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Posts Tagged ‘Patrick Henry’

The Foundation of True Liberty

In Uncategorized on 09/10/2012 at 15:31

Attempts to found democracies, or rather, true lawful liberty, are doomed to failure unless they are built on a proper foundation.

What follows is another article discovered today during my foray into an old dusty volume :

THE FOUNDATION OF TRUE LIBERTY.

Some time since an interesting Sabbath School celebration was held in a town in the interior of this State. On one of the banners borne in the procession, there was a beautiful tree, spreading its tall and stately branches in every direction, and beneath it was a volume, in which its roots were deeply fixed, and from which it derived all its nourishment and strength.—The tree was Liberty, that volume the Bible. The idea was not only beautiful, but true. The Bible is the great protector and guardian of the liberties of man. There never has been on earth true liberty, apart from the Scriptures and the principles of the Bible. This remark is fully sustained by the history of the world. Go to the plains of Babylon, and the entire history of that Empire, until its destruction by Cyrus, is a history of the most absolute despotism. Egypt and Persia were equally strangers to civil liberty. The same was true, with some slight modifications, of Greece and Rome. Facts spread on every page of the world’s history, point to the Bible as the only basis of the temple of freedom.

Where the Bible forms public opinion, a nation must be free. “Christianity,” says Montesquieu, “is a stranger to despotic power.” De Tocqueville, “it is the companion of liberty in all its battles and all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, the divine source of its claims.” The Abbe de la Mennais, whom the late writer distinguishes as one of the most powerful minds in Europe, speaks eloquently of the Divine author of Christianity, “the great republican of his age.” Everywhere the men whose minds have been imbued with the light and spirit of the Bible, have been the devoted friends of civil liberty. Such were the Lollards in England, the adherents of Luther in Germany, and of Knox in Scotland. Such were the Huguenots of France, who fled their country, or sealed their testimony with their blood on the fatal revocation of the edict of Nantes. Such were the Puritans, who, with the courage of heroes and the zeal of martyrs, struggled for and obtained the charter of liberty which England now enjoys. Hume, with all his hostility to the Bible, says, “the precious spark of liberty had been kindled and was preserved by the Puritans alone, and it was to this sect the English owe the whole freedom of their Constitution.

Pass we to the period of the American revolution! Who were the signers of the Declaration of Independence? Who were the men, whose wisdom in council, and whose daring in the field, delivered us from foreign oppression, and made us a free and independent nation? Who was Washington? His character is settled beyond all dispute—his sentiments are known and recorded. The infidel can never refer to him for authority. The Atheist can never enroll him among those who believe the universe is without a Father and a God. His examples and his opinions are to travel down with the richest influence to future ages, and his purity of life in the cabinet and the camp, his reverence for the Bible and the institutions of religion, are to be spoken of with the profoundest regard by millions yet unborn.

Who was Patrick Henry, the man who struck the notes of freedom to which this nation responded, and were changed from subjects of a British king to independent freemen? He has not left his religious sentiments in doubt. In his will is found the following passage : “I have now disposed of all my property to my family—there is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the religion of the Bible. If they had that, and I had not given them one shilling, they would be rich; and if they had not that, and I had given them all the world, they would be poor.”

Who was Samuel Adams, on of the brightest stars in the constellation of great names, that adorned that era? “Adams,” says his biographer, “was a Christian. That last production of his pen was in defence of Christian truth, and he died in the faith of the gospel.”

And who was Roger Sherman? His biographer says, “few men had a higher reverence for the Bible; few men studied it with deeper attention, and a few were more intimately acquainted with its doctrines?” And who does not know that Livingston, and Stockton, and Witherspoon, and Benjamin Rush, bowed with profound reverence to the teaching of the Bible, and drew from its precepts their strongest incentives in their self-sacrificing labors? The Bible, then we say it without the fear of successful contradiction—the Bible, in its influence more than any thing else, has made us what we are—a free and independent nation. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupt public conscience, is incompatible with freedom.

[excerpted from The Evangelical Guardian, 4.10 (February 1847): 442-443.]

Patrick Henry vs. Intolerance

In Uncategorized on 18/08/2012 at 21:10

Located today as I’m browsing through an old 19th century newspaper (one of the perks of my job!)

PROSECUTION FOR PREACHING.

Patrick Henry vs. Intolerance.

Soon after Henry’s noted case of “Tobacco and the Preserves” as it was called, he heard of a case of oppression for conscience sake. The English church having been established by law in Virginia became as all such establishments are wont to do, exceedingly intolerant toward other sects. In prosecution of this system of conversion, three Baptist clergymen had been indicted at Fredericksburg for preaching the gospel of the Son of God contrary to the statute. Henry, hearing of this, rode some fifty miles to volunteer his services in defense of the oppressed. He entered the court, being unknown to all present save the bench and the bar, while the indictment was being read by the clerk. He sat within the bar, until the reading was finished, and the king’s attorney had concluded some remarks in defense of the prosecution, when he arose, reached out his hand for the paper, and without more ceremony, proceeded with the following speech:

“May it please your worship, I think I heard by the prosecutor, as I entered this house, the paper I now hold in my hand. If I have rightly understood, the king’s attorney of the colony has framed an indictment for the purpose of arraigning and punishing by imprisonment, three inoffensive persons before the bar of this court, for  a crime of great magnitude—as disturbers of the peace. May it please the court, what did I hear read? Did I hear it distinctly, or was it a mistake of my own?–Did I hear an expression, as if a crime, that these men, whom your worships are about to try for misdemeanor, are charged with—what?” and, continuing in a low, solemn, heavy tone, “preaching the gospel of the Son of God?” Pausing amidst the most profound silence and breathless astonishment, he slowly waved the paper three times around his head, when, lifting his hands and eyes to heaven, with peculiar and impressive energy, he exclaimed, “Great God!” The exclamation—the burst of feeling from the audience—were all over-powering. Mr. Henry resumed :

“May it please your worships: in a day like this—when truth is about to be aroused to claim its natural and inalienable rights—when the yoke of oppression, that has reached the wilderness of America, and the unnatural alliance of ecclesiastical and civil power, are about to be dissevered—at such a period, when liberty—liberty of conscience—is about to wake from her slumberings, and inquire into the reason of such charges as I find exhibited here to-day in this indictment!” Another fearful pause, while the speaker alternately cast his sharp, piercing eyes on the court and the prisoners, and resumed : “If I am not deceived, according to the contents of the paper I now hold in my hand, these men are accused of preaching the gospel of the Son of God! Great God!” Another long pause, while he again waved the indictment around his head—while a deeper impression was made on the auditory. Resuming his speech:

“May it please your worships:  There are periods in the history of man, when corruption and depravity have so long debased the human character, that man sinks under the weight of the oppressor’s hand—becomes his servile, his abject slave; he licks the hand that smites him; he bows in passive obedience to the mandates of the despot; and, in this state of servility, he receives his fetters of perpetual bondage.  But, may it please your worships, such a day has passed away! From that period, when our fathers left the land of their nativity for settlement in these American wilds—for liberty of conscience to worship their Creator according to their own conceptions of Heaven’s revealed will—from the moment they placed their feet upon the American continent, and, in the deeply imbedded forest, sought an asylum from persecution and tyranny,—from that moment, despotism was crushed—the fetters of darkness were broken, and Heaven decreed that men should be free—free to worship God according to the Bible. Were it not for this, in vain were all the sufferings and bloodshed to subjugate this New World, if we, their offspring, must still be oppressed and persecuted.

But, may it please your worships, permit me to inquire once more, for what are these men about to be tried? This paper says for preaching the gospel of the Saviour to Adam’s fallen race.” And in tones of thunder, he exclaimed, “What law have they violated?” While the third time, in a low, dignified manner, he lifted his eyes to heaven, and waved the indictment around his head. The court and audience were now wrought up to the most intense pitch of excitement. The face of the prosecuting attorney was palid and ghastly, and he appeared unconscious that his whole frame was agitated with alarm; while the judge, in a tremulous voice, put an end to the scene, now becoming excessively painful, by the authoritative declaration, “Sheriff, discharge those men.”

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, XXIX, No. 2 (12 January 1850): 1, columns 2-3.; emphasis added]