by Josiah Audette
[From message delivered to Grace Haven Reformed Brethren on 01/25/15]
Q. 67. Which is the sixth commandment?
- The sixth commandment is, Thou shalt not kill.
Q. 68. What is required in the sixth commandment?
- The sixth commandment requireth all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life, and the life of others.
Q. 69. What is forbidden in the sixth commandment?
- The sixth commandment forbiddeth the taking away of our own life, or the life of our neighbour unjustly, or whatsoever tendeth thereunto.
In light of recent events I am compelled to address the subject of the maintenance and preservation of godly life and order. Such life and order is being every increasingly assaulted upon in very real, physical ways. As Christians who practice Biblical marriage, family, children, education, and social life we each face evil and unfriendly foes. These foes are escalating in number, kind, position, and threat. We must not be found to be deprived of perception and judgment to such dangers. Have you been sufficiently watchful so as to identify the current or potential foes you face? Christians can often be as ignorant of their liberties as their duties to defend them. Lord William Blackstone, that great jurist of the English Common Law, caveated the danger of such heedlessness, “Liberties [are] more generally talked of, than thoroughly understood; and yet highly necessary to be perfectly known and considered by every man of rank and property, lest his ignorance of the points whereon it is founded should hurry him into faction and licentiousness on the one hand, or pusillanimous indifference and criminal submission on the other.” In other terms, our liberties are not just hip and cool slogans to be twaddled about, they are each of our inviolate birthright to be seriously considered. When we are negligent to enjoy entire our birthright of right and liberties we will live without restraint, being pernicious to ourselves or others. How many Christians do you know who understand their liberties and duties as Christian citizens? Furthermore, if we are derelict to vindicate our birthright in the face of tyranny or anarchy we will truckle like a caitiff to unjust restraints to our liberties from the merciless hands of the wicked. Are you free of ignorance as to your several duties to the defence and maintenance of your liberties? What courses are available to the preservation of your birthright when it is being violated? What are the grounds for utilizing each of these courses? What are the restrictions and jurisdictions of these several administrations of defence? What is the application of just force? Summarily, when is it a sin for the Christian to turn the other cheek?
THE ‘THOU SHALT’ OF ‘THOU SHALT NOT’
The primary and foundational commandment in Scripture to direct the Christian as to the unjust and just resistance to evil may be found in the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Upon first observation we quite obviously notice the negative aspect of this commandment, that is, the “thou shalt not” facet of it. However, as with every commandment in Scripture there remains a positive expression. The reformer, John Calvin, acutely observed this positive detail. “God… prescribes that every one should study faithfully to defend the life of his neighbour, and practically to declare that it is dear to him… the words expressly set forth that our neighbours are to be loved. It is unquestionable, then, that of those whom God there commands to be loved, He here commends their lives to our care.” This is to say, it is not merely enough for one to simply not murder the life of their neighbour and thereby fulfill the sixth commandment. One must positively defend the life of their neighbour to accomplish the requirements of the sixth commandment. Calvin continues, “There are, consequently, two parts in the Commandment, first, that we should not vex, or oppress, or be at enmity with any; and, secondly, that we should not only live at peace with men, without exciting quarrels, but also should aid, as far as we can, the miserable who are unjustly oppressed, and should endeavour to resist the wicked, lest they should injure men as they list.” Churches in Canada have by and large missed this crucial secondary feature of the commandment. From the early methodists, quakers, mennonites, and other Christians who pioneered this nation the principle of nonresistance has long been sustained and touted from the chapel rostrum. Celebrating, on the basis of the sixth commandment not to mention, the good man as one who piously beats swords into plowshares. Historian and theologian, R.J. Rushdoony remarked of such priggishness, “To limit obedience, and to test character, merely by the negative factor is dangerous.” Namely, when we abide by only the negative law and neglect the positive it leads too often to the belief that the good man is the coward who would not dare to even assail a child, “but who is incapable of any discharging of his duties. Too often the church has equated these cowards with righteous men and advanced cowardly snivelers, whose weapons are those of back-biting and tale-bearing, to positions of authority.” So on the other hand Calvin exhorts, “We are required faithfully to do what in us lies to defend the life of our neighbour; to promote whatever tends to his tranquility, to be vigilant in warding off harm, and, when danger comes, to assist in removing it.” True obedience to the sixth commandment is therefore not passive, but incredibly active. How are you actively exercising the requirements of the sixth commandment? If you neighbour is under the threat of unjust violence what do you do? What means are to be employed in vigilantly warding off harm and removing danger?
The proper understanding of the sixth commandment in the English Common Law and the fathers of our constitution recognized the duties of every one with regards to the sixth commandment. Historically, this expressed itself in such civil laws as the famous Hue and Cry, and secondly in the police powers of private persons, commonly known as Citizen’s Arrest. Regarding the Common Law process of pursuing, when the victim or witness of a felony raised the Hue and Cry by horn or voice, both officers and private men were responsible to instantaneously seek and arrest the perpetrator upon pain of fine or imprisonment. As to citizen’s arrest, Lord Blackstone writes, “Any private person that is present when any felony is committed, is bound by the law to arrest the felon; on pain of fine and imprisonment, if he escapes through the negligence of the standers by.” These Common Law and Canadian Constitution practices were outworkings of a right understanding of the duties relating to the sixth commandment. Both the government and citizens of Canada have by and large forgotten the duties of the private citizen to sustain the public peace and defend the life of others. On the subject of citizen’s arrest the Canadian Department of Justice warns, “Unlike a police officer, private citizens are neither tasked with the duty to preserve and maintain public peace.” As was mentioned in the beginning by Lord Blackstone, when the citizenry neglect the right exercise and enjoyment of their liberties they surrender those liberties to the determining of the offenders. Proverbs 29:2 “When the wicked rule the people groan.” How often have you heard authorities advise the citizenry to quietly acquiesce to the demands of criminals who confront them, to capitulate to their instructions, or to evade at all costs confronting them? These statements and advisements are a radical departure from the historical principles which governed the practice of justice and peace. Proverbs 24:11-12 reads, “Deliver them that are drawn to death, and wilt thou not preserve them that are led to be slain? If thou say, Behold, we knew not of it: he that pondereth the hearts, doth not he understand it? and he that kept thy soul, knoweth he it not? will he not also recompense every man according to his works?” God therefore always holds he innocent bystander as an accomplice to the crime if he does not stand up or intercede in the ways that he needs to. Geoffrey Botkin writes, “The greatest commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves. This love is active and not passive. We may be sinning if we do not actively rise up and love our neighbour. However we often think ‘we are not going to get involved.’” Christians are charged, they are tasked, to discipleship and confrontation. “They that forsake the Law, praise the wicked: but they that keep the Law, set themselves against them.” As such, we confront evil and the wicked every day of our lives and disciple people away from it. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” How are you setting yourself and your families against the wicked? Is righteousness in authority in your home? Do you see rejoicing in your family from the authority of righteousness or hear groaning from the rule of wickedness?
JURISTICTION OF CONFRONTATION
Now, the Hue and Cry and Citizen’s arrest are obviously not to be confused with vigilantism. It is not to be denied that the citizen’s powers and jurisdictions with regards to preserving and maintaining public peace are indeed greatly limited. When the Christian citizen intervenes to the defence of the life of his neighbour he is still bound as a citizen, not a vigilante. Blackstone clarifies, “No man should take up arms, but with a view to defend his country and its laws: he puts not off the citizen when he enters the camp [army]; but it is because he is a citizen, and would wish to continue so, that he makes himself for a while a soldier.” So you too, dear Christian, when you would be vigilant in warding off harm and removing danger from you neighbour, you are not given carte blanche, for you are still bound as a Christian and as a Christian citizen. Reversely, you do not enter the conflict because you wish to be a vigilante, but rather because you are a Christian and a Christian citizen and you wish to remain so and for your neighbour also. So, when rightly exercised, the Christian citizen’s responsibility towards defence and arrest is limited but not absolved in its entirely. Contrarily, the impression in the citizen of their personal exemption from defence and arrest have had grievous results in society. Many a crime, both great and small, could have been alleviated in some part by the citizen rightly exercising their rights within their limited sphere of jurisdiction. So as Chris Kyle said, “Despite what your mamma told you, violence does solve problems.” But the Christian is concerned with solving problems even beyond grave circumstances of felony which they might face. Rushdoony writes, “The police power and the duty of the person involves a common defence of godly order. Law and order are the responsibilities of all good men without exception. Injuries to our fellow men, or to our enemies, which are not subject to civil or criminal action, are still our responsibilities. Our police power involves action against back-biting and tale-bearing. It also requires that we, in love of our neighbour, have regard for his property as well as his reputation, to avoid injury to it.” From the outset, do you teach your children their police power and the duties of the Hue and Cry? “We desire you, brethren, admonish them that are out of order: comfort the feebleminded: bear with the weak: be patient toward all men.” To be watchful of injustice and attentive to the appeals of those in unjust oppression? “Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all the children of destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and judge the afflicted, and the poor.” How will you defend your neighbour and society? Rushdoony writes, “If it is a crime to alter property landmarks and to defraud a neighbour of his land, how much greater a crime to alter social landmarks, the Biblical foundations of law and society, and thereby bring about the death of that social order? If it is a crime to rob banks, then surely it is a crime to rob and murder a social order.”
Are you aware of those who are being oppressed? Is your family practicing John Calvin’s admonition and studying faithfully how to defend the life of the oppressed? Has your family worked out how you can practically declare that they are dear to you? Pastor, Joe Morecraft, compiled a brief list from Scripture which can help us identify those which are in need of such attention from our lives and homes.
- Covenant people should not oppress each other. “Oppress not ye therefore any man his neighbour, but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the Lord you God.” Lev 25:17 Do you teach your children to not oppress one another? Have you examined how you can promote unity in the local church?
- Covenant people should not oppress labourers. “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is needy and poor, neither of thy brethren nor the stranger that is in thy land within thy gates.” How diligent are you in the workplace to assist the spiritual or physical needs therein?
- Covenant people should vindicate the oppressed. What does Psalm 10:18 look like in your home? “To judge the fatherless and poor, the earthly man cause to fear no more.”
- Are you a covenant family that prays for deliverance from oppression? “From the wicked that oppress me, from mine enemies, which compass me round about for my soul.”
- Covenant people should not oppress the afflicted. “Rob not the poor, because he is poor, neither oppress the afflicted in judgment.” How do your children handle responsibility and authority over others?
- God condemns merchants that oppress. Hoseah 12:7. How do your children treat money?
- Covenant people do not oppress widows or the fatherless. “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor, and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”
In summary, how are you actively defending the life of widows and orphans, neighbours, strangers, the needy and defenceless, employees, the aged, and the afflicted?
Upon reviewing those that are oppressed, we now turn our consideration to those that oppress. I believe today the two forces of evil which resist us are tyranny and anarchy. Tyranny, as Botkin defines, “Is the cruel and oppressive rule of government.” Anarchy on the other hand is a greater sin, the “state of disorder due to the absence or non recognition of authority.” Anarchy in the homes will only produce anarchy in society. It has been said, “Every generation is a new flood of barbarians to be civilized.” How well is your family doing at this? Rushdoony observes the rise of anarchy and crime with the following, “Judges are often too lenient and juries also. But the problem is much greater than that. All we have to do is look at most families and their treatment of their children. Their laxity, their inability to enforce discipline and you have a key to the dimensions of the problem. Parents who are lax with their children create a society which is generally lax in coping with problems. The problem in other words begins with us.” So who are some of the enemies that you are facing now or will face in the future. Geoffrey Botkin provides us with a much relevant catalog.
- Personal enemies: As was stated, you as Christians are called not to engage culture, but to confront it. You will make enemies doing this and may face possible persecution from them. Are you attentive to this danger? Are you being “Wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.”? Most importantly are you willing and ready to overcome their evil with good? There is however another grievous danger in this. Christians can begin to reckon the degree of their honour and piety based upon a personal tally of how many personal enemies and people they proverbially tick-off by their righteousness. In the vanity of their minds they pride themselves by how oft they are ridiculed and elevate the consideration of themselves with each rejection they experience. They begin to scorn the sinner as much as the sinner scorns them in return. What goodness is there in this? Paul exhorts us to “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with goodness.” How is only returning scorn for scorn, pride for pride, rejection for rejection, overcoming evil with goodness? Receive rejection with a sober mind, study to discern any impediments you may be contributing to the sinner’s peace and joy in Christ, examine whether or not your message is received as the good news it actually is. Discover whether or not you are overcoming evil with goodness.
- Bullies: Both young and old will confront bullies in life. What will be your policy and practice when you come face to face with a bully? How will you adjudicate the power and authority of Christ in you?
- Bureaucrats: As families who practice Biblical marriage, caring for orphans, babies, and education you will at some point be confronted by the tyranny of the state. Have you prepared yourself for such confrontation? Will you refuse to truckle to their demands? Will you come to the aid of a fellow family who encounters this type of enemy? How will you use the laws and constitution?
- Thieves & Criminals: In Canada our justice system has abandoned the Biblical principles of restitution for the humanist practice of penitentiary and probationary rehabilitation. This humanist system is very diligent to protect the rights of the individual… so long as the individual has committed a crime. As such crime is a profitable and growing enterprise. Are you prepared to raise or respond to a Hue and Cry. Will you intervene in your capacity as a Christian Citizen to uphold peace and justice? If you were one of the over a dozen innocent bystanders who fled from the unimpeded attack of the recent Parliamentry shooter what would you have done?
- Gangs & Mobs. Will you truckle to them? Have you considered that those who have followed the erroneous, non-Biblical policy of surrendering without resistance to such oppressors have only surrendered their lives. Such individuals by their appalling ineptitude and inability virtually assist in their own murders and enable murderers to continue a lifestyle of murder. Are you of nonresistance or resistance?
- Tyrannical magistrates. How will you face those what would by compulsive tyranny and oppression act in opposition to your free enjoyment of personal security, liberty, and property? Have you studied your duties to defend your birthright? Have you charted the free course of constitution, administration, offices, and courts to preserve them from violation? Are you even aware of what policies are being introduced to potentially conspire and coerce against you?
- Islam & ISIS. Will you confront this abomination? The question isn’t is Islam the most violent religion in the world, but how is Islam the most violent religion in the world. Have you considered that the Islamic State has commanded the over 1,053,945 muslims in Canada, the fastest growing religion in Canada, the religion that is expected to triple over the next 20 years, to literally and brutally kill you? National Post commentator Rex Murphy commentated, “When will the world take the jihadists at their word? Is there any doubt whatsoever that ISIS – which is currently slaughtering Christians, beheading its opponents, purging ‘non-believers’ and storming about Iraq and Syria with the cry ‘Convert or Die’ – is not fanatically, ruthlessly and irredeemably rooted in religious extremism? What, in any god’s name, does the first “I” in ISIS stand for.” How will you confront Muslims in Regina who by and large do not want to do or think anything serious about the death-culture that incubates them. How will you correct western culture’s perception of them?
Ultimately will you truckle to any of these enemies. John Calvin writes of those leaders and men who have. “Those that have been in reputation of wisdom and honour and fall form their excellency, this troubles the fountains by grieving some and corrupts the springs by infecting others and emboldening them to do likewise. For the righteous to be oppressed, pressed down upon by the violence or subtlety of evil men, to be displaced and thrust into obscurity, this is the troubling of the fountains and corruption of the very foundations of government. For the righteous to be cowardly to truckle to the wicked to be afraid of opposing his wickedness and basely to yield to him, this is a reflection upon religion and discouragement to good men and strengthening to the hands of sinners and their sins and sows like a troubled fountain and a corrupt spring.” As Geoffrey Botkin states, we rather need Christians who wake up every day with this thought, “Today is the day that I advance the Lord’s Kingdom. And today may be the day that I have to defend the innocent from terrible risk and dangers and threats.” Does your family think in this regard? Are you training your children who will in all probability face these enemies in the future under even more complex moral situations than you do now? So parents, teach the law as service to God. Teach what God says about the oppressed, justice, resistance, thieves, bureaucrats, tyranny, anarchy, jihadists, bullies, and law. Model self-control under law by continually defaulting to what is lawful. It is our Christian citizenry that compels us to act and limits our actions, not vigilanteism. Restrain your hand and extend the sword of justice when it is within your power and jurisdiction to do so. Recognize that in most every instance it is the responsibility of the civil magistrate. Maintain peace with the application of just violence with the sword of justice. To Conclude with the Westminster Larger Catechism, “The sins forbidden in the sixth commandment are, all taking away the life of ourselves, or of others, except in the case of public justice, lawful war, or necessary defence; the neglecting or withdrawing the lawful and necessary means of preservation of life… The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavours, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defence thereof against violence, patient bearing the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.”