Preaching a formal sermon to civil authorities on Election Day is a tradition unique to New England. Election Day in 18th and 19th century New England was a holiday that often began with cannon firing and a martial procession of government officials from the seat of government to a nearby church. There the most important members of the community–the governor and other elected officials, the clergy and socially prominent individuals–listened to a sermon often two to three hours long. It was a ritual in which the male, Christian, voting community (as one contemporary observer put it) “met together in a solemn assembly to give thanks to the God of heaven for the many great and distinguishing privileges, both civil and religious, which we are favored with; and to ask direction and a blessing from on high, upon all the administrations of government in the land.”
I.) Some General Considerations
It is not generally well known that our whole form of government and governmental system originally came to us out of the soil of Reformed Christianity. The their book “Fountainhead Of Federalism” McCoy and Baker trace the origins of the political thought that shaped our Federalism from the Reformation notions of covenant as applied to the realm of political thought. John Witte does something very similar in his book on political thought in the Reformed tradition. This idea of a bilateral covenant (contract) where the people take on certain responsibilities and make certain promises to the Magistrate who likewise takes on certain responsibilities and makes certain promises to the people to rule in keeping with God’s word is the original basis of our system of Federal system of Government. One can trace a line of Reformed political thought from Bullinger which would include Dupleiss Mornay’s well known work “A Defense Of Liberty Against Tyrants,” the writings of Samuel Rutherford, John Winthrop, Johannes Althusius, right on to Jonathan Witherspoon and James Madison. All these men didn’t agree on every detail of their political theory but all were influenced by the idea of covenant as an organizing principle upon which political theory could be discussed.
A.) It has always been the view of Reformed people that God is alone Sovereign.
1 Sam. 2:6-7 The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts.
Ps. 103:19 The Lord has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all.
Pr. 21:1 The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.
This conviction that God alone is sovereign resulted in political systems of thought that did not allow absolute Sovereignty to be located in any one realm in a culture or society. Since God alone is absolutely Sovereign nothing else may be invested with that kind of absolute Sovereignty that God alone has – not the Church, not the family, and most especially not the State.
Practically what this meant is that Reformed people have seldom been particularly inclined to Monarchy in the Church or in the State, since Monarchy so often slips into absolute sovereignty. Nor have they been particularly inclined to elevate Church or State as one institution over the other as other Christian expressions have. To lift one institution in a culture over all others would be to invest that exalted institution with the kind of sovereignty that only God has.
Historically what Reformed people have thus done is built Republican forms of government, both in the Churches they built and in the States they have created, where sovereignty and power is diffused throughout the society.
The result of this has been the building of equal and co-ordinate centers of power that each exercises a portion of God’s delegated authority in their particular realm. In this way sovereignty was shared with the intent that God would be honored and tyranny would be avoided; God honored because absolute sovereignty remained invested in God alone — tyranny avoided because with God’s delegated sovereignty diffused throughout a society none of the equal and co-ordinate centers of power would be able to rise above the other to seize complete and total sovereignty.
B.) It likewise has always been the view of the Reformed That Man Is Sinful
Scripture teaches that all of us “were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
Scripture teaches “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Scripture teaches that believers likewise continue to struggle against sin. (Romans 7)
This view of man as sinner reinforced some observations that we’ve already made.
Because Man is a sinner Reformed notions of Government have always been to limit the power of Government and Governors,
“It is therefore most wholesome for magistrates and officers in church and commonwealth never to affect more liberty and authority than will do them good, and the people good: for whatever transcendent power is given will certainly overrun those that give it and those that receive it…. It is necessary, therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited, church power or other. If there be power given to speak great things, then look for blasphemies, look for licentious abuse of it….It is therefore fit for every man to be studious of the bounds which the Lord hath set: and for the people, in whom fundamentally all power lies, to give as much power as God in His word gives to men.”
John Cotton (1584-1652)
This distrust of a Government that does not know its boundaries as expressed by the Reformed minister John Cotton in the 17th century is echoed again by the Deist Thomas Jefferson in the 18th century.
“The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.” – Thomas Jefferson
The Puritans created a worldview that was unknowingly accepted even by their posterity that no longer walked with God.
Since man was a sinner no man should be given to much power. Reformation theology agreed that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Because Reformed people believed with the Scriptures that man was a sinner they introduced checks and balances and plurality of leadership into the forms of government that they built.
Now, these two general considerations should already give us a principle in our voting Tuesday – and that principle is that when we vote we should be voting against any candidate or party that desires to consolidate power into one person or to a centralized location.
We have a need to realize in our voting that when we vote to consolidate and centralize political power we are at the same time voting against the other realms that God has ordained to delegate authority. When we vote for those who will empower the State to be responsible to feed, clothe, and educate our children, we vote against the sovereignty that God has delegated to the Family. When we vote for those who might restrict what can be said in the pulpit we vote against the Church.
As voters we must realize that temporal sovereignty is not infinite and whenever you invest one realm with more sovereignty you at that point divest sovereignty from some other realm where God has appointed it to be.
It is interesting that our Constitution is a document that reflects all of this. It is a document that was intended to limit the Federal Government with specific delegated and enumerated powers. It was crafted to restrict the Federal government to doing a number of very limited things.
It is my conviction that when we vote for candidates or parties that desire to increasingly centralize and grow Government, whether in Lansing or in Washington, we are voting against Scripture which insists that God alone has the kind of sovereignty that the State is seeking to accrue. Such voting by Christians often pursued under the notion that the State will take care of them and their interest belies an underlying attitude that the State is the institution that can provide our salvation.
It is my conviction that when we vote for candidates or parties that desire to increasingly centralize and grow Government, and we do this when we vote for people who desire to increase the funds of Government at the expense of family income, we are voting against the wisdom of Scripture that reminds us that man is sinful.
Now, I hope you realize that in what we have said already we have eliminated a fairly large number of those who are vying for your vote. Increasingly rare is the candidate who intends to go to Lansing or Washington with the genuine intent of limiting and shrinking the size and role of government. Legion is the name of the candidates who believe that the brokenness of our society and culture can be fixed if we will just give Government more power and more wealth. Bloated Government cannot fix our problems because bloated Government is our problem.
II.) Some Specific Counsel From Scripture Touching This Election
Scripture teaches that the power of life and death come from God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. When man seeks to ascend to the position that he can arbitrarily determine who lives and who dies man is seeking to seize the scepter from God and engod himself.
For this reason no Christian can vote for any candidate who supports abortion in any way. If God is the author of life then it can be nothing but murder when we end life without God’s sanction. Our assumption need always be that life begins at conception. Even if we are uncertain on that point our uncertainty should lead us to err in the direction of protecting life.
We are now somewhere in the vicinity of 50 million murders being committed in the name of choice.
Francis Schaeffer warned us long ago that the next logical step to abortion would be euthanasia and infanticide. We now have a candidate at the top of the ticket who has consistently supported infanticide with his vote (Infant born alive act). Neither of the candidates at the top of the ticket have been universally and unequivocally pro-life. Very few candidates down ticket have a high few of life.
This high esteem for life ought to make an impact on the way we vote in Michigan on proposition 2.
B.) 2nd Amendment
First we would note that the Scripture allows for self-defense.
“If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him,” Exodus 22:2-3
It is interesting when you look at the Scriptural record that the Philistines “disarmed” the Israelites in order to enslave them in I Samuel 13:19-22. In order to control people, they must be disarmed.
The right to keep and bear arms is a right of men to be free. If we really believe that God is pleased with cultures and societies that are free then we will be very leery of anybody or any party that seeks to strip us of means of self-defense.
When the people fear their government there is tyranny, when the government fear the people there is liberty – Thomas Jefferson
Scripture teaches that the State bears the sword (Romans 13). A general rule of thumb is that the State thus should be restricted to doing whatever can be done with a sword. You do not house people with a sword, you do not feed people with a sword, and you do not give medicine to people with a sword. These functions should not be the function of the State.
Scripture nowhere gives to the State the role of God.
Socialism is a system that steals God’s sovereignty in order to invest it in the state. Socialist systems teach and believe that in the state we live and move and have our being. The State is our provider, or protector, and our omnipotent caretaker. Further, socialist systems are completely predicated upon violating the 8th commandment, stealing from those who work hard producing wealth, in order to redistribute that wealth. The effect of this redistribution of wealth is to shrink the pie of wealth as people lose incentive to create wealth. The consequence of this is not the raising up of people without wealth to wealth, but rather the pulling down of people with wealth to the status of not having wealth. Equality is achieved but it is the equality of the miserable.
As proof for this I offer the reality that in classical theology it is always the right of a God to own everything (The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof) and His prerogative to distribute what He owns as He pleases (God gives them their food in due season). Clearly, we are about to empower legislators and an executive that believes that the State owns everything and as such has the prerogative to re-distribute what the State (god) owns as it (he) pleases. It is the pagan left that is turning this country into an explicit theocracy.
Quoting Doug Wilson
In the colonial era, ministers used to preach what were called artillery sermons—messages leading up to elections in order to teach and inform the saints on their duties in the civil realm.
But this exhortation is a bit more focused on the process of voting itself. First, all that we do is to be offered to God at the fundamental. Ask God to count your vote, and it does not matter who else does. Give what you do to Jesus, and let Him do with it what He wills. You should be like the small boy who surrendered his fish and bread for Jesus to multiply, and not like someone who tried to feed the multitude himself by giving everyone a crumb.
Secondly, confirm it in your heart and soul that the day after the election, God is still on His throne, and Jesus is still at His right hand. Certain things are not on the ballot, as the sovereignty of God is not. When Christians react to elections with despair and panic, they are demonstrated that their faith is in the wrong place. If the election goes badly, do not soak your hair with lighter fluid, set it off, and then run in tight, little circles. Be a Christian. If the election goes well, do not act you have just been saved. Salvation is not something that Caesar holds in his hand, whether to give or withhold.
Third, vote with a clear mind and clean heart, doing so confidently and with boldness. Stand up for the unborn. Strike at every idol. Love God, and hate sin. Stand against every throne built on a foundation of lawlessness. And return here next Lord’s Day for the real work of Reformation.