By Rick Hunt and Dale Ebel
“So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard” – Acts 4:18-20 NLT
George Mason (1725-1792) was a good friend with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Madison.
He was educated in law and quickly became a wealthy plantation owner. He worked hard on the Constitution but refused to sign it because of two reasons: Firstly, it did not abolish slavery and secondly, it did not adequately protect the rights of individual citizens and states from the federal power.
While he was a slave owner, Mason strongly opposed slavery and Virginia law forbade him from releasing his own slaves. This was also the case with Thomas Jefferson who inherited 187 slaves at the age of 14. Virginia law was rigid in its pro-slavery laws and had been so for more than a century before Jefferson. As early as 1692 it began placing significant economic hurdles in the way of those wanting to emancipate slaves.
The primary assumption of the general public, and especially in our classrooms, is that the Bible condones slavery as we have come to understand it in American history. In actuality, American slavery was called kidnapping in the Bible and in Exodus 21:16, under the judicial law of the Hebrews, we see that it was was punishable by death.
The type of slavery the Scripture condones was much like the indentured servant system that provides protection and provision for those who were either poor or that were loaded down with debt.
The oratory skills from law served George well as he pursued politics. But his writing skills proved to be even more impressive. Mason’s drafting of the Virginia Constitution in 1776 became the template for his colleague Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration of Independence declared our freedom from the tyrannical central government of England. The Bill of Rights (the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution) declares the rights and liberties of individual U.S. citizens and states from the same type of overreaching central government of the U.S. and it’s newly empowering Constitution.
Mason served in the Virginia House throughout the Revolution and then was sent as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. George Mason worked on the US Constitution in 1787 but refused to vote for it unless a Bill of Rights accompanied it.
Four years later, the Bill of Rights was voted into law. Known as the Father of the Bill of Rights, he declined a position as one of Virginia’s first two U.S. senators in order to retire to private life.
So on the 4th of July, while we celebrate Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence from England, it would also be most fitting to acknowledge George Mason and the Bill of rights that declared our freedoms and liberties from our own federal government.
For a great overview of the Bill of Rights refer to, “A Scriptural Bill of Rights” in The Founders Bible, pages 1717-1724.
The appearance of the first two amendments – the freedom of religion as the first liberties set forth in our Bill of Rights, is no accident. Securing such freedoms from civil government interference is the first business of any civil order. As James Mason wrote in his famous Memorial and Remonstrance:
“Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Great Governor of the Universe…”
In order to acknowledge God’s exclusive sovereignty over man’s duty toward God, freedom of religion requires jurisdictional immunity from the power of civil authorities. It is unfathomable to hold otherwise. When Jesus said, “Render to Caesar,” He clearly reserved a necessary prerequisite: “Render …to God the things that are God’s” – Mark 12:17. The Scriptures declare that the entire “earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains” – Psalm 24:1. That our Creator owns all creation and that all men are first subject to God, who gives us all we have and upon whom we are dependent for every breath we breathe, is given. It is an immutable (unchanging) fact.
By retaining the people’s sovereign right to change the form of government, our Bill of Rights reminds us that government officials are servants of the people, not their lords and benefactors as Jesus reminded His disciples that leadership tyrants are opposed to the principles of God the Father (Luke 22:25-26).
Even though we are called to be submissive to “government authority” (Romans 13:1-7) we are never called to submit to tyrannical commands of any leader that promotes rules that oppose Scripture (Acts 4-5). Even great heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11, like Rahab, Moses, Daniel, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abednego) declared their willingness to be civilly disobedient against such tyrannical authorities.
Here is a list of the 10 Amendments to the Constitution, or The Bill of Rights:
|Bill of Rights
Amendment 1 Freedoms, Petitions, Assembly
Amendment 2 Right to bear arms
Amendment 3 Quartering of soldiers
Amendment 4 Search and arrest
Amendment 5 Rights in criminal cases
Amendment 6 Right to a fair trial
Amendment 7 Rights in civil cases
Amendment 8 Bail, fines, punishment
Amendment 9 Rights retained by the People
Amendment 10 States’ rights
An Action to Take: Ask a Christian – or non-Christian – if it is acceptable to stand up against a government that opposes ones personal moral belief.
Rick Hunt and Dale Ebel