The timeless wisdom of Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’


The timeless wisdom of Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’


PERHAPS the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defence of custom. But tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.

—Thomas Paine, introduction to Common Sense

It would behoove us all to review the text of Thomas Paine’s 48-page pamphlet, which he published anonymously (fearing reprisal) in February 1776. Paine’s wisdom applies as well today as it did back then, not because of his argument against the monarchy, but as a reminder that the self-government we championed then—and are losing now—carries responsibilities.

Paine donated the profits from the astounding 500,000 copies sold (when the US population was only 2.5 million) to Washington’s army. Looking at his ideas reminds us that it was influential for a profound reason. Let it be so again, as part of the guidance we need to follow out of the current morass.

Paine was British by birth and had no formal higher education, having dropped out of school at age 13. Therefore, he wrote simply, using accessible and resonant words. From the opening paragraphs:

Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

Paine aptly describes how a government must be formed, to have an orderly society

…because as the elected might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the electors in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflection of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government, and the happiness of the governed.

Clearly, we’ve grown away from that simplicity. A small populace governed by elected representatives people has become 340 million people governed by a nameless bureaucracy, plus a few elected officials who rarely aspire to represent most of their constituents. That part of Paine’s writing devoted to arguing against the concept of hereditary, kingly rule resonates now that we have what was then unimaginable: an ingrained, bureaucratic inflexibility of rule.

Do we have a president in the sense our Founders conceived? On the face of it, the president today can, by fiat, change any rule. The executive order that put a halt to the Keystone pipeline, and started our descent into energy helplessness is an example. He (or, in Biden’s case, his minions) can direct a corrupt bureaucracy to trample on the rights of the people he so inadroitly governs—a stark example is Biden’s continued imprisonment, without trial, in horrific conditions, of people who walked into the Capitol building nearly two years ago.

Paine’s writing reminds us that

Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by important; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any thoughout the dominions.

While that last was again written as an argument against the throne, it holds true now, perfectly describing Biden. Paine further asks this question:

Is the power who is jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us?

Such a simple question. It is demonstrably true that those now in power work against our prosperity. We see this in our wealth’s diminution through predictable inflation caused by blatantly bad fiscal and social policy. We, and our government, forget that, as Paine quotes Dragonetti, on Virtue and Rewards,

The science of the politician consists in fixing the true point of happiness and freedom. Those men would deserve the gratitude of ages, who should discover a mode of government that contained the greatest sum of individual happiness, with the least national expense. (Emphasis mine.)

Paine further says that

The more men have to lose, the less willing they are to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel.

It is time, I think, to stop trembling and watching our freedom slip away. In much of the country, this election matters more than any before it, and we must consider it a start toward reversing America’s downward spiral. Keeping the feet of those whom we elect to the fire is step two. Complacency is no longer an option.



Source: The timeless wisdom of Thomas Paine’s ‘Common Sense’ – American Thinker

In Touch Ministries; Charles Stanley – The Good Things in Life

Knowing and pursuing God gives us our best life.

Psalm 34:1-22

How do we achieve the good life? Well, it depends on what you pursue and what you consider “good.” The world defines good things as items and experiences that make us happy. But from the Lord’s perspective, the good things in life are those that fit into His purpose and plan for us. 

God’s will could include material prosperity, health, and opportunities, but He also considers periods of trouble, need, and suffering as valuable. The Lord prioritizes our spiritual well-being over physical or material comfort and ease. 

Our Father wants us to seek Him rather than the treasures and pleasures of this life. If we do this, He promises we’ll “not lack any good thing” (Ps. 34:10).  We’re told to ask the Lord to meet our needs, but we should also come to Him with an open heart that seeks to know and love Him more. 

God Himself is the highest good we could possibly seek. Everything that He gives, whether much or little, is a good and perfect gift from Him (James 1:17). When our pursuit is the Lord rather than the things of this world, we’ll be content with whatever we have (Psalm 37:4). 

Bible in One Year: Mark 13-14

Our Daily Bread — Beyond Words

Bible in a Year:

This man . . . heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

2 Corinthians 12:3–4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:

2 Corinthians 12:1–10

Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) was one of the church’s most celebrated defenders of the faith. Yet just three months before his death, something caused him to leave unfinished his Summa Theologica, the massive legacy of his life’s work. While reflecting on the broken body and shed blood of his Savior, Aquinas claimed to see a vision that left him without words. He said, “I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings seem like straw.”

Before Aquinas, Paul too had a vision. In 2 Corinthians, he described the experience: “[I]—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things” (12:3–4).  

Paul and Aquinas left us to reflect on an ocean of goodness that neither words nor reason can express. The implications of what Aquinas saw left him without hope of finishing his work in a way that would do justice to a God who sent His Son to be crucified for us. By contrast, Paul continued to write, but he did so in the awareness of what he couldn’t express or finish in his own strength.

In all the troubles Paul encountered in service to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:16–3312:8–9), he could look back and see, in his weakness, a grace and goodness beyond words and wonder. 

By:  Mart DeHaan

Reflect & Pray

What problem have you had that seemed like a curse? How have you seen God show Himself good to you in ways you can’t describe?

Father in heaven, please give me the courage today to look for an inexpressible sense of Your presence and strength in my weakness.

Grace to You; John MacArthur – God’s Transforming Word

“The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Ps. 19:7).

God can transform you through His Word into the person He wants you to be.

Many today doubt the power of Scripture in dealing with the deeper aspects of the human heart and mind. The Bible may be helpful for certain superficial or “spiritual” problems, they say, but it’s too simplistic and inadequate for the more complex psychological issues of modern man. The truth is, however, the best psychology can do is modify external behavior. It cannot redeem and transform the soul. Only God can do that through the power of His Word.

That’s the truth behind Psalm 19:7, which calls Scripture “the law of the Lord,” thus emphasizing its didactic nature. It is the sum of God’s instruction to man, whether for creed (what we believe), character (what we are), or conduct (what we do).

The law of the Lord is “perfect.” That represents a common Hebrew word that speaks of wholeness, completeness, or sufficiency. Commentator Albert Barnes wrote that Scripture “lacks nothing [for] its completeness; nothing in order that it might be what it should be. It is complete as a revelation of Divine truth; it is complete as a rule of conduct. . . . It is absolutely true; it is adapted with consummate wisdom to the [needs] of man; it is an unerring guide of conduct. There is nothing there which would lead men into error or sin; there is nothing essential for man to know which may not be found there” (Notes on the Old Testament: Psalms, Vol. 1 [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974], p. 171).

Man’s reasoning is imperfect, but God’s Word is perfect, containing everything necessary for your spiritual life. It is so comprehensive that it can restore your soul. That is, convert, revive, refresh, and transform every aspect of your being to make you precisely the person God wants you to be.

Don’t look to impotent human alternatives when God’s Word stands ready to minister to your every need. Spiritual warfare is fought with spiritual weapons, not fleshly techniques, theories, or therapies (2 Cor. 10:4).

Suggestions for Prayer

Ask God to keep you focused on His counsel regarding every situation you face today.

For Further Study

Memorize 2 Corinthians 9:8 as a reminder of God’s super- abounding grace to you.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur

Joyce Meyer – Remind Yourself of Everything God Has Done for You

That is why I would remind you to stir up (rekindle the embers of, fan the flame of, and keep burning) the [gracious] gift of God, [the inner fire] that is in you…. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.

— 2 Timothy 1:6–7 (AMPC)

It doesn’t matter what kind of problem we have in our lives; we need self-control and discipline to gain and maintain the victory. I believe this is especially true regarding our thought life and the battle for our mind. What begins in the mind eventually comes out of the mouth, and before we know it, we’re telling anyone who will listen how we feel. We must discipline our mind, our mouth, our feelings, and our actions so that they are all in agreement with what the Word of God says.

Every quality of God that is in you and me, God Himself planted in us in the form of a seed the day we accepted Christ (see Colossians 2:10). Over time and through life’s experiences, the seeds of Christ’s character begin to grow and produce the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22–23).

I have found that it is virtually impossible to operate in any of the other eight fruit of the Spirit unless we are exercising self-control. How can you and I remain patient, for example, during an upsetting situation unless we exercise restraint? Or how can we walk in love and believe the best of someone after they have repeatedly hurt us unless we use the fruit of self-control?

As Christians, we have the fruit of the Spirit in us, but we must purposely choose to exercise them. Not choosing to exercise the fruit of the Spirit is what produces carnal Christians—those who are under the control of ordinary impulses and walk after the desires of the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 3:3). Whatever we exercise the most becomes the strongest.

Our thoughts and words are two areas in which the Holy Spirit is constantly prompting us to exercise self-control. The Bible says that …as [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he, and out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks (Proverbs 23:7; Luke 6:45b AMPC). The devil is constantly trying to get us to accept wrong thoughts about everything from God’s love for us (or the lack of it) to what terrible thing is going to happen to us next. Why? Because he knows that once we start accepting and believing his lies, it is just a matter of time until we begin to speak them out of our mouths. And when we speak wrong things, we open the door for wrong things to come into our lives (see Proverbs 18:20–21).

What if, instead of allowing our minds to go over all the things that have hurt us, we would remind ourselves to think about all the good things God has brought into our lives? When we allow Satan to fill our minds with worry, anxiety, and doubt, we wear out our ability to make good decisions. Worry is also thankless by nature. I’ve noticed that people who worry rarely see much good in life. They talk about tragedy, failures, sickness, and loss. They seem unable to focus on the good things that they still have in life.

Try this: Each day, focus on the things God has done for you in the past. This will make it easier for you to expect good things in the future. As I wrote those words, I thought of the memorials mentioned in the Old Testament. Often the people stacked up heaps of stones as reminders that God had delivered them or appeared to them. As they looked backward and remembered, they were able to look forward and believe.

The psalmist wrote, O my God, my life is cast down upon me [and I find the burden more than I can bear]; therefore will I [earnestly] remember You from the land of the Jordan [River] and the [summits of Mount] Hermon (Psalm 42:6 AMPC). He was reminding himself of past victories. When he was having problems, he recalled God’s great work in the lives of the people.

When doubts try to sneak in, you can do what the psalmist did: You can look back and remember that God has always been with His people. All of us have had times when we wondered if we’d make it. But we did. So will you.

Prayer of the Day: Father God, forgive me for allowing the little things of life to distract me and to take my thoughts away from You. Through Jesus Christ, help me always to remember that You are with me in the good times and in the bad times, amen.

Truth for Life; Alistair Begg – Preparing for Action

Preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:13

Training to become a pilot involves hours and hours of intense preparation. Some of this training takes place in simulators where the intensity is high enough to induce sweating and stress. Why are pilots subjected to such rigorous training? So they can learn to make the right decisions when it really matters!

When it comes to purity, it is often the case that people fall into sin because they try to make vital decisions in the heat of the moment. That just won’t cut it. If we are going to maintain purity, we need to make choices in advance and on the basis of God’s word.

This is why Peter tells us to prepare our “minds for action … being sober-minded.” The King James Version translates this verse, “Gird up the loins of your mind.” In other words, we are to keep control of our minds—to get a grip of our thought processes—so that we’re able to run after what is good and flee from what is evil.

If we do not prepare our minds for action, then we will be easily seducible and prone to tragedy. We will tend to make difficult, life-altering decisions in the heat of the moment when our emotions are engaged and our desires are shouting at us. But a life of purity does not happen by accident; it is an act of absolute determination prompted by God’s Spirit, guided by His word, and enabled by His power.

We need to make a commitment to purity, as the psalmist did when he said, “I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules” (Psalm 119:106). Make your commitment before it’s too late.

And here’s a suggestion for the kind of commitment to make: determine to live in the center of the narrow way, not on the edge. The young man in Proverbs 7 who fell prey to the temptation of a “forbidden woman” was living on the edge; he was “passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight” (Proverbs 7:5, 8-9). The Bible’s lesson is clear: don’t get yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

There is nothing to be gained from living on the edge when it comes to purity. Make your commitment before the temptation confronts you, so that when the evil day comes, you will be ready to say, “No, I already made that decision.” Keep your life in the center of the narrow way and determine to stay there. On the day when Christ Jesus returns and by grace His people stand around His throne, none of us will say that the pursuit of holiness was not worth the effort.


Proverbs 7

Topics: Christian Thinking God’s Word Purity Temptation

Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg,

Kids4Truth Clubs Daily Devotional – God Never Changes

“For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6).

Mrs. Beecher hurried to the living room where she found Billy and Sarah shouting at each other.

“You promised!” Billy said.

“That was yesterday!” Sarah yelled back.

“That’s enough,” Mrs. Beecher said, pulling Billy away from his sister. “Sarah, what’s going on?”

Sarah crossed her arms in front of her. “He wants to come with me to the park, and he’ll only get in the way.”

“She promised!” Billy said again.

“Did you promise?” Mrs. Beecher asked Sarah.

“I said yesterday if he walked the dog for me, he could come, and I took him—”

Billy interrupted again. “And I walked him again today, and she won’t take me!”

Mrs. Beecher led her children to the couch, where they sat down. “This is just a misunderstanding,” she said. “Sarah, Billy thought you meant you would take him every day if he kept walking the dog for you.

“Well, I don’t want to do it anymore.”

Before Billy could protest again, Mrs. Beecher said, “Billy didn’t understand you, though. Since he already walked Dobby for you, you need to keep up your end of the deal. Even if you changed your mind, you did promise.”

Sarah frowned and looked at her brother. “It doesn’t seem fair because it’s his fault.”

“Sarah,” Mrs. Beecher said gently, “Billy’s younger than you. And even if he weren’t, you need to understand how important it is for you to keep your promises. They don’t change from day to day. The Bible says that God never changes. He’s the same as He was yesterday and He always will be. We need to follow God’s example and stay true each day, just like He does.” She turned to Billy. “And you could ask your sister a little more nicely.”

“Will you please take me, Sarah?” Billy asked.

“Okay.” Sarah smiled a little. “But tomorrow I’ll walk Dobby myself, all right?”

Billy nodded. “Okay, I promise.”

At times it is hard to keep promises, and we forget what we are supposed to do. But God never changes, and He always keeps His promises.

My response:

» What is something God does for me that will never change?

» Do I know a verse in the Bible that is a promise from God? How has He kept that promise?

Denison Forum – Why protests in Europe could mean trouble for Taiwan

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Paris on Sunday in protest over the rising cost of living, a shortage of key supplies, and fears that their circumstances will only get worse as winter looms just over the horizon.

Those who spent their weekend marching through the streets of the French capital are hardly alone in their fear and anger.

The stress and angst that boiled over in the protests has been building for quite some time and was preceded by strikes at oil refineries that further exacerbated the problems. Almost a third of the country’s gas pumps are either fully or partly dry, and additional strikes are expected in the days to come.

Similar protest movements have begun in Germany, Italy, Belgium, and a host of other European countries as well. But while the inflation and shortages at the heart of these protests have a multitude of causes, the focus for many is the war in Ukraine.

When Russia began its invasion back in February of this year, most of the Western world was united in its opposition to Putin and his attacks. Officially, that stance has not changed. Both NATO and the European Union maintain their support for Ukraine and the measures that have been taken to fight back against Russia.

But as the cost of those measures—particularly the economic sanctions and energy shortages—have mounted, large swaths of the general public throughout Europe have started having second thoughts.

And there is perhaps no country paying closer attention to this development than China.

What if China invades Taiwan?

While one could argue that Russia stands to gain the most from any discontent among the European nations that oppose their invasion of Ukraine, circumstances have likely progressed too far for NATO or the EU to change course now. Those nations that stand against Putin’s government will continue to do so until the situation in Ukraine is resolved.

As such, the more pertinent question is whether those European nations can afford to take a similar approach should China invade Taiwan.

From the moment Russia started sending troops across their western border, many have seen similarities between Taiwan and Ukraine. As the latter denied Russia the quick victory that many inside the Kremlin forecasted, it gave hope to those in Taiwan that they too would be able to ward off any incursions by their much larger foe. And it would appear that China shared that apprehension, at least initially.

CIA Director William Burns told a House Intelligence Committee in March that Beijing had been “surprised and unsettled” by both Ukraine’s resistance and the Western response.

However, Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s tone and comments were anything but apprehensive and unsettled on the subject of Taiwan during his opening remarks at this week’s Party Congress. Wen-Ti Sung, a political scientist with the Australia National University’s Taiwan Studies Program, noted that Xi’s approach to the subject shifted from previous speeches and conveyed a “newfound urgency on making progress on the Taiwan issue.”

In fact, the delegates in attendance rendered their loudest applause of the night whenever Xi spoke on his hope for a “peaceful reunification” coupled with the resolve to “reserve the option of taking all measures necessary” to see that reunification come to pass.

In short, it would appear that any fears he had back in March have been assuaged in the months since. And while there are several plausible explanations for how that shift may have occurred, the most likely is the belief that the united Western support that has proved so crucial to the defense of Ukraine will not be extended to Taiwan.

The cost of commitment

We will discuss the implications of that reality for the United States in particular in tomorrow’s Daily Article. But before we do, there’s an important lesson from the European response that we need to consider.

Towards the end of Christ’s ministry, he cautioned his followers against underestimating the level of commitment required to be his disciple. To drive the point home, he compared that commitment to the way a builder counts the cost before beginning to construct a tower and to a king who measures the strength of his army against the enemy’s forces before engaging in battle (Luke 14:25–33).

This teaching was important because Jesus understood that maintaining one’s commitment is much more difficult when it begins to cost us more than we would prefer to pay.

Christ commanded total commitment from his disciples—above their commitment to family, friends, and most of all themselves—because he knew they could not comprehend what it would cost to follow him. As such, weighing that cost was less about what they would have to pay than about what they were willing to pay.

Understanding that distinction is just as important for us today as it was for his disciples nearly two thousand years ago.

How much are you truly willing to sacrifice?

Many of the protests in Europe are the result of countries hoping that the war in Ukraine would cost less than they’re currently having to pay. As such, their citizens are less likely to sanction a similar wager if China invades Taiwan, and Beijing appears to have reached a similar conclusion.

As the cost of following Christ in our culture continues to rise, let’s learn from their example.

For a long time, Christians in America have had the luxury of knowing that the true cost of what we could expect to pay for following Jesus was unlikely to exceed what we were willing to pay. But as circumstances change and that cost becomes less certain, many have already begun to waver in their commitment to the Lord. And while it’s unlikely that the price to follow Jesus will rise to the point of death, only God knows where it will ultimately fall.

So take some time today to ask the Holy Spirit to help you examine by which measure you’re counting the cost of discipleship.

Have you put limits on how much you’re willing to pay to follow Jesus?

Is your commitment based on what you want it to cost or on what Christ says it could cost?

It’s all right to hope for the former so long as you are prepared to pay the latter.

Are you?

Denison Forum