Written By Eddie Vines
Eddie Vines is a former Jefferson county Judge and currently serves as President of Faith Fortress Ministries
In 1787 the men that we refer to today as our founding fathers assembled together in Philadelphia Pennsylvania for the purpose of drafting a strong constitution for the new republic. Unlike so many of today’s politicians who depend on talking points and sound bites to promote their agendas, these men were extremely learned. They had all read extensively in the areas of religion, philosophy, history and government and they set out to design a system of government that would stand the test of time. In the Declaration of Independence the founders went on record as believing that man receives his rights directly from God and then yields back a portion of these rights to the government for the sake of the common good. There is a misconception today that the Bill of Rights grants basic freedoms to the American people. In reality, The Bill of rights restricts government from infringing upon rights that are God-given. This is a very important distinction.
By the numerous power-checking mechanisms the founders placed in the new constitution, it is clear they realized that fallen men are prone to abusing power. One of the primary safeguards they employed is the system of checks and balances whereby each of the three branches of government were vested with powers to hold the other branches to account if one was to attempt to exceed its constitutional authority.
In questions of powers, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. — Thomas Jefferson
As concerned as the founders were about holding political leaders in check this wasn’t their only worry. They also recognized that a country that placed so much power in the hands of the people was in danger of being guided off track by the baser instincts of the voters.
This concern was based upon the fact that a democracy can only be sustained long-term by the presence of virtue among its people. In other words, if a majority of voters can shape the nations laws and character, there is a great risk that each individual citizen will increasingly come to place his immediate self-interest first and the nobler goal of maintaining a healthy republic will become an afterthought.
The simple lesson to be learned from history is that freedom requires virtue or it cannot last. When the people of a nation forsake liberty for license ( a shallow, selfish type of freedom) it is only a matter of time before the high-minded freedom contemplated by the founders descends into mob rule and ultimately to societal collapse.
The founders’ steadfast belief in virtue as the main ingredient of any form of democracy can be found in the following quotations:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.-John Adams
…of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports-George Washington
As I have carried out ministry in different parts of the world over the years, I have been blessed to make friends who have suffered under communist rule, Islamic violence, and radical Hindu oppression. We have been extremely blessed in this country and should make it a priority to live lives of virtue that honor God and respect the vision of our founders.