Ezra Stiles, the president of Yale College (1778—1795), gave a major Election Address entitled, “The United States Elevated to Glory and Honor. ” This was given before the governor and the General Assembly of Connecticut in May 1783. I can’t help but speculate about the reaction of the listeners when he said, “The United States are under peculiar obligations to become a holy people unto the Lord our God.”
How would the elite of Yale University react to a statement like that if it were made today by their president or other high-ranking academic professor? How would the General Assembly of Connecticut and its governor react if that statement were directed toward them today? It sometimes amazes me just how far we have moved away from God as a country in just over 200 years. The reality of the necessity of religious faith to guide us during the formative years of our country was evident. It is repeated over and over again in numerous documents and inscribed in stone on many of our revered institutions. Ezra Stiles was not unique in his observations during that era, and yet, in recent decades our leadership has done its best to remove God from all of our public institutions.
Changes in our country are to be expected, and it is really not all that surprising to see us going down the road of secularization, immorality, fiscal irresponsibility, and eventually, chaos and destruction. Why is it not surprising? Quite simply, it is evident that we haven’t learned from history. Subsequently, we are most likely doomed to repeat it. If we examine great civilizations of the past we can see a reflection of where we are heading.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”
~Proverbs 29:2 (NKJV)
Think about your experience of governmental leadership at all levels: city, county, state, national. You can even break it down to smaller entities such as the local school board, civic groups, and all the other organizations and institutions in which leadership is exerted. Is the organization thriving with people rejoicing, or do you hear a lot of moans and groans? The Old Testament Proverb apparently still rings true today.
I wish Ezra Stiles had listed his reasons for asserting that the United States was under peculiar obligations to become a holy people unto the Lord our God. His clarity of thought would probably be refreshing to read in modern context. Ezra was a theologian, possessed a thorough knowledge of the Hebrew, Greek and Latin languages, and was also trained in law. Some have claimed that he had the distinction of being one of the most learned men in our country at that time. What would happen in the United States today if we could hear the call to holiness from our elected governmental officials, the academic elites of our universities, the editors of major newspapers, and CEOs of other major media outlets?
There can be disagreements among liberals and conservatives about what methodologies to utilize in attempting to achieve the common good of our society. However, one thing that should not be disagreed upon is the need for honesty and integrity amongst our leadership. What is the basis from which this honesty and integrity will flow? It is none other than the Christian values upon which our country was established and reiterated so succinctly by Ezra Stiles. What is the hope of ever getting back to that mindset given how far we have wandered from that perspective in modern times?
“Man’s pride causes his humiliation, but he who is humble of spirit obtains honor.”
~Proverbs 29: 23 (NAB)