As Royal Examiner and myriad news agencies across the Commonwealth and nation reported, on January 15 based on what is believed to be credible intelligence gathered by Virginia law enforcement agencies, Governor Ralph S. Northam declared a State of Emergency beginning Friday, January 17 (Lee-Jackson Day) and lasting till Tuesday, January 21, the day after an anticipated guns rights demonstration at the State Capitol Complex in Richmond on Monday, January 20 (Martin Luther King Day).
The Democratic Governor’s Executive Order # 49 creating the five-day State of Emergency prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies resources available to head off or react to any violence tied to planned demonstrations at the state capitol. The order coincides with previous General Assembly initiatives against certain weapons in the Virginia State Capitol area and Executive Order 50 (McAuliffe) prohibiting firearms in offices occupied by executive branch agencies.
“Credible intelligence gathered by Virginia’s law enforcement agencies indicates that tens of thousands of advocates plan to converge on Capitol Square for events culminating on January 20, 2020. Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection,” Governor Northam wrote in Executive Order 49, adding, “Assuring that Virginia’s Capitol Square and surrounding public areas are sheltered safe places for those who come to participate in the democratic process, as well as those who work on or near Capitol Square, is my greatest priority.”
Overreaction – or not?
Is it State overreaction to citizens’ normal desire and right to express political dissent to proposed legislation they disagree with or prudent action to a credible threat from right-wing extremists? Reports of six arrests by the FBI in Maryland, Delaware and Georgia around the time of Governor Northam’s State of Emergency declaration may offer a clue.
Multiple news agencies including ABC, NPR and the BBC reported on January 16 that the FBI had arrested three men in Maryland and Delaware with ties to a neo-Nazi group known as “The Base”. The men were alleged to have been in possession of several weapons and over 1600 rounds of ammunition and had discussed travelling to Richmond for Monday’s demonstration.
An online report we first encountered at the WRIC Newsroom website indicated one of the men, Patrick J. Mathews, was a former reservist in the Canadian Army who was discharged over his ties to white supremacist groups. The criminal complaint indicated Mathews had recently entered the U.S. illegally and had been illegally armed by other men arrested in the FBI operation targeting The Base. Those arrested in Maryland or Delaware at the time of Mathews arrest were Brian M. Lemley, Jr. and William G. Bilbrough.
And on January 17, three more men tied to The Base were arrested by the FBI in Georgia. According to the BBC report they were charged with attempted murder and participation in a criminal organization: “Luke Austin Lane, Michael Helterbrand, and Jacob Kaderli were planning to ‘overthrow the government and murder a Bartow County couple’ who they believed to be Antifa members, Floyd County (Georgia) police said in a statement.”
That BBC report linked Canadian Mathews to the Georgia group and the targeted killing, stating, “The gang member, presumed to be Mr. Matthews, is said to have called for the ‘death penalty’ against anyone engaged in anti-fascist activities. It was not known if the three men arrested in Georgia were planning to attend the gun-rights rally in Richmond. The group was involved in the gang’s paramilitary training camp located at a home (in) Silver Creek, Georgia, police said.
“According to arrest affidavits, The Base is a racially motivated violent extremist group that sought to ‘accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war and establish a white ethno-state,’” the BBC reported.
The shadow of the neo-fascist, white supremacist Charlottesville demonstrations and anti-fascist counter-demonstrations that resulted in three deaths, one anti-fascist demonstrator run down by a self-proclaimed neo-fascist who plowed into a crowd of anti-fascist demonstrators and two state policemen who died in a helicopter crash monitoring the situation on the ground in Charlottesville, appeared to play heavily in Northam’s decision.
“Three years ago, Virginia and the nation, watched horrified as civil protest was marred by violence and hate. The events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrated what can happen when peaceful demonstrations are hijacked by those who come into the Commonwealth and do not value the importance of peaceful assembly. We lost three Virginians. We must take all precautions to prevent that from ever happening again,” Virginia’s Democratic governor wrote in his executive order, continuing, “The anticipated effects of the potential convergence of tens of thousands of demonstrators on Capitol Square, some of whom may not come to assemble peacefully, constitutes an emergency as described in § 44-146.16 of the Code of Virginia (Code).
The call for large numbers of guns rights advocates to gather, perhaps across state and even international lines, at the State Capitol in downtown Richmond on Monday appears to be, at least in part, a culmination of the so-called “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” movement that has circled Virginia in recent weeks and months. That effort led a large number of politically conservative municipalities, including Warren County, to designate themselves sanctuaries against pending gun control legislation being brought forward by the first Democratic majority in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly since 1996.
As previously reported in Royal Examiner, among legislation being forwarded for consideration by Virginia’s new Democratic legislative majority are House and Senate Bills that include mandatory background checks for firearms purchases, red flag laws, expanded age restrictions on youth gun use unsupervised by adults, requirements to report stolen or lost firearms within 24 hours, and an expansion of the definition of “illegal assault weapon”.
County resolves – what?
The 2nd Amendment Sanctuary initiative propelled forward by these pending gun control bills was introduced to the Warren County Board of Supervisors on November 19. Less than a month later at a December 10 Special Meeting held at Warren County High School to accommodate a crowd spilling out of the school’s 1,024-seat auditorium, in its final meeting a majority lame duck County Board of Supervisors did unanimously resolve that Warren County is a sanctuary against what some see as obtrusive gun control laws. But the remaining question is, if not the Virginia State Legislature or State Supreme Court, who defines “obtrusive” or “unconstitutional” – the county board of supervisors; the sheriff; or citizens, some perhaps with a vested interest in not having their backgrounds checked or red flags waived at those backgrounds?
With such questions still looming, newly elected County Board Chairman Walter Mabe and newly-elected Sheriff Mark Butler expressed some skepticism to a January 7 citizen request that Warren County expand its 2nd Amendment stance to include formation of an armed citizen militia to assist local law enforcement in large-scale emergency or mass casualty situations.
While there is no known evidence linking local guns rights advocates to violent extremist groups like The Base, the danger of legitimate 2nd Amendment advocates having their movement infiltrated or co-opted by agents of more militant extremist groups expressing sympathy for their cause will persist. Such political dynamics are ripe when measured give-and-take political dialogue takes a back seat to in-transient partisan ideological rhetoric.
And what is troublesome in today’s political landscape, not only in Virginia, but across the nation is an increasing resistance to political discourse and procedures that are open to a bipartisan search for the truth and grounds for political compromise for a common good, rather than a partisan political one. This seems particularly true, not only in the gun rights versus legislative initiatives to stem gun violence and mass shooting causalities debate, but also surrounding presidential behavior and alleged Constitutional misconduct as the possibility or impossibility of an impartial, factually-based U.S. Senate Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump dominates the national political landscape.
Some political scientists and historians have said U.S. politics is currently at its most divisive level since the 1850’s lead up to the American Civil War. Governor Northam acknowledged the damaging effect of the breakdown of civil political discourse in calling the State of Emergency in anticipation of thousands of potentially armed, anti-government demonstrators being poised to descend on Richmond in coming days.
“Virginians understand that diversity of opinion keeps our democracy strong. The more voices involved in our political dialogue, the stronger we are. Civil discourse, even and especially, amongst those who disagree, is critical to our democracy’s evolution and success. When the civility of that political discourse breaks down, the Commonwealth suffers,” Northam wrote in opening his Executive Order 49 State of Emergency declaration.
Hope or conflict?
A recent email from a reader critical of Royal Examiner’s content as being “Liberal Propaganda” seemed to initially reflect this breakdown in civil political discourse. In that first message the reader appeared to illustrate some knowledge of the coming Richmond demonstration and perhaps anticipated consequences with the observation, “The Liberal Left VA Government will soon find the Power of the People … (expletive deleted) newspapers like this will soon be a thing of the past.”
OUCH – does it really have to be a survival of the most heavily armed or can we continue to dialogue about our differing political and philosophical perspectives in the hope of a mutually acceptable resolution? We decided to try and find out.
After that initial email aligning us with liberal messaging but not citing any examples, we reached out to inquire which articles had aroused the reader’s ire. The reply cited “Liberal VA State Government Articles” emanating from the offices of Democratic officials including Governor Northam and U.S. Senator Mark Warner, rather than any original Royal Examiner content.
“It appears that the RE has an infatuation with these folks and always are publishing articles about how much they are doing for the state but nothing is written about the DAMAGE they are doing and the great divide they are causing,” our estranged reader replied in a more measured response to our inquiry.
However as we replied, we hope a search of our State Government news category page will illustrate that we publish press releases from both Democratic and Republican state and federal politicians in balance. And this writer feels fairly confident that our Publisher Mike McCool would not allow that state political content to be slanted toward a liberal bias, much less the progressive one this writer might put forward on occasion. And if there just happen to be more Democratic officials in major electoral offices like governor, attorney general and both of Virginia’s U.S. Senate seats at this point in time, I would contend that is on a majority of Virginia’s voters, more than it is on Royal Examiner.
Will that satisfy our critic and bring them back to occasional forays onto our website to keep up with the goings on in Front Royal and Warren County? Perhaps, perhaps not – but at least we are communicating about our various perspectives. In fact, as our email dialogue continued to include our planned commentary on the Richmond situation and governor’s reaction to the intelligence about it, our reader included this thought in a response: “By the way, my hope is for Nothing but Peace and our Rights as American Citizens to stay as written in the US Constitution.”
So, perhaps there is hope, not just for us and our estranged reader, but for Virginia and the nation as a whole.
Why not talk and seek movement toward mutually acceptable resolutions beneficial to the most Virginians, and most Americans on issues that ultimately impact us all?
Because if we can’t have those discussions where all are willing to listen with an open mind to ideas other than their own, we are likely to continue living in an escalating State of Emergency as we witness the continued decline of civil political discourse into increasingly aggressive and “eyes wide shut” partisan factionalism amidst a world of “alternate facts” (also known as lies) and the potential of armed confrontations between sides such as that Virginia’s governor and law enforcement officials fear was, or may be, on the horizon for Richmond in coming days.
Edmund Burke and Mitt Romney
I recently wrote an article for his column about a lesser known influence on the Founding Fathers, a man named James Harrington. I think, with the recent acquittal of President Trump and, more specifically, the vote of Senator Mitt Romney, it is worth examining another influence on the Founders. This time the man was a contemporary and a member of the British House of Commons. He was famous for many concepts, but I want to focus on his ideas of how a republic should work.
Edmund Burke was born in 1729 and was a leading statesman and political philosopher of the time. He supported the American colonies’ struggles with Britain, but did not support the Revolution. Probably Burke’s most famous quote is, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” As inspiring as that is, I am more interested in two other quotes. First, “When the leaders choose to make themselves bidders at an auction of popularity, their talents, in the construction of the state, will be of no service. They will become flatterers instead of legislators; the instruments, not the guides, of the people. The second quote is, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
What Burke is arguing is that in a republic it is the duty of representatives to vote their conscience, not the will of their constituents. I know this goes against everything we think today about our democracy, but that is not the way the Founders envisioned representation. As I have said before, the function of the Constitution was to protect the people from the government and the government from the people. As much as they feared tyranny, they feared the masses even more. When it came to our representatives, the Founders believed in the idea of government by our “betters” and virtual representation.
Unlike today where we tend to want representatives who are like us, who somehow know what we are experiencing and can relate to us, the Founders envisioned our representative to be our betters. If we were going to elect someone who was like us, we might as well have a direct democracy. Instead they created a republic where the masses would choose someone who was smarter and more informed than we are to make the important decisions. This was a practice taken from the British, where the masses could vote, but had to vote for a nobleman who had the time to understand the issues. The reason the Founders chose a republic over a democracy was not just out of practicality but because most people do not have the time or ability to comprehend and study every issue and vote.
The concept of virtual representation also came from the British. Think of it this way. Once you vote for your congressman or senator, they represent all Americans. Every decision they make affects everyone, not just people in the state or district where they live. In this way they represent everyone virtually. It was never meant that our representatives poll their constituents. Instead they were to vote their own conscience or intelligence. As Burke said, representatives owe us their judgment. That is why we elected them. If we decide we do not like their judgment, that is why our representatives are voted on every two or six years.
With the acquittal of President Trump on his impeachment charges, I have actually found there is more talk of Senator Mitt Romney’s decision to vote for conviction then the acquittal itself. I assume it is because everyone already knows of the outcome of the senate trial before it even started, but the idea of a politician breaking ranks goes against the current norm. Not all, but most, of the praise for Romney is coming from the left while the vilification of the senator is coming from the right. This is not surprising. The left is praising a man who dared break ranks to stand up for what he thought was right. I have even seen the word hero being used. Of course, I doubt they would use those same words if one of their own broke ranks and voted their conscious supporting the President. Those people would be traitors.
That is how the right is seeing Romney, a traitor who is only jealous because he lost his presidential bid. Many have argued that Romney is breaking his trust with his constituents in voting against Trump. One comment I read said that he owes nothing to his faith or his family, the reason Romney claimed he voted to convict. Rather, the only people he owes anything to are the ones who voted him into office. Though I understand the frustration of the right, party loyalty has replaced virtuous representatives, but historically speaking Romney has acted exactly how the Founders expected our representative to act.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.
EDITORIAL: Try looking at it this way
We all see things according to what we think is best for our Survival. That’s kind of it. We might be right or we might be wrong. We might have formed our opinions through experience or some other source: reading news, education, church, friends, etc. – the list of our information sources are endless. Also weighing in on our judgment about what is right for our survival is our current environment, urban or rural, our circle of friends, and our ethnic, racial and class status. New experiences can also alter our perception of what is best for our survival. Our view is always subject to change. What we may see as good for us today may not seem so good a year from now.
What we think is good for our survival, which may also include what we consider thriving economically, certainly reflects in our politics, and our choice of information. So much so, that we may only seek out sources that reflect our preconceived beliefs.
All of this is normal human behavior. The only thing that has changed over the years is the amount of information (24 hours a day) and the variety of sources, some accurate some not.
The reason we make these observations are only this: understand that others that feel differently as to what is best for their survival are not stupid, the enemy or any of a thousand other words we use to demonize and dehumanize others. They are simply saying or voting as they see best for their survival from their perspective. Also, consider this: if we do not seek compromise in a nation as diverse as ours, none of us have a good chance of survival, at least not in a thriving way.
Remember that the three 24-hour news networks all cater to their established viewer and advertising bases to some degree. Seek other sources of respected news that may present an alternative perspective to the one you are used to; and stay away from the blogs that have no editorial oversight, and by all means, seek to understand why others see their survival in a different light than you view your own.
Our differences in some issues have always existed and we have always, except once in our national history, been able to find common ground, or at least mutual livability. While in the short term there is money to be made on fear-mongering, the long-term payoff for us as a nation will come from recognizing the common humanity that people of goodwill all share, regardless of our superficial differences.
We must quickly adapt to, and recognize the latest use of technology that seeks to maximize profits by dividing us, and remember that we are all humans seeking to survive.
Beware of those who will burn the house down – including yours – to get their way.
Being able to see behind words to the objective truth of any situation that impacts us all must be our goal – our collective survival may depend on it.
Royal Examiner Editorial Staff
We hurt ourselves
The new EDA Executive Director and the new EDA Board with its expertise and all the other residents of Front Royal were victimized by what one major player did with EDA funds. Why would the town take an adversarial stance toward the new EDA which is not at fault and refuse to make payments for our new police station when we are all ‘in the same boat’? These are people who came in to help resolve the issues and advance our economic development.
If we hurt the EDA instead through non-payment for the Front Royal police station, we hurt ourselves. Common sense dictates that we do not want the EDA to collapse. We would still have to pay the bills yet lack a way to increase revenue in the town with the help of the EDA.
Worse — the proposed town budget fired the professionals who had planned events that are now being canceled one after the other, leaving us without any avenues for economic development. Yet $200,000 has been transferred to the Town Attorney account to pay lawyers to argue in favor of making it harder on the EDA to survive, that is, the town will not compromise on the interest rate to be applied to the loan for the police station.
Sitting in the wrong account, Community Development, page 47 of the proposed budget, sits a $515,000 labeled police facility. It does not mean that we pay the EDA for the station. It is sitting there awaiting transfer as needed to the Town Attorney account for payment of high legal fees. (Information gained from a credible source.) The few in governance are allowing the expense up to $700,00 in order to have a court tell us what to do when we could decide in a cooperative manner for no cost beyond staff time. We all are going to pay in one way or another. It is cheaper to cooperate and split the difference in the interest on the loan rather than do what Council least likes to do, raise taxes.
It is disheartening that the town fights against its moral obligation. It is even harder to wonder and perhaps watch tax money ‘burn’ away because of one employee with a ‘group think’, alias Town Council.
Front Royal, VA
Thank you, Doug Stanley!
I want to share my personal sentiments about our County Administrator, Mr. Doug Stanley.
Mr. Stanley is a personal friend. We have actively participated in countless projects for our community of Front Royal and Warren County over many years, together and with other devoted citizens. We have all been devoted to the betterment of everyone, in every instance.
Mr. Stanley has represented the Motto of Rotary International, “SERVICE ABOVE SELF”. He has instilled this ethic in every effort he has taken on. His example for young and old alike is to build character, leadership and be the person for others to follow.
He is the fall guy for the mistakes of many, yet he has moved forward and stayed the course for his position and target for success in Warren County.
As County Administrator, his accomplishments are beyond compare among his peers throughout our state of Virginia. This is only possible with a working environment of continuous commitment on his part. He and his staff are all talented individuals, devoted to their positions.
In recent times he has become the recipient of criticism. This local action has harmed our community very deeply. Many of the words of criticism have come from persons who intentionally tried to destroy his stellar reputation and care little about others here. Many people have been the instigators and gone so far as to threaten and publicly attack him. Many of these are also self-centered and have not served our community beyond their own self-fulfillment needs and wants. What an eye-opener this has become in learning about people. Loss of respect is a term well due upon such behavior in today’s civil society.
No one is a perfect person for all things. I certainly am not! Most of us try to simply survive. However, for those who reach out and above their own needs and share their successes, the field is open for service to others and all mankind. It is a pleasure to offer more than required.
Warren County has been blessed with Mr. Stanley and his devotion here.
My hope is that the Board of Supervisors may use their intelligence and the same devotion to our community that Mr. Stanley has and renew his contract.
Remember the open door created for anyone who makes charges against others. Their own track records may come to light for all to see and maybe very humiliating. Be prepared to accept such burdens if they exist.
Consider the sources of criticism for Mr. Stanley, the same people who can “simply move away if they don’t get rid of him”. Our community deserves better than this. Our elected officials need to perform their jobs and do what is prudent, proper for the best interest of ALL.
Thank you, Doug Stanley!
Watching the Senate hearings over the past weeks I am happy to see historical arguments being made by both sides. As I have said, the Constitution is purposely vague, and it is no different when it comes to impeachment. There are three sections in the Constitution that discuss impeachment, but even with those sections there are still many questions. As with most Constitutional issues, the rest has been filled in with laws, the courts, and especially precedent. Several times both sides have referenced both the Andrew Johnson and William Clinton impeachment trials. In this vein, I think it is worth examining the lesser known of the two, the Johnson case, to see what we can learn from history and if there are similarities between the two.
There is a great deal of detail to explain Johnson’s election as V.P. Suffice to say, the Republicans in 1864 were concerned about Lincoln’s chances in the upcoming election. That may sound crazy, but he was not yet the super popular president that he would become. Johnson was a pro-war Democrat and Lincoln hoped that by bringing him on the ticket he could attract other pro-war Democrats. What made Johnson an even more interesting choice was that he was a pro-slave, state’s rights Democrat from Tennessee. Johnson was brought in for votes only. Once in office, Lincoln did not use him and he by no means was meant to ever be president.
The issue with Johnson’s impeachment revolves around Reconstruction. Even before the end of the War, Lincoln was already discussing his plans for how to treat the South. He basically wanted to make it easy for the southern states to return, including keeping their existing governments. His biggest opposition to Reconstruction was the radical wing of his own party. The so-called Radical Republicans wanted to punish the South and make it difficult for their return. They wanted to remove all past leaders and guarantee certain rights for the new freedman population
The Radicals were originally excited about Johnson as president. He said and did all the right things. However, when Congress left for recess, he put in his own plans for Reconstruction that were just as lenient as Lincoln’s, maybe even more so. When Congress returned, they attempted to retake the power. They tried to pass laws to help the ex-slaves but were blocked by Johnson’s vetoes. The Radicals did have enough support to overturn Johnson’s veto on the Fourteenth Amendment, which gave freedmen citizenship, but they faced an uphill battle. It was at this point they began looking for reasons to impeach the president. They tried twice unsuccessfully before they found a reason that stuck.
In 1867 Congress passed the Tenure of Office Act, which basically said that the president could not fire any member of his own cabinet without congressional approval. This was done for two reasons. First, Congress was afraid that Johnson would start replacing Lincoln’s Republican Cabinet with a Democratic one. Secondly, they hoped this would trip up Johnson and give them a reason to impeach. The plan worked. Johnson, who had been fighting with his Secretary of War Edwin Stanton over keeping troops in the South, finally grew frustrated and fired him. Johnson did not think the Tenure of Office Act would hold up in court. He was right. But before the courts examined the case, the House acted first and charged Johnson with eleven counts of impeachment.
The eleven articles are incredibly repetitive. They all boil down to Johnson having broken his oath of office by firing Stanton and by hiring Lorenzo Thomas without consent of Congress. They basically said it in different ways, like he violated Stanton’s rights in one and conspired with Thomas against Stanton in another. In Article 10 Congress went as far as including that he criticized congress “with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory, and scandalous harangues.”
The trial lasted for three months. The defense argued that Johnson had done nothing wrong. They claimed he was challenging an unconstitutional law and basically his act did not meet the demands of a High Crime. What seemed like a slam dunk win at first fell apart by the end. From the beginning of the trial, Johnson worked with moderate Republicans to save his position by promising not to interfere any more with Reconstruction. Also, the managers had a week case. It became apparent the entire reason for the law was to remove the President. His only real crime was disagreeing with Congress.
In the end, seven Republicans voted to acquit. For some congressmen they were more concerned with the man who would replace Johnson, whom they saw as even more difficult. For others, when it really came down to it, they did not want to remove the President based on a power struggle. It would create a dangerous precedent that they did not want and could hurt the balance of power. When they received their assurances from Johnson, the Republicans were more than happy to leave him in office until the next year when they could replace him through voting. One senator said after, “I cannot agree to destroy the harmonious working of the Constitution for the sake of getting rid of an Unacceptable President.”
What is interesting about today’s impeachment is many will see similarities with Johnson’s trial and many will not. Supporters of Trump will see two presidents who disagreed with a hostile Congress which simply wanted the president removed for political reasons. Others will disagree with any similarities. More like the Nixon scandal, they see a president who clearly overstepped his authority and then tried to cover it up. The problem is this split happens to be along party lines, which is very much like the Johnson impeachment. With Johnson, Republicans had to cross the party line to clear him, whereas with Trump they had to cross party lines to convict. But either way the vast majority of the Senate in all three presidential impeachments trials voted along party lines instead of voting their consciences. So, what we can learn from studying Johnson is that in the end what we see is that impeachments are political above everything else.
For my Texas readers, if any of you are interested I will be speaking at the Weatherford College Interdisciplinary Academic Conference on Feb 27 at 5 PM. The conference is free and open to the public. For more information, you can call 817-598-6326. If you attend, make sure you come by and say hello.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.
Jesus in Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is now upon us, and of course, the central theme is Love. It is the showing of one’s love for someone and being desirous of and asking for another to return such love in a way to say “I love you too”. A proposal, if you will. In this regard, (which involves a suitor) the dictionary defines such as; a man who courts a woman; a wooer. It further defines a wooer as: to seek the love or affection of, especially to marry; to court.
In this respect, allow me to present to you my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. For the greatest act and show of love the world has ever known, let me direct your attention to the figure there on Calvary’s brow: I can only humbly say, behold Him there! For I am not worthy so much as to even approach Him. As you gaze upon him you will see that he is hanging from a cross by nails driven into his hands and feet. He is covered and “bathed” in his own blood, for as the Scriptures say, “…his visage was so marred more than any man”. The result of a savage, brutal, and one might venture to say, demonic beating.
He wasn’t there merely by chance, but because mankind was under the curse of God’s law which says; ” the soul that sinneth shall die.” His agony was so great, that he cried out; “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And thus, being made to be sin for us, He took our sin upon Himself! And now hear the prophecies as detailed in Psalms 22, “…I am a worm and no man …despised of the people …I am poured out like water …and all my bones are out of joint …my heart is like wax …my tongue cleaves to my jaw …am brought down to the dust of death.”
His being there was the fulfillment of his intent and determination to die in our place! This was the price that God himself set for our redemption: God himself had to die; God himself had to shed his very own blood! By saying, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men to me,” He is doing exactly that on the cross. He is drawing us, asking us, “to come unto me.” Yes, and by asking the Father to, “forgive them for they know not what they do”, He is throwing the door wide open for us while tugging at our hearts. And, one could almost hear him say “Be Mine”.
Be mine and your sin will be forgiven and no longer under the curse; I am reminded of the prophet who said, “though your sins be as scarlet ye shall be white as snow. Be mine for I am going to prepare a dwelling place for you. Be mine and you will never die, for my special gift to you is eternal life; and you will never thirst or hunger, for I will give you both the bread of life and the water of life.”
But what could be the proper response to such a suitor and his appeal or proposal? To learn of the best, and indeed, the only accepted response (a simple I will) we need only to look again at Calvary’s brow and hear the thief on a cross next to our Saviour when he says; “Master, remember me when you cometh into your kingdom.”
In saying “Be Mine”, “come unto me”, and “Whosoever believeth in me shall never die”, isn’t he asking us to consider and look expectantly upon the eternal, heavenly scene. We have the ‘picture’ of a people for whom a pure, white, shining garment has been prepared. And as we stand so arrayed before the very throne of God our hearts are suddenly filled with an overwhelming measure of love, and our eyes are filled with great tears of joy; for we are now aware that He is present! The Lamb of God Himself has stepped forth from the midst of the throne. And, performing the acts and duty as our Groom, places a wedding ring on our fingers; and then presents us to all the holy, righteous hosts of Heaven as his greatly beloved, glorious, precious Bride! The Church! And all the host of Heaven bow down; reverently, lovingly, and adoringly as kings cast their crowns down before Him!
And so, indeed, as the Lord said on the cross, “It Is Finished!” Thus, the message of God written indelibly throughout space and time by his own blood is there for all to see: I love you! Love has conquered!
Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, VA