The republic we couldn’t keep

By Scott Lively

It was Benjamin Franklin who famously replied, “A republic, if you can keep it,” when a group of citizens asked him what form of government the founders had created for them. Few remember that he also said, “[This republic] is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other,” adding, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.” Notice that he said “when,” not “if.”

Franklin’s prophecy has come true: The putative Biden “presidency” is proof that our republic has been replaced by despotism – the consequence of our loss of virtue as a people. Sure, we can blame the Marxists for usurping our institutions and indoctrinating generations of Americans in atheism, hedonism and the victim/plunder mentality, but we nevertheless remain responsible for our own choices. “The devil made me do it” defense can’t save you in this life or the next.

What Franklin meant by “virtue” was Christianity, saying to the assembly at the 1787 Constitutional Convention, which wrote the U.S. Constitution: “In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers … were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor … and have we not forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance? [T]he longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: ‘that God governs in the affairs of man.’ And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

Just one decade after independence, our national leaders needed Franklin’s rebuke to jar their conscience. Yet, compared to our generation, these men were veritable Christian zealots. No, we have no one to blame but ourselves. By God’s standard we have a government we deserve: a cabal of lying and cheating degenerates whose contempt for the rule of law is exceeded only by their greed for self-enrichment through the abuse of power.

Modern dictionaries define a republic as “a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.” But the founders had a different view. Their new constitution was so strongly opposed by states-rights advocates that it took two years before New Hampshire became the necessary ninth state to ratify it. The factor that broke the logjam was Rev. Samuel Langdon’s sermon to the New Hampshire officials, titled “The Republic of The Israelites an Example To The American States.”

Any competent Bible student knows that the Israelite nation never fit the modern definition of a republic. But to the founders, what defined both the Israelite and the American republics was “self-government under the rule of law.”

From the time Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land until the Israelites grew so rebellious against God that they demanded a monarchy, their God-created government was self-rule under the Mosaic Law, administered by the Levite priests and tribal authorities. God didn’t intend for the people to be ruled by judges; He only raised judges to rescue the people from the political consequences of their sin after they repented and cried out for help (Judges 2:6-19, especially v. 18). In His plan, His people would have what our Founding Fathers called “ordered liberty”: freedom from human masters through mutual agreement to obey God’s laws.

America, from its founding under the Mayflower Compact in November1620 until November 2020, was also defined by self-government under the rule of law. It was “well administered for a course of years” but declined through cycle after cycle of rebellion and repentance until, just like Israel, the sins of the people became so deeply institutionalized there was no willingness to repent – only a demand that God deliver us just as we are.

If Donald Trump was America’s judge, as I believe, he fits the mold of Samson (complete with iconic hair) – who furiously fought the corrupt Philistines and in the end (Jan. 6) pulled down their temple on all of their heads. What followed Samson in Israel (under Eli and Samuel) was the transition to a monarchy led by Saul, who transformed into an Antichrist figure during his reign, who was followed by David, the Christ figure.

This pattern also fits the last-days timeline of prophecy. If so, it could be that Biden is the Eli figure – famous for the criminality of his sons – and Trump could even return in 2024 for a second term as the transitional Samuel figure, but either way there was not in Israel, nor would there be in America, any restoration of the republic, just a possible continuation of the reprieve, consistent with God’s longsuffering nature.

It all comes down to the hearts of the people ourselves, and, just as was true under the final judges of Israel, there is today no apparent hunger for a return to national godliness that would manifest in repentance.

With apologies to the patriot prophet Benjamin Franklin, it must now be said that he was right, and due to our own collective loss of virtue, America was the republic we couldn’t keep.

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