Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, published 1765-1769 by Oxford’s Clarendon Press, had an immense influence on America’s founders, being considered the definitive pre-Revolutionary source of common law by United States courts.
“The principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature.”
“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer.”
“Of great importance to the public is the preservation of this personal liberty; for if once it were left in the power of any the highest magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper…there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities.”
“There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as…that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe.”
“To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom;
but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government.”
Blackstone defined “Crimes against God”, “Crimes against Man,” and in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, he defined the act of sodomy as a “Crime against Nature”:
“It is an offence of so dark a nature… a disgrace to human nature… a crime not fit to be named; ‘peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nomtnandum’ (that horrible crime not to be named among Christians.’
Blackstone wrote that Parliament during the reign of Edward III heard of an accusation “that a Lombard did commit the sin ‘that was not to be named,'” continuing in Latin: “where that crime is found, which it is unfit even to know, we command the law to arise armed with an avenging sword, that the infamous men who are, or shall in future be guilty of it, may undergo the most severe punishments.”
This “crime against nature” deserved capital punishment, as Blackstone cited Leviticus 20:13-15 and wrote: “the voice of nature and of reason, and the express law of God, determine to be capital,” making reference to the “signal instance, long before the Jewish dispensation” of “the destruction of two cities (Sodom and Gomorrah) by fire from Heaven; so that this is an universal, not merely a provincial, precept.”
Blackstone also explained how Islam resulted in political despotism, as shown by:
“…terrible ravages committed by the Saracens in the east, to propagate the religion of Mahomet.”
Abraham Lincoln’s life changed when a poor family heading west stopped by his little country store in Illinois and traded a barrel of miscellaneous items for food. At the bottom of the barrel, Lincoln found a copy of Blackstone’s Commentary on English Law.
Blackstone’s Commentaries were also read by 29-year-old attorney Charles Finney.
Finney saw so many Scripture references in Blackstone’s Law Commentaries that he bought a Bible.
After reading in the Bible, Charles Finney, on October 10, 1821, decided to head into the woods near his home, saying:
“I will give my heart to God, or I never will come down from there.”
After several hours, he returned to his office, later writing:
“The Holy Spirit…seemed to go through me, body and soul… Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way.”
The next morning, at his law office, a church deacon suing a fellow-church member asked Finney about his case. Finney replied:
“I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause, and cannot plead yours.”
Finney began presenting the Gospel with a convincing lawyer’s argument.
He would pray using common, colloquial language rather than in formal, traditional King’s English.
Charles Finney began the tradition of an ‘altar call’ in his 1830 revival in Rochester, New York:
“I had found, that with the higher classes especially, the greatest obstacle to be overcome was their fear of being known as anxious inquirers. They were too proud…
Something was needed, to make the impression on them that they were expected at once to give up their hearts;
something that would call them to act, and act as publicly before the world, as they had in their sins;
something that would commit them publicly to the service of Christ…
I had called them simply to stand up in the public congregations…to bring them out from among the mass of the ungodly, to a public renunciation of their sinful ways, and a public committal of themselves to God.”
Finney’s revival preaching paved the way for evangelists Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.
Charles Finney’s 1835 Revival Lectures inspired George Williams to found the YMCA-Young Men’s Christian Association-in 1844.
Finney inspired William and Catherine Booth to found what would be called The Salvation Army in 1865.
Charles Finney formed the Benevolent Empire, a network of volunteer organizations to aid poor and aged with healthcare and social needs, which in 1834 had a budget rivaling the Federal Government.
Finney organized the Broadway Tabernacle in New York in 1831.
While Charles Finney was president of Oberlin College, 1851-1866, it was a station on the Underground Railroad smuggling slaves to freedom.
Under his leadership, Oberlin College granted the first college degree in the United States to a black woman, Mary Jane Patterson.
Charles Finney died AUGUST 16, 1875.
Concerning the Kingdom of God, he wrote:
“Every member must work or quit. No honorary members.”
In his article, ‘The Decay of Conscience’ published in THE INDEPENDENT of NEW YORK, December 4, 1873, Charles Finney wrote:
“Christ crucified for the sins of the world is the Christ that the people need.
Let us rid ourselves…of neglecting to preach the law of God until the consciences of men are asleep.
Such a collapse of conscience in this land could never have existed if the Puritan element in our preaching had not in great measure fallen out…”
“If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.
If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.
If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.
Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.”
In Lecture XV ‘Hindrances to Revival’ (Revival Lectures, 1855), Charles Finney wrote:
“The church must take right ground in regard to politics.
Do not suppose, now, that I am going to preach a political sermon, or that I wish to have you join and get up a Christian party in politics.
No, I do not believe in that. But the time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them.
They must be honest men themselves, and instead of voting for a man because he belongs to their party, Bank or Anti-Bank, Jackson, or Anti-Jackson, they must find out whether he is honest and upright, and fit to be trusted.
They must let the world see that the church will uphold no man in office, who is known to be a knave, or an adulterer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler…
Every man can know for whom he gives his vote. And if he will give his vote only for honest men, the country will be obliged to have upright rulers…”
“The church must act right or the country will be ruined.
God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground.
Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God.
It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics.
But I tell you, he does see it, and he will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take.”
The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s bookshere.
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