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    Quotables: The Roots of American Order

    February 29, 2012 by Brandy Vencel
    The Roots of American Order
    by Russell Kirk

    Even the simplest human communities cannot endure without some form of laws, consciously held and enforced. Ants and bees may cooperate by instinct; men must have revelation and reason. {p. 13}

    For until human beings are tied together by some common faith, and share certain moral principles, they prey upon one another. {p. 14}

    “I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nations,” [John] Adams wrote in 1809. {p. 17}

    What chiefly distinguished the Israelites and their successors the Jews from the political order of the despotisms by which they were surrounded, however, was the existence of a partial check upon the civil authority. {p. 19}

    This, then, is the high contribution of Israel to modern social order: the understanding that all true law comes from God, and that God is the source of order and justice. {p. 20}

    There is but one God; and He is just. That is the essence of the legacy of Israel. {p. 22}

    Job has fallen into presumption by attempting to understand the will of God…It is not for man to adjudge God, as if God and man were litigants. {p. 23-24}

    Greece excepted, those other nations called their rulers divine beings. But for Israel, the king was Jehovah’s steward at most: the Israelites had their priests and their kings, but not priest-kings. {p. 24}

    What is called the “doctrine of original sin” passed from Judaism into Christianity, and became in time a fundamental principle with the Christian settlers in early America. {p. 25}

    [The Ten Commandments] are as true for a complex modern civilization as they were for desert wanderers. {p. 28}

    For the true Law is derived from the Covenant that God has made and reaffirmed with his people. The Law is revealed to save man from self-destruction; to redeem man from sin and its consequences; to keep man from becoming a Cain, his hand against every man’s; to enable man to resemble the God in whose image he was created. {p. 28}

    Like the people of Israel and Judah, the Americans broke solemn covenants repeatedly; but like Israel, America nevertheless knew that without a covenant, the people would be lost. {p. 29}

    America inherited an understanding of the sanctity of the law. {p. 29}

    What signifies most in Amos is his declaration that Jehovah is the God of all peoples, not of Israel only. {p. 32}

    How might the little kingdoms of Israel and Judah survive without such unhallowed dealings? Trust in the Lord God, replied the prophets. {p. 33}

    The old Covenant, that is, had worked upon the nation; the new Covenant would work upon the individual person, through conscience and private insight. {p. 35}

    [I]n truth, the prophets were speaking to all men, in all times. {p. 36}

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I can see why, Dana. I really hadn’t even heard of him before Andrew Kern began talking him up over at CiRCE.

    He and Barzun are two authors that I want to start collecting and pondering.

  • Reply Go quickly and tell February 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Practically every sentence in this book is important and quotable, some even worthy of memorization.

    Funny thing about listening to Kirk speak/lecture is that often I would miss his jokes/sense of humor because I was struggling just to comprehend his very words/vocabulary in the first place.

    Very few people do I read over and over. Kirk is one of them.

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