American Liberty by J. Gresham Machen


As I continue my research and study of the life of my newest hero, J. Gresham Machen, I find more and more in him from which to learn and emulate.  As I finish up this excellent compilation of his thought on Christian Education, Freedom, and the State, I find myself greatly inspired to not only continue to contend and defend the great Christian faith, but also to gain a greater understanding of history, to confer to my children the great and marvelous truths that did, in fact, secure a free nation for many of our ancestors, and to prayerfully seek to raise them to be defenders of truth and freedom.  I submit the following as further evidence of the wisdom, prophetic insight, and character of this great hero of both the Christian faith and American Liberty. Keep in mind these words were penned in a day not much different than the day American faces today economically; however, sadly we are further down the decline socially and theologically as Machen rightly assessed and predicted.

“When I utter the word, “America,” I am uttering a word which still hast to me a sort of precious and homelike sound.  I am hopelessly out of date in this matter, I know; but I cannot help it.  I suppose it is terribly foolish of me; I suppose it is disgustingly sentimental, but I am obliged to confess it.  I do love my country.  Sometimes I almost wish that I did not love it.  The love of it gives me such sorrow when I contemplate its present condition.  but somehow I cannot get the love of it quite out of my heart, and I cannot quite get the principles upon which it was founded out of my mind.  I believe in those principles still.  I believe in the notion that there are certain basic rights of the individual man and the individual family which must never be trampled under foot–never for any supposed advantage of the whole, never because of any emergency–certain basic rights like the right of personal freedom, the right of property, the right of privacy of the home, the real freedom of speech and of the press.  I believe in the specifically American idea in government–not a nation divided for purposes of administrative convenience into a number of units called states, but a number of indestructible states, each with its own virtues to be cultivated by its own citizens; with its own defects not to be remedied at all unless remedied by its own citizens, and, on the other hand, a federal government not in possession of any general and unexpressed sovereignty but carefully limited to powers expressly granted it by a Constitution which was not of its own making.  I believe in a judiciary not cooperating with any economic or social program (as President Roosevelt has intimated that the judiciary is doing now) but a judiciary resolutely refusing to cooperate, a judiciary quite independent of popular clamor, unswerved by any plea of necessity, interpreting the law and the law alone, upholding the high principles of the constitution through fair weather and foul, guaranteeing to the humblest citizen his inalienable rights against Congress and against the President and against the overwhelming weight of temporary public opinion.

Today this American liberty of ours is very rapidly being destroyed.  In the process of its destruction, we are learning something that we ought to have known perfectly well all along–namely, that freedom is dependent ultimately upon what is in the hearts of people.  Freedom is not safe if it is written only with ink in the Constitution.  It must be written also in the fleshy tables of the heart.  No country can be permanently free unless the love of freedom is ingrained in the very souls of its people.

Be it observed, moreover, that the love of freedom involves the hatred of something else.  It involves the hatred of restraint, the hatred of governmental interference, the hatred of inquisitorial measures of all kinds, the hatred of any undue interference with the privacy of individual citizens or individual families, the profound conviction that government–though necessary–is a necessary evil that is not intended to produce blessedness or happiness but intended to prevent blessedness or happiness from being interfered with by wicked men.  I think it can be said that no people is fit to govern itself if it does not hate to be governed.

That healthy hatred of being governed, formerly so strong in the American people, is gradually being lost.  No interference is resented today–no menace to family life, no government monopoly–if only it be thought to confer physical benefits.  I do not think that we ought to deceive ourselves about this matter.  We are witnessing today in America the decay of free institutions, and that decay is proceeding quite in the well worn track which it followed, for example, when the Roman Republic gave place to the Roman Empire about two thousand years ago.”  –J. Gresham Machen

 

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