In a sermon about the attachment citizens should have to civil government, Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) explained how children often maintain an affectionate attachment to parents, even parents who are harsh and unreasonable. Fuller maintains that many children honor their parents, as their parents, because they refused to be driven away from their duty before God, even if their parents had forgotten their duty.
Fuller subsequently adds, “Such is the spirit which ought to be cherished towards the worst civil government.” It is a needed word as the American electorate is facing a presidential election where both major party candidates are disturbingly cartoonish figures and voters are left wondering which is the worse gradation of evil and incompetence.
Fuller also notes that many British citizens in his day talked as if they were “living under the worst of governments.” He then remarks that such a view “is so far from being the truth that almost any one would think it the best in Europe, if not in the world.” According to Fuller, those who had left Britain under that impression “have seen cause to repent of their folly and ingratitude.”
Why, according to Fuller, did so many British citizens talk as if they lived under the worst government in the world? He contends they did so because they lived under one of the best governments in the world, that afforded them the right to do so. Fuller explains, “The civil liberty contained in the British government is the very cause of its being worse thought of and spoken against, by one part of its subjects, than that of any other country.” He adds, “Were one of these in France, and even a member of the legislature, he must not open his mouth in the manner he does in England.”
Fuller argued that living in a free society, where free speech and open opposition to the ruling governmental party is permitted, means that its citizens tend to always think things are worse than they actually are. He says,
If, within my remembrance, only a tenth part of what has been foretold by the opposition interest had been true, we should ere now have ceased to be a nation.
Oh but, says one, we are going fast to ruin! Provisions rise, farms let for double and treble what they did, and taxes are enormous. And what does the rise of provisions and of land prove, except that the country is full of money? All buying and selling is only an exchange of commodities; and according to the quantity and demand for any article such is the price. To say that provisions are dear is only saying that money is cheap. Oh, but it is not money, it is paper. So long however as the nation is solvent, and can pay its debts, paper is the same as money. With respect to the amount of taxes, it is not of much account so long as we have the means of paying them.
Fuller describes some people he contends are professional complainers and those who are too easily led by the hostile press and profiteering political alarmists. Fuller maintains if we uncritically absorb the messages we hear then, “If we choose to be deceived, deceived we shall be and ought to be.” Fuller advocates an entirely different approach to government for Christians,
If I am attached to government as government, irrespective of the men who administer it, I shall be willing to find their measures right, and unwilling to find them otherwise, unless compelled so to think by evidence. I shall never take pleasure in traducing it, nor in hearing it traduced. If in any case I think it in the wrong, I shall speak of it, if at all, with regret. But if I choose to enlist under the banners of a systematic opposition, and to learn all that occurs from their report, I shall presently enter into their prejudices, and become their dupe. They are fighting for a substance indeed, but I for a phantom. So when these patriots get into power, I wonder and admire, and am then attached to government, not because the New Testament enjoins it, but because my favorites bear rule; and thus, both when they are out of office and when they are in, I am out of the way of Christian obedience. How can I be said to honor magistrates, while I view all their actions through the representations of men whose interest it is to supplant them; discrediting everything good, and believing everything evil?
The Scripture tells us, Fuller explains, “ The mindless public political slogans, divisive rhetoric, and cultural cries that the sky-is-falling if the candidate whose political agenda we despise is elected (for many of us that is either candidate!) are not an argument on how to make America great again, but what makes America great, in spite of it all.
[Andrew Fuller, The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous, ed. J. Belcher (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988): vol. 3, 670-673.]
The mindless public political slogans, divisive rhetoric, and cultural cries that the sky-is-falling if the candidate whose political agenda we despise is elected (for many of us that is either candidate!) are not an argument on how to make America great again, but what makes America great, in spite of it all.