Prior to the Civil War, Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, began to refer to the US Constitution as “The Covenant With Death.” That raised a few eyebrows. Garrison was referring to the slavery provisions within the US Constitution, but there was a more fundamental issue.
It was a biblical issue. Believe it or not in the old days people were prone to mix up church and state with surprising frequency. They did it with impunity too.
The ACLU was not hanging around to slap on a million dollar lawsuit. So people took a lot of liberties.
They actually believed that there was blessing and cursing in terms of obedience to the law of God. They considered this to be the guiding rule of interpreting history. As a matter of fact, this view of historical cause and effect is affirmed quite often in the Bible.
For example, Deuteronomy 28:1 says, "And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth." Hearkening back to New England, the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony had established the Biblical model, albeit imperfectly.
By contrast, verse 15 warns, "But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and over take thee." There follows nearly two pages outlining these curses in sobering detail.
If current events are dark and bleak it is not because the "tribulation" is upon us. Rather, it is because the church has failed to obey her Lord. In the early years,
had divorced the government of Rhode Island from covenant commitment to rule by the Bible with an illegitimate
separation of church and state.
These are the covenant-breaking family of Cain and the covenant-keeping family of Seth. It is the story of the on-going life and death struggle between the City of Man and the City of God.
So it is clear that our God is the God of covenants. He rules His creation by means of covenant in the family, the church and the state. Covenant renewal must precede cultural renewal. Under the covenant model of civil rule the leaders elected by the people swear an oath to enforce God’s law. This is the covenant pattern we observe in the history of New England and among the Puritans.
Part of this oath is the promise of blessing for obeying and cursing for disobeying. We may not like this and we may not understand it, but it is the way the world works. The Bible says it is the way God works.
Any governing document, such as the US Constitution, that departs from this model may rightly be called a covenant with death. The US Constitution is in fact the focal point for a form of modern idolatry known as the
American civil religion.
By contrast, Josiah's reform is a classic biblical model. When King Josiah came to power Israel was at a lower level of depravity than the pagan nations that God had driven out before her (II Kings 21:9-11). It was so bad that even the high priest forgot the Bible even existed. During the course of repairing the temple Josiah found a copy of the Law, read it, and repented before God on behalf of the nation.
What was the first step Josiah took in reforming the nation? Did he begin by replacing corrupt public officials? (civil reform) Did he begin by setting up a chain of schools to train the next generation? (education reform) Did he begin by cleansing the temple and destroying the idols? (church reform) The verse quoted above describes King Josiah's first step. He formally renewed the nation’s covenant with God. Everything else flowed from that.
"The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and all his soul to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and the people stood to the covenant." (II Kings 23:3)
The King of Nineveh provides the model for the gentile nations (Jonah 3:7-9). Upon hearing Jonah's message, the King repented and published the covenant he had made with God. He implored the city to join him.
Given this framework, the first question Americans must ask is, "Is the United States a covenanted nation?" The Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims off Cape Cod is accepted by most to be a covenant with God.Likewise, most of the early state charters were very forthright covenant documents. In one form or another they invoke God as Partner and His Word as the source of law. Moreover, many required the civil leader to take a religious oath to govern according to the Bible.
For instance, consider the Delaware oath for public office: "I do profess faith in God the Father and in Jesus Christ His only Son and in the Holy Ghost, one God blessed forever more and I do acknowledge the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration...." (1). Not exactly a model statute for the American Civil Liberties Union.
If then America is bound by oath to God, why is the blessing of God so clearly absent at the dawn of the 21st Century? Our current cultural meltdown demands a second question, "Has America broken covenant and if so, when, where and how?"
This brings us to the US Constitution and how it differs from the earlier documents. The US Constitution contains no mention of God and the oath to God is outlawed as a test for public office (Art. VI, Sec. 3).
This website takes another look at assumptions Christians have often held about American government and history. What is the outcome of excluding God in favor of "We the People" as the source of governing authority? What are the results of cutting out the religious oath for public office from the US Constitution? What happens when a nation makes its own charter – rather than the Word of God – “the supreme law of the land?” We cannot answer these questions apart from the philosophical currents that appealed to the American founders in drafting the US Constitution.
Finally, it raises a thought-provoking question that American Christians have not often considered. Is it possible that America's problems stem not so much from neglect of the US Constitution, as from seeds of humanism that have tainted it from the beginning? The answer requires us to trace the roots from which the US Constitution sprang. If we fail to do this we simply end up repeating the failures of the past.
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