G.K. Chesterton spoke pertinently to many national issues. As we approach the 4th of July, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts from Chesterton’s great hymn, O God of Earth and Altar. His words are rather applicable to our country.
Chesterton writes after appealing to God for help: “O God… our earthly rulers falter.” Indeed they do falter which is why God warns us not to trust in horses and chariots; that is, don’t trust in political powers to solve our spiritual needs. God throughout history is constantly changing the political class a way of showing his everlasting rule and man’s temporary reign. When kings and rulers falter for too long, He replaces them. In God’s political cycle, there is always change and newness of life because man’s political cycle always falters.
In verse 2, Mr. Chesterton writes: “From lies of tongue and pen, from all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men…” Have we not become so easily seduced by political rhetoric? We are as a nation more prone to being drawn by political speeches than biblical language. The Gospel calls us to draw near, and we say, “Let me first hear the lies of tongue and pen of earthly rulers.” Chesterton says, “Deliver us, good Lord!” from this kind of fanaticism and blatant disregard of your holy laws. We are comforted by false things in this nation when the abiding truth is that only the Gospel promises true comfort.
Finally, Chesterton petitions God to “bind our lives together, smite us and save us all.” This is a bit of a Psalmic imprecation from Chesterton’s pen. He is longing for a form of death/resurrection in the lives of God’s people. In other words, make us faithful citizens who wield a “single sword”, that is, a faithful Gospel proclamation to crush our dependence on earthly rulers and to satisfy our hunger in the divine ruler of all creation, Jesus Christ.
Our country will only survive if our pride is taken away. Our freedoms will only last when the thunder of God is proclaimed when the peoples clap their hands and sing for joy to a ruler who will never falter, never sleep, and never die. Let us pray to our God of earth and altar!