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But it does not appear in fact, that any civil state, or nation, and much less all civil states, have in fact been thus constituted. States and nations have indeed formed their own constitutions of government; but so far from having derived their power in this way, it has, from the necessity of the case, been in the exercise of civil power as already possessed, that their constitutions themselves, have been formed, adopted, and made binding, by the will of the majority, upon the community ; nor is it easy to conceive how they could have the force of law in any other
And were it true in fact, it would be dangerous in principle. For if it is by virtue of a compact, that the subject owes obedience to civil government; then he is bound to the form of government, which is already established, be it ever so absurd, despotic, or unjust. He is bound by his bargain. “It is a universal law of contracts, that a man is not at liberty to retreat from his engagement, merely because he finds the performance disadvantageous, or because he has the opportunity of entering into a better.” It is essential to the nature and design of contracts, that they cannot be dissolved except by consent of the parties. To call the relation between the ruler and subjects a contract, is therefore to say, that the most despotic prince on earth, is only holding his subjects to their agreement, from which it is not possible, that they should ever be released, except by his consent. Hence we further remark, that according to this doctrine, every violation of the compact on the part of the ruler, releases the subject from allegiance, and dissolves the government. In all conditional contracts a violation of the condition by one of the parties, vacates the obligation of the other a principle which it is easy to see, if applied to civil obligations, would destroy the stability of every political fabric in the world. It is not then to the intervention of compact, but to the appointment of God, that we are to assign our civil obligations. It is the appointment of God, written in our social nature and the circumstances of man in the present world, as well as in the volume of inspiration; that there be civil societies, and civil government, as the indispensable bond of society; that the laws of society, and those who administer them, be clothed with authority, for that purpose ; and, that both rulers and subjects be held amenable at his bar, for a due discharge of the obligations thus respectively devolved upon them.
Another false principle growing out of the former, is, that rulers are the servants of the people.
Very different is the title which the bible gives them. This assigns to them not the relation of a servant to his master, but of God to his subjects. “I have said, ye are gods, and all of you, children of the Most High.” In this as in other wrong principles, there is truth enough to give it currency, while it is essentially and practically false. Rulers under an elective government, are chosen by the people, and for the benefit of the people ; and when their term of office expires, they are continued or not, at the will of the people; and are not as in despotic governments, a privileged order, elevated by prescriptive assumption, above the rest of the community, for their own benefit alone. So far, there is truth in the maxim. Still the business of a ruler is not to serve but to govern.
He is clothed with office, not to do the will of the people, as a servant is to do the will of his master, but to govern them. The people may, indeed, and they will, if they please, remove him from office; but while he holds it, he is not their servant but their ruler. He is, or ought to be chosen from the people, for his superior wisdom, integrity, and firmness; he is not to be directed as to his own conduct, but to prescribe theirs—"to govern them, in the integrity of his heart and with the skillfulness of his hands.” In a word, he is not their servant-but the servant of God, for their benefit—or in the exactly corresponding language of Paul, “ the ministers of God to them for good."
A third false principle, flowing from the preceding is, that rulers are bound to follow the will of the people. This is only carrying out the maxim, that rulers are the servants of the people, for unquestionably a servant is bound to do the will of his master :—and then it follows, as is sometimes avowed, that the people can do no wrong-whatever is the people's will, is politically right-the voice of the people is the voice of God—a maxim which puts darkness for light, and light for darkness, at a fearful rate. Upon a set day, Herod, arrayed in royal apparel sat upon his throne, and made an oration to them. And the people gave a shout, saying, 'It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.'" Therefore, his voice was the voice of a god and not of a man. “ Pilate said to the multitude, What shall I do then with Jesus, which is called Christ ?' they all say unto him, ' let him be crucified.'” Therefore it was right, that he should be crucified ; and Pilate did right, when he saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, in giving the sanction of his authority to the deed at which nature trembled, and the heavens gathered blackness. But only take the sentiment of Paul on this subject; “ The powers that be are ordained of God." “Rulers are God's ministers," and it follows, that they like other men, are to be governed, "not by the lusts
of men, but by the will of God;" and in their official conduct especially, as being clothed with authority, according to his appointment, and by his over-ruling providence, “ to attend continually on this very thing ;” and then too the oath will have meaning, in which they solemnly swear, that, whether it be the people's will or not, they will maintain the constitution of their country and so discharge the duties of their office as in their judgment will best conduce to the good of the same.
The office of the civil magistrate is in this respect analogous to that of ministers of the gospel. They in a certain sense are servants of the people. The word, “ministers,” means servants: and "the chiefest of the apostles,” said in the name of them all, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants, for Jesus' sake.” So ministers of the gospel generally, are to be employed for the good of the people, "attending continually," as it is said of the civil magistrate, “upon this very thing." But are they as servants of the people, bound to obey their will, as to what they shall preach? If they are servants of the people, they are in a higher sense, servants of God, to whom alone they are accountable; as the magistrate also is the minister or servant of God: and Paul with obvious truth said, as every minister of God, ecclesiastical or civil, may with equal truth and propriety say, "If I please men I should not be the servant of God."
A fourth principle, equally false and dangerous with the preceding, and naturally connected with them is, that there ought to be no connexion between religion and civil government. Government being founded on the social compact, it is said, is entirely a matter between men; and has nothing to do with God or religion, either in its theory or practice. This maxim too has a color of truth. Religion and civil government are, and ought to be distinct in respect to their departments; the one contemplates the interests of eternity, and the other the rights of civil society. These for ages were united; and it has cost a struggle of ages to separate them. In all pagan countries, the civil ruler has claimed the right to control matters of religion. Church and State have been one. This was attempted under christianity. Rulers still claimed the right to decide for their people, whether or not they should receive the new religion; and attempted to enforce its claims by prohibiting the propagation and avowal of it. Christianity resisted the claim La conflict ensued—the blood of christians flowed like water; thousands and tens of thousands went to the stake, until at last, christianity triumphed, and became the established religion of VOL. X.
the empire. But even then and for ages afterwards, the civil magistrates claimed the right of correcting errors in religion, while the ministers of religion on the other hand, too often assumed the right of dictating to the magistrates, what should be the measures of government. It is a matter of devout thanksgiving, that the subject is now better understood; and that in our own land there is so happy an illustration of the true principle. The Church and State move on in their own proper spheres, united only in the purpose of making men happy and good. The civil ruler yields the rights of conscience to the subject, and the subject for conscience sake obeys. In this manner, religion and civil government, while they are distinct in their appropriate departments, are subservient to each other. Sent forth together as angels of mercy, from the throne of God, to redeem and save a lost world, though the one cannot do the office of the other, yet neither can the one be separated from the other, consistently with the common errand on which they are commissioned. Government spreads her broad shield over the sabbaths, and sanctuaries, and private walks, and social acts of religion, that so we may lead peaceable and quiet lives, in all godliness and honesty. And religion comes up to the chair of State, and in the name of Him who is exalted as Head over all demands, that rulers over men be just, and ruling in the fear of God. She goes to the hall of judgment and gives her charge to the judges and jurors, “ Ye shall not respect persons in judgment. Defend the poor and the fatherless, do justice to the afflicted and needy. Rid them out of the hand of the wicked.” out into the streets of the city, and over the breadth of the land and proclaims; “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.” “They are God's ministers to you for good; wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." “Fear God, honor the king. "I exhort also, that supplication, prayer, intercession, and giving of thanks be made for kings, and for all that are in authority.” It is not true then, that there is no legitimate or important connexion between religion and government. Are any other interests that claim the protection of government to be compared with those of religion; or is there any other influence so indispensable to the establishment and administration of government, as the influence and sanctions of religion ?
A fifth maxim refuted by this subject, as being false and dangerous, is, that human life is inviolable. You may not take the life of man, it is said, for any cause. Were civil government founded on a social compact, we see not how this could be dis
puted. For clearly no man has power over his own life. How then can he by any agreement or on any conditions delegate to another power over it? God as the author, is also the disposer of human life; and God has said, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man." Hence we infer the right, and not the right only, but the duty of the civil magistrate, as God's minister, to put the murderer to death. The injunction is absolute. By man shall his blood be shed : and it is remarkable that the reason assigned for the injunction is not so much the injury done to man as the dishonor done to God: “for in the image of God," &c. Hence God deems himself bound in honor to his own name, to avenge on guilty nations all the righteous blood which they have shed, by giving them blood to drink; and not only so, but he holds them answerable for all the blood which is shed within their limits, and which they themselves neglect to avenge according to his ordinance. We know it is sometimes said, that this ordinance was peculiar to the ancient dispensation. But on what authority is this said ? The command was given immediately after the flood. It was given to the whole human race, in the person of its common ancestor ; and it has never been revoked. On the contrary, the same principle is recognized in the new testament on this subject, which runs through the old. Thus in the last command of God to man, in the book of the Revelation of John, it is said, “They have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink, for they are worthy.” This is clearly recognized in the words, "If thou do that which is evil be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain ;" since for what purpose beareth he the sword, but for the infliction of death? or how is it not in vain, if it is never to be used ? or why on account of his bearing the sword, should any one be afraid, if it may not lawfully be employed for its appropriate end ? It is not to be denied, that according to this passage the civil magistrate is authorized and delegated by the appointment of God, in certain cases, to take away human life, to prosecute unto death, not the murderer only, but every other rebel who cannot by other means be brought into subjection to the government. It is indeed a fearful extremity to be obliged to take away the life of any probationer for eternity, and especially of one whose unrepented crimes expose him to an eternity of woe—but it is also a fearful thing, by sparing the life of the guilty to expose that of the innocent, or to put it in the power of the rebellious to set at defiance the laws of society; and we see not what should pre