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Seizure and Property

Originally, the word “seizure” was a legal term for ownership. “Seize” meant legal possession, and “seizing” or “seisin” meant in early English law possession with quiet enjoyment.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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California Farmer 236:9 (May 6, 1972), p. 31.

The history of words sometimes tells us much about the history of man. The word “seizure” is a good example. Originally, the word “seizure” was a legal term for ownership. “Seize” meant legal possession, and “seizing” or “seisin” meant in early English law possession with quiet enjoyment. In common law “seizen in deed” means actual possession, and “seizing in law” means the right of present possession.

Now, of course, “seize” means to confiscate, to take possession by force. The word has thus come to mean its exact opposite, changing from the ownership of property to the confiscation by force of something or anything.

The history of the change in the meaning of this English word is a complex one, but basically it tells us this: the law, which should have confirmed a man in his “seizing,” began to rob a man of his property. The lords and kings of England worked too often to dispossess by law a man from his property, and the law of “seizing” became a law of seizure in the modern sense. The change in the meaning of the word thus tells us of a change in the life of the kingdom.

Behind that change was a spiritual change. The Renaissance and its humanism destroyed the old sense of Christian responsibility and law, so that, in terms of Judges 21:25, because Christ was not King in the hearts of men, “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The result was a rapid decline of honesty and godliness in every area of life and, lacking moral restraints, men began to exploit one another. Those who had the power to use the courts to do so began to confiscate the property of other men, so that the very legal term for ownership came to mean confiscation.

We are drifting closer to such a condition daily. To be a property owner is to be the target of confiscatory taxes, crime, and hostility. Men who are professed “peace lovers” are increasingly also bombers and rioters. Men who claim to believe in a religion of love are most likely to spout hatred. Good words are used as a cover for evil ends, and peace may come to mean war someday, if this trend continues.

No reform movement can change these things more than superficially. Only Christ can change the hearts of men, and Christ will not rule a man who will not be His absolute possession. Christ is not merely a resource or a power for men to rely on but an absolute Lord and King who claims and seizes us as His property. If we are His, we must obey His law and serve His Kingdom. We are then not our own, for we “are bought with a price” by Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:20). He made us so that we and all creation are His property. By His redemption, we are doubly His.

If we are guilty of seizure in the modern sense, that is, if we have taken our lives as our own, to be lived apart from Christ, can we expect our world to show respect for our property when we ourselves rob God of His due? When we restore ourselves, our homes, churches, schools, civil government, and all things else to God the King, then God will restore to us what is our due property.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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