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istics so harmonize, that whenever a law possesses one of them it possesses them all. All human laws which fulfil these conditions are holy, just and good; they are of equal authority with the divine law, because a part of it; and are imperatively binding upon every subject. Thus much will be readily admitted by all who recognize the necessity and the divine authority of civil government.
2. They are wrong when they are not demanded by the nature of man, nor by his relations and necessities as a citi. zen; when they are contrary to the law of God; when they do not tend to the highest well-being of the subject, and are not, therefore, in accordance with, or based upon the great law of love. All civil laws which possess this character are, ipso facto, null and void: they impose no obligation to support or obedience. We are not only not bound to obey, but are under the highest obligations not to obey any such laws.
This we believe to be a legitimate inference from the principles already established. Yet it is often denied, and to a great extent practically disregarded, especially by the advocates of, and apologists for the system of American slavery.
We shall therefore examine the evidences of its correctness.
1. We appeal to the long established and universal maxim of jurists—“ Lex naturæ, lex suprema,”—The law of nature is the supreme law. That is, whatever is demanded by the nature, the relations or the necessities of man, is imperatidely demanded, and imposes obligation paramount to all other obligation. No authority in the universe can free us from the claims.of this supreme law. Now it must be remembered that all the demands of this law are positive; that is, it positively requires certain things, and as positively forbids certain other things. It is, therefore, a supreme demand that we do whatever it requires, and refrain from doing whatever it forbids. If civil authority or any other can reverse this obligation, then this universal maxim is false, and the law of nature is not supreme.
2. The authority of God, as a Lawgiver, is the highest authority in the universe. His law always accords perfectly with the law of nature. Whether, as some suppose, it creates it, or, as is the opinion of others, is founded upon it, at all events, it is in harmony with it, and is accordingly a supreme law. It is thus recognized by all who acknowledge the divine existence and government. Now, to say that in any case we are bound to obey civil law when contrary to
the law of God, is to declare that there can be authority higher than the supreme authority; that is, higher than the highest.
3. But we have not yet done with the strange and monstrous absurdities of this theory. Let us look at it in another form. Civil government, we have seen, is demanded by the nature of man and by his relations and necessities as a citi
But this theory assumes that we are, or may be, under obligation to obey laws which the nature, relations and necessities of man forbid us to obey. We are driven, then, to the conclusion, that the law of nature places us under obligation to obey laws which it also forbids us to obey; that is, it is self-contradictory.
Or, again, Civil laws are binding because they tend to secure the highest well-being of the governed. This is the sole ground of our obligation to obey them. But the theory assumes that we may be under obligation to obey laws which are not for their highest well-being. Therefore, a regard for the highest well-being of the governed may require us to do that which is not for their highest well-being. By a similar process of reasoning it may be shown, upon the theory assumed, that the law of love and the law of God each require us to perform acts which they absolutely forbid us to perform, and that they also are self-contradictory! To such absurdities are we driven when we cut
the anchor of truth, and set ourselves afloat upon the ocean of life, without chart or compass, the sport of ruling passions, of party demagogueism, or of a ruinous and God-dishonoring expediency
4. But let us look at the strange consequences in which this theory would involve us. In extreme cases all would admit the position which we assume. Suppose the Legislature of this commonwealth should enact a law requiring every citizen to murder his next-door neighbor in cold blood, the very first time opportunity should be afforded, attaching the penalty of death for its violation. Would not every virtuous citizen cry out against it as unjust, and trample upon it without remorse? Should we not say with one consent to our legislators—"you have no right to enact such a law, and where there is no right there is no obligation; therefore we will not obey it?" If government should license stealing, would it therefore be right to steal? Yet the principle which would apply in one case, would in all. When it is once admitted that we may in any case obey unrighteous laws, you have a
principle which would allow the government to annul every command of the decalogue, to repeal every precept upon
the statute book of Jehovah, and even to blot out the claims and annihilate the imperative obligations of the great law of love -and a principle which would obligate every citizen to obey such laws. No limit can be found except where we have placed it. Place it any where else, and you leave it to the interests, the propensities or the caprice of men to annul God's law as they may dictate. You array the law of the land against the law of nature and the demands of universal love. You place the requirements of the creature above those of the Creator. You remove the great landmarks of human obligation. You break down the eternal barriers that separate right from wrong. You justify France in its treasonable enactments against the authority of Jehovah, in abolishing his Sabbath, removing the obligation of his gospel, and blotting out his very existence by law,--and the people of France in submitting to the authority of these impious enactments. Then may we have legalized Sabbath-breaking, legalized rum-selling, legalized Slave-holding, and for ought that remains of principle to prevent it, legalized robbery and murder—and all right because established and protected by law.
5. Turn now to the word of God—that great depository of thought divine-the statute book of heaven, and examine its teachings upon this important subject. When the Jewish Sanhedrim, gathered in solemn conclave, assumed to sit in judgment upon the apostles of Christ, commanding them to preach and to teach no more in his name,
pertinent and appropriate reply? 6 We ought to obey God rather than men." What a noble reply. There is manhood for you in its dignity and its glory! Humanity baptized into the spirit of heaven. No visionary conception of a wild fanatic was the sentiment thus uttered. It was the deep, calm, rational conviction—the
great one idea” of a truthful heart. It was truth embalmed in the memory of ages; nay, truth deep-written
66 Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than anto God, judge ye." "I appeal to my enemies for the correctness of my position. I am commissioned of Christ to perform my mission; and perform it I must, though earth and hell oppose me.” And thus does the Bible every where recognize the authority of God as supreme.
6. If now we examine the writings of the best moral
philosophers, we shall find them unanimously concurring in the same opinion.
"If from any cause,” says Jonathan Dymond, "the magistrate enjoins that which is prohibited by the moral law, the duty of obedience is withdrawn. All human authority ceases at the point where obedience becomes criminal.” And again, 66 There is one class of cases in which obedience is to be refused to the civil power-that is, when the magistrate commands that which it would be immoral to obey. What is wrong for the Christian is wrong for the subject.” A sentiment worthy to be engraven in letters of gold—“WHAT IS WRONG FOR THE CHRISTIAN IS WRONG FOR THE SUBJECT." When will all men believe it?
" It is the duty of subjects," says President Mahan," to regard the law of right or the will of God as of supreme authority above all human enactments,” and “to refuse obedience to any human requisitions which are at variance with the above rule." “We have no right,” says Dr. Wayland, “to obey an unrighteous law, since we must obey God at all hazards.” We cannot but acknowledge that here at least“ buman responsibility” has its proper - limitations.”
7. Of the same import is the recorded opinion of the more distinguished jurists. “Man,” says Judge Blackstone,
considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator, for he is entirely a dependent being. And, consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should, in all points, conform to his Maker's will. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature.' This law of nature,' being coeval with mankind and dictated by God Himself, is, of course, superior in obligation to any other. It is binding all over the globe, in all countries, and at all times. No human laws are of any validity if contrary to this.”
“Even an act of Parliament," says Lord Chief Justice Hobart,“ made against natural justice, is void in itself, for the laws of nature are immutable, and are leges legum—the laws to whose authority all other laws must give place."
Again, says Blackstone No human laws should be suffered to contradict these. To instance in the case of murder: this is expressly forbidden by the divine, and demonstrably by the natural law; and from these prohibitions arises the truc unlawfulness of this crime. Those human laws that annex a punishment to it, do not at all increase its moral guilt, or superadd any fresh obligation in faro conscientiæ, [at the bar of conscience,] to abstain from its perpetration. Nay, if
any human law should allow or enjoin us to commit it, we are bound to TRANSGRESS that human law, or else we must offend both the natural and the divine!"
Such is the principle laid down by Blackstone. And yet we have citizens, and state officers, and petty expounders of civil duty, who hesitate not to condemn the opinion of this prince of jurists, as well as to trample upon the authority of the law of God.
Thus the theory that we may in any case obey law because it is the law of the land, when it is contrary to the Jaw of nature, to the dictates of benevolence, and to the requirements of God, has been, we think, conclusively shown to be false in fact, unscriptural, unphilosophical, and monstrously absurd.
Having thus endeavored to elucidate the inquiries which were presented for our consideration, we are prepared for some important inferences.
1. It may be proper for us to state here more definitely what we regard as the duty of the Christian minister, with reference to this important subject. We have already said and endeavored to show, that he is not to pass overin silence those portions of the word of God which treat of man's civil relations. But how, and how much, he is to teach them from the pulpit, has not yet been distinctly stated. The duties which he owes in this relation will be of two classes: his duties as a citizen, and his duties as a minister. As a citizen, it will be his duty to discourage the support of bad men for office, to encourage the support of good men, and to support them himself. In a word, to regard himself in all respects as a Christian citizen, and, as such, bound faithfully to perform the same duties, to discharge the same obligations, which he enjoins upon others. As a minister, it will not be his duty to give to this, or any other subject, such undue prominence as to neglect other important portions of the truth of God. Nor, on the contrary, may he, through fear of offending his hearers, or for any other cause, wholly let it alone. As soon may be think of " letting alone” the doctrine of depravity, or of the atonement of Christ, for the same reasons. He is to assign to this subject its proper place in the great system of truth; giving it, from time to time, such prominence in that system, as its own importance, or the circumstances of the case, may seem to require. Less than this the minister of Christ may not do, if he would be true to his high calling.