American Minute with Bill Federer
"If Satan rules in our Halls of Legislation, the Pulpit is responsible for it." -Charles Finney
Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, published 1765-1769 by Oxford's Clarendon Press, had an immense influence on America's founders, being considered the definitive pre-Revolutionary source of common law by United States courts.

Blackstone wrote:

"The principal aim of society is to protect individuals in the enjoyment of those absolute rights, which were vested in them by the immutable laws of nature."

Blackstone wrote:

"It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer."

Blackstone wrote:

"Of great importance to the public is the preservation of this personal liberty; for if once it were left in the power of any the highest magistrate to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought proper ... there would soon be an end of all other rights and immunities."

Blackstone wrote:

"There is nothing which so generally strikes the imagination, and engages the affections of mankind, as ... that sole and despotic dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in total exclusion of the right of any other individual in the universe."

Blackstone wrote:

"To bereave a man of life, or by violence to confiscate his estate, without accusation or trial, would be so gross and notorious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny throughout the whole kingdom;

but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government."

In his Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, Blackstone defined:
"Crimes against God";
"Crimes against Man"; and
"Crimes against Nature."

Blackstone defined the act of sodomy as a "Crime against Nature":

"It is an offence of so dark a nature ... a disgrace to human nature ... a crime not fit to be named; 'peccatum illud horribile, inter christianos non nomtnandum' (that horrible crime not to be named among Christians.)"

Blackstone wrote that Parliament, during the reign of Edward III, heard the an accusation "that a Lombard did commit the sin 'that was not to be named.'"

He continued in Latin:

"...Where that crime is found, which it is unfit even to know, we command the law to arise armed with an avenging sword, that the infamous men who are, or shall in future be guilty of it, may undergo the most severe punishments."

To support that sodomy was a "crime against nature" deserving capital punishment, Blackstone cited Leviticus 20:13-15, and wrote:

"The voice of nature and of reason, and the express law of God, determine to be capital," making reference to the "signal instance, long before the Jewish dispensation" of " the destruction of two cities (Sodom and Gomorrah) by fire from Heaven; so that this is an universal, not merely a provincial, precept."

Blackstone also explained how Islam resulted in political despotism, as shown by:

"... terrible ravages committed by the Saracens in the east, to propagate the religion of Mahomet."

Abraham Lincoln studied Blackstone.

While running a General Store in New Salem, Illinois, in 1831, Abraham Lincoln narrated:

"One day a man who was migrating to the West drove up in front of my store with a wagon which contained his family and household plunder.

He asked me if I would buy an old barrel for which he had no room in his wagon, and which he said contained nothing of special value.
I did not want it, but to oblige him I bought it, and paid him, I think, half a dollar for it. Without further examination I put it away in the store and forgot all about it...

...Some time after, in overhauling things, I came upon the barrel, and emptying it upon the floor to see what it contained, I found at the bottom of the rubbish a complete edition of Blackstone's 'Commentaries.'

I began to read those famous works, and I had plenty of time; for during the long summer days, when the farmers were busy with their crops, my customers were few and far between...

The more I read, the more intensely interested I became. Never in my whole life was my mind so thoroughly absorbed. I read until I devoured them."

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In the early 1800s, all one had to do to become a lawyer was to study founding documents and law books, such as Blacsktone's Commentaries, apprentice with an attorney, and sit before a bar exam.

In 1817, Harvard's Law School was founded, being the nation's oldest continuously operating law school, though it only had one professor till 1827, when Justice Joseph Story expanded it.

In 1859, Charles Darwin popularized the theory of evolution with his book The Origin of Species.

In the 1870s, Harvard Law School Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell applied evolution to the legal process with his "case precedent" method of practicing law, gradually changing the original interpretation of the law one case at a time.

The evolutionary view of law impacted the nation when in 1902, Harvard graduate Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was put on the Supreme Court.
As described by his biographer in  The Justice from Beacon Hill: The Life and Times of Oliver Wendell Holmes (1991), Holmes' theory of "legal realism":

"...shook the little world of lawyers and judges who had been raised on Blackstone's theory that the law, given by God Himself, was immutable and eternal and judges had only to discover its contents.

It took some years for them to come around to the view that the law was flexible, responsive to changing social and economic climates ... 

Holmes had ... broken new intellectual trails ... demonstrating that the corpus of the law was neither ukase (an edict) from God nor derived from Nature, but ... was a constantly evolving thing, a response to the continually developing social and economic environment."

This gave rise to two distinct categories of Supreme Court Justices:

The first generally holds to the views of the founders;

and the second cares little for the views of the founders, opting to evolve the law and push a political agenda.

Blackstone's Commentaries also influenced a young attorney, 29-year-old Charles Finney.

Finney saw so many references to Bible verses in Blackstone's Law Commentaries that he bought a Bible and began reading it.

On October 10, 1821, Charles Finney decided to head into the woods near his home and pray to the God of the Bible, saying:

"I will give my heart to God, or I never will come down from there."

After several hours, he returned to his office, dramatically touched.

He later wrote:

"The Holy Spirit ... seemed to go through me, body and soul ... Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way."

The next morning, at his law office, a church deacon suing a fellow-church member asked Finney about his case. Finney replied:

"I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead his cause, and cannot plead yours."

Finney began presenting the Gospel with a convincing lawyer's argument.

He prayed using common, colloquial language rather than the formal, traditional King's English.

Charles Finney began the tradition of an "altar call" in his 1830 revival in Rochester, New York:

"I had found, that with the higher classes especially, the greatest obstacle to be overcome was their fear of being known as anxious inquirers. They were too proud ...

Something was needed, to make the impression on them that they were expected at once to give up their hearts;

something that would call them to act, and act as publicly before the world, as they had in their sins;

something that would commit them publicly to the service of Christ ...

I had called them simply to stand up in the public congregations ... to bring them out from among the mass of the ungodly, to a public renunciation of their sinful ways, and a public committal of themselves to God."

Finney's revival preaching paved the way for evangelists Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.

Charles Finney's 1835 Revival Lectures inspired George Williams to found the YMCA-Young Men's Christian Association-in 1844.

Finney's sermons inspired William and Catherine Booth to found what would be called The Salvation Army in 1865.

Charles Finney formed the Benevolent Empire, a network of volunteer organizations to aid poor and aged with healthcare and social needs, which in 1834 had a budget rivaling the Federal Government.

Finney organized the Broadway Tabernacle in New York in 1831.

During Finney's term as president of Oberlin College, 1851-1866, the school served as a station on the Underground Railroad, smuggling slaves to freedom.

Under Finney's leadership, Oberlin College granted the first college degree in the United States to a black woman, Mary Jane Patterson.
Charles Finney died AUGUST 16, 1875.

Concerning the Kingdom of God, he wrote:

"Every member must work or quit. No honorary members."

In his article, 'The Decay of Conscience' published in THE INDEPENDENT of NEW YORK, December 4, 1873, Charles Finney wrote:

"Christ crucified for the sins of the world is the Christ that the people need.

Let us rid ourselves ... of neglecting to preach the law of God until the consciences of men are asleep.

Such a collapse of conscience in this land could never have existed if the Puritan element in our preaching had not in great measure fallen out..."

Finney continued:

"If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree.

If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.

If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.

Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation."

In Lecture XV 'Hindrances to Revival' ( Revival Lectures, 1855), Charles Finney wrote:

"The church must take right ground in regard to politics.

Do not suppose, now, that I am going to preach a political sermon, or that I wish to have you join and get up a Christian party in politics.

No, I do not believe in that. But the time has come that Christians must vote for honest men, and take consistent ground in politics, or the Lord will curse them ..."

Finney continued:

"They must be honest men themselves, and instead of voting for a man because he belongs to their party, Bank or Anti-Bank, Jackson, or Anti-Jackson, they must find out whether he is honest and upright, and fit to be trusted.

They must let the world see that the church will uphold no man in office, who is known to be a knave, or an adulterer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler ...

Every man can know for whom he gives his vote. And if he will give his vote only for honest men, the country will be obliged to have upright rulers ..."

Finney stated further:

"The church must act right or the country will be ruined.

God cannot sustain this free and blessed country, which we love and pray for, unless the church will take right ground.

Politics are a part of religion in such a country as this, and Christians must do their duty to the country as a part of their duty to God.

It seems sometimes as if the foundations of the nation were becoming rotten, and Christians seem to act as if they thought God did not see what they do in politics.

But I tell you, he does see it, and he will bless or curse this nation, according to the course they take."
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