How Did Thomas Paine Get the Colonies to Throw Off the British Monarchy?
In college, we are taught that one of the founders of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine, was a deist. Indeed, he was. What the professors did not tell us was that Paine's masterpiece, "Common Sense" — the pamphlet that persuaded the American people to move from merely seeking some redress of grievance from the British government to flat out seeking independence — made almost all of its arguments from the Bible.
Paine knew that the American people were the most biblically literate people in the world at that time. Arguably, they were the most biblically literate generation of all history. They were not going to be moved to a war of independence from the reasonings of Enlightenment thinkers. The appeal had to come from Holy Writ, or it would not come at all.
In a masterful polemic, after citing passages in Scripture about the fallacy of monarchy, Paine sums it all up with this:
These portions of scripture are direct and positive. They admit of no equivocal construction. That the Almighty hath here entered his protest against monarchical government is true, or the scripture is false. And a man hath good reason to believe that there is as much of kingcraft as priestcraft in withholding the scripture from the public in popish countries. For monarchy in every instance is the popery of government.
Paine had used Scripture to show that monarchy is idolatrous.
The Revolution was on.
Within a year, the Declaration of Independence would be signed. Thomas Jefferson would later write that the Declaration "placed before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent."
It was an allusion to Paine's pamphlet.
However, it was not just a rejection of monarchy. Paine's pamphlet even used Scripture to decide the form of government that men should have.
Near three thousand years passed away, from the Mosaic account of the creation, till the Jews under a national delusion requested a king. Till then their form of government (except in extraordinary cases where the Almighty interposed) was a kind of Republic, administered by a judge and the elders of the tribes. Kings they had none, and it was held sinful to acknowledge any being under that title but the Lord of Hosts.
Our government was to be a republic. We were not to merely replace a foreign king with a local monarch, but we were to change our form of government altogether.
Now, why is this important?
It is important because freedom and liberty are quickly evaporating from the world scene. According to observers, the rising world power is China, and what strikes the historian is the almost total lack of desire for freedom in the Chinese during their history. They will revolt to overturn bad government, but never to set up a free government. They are comfortable with well-run tyrannies.
The Chinese will rebel when things like what happened during those awful years are allowed to go on for too long, and they have the Confucian classics to teach them that they are right to do so. But in ordinary times, they are conformists, and they care little for democratic government, freedom of speech, racial equality, or the right of minorities to practice eccentric religions.
Indeed, this is true. It is the complacency not only of the Chinese but of most men throughout history. Give them enough food, along with a degree of prosperity, and most men will fall in line. In modern terms, give them fast food, a PlayStation, and easy access to creature comforts, and the people will not care how the government is run, nor who runs it.
The problem is that, at most times, most men do not even desire liberty. It is a rarified concept, which is often foreign to their nature.
Few men desire liberty; most men wish only for a just master.
A desire for liberty has to be instilled in men. It is not natural to them. All too often, the default form of government among men is tyranny. Even the anarchism of tribalism defaults to the autocracy of chiefs.
So from whence do we get this love of liberty?
Well, as Tom Paine — yes, the deist Tom Paine — was forced to acknowledge, the love of liberty comes from the Bible: "proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Lev. 25:10). That particular passage made it unto the Liberty Bell.
Or how about this passage from Paul?
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal 5:1)
Paul was speaking in a spiritual sense, but the precept flowed over into every aspect of life. Ancient pagan religions — and to a certain extent, halachic Judaism — required a plethora of religious rituals and practices. Do this. Don't do that. Avoid that food. Eat this. Wear this. Don't wear that.
A tyranny of the mind will spill over into a tyranny of society.
An Islam that deprecates women, that honor-kills them, that destroys their libido with FGM, will, of necessity, have no brake, no governor of the excesses of male behavior. Hence, it will descend into violent anarchy. A paganism that destroys the female will produce a tyranny of male excess. A tyranny of the mind, born of superstition, will produce a dearth of science. And so on.
To counter this, Paul introduces only one real law: love one another.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)
Unnecessary rules were gone. This was the source of liberty.
Such a society can operate only if the society is Christian. If a society is not Christian, the individual tyranny that is in the mind of the unbeliever will eventually work its way out into society and destroy it. Without such Christianity, the slide into tyranny is inevitable. Men are too comfortable with agreeable dictators.
Men do not need the license of transgender, homosexual confusion to be free. The answer to Islam, to tyranny, is the gospel. But the West cannot bring the good news if we have abandoned it. We forget that rights are God-given, not state permissions. And, as Christianity is abandoned, we are becoming less free.
One has to be taught to desire liberty. The teacher is Christ.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of a writer who wishes he had paid more attention in his Spanish class, lo those many decades ago.
Image via Pxfuel.
To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.