History that Produced Freedom
by Aussie B. Ed Hon.
After celebrating in June 2015 the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta it is appropriate to reflect on the important content in an article written by Richard Eason.
About the Second Century:
AD 43 the Roman conquest of Britain began; the Romans maintained control of their province of Britannia until the 5th century.
The first stirrings of our national approach to individual freedom came at Winchester in 156AD, when King Lucius established Christianity as the national religion. England did not suddenly become a nation of Christians, but it did become a Christian nation. Its leaders began to see that the Gospel applied not only to the individual, but also the nation. In practical ways they started to yield national sovereignty to the King of Kings.
King Ethelbert of Kent, after his conversion to Christianity, was probably the first absolute ruler ever to introduce laws designed to limit his powers of government. This was a rudimentary form of constitution. Thus the cradle of constitutionalism was a Christian king's compassion for those he governed.
King Alfred the Great declared the law of England to be the law of God as expressed in the Bible and decreed both King and courts of law subject to it and unable to change it.
Perceiving the need for a living law which would grow to cover new circumstances, King Alfred revived the common, or judge-made, law. Courts had to decide new questions by reference to the Bible and their decisions became precedents to be followed in later cases unless overruled by the king's statute law. A council like Parliament examined new common law precedents and advised the King to overrule any that were considered un-Scriptural.
Also during the ninth century, there emerged a version of the Coronation service that has been used with few changes ever since. While such a service cannot guarantee good personal character, the promises made by each new Monarch reflect the Christian requirement for leadership by servanthood.
In one of the most important moments of the Coronation service the Monarch, before receiving the Sceptre (the symbol of kingly authority) must first accept the Orb (a golden sphere surmounted by a cross, symbolising Christ's sovereignty over the whole earth). The Orb is given to the Monarch with the words: "Take this to remind you that the whole world is subject to the power and empire of Christ our redeemer." Only after thus acknowledging the absolute sovereignty of the Lord Jesus Christ, may an heir to the throne become our Monarch.
Some aspects of our British constitutional system were modified by the Normans (French Kings) who did not understand its Biblical foundations.
For example King William II, known as Rufus the Red, refused to recognize constitutional limitations on his power. Every now and then a Prime Minister qualifies as a modern day Rufus the Red.
Even the Norman conquerors were changed quite rapidly by the eternal principles on which our system is based.
Henry I, successor and brother of Rufus the Red, agreed to limitations on his power in a document which became known as Henry's Coronation Charter. Subsequently, Henry himself became known as "the lion of justice."
Later in the twelfth century a Plantagenet king, Henry II, re-introduced a system of Royal courts to administer the common law and to ensure that it was effective and indeed common to all England. He also fostered trial by jury as an instrument of true justice and equity.
Until the thirteenth century strong kings had generally used their power wisely and made England stronger. But with the advent of England's most popular king, people realized that kings were now too strong. So on the meadow at Runnymede in 1215AD, King John, who had considered himself above the law, was brought to account by Christians and he signed Magna Carta.
Based on Henry's Coronation Charter, Magna Carta (the Great Charter) established very little that was new. Its importance was that it documented the ancient principle that the king is subject to the law.
It is interesting to consider whether modern Ministers of the Crown, like kings of old, have become altogether too powerful and whether today's Christians, like those of old, have enough faith in the God and His Word to reform and restrain them.
England's unique freedom still depended on the faith of a privileged few who could read the Bible in Latin. For this reason John Wycliffe became devoted to making the Word of God widely available to the common man.
Wycliffe translated the Bible into English and sent out men to preach the gospel to the poor. The effect was immediate and widespread. A revival broke out as many people experienced for themselves the meaning of John 8:32 which says:
"You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
Large numbers of people joined Wycliffe in denouncing worldly, hypocritical and repressive church officials. The Reformation had begun.
Wycliffe's impact went well beyond England reaching as far as Bohemia, which is now part of modern Czechoslovakia. There his writings influenced John Huss, Dean of Philosophy and Rector at the University of Prague. Huss' faith and preaching founded what later became the Moravian church, one of the most dynamic missionary churches the world has ever seen.
For believing that the Bible is the supreme authority for Christians, and for denouncing the practice of the Papacy to teach what is contrary to it, Huss was burned at the stake in 1415AD. Nevertheless, by the 1500s most inhabitants of Bohemia were members of Hussite churches and Bohemia had achieved a surprising degree of political freedom.
In an age of powerful kings the Bohemians set up constitutional government with the king's power carefully defined and limited and considerable power in the hands of a representative assembly. They demonstrated once again that only the Christian gospel has the power to ignite within individuals the inner freedom and compassionate sense of justice which produce lasting political freedom.
The effects of Wycliffe and Huss reverberated around Europe until they culminated in the sixteenth century reformation in Europe begun by Martin Luther who wrote: "If John Huss was a heretic, then there is not a single Christian under the sun."
Unfortunately for its people, Europe experienced constant armed opposition in Europe to the Bible based faith that produces real freedom. Even today in most European countries you are assumed guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Europe was thus held back from the political freedom which developed in the more remote and geographically protected island of Britain.
But Britain was protected by more than geography.
When King Phillip II of Spain heard of the astonishing defeat of the Spanish Armade by the English fleet he remarked: "I sent my ships to fight against men, not against the winds and waves of God."
To commemorate the British victory, Queen Elizabeth I had a medal struck which acknowledged the hand of God by stating: "God blew and they were scattered."
So both victor and vanquished admitted that God was protecting the island nation that was, as a nation, yielding to the Word of God.
In the twentieth century we have seen similar deliverance granted to Great Britain by the grace of God. Three outstanding examples are the Angels of Mons in World War I and the miracles of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain in World War II.
Notwithstanding the armed opposition that Bible based faith was encountering on the continent of Europe, Luther, Calvin and other great European reformers helped accelerate the pace at which political freedom was being developed in Britain. And that pace became intense.
England's Chief Justice, Sir Edward Coke, insisted that neither the King nor Parliament were supreme and if either enacted legislation contrary to the revealed laws of God, such legislation is wrong, and God's law should prevail. He was sacked for his wisdom by James I, but his work still benefits us today.
James I was the first of the Stuarts, all of whom believed in the so-called "divine right of kings". Because the Bible states that the king is appointed by God, the Stuarts quite wrongly assumed that this gave them absolute power.
Coke earned the wrath of the king by bringing this wrong assumption into public focus. He had put his finger on the one question which, more than any other, affects individual freedom, namely: who is the absolute Sovereign of the nation. If the answer is a man, or any group of men, history shows that tyranny will eventually ensue; but if the answer is that the nation yields absolute authority only to the Lord Jesus Christ, then the dignity and freedom of each individual will be guaranteed.
Insistence on the "divine right of kings" eventually brought about the demise of the Stuart dynasty. Charles I, son of James I, lost his head for it and provoked the English civil war. Later, in the Glorious (or Bloodless) Revolution of 1688, James II lost his Crown for his unilateral attempt to reimpose Roman Catholicism to England—a move which caused Parliament to pass the English Bill of Rights (1689), declare the throne vacant and offer it to William and Mary of Orange.
Ironically, while Parliament was resolving the momentous question of the "divine right of kings", the seeds of the "divine right of politicians" were planted within Parliament itself. On 4 January 1649, after the execution of Charles I, Parliament resolved that. "...the people are, under God, the original of all just power ... the Commons of England in Parliament assembled, being chosen by and representing the people, have the supreme power in this nation."
Was this yet another claim by men to absolute sovereignty? No it was not, unless two little words are omitted from their claim.
All that was now needed for the emergence of tyranny by Parliament itself was to overlook the two words "under God". Such a tyranny could be disguised as "democratic" if: ... most people came to accept that a Parliament fairly elected has no limits on its powers, and if ... major political parties made agreements (such as bipartisan policies) that restrict freedom of choice.
However, such a situation did not arise in the seventeenth century. What did happen in the seventeenth century was that the value of constitutional law became widely accepted.
In 1644 Samuel Rutherford wrote a masterly exposition of the constitutional limitations on arbitrary government. It was marred only by its title "Lex Rex" (Law is Sovereign) which suggests that man made law has an absolute authority that only belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ and His complete Word.
Another significant contribution to our freedom was the Habeus Corpus Act of 1679. Under this Act, no one could be held in prison without charges being laid and swiftly brought before a court.
Crucial though these legal developments were, no analysis of our heritage of freedom from the seventeenth century would be complete without a mention of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) who arguably contributed more to science, and hence our present well being, than any other man in history. Newton was an outstanding Christian. His Biblical view of the world and understanding of God as a creator of order and truth, prepared him to expect and discover order in the world around him, and find a cause for each effect. Newton was described by the French mathematician Legrange as "the greatest genius that ever existed."
This same depth of faith in God was the driving force within the English Pilgrims, who faced possible starvation in a cruel winter when they sailed frail vessels the Atlantic snd founded the new world in America. Most died: the strongest survived. Without a quest for religious freedom, it would not have happened.
In chilling contrast to our British heritage of Bible based freedom, the French, whose leaders had rejected God in favour of secular humanism, endured the destructive anguish and pain of the French revolution. A sinister coalition of occultic priests and despotic financiers incited base instincts in the ordinary people who murdered a complete generation of France's leadership.
Having been promised "liberty, equality, fraternity," the French instead got Napoleon who slapped them into armies and marched them throughout Europe.
It is a miracle that a similar revolution did not occur in Great Britain. The same harsh social conditions which prevailed for the majority before the revolution in France also prevailed in England, but whereas the French heeded the atheistic scholars of the "enlightenment" and got bloodshed, the English heeded the Word of God through John Wesley and not only averted disaster, but enjoyed a season of national greatness and prosperity such as the world had never before seen.
This contrast between Great Britain and France is a contrast between the results of Bible based faith and Secular Humanism. It is a contrast which provides cogent evidence for the truth of the Scripture which says: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).
John Wesley (1703-1791) was inspired, courageous and dedicated. Riots, death threats, bad weather, long absences from home, criticism and opposition from Church of England clerics who refused to believe the Bible: nothing stopped Wesley and his followers as God worked with them to give large numbers of English people a new spirit, a new loving nature within and a new start in life.
English society was rapidly transformed as the reality of Jesus Christ alive within individuals touched a nation. Prostitutes vanished from the streets. A Christian parliamentarian, William Wilberforce MP, after reading a pamphlet by Wesley against the degrading practice of slavery, was inspired by God to resist and eventually abolish slavery throughout most of the world.
Another Wesleyan Christian, Hannah Ball, started a school on a Sunday to educate the children of the poor in reading, writing and arithmetic. This compassionate Christian vision was taken up by Lord Robert Raikes of Gloucester who spent his very considerable fortune setting up hundreds of these "Sunday schools". They became so popular that government was eventually induced to provide mass education.
For the first time in the world's history all people, not just the privileged classes, were to receive education. As with so many other major reforms it originated in the compassion and sense of justice of a few Christians.
Unfortunately once again, parallel developments threatened to deprive ordinary people of the freedom offered by education. The problems arose because government got into the field of education which is not part of God's charter to government.
From the Biblical perspective education is the responsibility of the church and the family - the church as God's channel of truth and the family as God's channel of provision. So government education can be provided only by excessive taxation of families and at grave risk of government control of truth!
We are now reaping the consequences of thinking that we know better than the Word of God. Compulsory government controlled education has gradually been hijacked to spread into Christian homes the Godless Secular Humanism that caused the French and other revolutions. But it is difficult to escape to private schools because it is hard to afford fees in addition to the taxes which must be paid for government schools whether or not your children attend them.
With British prisons filled with occasional victims, and America closed to building mor overseas prisons, the King approved deportation of the first 1100 soldiers and convicts to the discovered lands of New South Wales in the South Pacific. Thus the same robust belief system in a primitive culture was exported to what was to become Australia. Regardless of the brutal nature of the experiment, it survived the first 100 years of raw habitation into a constitutional government based on Biblical principles. When we return to them, as we must, we will survive whatever the systems of a fallen world will throw at us.
This slow subversion by "education" was facilitated by yet another claim of absolute sovereignty.
A nineteenth century lawyer, A.V. Dicey, asserted that Parliament is absolutely sovereign. Most modern party politicians are possessed by his doctrine.
Some commentators have even gone so far as to suggest that Parliament is so sovereign that if it passes a law that said something like all blue eyed babies must be killed at birth, the law though evil is just and must be obeyed! Such is the insane but inevitable tyranny that follows when men forsake reverent submission to the King of Kings. He alone can be trusted with absolute sovereignty as eternally right.
As the industrial revolution progressed in the nineteenth century the working conditions of ordinary people became dangerous and dehumanising. Christian men met in secret on the moors of England to organise reform. When they eventually emerged in public as labour unions they carried placards bearing the Scripture: "... the labourer deserves his wages ..." (Luke 10:7).
Some of the early unionists, such as the Tolpuddle martyrs, were cruelly punished. Even the juveniles were also deported to Australia. Trade unions today have obviously drifted a long way from their Christian roots. Yet the opportunity exists to lead unions back. Unionists and private employers alike are being crushed by arrogant politicians, high debt, soaring interest rates and excessive taxation. The primary cause is our unjust financial system which is crying out for a compassionate Biblical solution and people who can explain that solution to the unions. Unions led by Christians who understand issues could change the face of Australia, the U.S.A, the UK, and the free world very rapidly.
In the twentieth century, 32.7 million people have been killed in war and a further 97 million have been killed by their own governments....
Socialism has been responsible for most of this mass slaughter, whether through Hitler's National Socialism, or Stalin's Soviet Socialism, or one of their many modern descendants.
This fact often irritates those who call themselves "democratic socialists", people who sincerely believe that the policies of socialism will induce justice. Such people fail to understand that all policy comes out of philosophy and all brands of socialism are based on two key atheistic philosophies which must in the long run, despite the best intentions, bring dictatorship.
These two philosophies are evolution and the dialectic ... and unless the Christian Church produces new Wesleys, Wilberforces snd Samuel Mardens, we will be submerged beneath a godless agnosticism again, and never recover a Christian democracy, as went Russia, France and Asia.
Additional information by Les Nixon
From Egypt, to Syria and Iraq, ancient Christian communities—among the world's oldest—are under threat of extinction.
"Christians and other minorities are in deep danger and we dare not be silent. The time to speak is now," said Katrina Lantos Swett, chairman of the United States Commission on International Freedom.
Swett delivered that message at the recent 6th Annual Coptic Solidarity Conference in Washington, D.C., on persecution in the Middle East.
So, why should Americans, British, or other Westerners, get involved? Swett says religious extremism crosses oceans and continents.
"When Coptic Christians in Egypt are jailed for blasphemy or attacked by extremists for supposedly violating such laws and we are silent, we should not be surprised when attacks commence in the streets of Paris or elsewhere," she said.
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said," America is in a place to stop the persecution of Christians in numbers never before seen in the world. God has allowed us to be at that place."
But before America and other nations can respond effectively, they must face the truth about what is happening and why.
Middle East analyst and author Raymond Ibrahim blames the media.
"We know about this ISIS thing because ISIS wants you to know and the media if anything has responded by giving us a plethora of editorials trying to convince us that what ISIS is doing is not Islamic," he explained.
Ibrahim says American leaders must speak the truth about the atrocities—like the beheading of Coptic Christians in Libya.
"According to the White House, it was just 21 Egyptians who were randomly killed, not because they're Christians, not because of their faith and so forth," Ibrahim said. It is a media cover up of the truth.
U.S. Religious Freedom Ambassador at Large Rabbi David Saperstein is urgently concerned about Iraqi and Syrian Christians. Their numbers have dwindled to a fraction of what they were just 20 years ago."Now, if we're going to preserve those communities, we know what needs to be done," Saperstein said. "First, until ISIL is pushed out, those displaced communities need to be able to live with a quality of life that will be an incentive for them to remain."
When they go, we are next. And that means providing security and stability for them, along with better health care and schools for their children.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., says people of the United States need to act. "We cannot stand by and watch this," Black said. "We have a moral obligation to act in defense of our brothers and sisters abroad."
So, Christian activists in Washington are once again speaking loudly, reminding President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress that something needs to be done quickly to protect these ancient Christian communities from annihilation. And they say they'll keep speaking until something is done—and they start listening.