« FöregåendeFortsätt »
the magistrates “are God's ministers,” he is “ preaching politics”-instructing them in their relations and duties as citi
Peter is doing the same when he says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Paul, in his charge to Titus, enjoins upon him as a young minister of the gospel, the same duly. “Put them in mind,” says he, “to be subject to principalities, and powers; to obey magistrates; to be ready to every good work.”
Again, we answer, if ministers of the gospel may not preach upon this subject, then is there much of the Bible that they may not expound to their hearers; for a large proportion of the sacred volume treats of civil government, and of our relations and duties as members thereof. Are the ministers of Christ then to treat these portions of the word of God with cold neglect-to leave their hearers uninstructed in them, when their commission requires of them, as they would answer at the judgment, that they shun not to declare the whole counsel of God? Is the objector prepared to assume this position?
Nor is this all. The gospel of Christ was designed to affect and control men in all their relations, moral, domestic, social, and civil. This is proved, first, from the nature of its fundamental principle--Love; and, secondly, from the fact that it imposes upon us commands relating to all. Christian ministers cannot then preach the whole gospel, without developing its bearings upon mens' civil and political relations.
All these are sufficient reasons why every gospel minister should feel authorized, nay, imperatively called upon, by virtue of his commission as a minister, to unfold to his hearers, the principles of civil government, and to enlighten and instruct them in their duties as citizens. Not that he is to meddle with party politics, merely as such; not that he may be a political partizan, or a political brawler; but that, as a minister of Christ and of his gospel, he should unfold to them their relations and obligations in all that pertains to civil government, and should act himself in accordance with those obligations.
Thus much it has seemed necessary to say in the way of meeting the popular and prevailing prejudices upon this subject. Having said this, we proceed to its direct discussion, premising, however, that whatever may be said of the propriety
of its introduction into the pulpit, it cannot be regarded as inappropriate to the pages of a Review, whose avowed object it is to examine the great first principles of morality and religion. We propose here to discuss some of those fundamental and essential truths by which the Christian is to be guided in his civil relations.
Upon the subject of civil government, two extreme opinions are somewhat prevalent at the present day. The one is, that we are obligated to obey all law, simply because it is the law of the land—that while we live under the government of any state or nation, we must bow implicitly to the authority of its laws, be those laws what they may. The other is that we are bound to obey no human laws, parental, ecclesiastical, or civil. Between these extremes truth must be found.
Hence the following questions are of great importance:
1. Has Civil Government a rightful existence; and, if so, upon what basis does it rest?
II. Are we, as Christians, under obligation to support, to submit to, and to obey it?
III. What is the extent and limit of this obligation ?
To each of these interrogations, we shall endeavor, as we may be able to give a true and satisfactory answer.
Our first inquiry will be, What is civil government? To this we answer, It is the systematized application of the great law of love to the relations of men as citizens. This law of love is the one grand law of God's moral universe. It looks at happiness-at universal well-being, as the supreme good, and is perfectly adapted to secure that well-being to all and through all who obey it. This law, too, is of universal application. It is binding upon moral agents in all their circumstances and relations. All other laws grow out of this one precept, and are founded upon it. If the child is bound to obey his parent, the pupil his instructor, the citizen his government, or the creature his Creator, he is thus bound by this great law of love. Hence it is called “ the Royal Law," that is the kingly --the supreme law—the great governing principle in the moral universe. This law requires that whatever is demanded by the nature, the relations, or the necessities of man, shall have an existence; and whatever is thus demanded has a rightful existence. In proof of this it will be sufficient to remark, that if such demands are not met, our highest happiness cannot be secured. But the law of love aims to secure this, therefore it requires that these demands be met and satisfied. The question then is this: Is there anything in the nature of man as man, or in our relations and necessities as citizens, that demands the existence of civil government?
We answer, there is. And as evidence of the fact, let us refer again to our definition. We have said that civil government is “the systematized application of the great law of love to the relations of men as citizens.” Now it is either necessary that this law be applied to these relations, or it is not. If it is necessary, then civil government has a rightful existence. If it is not necessary, then it will follow,
First, That this law of love is not of universal application. But from an examination of its nature, and from the teachings of revelation, we learn that it is of universal application. Civil government, then, has a rightful existence. Secondly, It will follow, either that men
as citizens may be without law, or that they may be governed by some one which is contrary to the law of love. The latter, no one, we presume, will pretend. The former is disproved by the universal experience of mankind. A state of civil anarchy is the lowest state of barbarism. Good society has always kept pace with good laws; or, if the proposition be reversed, it is none the less to our purpose, since the two always go hand in hand.
But more is needed than this simple demonstration. It is needful to show how civil government is demanded by the necessities of our nature, and by our relations as citizens.
1. Man has natural rights, which are absolute and inalienable. Among these are the right of personal liberty and personal safety, the right of property and the right to worship his Creator in obedience to the dictates of conscience, and in conformity to his revealed will. The law of love requires that these rights be preserved inviolate, and that man be protected in the enjoyment of them. Now just that sort of compact which we call civil government has been found best adapted to protect men in the enjoyment of these rights. There is, therefore, a natural necessity for its existence.
2. Or, to present the argument in another form, men have bodily wants—wants that are inseparable from their existence as men.
Hence the need of property for the supply of these wants; and thus is created the demand for labor, and commerce or trade. But these need to be regulated by just and equitable rules-rules which will secure to each the largest liberty, and yet the most perfect protection, in providing for these natural necessities of his being. Men also need prescribed modes of registering, securing, and conveying property; so as to avoid difficulty and endless confusion. Now these rules of trade, and these prescribed modes of registering, &c., constitute civil government. Thus, again, we have a natural necessity for its existence.
3. The same truth may be illustrated by reference to man's intellectual wants, and the necessity of means for their supply; also by the wants of man as a religious being, and his need of protection in the rights of conscience, and in the worship of God.
4. To all this it may be objected, that if men were disposed to do right, there would be no such necessity. But, we ask, because a community is purely virtuous, does it therefore follow that it needs no law? Was there no such thing as government in Paradise, and is there none in heaven? The objection can be of no avail; for as long as men differ in knowledge, and are imperfect in judgment, so long will they differ in opinion, and need an ultimate court of appeal.
But the fact supposed by the objector, is one which does not exist. It is notoriously true that men are not disposed to do right, without the restraint of law. Man is a selfish being, and, as such, constantly disposed to interfere with the rights, and to disregard the bappiness of his neighbor. Hence he needs the strong restraints of law, What would civil society be, in its present state, without those restraints? Who would have any security for life, liberty, or safety? Let all the laws be repealed that bind the inhabitants of one of our large cities; let it be proclaimed to the thief, the robber, and the murderer, that his deeds of darkness may seek the open day, and none shall lift the sword of justice to punish him for his misdeeds; and let the advocate of the no-government theory be compelled to take up his abode in such a community. It would soon effcctually cure him of his strange vagaries, if indeed he lived to be cured!
We are now prepared for the following conclusions:
1. That Civil Government is demanded by the nature, necessities, and relations of human beings—first, as men; and secondly, as fallen beings—as sinners.
That it tends to secure the good—the highest well-being of the governed.
3. That it is therefore founded upon, and required by, the great law of love. 4. If, then, we are under obligation to regard the nature of
and their relations and necessities as citizens; if we are
bound to seek, in these relations, the highest well-being of our fellow men, and to obey the great law of love; then we are also under obligation to respect, to submit to, and to aid in sustaining, civil government, so far as it meets these demands of our nature and relations, harmonizes with this universal law, and tends to secure this great and importunt end.
That these are fair and rational conclusions we think no honest, unprejudiced mind will deny. But we remark further, civil government is ordained and established by God. It is so, first, inasmuch as he is the Author of the great law of love. The precept, " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself,” is from the lips of Jehovah himself. Whatever, therefore, is required by this law, is required by the Infinite and Eternal One.
Again, that civil government is established by God, is evident from the express declarations of his word." Dan. ii, 21. “He changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings and setteth up kings; he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.” Rom. xiii: 1. “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” 1 Peter, ii: 13, 14. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well.” In these passages it is distinctly asserted, that governments are instituted and rulers appointed by the express authority of God.
We are prepared, then, for this conclusion: That our obligation to respect, to submit to, and to aid in sustaining, civil government, is equal to our obligation to obey the express command of God.
We now come to another important inquiry; namely,When is civil government right and when wrong? What human laws are righteous, just and benevolent laws, and what are not
1. They are right when demanded by the nature of human beings, or by their relations and necessities as citizens; when they harmonize with the divine law; when they tend to secure the highest well-being of the subject, and are therefore in accordance with, and based upon the great law of Love. It may be proper here to remark that all of these character