by the Rev. Carl Mcintire
Message delivered on Thanksgiving morning, November 25, 1937
At the Collingswood Presbyterian Church
The usual Thanksgiving message contains some references to the turkey dinner. I trust, however, that for a few minutes this morning we may consider some things of far more importance than turkey dinner. In the light of the distress and perplexity of our day we need to turn our attention to a consideration of the fundamental privileges and liberties which are ours as the citizens of the United States. Religious and civil liberties stand and fall together. One gives birth to another, and both depend upon each other. Destroy one, and the other dies. The average man does not realize the vital connection between the two.
We are assembled here in a definite place on the face of the earth. It is a church building at Fern and Maple Avenues, Collingswood, New Jersey, the United States of America. The earth is getting smaller everyday. Once it was like a balloon, the size of a giant Jumbo, but today it is no larger than a small orange. Communication and transportation have wrought a deflation. In the small space of five minutes, sitting in a comfortable lounge in our own house, we may hear a voice from London, another from Paris, and other from Sydney, Australia, and other from Nanking, another from Los Angeles, another from New York. For all practical purposes the world has shriveled up.
With the contraction in the size of the earth come many blessings, but also increased evils. Nations and races now rub elbows, bringing irritation and even inflammation. The personal equation is more acute. Can man survive the severe shrinkage which has occurred in the place of his abode? The shrinking of the ground under man's feet has served only to make its clumsy feet seem larger.
To the east of us, just across the Atlantic, which today is little more than a big pond, is the land of Spain. She is torn by civil strife. Is it a war for the liberty of mankind? No, anything but that. The battle rages between two different types of tyranny. The Loyalists on one hand, representing the Communists; and General Franco and his forces on the other, representing the Fascists. The choice is simply between the lesser of two evils, and which evil is the greater depends upon one's own viewpoint. A soul destroying tyranny, more severe than anything which raised its head during the Dark Ages, has enthroned itself in Germany. Even this morning the papers tell of the spoiling of a plot designed to overthrow the republican government in France.
To the west of us we find China and Japan in the throes of death's grip. Japan represents the heathen imperialism. The so-called enlightened civilization is impotent before her will. After all, where is our civilization, when it stands mute before the unspeakable atrocities of an aggressor?
We're stunned to hear the word over the air that the largest country in South America, Brazil, has a dictator. Of course, there is a new constitution. But to all intents and purposes it is a Fascist state.
What will the end of it be? Without are fightings; within are fears. Yet the greatest enemies we have to face are not our near neighbors, but ourselves. The United States of America needs to fear her internal condition, our present state of mind, more than all else!
Much is said today about the Constitution of the United States. The reason, no doubt, is that in our day, especially the last few years, people have become aware of the fact that the Constitution is challenged and our social system disputed. In the name of so-called social justice, and the name of humanity, in the name of progress, and the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number," and in various other names and all-popular, fine sounding slogans, so frequently the very foundation principles upon which our Government rests are being challenged. Under cover of high sounding phrases, vicious proposals are being pushed.
How long has it been since you read the Constitution of the United States? We hear a great deal about the Constitution, but I wonder how often we actually hear the Constitution itself. The first ten amendments to that document are our charter of liberty. These liberties, civil and religious, were purchased for us at the price of blood. They are more precious to us than life, even than breath. Every real Christian should gladly lay down his life, if need be, for their preservation. The false note of pacifism which seems to be gaining ground in the shallow soil, and which looks to our high school and college students for converts, is an enemy of this charter. May I read the first ten amendments to the Constitution? And as I read, please observe the emphasis which is placed upon the individual, his defense, his protection, his exaltation, his liberty.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
There is not the slightest hint here that individuals exist for the service of the State. The Constitution was written in the terms of the individual, not in terms of the Government. The Government exists simply for the protection of the rights of the individual, and not the individual for the Glory of the Government.
We are permitted to stand here in this place at this moment and to talk as I am talking because of this Constitution. We are delivered from wicked propaganda as the only substance upon which we can feed our minds because of the guarantee of the freedom of the press. Our homes are our castles, and in them we are free to live and to love our children and to teach them our holy faith. These liberties are more precious than turkey dinners. Yet men are being tempted to exchange them for the physical comfort of a steady income. Is it our destiny to be well fed beasts in stalls? Is it our desire to be regimented slaves? Is it our nature to be subjects of an all powerful totalitarian State? God forbid! Yet do we realize that when people begin to look to the Government for work, and food, and everything, we have entered at the gate of such slavery? The Government under our Constitution was never formed for such a purpose!
May I say also, with a very strongest possible emphasis, that these ten amendments which we have read are the capitalistic system. The conception of the individual set forth here is Capitalism. You cannot separate the capitalistic system from individual liberties anymore than you can separate soul and body and have a man. It is impossible! Whenever you hear a man attacking the capitalistic system and declaring that it should be done away with, put it down that he is an enemy of ours and of the Constitution. That person is an enemy of himself, and of his children, if he only knew it. There may be abuses, but they cannot be corrected by scrapping our system. The Constitution grants to the individual freedom of thought and of growth. He is permitted to go forth and to develop. Deny these liberties, and a soul crushing tyranny enthrones itself, in one form or another. Where is the spirit of our fathers? They would rather have died and been free men, then to have lived and been slaves!
Let us not be deceived in thinking that our security rests in the Constitution itself. On every hand we are finding that treaties, contracts, and solemn obligations are merely scraps of paper. Our constitutional guarantees are no more secure or than the disposition of the majority. As long as the majority will respect the minority, the Constitution is secure, for the constitutional limitations there project the minority against majorities. But let a majority arise which feels that our system is wrong, or let an element assert itself maintained by propaganda, and our constitutional liberties will become annulled. The security of our Constitution rests in the proper indoctrination of our children and the appreciation of our system by the citizens. The last step before a fall is always that one in which the standard itself is questioned. How perilous is our condition today on this ever contracting earth!
Now we come to the more fundamental question. These liberties which we have mentioned our precious, and for them we give thanks this day, thanks from the very bottom of our hearts and souls. However, where did the conception of the individual as set forth in these amendments come from? Why is it that for generations of these standards have been accepted without question? The answer, I believe, is found in the fact that the civil liberties which we enjoy are the direct result of the religious convictions of our forefathers; or to put it even more pointedly, the conception of the individual set forth in our Constitution finds in its roots in the conception of the individual as set forth in the Bible. In that Book the individual stands or falls alone before God. He must be free to render an account to God and to God alone is the Lord of his conscience. Grant this liberty, and you must have civil liberties, such as freedom of speech, worship, and the press.
Is it not highly significant of the very first phrase in the first amendment to the Constitution deals with religious liberty? Our Puritan fathers came to this land in order that they might be free to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences because the long arm of the State was denying to them this rite. Thus we see the connection between civil and religious liberty.
Last week Mr. John D. Rockefeller Jr. a man whose influence and power in our day can scarcely be estimated, made an address in New York City, in which he said: "Wherein, then, lies the hope of the future? In this day of changing standards is anything stable and enduring? What is the answer to the fears and insecurity and bitterness that dominate the world today? Frankly, I do not know the answer. Moreover, I do not believe that anybody can know the answer. Mankind is wandering in heartbreaking perplexity, bewildered by many false prophets and discouraged by many false hopes."
What are you going to do when men in such positions frankly admit that they do not know the answer? Then Mr. Rockefeller adds, "But there is antidote to fear, and that is faith." But let it be observed that faith is not an absolute. Faith exists only in relation to something else as the basis for faith. When we do not know, when we cannot tell, when we have no hope, faith is an impossibility. Faith resting in a vacuum is an absurdity. Faith founded on the transient vaporizings was of man is impossible. To ask men to have faith without some foundation for that faith is an insanity. It is a logical and psychological impossibility to have such a faith.
So, men are literally floundering in the sea. They have no warrants, that it is this condition of mind which is so perilous today, and which is fraught with disaster and tragedy to our liberties and to our Constitution!
What I'm trying to say now is this: that there is a basis for faith, and it rests in the Word of God, and in the God of the Scriptures who has revealed himself unto man. It was the individual bound under the restrictions of the law of a holy and a righteous God that gave birth in the human race to the conceptions of liberty as we have them in our Constitution. As long as our people remained true to the Bible, these principles upon which our Government rests were not challenged. But in our day there has been a departure from the Word of God everyone recognizes this shift. The Bible is no longer the infallible Word of God. It is merely the world's greatest literature. The note of authority has gone. The dominating note of the authority of the Almighty has departed.
Utilitarian standards to which appeal now is being made are impotent. They will not restrain. They do not put the fear of God in the hearts of individuals. They cannot. They are simply man's ideas. There is, I believe, of direct ratio between the departure from the Word of God and the questioning of the standards of our liberty. You exalt the Word of God and hold it up as authority, and men will cherish the individual liberties set forth in the Constitution. The Almighty told Israel but as long as she heeded His Word she would be blessed, but when she departed from His Word she would be cursed with slavery. So it remains true today. You cast aside the Word of God, and men begin to think in terms of the state, the group, authoritarianism, totalitarianism, instead of in terms of the individual. And yet, the real welfare of the group rests in protecting that of whom the group is constituted, the individual. The only hope for America today is a return to the Bible. We need a revival. We need it desperately. We must return to the Bible as the infallible Word of God.
Where do men like John D. Rockefeller and others get their notions about faith? Are they not sitting at the feet of prophets, such prophets as Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, men who helped to mold the thinking of powerful leaders in our nation? And what views do these prophets have to present? Simply their own. They dream their own dreams and tell one another their tales, and they do not have a "Thus saith the Lord." They have rejected the inerrant Scripture - the one thing which can afford this authority! The loss of belief in the Bible's infallibility is the heart of our trouble. We have lost authority. We are adrift, adrift! God, help us!
Let me say very plainly, and I would like to say it with emphasis, that I believe the greatest enemy which we have to the Constitution of the United States within America today is the present, large, organized Church which has turned aside for the Bible as the infallible, inerrant Word of God. There are many Christian businessmen today who realize that the Church is torn away from its moorings, the rock of the infallible Word Of God. As goes the church, so goes the nation. The organized Church is filled with hypocrisy. She gives lip service to our old creeds, but her heart is filled with one belief, and her hand offers "another gospel." Conflicting prophets are heard within her walls.
Social justice and social reform have taken the place in the preaching of the Church of the exaltation of the moral law of God, its pronouncement of sin upon the individual, and the glorious offer of redemption to a lost sinner for the Gospel of Christ there is the power of God in the true Gospel of God's Son, but no power whatsoever in any other message!
Let me say, also the converse of what has been declared. The real friends of the Constitution and of our liberties are those who defend and who maintain the Bible. They are the individuals who stand in line of succession of our Puritan fathers who wrote the document which gives to us our liberty. Our enemies are those within the Church who have stepped out of line, departing from the Scriptures. We have yet to reap the awful whirlwind which is now to follow unless there is a genuine return to first principles again. The criticism and unbelief which have torn the Scriptures to shreds and left in their place simply standards which man's mind would accept, standards which his experience, sinful experience, can approve, have taken from us the favor of God. And yet some of the great captains of industry, realizing let there has been a change, have been unaware, or at least are blind to the fact, that that which has wrought the change, is the Church, which you would least suspect. Yet it is just in the most unsuspected place that the enemy of mankind, the author of tyranny, darkness, and death, does his nefarious work. His ministers are transformed into angels of light.
Fundamentally, this morning, therefore, as Christians, as those who believed the Bible, we give thanks that our liberties rest upon the Word of God, and above everything else we give "thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins."