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The Last Independence Day 07/04/2008

Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke warned
against liberty without
wisdom and virtue.

 

As Americans celebrate Independence Day, I cannot help but wonder why we seem to be losing so much of our hard-earned freedom. Turning to Scripture, I read where Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32) Conversely, a loss of freedom can be traced to a lack of truth. Many Americans do not know Truth; therefore, they cannot hold on to freedom.

Edmund Burke, an Irishman who served in the British House of Commons, supported the American Revolution. A few years later, he opposed the French Revolution. Why did he support one, but not the other? The primary reason is because he understood the inherent danger in “liberty without wisdom and without virtue.”

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), he called this type of freedom “the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.” He observed that “the effect of liberty to individuals is that they may do what they please; we ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations which may be soon turned into complaints.”

In America, he saw virtuous leadership and believed the government could balance freedom and wisdom. In France, he saw incapable leadership with “high-sounding words in their mouths.” He rightly understood that “swelling sentiments of liberty” without a moral foundation would produce leaders who would “choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity.” They would not provide a moral compass, but would “become flatterers instead of legislators, the instruments, not the guides, of the people.”

Burke was right. America became modern civilization's prime example for liberty while France fell into a bloody civil war, followed by dictatorships, the infamous "reign of terror" and perpetual revolution.

The following year, Burke defended his observations in a letter to a member of the National Assembly (1791). He wrote:

“Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites,—in proportion as their love to justice is above their rapacity,—in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption,—in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

America has loosened her moral chains. We prefer the flattery of fools to the sober wisdom of virtuous voices. We have become slaves to our uncontrolled appetites. We have moved away from the Truth—the One who enables us to live under control, rather than out of control. In doing so, we watch our freedom slip away.

It is not too late for America. A righteous remnant remains. But we must return to the absolutes upon which our nation was founded before Independence Day becomes another meaningless holiday and freedom a forgotten notion of the past.


Join James as he seeks to preserve freedom’s blessings in his latest book The Soul of a Nation.


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 565

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.