Freedom in America is expressed in commerce as the free enterprise system. It has enabled America to enjoy unequaled commercial and business success. In science it has opened the door to better health and longevity. In education, in spite of pitfalls and potholes, it has enabled the frontiers of ignorance to be pushed back.
As with anything, its misuse is self-destroying. The definition of unbridled freedom is anarchy. At that point a tyrant usually emerges and takes away freedom. Therefore, it is incumbent on any society for the members thereof to engage in self-governance.
The founders of our nation were aware of this and warned of the necessity of morality lest an undisciplined generation emerge and unwittingly forfeit its freedom in their demand for more freedom. Let them speak.
Benjamin Franklin, signer of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence opined:
“Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
The master that most often emerges is an oppressive government. Yet, Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence observed, “Neither the wisest Constitution nor the wisest laws will secure the liberty and happiness of a people whose manners are universally corrupt.”
Jedediah Morse, patriot and “Father of American Geography” concluded:
“To the kindly influences of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom, and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. ... Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.”
Is there a pattern emerging?
James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, said:
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We’ve staked the future of all our political institutions upon our capacity ... to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Summarily these patriots issued a somber warning that actions have consequence. Virtue and morality rooted in biblical principles lead to liberty, happiness and stability. A lack of these admirable qualities results in a need for masters, that is, people lacking self-governance, resulting in an overbearing government.
A quote long ago memorized and the source soon forgotten speaks of a historical era when the ancient Greeks lost their freedom and indicates why. “When the freedom the Greeks sought most was the freedom from responsibility they ceased to be free ...”
Victor Frankl, well-known author, Holocaust survivor and author of 32 books including national best seller “Man’s Search for Meaning,” advised that to have freedom endure, liberty must be joined by responsibility. He proposed that the “Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility of the West Coast.”
Let us pray what we have sung: “Our father’s God to Thee, Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom’s holy light,
Protect us my Thy might, Great God our King.”
Critics of concepts such as these often assault the character, mock the intellect and in general criticize anyone advocating them. It helps to remember that old adage: “What Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it does Paul.”
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church.
For copies of previous columns visit www.nelsonprice.com