When the Rev. Thomas Hooker preached his famous sermon on Deuteronomy 1:13-17 (1636), that message so moved the people who heard it, they proceeded to write the colonial government of Connecticut, embedding those principles from Scripture.
Historians know their constitution, the Fundamental Order of Connecticut, became one of the major documents influencing the text of both the Declaration of Independence and the later Constitution of the United States.
Toward a Christian America: 10 Christian Principles of Government
Thus, he set in motion at least 10 major principles of good governance acknowledged by our forebears (though we didnt always live up to them):
1) Toward a Christian America: Election of Magistrates In that passage he cited the fact that the individuals chosen as civil magistrates (rulers in positions of civil authority) were to be elected by the free citizens of the nation:
Take for yourselves wise men meaning, Elect for yourselves and Moses would go on to install them in the new offices, setting in motion their new governing bodies.
2) Toward a Christian America: Character in Rule. Thomas Hooker called for individuals who were upright in character. They must be lovers of justice (equitable, impartial and discerning). Such character implies a seasoned individual whose maturity in virtue enables him to apply the rule of law well throughout their jurisdiction.
3) Toward a Christian America: Statesmen. But, God stated that the individuals chosen should be those known and wise - tried and tested in their discernments over time.
4) Toward a Christian America: Vertical Division of Power. Moses added a vertical division of power. They were officers of regions called thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Such a vertical division of power corresponds to our federal, state, and local governments but with this provision: Like our original Constitutional framework, the federal, state and local governments each had their own jurisdictions. The federal had specifically delegated authority and was not to override the state.
Such a vertical division of authority institutes the principle of Interposition of the Lesser Magistrate, an historic doctrine (called by many names) which was used by our forebears.
When King George III and Parliament usurped their authority, the colonies looked to the lesser magistrates, their colonial representation and local rulers to interpose between the tyrant and the comparatively helpless individual. Ultimately, those lesser governments united as one in Philadelphia and penned the Declaration of Independence.
This is the intent of Deuteronomy 1 as well. If usurpation of authority took place at any level, the other levels of government were poised to intercept such malevolence and could interpose for relief.
5) Toward a Christian America: Appellate Access. There were courts of appeal. If a matter was too difficult it could move up through the court system, just as ours does, thus allowing for citizen protection through appellate review.
6) Toward a Christian America: Decentralization. This system was a solution for Moses who could not bear the burden of oversight himself. Hence, the system was put in place to decentralize authority.
7) Toward a Christian America: Protection for All. There will be equal access to the courts, which can only happen if there is a Constitutionally guaranteed body of written law and the rights encoded within them. It is stated thus:
You shall not respect persons in judgment, but you shall hear the small (matters/claims) as well as the great
8. Toward a Christian America: Immigration. The immigrant will find the laws impartially applied, with the same principles of refuge and justice as any citizen (vs. 16). This had the benefit of attracting our grandparents and great grandparents to our shores. They needed to know that any substance they earned from their labors was protected from graft, seizure or other corruptions.
They needed hope in a land where there was a fruitful union of freedom, truth and justice.
Christian America: Habeas Corpus and Deuteronomy 1
9) Toward a Christian America: No Legal Plunder. The passage above has, as its intent, the protection of the rights and substance of the small and the great. All people enjoy a free society, where legal plunder is NOT a government initiative or the basis for improper civil suits.
Note also, the command to rulers and judges to Hear (an imperative to immediately get to the issue and try the case justly) the causes of the small and great.
The legal framing of Habeas Corpus has this principle at its very foundation. This was, in fact, one of the principles adduced to resurrect Habeas Corpus by the Puritans of the English Reformation.
The Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 stated,
An act for the better securing the liberty of the subject, and for prevention of imprisonments beyond the seas.
WHEREAS great delays have been used by sheriffs, gaolers and other officers whereby many of the Kings subjects have been long detained in prison For the prevention whereof, and the more speedy relief of all persons imprisoned for any such criminal or supposed criminal matters
Christian America: Principled Expectation
10) Toward a Christian America: In God We Trust.
You shall not be afraid of the face of man for the judgment is Gods. That is the essence of In God We Trust.
There is a consistent call - and expectation - for upright character to govern virtuously in these passages, which is the reason Hooker preached upon the subject. That, of course, replaces the rapacious lust for power or wealth which characterizes most governments throughout history.
With the trials we see as a people in such areas as immigration, judicial decree, abortion, inflation, deficit spending, redistribution of incomes through legal plunder, and corrupt individuals sitting in the Constitutionally ordained seats of authority
We are as a generation, in wonderment and awe beholding the ruins of a once mighty civilization, not comprehending the principles that made it great.