My Musings

Liberty and Law
(America the Beautiful)

Liberty and Law <br> (America the Beautiful)

“And I will walk at liberty, for I seek Your precepts.”
(Psalms 119:45).

Liberty and law are friends, not foes. The best way to lose both is to choose just one or the other.

The Ten Commandments were given to a free people. They begin not with a command but with a credential which qualifies God as a Lawgiver: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2). The fact that ten commands follow signifies how connected liberty is with the rule of law.

Three thousand years later, a deep longing for religious liberty beckoned the Pilgrims to strange shores across the Atlantic. You know the tune; sing with me the second verse of America the Beautiful (1893), by Katharine Lee Bates:

    Oh beautiful for pilgrim’s feet,
    Whose stern, impassioned stress;
    A thoroughfare for freedom beat
    Across the wilderness!

The Pilgrims likened themselves to the ancient Israelites seeking freedom through a wilderness. They honored Israel’s God as a deliverer and lawgiver. They looked to Moses as God’s agent of national freedom and His custodian of the law. The Pilgrims, like the Puritans who followed, saw liberty and law as complementary legacies.

America was built on these two legacies. Our Constitution emerged from the wise conviction that onerous laws can decimate liberty as effectively as lawlessness. The marriage of liberty and law forged a unique heritage that has been carried to us by countless curriers, including the following:

    Edward Hyde (1609 – 1674), 1st Earl of Clarendon:

      The law is the standard and guardian of our liberty.

    Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790), author, printer, inventor, and statesman:

      Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.

    Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933), 30th President of the USA, from his Philadelphia speech on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of The Declaration of independence, July 5, 1926:

      The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.


    Margaret Thatcher (1925 – 2013), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990:

      Freedom will destroy itself if it is not exercised within some sort of moral framework, some body of shared beliefs, some spiritual heritage transmitted through the church, the family, and the school.

    Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), 40th President of the United States of America:

      Law and freedom must be indivisible partners. For without law, there can be no freedom, only chaos and disorder; and without freedom, law is but a cynical veneer for injustice and oppression.


    Marvin Olasky, editor of WORLD Magazine, in an op-ed, June 28, 2003:

      Civilization is passed on in part when children who want to be free learn that self-restraint is the key to true liberty… Husbands and wives can only fully enjoy the freedom of marital bonds if they exercise self-restraint in regard to others who could readily become objects of lust.

Let’s close with the chorus of America the Beautiful (1893):

    America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
    Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

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About the Author:

Joel graduated from Pepperdine University with a B.A., completing two majors: Art and Religion. He went on to earn the Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. The views expressed on this blog are personal and belong to Joel Solliday unless otherwise stated. They are not, intended to characterize the views of the Lewiston Church of Christ or other organizations to which I may refer.