From McGuffey to Scalia

gettyimages-72815109_wide-17ba1bcd0f4b1bf198c998306097f36a161abf37-s900-c85Justice Scalia died Saturday, and he will be mourned by many. I had a great appreciation for the judge, and the manner in which he interpreted the Constitution.

Tony Perkins paid tribute to Justice Scalia when he said Scalia “believed the Constitution had an objective meaning that could be understood and applied, and that as a nation we need to abide by it carefully for the sake of liberty, order, and justice.”

Scalia was consistent in his argument that the United States is fundamentally religious at its core, and he recognized the relationship between the Ten Commandments and our legal system: “The principle of laws being ordained by God is the foundation of the laws of this state and the foundation of our legal system.”

While the opinions of Justice Scalia seemed dated to some, they were timely statements that harmonized with some of our historic figures:

  • President James Madison:  We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments of God.
  • Patrick Henry: It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • John Jay, the first Supreme Court Justice: Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.
  • John Adams: The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.

There was a point in our Nation’s history when it was influenced by William Holmes McGuffey, and his McGuffey’s Reader that was first published in 1836. The foreword of McGuffey’s Reader contained these comments by the author:

The Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus are not only basic but plenary. The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions.

In lesson 37 of McGuffey’s First Reader the author said:

At the close of the day, before you go to sleep, you should not fail to pray to God to keep you from sin and from harm . . . You should ask him for life, and health, and strength, and you should pray to him to keep your feet from the ways of sin and shame. You should thank him for all his good gifts; and learn while young, to put your trust in him; and the kind care of God will be with you, both in your youth and in your old age.

Sadly, McGuffey’s reader lost a little of its Christian emphasis each time it was revised.  The same is happening with the interpretation of the Constitution, the revisionists keep watering it down—much to the dismay of purists like Scalia.

I’ll close with the words of the Great Lawgiver who influenced both McGuffey and Scalia:

The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  ~Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-6

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