The Yoke of Oppression (2)

Samuel_Adams american revolutionJournalist Samuel Adams (1722-1803), cousin of President John Adams (1735-1826), fanned the flames of colonial rebellion. Nursing a family grudge, he helped lead a pen-and-sword crusade of propaganda and violence against Great Britain that ended in the American Revolution (Burns 137-165).[1] This preacher of rebellion even consigned Tories to hell (191). Family, friends, and the new nation later praised Adams as a patriot, a “friend of civil and religious liberty” (168). History may “vindicate his political ends,” but God will not (169).

Adams could have embraced the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25),[2] let the love of Christ rule in his heart and life, and hoped for the heavenly reward of souls won to Christ. Instead, he rejected ministry as a vocation, chastized the Anglican Church, and imbibed the secular humanism of patriotic liberty (Burns 138-39). Adams wanted men of his age to “have no ruling passion but for the love of their country … with the hope for no other reward in this life than the esteem of their virtuous fellow citizens” (169). His earthly gain but spiritual loss set an ungodly pattern for this nation.

Thomas_Paine common sense american revolutionEnglish deist Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of “Common Sense” (1776), was no better. He advised the colonists to forget reconciliation and declare independence (Burns 204-07). Paine’s pamphlet was “read as widely as the Bible in North America” (203-04). George Washington asked his officers to recite “Common Sense” to their men “as if they were members of a congregation and the word of Paine were the word of the Almighty” (207). Sam Adams said this pamphlet “awakened” people as though it were “revelation of an absolute truth” (208). Yet the Tory New York Gazette noted that Paine’s “common sense” was really “nonsense” (208). If he had read his Bible with the eye of faith, his pamphlet would have sung a different tune. Sadly, Paine ridiculed Christianity and, in The Age of Reason (1793-94), considered the church a type of slavery.

First, both Paine and Massachusetts Spy editor Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) believed that man has no master under heaven except God (Burns 190). This idea isn’t biblical. Yes, Jesus told his disciples not to call anyone ‘Father’ or ‘Master,’ “for one is your Father … in heaven” (Matthew 23:8-9). Jesus also said that “no one can serve two masters,” i.e. God and money (6:24). However, these verses apply only to spiritual leaders of the soul, not physical leaders of the body. Paul told churches in Ephesus and Colossae to serve their human masters with Christian sincerity and fear, since some in his audience were slaves (Ephesians 6:5-8, Colossians 3:22-25).

Outside Christian devotion, in the areas of business, government, and family man can call many people ‘Father’ or ‘Master’ and he will not be sinning against God. However, rebellion against human authority is sinning against God (Romans 13:1-2). Submission to lawful authority, which includes colonial America under Parliament, is vital for law and order. Even civil disobedience upholds law and order. Rebellion, however, always produces chaos. It also produces a pattern of unlawful rebellion, i.e. the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement.

jesus-christ roman-coin caesar-godSecond, many colonists rebelled against “taxation without representation” in Parliament. Did their charters give them representation or protect them from taxes? Were other colonies represented? No. Why did only America rebel? Jesus ate with tax collectors like Zacchaeus and Matthew, writer of the first gospel (Matthew 9:9-11, Luke 19:2-10). He also paid temple taxes; although he knew that “the kings of the earth” collect taxes from “strangers” rather than “sons” (i.e. citizens), Jesus refused to “offend them” (Matthew 16:24-27). When asked if it were “lawful to pay taxes to Caesar,” Jesus told the Pharisees to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (22:17, 21).[3] Then he chucked the coin. Jesus’ message was clear: perform your duty to the human governments you live under; then go on with the business of living and serving me. Paul also told Christians to perform their duty (Romans 13:6-7). First-century Jews and Christians were never represented in Rome, yet they still paid taxes. Why didn’t America?

Third, colonial Americans were not oppressed for their faith in God, only by Acts of Parliament that affected their pocketbooks. At the time, most colonists thought of Great Britain as “family,” since some had been born or educated there. They could come and go as they pleased, attend school, vote, make money, marry, educate their children, and publicly voice their opinions. Colonists could have enjoyed this “moderate share of civil liberty” (Norton 45).[4] However, the radicals refused to believe “they enjoyed that desirable state,” thought they were really enduring “ministerial tyranny,” and “aimed at visionary schemes of perfect freedom” (45).

tory loyalist american revolutionIn reality, Native and African-Americans could only dream about white colonial liberties. Even worse, in the name of liberty colonial Loyalists were censored, jailed, mobbed, and forced to become refugees (Norton 10-28). These unlawful actions set another ungodly pattern for this nation. Today, anyone who disagrees with the pro-abortion and pro-homosexual status quo – which is really the Communist agenda – can be censored, jailed, mobbed, or murdered.

Ancient Israelite slaves were forced to build supply cities for Pharaoh, make bricks without straw, and watch their baby sons die in the Nile River (Exodus 1:11, 15-22; 5:6-19). Jews who refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image ended up in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:8-21). Those who rebelled against Rome were executed (Mark 15:7, Luke 23:18-19), while the children of Jews unable to pay taxes were enslaved. Rome jailed Christians, as did Pharisees (Acts 3-28), and threw them to the lions for sport. Nero used them as human torches. These people suffered much for their faith in God, yet most of them did not rebel.

“Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

Finally, many American colonists valued physical liberty (economic, political, and social) more than liberty of the spirit. This upside-down set of values aimed at earth rather than heaven[5] and set a tragic, ungodly pattern for this nation. Millions today are free to do what they want, yet they are “slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6-20) and ready for hell if God doesn’t save them. Even Christians here value physical more than spiritual liberty. They refuse to let ungodly men jail, beat, or censor them and then “rejoice” for being “counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:40-41). Most American Christians refuse to suffer at all. They prefer lawsuits. They don’t learn from suffering brothers and sisters in other countries who are still free in Jesus Christ. He came to “proclaim liberty to the captives” and set them free from sin so they can obey him (Luke 4:18).

praying_man_at_altar spiritual birth conversionThe only path to spiritual freedom is submission (obedience) to Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Such submission produces liberty; rebellion produces slavery. We aren’t guaranteed physical liberty on this earth, regardless of nationality and spiritual state, and we should never seek it. However, spiritual liberty can be ours today if we trust in Christ. This is the only message that pre-war colonial America needed to hear. Did anyone preach it? No.

I do not believe that colonial America suffered under a heavy yoke of British oppression. Even if they had, they did not take the ancient, biblical paths proscribed for release from that yoke. I will describe those paths in part 3 (series finale).


[1] Eric Burns, Infamous Scribblers: The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of Journalism (2006).
[2] All Scripture verses are NKJV, unless otherwise noted.
[3] Many Christians quote this verse to advocate paying taxes to the IRS. However, the U.S. government is not a modern-day Caesar.  A foreign power is. A better comparison is colonial America under Great Britain.
[4] Mary Beth Norton, The British-Americans: The Loyalist Exiles in England 1774-1789 (1972).
[5] C. S. Lewis, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you will get neither” (Mere Christianity, 1952).

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