Trinity Covenant RCUS, Colorado Springs
Blocking the Streets
“In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” --Isaiah 59:14,15.
The courts did not seem to be in touch. Innocent people were victims of violent crime. Often the courts were corrupt and allowed the guilty to go free. Government officials were corrupt and lining their own pockets. The courts were filled with empty arguments and lying tongues. Lawlessness was everywhere.
This was Israel in the days of Isaiah, who diagnosed the problem: the carcass of truth blocked the street, so equity could not pass.
I. The root meaning of “Equity” is “straightforwardness,” or “integrity.” Another form of the word describes the walk of a righteous man (Isaiah 57:2). In Proverbs 8:9 the words of wisdom are “plain” to those with understanding. When Israel no longer wanted to hear the truth, they wished the prophets to prophesy smooth things of deceit, not “right,” straightforward things (Isaiah 30:10).
The Bible teaches that there is a “plain” way: a simple, right, and honest way for a man to treat his God and his neighbor. This simple, right way is written in the hearts of every man, in his very nature, so that he is without excuse. The Apostle Paul said that this law is even written on the hearts of those who have never heard of the Bible (Romans 2:13-16). In their wickedness, men are able to corrupt this law, and some may even succeed in “searing their conscience as with a hot iron” (I Timothy 4:2), but they can never entirely erase it, and it will rise up to judge them in the last day. The pure form of this “law of nature” was given in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), and its summary is true love for God and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). This law shows that man is a moral being and is accountable to God and to his neighbor for his actions. The humanist must deny this law of God.
II. In Christian nations, the legal system reflected this law of equity. In England, equity courts originated in the legal system established after 1066 by William of Normandy. They were “courts of conscience,” administered by the king’s chancellor, a clergyman. (Smith, Chester H., Smith’s Review of Equity,” West Publishing Co., St. Paul, Minn., 1958. p. 9) Until this century, courts of equity were part of the American judicial system. Webster defines equity:
“Justice according to nature law of right,” or “a system of law originating in the English chancery and comprising a settle and formal body of legal of procedural rules and doctrines that supplement, aid, or override common and statue law and are designed to protect rights and enforce duties fixed by substantive law.”
A “substantive” right or duty is one that exists for its own sake and rests in natural law. For instance, a man has no right to endanger life by shooting a gun at a passing train, even if there is no specific statute forbidding it, or a decision in common law to cover that case. He is expected to know that such actions are wrong. Such an expectation is becoming rarer and rarer in schools, in public, and in government. Naughty impudent children become naughty impudent and brazen men and women.
Reasonable men want their courts to be upright, to dispense honest and fair decisions. Equity courts held a man responsible to behave in a right way toward his neighbor’s life, property, and reputation and were an attempt toward responsible, fair judicatories. The very existence of these courts testified to rights and law that were above the statute and common law, and tended to affect decisions in the other courts. Jefferson’s allusion to the “laws of nature,” and of “nature’s God” in the Declaration of Independence is within the scope of this Christian heritage.
A number of years ago courts of equity were abolished in America, and combined with the regular system of courts. The result is that equity is usually ignored in modern courts. One lawyer told me that judges do not want to stick their necks out; they want to base their decisions on statute law or common-law decisions. This is understandable in present law theory where there is no recognition of natural law proceeding from the God who created us all. Understandable, but irresponsible, and something very precious was lost in our courts when courts of equity were abolished. An exception to this was Brown, which ended segregation in public schools, the most famous equity decision in the history of America. No remedy could be found in common or statute law, so recourse was made to the idea that it was essentially unfair to deny basic rights to any of our citizens on the basis of race. One problem in this decision, however, was that it was based on the subjectivism of the judges, not on natural law. It was widely supported, and rightly so, because the decision met the approval of the consciences of the majority of the American people.
III. Natural law presupposes a Creator, and that’s the rub, in Hamlet’s phrase. Modern man hates God and His law. He wants to live in a relativistic world, so that he can justify abortion, sodomy, confiscatory taxation, fornication, pornography, and reap the income that comes from them. He sees himself as a victim in an impersonal world; not as a responsible man under God.
In spite of this God is the Creator and Judge of the earth. This is the truth that lies in the street and blocks equity’s way. The Christians who compromised with atheistic evolution in the public schools did not realize that this undermined a court system based on equity and natural law, turning loose a flood of lawlessness, criminal government and viciousness. But they did know what the Bible said, so they were without excuse, just as we are if we do not work to have the general law of equity, created by God, recognized as the basis for our law. This general law recognizes that all men are to live at peace with one another and seek the good of all men. This is not an emotion, but objectified in the Ten Commandments.
It was so bad in Israel that God “wondered” that there was no man, no intercessor, to plead Israel’s case 9Isaiah 59:15-17). It displeased Him that there was no justice. So He took charge Himself. He “put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head…” vengeance for clothing, …and zeal as a cloke” (Isaiah 59:17. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God appeared, He put things to right, and the wicked will not escape His righteous and holy government. The wicked do not like nor approve of God’s intervention, but they are scattered like the chaff before the wind.