Authority: Men or God?
By Gene Frost
On February 7, Sunday of the final week of the Senateís trial of impeachment, Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, was interviewed on "This Week" (ABC), by Cokie Roberts. It was a most incredible interview. When asked if he thought the charges of impeachment rose "to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors," he replied, "Yes; no doubt about it in my mind." Under the Constitution high crimes and misdemeanors are impeachable offenses that warrant a removal from office.
Yet, under oath to render a constitutional verdict, Senator Byrd exonerated the President by voting for acquittal, stating that he was "not guilty." He was asked how, in view of his conviction that the President is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, he could vote not to remove the President from office. He replied, "he has less than two years to serve, he has done a lot of good things, and the American people donít want him removed. And in the interests of our country, I may come to the conclusion that he should not be removed," which he did.
What interests me in this disconnect are the reasons given for voting contrary to his conviction that President was indeed guilty. (1) A short time left to serve, which is not a legitimate reason to allow a guilty person to continue in office. We donít leave an embezzler in the bank, or a disloyal military officer in command, just because they will retire in a few years. (2) The fact "he has done a lot of good things" doesnít mitigate the fact of grievous misconduct. We do not waive charges of criminals because of the good they have done in the past. (3) The real reason the constitutional process was trashed was that "the American people donít want him removed" from office. This reason became the mantra of the Democratic Party and liberal press throughout the proceedings of impeachment in the House and during the trial in the Senate. "The American people do not want the President removed from office!"
In his closing remarks of the interview, Senator Byrd discussed the difficult task before the Senate in voting to convict or acquit. "It will be very difficult to stand and say not guilty. Very difficult. Whoís kidding whom here? I have to live with myself. I have to live with my conscience. And I have to live with the Constitution. And the Constitution is just like the Bible. You canít write it over."
The analogy between the Constitution and the Bible does not serve the Bible very well. If the Constitution can be ignored in favor the wishes of the public, can we also place the voice of the people above the Bible?
When I read this analogy, and the treatment given the Constitution, I thought, "Iíve heard this before!" Indeed, I have. This was precisely King Saulís treatment of Godís word when he was sent to utterly destroy the Amalekites because of their treachery at Rephidim. He failed to carry out Godís orders; he did not respect Godís word. His reason? The people wanted to spare the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to God, and Saul listened to them. He disobeyed God to do the will of the people. When he was convicted of his transgression, he confessed, "I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice." (1 Sam. 15:24)
One may violate the provisions of the Constitution, and prosper, but he cannot violate Godís directions and commands to us with impunity. Unlike the Constitution, the Bible is the inspired word of God; indeed it is Godís word transmitted by the Holy Spirit to the apostles and prophets. (2 Tim. 3:16, 1 Cor. 2:7-13, Eph. 3:3-5, 2 Pet. 1:21, 1 Thess. 2:13.) Godís word must be given first priority, over relatives, over friends, even over oneís self. (Mat. 10:37, 16:24, 6:33.)
Modernists, however, view the Bible as merely the efforts of fallible and mistake-prone men. Authority therefore is not to be found in Scripture, but in the collective wisdom of men. There may be a certain professed love for the Bible, but the final word is not found in its precepts, but in the will of man. When men view the Constitution as they do the Bible in this concept, then it is subject to the manipulations of man so that in effect it is the will of man, and not the mandates of the Constitution, which prevail.
But to view the Constitution analogous to the Bible of the living God, as an absolute standard to which men must yield their will, is to give the Constitution an authority that supersedes the will of the people. This latter constitutes a rule of law; the former a rule of men. An analogy to the Bible is not a bad comparison if one wants to uphold it as a standard of government to which all the citizenry must yield, with no man, individually or collectively, above the law. Sadly, however, too many give lip-service to Bible, while in reality they subject it to their own will.