentiments” being expressed as the infant nation struggled to forge a common governance.

Franklin’s solution?

I, therefore, beg to leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.

This from a man widely considered a deist rather than an orthodox Christian. But even Benjamin Franklin recognized his nation’s urgent need for divine guidance and strength. Others, however, did not—one delegate remarked that the Convention had no money to hire a chaplain, and the assembly adjourned without voting on the motion.

“The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God”
While the Constitutional Convention did not formally endorse Mr. Franklin’s recommendation, another Founder typically thought to be a deist might have. Consider the theology espoused in our Declaration of Independence, authored primarily by Thomas Jefferson:

o It speaks of “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
o It claims that men are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.”
o It appeals to “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions.”
o And it closes with “a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”

In fact, as president, Jefferson issued a “prayer for the nation” in 1801 in which he asked God to “save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.” Both he and Franklin were right: fallen humans need help beyond ourselves to become a people capable of independence.

Monarchies such as the one from which we rebelled typically believe in the “divine right of kings” to rule over their lesser subjects. Autocracies are typically ruled by dictators who consider themselves superior by virtue of religious office or personal attributes.

By contrast, America’s democracy is founded on the belief that “all men are created equal.” This means we are subject to no one by virtue of their innate superiority. But it also means that none of us is worthy of unaccountable authority over others.

The fact that our Founders recognized this paradoxical truth provides yet another reason I’m grateful to be an American today.

My skin cancer experience
Here’s the catch: we need God’s help to become godly people. Drowning people cannot save themselves. Sinful people cannot make themselves holy.

I recently had a skin cancer removed. It was a minor event—the surgeon reported that she got “clean margins,” meaning that she removed the entire malignancy, and all is well. But it occurs to me that I am trusting her in this. I have no ability to confirm her report myself. If she chose to lie or were incompetent, I would not know it until the remaining cancer became symptomatic and the malignancy became harder to treat.

Jesus is still the Great Physician. As such, we can trust him to diagnose spiritual disease we do not see and remove it completely by his atoning grace (1 John 1:9). His Spirit can sanctify unholy people, molding us into the character of Christ (Romans 8:29). The key is for us to seek and trust his transforming power.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335–c. 394) wrote of Jesus:

He is like a pure, untainted stream. If you draw from him the thoughts in your mind and the inclinations of your heart, you will show a likeness to Christ, your source and origin, as the gleaming water in a jar resembles the flowing water from which it was obtained.

For the purity of Christ and the purity that is manifest in our hearts are identical. Christ’s purity, however, is the fountainhead; ours has its source in him and flows out of him. Our life is stamped with the beauty of his thought. The inner and the outer man are harmonized in a kind of music. The mind of Christ is the controlling influence that inspires us to moderation and goodness in our behavior.

“Christianity without the living Christ”
And so, once more this week, we see that our best and most patriotic service to our nation is for us to be a people capable of the liberty we celebrate. Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed:

“Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”

For the sake of our nation and your soul, would you ask the “living Christ” to make you more like himself than you have ever been?





 

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