« ZurückWeiter »
ART. I.-An Inquiry into the True Doctrine of Human Society,
Civil Government, the Magistracy, and the Citizen, as Revealed by God, with Special Reference to the State of Public Affairs in America.
It is wonderful to note in how many ways, with what subtilty and force, and under what constancy of operation through all ages, the impulses to which our nature is subject, or those which fasten on a particular generation, or even those which distinguish a party, a sect, or a faction, diffuse themselves through the religious life of men, control and direct their moral sentiments and judgments, and determine even the bent of their rational faculties in their perceptions of positive truth divinely revealed in an unalterable form. It would be hard to deny that these impulses are often just and even heroic; to deny that, taken altogether, they constitute a class of powers capable of being used with immense effect in the general advancement of the human race; or to question that God, whose sublime prerogative it is to bring good out of evil itself, has not revealed to us the manner in which they are to be curbed, to be directed, and to be purged. In their very nature he has bounded them by laws which, in a peculiar manner, limit the force, whether for good or evil, of each one of them, and which enable the wise and courageous among the children of men to foresee their course, and to augment, to modify, or in some degree to defeat their effect. It is only at great intervals, and under the most extraordinary circumstances, that any particular one of these mighty impulses is apt to 1
Under all circumstances they have a surprising tendency to be diverted, each one from its own course, into the course of some kindred one; and, it is common to them all, that not one of them accomplishes completely the object to which it directed the energies of man; and that every one of them is liable—after a period of torpor—to be succeeded by another heterogeneous to itself. In a very high sense, therefore, our servitude to them is voluntary; while, learning our philosophy as well as our religion from God, we admit that it is only when the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, has set us free from the law of sin and death, that we can become the masters, instead of being the slaves, of these principalities and powers, entrenched about our souls, these mighty rulers of the darkness of this world, against which the children of light wrestle well only when they have put on the whole armor of God. Contemning, therefore, whatever sets aside Christ, and his kingdom, and his Gospel, in such questions, and so that latest and shallowest form of pretentious hypocrisy, which would exclude the highest crimes against society from the list of sins against God, upon the absurd pretext that, as crimes, their cognizance belongs only to the State; what we propose is, by the light of divine revelation and upon the basis of Christian morality, to disentangle the elements of the true nature of society, and government, and citizenship, and to fortify the minds of men in a clear conviction of the sinfulness of all injustice and oppression by human governments, and of the destructive wickedness of the impulses to treason, rebellion, sedition, and anarchy, on the part of the citizenboth of which seem to be chronic curses of our race. And the observations. we have made, while they point out the nature of the peculiar peril hanging over all American society, civil and religious, and the shape which immediate succor to it should take; disclose, in like manner, the duty of good men and the highest encouragement to its performance.
We shall not stop to prove the existence of God, the fundamental point of all such arguments as this, which we suppose no reader of these pages will question. But as soon as this is admitted it follows that we, as his dependent and responsible creatures, are bound, under the very highest sanctions, to regulate all our actions concerning which the idea of duty has
any place, by his will, so far as we know or can ascertain it. Of necessity, therefore, if human society is possible, and human government as its first and most direct product is possible, allegiance on the part of the citizen, which is his first duty to society and government, exists primarily in the domain of morals—and is to be discharged primarily, like every other duty, with reference to God. Of necessity, likewise, the rejection of any of these obvious truths obliges us, if we are capable of following a connected chain of thought, to reject all notion of duty and of God, and practically makes human society impossible, or a curse. Neither shall we stop to prove that God has provided a Mediator between himself and fallen men, and that this Mediator is his Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ; for we trust none of our readers will question this glorious truth, which is fundamental and decisive in carrying every question of duty one step higher than we have before placed it, by locating it in the domain of Christian morality. For as soon as we admit the existence of a Mediator between God and men, who is our only and all sufficient Saviour—then it is his will, so far as it is known, or can be ascertained by us, by which, in the view and hope of salvation, we are bound to regulate all our actions concerning which the idea of duty can arise. And having admitted all the truths set forth in the previous statement concerning God, if we now reject those set forth in this statement concerning Christ, we are obliged, if we are capable of connected thought, to separate the idea of salvation from the idea of sin - obliged to dethrone the Saviour and subvert the Christian religion. As in the former case, the attempt to screen our sin from the face of God, leads to atheism-in this latter case the attempt to hide it from the face of Christ, leads to infidelity, and most generally in the vile form of hypocritical licentiousness. When we speak of the will of God as the rule of duty to man considered as his dependent and accountable creature-and of the will of the divine Saviour as the rule of duty to man considered as fallen and guilty; and in both instances speak of that will as known to us, or as capable of being ascertained by us; we have not distinguished at all as to the manner in which that will, which is our rule of duty, is made known to us—nor urged the immense obligation resting on us, as well as our supreme interest, to ascertain what that will is. This last topic would be pertinent here — chiefly as illustrating the very high position which the duty of allegiance due by the citizens of all states, and especially of a free commonwealth, occupies in the code both of natural and of Christian morality; and of illustrating, further, that treason and all similar offenses against societyare so far from being exempt from moral censure in the name of God and of Christ, because the state treats them as enormous crimes, that in effect the state is authorized to treat them in that manner, because their enormous sinfulness is the chief ground and measure of their enormous destructiveness. And the other topic--the manner in which the will that controls our actions is made known to us--need not be discussed here. Because, no matter in what, or how many ways, we come to the knowledge of that will and no matter how readily we admit that it is perfectly obligatory, however ascertained, there is a way of knowing it, invested with divine certainty, and clothed with divine authority-whose existence is known, and whose use is attainable by all who will ever read these lines. The word of God, contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the infallible rule of all duty of every human being, whether to God, to himself, or to other human beings; and, moreover, it is the infallible rule of knowledge and belief, concerning all truth that underlies all duty required of man. We shall not stop to prove these statements; but only ask any who deny them to consider fairly what we have to say, and then decide whether it is not perfectly conclusive, upon the supposition that the Scriptures are what we have represented them to be; perfectly conclusive as against every one who admits them to be what they declare they are.
If there is anything at all taught with perfect clearness, and with absolute constancy, throughout the Scriptures, it is taught that God is the author of all the intelligence inferior to his own that exists in the universe; that every created will is subordinated to his infinite will; and that all power is an emanation from his almighty power. As it regards man, who is the head of the visible creation of God, his possession, in the form of human faculties, of the image and likeness of these divine attributes which distinguish God as an infinite personal Spirit—distinguishes him as a finite personal spirit, and enables him, in the exercise of these faculties, in a finite manner, to understand God, to choose God, and to obey God. Two immense events have befallen man, whereby, in his fall, his ability unto these ends was first fearfully weakened, and whereby, in his restoration to God, that ability was afterward purged and restored in Christ. As the common philosophy, both moral and mental, had its origin among nations who had lost the true knowledge of God, and who knew nothing clearly either of the fall or recovery of man; all it could do was to give account of man, not as he was at first, nor as he is when restored, but as he appears in his ordinary and feeblest estate. As explained by God, and not by the disciples of a philosophy essentially heathen and necessarily erroneous, this type of existence, beginning in the divine nature, and reproduced as a sbadow by its image and likeness in individual men; reappears as the cause of the very nature, and is made manifest in the vital action, of every association of men into organized society, and under every possible form of what can be called regular government. It is all, and everywhere, the manifestation of a predominant will by which the actions of the members of whatever household, or state, or chureh, must be regulated; the manifestation of a predominant intelligence, by which that will is interpreted and applied to those aetions; the manifestation of a predominant power, by which the determinations of that will and the conclusions of that intelligence, are enforced, and the violations of them punished. Human society, the concrete of men, who are the image of God, can not be organized, nor can the functions by which its existence is manifested be performed-except in this manner-neither more nor less: nor is it at all material to the nature of the case, what form it may put on; law, and the interpretation and application of law, and the enforcement of law—will, intelligence, power; there is nothing more, nothing less. Those divine attributes which are distinctive of God, considered as an infinite personal Spirit; those human faculties which are distinctive of man, considered as a finite personal spirit, capable of understanding, choosing, and obeying God; those functions of society which are distinctive of it, considered as an ordinance of God, competent to exist and aet