"The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand."
It must be true - it's in the bible. Isaiah chapter 32, verse 8 to be exact. The New English Bible has a different translation from the original Hebrew - "The man of noble mind forms noble designs and stands firm in his nobility." I am of course very happy to have theological affirmation that it is indeed a noble undertaking to be a Liberal. I have scoured the bible from end to end and find no reference to Conservatives. As for Labour, we know that the lilies of the field were praised for not going there, "neither should they spin." It certainly makes you think.
Why am I writing this? Because yesterday I went to St Albans Abbey to speak at the men's breakfast organised by Dean Jeffrey John. The verse from Isaiah seemed a suitable introductory text! I have heard a sermon preached on this verse. It was given by former Archbishop Michael Ramsey at the great Westminster Abbey service to celebrate the centenary of the Liberal Party in 1977.
The Liberals were the first modern political party, what is less well known is that Michael Ramsey had himself been a Liberal candidate - for Cambridge, though he never stood for election as his religious vocation came to the fore. But when he was at Cambridge he was told he was a future Liberal Prime Minister and he became Archbishop of Canterbury. When Gladstone was at Oxford, he was told he was a future Archbishop of Canterbury and he became Liberal Prime Minister. As I wrote above, it certainly does make you think.
I had the privilege of meeting Michael Ramsey once. It was after he had retired as Archbishop and he came to preach through Holy Week at Little St Mary's, the parish church I attended at Cambridge. Ramsey was staying with the James Owen, the vicar. I was a young man working temporarily as a letterpress printer in the town, and with a couple of friends cheekily invited myself to dinner. To our amazement we were indeed invited, I scrubbed up as best I could (printers ink being very stubborn) and we presented ourselves at the vicarage for a meal of irish stew followed by a cheeseboard. I remember Ramsey was wonderfully vain. He kept asking his wife Joan if his hair was all right (a wonderful silky white mane, he looked like a biblical prophet). She would produce a silver comb and all was kept tip-top. At one stage we asked him what he thought of Enoch Powell as a theologian. "Ah Enoch. Enoch has read many books and some of them have been about God..."