Shaw on Civil and Religious Liberty


LibertyMy previous post highlighted a quote from Robert Shaw’s commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith (download PDF version) which I have been reading. I found another paragraph in that work that I would like to share with you.

“The civil government appears to be impelled by something like infatuation, and is introducing, or giving countenance to, measures that are darkly ominous to both civil and religious liberty, as if hastening onward to a crisis which all may shudder to contemplate. The masses of the community are in a state ripe for any convulsion, however terrible, having been left for generations uneducated and uninstructed in religious truth.”

Does this resonate with you? It certainly did with me.

Shaw’s work was first published in 1845 and was written in Scotland where he was a Presbyterian minister. I heard Malcolm Muggeridge quoted as saying, “new news is old news happening to new people.” The point being that we face the same issues over and over again.

It is both comforting and chilling to think that in 1845 Shaw highlighted issues in his social climate that we are facing today. It is comforting in that we are not alone, nor are we facing a brand new challenge.

It is chilling that even a casual examination of our situation reveals the lack of progress brought about by civil government.

I live in a country that is increasingly intolerant of Christianity and is inching (slowly at this point) toward some form of totalitarian state. But even as I watch our freedom being eroded, I am reminded that God remains in control and whatever the outcome, it will be in accordance with his plan.

The one thing that can reverse our current trajectory toward a totalitarian state is a spiritual awakening. As Shaw points out, one of the contributing factors to the loss of civil and religious liberty was ignorance of religious truth. The church failed in the mission to make true disciples.

Yet, from Shaw’s time until our own, there have always been those who have faithfully proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ through word and action. This has been done under various forms of government that range from democratic to despotic.

If the church (regardless of denominational affiliation) takes seriously its mission to make disciples and properly instruct them in Biblical truth, then we can be used by God to bring about the revival that we so desperately need.

What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree, I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. Please use the comment section below to share your opinion.