By Pastor David Whitney
Monday was a special day in the history of our land – it was Constitution Day, the day we celebrate and give thanks to God for the miracle in Philadelphia. I use the word miracle carefully, it was used by both George Washington and James Madison in their correspondence describing the results of the Constitutional Convention.
Having gone through that difficult experience in the stifling heat of Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, they knew from the start that the prospects for a good outcome were slim. They saw the apparently intractable differences of the States which the delegates represented. They understood that those differences would not easily be resolved. One State, Rhode Island, refused to send any delegates at all to the Convention. From the start, things did not go well.
On Thursday June 28th when things looked particularly impossible, the venerable aged statesman Benjamin Franklin arose to speak. Addressing George Washington, he said:
The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other — our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding.
We indeed seem to feel our own wont of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.
In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered.
All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.
I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.”
I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age.
And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.
I therefore beg 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.
Many of the delegates later testified that this call to prayer changed the whole direction and tenor of the convention. Even though they agreed they had no money to do what Franklin suggested, the individual delegates began to pray for God’s intervention, and He answered those prayers. That is why so many declared what took place that summer, what concluded on September 17th, as a miracle.
God intervened, prayers were answered, the impasses broken through, the necessary compromises achieved, and the results brought the blessings of liberty to their posterity now going on 230 years. This is quite remarkable.
Today the Constitution of the United States is the oldest and most successful national constitution in the world. It took a miracle; it was an answer to prayer. And for these reasons and many more, today we specifically give God thanks, praise and adoration for the miracle He did on our behalf in Philadelphia. We must never take it for granted.
And it was Daniel Webster who exhorted us:
“Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster and what has happened once in 6,000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.”
You know as well as I do that we are in dire straits today because the U.S. Constitution, though it is the Supreme Law of the Land, is not understood by a majority of citizens, but what is even more tragic is that it is not known or obeyed by the majority of those who swear an oath to uphold it.
The New York Times recently published an interview with retiring Federal Judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Posner admitted, “I pay little attention to legal rules, statutes, constitutional provisions.”
When confronted with a case with some form of legal obstacle in the way he said he would look to circumvent whatever prevented him from reaching his desired result, “When you have a Supreme Court case or something similar, they’re often extremely easy to get around,” said Posner. When judges make law instead of applying Constitutional law already made, they do not defend us from tyrants, but rather become tyrants themselves.
I had an interesting encounter with law enforcement last Friday evening at the County Fair. We had gone to the fair, primarily, to see what our girls had won in the competitions they entered. At the gate after buying tickets, an officer from the Sheriff’s department called me aside. I was wearing Second Amendment gear, but with an empty holster. He asked me if I was Law enforcement of Federal, State or Local jurisdictions. I replied that I was not. He asked me if I was carrying a firearm, to which I replied that I was not. I proceeded to show him my empty holster and explain to him why I did so.
The Maryland State Constitution in its Militia provisions, as well as the U.S. Constitution in its five statements regarding the Militia and the Second Amendment to our Constitution, are all sworn to be upheld and followed exactly as they were designed to operate by our Founders by every office holder in Maryland. If those oaths made before Almighty God were adhered to by the Governor, by the Judges, the Legislature, and even the Sheriff, my empty holster would be filled. How can the police carry weapons when they derive their power from the people, if the people cannot carry firearms?
My empty holster is a protest against a civil government who will not obey their oath of office and for that violation they shall have to give an account on judgment day to Almighty God. The officer said he agreed with me, but before I went on to enjoy the fair, I paused to thank him for his service to our community.
Now that may seem rather odd. Thanking a man who has sworn an oath before Almighty God to do a certain set of things he is not doing. I wasn’t thanking him for what he was not doing, but thanking him for those things he was doing for the good of our community.
If that seems odd, let’s look at how this played out in Scripture. We know what Paul is going to do in the epistle to Philemon. Philemon was a slave owner and one of his slaves, Onesimus had not only run away but apparently stolen from his master. Onesimus had encountered the Apostle Paul in Rome where Paul was under house arrest. Through the preaching and teaching of the Apostle, Onesimus had come to faith in Jesus Christ. After beginning to disciple Onesimus, Paul sent him back to his master Philemon with this Epistle.
In this epistle Paul is going to ask Philemon not to do to Onesimus what he had under Roman law the power to do – punish him severely. We know in some instances in accordance to Roman Law that punishment for a runaway was punishment unto death. Rather, Paul is going to make an astonishing request, that Philemon emancipate Onesimus and send him back to discipleship under Paul and ministry with Paul in spreading the Gospel in Rome. Paul is going to gently rebuke Philemon and graciously ask him for a very large favor. Before he does that, look at what he says. Philemon 4-5, “I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers.”
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