The Communist League, a subversive society bent on inciting riots across the Continent of Europe for the purpose of embracing communism, commissioned Karl Marx on January 26, 1848 to complete his Manifesto by February 1st. Of course Marx had already distilled his ideas after years of reflection, but these ideas and violent methods were so revolutionary that his own name would not appear on the publication until 24 years later in 1872! Once the “48’ers” as they were known began to riot all across Europe, their ideas and methods were condemned and many had to flee for their lives to other nations, including the United States!
So who was Karl Marx? Raised as a Christian, Marx wrote when only a teen “Union with Christ could give an inner elevation, comfort in sorrow, calm trust, and a heart susceptible to human love, to everything noble and great, not for the sake of ambition and glory, but only for the sake of Christ.” He saw Christ and His love as the true motive for people to get along. Falling out of relationship with his father, who may have been somewhat absent in his life, Marx turned to the occult and the devil. In his poem “Human Pride,” for instance, he writes in parallel to what the Bible says of Satan in Isaiah 14:12-15: “With disdain I will throw my gauntlet, full in the face of the world, and see the collapse of this pygmy giant whose fall will not stifle my ardour. Then will I wander godlike an victorious through the ruins of the world and, giving my words an active force, I will feel equal to the Creator.” Only bent on self, he had no obligation to earn a living, though he was gifted and brilliant. His family was thus abandoned and lived in poverty.
Friedrich Engels, Marx’s friend and co-author of the Communist Manifesto, was also raised as a Christian. However, he began to doubt his faith writing, “I pray every day, indeed almost all day, for truth, and I have done so ever since I began to doubt, but still I cannot go back. My tears are welling as I write.” When he first met Marx, he had called him “the monster possessed by ten thousand devils.” Marx and Engels wrote using all kinds of profanity as well as mocking the very people they were to reach. Marx admitted that “the Communist mob will never love us.” Both Engels and Marx elevated Satanism, slavery, discrimination, and antisemitism while promoting a system that would captivate over a third of the world’s population, leaving them as virtual slaves to their governments.
After the publication of the Manifesto in 1848 there were uprisings and violent riots all over Europe. Though some view these as spontaneous, unrelated demands by the working class for better conditions and pay, the cause can be traced to the writings of the small pamphlet that claims to be the most read political booklet of all time. These “revolutions” resulted in greater control from government and effectively traded one form of tyranny for another which was worse. The dialectic method of thinking and forced redistribution of wealth made things worse over time. Since the Pilgrims arrived nearly 250 years earlier, what could this Manifesto possibly have to do with them?
Marx wrote that the goal of his philosophy was communism. Though the word is out of vogue today, the concepts of Marxism and socialism that comprise its ideology of government control and forced redistribution of wealth are still taught on college campuses and universities around the world. The same ideas, in seed form, were practiced in England at the time of the Pilgims. Economic concepts such as the “common field,” “just price” and “wage ceiling” were aspects of government control to eliminate competition, the profit motive and insure that workers were paid a fair share. The financial investors of the Pilgrims were simply applying these accepted concepts and it became “the common course and condition”.
What the Pilgrims did by reasoning from Scripture was to refute the ideas that would one day be called Marxist, socialist and communistic. Marx and Engels did not invent such concepts, they have been around since sin entered the Garden of Eden. William Bradford writes, describing the year 1623;
“So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the adivce of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number… This had very good success, for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”
Simple study and application of Scripture in the wilderness where no King or constable is looking over your shoulder, produced innovative ideas that set a new direction for the production of corn in 1623. These ideas can be contrasted with the goals of the Communist Manifesto of 1848. The Manifesto called for the abolition of private property, establishment of a graduated income tax, abolition of the right of inheritance (and thus abolition of the family), centralization of the economy, communication, and transportation by the State, factories and production owned by the State, government control of labor, reduction of self-government, and free government education in public schools.
Bradford wrote in affirmation of private property; “…the taking away of property and bringing into community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God…”; in affirmation of private labor, “For this community… was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”; and in affirmation of the family, including the primary responsibility of parents to educate their children; “And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men… they deemed it a kind of slavery… it did diminish (those relations that God hath set amongst men).” The Pilgrims brought the simple ideas of self-government, private property, labor and the family to a wilderness, little realizing that they were establishing principles upon which a future nation of liberty would rest. The fact that our nation is practicing more of the ideas of Marx than the Pilgrims illustrates why we must remember our roots!
On January 1, 1776, while the British laid siege to Boston, George Washington raised the Grand Union Flag on Prospect Hill near his headquarters in Cambridge. It was the first flag of the united colonies. It was known as the Congress Colors, the First Navy Ensign and the Cambridge Flag and could be considered the official flag of the American Revolution. It had 13 red and white stripes and a blue field with the red cross of St. George of England and the white cross of St. Andrew of Scotland.
So, why did Washington raise a flag that was so similar to the emblem of England? A bit of history may be in order here. In 1603 King James I of England, who had been King James VI of Scotland, came to the throne as the monarch of both England and Scotland after Queen Elizabeth died. Though the two nations would not officially be joined until 1707, he combined the flags of England (St. George’s cross) and Scotland (St. Andrews cross) into one combined symbol. Thus, both Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620) sailed ships flying this combined Union flag representing the nation from which they sailed. Later, St. Patrick’s cross of Ireland (now just Northern Ireland) was added in 1801 to make England’s Union Jack of today. Thus, the United Kingdom is a combination of several nations into one kingdom and its flag bears out that history.
In Scripture, a banner is a standard that depicts, in picture form, the ideas for which people are willing to give their lives. Depicting spiritual and physical warfare, Isaiah 59:19b says “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” We are to lift up, as a standard (like a flag), the eternal ideas, drawn from God’s Word, in the midst of a flood of evil rising around us. One of those ideas is that civil government is ordained of God and thus we owe it respect.
In October of 1775 George Washington created the “Appeal to Heaven” flag for his naval cruisers he had built and financed himself. With the pine tree as a symbol of religious and civil liberty, it had obvious overtones of appealing to God for the justice of the cause. Another example was the Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flag inspired by the Culpeper minutemen of Virginia in 1776 emphasizing resistance to tyranny. But these flags were not official and though they depicted important ideas they did not carry the weight of the Grand Union flag raising that took place January 1st, 1776. After all, Washington had just become Commander in Chief the summer before, and Independence would not be declared for six more months. The new flag (by Besty Ross), based on independence, would not be created until 1777. So what was so significant about this flag raising?
The Colonists had appealed to England on September 1, 1775 with an “Olive Branch Petition” where they asked the British Parliament and Crown to reconsider the violation of their natural rights as stated in their Charters. On October 27, 1775, the King responded with an aggressive and forceful speech that virtually severed the colonies from the mother country, saying they were “in rebellion.” No discussion of rights, rule of law or due process were addressed. It was either total submission to tyrannical rule voluntarily or by force. The British flag at that time was also called the Grand Union flag. It had the two crosses merged together to fill the entire flag – and symbolically it depicted the fact that the Crown filled the entire nation with “prerogative” and tyranny.
The written speech of the King had been passed around the militia units in Cambridge and the troops were furious and began to burn it in their campfires. If emotional vengeance and lawless anger had been elevated by the leaders, it would have had terrible consequences. For months a new standard had been discussed that would balance the rights of the colonies with respect for the mother country. This new flag was not a flag of rebellion or anarchy. Since it contained the symbols of the original flag of England, the British, and some colonial troops, thought it was a flag of surrender to England! However, the crown emblem had been reduced in size and the main symbols were now thirteen bands alternating between red and white to signify the unity of the thirteen colonies and the fact that they would submit to the rule of law and not lawless power from the Crown. It was the first official step forward under the rule of law and away from an oath of loyalty to an individual alone.
When the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower, they planted the seed of submission to civil government as a God ordained institution. They sailed under a Patent and Charter from the King (the very one who had driven them out of England), flying the Union flag. Once landing out of the jurisdiction of their written documents, they wrote the Mayflower Compact and stated, “In the name of God Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign King James.” God, to the people, and then to the King (or civil government) was a new power flow that would affect generations to come. They thus avoided anarchy and lawless behavior. Though the Pilgrims could never have envisioned the Declaration of Independence, they planted a seed of independence under God and the rule of law, functioning by the Compact they wrote under the rule of law.
So what is the lesson we can learn from this flag raising on Prospect Hill in Cambridge? Though surrounded by evil and a rising tide of lawlessness just like the Colonists were under the siege of Britain in Boston, we must raise, as a banner, the proper balance of submission to the rule of law with the discernment of lawfully resisting, from a place of principled unity. We will have to do this, not just by our rhetoric, but by our actions. Most who desire to increase the size and scope of civil government do not understand that they will come to oppose its fruit in the future. People are not our enemy. We must serve others, love our enemies, and allow God’s providential Hand to move in His time. We must, however, raise the banner of the ideas of Christian self-government and submissive yet lawful resistance to tyranny! If we do this, our children and grandchildren will thank us! Let us raise up the banner of truth!
155 years ago, on November 19, 1863, Lincoln delivered what has become his most famous address. He was not the main speaker and his remarks lasted all but two minutes. However, what he said captured the hearts and minds of Americans then, as well as serving as a reminder for us today. To understand its significance, we must be reminded about how strategic the battle of Gettysburg was and why Lincoln spoke on the battlefield only four months later. Lincoln’s remarks can also remind us of our Pilgrim roots as a nation and why we must continue to keep them alive.
The Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. Though there were constitutional issues between the northern and southern states, the underlying issue was slavery. Robert E. Lee, the leader of the Confederate troops of the south, entered Pennsylvania in June of 1863. He wanted to defeat the north on their own soil to force Lincoln to sue for peace. Only three days before the battle of Gettysburg, General Hooker was replaced by General George Meade, who kept the northern army between Lee and Washington, DC.
From a providential viewpoint, the American Revolution would never have been won by the Colonies had not God intervened. At the same, time, the South would never have lost the Civil War had not God intervened. The South was in revival and the North was forgetting its Christian roots. Though the South had a legitimate case against the North constitutionally, the South was morally wrong on slavery and it made God their adversary!
The fighting north of Gettysburg on July 1st was won by the South and Northern troops retreated through Gettysburg to Cemetery and Culp’s Hill. July the 2nd featured assaults by Lee on many fronts, but Meade’s troops held firm. It was on July 3rd that Pickett’s Charge (12,000 Confederate troops) would be repulsed with 1,100 dead and 4,000 wounded. A total of 51,000 soldiers died at Gettysburg making it the bloodiest battle. The town’s 2,400 residents had to bury or care for 21,000 following the battle. Rain caused the spread of disease as women cared for both northern and southern wounded not captured or removed. Most were buried right where they died but have since been moved to the main cemetery at Gettysburg or other southern cemeteries. Northern soldier’s graves are much better documented than the South.
When the date was set for a commemoration of the Union troops who had given their lives at Gettysburg, expectations were high for an amazing address. After all, Edward Everett had been chosen to speak, and he would deliver a memorized, two-hour, 13,000 word oration. He served as a Congressman, Senator, Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain and U.S. Secretary of State. He taught at Harvard and served as its President. But he was best known by this time as one of America’s most famous orators. It would be one of his last speeches, for he died a hear and a half later. When President Lincoln was asked to speak, he promised it would be “short, short, short.”
Everett gave a magnificent oration. It was historic, drawing on the ideas planted by the Pilgrims, Puritans and Patriots, and included a detailed history of the battle of Gettysburg, which many were hearing about for the first time. He also had a plea for reconciliation between the North and the South. A diarist wrote, “Mr. Everett was listened to with breathless silence by all that immense crowd, and he had his audience in tears many times.”
Then Lincoln followed for some dedicatory remarks. He began, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” He dated the origin of the nation with the Declaration of Independence (1776), not with the ratification of the Constitution (1789). Our constitution rests on the Declaration and its truths. The Confederate States Constitution in contrast had no reference to the Declaration or that “all men are created equal.”
Lincoln stated, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” Lincoln implies that all who died are to be honored. Many had come to honor only the North, but both Everett and Lincoln called them higher.
He continues that theme when he states, “But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” The world has remembered what Lincoln said since the words speak of transcendent ideas and agree with the biblical, eternal truth.
Lincoln concludes “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” The ideas of government by consent of the governed, rights from God and our goal to preserve liberty for our posterity are all ideas the Pilgrims brought to these shores nearly 400 years ago! The new birth of freedom is the way a nation is “born again,” renewing its dedication to its original covenant with God.
Everett wrote Lincoln “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself, that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Everett had said after Lincoln’s speech, “I venture in the spirit of prophecy that no one will remember what I said, but all will remember what he said.” History has proven Everett correct, but most importantly Lincoln’s address reminded us what makes our nation unique. We are not great because we are Americans. We are only great to the degree that we remain faithful to the ideas, drawn from the Bible, upon which our nation was founded.