OUR FOREFATHERS’ COVENANT
January 17, 2020
It becomes pretty clear when you read some of the early founders’ documents that they had a VERY strong purpose in establishing this nation – as well as the early colonies – as a place where Jesus Christ is Lord!
The way they expressed themselves back then would go over about like a lead balloon today, but when you realize that they were fed up with a state-sponsored religion, as was England, it isn’t hard to understand their vehemence.
Last week, we quoted the first part of Maryland's Act Concerning Religion. There’s a lot more to go, so let’s take a look at it.
An Act Concerning Religion (continued)
(Note: I have corrected the spelling of the archaic English in order to make it more readable.)
And be it further likewise Enacted by the Authority and consent aforesaid That every person or persons within this Province that shall at any time hereafter profane the Sabbath or Lords day called Sunday by frequent swearing, drunkenness or by any uncivil or disorderly recreation, or by working on that day when absolute necessity doth not require it shall be every such first offence forfeit 2s. 6d sterling or the value thereof, and for the second offence 5s sterling or the value thereof, and for the third offence and so for every time he shall offend in like manner afterwards 10s sterling or the value thereof.
And in case such offender and offenders shall not have sufficient goods or chattels within this Province to satisfy any of the said Penalties respectively hereby imposed for profaning the Sabbath or Lord’s day called Sunday as aforesaid, That in Every such case the party so offending shall for the first and second offence in that kind be imprisoned till he or she shall publicly in open Court before the Chief Commander Judge or Magistrate, of that County Towne or precinct where such offence shall be committed acknowledge the Scandal and offence he hath in that respect given against God and the good and civil Government of this Province,
And for the third offence and for every time after shall also be publicly whipped. And whereas the enforcing of the conscience in matters of Religion hath frequently fallen out to be of dangerous Consequence in those commonwealths where it hath been practiced, And for the more quiet and peaceable government of this Province, and the better to preserve mutual Love and amity amongst the Inhabitants thereof.
Be it Therefore also by the Lord Proprietary with the advice and consent of this Assembly Ordained & enacted (except as in this present Act is before Declared and set forth) that no person or persons whatsoever within this Province, or the Islands, Ports, Harbors, Creek, or havens thereunto belonging professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be any ways troubled, Molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province or the Islands thereunto belonging, nor any way compelled to the belief or exercise of any other Religion against his or her consent, so as they be not unfaithful to the Lord Proprietary, or molest or conspire against the civil Government established or to be established in this Province under him or his heirs.
And that all & every person and persons that shall presume Contrary to this Act and the true intent and meaning thereof directly or indirectly either in person or estate willfully to wrong disturb trouble or molest any person whatsoever within this Province professing to believe in Jesus Christ for or in respect of his or her religion or the free exercise thereof within this Province other than is provided for in this Act that such person or persons so offending, shall be compelled to pay treble damages to the party so wronged or molested, and for every such offence shall also forfeit 20s sterling in money or the value thereof, half thereof for the use of the Lord Proprietary, and his heirs Lords and Proprietaries of this Province, and the other half for the use of the party so wronged or molested as aforesaid,
Or if the party so offending as aforesaid shall refuse or be unable to recompense the party so wronged, or to satisfy such fine or forfeiture, then such Offender shall be severely punished by public whipping & imprisonment during the pleasure of the Lord Proprietary, or his Lieutenant or Chief Governor of this Province for the time being without bail or mainprise.
And be it further also Enacted by the authority and consent aforesaid That the Sheriff or other Officer or Officers from time to time to be appointed & authorized for that purpose, of the County Town or precinct where every particular offence in this present Act contained shall happen at any time to be committed and whereupon there is hereby a forfeiture fine or penalty imposed shall from time to time detain and seize the goods and estate of every such person so offending as aforesaid against this present Act or any part thereof, and sell the same or any part thereof for the full satisfaction of such forfeiture, fine, or penalty as aforesaid, Restoring unto the party so offending the Remainder or over plus of the said goods or estate after such satisfaction so made as aforesaid.
Whewww!!! Strong, isn't it?
We can look back in retrospect and see that while their motives were certainly pure, the methods and efforts to enforce a Christian environment crossed the line where an individual's freewill choice (of a relationship with Jesus Christ) was involved. One can legislate a moral environment and create laws that impose penalties for public immorality, but one cannot legislate spirituality. I've no doubt that the framers of our Constitution took this into account.
Nevertheless, this 1649 Act served as the law of the land in Maryland (where religious liberties were concerned) for roughly 220 years until Maryland organized itself as a state and ratified a new state constitution.
Even with an amendment to the state constitution which was ratified in 1970 to deal with the FDR Court's abominable and errant interpretation of the first Amendment to the United States Constitution, the Maryland State Constitution of 1867 still contains the following verbiage:
Article 36. That as it is the duty of every man to worship God in such manner as he thinks most acceptable to Him, all persons are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore, no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate, on account of his religious persuasion, or profession, or for his religious practice, unless, under the color of religion, he shall disturb the good order, peace or safety of the State, or shall infringe the laws of morality, or injure others in their natural, civil or religious rights; nor ought any person to be compelled to frequent, or maintain, or contribute, unless on contract, to maintain, any place of worship, or any ministry; nor shall any person, otherwise competent, be deemed incompetent as a witness, or juror, on account of his religious belief; provided, he believes in the existence of God, and that under His dispensation such person will be held morally accountable for his acts, and be rewarded or punished therefor either in this world or in the world to come.
Nothing shall prohibit or require the making reference to belief in, reliance upon, or invoking the aid of God or a Supreme Being in any governmental or public document, proceeding, activity, ceremony, school, institution, or place.
(Note the following 1970 amendment to this article.)
Nothing in this article shall constitute an establishment of religion (amended by Chapter 558, Acts of 1970, ratified Nov. 3, 1970).
During the next few weeks, we'll try to finish up with the 13 original colonies that became the basis for America's foundation as a nation. What is striking about the history of each of those colonies is that -- without exception -- the freedom to worship the Lord Jesus Christ was at the core of each colony's establishing. All the way along the eastern seaboard, the colonies were formed by different groups of Christians escaping persecution in their European homelands, or Christians who had an evangelical zeal to spread the Gospel among the various Indian tribes.
Allow me to digress for a moment.
periodically noted the comments shared between Della and me when Bill Clinton
became our President. Despite the fact that we pretty much knew what direction
he was going to take this nation when he beat George H. W. Bush in 1992, Della
and I actively prayed for him. More than that, we prayed for our nation as a
Bill Clinton was elected because he was God’s representative to this nation. That sounds really hard to say when you consider that I am a lifetime Republican. Bill Clinton was not placed in office by God because he was a Democrat. He was placed in office because the Lord knew exactly how he would lead this nation, and because that leadership would drive Christians to their knees in a way this nation had not seen since Jimmy Carter was in office.
Christians were not fulfilling their spiritual responsibilities to uphold the spiritual state of America. They were, in fact, failing miserably. Voices were being raised in attacks on our President, on members of Congress, on the Judiciary, on local and state representatives – you name it!
Instead of following the mandate Paul laid out before God’s people (“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority.”) Christians were attacking the nation’s leadership on every hand.
applies today. You have Christians who
absolutely hate President Trump – not because he is leading the nation in the
path that God is directing him to go, but because he is shaking up the
establishment, the status quo. I’m
inclined to believe that his behavior is calculated to throw the Deep State
into confusion because they just don’t know what he is doing.
I’m going to say something here that some of you may take offense to, but that’s just tough. You need to hear the Truth.
We get the kind of government we deserve. We get righteous leadership at the helm of our nation – leadership called, anointed by God and empowered to lead us to peace and prosperity – when we as the people of God fulfill our responsibility. When we fail in that responsibility, we also get a government and leadership empowered by God – but this is a leadership that does not lead us towards peace and prosperity.
Our forefathers covenanted together to form a nation "under God." They understood what it meant when they made that covenant. They put their lives on the line. My late friend and former campaign manager (when I ran for Congress), Tony Smith, periodically talked about what it cost each and every one of them. The majority of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were well off, if not wealthy, when they put their names to pen and parchment. Many of them lost everything they had in order to ensure that future generations would have a free country, "one nation under God."
apostle Paul laid out very clearly what kind of government God purposes for a
praying people. The verse I just quoted is a small portion of what Paul had to
say on the topic.
I Timothy 2:1-4 reads: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Next week, let’s explore this a little more fully as we get into our responsibility as Christians in this day and age. Paul was not just making a suggestion in this instance. His exhortation was a command from the Lord Jesus Christ. That, my friends, is the way to good and righteous government!
See you then.
In case you are missing out on real fellowship in an environment of Ekklesia, our Sunday worship gatherings are available by conference call – usually at about 10:30AM Pacific. That conference number is (712) 770-4160, and the access code is 308640#. We are now making these gatherings available on video using ZOOM. If you wish to participate by video on ZOOM, our login ID is 835-926-513. If you miss the live voice-only call, you can dial (712) 770-4169, enter the same access code and listen in later. The video call, of course, is not recorded – not yet, anyway.
Blessings on you!
Regner A. Capener
RIVER WORSHIP CENTER
Temple, Texas 76504
Email Contact: CapenerMinistries@protonmail.com
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