by Bobbie Ames
Jefferson begins the Declaration of Independence by justifying this bold action based on the power granted by the Creator, based on the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” He makes his case on that basis.
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and Property” (Jefferson’s original wording). Wording was later amended to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Have you wondered many times where the bold ideas of Thomas Jefferson inscribed in the Declaration of Independence came from? Ideas of government radically different and never put in practice in the history of the world? Ideas so controversial that a war would commence at just the threat of such a government? Thomas Paine wrote in 1776, “These are the times that try men’s souls…Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”
America has a newly published book which gives great insight into Jefferson’s Declaration and philosophy, his leadership and his unique legacy for us today. The book is about the man that Jefferson declared to be one of the three greatest men that had ever lived, the man who, over decades of intense study, shaped Jefferson’s worldview. The book: John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty, by Mary-Elaine Swanson. This book, more than any other I can recommend, will help you understand why our founders fought for life, liberty, and property.
The book has an insightful foreword by David Barton, president of WallBuilders Ministry, who is an authority on Thomas Jefferson. Dr. Barton has a newly released book on Jefferson that refutes the myths circulating by the secular humanists intent on denying Jefferson’s faith and character. Barton writes of Locke’s influence on early thought, “It is not an exaggeration to say that without his considerable influence on American thinking, there might well be no United States of America today.” The WallBuilders library is known for its extensive collection of primary historical documents.
John Locke (1632 -1704) was born in the village of Pensford, Somersetshire, England, in a time of great upheaval. The Puritans were challenging the king’s right to demand religious conformity upon his people and his right to tax them without representation in Parliament. John Locke, Sr. a prosperous county lawyer, joined the cavalry to support the Parliament cause which challenged the king. The Locke family were of Puritan stock on both sides of the family and reared their two sons in the teaching of John Calvin. The Puritan beliefs of his parents and his church shaped his worldview early in life and remained the anchor of his soul. Historian John Richard Green described the Puritan character of Calvinism as embracing a “new and higher sense of political order.” Human laws were believed to be valid only if they conformed to the Higher Law of God as revealed in the Scriptures.
John Locke was educated in the finest institutions of his day. He received his MA in 1658 from Oxford and was a tutor in Greek and Moral Philosophy at Christ Church College in the early 1660s. Friends who wrote of him recognized that two dominant traits of his entire life were first of all, his love of Truth, which he found in the Scriptures. Secondly, friends wrote of his amazing capacity for life-long friendships with depth and loyalty. You might sum up his education and worldview as concentrating on Theology and Philosophy, but we wouldn’t do him justice, due to his additional pursuit in Medicine and Science. This led him into further study and the practice of medicine over many years, though somewhat informally. He even spent time with Robert Boyle in the laboratory. Noted for his accomplishment in Medicine and Science, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1668.
Through diplomatic assignments abroad, he came into contact with European Catholics, Lutherans, and other branches of Calvinism. He observed religious toleration and good will among these groups. Returning to England, he wrote a powerful Essay for Toleration in 1689. The following year his Two Treatises of Civil Government were published and widely circulated. By 1695, The Reasonableness of Christianity was published, which he hoped would lead non-believers to embrace truth and accept Christianity. Years earlier, he had written short commentaries on some of the New Testament Epistles, in a strong defense of the authority of Scripture.
He was the primary writer of the Carolina Constitutions, written while he was in the employ of Lord Ashley in 1669. Actually, I first met John Locke through my studies in North Carolina State History class in high school. I never remember hearing of him before we studied our earliest state documents. This was in the 1940s when we still had some remnant left of studying true history. Such is rare in schools today. Locke wrote the articles on religion, being careful that there be freedom of religion and not freedom from religion. In fact, the first article pertaining to religion read: “XCV. No man shall be permitted to be a freeman in Carolina, or to have any estate or habitation in it, that doth not acknowledge a God, and that God is publicly and solemnly to be worshipped.
Locke drew up provisions for persecuted French Protestants to migrate to the Carolinas under articles in the Constitution for their protection. Locke was a visionary. He challenged the Divine Right of Kings on Biblical grounds. He defended the Moral Law as the expression of God’s Will for all men. His writing on Education would make an insightful and much needed manual for modern parents who are so prone to indulge their children in every childish inclination. Locke’s wisdom on the importance of developing all of the faculties that God has given children (and men)…reasoning, as thinking, willing, judging, memorizing, and a life-long moral code to guide him.
Dr. John Eidsmoe, in endorsing the book on Locke, states: “Swanson demonstrates clearly and unmistakably that Locke was a Bible-believing Trinitarian Christian, and that he based his political theories on His Biblical convictions. In Part II, Swanson demonstrates that the colonial American religious and political leaders based their case for Independence upon Lockean theory, while the radicals who engineered the French Revolution ignored Locke and followed Rousseau—with tragic results.” Dr. Eidsmoe confirms the importance of this book for American Constitutionalism today. I know of no authority more qualified to judge Constitutional Law than Dr. Eidsmoe, author of Christianity and the Constitution.
The book is comprehensive. It walks us through the Glorious Revolution, the upheaval of numerous English kings and Parliament struggles. The contrasting of Locke and Rousseau is an important study in world-views, as is the contrast of Lafayette to Robespierre. There is helpful guidance for us on our modern secular state and how we can recover our legacy of political and theological roots.
It would be easy to claim that reform and recovery begins with the ballot box, but that would betray John Locke. It has to begin with the innermost beliefs of Americans. It has to begin in the home and that is where it began with John Locke. With parents knowing Reformation thought and why they believed, passionate about the upbringing of two sons, they achieved their goal. We can benefit from their labor. If Locke were here today, he would surely affirm that John Dewey and Dr. Spock have done as much damage to our heritage as did Rousseau to his culture in his day. In Locke’s teaching on Education, he stresses the importance of a healthy body and healthy mind in young children, He speaks of the principles and foundation of all virtue and worth, placed in this, that a person is able to deny himself his own desires, cross his own inclinations, and purely follow where right reason dictates. He writes that he “has observed in people breeding their children that the mind has not been made obedient to discipline, and pliant to reason, when at first it was most tender, most easy to be bowed.” Locke warns parents “against indulging young children thereby, actually corrupting the principles of nature in their children.” Locke further warns that if the groundwork is not laid “in the foundation and principling of youth, all other endeavors will be in vain.”
Reading Locke for me makes it ever so clear that we are one generation away from losing our liberty. Therefore, Christian Education is not an option for Christian Patriots. It is essential. In Colonial days, the New England clergy taught the Puritan principles of religious and civil liberty. They taught their congregations to reason from internal to external principles. They shaped American political thought, but their political thought was shaped in large part by John Locke, and the English Puritans who dared to stand against persecution and possible death. John Locke lives on. His influence is seen in every document from the Declaration of Rights, the Virginia Bill of Rights, my own home North Carolina State Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution. His writing transformed the thinking of Samuel Adams, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and many others.
Genesis 18:19 has the very first direct verse on Education in the Bible: It is God’s approving testimony and in praise of Abraham. Even before the tasks of parenting are done, God is speaking of what Abraham will do…build a great nation. “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”
II Timothy 3:16-17 is another admonition for the instruction of children. God’s Word says that “All Scripture is profitable…for instruction (education)…in order that the man of God will be fully prepared” for the Providential plan that God has for him. John Locke understood this well.
John Locke: Philosopher of American Liberty is available from Emerald Mountain Christian School, 334-567-0555, 334-398-1141 or can be ordered from the publisher Nordskog Publishing, 4562 Westinghouse Street, Suite E, Ventura, Ca. 93003.
Originally published in the Alabama Gazette, June 4, 2012.
Used by Permission