My Reformation Study Bible, ed. by R.C. Sproul, Sr., (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995) articulates the basics of the Christian doctrines of “Justification and Merit” (p. 1852) (which also pertains to “Salvation.”) Therein it notes:
The doctrine of justification, the stormcenter of the Reformation, was for Paul the heart of the gospel (Rom. 1:17; 3:21-5:21; Gat. 2:15-5:1), shaping his message (Acts 13:38-39) and his devotion (2 Cor. 5:13-21; Phil. 3:14-14). Though other New Testament writers affirm the same doctrine in substance, the terms in which Protestants have affirmed and defended it for almost five centuries are drawn primarily from Paul.
Justification is God’s act of pardoning sinners and accepting them as righteous for Christ’s sake. In it, God puts permanently right their previously estranged relationship with Himself. This justifying sentence is God’s bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 5:21).
God’s justifying judgment seems strange, for pronouncing sinners righteous may appear to be precisely the king of unjust action by a judge that God’s own law forbids (Deut. 25:1; Prov. 17:15). Yet it is a just judgment, for its basis is the righteousness of Jesus Christ. As “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), our representative head acting on our behalf, Christ obeyed the law that bound us and endured the punishment for lawlessness we deserved, and so “merited” our justification. Our justification is on a just basis (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 John 1:9), with Christ’s righteousness reckoned to our account (Rom 5:18-19).
God’s justifying decision is in effect the judgment of the Last Day regarding where we will spend eternity, brought forward into the present and pronounced here and now. It is a judgment on our eternal destiny; God will never go back on it, however much Satan may appeal against the verdict (Zech. 3:1; Rom. 8:33-24; Rev. 12:10). To be justified is to be eternally secure (Rom. 5:1-5; 8:30).
The necessary means of justification is a personal faith in Jesus Christ as crucified Savior and risen Lord (Rom. 5:23-25; 10:8-13). Faith is necessary because the meritous ground of our justification is entirely in Christ. as we give ourselves to faith to Jesus, Jesus gives us His gift of righteousness, so that in the very act of “closing with Christ,” as older Reformed teachers put it, we receive the divine pardon and acceptance we can find nowhere else (Gal. 2:15-16; 3:24).
In accordance to orthodox Christian teaching, salvation refers to the gracious act of God’s grace in delivering his people from bondage to sin and condemnation, transferring them to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13), and giving them eternal life (Romans 6:23)—all on the basis of what Christ accomplished in his atoning sacrifice, burial, and resurrection (Eph. 2:8-10). In theology, the study of salvation is dubbed soteriology, from the Greek soteria (Σωτηρία) meaning “salvation”. My Reformation Study Bible, ed. by R.C. Sproul, Sr., (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995) articulates the basics of the Christian “Salvation” (p. 1718). Therein it notes:
The central theme of the Christian gospel is salvation. The gospel proclaims that as God saved Israel from Egypt and the psalmist from death (Ex. 15:2; Ps. 116:6), so He will save all who trust Christ from sin and its consequences. The salvation from sin and death is wholly God’s work. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jon. 2:9).
The Hebrew words that express the idea of salvation in the Old Testament have the general sense of deliverance from physical danger or moral distress (Ps. 85:8-9; Is. 62:11). In such passages, the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses Greek words that mean to save from death or dangers, as well as to preserve or to heal. New Testament passages that speak of salvation use all these ideas to explain the acts of God on behalf of the lost.
Salvation delivers the believer from the wrath of God, the dominion of sin, and the power of death (Rom. 1:18; 3:9; 5:21; 1 Thess. 5:9). God liberates sinners from the natural condition of being mastered by the world, the flesh, and the devil (John 8:23-24; Rom. 8:7-8; 1 John 5:19). He frees believers from the fears that a sinful life guarantees (Rom. 8:15; 2 Tim. 1:7; Heb. 2:14-15), and from the vicious habits that enslaved them (Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Titus 2:11-3:6). Salvation brings not only the promise of spiritual wholeness and peace, but also of physical healing (Matt. 9:21-22; Mark 10:52 and text note; James 5:15). Although Christians have already received salvation, they will experience the benefits of salvation in their fulness only when Christ returns at the end of the age (Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 3-5).
Salvation is accomplished through what Christ did in history and by what He continues to do in believers by the Holy Spirit. The basis for our salvation is Jesus’ death on the cross (see “The Atonement” at Rom. 3:25) and the righteousness. He achieved for us in His active obedience. It is realized in our lives in His active obedience. In is realized in our lives as Christ lives in us (John 15:4, 17:26; Col. 1:27) and we live in Christ, united with Him in His death and risen life (Rom. 6:3-10; Col. 2:12, 20; 3:1). This vital union, sustained by the Spirit through faith and formed in our new birth, presupposes our eternal election in Christ (Eph. 1:4-6). Jesus was foreordained to represent us and to bear our sins as our substitute (1 Pet. 1:18-20; cf. Matt. 1:21). We were chosen to be effectually called, conformed to His image, and glorified by the Spirit’s power (Rom. 8:11, 29, 30).
“The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism . . .”
I am an American by birth and citizenship. I am a native of Virginia, and I am proud of my country of birth, and a patriot. It was born in the Age of Discovery, and followed by a wave of settlements, as it was peopled primarily by Englishmen, Scots, Irish, French, Dutch, Swedes, and later Germans. England transmitted its culture and legal system to this new nation in a slow process spanning the centuries from the seventeenth century onward.
Russell Kirk’s The American Cause notes:
“[A] people needs to understand what freedom is. We Americans are fortunate that the Founders and their generation possessed that understanding. They knew that freedom, per se, is not enough. They knew that freedom must be limited to be preserved. This paradox is difficult for many students to grasp. Young people generally think freedom means authority figures leaving them alone so they can ‘do their own thing.’ That’s part of what it means to be free, but true freedom involves much, much more. As understood by our Founders and by the best minds of the young republic, true freedom is always conditioned by morality. John Adams wrote, ‘I would define liberty as a power to do as we would be done by.’ In other words, freedom is not the power to do what one can, but what one ought. Duty always accompanies liberty. Tocqueville similarly observed, ‘No free communities ever existed without morals.’ The best minds concur: there must be borders: freedom must be limited to be preserved.”
What kinds of limits are we talking about? An explanation of the American concept of freedom excerpted from The American Cause by Russell Kirk:
“The moral limits of right and wrong, which we did not invent but owe largely to our Christian heritage.”
“Intellectual limits imposed by sound reasoning. Again, we did not invent these but are in debt largely to Greco-Roman civilization, from the pre-Socratic philosophers forward.”
“Political limits such as the rule of law, inalienable rights, and representative institutions, which we inherited primarily from the British.”
“Legal limits of the natural and common law, which we also owe to our Western heritage.”
“Certain social limits, which are extremely important to the survival of freedom. These are the habits of our hearts–good manners, kindness, decency, and willingness to put others first, among other things―which are learned in our homes and places of worship, at school and in team sports, and in other social settings.”
“All these limits complement each other and make a good society possible. But they cannot be taken for granted. It takes intellectual and moral leadership to make the case that such limits are important. Our Founders did that. To an exceptional degree, their words tutored succeeding generations in the ways of liberty. It is to America’s everlasting credit that our Founders got freedom right.”
“Paul Revere’s Ride” By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Listen, my children, and you shall hear Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: Hardly a man is now alive Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, — “If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light, — One if by land, and two if by sea; And I on the opposite shore will be, Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm, For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”
Then he climbed to the tower of the church, Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread, To the belfry-chamber overhead, And startled the pigeons from their perch On the sombre rafters, that round him made Masses and moving shapes of shade, — Up the light ladder, slender and tall, To the highest window in the wall, Where he paused to listen and look down A moment on the roofs of the town, And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead In their night-encampment on the hill, Wrapped in silence so deep and still, That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread, The watchful night-wind, as it went Creeping along from tent to tent, And seeming to whisper, “All is well!” A moment only he feels the spell Of the place and the hour, the secret dread Of the lonely belfry and the dead; For suddenly all his thoughts are bent On a shadowy something far away, Where the river widens to meet the bay, — A line of black, that bends and floats On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride, Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride, On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere Now he patted his horse’s side, Now gazed on the landscape far and near, Then impetuous stamped the earth, And turned and tightened his saddle-girth; But mostly he watched with eager search The belfry-tower of the old North Church, As it rose above the graves on the hill, Lonely, and spectral, and sombre, and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height, A glimmer, and then a gleam of light! He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns, But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoofs in a village-street, A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark, And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet: That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light, The fate of a nation was riding that night; And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight, Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
It was twelve by the village-clock, When he crossed the bridge into Medford town. He heard the crowing of the cock, And the barking of the farmer’s dog, And felt the damp of the river-fog, That rises when the sun goes down.
It was one by the village-clock, When he rode into Lexington. He saw the gilded weathercock Swim in the moonlight as he passed, And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare, Gaze at him with a spectral glare, As if they already stood aghast At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village-clock, When he came to the bridge in Concord town. He heard the bleating of the flock, And the twitter of birds among the trees, And felt the breath of the morning-breeze Blowing over the meadows brown. And one was safe and asleep in his bed Who at the bridge would be first to fall, Who that day would be lying dead, Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read How the British regulars fired and fled, — How the farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farmyard-wall, Chasing the red-coats down the lane, Then crossing the fields to emerge again Under the trees at the turn of the road, And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere; And so through the night went his cry of alarm To every Middlesex village and farm, — A cry of defiance, and not of fear, — A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo forevermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed, And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.
Image Above: “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” (1931) by Grant Wood and is in the public domain.
“The Anti-History of Free Trade Ideology” by William R. Hawkins
We ask, would not every sane person consider a government to be insane which, in consideration of the benefits and the reasonableness of a state of universal and perpetual peace, proposed to disband its armies, destroy its fleets, and demolish its fortresses? But such a government would be doing nothing different in principle from what the popular school requires from governments when, because of the advantages which would be derivable from general free trade, it urges that they should abandon the advantages derivable from protection.
This statement by Friedrich List in his 1844 book The National System of Political Economy sets out the basic difference in assumption about the way the world works held by free traders and nationalists. While free traders such as the French economist Jean-Baptiste Say, author of the classical paradigm “Say’s Law of Markets,” believed that “All nations are friends in the nature of things,” their opponents on the Right considered economics a vital foundation of national strength in a world where international competition decided not just the fate of business enterprises but that of entire societies. The nineteenth century saw an intense debate between these points of view in Europe; a debate that generated most of the theories and lines of argument used, consciously or unconsciously, by those engaged in debate over American trade policy in the late twentieth-century. Free trade was then rooted in the then new school of classical liberalism of England and France. Nationalist thought drew on the ancient practices of mercantilism enlivened by the insights from contemporary American and German thinkers, though all nations had adherents of both doctrines.
A bust of the German economist Friedrich List. List emigrated to the United States and admired its national model of political economy under the American System.
Friedrich List is the best-known “nationalist” writer. Forced into exile from his native Wurtemberg because of his advocacy of industrialization and a commercial union of many states that then compromised Germany, List came to the United States at the suggestion of General Lafayette who introduced him tod Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, James Madison, and other national leaders. List found in the previous works of Alexander Hamilton a line of reasoning similar to his own. His pen was soon employed supporting U.S. policy of protective tariffs against protests from British manufacturers who then dominated world markets. He saw in the United States the best model for economic progress and joined several groups promoting science and industry. Returning to Europe as an American diplomat, he promoted railway projects in Germany and joined the battle over trade policy with a barrage of articles and pamphlets culminating in The National System of Political Economy, a massive work that pitted history and realpolitk against the abstract theories and idealism of the classical liberals.
The New World Order: Old News
The basic flaw in liberal theory according to List was that it “has assumed as being actually in existence a state of things which has yet to come into existence. It assumes the existence of a universal union and a state of perpetual peace.” This is an overstatement, but it still speaks to the main point in dispute. The liberals did not so much assume that the world had turned peaceful, as they expected the world to turn peaceful as a result of the interdependence fostered by free trade. The British radical Richard Cobden, for example, claimed that commerce was “the grand panacea” and that under its influences “the motive for large and mighty empires, for gigantic armies and grand fleets would die away.” The French economist Frederic Bastiat argued that “Free trade means harmony of interests and peace between nations,” and went on to state that “we place this indirect and social effect a thousand times above the direct or purely economic effect.” It was not a global economy that the liberals were advocating. Trade on a world scale had been conducted for several centuries by the liberals came on the scene. It was a new world order that the liberals desired. Free trade was merely a means to that end.
“Columbus Taking Possession of the New World,” 1492. Painting published by L. Prang and Company, Boston, 1890.
Trade between Europe and Asia predates the discovery of America. However, most historians think the start of a truly worldwide economic system at the end of the fifteenth century when maritime explorers discovered both the New World and the sea-route around the horn of Africa into the Indian Ocean. Both of these discoveries were largely motivated by a desire to control trade and markets. The advance of the Ottoman Turks in the Eastern Mediterranean, particularly the capture of Constantinople in 1453, forced the Genoese merchants out of the lucrative trade in silks and spices brought westward by caravans from Asia. Genoese sailors and capitalists needed a way to circumvent not only the Turks but also their Venetian rivals by finding a new route to Asia. They found it working with Portugal and Spain. The personification of this strategy was Christopher Columbus, a Genoese captain sailing for the Spanish crown in an attempt to find an Atlantic route to Asia to compete against the Portugese route around Africa.
This was dominated by a school of political economy known as mercantilism. Under this philosophy, governments encouraged trade and manufacture in order to create both a prosperous national economy and a powerful nation-state. Precise measures and objectives varied with time and circumstance. Policy needed to be flexible, but the strategic goal was consistent; if the nation’s merchants and industrialists were productive and able to dominant large markets, then the governments had a strong material base to support their position by diplomacy and, if need be, by war.
An imaginary seaport with a transposed Villa Medici, painted by Claude Lorrain around 1637, at the height of mercantilism
The opening of the new trade routes to the East and of entire continents in the West brought great prosperity to Europe and America while introducing substantial progress to Asia, but it did not bring peace. Wars both military and commercial were fought for control of the new wealth and resources with the winners able to expand the size and scope of their operations.
After each series of global wars, there arises for a time what can be called a liberal school of thought that argues the time is ripe for a new world order that will put the age-old conflicts for wealth and power behind it. These movements are always strongest in the victorious countries whose enemies have, for the moment, vanished. Success leads some to believe that peace and prosperity can be maintained without further effort. The time has come, they claim, to enjoy the fruits of victory rather than make continued sacrifices for the future; the morally repugnant methods of national advancement can be safely abandoned in pursuit of more enlightened goals.
“David Hume,” Painting by Allan Ramsay, featured in Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
The colossal wars of the eighteenth century, which were offshoots of the dynastic struggles and the balance of power in Europe, brought complaints from progressive thinkers. In England David Hume claimed that nations were mere “accidents of battles, negotiations and marriages.” He denounced mercantilist practices for strengthening the state at the expense of individuals, for promoting wars, and for seeking to cripple the economic advancement of rival nations. Like other intellectuals, he considered himself a cosmopolitan. His love for French culture led him to opose his own country’s efforts in the Seven Years War (the war that pushed France out of North America) and to claim that there was “nothing over equal in absurdity and wickedness as our present patriotism.”
Across the channel, Voltaire complained of policies that enabled nations to “destroy each other at the extremities of Asia and America.” Such activities make us “enemies of the human race” he cried. Both Hume and Voltaire became free traders to promote world peace. Hume constructed a simple model of price adjustments based on the flow of precious metals that would automatically bring trade into balance without the need for government controls. However, like later theories that offer devaluation as a cure for trade deficits, Hume did not adequately consider that trade could be conducted in terms of property and productive assets and not just in goods and services. Those who profit from a trade surplus generate surplus capital that can be used not only to build up their own economies but also to dominate the finances of other states.
This was an old practice even when Hume wrote, and one that still worries practical statesmen. Indeed, in Hume’s model a trade surplus is actually harmful in that it promotes both price inflation and low interest rates that drive out capital. Yet the recent history of Hume’s day proved him wrong. Those who had run trade surpluses with Spain had prospered, while Spain had declined despite the output of its gold and silver mines in the Americas. Hume was less than half right. He saw the price revolution as Spanish treasure moved through the European economy. But he missed the energizing effect this movement had on Spain’s trading partners; an effect the surplus nations wanted to maintain, and their rivals wished to emulate. British merchants were always complaining that the influx of capital to Holland from its trade surplus allowed Dutch merchants to borrow at half the interest rate charged in London.
Misperception and Decline: Spain and Holland
In the short run, Spain could consume but it could not produce which, in the long-run, proved fatal to its standing as a great power and as an advanced society. That Spanish leaders were deluded by a false sense of prosperity is portrayed in this boast of Alfonzo Nunez de Castro in 1675:
Let London manufacture those fine fabrics of hers to her heart's content; let Holland her chambrays; Florence her cloth; the Indies their beaver and vicuna; Milan her brocade; Italy and Flanders their linens. . . so long as our capital can enjoy them, the only thing it proves is that all nations train their journeymen for Madrid, and that Madrid is the queen of Parliaments, for all the world serves her and she serves nobody.
Yet by 1675 Spanish per capita income had been falling in absolute terms for perhaps half a century. And though absolute decline probably bottomed out in the 1680s, relative decline continued as other nations grew faster than sluggish Spain. Today it is often forgotten that Spain was once the most wealthy and powerful state in Europe and America.Spanish imports were double its exports and the precious metals became scarce within weeks of arrival of the treasure fleets, as the money flowed to Spain’s creditors. What industry there was, along with banking and shipping, was in the hands of foreign owners. As a modern historian Jaime Vicens Vives has concluded, “this was one of the fundamental causes of the Spanish economy’s profound decline in the seventeenth century, maritime trade had fallen into the hands of foreigners.” He concluded that the “opening of the internal market to foreign goods” produced a “fatal result.” Spain’s exports were at the same time under heavy pressure by competitors in third country markets. A nation that cannot control its domestic market will seldom be able to sustain itself in foreign markets which are inherently more vulnerable and unstable.
The Dutch played a major role in undermining Spanish power, but would soon fall prey to the mercantilist policies of England and France. The of great power enjoyed by the United Provinces in the seventeenth century did not last into the next. Simon Schama’s recent study of the Dutch at the height of their power is entitled The Embarassment of Riches, but by the mid-1700s a different image was conveyed by visitors to major Dutch ports. James Boswell wrote from Utrecht in 1764, “Most of their principal towns are sadly decayed, and instead of finding every mortal employed, you meet with multitudes of poor creatures who are starving in idleness. Utrecht is remarkably ruined.”Once against it was shown that those who rely on trade rather than on the strength of their own productive capacities have built their castles on sand. C.R. Boxer, the premier modern historian of the Dutch commercial empire, has described the process of its decline:
When the protectionists measures adopted by neighboring countries from the time of Cobert onwards effectively stimulated the consumption of their own manufactured goods at the expense of Dutch exports, the Dutch industrialists could not fall back on an increased internal demand, nor was it possible to greatly increase their sales in the tropical dependencies. Moreover, the Dutch industries had originally been primarily finishing industries for the products of other countries. . . but in the course of time these countries made sufficient technical progress to undertake these finishing processes themselves.
“The Battle of Leghorn,” 4 March 1653. Painting by Reinier Nooms.
The Dutch also lost control of the fisheries to foreign competition and their ship-building industry decline as yards of other nations expanded with the aid of government subsidies and navigation acts that restricted foreign carriers. As the Dutch economy stagnated, tax rates were increased to cover expenses — a short-run expedient that further slowed economic activity. As historian Charles Wilson has noted, “The growing competition of rising economies like England and France and the increasing burden of taxes and costs was reflected in the absolute decline in former great centres of industry.”At the end of the seventeenth century, the United Provinces could send one-hundred warships to sea manned with twenty-four thousand sailors and marines. The Dutch Stadtholder, William of Orange, could become king of England in 1688. A century later, the Dutch could send to sea only seventeen warships with three-thousand men and the country had become a mere pawn in the struggle between the new world powers of England and France.
Ricardo & Company: Classic Liberals
To the classical liberals, the rise and fall of nations and the profound impact of such changes on the lives of ordinary people are of little interest. As David Ricardo (whose theory of comparative advantage is still a mainstay of free trade argument) stated in 1813, “parliaments have something more to do than furnish ministers with the means of preserving the greatness and glory of the country.” England was at war with Napoleon and Ricardo, a member of the British House of Commons, was arguing against financing the war with debt as proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Ricardo favored the “pain” of direct tax rather than a sinking fund to finance military operations because “when the pressure of the war is felt at once, without mitigation, we shall be less disposed to engage in an expensive contest.” He felt it his duty to see that “the resources of the country are not misapplied by the arrogant and ambitious of our government or used for purchases of ambition, rapine, and desolation.” He was quite the dove, which put him the mainstream of liberal opinion.
“The Battle of the Saintes” (1782); a painting by Thomas Whitcombe, 1782. On the right, the French flagship, the Ville de Paris, in action against HMS Barfleur.
Ricardo believed gain from trade to be so great that nations would continue to trade with one another even in time of war. Thus England did not have to worry about being dependent on foreign imports and raw materials, since these flows would not be interrupted. This was an odd argument given that Napoleon had attempted to isolate England from European trade invoking the Continental System. The Royal Navy had, of course, long blockaded France. The desire to destroy trade was so great in both Paris and London that in 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia to force compliance with the Continental System, and the U.S. declared war on England in part because of British depredations on American shipping. In this commercial warfare, Napoleon failed because his armies were not as successful in dominating Europe’s ports as the Royal Navy was in dominating the seas.Nor did the future confirm Ricardo’s optimism. The strategy of striking at the foundation of the opponent’s economy, using everything from U-Boats and strategic bombing to guerrilla raids and economic sanctions, became increasingly popular as the importance of production and the balance of power increased.The conflicts of the French Revolution and Napoleon lasted a quarter-century, and in their wake came calls for a new world order. The principles for this order were laid out by Immanuel Kant in his tract Perpetual Peace, written in 1795 while the wars were still in their early stages. “There is only one rational way in which states coexisting with other states can emerge from the lawless condition of pure warfare.” Argued Kant:
Just like individual men, they must renounce their savage and lawless freedom, adapt themselves to public coercive laws and thus form an international state (civitas gentium), which would necessarily continue to grow until it embraced all the peoples of the earth.
Immanuel Kant, 1790
Kant acknowledged that the time was not ripe for such a radical transformation, but he did not believe that a “gradually expanding federation likely to prevent war” was possible. It would be necessary to prevent states from engaging in acts of imperialism, intervening in the internal affairs of others, maintaining standing armies, employing spies, or using public debt to finance war. And, of course, “free trade” was to be promoted to bind people together as individuals practicing peaceful exchange. These have been basic tenets of both classical (libertarian) and modern (welfare) liberalism ever since.The nineteenth century liberals drew on Adam Smith, depicting The Wealth of Nations (1776) as a work of doctrinaire free trade thinking. They were only partially correct. Smith did, in standard liberal fashion, denounce the “capricious ambitions of kings and ministers” and the “mean rapacity, the monopolizing spirit of merchants and manufactures” who prospered under mercantilism. Yet he did not take the final leap into cosmopolitan-pacifist ideology common to those further to the left. He thought “the art of war is certainly the noblest of all arts,” and that England must be prepared for war because “a wealthy nation is of all nations the most likely to be attacked.” In a famous passage, Smith wrote that “defense, however, is of much more importance than opulence,” a statement which any mercantilist would agree.
Adam Smith’s Mercantile Interests
An engraving of Adam Smith, English economist and Customs Official, famous for his treatise An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), famous for positing the international division of labor, giving credence to modern free trade theory, nevertheless expressed reservations in favor of a national program of political economy.
On the topic of the Navigation Acts, the centerpiece of British policy, Smith wrote that the “defense of Great Britain depends very much upon the number of its sailors and shipping. The act of navigation, therefore, very properly endeavors to give the sailors and shipping of Great Britain the monopoly of the trade of their own country.” Smith also approved of paying bounties on the fisheries because they increased the supply of sailors and ships. He likewise approved of paying bounties for the production of naval stores in the American colonies and prohibiting the export of naval stores from the colonies to anywhere outside of the British Empire. Such regulations made the empire less dependent on the importation of strategic goods from foreign sources.Smith also felt that England was justified in using tariffs and other restrictions in retaliation for policies used by others to block British exports. Only if confronted by trade wars could foreign states be persuaded to negotiate reciprocal agreements to liberalize trade, Smith contended.British historian Corelli Barnett, in his book The Collapse of British Power, criticizes Smith because “he could not foresee that national defense would not come to depend just on seaman and naval stores, but on the total industrial and economic capabilities.” This complaint is not entirely justified, inasmuch as Smith left the door open for an expanded application of mercantilist doctrine when he wrote:
It may be advantageous to lay some burden upon foreign imports for the encouragement of domestic industry, when some particular industry is necessary for the defense of the country. . . It is of importance that the kingdom depend as little as possible upon its neighbors for the manufactures necessary for its defense.
“Iron and Coal,” 1855–60. Painting by William Bell Scott illustrates the rise of coal & iron working in the Industrial Revolution & the heavy engineering projects they made possible.
The dynamics of the Industrial Revolution, which was just getting start in Smith’s day, quickly expanded the horizons of the security planning. More than inventions and factories were involved; a system evolved that depended on the integration of a wide range of economic activity. This industry depended on raw materials and power supplies; on one sector’s manufacturing the inputs for other sectors; on greatly improved transportation, and on an organized effort of education and research aimed at maintaining the flow of new technologies. A mass market was needed to support mass production. Also needed was a government that could maintain order, since the disruption of one vital sector could cripple the entire economy. Thus an advantage would occur to any system that could be unified under a single national or imperial authority. The continent-spanning United States is a perfect example of a society with such an advantage, for it has never had to rely on external trade to any great extent.
Wealth Consumption Vs. Creation
Each new wave of the Industrial Revolution has accelerated this trend, not only in the defense industry but in the economy as a whole. The 1991 Persian Gulf War proved again the importance of technological superiority on the battle field. American security depends on American industry maintaining its lead in a broad range of fields and production processes. Federal spending for weaponry does not provide a level of demand wide enough or deep enough to support technological preeminence for the economy as a whole. Commercial demand must do this both to keep domestic living standards and employment up during peacetime, and to provide an industrial base that can be mobilized in time of large-scale war.
As economists Stephen S. Cohen and John Zysman argued in their 1987 book Manufacturing Matters:
America must control the production of those high-tech products it invents and designs—and it must do so in a direct and hands-on way. . . First, production is where the lion’s share of the value added is realized. . . This is where the returns needed to finance the next round of research and development are generated. Second and most important, unless [research and development] is tightly tied to manufacturing of the product. . . R&D will fall behind the cutting edge of incremental innovation…High tech gravitates to the state-of-the-art producers.
This 1776 painting by Joseph Wright of Derby illustrates Eighteenth century ideas of scientific discovery, progress and invention in Great Britain.
That this is true has been documented by professors Richard Florida (Carnegie Mellon) and Martin (University of California-Davis) in their recent book The Break-Through Illusion. U.S. leadership in basic science and start-up technologies is not translated into mass production as readily as in Japan because of the nonintegrated nature of American business. The isolation of basic R&D in small shops in the Silicon Valley or other high-tech corridors also allows foreign firms the shot at acquiring American breakthroughs as U.S. companies in an open market auction. In recent years hundreds of small, high-tech concerns have been bought out by foreign firms.With over a century and a half of modern industrial experience, it is odd that so many commentators have yet to grasp the extent of integration, or the long-run, dynamic nature of technological progress. Free trade advocates continue to cling to the largely static models derived at the very dawn of the Industrial Revolution, when the idea of rapid progress on today’s scale was unknown. This explains the continued popularity of Ricardo’s comparative advantage concept where a slight price difference at a given point in time is considered adequate cause to abandon an entire field of production and its future development in favor of imports.
Early industrialised region at Barmen in the Wupper Valley, 1870, in the the present-day state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Painting by August von Wille.
List rejected this notion asking “Who would be consoled for the loss of an arm by the knowledge that he had nevertheless been able to buy his shirts forty percent cheaper?” He thus drew the vital distinction between consumption and production; between the use of wealth and the creation of wealth. In the long run, “The power of producing wealth is infinitely more important than wealth itself,” he argued.
American businessman have been roundly criticized for short-term thinking; for being more concerned with making the annual report look good than considering where the firm will be ten years from now; for being more concerned with current profits than long-term market share as is the practice with many of America’s overseas rivals. This can in part be blamed on the practice with many of America’s overseas rivals. This can in part be blamed on the kind of thinking, espoused by Ricardo and the other classical economists, which permeates business schools and business publications. Businessman may also feel financial pressure to behave in this manner; but those in government have no such excuse. National leaders have a duty to think strategically. They have been entrusted to make policy for a country whose existence is presumed to be perpetual. By its actions, government should work to counter the pressures that foster short-sighted thinking the private sector, as is the case in those foreign states renowned for their success in the world market.
Hatred of Government or Sovereignty?
“Liberty Leading the People,” commemorating the July Revolution of 1830, which toppled King Charles X of France. Painting by Eugène Delacroix, 1830.
At the core of classical liberalism is hatred for government. It is this anti-statist bias that attracts so many modern conservatives to its creed. It should be noted, however, that in the nineteenth century the bloated and intrusive welfare state which conservatives deplore had not been instituted. National security was the main activity of kings and cabinets. It was military preparedness, great power diplomacy, and empire building that liberalism attacked in language that would warm the heart of any New Leftists. In classical liberal circles, according to historian Bernard Semmel, “Strategy, any plan for exerting or projecting military or naval power, was ipso facto wrong.”
Those modern conservatives who adopt classical liberal doctrine in the belief that they have discovered the legacy left by a school of allies should ponder the actual priorities of those nineteenth-century activists. As Semmel observes, by the end of the century the Radicals were abandoning laissez-faire to embrace new social programs in an effort to win votes away from the conservatives who were promoting a program of national renewal:
They acted to block labor support for a neo-mercantilist Tory policy by promising such reforms as age-old penisions and sickness and unemployment benefits. . . to enlist the interest of the trade unions against the alternative use of available tax revenues for armaments.
The same pacifist motives were at work among French liberals. Jean-Baptiste Say felt that in regard to national security “far from protecting it, a great military apparatus is what most jeopardizes it.” He held to the fashionable view that fleets and armies invited wars rather than deterred them. Back in England, James Mill thought that war is where “the ruling few always profit at the expense of the subject many,” but he believed the days of strife were over. Writing in 1821, Mill claimed:
There is, in present advanced state of the civilized world, in any country having a good government and a considerable population, so little chance of civil war or foreign invasion, that, in contriving the means of national felicity, but little allowance can be rationally required of it.
Any problems remaining, Mill would refer to an international court of arbitration. Like nearly all liberals, Mill believed that while a nation could have economic connections anywhere in the world, it had no legitimate political or security concerns outside its own borders.
Economics was to be separated from politics, wealth from power. Free trade meant non-political trade; a commerce of peoples replacing the rivalry of nations. Jeremy Bentham, for example, wanted to replace “offensive and defensive treaties of alliance” with “treaties of commerce and amity.” Thomas Paine, finding that “war is the system of Government on the old construction. . . Man is not the enemy of Man,” listed among his revolutionary proposals that all warships be converted into merchant vessels. J.B. Say called for an end to the diplomatic corps, arguing that “it is not necessary to have ambassadors. This is one of the ancient stupidities which time will do away with.” They should be replaced by consols whose function would be to promote free trade.
These changes were advanced as part of the process of liberating individuals from external constraints on their actions. Liberals viewed people as equal individuals, not as members of particular national states. Civil society’s only valid activity was the protection of individual rights; the nation-state had no independent status or mystical nature to which individuals owed any allegiance or duty that entailed any sacrifice to narrow self-interest. There would only be no national interests, indeed no international relations — only “citizens of the world” going about their private affairs. Yet for the general population it was certainly a delusion to believe that as individuals they could still triumph if the nation they inhabited failed. An expanding society provides far more opportunities for individual advancement whether in business, science, the arts, or publicservice than does a society in decay. History is filled with stories of the decline and fall of nations, empires, and even entire civilizations. These have not been considered liberating experiences to be recommended to others.
Many liberals believed that their ideal world could be brought into existence merely by an act of will. Frédéric Bastiat, who is Ronald Reagan’s favorite economist and whose works are still popular with modern libertarians, argued in 1849 that France should be a model for the world by adopting free trade and disarming unilaterally. “I shall not hesitate to vote for disarament,” he proclaimed, “because I do not believe in invasions.” Bastiat continued:
If the emperor Nicholas should venture to send 200,000 Muscovites, I sincerely believe that the best thing we could do would be to receive them well, to give them a taste of the sweetness of our wines, to show them our stores, our museums, the happiness of our people, the mildness and equality of our penal laws, after which we should say to them: Return as quickly as possible to your steppes and tell your brothers what you have seen.
Bastiat did not bother to mention how he would get the Russians to return to their steppes if they did not wish to go. Nor was this academic question given France’s problems over the next century with “visiting” Germans.
Cobden and the Setting of the British Sun
Depiction of Richard Cobden; a replica painting by Giuseppe Fagnani, 1865.
Bastiat was influenced by Richard Cobden, the leading champion of free trade in England and a tireless worker in the anti-imperialist and anti-war movements. Indeed, in 1842 he stated, “It would be well to engraft free trade agitation upon the peace movement. They are one and the same cause.” A “Little Englander,” he hoped that free trade would destroy the British Empire as each colony and dominion formed stronger economic ties outside the empire than within it. “The Colonial System,” he argued in 1835, “can never be gotten rid of except by the indirect process of free trade which will gradually loosen the bonds which unite our colonies to us by a mistaken notion of self-interest.” Under free trade, Cobden opined, the colonies:
. . . will be at liberty to buy whereever they can buy cheapest, and to sell in the dearest market. They must be placed in the same predicament as if they were not part of His Majesty’s dominions. When, then, will be the semblance of a plea for putting ourselves to the expense of governing and defending such countries?
By the end of the century, this liberal argument had come full circle with writers such as Norman Angell arguing that the empire should be liquidated because it is no longer paid for itself, as other nations enjoyed an ever larger share of its trade.
An illustration manifesting imperial solidarity and patriotism within the British empire.
As an economic determinist, Cobden would not have understood the ties of heritage and culture that rallied people in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and the United States to England’s side in two world wars. Yet free trade took its toll on the strength of the British and imperial economy; for under its sway, even though “the sun never set” on the world’s largest empire, London never integrated its holding into a balanced and secure based for economic expansion. By the dawn of the twentieth century, only one-fourth of the imports into the British Isles came from the overseas empire. Meanwhile, the United States supplied more steel to the empire than did England (an important statistic given that 60 percent of British investment in the empire was in railroad construction, a major user of steel). Indeed, prior to World War I, both the United States and — more significantly from a political standpoint — Germany surpassed England as industrial powers, by developing large and protected domestic markets augmented by advantageous trade agreements. Despite the rhetoric of liberals, the record shows that no nation reached the first rank of industrial power, or managed to stay there by adopting free trade.
“Free Trade England Wants the Earth.” Pro-Republican Party Judge magazine depicts US protectionism shielding the country from the British free trade spider’s grasp, Oct. 27, 1888.
The industries that formed the core of the British economy in the nineteenth century, textiles and steel, were developing during the period 1750-1840 — before England abandoned mercantilism. Britain’s lead in these fields held for roughly two decades after adopting free trade but eroded as other nations caught up. Britain then fell behind as new industries, using more advanced technologies, emerged after 1870. These new industries were fostered by states that still practiced mercantilism, including protectionism. In the late 1800s, Britain ran large and consistent deficits in merchandise trade. It came to rely on revenues from shipping, insurance, and banking, and on income from overseas investments rather than industrial exports to keep the current accounts in black.By the 1880s, even some liberals were worried; prominent commercial lawyer and judge, Lord Penzance, asked: “Will the lion always possess his share? Does that not depend on how he conducts himself?” He went on to warn:
The advance of other nations into those regions of manufacture in which we used to stand either alone or supreme, should make us alive to the possible future. Where we used to find customers, we now find rivals. . . prudence demands a dispassionate inquiry into the course we are pursuing, in place of a blind adhesion to a discredited theory.
Portrait of “Alexander Hamilton” by John Trumbull, 1804.
Across the Atlantic, American statesmen had a different agenda than the classical liberals. Their goal was not to fragment an empire but to build one; to unite thirteen former colonies into a nation that could expand across a continent and develop its abundant resources. One of the seminal documents of American history is the “Report on Manufactures” written in 1791 by Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of Treasury in President George Washington’s administration. In it, Hamilton laid out the economic foundation of the new republic: balanced growth between the industrializing north and the agricultural south. Each section would be the best customer of the other. “Ideas of contrariety of interests between the Northern and Southern regions of the Union are as unfounded as they are mischievous” he declared. “Mutual wants constitute one of the strongest links of political connection.”The Constitution embodies this thinking. Article 1, section 10 removes the power to regulate interstate commerce from the states, thus creating a large internal market free of local barriers. This had been the dream of the seventeenth-century mercantilist Jean-Baptiste Colbert for France, but he had been unable to overcome the resistance of provincial interests. IT was the dream of Friedrich List for Germany. And it is the dream of those who have put together the Europe 1992 economic union. Yet creating a large market is not an end in itself; it is to serve as a based for economic growth by the nation’s business community and workforce. The Founders knew what Swiss historian Gabriel Ardant has generalized for all Western nation-states:
We must not conceal the fact that the awareness of belonging to a nation depends to a degree upon the satisfaction that individuals derive or hope to derive from community life. In this respect, in contemporary industrial societies, we must attribute a very great importance to economic growth.
In pursuit of economic growth, Article 1, section 8 gives Congress the Power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, including the enactment of tariffs on imports. Section 9, however, prohibits the levying of taxes on exports. The clear purpose of treating imports and exports differently is that the former are to be controlled, the later encouraged. James Madison, speaking at the constitutional convention, defended tariffs as necessary for “revenue, domestic industry and to provide equitable regulations from other countries.” All three of these functions have been observed in recent years.
Hamilton’s report advocated a protective tariff, fearing that without import controls the southern states would turn to England and France for industrial goods rather to northern states. The lure of foreign trade with Europe could pull the Union apart. This nearly happened in the Civil War when the Confederacy turned to its overseas trading partners for aid. There was a wide-spread belief that “King Cotton” was so vital to the British textile industry that London would intervene only Richmond’s behalf. Britain did provide aid to the Confederacy that brough them to the brink of war until Union victories persuaded them that the rebellion was a lost cause. Interestingly, Cobden and his fellow liberals opposed British aid to the Confederacy on moral grounds, lecturing unemployed textile workers about how the abolition of slavery in the Southern states was worth the disruption of their jobs by the Union blockade on cotton shipments.
It was only after the war that Hamiltonian strategy of a protected domestic market was fully implemented and the south was integrated into the national economy.
That foreign trade is still a divisive element is demonstrated by the fact today a majority of American state governments maintain “economic development” offices in Tokyo where deals are negotiated on the basis of supposed state or local advantages even though such agreements may undermine the future of the U.S. national economy as a whole. In the absence of a comprehensive national policy, Tokyo has been able to play states and local communities against each other, winning huge concessions in taxation, financing and public services — gaining American subsidies for Japanese expansion.
Hamilton had read Adam Smith, but he did not believe free trade served the needs of the United States. Even before the revolution was over, he had written his famous “Continentalist” essays in which he stated, “There are some who maintain that trade will regulate itself [but] this is one of those speculative paradoxes. . . rejected by every man acquainted with commercial history.” Richard B. Morris in his biography of Hamilton observed that his “brand of conservatism meant holding to the tried and proven values of the past, but not standing still. . . He could scarcely allow government to stand inert while the economy stagnated or was stifled by foreign competition.”
Another of Hamilton’s biographers, Forrest McDonald has argued that:
While rejecting laissez-faire, however, Hamilton was emphatic in his commitment to private enterprise and the market economy. Primarily this commitment was moral, not eocnomic. Hamilton believed that the greatest benefit of a system of government-encouraged private enterprise was spiritual — the enlargement of the scope of human freedom and enrichment of the opportunities for human endeavor.
The Scourge of Napoleon,” was illustrated by the father of the modern political cartoon was James Gillray (1756-1815), and makes light of the balance of powers game between Great Britain and France as they sought to carve spheres of influence for themselves.
Thomas Jefferson initially opposed Hamilton’s trade and industrial policies. As an agrarian, Jefferson was quite content to let the factory system, he envisioned in terms of dirty smokestacks and urban slums, stay in Europe. Writing in 1785, Jefferson said, “Were I to indulge my own theory, I should wish (our states) to practice neither commerce nor navigation but to stand, with respect to Europe, precisely on the footing of China. We should avoid wars and all citizens would be husbandman.” Not a wise choice of comparison given that China would soon be carved into foreign spheres of influence by the industrial powers. Jefferson as President had attempted to implement several of the fashionable liberal notions about foreign affairs. he laid up most of the Navy, replacing what had been the best built and most heavily armed frigates in the world with tiny coastal gunboats which he thought were less provocative. He reduced the diplomatic corps. When British warships impressed American seaman he resorted to economic sanctions in the belief that the benefits of free trade were so great, denying them to an enemy would force concessions. Jefferson changed his views. Writing to J.B. Say, Jefferson argued for a new industrial policy including tariffs.
The prohibiting duties we lay on all articles of foreign manufacture which prudence requires us to establish at home, with the patriotic determination to use no foreign articles which can be made within ourselves without regard to difference in price, secure us against a relapse into foreign dependency.
An elder Thomas Jefferson despite his youthful zeal for free trade, conceded his preference for a program of national economy to include tariffs, after the wartime experience during the War of 1812 and the problem presented by economic dependence upon foreign powers and the United States’ lack of military preparedness. This was a notable political concession to his foe Hamilton.
The Hamiltonian program became a party line of the Whigs before the Civil War and the Republican Party afterwards. “By the election of 1880 protectionism virtually equaled Republicanism,” states historian Tom E. Terrill in his book The Tariff, Politics and American Foreign Policy 1874-1901:
The GOP, which included champions of industrialization and spiritual heirs of Hamilton and Clay among its factions, naturally took up protection. . . The Grand Old Party could respond more positively to the needs of industry.
Theodore Roosevelt – Official White House portrait by John Singer Sargent
At the beginning of the twentieth century, as the United States became the world’s leading industrial power, Theodore Roosevelt exclaimed, “Thank God I’m not a Free Trader.” And Henry Cabot Lodge wrote an approving biography of Hamilton claiming that Hamilton’s case for a protective system in support of “industrial independence and the establishment and diversification of industry” had never been overthrown. In contrast, the Democratic Party has been home of a succession of groups hostile to industry: populists, socialists, environmentalists. In the nineteenth century, the Democrats tried to sell free trade on the grounds that imports would lower prices for the working man. However, the GOP held the votes of industrial labor because workers knew that they had to earn their pay before they could worry about how to spend it. Woodrow Wilson raised the peace issue when he made free trade the third of his “Fourteen Points” proposed to create a new world order after World War I. However, his efforts were not persuasive either at home or abroad.
As the first true “war of production,” World War I served to confirm the validity of mercantilism for most practical statesmen. Even in England, the home of free trade ideology, a serious rethinking of policy was triggered by the war. In 1917, the Imperial War Cabinet adopted a resolution calling for a system of trade preference within the British Empire, arguing that:
The time was arrived when all possible encouragement should be given to the development of imperial resources, and especially to making the Empire independent of other countries in respect of food supplies, raw materials and essential industries. With these objects in view the Conference expresses itself in favour of: (1) a system by which each part of the Empire. . . will give specially favourable treatment and facilities to the produce and manufacturers of other parts of the Empire.
However, after seventy years of free trade, England’s decline had progressed too far to be reversed, though some improvement was possible. In 1913, 80 percent of the imports of the British Isles came from outside the Empire. By 1938 this foreign share had been reduced to 61 percent. And non-Empire imports had been cut from 22 percent of England’s GNP in 1913 down to 10 percent by 1938. Yet England still found its industrial base inadequate in the face of revived threat from Germany under Hitler. With the support of American finance and industry, England would have found itself bankrupt in 1942.
Today’s New Mercantilism
Boris Yeltsin makes a speech from atop a tank in front of the Russian parliament building in Moscow, U.S.S.R., Monday, Aug. 19, 1991. (AP Photo)
This discussion of the historical roots of today’s free trade philosophy is relevant on practical as well as intellectual grounds. As the British economic historian Charles Wilson has noted, the move towards a new mercantilism has accelerated in most of the world, the result being the “tendency of international trade to revert to conditions which in some ways resemble those of the seventeenth century rather than those of the nineteenth.” The oil shocks of the 1970s started this trend, but it has been reinforced by the aggressive commercial policies of Japan and the East-Asian “mini-dragons,” and has been further advanced by the the formation of the giant, united European economic bloc. The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe has opened a new world of intense competition between American, West European and Asian firms which cannot be isolated from their political-diplomatic ramifications.
A symbol of Singapore, the Merlion was first created in 1964. Photo Credit: Erwin Soo
The object is not to suspend trade, but to manage it in ways that support the advancement of the national economy. Just as arms controls agreements do not automatically produce peace and security; trade agreements do not automatically produce jobs and profits. It is all in the details.
The wise policymaker knows that the game of international economics in the fullest meaning of the term. While there can be mutual gains from particular transactions, trade overall can be very asymmetrical in its effects, producing losers as well as winners. In a whole host of strategic economic sectors, the expansion of one nation’s market share comes at the expense of the share held by its rivals. Since no people can live beyond their ability to produce, the battle is for control of the most productive industries and for a position from which future technological advances can be made. The United States, with the world’s largest domestic market, a skilled work-force, and an established techno-industrial base, has every inherent advantage in this global contest. It only needs leaders in government who understand that the game is being played for very high stakes.
Of most concern to the United States has been the rise of Japan as a high-tech industrial rival that has also converted its trade surpluses into a substantial financial position in world capital markets and in banking. The policies of Japan’s giant trading companies are reminiscent of those formed during the mercantilist era when statesmen like the French minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert compared his Grandes compagnies to “armies” attacking economic foundations of rival nations. Colbert believed that, “commerce is a perpetual and peaceable war of wit and energy among nations.” His use of the word “peaceable” is somewhat misleading; Colbert’s mercantilism served a very militant policy of expansion under Louis XIV.
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Andrew Mehri.
The penetration of the American market by Japanese products once again demonstrates the success of mercantilist practice against free trade theory. Charles F. Doran, an international relations professor at John Hopkins University, has noted that, “Japanese trading success is dependent upon access to markets more open than its own.”
Japan's giant trading companies concentrated the bulk of their operations at home; the jobs they created were Japanese jobs; the income they generated were taxed by the Japanese government. . . Part of the miracle of post-war Japanese economic growth was attributable to the capacity of Japanese trading company to transaction, through trade, profits and jobs from abroad to the home economy.
Having established the firm domestic base, Japanese businessmen were then able to expand into other overseas operations. The main factor that explains the success of this strategy is the free trade policy followed by the U.S. in the 1980s. Over the 1981-87 period, Japan’s overall current account balance moved from a deficit of $11 billion to a surplus of $87 billion. Of that $98 billion swing, over half is attributed to the expansion of the U.S.-Japanese merchandise trade deficit from $10 billion to $60 billion. The U.S. has the most open market in the world and Tokyo rushed to exploit it. As a 1990s Brookings Institution report on Japan’s Unequal Trade concluded, “Evidence from a variety of measures identifies Japan as a nation with a peculiar trading pattern. . . Japan simply does not import manufactured goods.” In 1988 Japan’s trade surplus in manufactured goods was $178 billion. The report’s author, Edward P. Lincoln dismisses the “creative attempt” by Japan’s apologists to attribute the pattern to comparative advantage, finding that:
The examples of barriers both formal and informal and the incidence of negotiating problems with Japan are so widespread that a conclusion of normality is difficult to sustain.
Unfortunately, Lincoln’s suggested remedy is for Washington to persuade Japan to surrender its advantages by adopting free trade! Such is the liberal mindset. Would it not make more sense for the U.S. to adopt a successful strategy than to expect Japan to knowingly adopt a failed one?
This is what separates the Brookings analysis from that of Professor Doran. Doran’s primary concern is not trade but the process of the rise and fall of nations. It is not so much the dollar value of the U.S. trade deficit, but the concentration of imports in strategic and high-tech fields such as computers, machine tools, and vehicles. Like most students of this process, he concluded that “Economic considerations have to a large extent determined both the periodicity and the amplitude of the power curves of states.”
The collapse of nations and civilizations is usually thought of in terms of cataclysmic events such as defeat in war. Yet such dramatics are only the climax of a much longer process; the result of decades of gradual economic decline often accompanied by domestic turmoil or political paralysis. The formal shifts in territory and institutional dominance are merely the surface phenomenon that ratify the underlying balance of power. The more decisive changes take the form of indirect control of external resources and industry, land and people through trade and investment — the factors that create the balance of power.
Japan has developed strong trade ties with South American nations such as Brazil and Peru and through Japanese-owned and operated subsidiary corporations, it extracts agricultural foodstuffs, raw materials and other resources to feed its manufacturing base in Japan in much the same way the old imperial powers held colonies.
The term “commercial empire” is far from obsolete. In the 1980s, Japanese government circles began to talk about creating a “Comprehensive Security System” to control the sources of raw materials, food, and fuel that Japan imports. Yoko Kitazawa, writing for a 1990 United Nations university project on Pacific Basin development, concluded that the plan “aims at achieving its objective by integrating the overseas investment structure of Japanese enterprises into a totally Japanese-centered system.” The plan involves moving basic processing industries to Third World states, mainly in Asia, to take advantage of cheap labor, local resources and lax pollution standards. World demand has slowed for these industries since the 1970s, so Japan’s strategy is to cut costs to maintain a competitive edge in America and Europe. Final product processing, where the real profit is made, will remain in Japan. The steel industry will also stay in Japan as it is tightly integrated with the automobile, shipbuilding, and electric power industries. Also remaining in Japan will be the new high technology export industries which the government actively support and protect.
This poster capture the spirit of Japanese designs on South America with an eye towards Brazil.
Another key element of this plan is to break Japan’s dependence on American food imports by shifting to Japanese-owned farms in Brazil, Indonesia, and other third world countries, thus removing a source of U.S. economic leverage. This is a plan based very much on the age-old precepts of mercantilism: an industrial structure and international division of labor set not by the ‘invisible hand’ of the free market, but by the strategic planning in Tokyo to insure that the largest gains will go to Japanese firms and that these gains will be secure from outside interference. Kitazawa has termed this a “counter-revolutionary new international economic order.”
There is no comparable American consensus on the nation’s future economic strategy, let alone a plan of action. Leaders in government, business and the media cannot seem to get beyond the desire for a “level playing field.” Yet this term trivializes the issue. this is not some schoolyard game where it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. It is a struggle to control the world’s wealth and resources, markets and territory; to provide for future generations and for the security of the nation. By defining the issue as one of fairness rather than outcome, the free traders have already steered thought into a dead-end channel.
The objective is not either to stifle or promote trade. Trade is a means, not an end in itself. Every great nation has engaged in trade; but those that have benefited have used trade to enhance the strength of their own economy. They have not surrendered their soveriegnty to the traders; they have managed trade so as to advance their own interests in the face of rivals who are trying to do the same. The composition and direction of trade is thus more important than its volume.
This is how the balance of power turns. New powers arise which eventually convert their economic gains into political and military power. The older power then suddenly finds that it no longer has the strength to prevail against overt challenges. Such a change in the balance of power is seldom due to the energetic actions of the challenger alone. More often than not the challenger’s victory was only made possible by the failure of the older power to respond while it was still in a dominant position. The leaders of the older power were either blind to the developing threat, preoccupied with internal affairs (or simply apathetic to external events); or so overly optimistic in their assessment of the margin of safety available that they failed to act until it was too late. Leaders are seldom so irresponsible as to simply not care about the outcome of such contests, though that is the reckless advice being pushed today by the free trade lobby.
The Conservatives’ Puzzle
The Uruguay Round was the final act of multilateral trade negotiations conducted within the framework of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), spanning from 1986 to 1994 and embracing 123 countries as “contracting parties”.
Free traders never learn from history because they intend to transcend the past. Their doctrine is based on ideology, not analysis or experience. It is a leap of faith predicated on the notion that world has or is about to assume a new order. A “world without borders” will replace “nationalistic fetishes” to use two frequent liberal phrases. Yet a review of the last five centuries reveals that those making this prediction have been proven wrong time after time. Free trade is a true sophistry; an idea that sounds plausible in theory but which proves fallacious in practice. It has been consistently associated with the decline of nations at the hands of their more cunning rivals. Yet its appeal continues because its advocates, like the ancient Sophists, couch their rhetoric in terms of unlimited progress and a basic revolution in human affairs. But wise and practical statesmen should know the difference between dreams and reality.
Unfortunately, the [George H.W.] Bush administration is pushing hard for free trade as part of yet another “New World Order” that will supposedly break with the past constraints. This policy, minus the slogan, was actually implemented under the Reagan administration with results which have so far been ominous. It was pushed by Secretary of State George Schultz and Treasury Secretary James Baker, both of whose backgrounds are rooted in a transnational corporate culture. They were backed by many libertarian academics who flocked to Washington in the 1980s. Shultz often explained that “trade liberalization. . . has sharply reduced the importance of national borders in economic affairs.” Shultz, Baker and other spokesman filled their speeches and state papers with references to “the global economy” as if the world were already unified as a single harmonious system.
That such naive statements could usher forth an administration that had shown such a profound understanding of the ideological and military aspects of the Cold War aptly demonstrates the fallacy of treating economics as an autonomous variable in the world system. The disturbing question is why so many conservatives, who otherwise consider themselves nationalists and realists, accept such statements if couched in economic terminology when they would reject them out of hand in any other context — recognizing their roots instantly as utopian and dangerous.
It remains a fool’s gamble to bet that this time the free traders finally got it right. A sober look at the world reveals a globe divided into competing nation-states showing considerable political, cultural and ideological diversity. Nationalism, often supported by militant religious feelings, continues to be a powerful factor. The Persian Gulf War showed not only the continuing clash of national interest and the utility of armed force, but also that wars are still fought for economic objectives, in this case control of oil. Economics cannot differ fundamentally from the broader political environment which defines how the world is organized. There is no global economy, only an international economy as has been the case for centuries. For U.S. policy to continue along free trade lines in a world that scorns its assumptions is to risk more than the country can afford to lose.
Thomas Cranmer, serving as Archbishop of Canterbury, played a pivotal role in the English Reformation of the church. When he first heard news about his appointment while away in continental Europe, he shrugged off the notion, even delaying his return in hopes an impatient Henry VIII would appoint another party. His initial reluctance to assume the position doesn’t obscure the monumental impact of his later influence on Christianity in England, the British Commonwealth, and the Western world.
Born 2 July, 1489, Cranmer’s early life revealed him to be a young prodigy. Under the tradition of primogeniture, the firstborn inherited the estate, so while his eldest brother held the family estate, Cranmer bound himself to the church as a man of letters and prepared for ministry. Coming of age, he entered Jesus College at Cambridge. Cranmer demonstrated an acumen for languages, having mastered Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, German and Italian. Thomas demonstrated much promise in the discipline of homiletics and theology as well. He cultivated a deep intimacy with the writings of the patristics and medieval scholastics. At age twenty-one, he became a fellow at Cambridge, but forfeited his fellowship upon marriage. Little is known of his first wife, and she died within a year, and thereafter Cranmer returned to studies at Cambridge.
It was the occasion of Thomas Cranmer being dispatched as an envoy of Henry VIII in the court of the Holy Roman Emperor that young Thomas came into contact with Lutherans. One may speculate that this experience had the effect of galvanizing young Cranmer into self-examination of his own professed theology, and challenged him to reexamine his understanding of the Holy Scriptures, giving highest credence to the authority of the Word of God as opposed to the specious interpretations of the Bishop of Rome.
Cranmer’s relationship to Henry VIII
Henry VIII was married to Catherine of Aragon, and for the reason his wife yielded no son or heir, he came to detest his marriage, and asked for its renunciation by the Pope in the belief that it was illegitimate as he had married the former wife of his brother-in-law. The Papacy would not acquiesce in the divorce. Henry VIII had earlier been declared “Defender of the Faith” by the Holy See for his rigorous theological defense of the Tridentine Latin mass and the Roman Catholic Church, yet he grew to detest the Papacy for its obstruction of his divorce plans, and his desire for a son compelled him to press the matter further. So Henry VIII became a reluctant “Protestant” in spite of personally loathing Martin Luther. Henry VIII essentially continued to embrace Roman Catholic teaching minus the Pope.
Cranmer’s willingness to aid Henry VIII in articulating a rationale for his divorce endeared Henry VIII to Cranmer. So Henry VIII moved to nominate Cranmer Archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer supported the principle of Royal Supremacy, in which the king was held sovereign over the Church within his realm.
Painting of Henry VIII circa 1491.
Henry VIII desired independence from Rome to advance his estate, justify encroachment upon the Roman Catholic Church’s monasteries and its wealth generating estates in order to raise and feed his armies. Protestants utilized the break from Rome as an opportunity to articulate Reformation truth, and effect reform of the English and Scottish churches.
The Lord worked his sovereignty through the actions and sins of King Henry VIII to effect his will for England and reform of its church. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).
It is often the taunt of Roman Catholics that the Anglican Church was conceived in the sin of Henry VIII and has seldom risen above the occasion of its birth. Yet Protestants need not reconcile themselves to the sins of Henry VIII, but rather recognize that his want of a divorce was the occasion for breaking England of subordination to the Pope in ecclesiastical affairs.
Henry VIII with Thomas Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell by his side.
Thomas Cranmer: Protestant and Reformer
An engraving of an elder Thomas Cranmer. Cranmer mourned Henry’s death and it was later said that he demonstrated his grief by growing a beard. The beard was also a sign of his break with the past primacy of the Roman Bishop.
That Cranmer had Protestant sympathies very early on in his career is evident in his letter of 27 April 1535 to Arthur Plantagenet (d.1542), Viscount Lisle, an uncle of Henry VIII, where Thomas avowed “the very papacy and the see of Rome” is to be reviled, since papal decrees have “suppressed Christ”; christened the Pope as “a god of this world”; and they have “brought the professors of Christ into such an ignorance of Christ.”
For Cranmer, Holy Scripture was “the very foundation of the Reformed faith” and “whatever is found in Holy Scripture. . . must be taken for a most sure ground and infallible truth; and whatsoever cannot be grounded upon the same, touching our faith, is man’s device, changeable and uncertain.”
In his Homily of Salvation, Cranmer extrapolates man’s unequivocal dependence upon His creator God: “Because all men be sinners and offenders against God, and brokers of his law and commandments, therefore can no man by his own acts, works, and deeds (seem they never so good) be justified and made righteous before God; but every man of necessity is constrained to seek for another righteousness, or justification, to be received at God’s own hands, that is to say, the remission, pardon, and forgiveness of his sins and trespasses in such things as he hath offended.” Hence man’s need of Jesus Christ: “And this justification of righteousness, which we so receive by God’s mercy and Christ’s merits, embraced by faith, is taken, accepted, and allowed of God for our perfect and full justification.”
Cranmer’s writings attest to his belief in Reformation truth, which he shared with Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other English reformers. “This proposition, that we are justified by Christ only and not by our good works, is a very true and necessary doctrine of St Paul and other apostles and prophets, taught by them to set forth thereby the glory of Christ, and mercy of God by Christ,” avowed Cranmer. In fealty to Cranmer’s abiding love of the Holy Scriptures, the truth of the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone was made known: “Although all that be justified must of necessity have charity as well as faith, yet neither faith nor charity be worthiness and merits of our justification, but that is ascribed only to our Savior Christ,” penned Cranmer, “which was offered upon the cross for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”
“Yet nevertheless, because by faith we know God’s mercy and grace promised by his word,” observed Cranmer, “(and that freely for Christ’s death and passion sake), and believe the same, and, being truly penitent, we by faith receive the same, and so excluding all glory from ourselves, we do by faith transcribe the whole glory of our justification to the merits of Christ only, (which properly is not the nature and office of charity;) therefore to set forth the same, it is said of faith in ancient writers, ‘we be justified only by faith,’ or ‘by faith alone,’ and in St. Paul, ‘we be justified by faith freely without works.”
Cranmer’s Sacramental Theology
The evolution of Cranmer’s Eucharistic theology is manifest in variance between two editions of the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and 1552 and beyond. Originally he adhered to the classical medieval transubstantiation view, and then moved on to a brief Lutheran phase, in which he opted to speak of the ‘true presence of Christ’ as opposed to ‘real presence,’ and finally he settled on a view influenced by Bucer and close to Calvin whereby there is an effectual spiritual communion in Christ’s body and blood.
With the death of Henry VIII, Cranmer entered a period of mourning, growing out his beard, which symbolized his break with Rome, and reembrace of primitive apostolic Christianity, unencumbered by Romanist superstitions.
The crux of Cranmer’s liturgics, in particular the Lord’s Supper, are a fundamental shift in the focus of action, from the elements to the heart of the individual believer. Accordingly he rejected the medieval Romanist superstition of ‘transubstantiation’ as being without scriptural merit, unwarranted, and harmful for Christian disciples. Article XXVIII of The Articles of Religion declares that transubstantiation “cannot be proved by holy writ. . . it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of the Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.”
According to the traditional Roman Catholic teaching, Christ is truly and physically present under the forms of bread and wine. Reformers such as Martin Luther, accepted the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament, but most reformers, including Thomas Cranmer rejected this view. For Cranmer the idea that Jesus could embody physical presence in every celebration was contrary to his human nature. He had ascended bodily into the heaven with a promised Second Advent, and simply promised us the παράκλητος / paraklétos (i.e., helper), in the person of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ’s return at the end of days. For these reasons, Cranmer discerned Christ was physically limited by the very nature of His humanity and His physical resurrection body. The Roman Catholic teaching was not in accord with the early Christian church, but Cranmer did acknowledge that Jesus Christ was spiritually present: “. . .although Christ in his human nature substantially, really, corporally, naturally and sensibly, be present with his Father in heaven yet sacramentally and spiritually he is here present. For in water, bread, and wine, he is present as in signs and sacraments, but he is indeed spiritually in the faithful Christian people, which according to Christ’s ordinance be baptized, or receive the holy communion, or unfeignedly believe in him.”
Cranmer’s Leadership during Reformation
As Gerald Bray recalls in “The Anglican Way,” Cranmer endeavored to provide an order of worship and liturgy. To this end, he devised the Book of Common Prayer, with the first edition appearing in 1549 and a subsequent edition in 1552 that aimed at a more express Reformed theology. Therein it contained services for daily worship, both morning and evening vespers, and a modus operandi for administration of baptism and communion, along with traditional ceremonies that were less often utilized. The Prayer Book was rich in biblical imagery, and English people absorbed a considerable breadth of knowledge of the Scripture from the Prayer Book, often repeated and easily memorized. Cranmer appropriated traditional medieval English liturgies, such as the Sarum rite (“Sarum” being Latin for Salisbury, a town in lower England), as well as liturgy drawn from Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Roman traditions. Cranmer tailored the Prayer Book and liturgies to stress the primacy of the doctrine of justification by faith alone in fealty. Accordingly the parishioner’s attention was directed away from the elements of bread and wine in the Eucharist and focused on more on his own spiritual state, in harmony with Reformed teaching, which provided opportunity for self-examination and recognition of the need for personal piety.
Engraving of John Calvin.
Cranmer’s leadership in the Reformation is often overlooked for the simple reason, Cranmer oscillated in his views, and his lack of consistency tends to overshadow his monumental efforts at demonstrating leadership as well as his subsequent martyrdom. For instance, Cranmer proposed a “godly synod” to rival that of the Council of Trent, and in effect answer Rome. To this end, he wrote the famous Geneva Reformer, John Calvin, and bid that John come to England:
Our adversaries are now holding their councils at Trent for the establishment of their errors; and shall we neglect to call together a godly synod, for the refutation of error, and for restoring and propagating the truth? They are, as I am informed, making decrees respecting the worship of the host; wherefore we ought to leave no stone unturned, not only that we may guard others against this idolatry, but also that we may ourselves come to an agreement upon the doctrine of this sacrament. It cannot escape your prudence how exceedingly the Church of God has been injured by dissensions and varieties of opinion respecting the sacrament of unity; and though they are now in some measure removed, yet I could wish for an agreement in this doctrine, not only as regards the subject itself, but also with respect to the words and forms of expression. You have now my wish, about which I have also written to Masters Philip [Melanchthon] and Bullinger; and I pray you to deliberate among yourselves as to the means by which this synod can be assembled with the greatest convenience. Farewell.—Your very dear brother in Christ, Thomas Cranmer
On 21 March 1556, Cranmer was burnt at the stake in Oxford, having been found guilty of treason and condemned to death on 13 November 1553, and summarily imprisoned in Bocardo Prison alongside of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, the Oxford Martyrs.
An oil painting of Bocardo Prison in Oxford, England, the place where the Oxford Martyrs, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer were held captive prior to their execution at the behest of Queen Mary.
In December 1555, the Papacy sent its enunciation on the matter, stripping him of the office of archbishop, and it then deferred to secular authorities to settle the matter of Cranmer’s fate. In an effort to save himself the peril of fire while under torture, Cranmer made four recantations in January and February 1556. Edmund Bonner, Bishop of London, was not convinced of Cranmer’s sincerity and apparently neither was Thomas Cranmer, for he repudiated his recantation.
On 21 March 1556, on the day his execution was to be carried, Thomas was asked to make a final and public recantation at the University Church in Oxford. There he stood, gave an expected prayer, and exhortation to obey the King and Queen, and then climatically in a final act of defiance against the Papacy, he renounced his recantation, declaring:
And now I come to the great thing which so much troubleth my conscience, more than any thing that ever I did or said in my whole life, and that is the setting abroad of a writing contrary to the truth, which now here I renounce and refuse, as things written with my hand contrary to the truth which I thought in my heart, and written for fear of death, and to save my life, if it might be; and that is, all such bills or papers which I have written or signed with my hand since my degradation, wherein I have written many things untrue. And forasmuch as my hand hath offended, writing contrary to my heart, therefore my hand shall first be punished; for when I come to the fire, it shall first be burned.
And finally, he explained his final position on the Eucharist, “And as for the sacrament, I believe as I have taught in my book against the bishop of Winchester, which my book teacheth so true a doctrine of the sacrament, that it shall stand in the last day before the judgment of God,” and he moved to contradistinguish his view of the Lord’s Supper from that of the Papacy, adding, “where the papistical doctrines contrary thereto shall be ashamed to show their face.” Cranmer as then martyred for his beliefs and his Christian faith.
Engraving of the execution of Thomas Cranmer.
Like the Apostle Simon Peter, Thomas seemed poised to betray his faith amid fear, but then showed great courage and conviction at the end. John Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs gives an account of Cranmer’s last moments during his execution:
With thoughts intent upon a far higher object than the empty threats of man, he reached the spot dyed with the blood of Ridley and Latimer. There he knelt for a short time in earnest devotion, and then arose, that he might undress and prepare for the fire. Two friars who had been parties in prevailing upon him to abjure, now endeavoured to draw him off again from the truth, but he was steadfast and immoveable in what he had just professed, and before publicly taught. A chain was provided to bind him to the stake, and after it had tightly encircled him, fire was put to the fuel, and the flames began soon to ascend. Then were the glorious sentiments of the martyr made manifest; then it was, that stretching out his right hand, he held it unshrinkingly in the fire till it was burnt to a cinder, even before his body was injured, frequently exclaiming, “This unworthy right hand” Apparently insensible of pain, with a countenance of venerable resignation, and eyes directed to Him for whose cause he suffered, he continued, like St. Stephen, to say, “Lord Jesus receive my spirit!” till the fury of the flames terminated his powers of utterance and existence. He closed a life of high sublunary elevation, of constant uneasiness, and of glorious martyrdom, on March 21, 1556.
It was likely Cranmer was coerced to recant in January and February under the pain of torture. Queen Mary had initially hoped for a propaganda victory against Protestantism by republishing the recantations, however, word of Cranmer’s heroic defiance on the day of his execution quickly spread, which served to dissuade the impact of his earlier recantations.
Thomas Cranmer willingly lifted his right hand as he was being executed and cast it into the fire, declaring the hand that wrote recantation of Reformed Truth was “his unworthy right hand.”
In the years that followed, Thomas Cranmer garnered considerable renown not only as an English church reformer, but even among Puritans who respected his efforts, in spite of their general belief that his reforms of the church were not far-reaching enough.
The idea of symmetry alludes to a balance or similitude between different sides, while imbalance alludes to an absence of equilibrium. Man’s innate nature is to gravitate towards symmetry in interpersonal relations with other people. Accordingly people tend to “homophily” (or likeminded associations,) and thus they cultivate, form and deepen friendships with people who have a shared cultural, political, and religious background, social class, education, age, etc. If both parties share a comparable background, and nevertheless one party seeks to domineer over the other party, it’s still an imbalanced relationship. As Amos 3:3 says in the Bible, “Can two walk together least they be agreed?” If one party is defined by one set of religious belief, and the other party adheres to another doctrine, should it be surprising that efforts of the non-Christian to continually influence the Christian leads to a rupture? When differences already exist, and then one party seeks to domineer over the other party, the relationship might be aptly viewed as asymmetrical and the potential for destabilizing conflict is thus magnified. If one party has a glaring insecurity, and externalizes it by scoffing at the other party, it leads to asymmetry. The fact too is regardless of trying to persist in paradigms of forgiveness and following the Golden Rule, people tend to remember all the biting condescension, patronizing, rhetorical jabs, and snide remarks, and over time it may culminate in the receiver lashing out at the offending party by way of grievance or just plain spit, fire, and vinegar ire born of frustration.
Amongst the liberal progressive cosmopolitan culture that seemingly extols differences and diversity as an ideological imperative, one should not be fooled as human nature is always at war with their core assumptions. Thus in this paradigm you comprehend a world of condescension, double standards, and pretense that masks inward sentiments. People virtue-signal towards the cultural norms of this paradigm, and yet it becomes a façade.
I find when it comes to having close friendships, and sustaining them, it is true that symmetry is the ideal to strive for. It’s not that one must have a suspension of judgment and view the other person as inherently equal in talents, skills, and competencies. Egalitarian ideology isn’t what I am shooting for here. Rather one needs to dignify the other person as a ‘worthy,’ hence avoid patronizing and condescending attitudes, or externalizing one’s own insecurities onto the other person. At some basic level, one should not countenance inherently imbalanced Platonic friendships.
Asymmetrical relationships may define the relationship of a boss to a subordinate, but that relationship is transactional and contractual; it’s not really rooted in friendship. But can asymmetrical relationships ever bear fruit? Yes, succinctly. Sometimes such bonds forms with mentors and protégés. Other times between husband and wife. Being a traditionalist conservative, I am anything but a Jacobin egalitarian. I accept hierarchy as natural. But one must be careful in recognizing social hierarchy so as to avoid projecting the notion onto your interpersonal relationships as though you’re the King or Duke, and everyone else that comes in your path is the unwashed peasant, or you’ll quickly find yourself devoid of friends and even casual acquaintances.
A Prayer for The President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority.
ALMIGHTY God, whose kingdom is everlasting and power infinite; Have mercy upon this whole land; and so rule the hearts of thy servants THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, DONALD JOHN TRUMP, The Governor of this State, Bill Lee, and all others in authority, that they, knowing whose ministers they are, may above all things seek thy honour and glory; and that we and all the People, duly considering whose authority they bear, may faithfully and obediently honour them, according to thy blessed Word and ordinance; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
As we count down the days of Christmas to Epiphany on Wednesday, 6 January 2021, St. John Chrysostom’s “Homily on Christmas Morning” warrants quoting at length:
BEHOLD a new and wondrous mystery. My ears resound to the Shepherd’s song, piping no soft melody, but chanting full forth a heavenly hymn. The Angels sing. The Archangels blend their voice in harmony. The Cherubim hymn their joyful praise. The Seraphim exalt His glory. All join to praise this holy feast, beholding the Godhead here on earth, and man in heaven. He Who is above, now for our redemption dwells here below; and he that was lowly is by divine mercy raised.Bethlehem this day resembles heaven; hearing from the stars the singing of angelic voices; and in place of the sun, enfolds within itself on every side, the Sun of justice. And ask not how: for where God wills, the order of nature yields. For He willed; He had the power; He descended; He redeemed; all things yielded in obedience to God. This day He Who is, is Born; and He Who is, becomes what He was not. For when He was God, He became man; yet not departing from the Godhead that is His. Nor yet by any loss of divinity became He man, nor through increase became He God from man; but being the Word He became flesh, His nature, because of impassability, remaining unchanged.And so the kings have come, and they have seen the heavenly King that has come upon the earth, not bringing with Him Angels, nor Archangels, nor Thrones, nor Dominations, nor Powers, nor Principalities, but, treading a new and solitary path, He has come forth from a spotless womb.Since this heavenly birth cannot be described, neither does His coming amongst us in these days permit of too curious scrutiny. Though I know that a Virgin this day gave birth, and I believe that God was begotten before all time, yet the manner of this generation I have learned to venerate in silence and I accept that this is not to be probed too curiously with wordy speech.
For with God we look not for the order of nature, but rest our faith in the power of Him who works.
What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a Mother who has brought forth; I see a Child come to this light by birth. The manner of His conception I cannot comprehend.
Nature here rested, while the Will of God labored. O ineffable grace! The Only Begotten, Who is before all ages, Who cannot be touched or be perceived, Who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, that is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that men cannot see. For since men believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, they doubt of that which they do not see, and so He has deigned to show Himself in bodily presence, that He may remove all doubt.
Christ, finding the holy body and soul of the Virgin, builds for Himself a living temple, and as He had willed, formed there a man from the Virgin; and, putting Him on, this day came forth; unashamed of the lowliness of our nature.
For it was to Him no lowering to put on what He Himself had made. Let that handiwork be forever glorified, which became the cloak of its own Creator. For as in the first creation of flesh, man could not be made before the clay had come into His hand, so neither could this corruptible body be glorified, until it had first become the garment of its Maker.
What shall I say! And how shall I describe this Birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of days has become an infant. He Who sits upon the sublime and heavenly Throne, now lies in a manger. And He Who cannot be touched, Who is simple, without complexity, and incorporeal, now lies subject to the hands of men. He Who has broken the bonds of sinners, is now bound by an infants bands. But He has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and total humiliation the measure of His Goodness.
For this He assumed my body, that I may become capable of His Word; taking my flesh, He gives me His spirit; and so He bestowing and I receiving, He prepares for me the treasure of Life. He takes my flesh, to sanctify me; He gives me His Spirit, that He may save me.
Come, then, let us observe the Feast. Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the Nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken, paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed from us, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused, and spreads on every side, a heavenly way of life has been ¡in planted on the earth, angels communicate with men without fear, and men now hold speech with angels.
Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He became Flesh. He did not become God. He was God. Wherefore He became flesh, so that He Whom heaven did not contain, a manger would this day receive. He was placed in a manger, so that He, by whom all things arc nourished, may receive an infant¢s food from His Virgin Mother. So, the Father of all ages, as an infant at the breast, nestles in the virginal arms, that the Magi may more easily see Him. Since this day the Magi too have come, and made a beginning of withstanding tyranny; and the heavens give glory, as the Lord is revealed by a star.
To Him, then, Who out of confusion has wrought a clear path, to Christ, to the Father, and to the Holy Ghost, we offer all praise, now and for ever. Amen.
“The essence of idolatry,” exclaimed A. W. Tozer, “is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” Samuel Rutherford declared, “Verily, we know not what an evil it is to indulge ourselves, and to make an idol of our will.” The Apostle Paul avowed of the ills of idolatry: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:21-25 ESV)
Though there is only one God and only one true faith, that taught in the Bible, the apostate world (Rom. 1:18-25) has always been full of religions. The age-old urge toward syncretism (the assimilation of one’s religion’s beliefs and practices) is still with us. Indeed, it has been revived in our time through renewed attempts to unify all religions and through persistent amalgams of Eastern and Western ideas that rise and fall in popularity.
The pressure to compromise is not new. After entering Canaan, Israel was constantly tempted to absorb into the worship of Yahweh the Canaanite worship of fertility gods and goddesses, if not to make images of Yahweh himself—both practices forbidden in the law (Ex. 20:3-6). The spiritual issue was whether Israel would remember that the covenant God was all-sufficient for them and that He claimed their exclusive allegiance, making the worship of other gods a spiritual adultery (Jer. 3; Ezek. 16; Hos. 2). This was a test the nation often failed.
Syncretism was widespread in the Roman Empire during the first centuries of Christianity. Polytheism was rife and all manner of mystery cults flourished. Early Christian teachers diligently to keep the faith from being assimilated to Gnosticism, a kind of theosophy that had no use for Christ’s Incarnation and Atonement, since it saw the root problem of man as ignorance rather than sin. Neoplatonism and Manichaeism also saw the way of salvation mainly as a matter of ascetical detachment and escape from the physical world. Christian resistance to these movements was successful, and the classic formulations of the Trinity and the Incarnation in the creeds are a permanent legacy of these struggles.
Scripture condemns all idolatry as evil. Idols are mocked as delusive non-entities (Ps. 115:4-7; Is. 44:9-20), but they nevertheless enslave their worshipers in blind superstition (Is. 44:20). Paul adds that demons operate through idols, making them a spiritual menace (1 Cor. 8:4-6; 10:19-21). Biblical warnings against idolatry (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:14; 1 John 5:19-21) need to be taken to heart in the post-Christian Western culture, which is prepared to fill the spiritual vacuum that people feel by embracing religious syncretism, witchcraft, and experiments with the occult.
I find this highly relevant at a time when it’s become popular to amalgamate New Age and Eastern spirituality with Christianity. I want no part of idolatry nor syncretism. I believe in the all-sufficiency of Scriptures, and do not seek to incorporate elements of divergent creeds, religions, nor New Age beliefs, practices, nor religious elements into my adherence of biblical Christianity. The predicament in this day and age is we often run into people who embrace the temptation to syncretism. My desire is to embrace an orthodox (i.e., “right-believing”) Christianity through the lens of the early Christian formularies, such as the Nicene Creed and the early ecumenical councils. Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Confessional Protestants share these creeds in common.