Adam Smith on God as "Judge of the world"

Many people instrumental in the founding of Western Civilization, and many Enlightenment philosophers, recognized God as the King and Judge of the world.

Adam Smith is most famous for his work on economics, and usually cited for the same, but he wrote at length about God and morality, and all his work had God at its foundation. In 1759, Smith declared God “the all-seeing Judge of the world, whose eye can never be deceived, and whose judgements can never be perverted.”

This philosophy is at the very heart of the American system. George Washington set the precedent and the tradition of stating the affirmation, “So help me God,” upon inauguration of the President under the Constitution, and Washington was applying Rev. Samuel Rutherford’s philosophy of kingship. Washington served under God when he set thee historic precedent of willingly relinquishing power and returning to his farm; for Washington understood the power was not his, but only gifted to him by the consent of the people under God’s will and law.

The reasoning for Rutherford’s stance on applying an oath to validate a succession to power comes directly from Scripture, and affirming that the oath is a covenant in the Biblical tradition between the king and the people. “God only by the action of the people as his instrument,” declares Rutherford, “and by no other action, makes a lawful king; God, only by the action of the people, as his instrument, can make a king…both the one and the other according to God’s rule obligeth…by God and nature’s law.” According to Rutherford, this is part of Natural Law.

Rutherford discloses and emphasizes how the king’s power comes only upon the consent of the governed, as the people are proxies of God in His creation, writing:

The kingly power floweth immediately from God, and the people doth not transfer that power, but doth only consent to the person of the king, or doth only choose his person at some time.  And though this power were principally given to the people, it is not so given to the people as if it were the people’s power, and not God’s, for it is God’s power…

“The chain of dependence therefore terminates in the supreme body, namely in the people,” states Dr. Kevin Portteus, of Hillsdale College. “If you have a properly functioning system of authority and command here, the people are the ultimate power, the people through the Constitution have appointed a President…it establishes that the executive power is republican…ultimately…dependent on the people.”

Rutherford’s discussion throughout Lex, Rex references King David as the standard of kingliness and power, and God’s direct role and the obligation of King David to God’s people.  Rutherford’s dialog and commentary also gives an enlightened perspective on George Washington’s “So help me God,” as well as the common phrase, “one nation under God.” Philosophers and economists alike understood that all government, and all leaders, are under God.

Jim Huntzinger is the President and Founder of Lean Frontiers, Inc., which develops knowledge and learning communities on the Lean Enterprise for business and industry. With a background and experience in manufacturing and operations, he has also extensively researched the history and development of American manufacturing and also published several books on the lean business model, manufacturing history, and economics.

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