As a Virginian and an American
Christian, I am proud that on December 15, 1791, Virginia became the tenth
state to ratify the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the
Constitution, thus making it officially part of the United States Constitution
and the law of the land.
Why is this so significant?
The Constitution, though
brilliant in its own right, was contested by many because of what was not
written—exact stipulations enumerating unalienable individual liberty and
provisions for local self-government. It
was feared that without this explicit definition in writing, generations would
veer from the purpose of the new form of government and its Constitution—its covenant
with the people—that is, the guaranteed security of the sovereignty of the
individual to govern his own life and the states to govern their local affairs
as the first spheres of civil government, a covenant to remain a limited national
government with only expressed powers.
The Federalists so embraced the ideals of personal freedom as basic to
the principles of civil government that they presupposed their meaning to be inherent;
the Anti-Federalist (a misnomer of their political position) too well
understood human nature and knew that ideas out of sight would soon be out of
mind, presenting a citizenry ripe for tyranny.
The Anti-Federalist were of
sufficient number and power to derail the entire constitutional ratification
process; they were men of conscience and character unwilling to concede this
political absolute. Likewise, the
Federalist held their convictions that listing rights would permit the abuse of
anything not expressly noted. However,
both groups came together in compromise [with promise, to send forth, a binding together for
the benefit of another—for the benefit of generations of Americans yet unborn]
as men of righteous vision, brilliance, and humility to craft a blueprint of a
government of the people, by the people, and for the people. This blueprint—our Constitution with the Bill
of Rights—serves men and nations seeking liberty to this day as well as
providing a plan for the constant rebuilding of our own great land. It is worthy our understanding of its virtues, celebration of its conception, and defense of its permanent integrity.
History reveals that the
Constitution and Bill of Rights were broader in scope than the practice of the
day; the rights were not applicable to all people in the new nation: to slaves,
Native Americans, women, and most white males.
However, as is always true with vision, the destiny and even the journey
is farther and brighter than our current position. Over the 221 years since the ratification, we
have gained a better understanding of the phrase, "We the People”; we have traveled some distance toward the vision. The language and intent of the original
document needs no revision. It is our
minds that require continual renewal by the Word of God, our character that
needs continual refinement by trial and experience, and our conscience that must practice continual
positive response to absolute truth as wrought out by our convictions and in
our daily life of self-government.
So, we have a Constitution and
Bill of Rights written to keep them in sight.
Do you have them in mind today?
The Anti-Federalist contended for this visible memorial for our benefit;
it is our responsibility to look on it and ask, "What does this mean?” Dedicate December 15 as a day to revisit the
Bill of Rights and thank God for the wisdom of our Founding Fathers and their deeply
held convictions on our behalf.