Delivered at the Baptist Church, in Sterling Centre,
Wednesday Evening, Jan. 22d, 1851,
PASTOR OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
T.W. BROWN, PRINTER, "CAYUGA CHIEF PRESS."
Daniel ii, vs. 44, 45, and ch. vii, 9, 13, 14. "And in the days of these Kings (Kingdoms) shall the God of heaven set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the Kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these Kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces, the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold." "And I beheld until the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit" and "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion and glory, and a Kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his Kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
Daniel interprets "the great image whose brightness was excellent," described in the second chapter, as the representation, in its more prominent constituent parts, of four successive empires which shall, in their turn, "bear rule over the earth."
"One of them that stood by," perhaps an angel, made known unto Daniel the interpretation of the four ferocious beasts of the seventh chapter. They represent the same four universal Empires symbolized by Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
Expositors of prophecy concur in the interpretation that these kingdoms are the Assyrian or Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Macedonian or Grecian, and the Roman Empires.
The fourth kingdom, or the Roman Empire is described as divided, before its final overthrow, into ten parts, represented by the toes of the image, and the ten horns of the fourth beast. This dismemberment of the empire, and erection of ten distinct, yet united kingdoms, as still constituting "the fourth beast," is fulfilled in the kingdoms of modern Europe, established by the victorious Barbarians, who burst forth as a torrent from the fastnesses of Scandinavia, and devastated the empire of the West.
The context presents another kingdom, under the symbol of "the little horn," which should arise amidst the severed members of the Western empire. This represents "the Papacy," which subdued three of the original ten kingdoms and rendered the Roman Empire, in its divided form, the instrument of sustaining its idolatry and ghostly despotism.
When the Roman Empire had reached the height of power, had devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the earth with its feet—at this important crises, "THE GOD OF HEAVEN" "sets up his Kingdom" which shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms. The symbol of this Kingdom is a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, a Kingdom gathered, and constructed by Divine, and not human agency and authority, which smites the image upon his feet, demolishing the entire fabric of despotism, and becomes itself "a great mountain" and "fills the whole earth."
This Kingdom is not the Christian Church merely, but evidently involves the idea of a civil dominion, in association, however, with the Christian religion in its purity, for it takes the place of those kingdoms, which it has demolished, and covers with its benign rule "the earth," which they had oppressed, and saturated with the blood of the Christian and the patriot.
This is the Kingdom which the God of heaven sets up in the hands, and under the administration of "THE SON OF MAN"—"THE LORD JESUS CHRIST"—"THE KING OF KINGS"—"THE PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH." This is the just interpretation of "the night vision" of the 7th chap. "The Son of Man," mentioned in the 13th verse, is the Son of God in human nature, and to him is given by the Father. that universal and indestructible dominion, by the establishment of which, "all people, nations and languages, shall become obedient" to "the God of Heaven," a glorious administration of civil rule which shall bless our earth when these great despotisms which have rejected the authority of the God of Heaven, shall be utterly subverted, and the "kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ." All these kingdoms will be succeeded by the kingdom of the MESSIAH. The "stone that was cut out of the mountain without hands," and became itself ‘a mountain, and filled the whole earth,’ is explained to be a kingdom which shall prevail over all other kingdoms and become universal and everlasting. In like manner, "one like the Son of Man came to the Ancient of days" and was advanced to a Kingdom, which shall prevail likewise over all other kingdoms, and become universal and everlasting." The same views we have exhibited in the revelation of John, in the 13th chapter—in the 17th chapter and 14th vs. We have in these passages "a seven headed and ten horned beast." The acknowledged symbol of the Roman Empire in its present divided state, at war with "the Lamb:" the Lord Jesus Christ; whom the Lamb "overcomes" by virtue of his authority and power, as "Lord of Lords and King of Kings;" and from being "kingdoms of this world" receiving their "power and seat and authority from the Devil," [Rev. 13:2] having subverted them in this character, by the terrible "vials of the wrath of God," he changes them into the holy and peaceful and happy "Kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ."
It is manifest, in these visions of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, that the Kingdom of the God of Heaven is held up to our view, in contrast with its predecessors, whose place it is destined to occupy. This contrast I will endeavor to present, and will therefore,
I. Draw the character of the kingdoms symbolized by "the great image" and "the four beasts."
II. Present some of the prominent characteristics of the kingdom of the God of Heaven.
III. Apply the great principle developed by the discussion, in test of the claims of the United States Government to obedience in its enforcement, by constitutional and statute law, of the capture and return to the land of bondage of fugitive slaves.
Time will not permit me to enter largely into a description of these great Empires—I will hold them up, for a moment, to the view of my audience in one great feature only. They are without an exception, cruel despotisms. Let us pass them in brief review.
The first or Babylonian Kingdom is symbolized by a lion with eagles’ wings, v. 4, "The first was like a lion, and had eagles’ wings." This representation of this Kingdom corresponds with that given by Jeremiah, ch[apter] 4, v[erse] 7, "The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate, and thy cities shall be laid waste without an inhabitant." In the 43[rd chapter], [verse] 40, he compares the same kingdom to an eagle"—Behold he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab." Ezekiel uses the same figure in representation of this kingdom, [chapter]17, [verses] 3, 12, "Thus saith the Lord God—A great eagle, with great wings," &c. "Behold the King of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the King thereof and the princes thereof and hath led them with him to Babylon." Both these creatures, the lion and the eagle are predacious; they live by devouring the prey. They are not only the most powerful of their respective "kinds," but also the most fierce and cruel. They are a terror to all the inferior tribes of animals. The Scriptures exhibit this characteristic of the lion and eagle more frequently than any other. "The lion hath roared, who will not fear"? "Like a lion that is greedy of his prey;" of the eagle it is said, "where the slain are there is she"—"as the eagle that hasteth to the prey." The wings of the eagle are the symbol of swiftness—"Their horses were swifter than eagles"—and "the lion is strongest among beasts"—strength, ferocity, cruelty and rapidity of conquest are represented by these symbols. Such was Babylon—strong, fierce, cruel as the lion—and with the rapidity and strength of an eagles’ flight, she subdued the nations. She indeed "devoured the prey." Her empire was founded in carnage, and cemented by the gore of nations. Hence the Kingdom is denominated the "Hammer of the whole earth," and God’s "battleaxe and weapons of war," with which in his wrath against them for their violation of the "higher law" he "broke in pieces the nations, and destroyed the kingdoms"—yea he employed it for the same reason, as "the rod of his anger" to chastise his covenant people; hence their "land was made desolate, and their cities laid waste without an inhabitant," by the terrible stroke of this "fierce lion," this "destroyer of the nations." If ever there was an absolute and cruel despotism, the Babylonian empire was that despotism. It was not a kingdom "set up" in the sense of my text by the God heaven; but a kingdom which served other gods—idolatry of the most debasing character, interwoven, with despotism, in the very structure of its dominion. What see we on the sculptured slabs, dug from the remains of its ancient capitol? but winged bulls, and other hateful idols, with kings in their chariots, returning in triumph from the slaughter of nations, and scribes writing down the number of heads of the slain, and the amount of the spoil.
"Instead of a lion," says Newton, "the vulgar Latin, and the Greek, and Arabic versions, have a lioness; and it is Jerome’s observation, that the kingdom of Babylon, for its cruelty, is compared, not to a lion, but to a lioness, which naturalists say is the fiercer of the two."
Newton has so accurately, briefly, and so fully, to my purpose, illustrated the second symbol as representing the Medo-Persian as a cruel despotism, that I cannot refrain from appropriating his remarks:
The second kingdom is represented, v[erse] 8, by another beast like to a bear. And it raised up itself on one side, and it had ribs in the mouth of it, between the teeth of it, and they said thus unto it, arise devour much flesh. This is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians; and for their cruelty and greediness after blood they are compared to a bear, which is a most voracious and cruel animal. The very learned Bochart recounts several particulars wherein the Persians resembled bears, but the chief likeness consisted in what I have mentioned; and this likeness was principally intended by the prophet, as I think we may infer from the words of the text itself; "arise devour much flesh." A bear, saith Aristotle, is an all-devouring animal; and so saith Grotius, the Medo-Persians were great robbers and spoilers, according to Jeremiah, 51, 48-56.
"And it raised up itself on one side," or, as it reads in the margin, it raised up one dominion; for the Persians were subject to the Medes at the conquest of Babylon, but soon after raised up themselves above them. And it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it. Sir Isaac Newton and Bishop Chandler explain these as signifying the kingdom of Babylon, Libya and Egypt which were conquered by it, but were not properly parts or members of its body. They might be called ribs as their conquest much strengthened the Persian empire; and they might be said to be between the teeth of the bear, as they were much ground and oppressed by the Persians. "And they said unto it, arise devour much flesh;" this was said, as it was before observed, to denote the cruelty of the Medes and Persians. They are also represented very cruel by the prophet Isaiah 13, 18, "Their bows shall also dash the young men to pieces, and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children." Cambyses, Ochus, and others of their princes were indeed more like bears than men. Instances of their cruelty abound in almost all the historians, who have written of their affairs, from Herodotus down to Amminanus Marcellinus, who describes them proud, cruel, exercising the power of life and death over slaves and obscure plebians. They pull off the skins, says he, from men alive by pieces, or altogether, and they have abominable laws, by which for one man’s offence, all the neighborhood is destroyed. Well, therefore, might a well known French commentator say, that the Persians have exercised the most severe and the most cruel dominion that we know of. The punishments used among them beget horror in those who read of them. Nothing need be added to this historic narration, in proof of our position that the Medo-Persian empire was a cruel despotism. The bear is employed to represent their devouring ferocity in destroying much flesh, luxuriating in the slaughter of war, and the cruel oppression of the captive held within their teeth—as the voracious bear crushes the bones and mangles the flesh of the helpless lamb, which it holds in its deadly embrace. "As a roaring lion and a ranging bear so is a wicked ruler over the poor people."
The third kingdom, the Macedonian: is represented by a leopard—the most fierce, cruel and swiftest, if not the most powerful of the predacious animals. "I beheld, and lo, and another like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl. The beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it." The leopard, says the natural historian, has a ferocious air, a restless eye, and cruel aspect; he is very nimble in his movements, and has a cry similar to an enraged dog, but stronger and more hoarse; he has a tongue equally rough as the lion; sharp and pointed teeth, and hard sharp claws. This terrible animal is exceedingly swift and subtle, rapacious and glutinous; and his fiery, restless eyes, are continually rolling in search of blood. Homer says the leopard never can be satiated with prey; and many unexceptionable witnesses declare that the ferocity of his disposition cannot, by the most assiduous and artful management, be wholly subdued. Such is the character of the symbol, what then must be that of the kingdom symbolized? And surely a more appropriate symbol can scarce be desired to indicate the insatiable ambition of Alexander, the founder of the Macedonian empire, the vigor of his counsels, the rapidity of his movements, the impetuosity of his onset, and the number and variety of the nations that fought under his banner—numerous and diversified as the spots on the skin of that animal.
Such was the character of the empire in its origin—and this character it presented throughout its existence. It was terribly fierce and insatiably glutinous as the leopard. It was divided into four kingdoms after the decease of Alexander, for the symbolic beast has four heads; and each head exhibited the glutinous ferocity of the kingdom in its original unity.
In the first chapter of the first book of the Maccabees, which I quote, not as scripture, but as profane history—and of equal authority with Josephus or any other uninspired work, we have a graphic description of the origin, division, and character of this empire as a most grievous despotism, which I recite as confirmative of my position.
It happened after that, Alexander the Macedonian, who came out of the land of Chittim, had smitten Darius king of the Medes and Persians, that he reigned in his stead the first over Greece. He made many wars and won many strongholds, and slew the kings of the earth. And went through to the ends of the earth, and took spoils of many nations, insomuch that the earth was quiet before him, whereupon he was exalted, and his heart was lifted up. He reigned twelve years and then died. And his servants bear rule every one in his place, and after his death they all put crowns upon themselves; and so did their sons after them many years; and evils were multiplied in the earth. And there came out of them a wicked root, Antiochus, surnamed Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king of Syria. And after that Antiochus had smitten Egypt, he went up against Jerusalem with a great multitude, and entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of lights, and having taken the silver and gold and the precious vessels and the hidden treasures, he went to his own land, having made a great massacre, and spoken very proudly. Therefore, there was great mourning in Israel, in every place where they were, so that the princes and elders mourned, the virgins and young men were made feeble, and the beauty of women was changed, every bridegroom took up lamentation, and she that sat in the marriage chamber was in heaviness; the land also was moved for the inhabitants thereof, and all the house of Jacob was covered with confusion.
If the empires symbolized by the lion, the bear and the leopard, were cruel despotisms, how much more despotic must the fourth kingdom be, inasmuch as there is not an animal among the predacious tribes, sufficiently terrible to serve as its symbol! Let us illustrate the description, ch. 2, 40. "And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron; forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. As the Assyrian empire was the hammer of the earth in its cruel devastation of the nations, so the fourth kingdom, with yet greater strength, as iron is harder than gold, shall bruise and dash in pieces, the guilty nations of the earth."
"I beheld a fourth beast dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly." The aspect of this beast is dreadful, astounding the spectator, and its rage was terrible, affrighting the object of its wrath, and so huge its strength that the power of the mightiest was but feebleness in its horrible grasp.
"And it had great iron teeth;" its means of destruction are beyond, in strength, and adaptedness, all the powers that have preceded it, and no wonder that it "devoured, and break in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it." "It far exceeded," says Dr. Scott, "in power, fierceness and destructive rage, all that had gone before it, as well as in the extent, and long duration of its dominion. And no animal could be found so terrible and ferocious as to lend it a suitable name. This was doubtless an emblem of the Roman state, the invincible fortitude, hardness and force of which, perhaps, were never equaled. By wars and conquests the Romans bore down all opposition, and rendered almost every kingdom or state in the known world into some kind or degree of dependence; drew all the spoil and wealth of many conquered nations to enrich their great capitol, and tyrannized over all that did not quietly yield obedience to their authority."
Certainly, this monstrous beast is not the symbol of civil rule, as it is the ordinance of heaven, but a terrific contrast as a horrid despotism, to the benign kingdom which the God of heaven sets up. The ordinance of God has not great iron teeth, to devour and break in pieces; nor huge iron feet, to bruise and crush and stamp into the dust the feeble and the helpless.
Such as the Roman dominion was in its integral state, such it continued to be when divided, by the conquests of the Barbarians, into ten kingdoms, and when the Western Empire was revived by the victories of Charlemagne. In all its vicissitudes it remained the same iron and cruel despotism, nor is its character changed, in this aspect, at the present time. The kingdoms of Modern Europe, were, in their organization by the triumphant Barbarians, strong military despotisms. And though the feudal system in some of these kingdoms has been mollified, and in others somewhat modified, yet the general characteristics of an iron will bearing rule is still preserved in them all. The state of the great masses as it relates to the means of subsistence, and the enjoyment of personal and political rights, will be a conclusive test of their character. England is the first of European states. Yet in England a proud aristocracy has its iron heel upon the necks of the masses, and the laboring classes groan under the oppression of the Lords of the loom. I cannot pass each of the ten horns in review; let it be sufficient to state, that in Denmark, the peasantry are still held in bondage, and are bought and sold together with the land on which they labor. In Poland the nobles are proprietors of the lands, and the peasants are slaves. In Austria the nobles are the proprietors of the soil; and the cultivators of the soil are in a state of bondage. And as to the rewards of labor, the food by which the oppressed laborer is supported, is of the meanest description. I have traveled, says a recent tourist, "in every direction, and never saw a wheaten loaf to the eastward of the Rhine, in any part of Northern Germany, Poland or Denmark. This brief sketch presents a shocking view of the grievous oppression of European nations. They grind with an emphasis, the faces of the poor, and the sighing of the needy, and the groans of the oppressed are heard throughout these lands. These fierce despotisms in general still stand in their strength, combined to resist every attempt of the masses to throw off their galling yoke, and secure their liberties. The fate of Hungary is an existing monument of their giant strength, and despotic cruelty. Our position, is, therefore, strongly, and without the possibility of confutation, established. The governments symbolized by the four beasts, are cruel despotisms. This ever has been and is now their true character. They possess not the lineaments of the benign and pure and free kingdom of the God of heaven.
These kingdoms have been resisted, and this, too, with the Divine approbation. Founded in conquest and in blood, the nobly pious, and enlightened patriots, have from the earliest ages, resisted their oppressive enactments, and that, too, at the hazard of their lives, and all that was dear to them on earth. Let a few examples suffice.
The lion of Assyria and Babylon, in the height of his power, was nobly resisted by three Jewish youths, whom he held in bondage. "Nebuchadnezzar the king, made an image of gold, and set it up in the plain of Dura." By the voice of his herald he commanded all nations under hid dominion, "to fall down and worship his image, upon the fearful penalty of refusal, of being cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." In dread of the cruel despot, the nations fell prostrate before his image, and worshipped; but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood erect, in the grandeur of the free subjects of the God of heaven, in bold resistance of the king’s decree, and within reach of the lion’s paw, when the royal beast was excited to the utmost fury, and nobly said, "O, Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship thy golden image which thou hast set up."
Heaven approved this heroic resistance to the decree of the Babylonian despot. They were cast into the furnace, "heated one seven times more than it was wont to be heated"—but they were delivered from the power of the flames, for the Son of God had entered the furnace with them, and spoiled it of its power to hurt his heroic servants, and gave thus a glorious testimony of his approbation of their courageous resistance to the decree of immoral and despotic power. The decree of the Medo-Persian bear was also resisted. This absolute tyrant had made a firm decree that "whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of himself, he shall be cast into the den of lions." This unchangeable decree, according to the (constitutional) law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not, Daniel, in the calm dignity of a servant of the Most High God, courageously resisted. "Now, when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being opened in his chamber towards Jerusalem: he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did beforetime. He was subjected to the penalty of the accursed decree; at the command of the king he was cast into the lion’s den, but God whom he served, and in token of his approbation of his resistance to immoral powers, "shut the lion’s mouths, so that they hurt him not."
In the second book of the Maccabees, and seventh chapter, we have the historic record of a most touching example of heroic resistance to the decree of the despot, already mentioned, who occupied the throne of the Syrian division of the Macedonian Empire. The barbarous king attempted to compel a mother and her seven sons to violate the law given to the Jews against the eating of swine’s flesh. The first that was subjected to the torture, nobly answered, that "he was ready to die rather than transgress the laws of his fathers." The tyrant in his rage and madness inflicted upon this noble youth, the most horrid death, perhaps, on record. The remaining brothers, nothing daunted by the tortures endured by their elder brother, with their heroic mother, persisted in resistance to the command of the tyrant, and sealed their testimony with their blood. I present a portion of the speech of the youngest, uttered amidst his tortures. "Whom wait ye for? I will not obey the king’s commandment; but I will obey the commandment of the law that was given unto our fathers by Moses. And though the living Lord be angry with us a little while for our chastening and correction, yet shall he be at one again with his servants. But thou, O man, and of all other most wicked, through the judgment of God, shall receive just punishment for thy pride." Antiochus Epiphanes died, indeed—by the fearful—but just judgment of God, [Maccabees, 9th chapter] a token of the Divine approbation of resistance to his tyranny!
The history of Christianity for the first three centuries, is a history of resistance to the despotic decrees of Imperial Rome. A noble cloud of witnesses starts up before my vision, when I turn to the contemplation for a moment of the same despotic power, in its divided administration. In this form of the Roman Empire, "power," it is said [Rev. 13:7], was "given it to make war with the saints, and to overcome them." And in the last period of its rule, in reference to the noble resistance of the witnesses, it is written [Rev. 11:7], "When they shall have finished, (be finishing) their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit, shall make war against them, and shall overcome them and kill them." These passages prove that resistance is made to this beastly power of diabolical origin during the continuance of its misrule, and that this resistance is made with Divine approbation. The witnesses who are employed in it are claimed by God, as his witnesses. "I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth." [Rev. 11:3]
In the language of an eloquent writer, in reference to the resistance made by God’s witnesses, against the oppressive decrees of the British horn of this terrible Beast—"God would not permit that all the earth should be enslaved anew; and to prevent it, He gave courage to multitudes of Christians of Britain, that they might contend, (through the tedious years of two centuries,) with the pallid, mitred, inhuman monsters of Church power, and with the succession of ferocious or dotard queens and kings. They did so contend, and at the last blood was stayed, the priest and the despot were foiled, and England was freed."
Thus God has not left himself without witnesses against the despotism of the nations, and on behalf of the civil rights of mankind. In every age there have been noble spirits raised up, in his providence, to resist the arm of despotism, stretched forth to crush the poor and the needy.
II. The prominent characteristics of "the Kingdom of the God of Heaven."
I turn now from the gloomy subject of beastly despotism, to the contemplation of a brighter object: the lovely lineaments of the kingdom which the God of heaven sets up; and here, the first feature that presents itself, is this one: This is a kingdom, or civil government, in direct and avowed subjection to the God of heaven himself, as the Supreme Authority. Is it, indeed, required that I should reason so self-evident a proposition? Certainly, that cannot be the kingdom of the God of heaven, that does not recognize his supreme authority? It may be a kingdom of this world, or of the Devil, but cannot be of God—having the seal of his approbation. The recognition of God is the first principle of morals. When Jehovah gave him law to Israel, amidst the thunders of Sinai, the first precept proclaimed his supremacy and demanded the acknowledgement of his Supreme authority,—"Thou shalt have no other gods before me,—I am the Lord thy God." The Revelation which he has given us proclaims him KING. "The Lord is King forever and ever." It proclaims him, King of all the Earth. "For the Lord Most High is terrible, he is King over all the Earth." "God is the King of all the earth." He has ever possessed the supremacy. "God is my King of old." "He is the King eternal." He is, indeed, the highest authority. "The Lord is our Judge—the Lord is our Lawgiver—the Lord is our King." His supremacy is taught in his glorious title—THE MOST HIGH. "The Most High ruleth in the Kingdom of Men.—This is the decree of the Most High." This sublime title announces his supremacy. There is no Ruler higher, there is none so high as He. He is alone, and ever hath been, THE HIGHEST. This is His name, and thus He should be adored.
The beastly kingdoms of which we have taken a brief survey, were not founded on the acknowledgement of his Supreme authority; they were the kingdoms of ‘other gods.’ They recognized not ‘the Lord’ who is the true God, the living God, and an everlasting King.
In contrast with these kingdoms, He who is "the King of heaven," determined to "set up a kingdom" which should be subjected to himself; have its foundation on his authority, and which should acknowledge as a first principle, His regal supremacy. This, then, is the first and glorious feature of the Kingdom which the God of Heaven sets up. It is a Kingdom in direct and avowed subjection to his Supreme authority; and God will scourge the nations with his terrible judgments, until they are humbled and are made to acknowledge that the Heavens do rule, and the Most High reigneth over the kingdoms of men—that his throne is in the heavens and his Kingdom ruleth over all.
"There is no power but of God." The just import of this much abused passage, is, there is no legitimate authority that has not the Godhead for its fountain. Civil government is the ordinance of God, and the Deity himself alone is the Supreme source of civil power. Other alleged powers may exist, having the Devil as their author; but these are all immoral despotic powers, such as have been described—fierce beasts of prey—‘the Kingdoms of this world.’ There is, however, no lawful power that has not its fountain and its law in the will of the Supreme Lawgiver, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. When I use the term will, in this connection, I do not embrace what God has permitted to exist in his providence, but intend the pure rule of right and wrong inscribed on the heart of upright man, or rewritten in the volume of inspiration. God is the head of all that is properly authority, and the recognition of this truth is the first element in the kingdom which he sets up.
The Kingdom of the God of heaven, under consideration, further involves the recognition of the authority of Jesus Christ, as King of Kings, to whom civil rule has been subjected. The Godhead, in the person of the Father, hath delegated all civil power to the Son, as Mediator. "All power in heaven and earth is given to him." "He is Lord of all." "Lord to the glory of God the Father." Having civil government among men on earth ‘put under him;’ subjected to his authority; he is therefore entitled, "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." "The Prince of the kings of the earth." Civil government is thus put under him, that he may in his own glorious administration of all things, apply God’s moral ordinance to civil society on earth—subdue all the kingdoms of this world to the benign authority of God, and to a submissive obedience to his holy law,—bring all the nations of men to the ends of the earth back to their allegiance to the Godhead, from whom they revolted in the apostacy of the first man. A primary principle, therefore, in the accomplishment of this purpose, is to induce the nations to acknowledge his authority as "the King of Kings." This is the incipient step of returning obedience to Jehovah, and this, then, constitutes one of the grand and leading principles of the kingdom which the God of heaven sets up.
In this view only can I understand that portion of my text which describes "the Son of Man" as receiving from "the Ancient of days, dominion, glory, and a Kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him." It is certainly a predictive exhibition of the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to his mediatorial throne, at the right hand of the Majesty on High—even as the Father "hath given him authority to execute judgment," because he is the Son of Man. All people, nations, and languages, are his kingdom. As the people are subject to their legitimate rulers, even so, all people, in their national organizations, are to be subject to the Son of Man. National homage is to be rendered the Lord Jesus Christ. Four beastial empires shall tyrannize over the earth—robbing and crushing miserable man; but a fifth shall arise in glory under the dominion of which all nations shall be gathered and be blessed. This empire is that of the Son of Man, by whose wise and wondrous administration, "the Kingdom and dominion and greatness of the Kingdom under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom, and all dominions (all ruling powers) shall serve and obey him. Be wise, now therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss  the Son lest he be angry and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him. For he shall have dominion from sea to sea and from the rivers to the ends of the earth—yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him."
The acknowledgement, therefore, of Christ’s authority as King of Kings is a primary part of the constitution of that Kingdom which the God of heaven sets up. His enemies declare, "This man shall not reign over us." The fountain of authority, as men hold the various forms of civil government, is lodged with the prince, the autocrat, the nobles, the legislature, or the king and latter combined, or the majority of the people exercising their authority through their chosen representatives. The will of either according to the adopted form in their particular country, is regarded as the supreme law. Here is the fundamental error prevailing in every form of government now existing. God and his Christ, whose will is expressed in the Scriptures of truth, are left entirely out of the question. The supreme authority of God, delegated to the Son of Man, is neglected or rejected. When the God of heaven fully establishes his Kingdom in our world, this great principle shall be recognized and adopted as a fundamental element of its constitution.
These observations introduce to our notice another fundamental principle of the Kingdom of the God of heaven. The constitutions and laws of the nations embraced therein must be based upon his revealed will. In other terms, THE LAW OF GOD must be the foundation of the constitutions and laws of the nations.
The condition of Adam in Paradise, was one of subjection to God, according to his law. That law was written upon his soul as the rule of action in his upright state. As created and innocent he was placed at the head of the terrestrial system. "Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor; thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet." This is spoken of Adam in innocency, as he came from the hand of his Creator, and was placed in Eden. The law by which he was to regulate his own actions as an individual, in his personal relations to the Creator and the creature, and by which he was to administer the government which was delegated to him over the human family which was to spring from him, and over the inferior tribes, was the moral law. That same law which we have written out in the volume of inspiration, and is comprehended in the ten commandments, and illustrated and applied by the numerous principles, scattered through the sacred volume. This law was then written upon his heart. He fully understood it, as it applied to every relation in which he stood, and bore upon every subject of his vast empire. It bound him in allegiance to his Creator, and regulated his duty to himself, and to all other creatures. Had he maintained his uprightness in which he was created, the whole human family would now be in universal subjection and harmonious obedience to this law, and be subject to God through their common parent, the head and sovereign of his race. There would have been no instance of revolt or disobedience within the wide boundaries of his dominion. This stupendous scheme was soon frustrated by the rebellion against God of the governor of the human race, and in his apostacy the whole race revolted from the allegiance due the Creator, and cast his law behind their backs. This revolt of the race, has not exempted the human family from allegiance to God, and universal subjection to his law in every relation of human life. As it was the rule of civil government, as lodged in the hands of the first Adam, it remains the supreme rule in that relation still. The language of its curse contains this doctrine:—"Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them."
Human society, upon the apostacy of the first Adam, was placed in the hands of a different administration, subjected to another, and more distinguished Head—The Second Adam, the Lord from Heaven. In the second chapter of Hebrews, Paul quotes the eighth Psalm, as above recited, and applies it to Jesus Christ. "But now we see not yet all things put under him; but we see Jesus who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor." The crown fell from the head of rebel Adam, and is placed upon the brow of Jesus, Immanuel, God with us; who is hence entitled the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is now the Governor among the nations, the civil Head of the human race. He now occupies the place, as Lord of this lower world, of the first Adam, better qualified to conduct the administration of its government.
The same law, however, which was the rule of administration to the first Adam, is the law of administration to the Second Adam, and to be applied to the human race for its government in all its relations. The revolt of the first parent has not freed his children, any more than himself, from subjection and obedience to the law of God. The first Head was false to the trust confided to him, but that trust is now lodged in the hands of Him who is called Faithful and True. To him the whole race is commanded to bow the knee in humble subjection. Civil Government is put under his feet and the law of God into his hands, to be applied to man in his civil relations, as well as written upon the hearts of his redeemed. "The law is in the hands of the Mediator;" and under him the human family is commanded to be subject to the law of God. Apostacy has not left the race without law. "Being not without law to God. but under the law to Christ." It is upon this foundation that we have stated that the Kingdom of the God of Heaven demands that the constitutions and laws of the nations be founded upon his revealed will. As the King of Kings, he hath, in the scriptures of truth, promulgated his law, and demands that all people, nations and languages should bow to his sceptre and receive the law at his mouth: even as the whole race would have done, had Adam maintained his integrity in the throne as crowned Lord of all. It is manifest that it is the design of the Godhead to reduce the human race under the dominion of the Son of Man, to a condition of obedience and holiness, even upon the earth, as nearly as possible resembling that state which it would have enjoyed, had Adam not revolted. The Millennium will exemplify this happy state. That society may be brought to this happy condition, the constitutions and laws of civil governments must be based upon the revealed laws of God.
The individual, who transgresses the law of God, is held forth in scripture as an object of Divine disapprobation—yea, of wrath. The number of individuals associated in the commission of any sin, and the support of a sinful principle or practice, so far from lessening, enhances that disapprobation, treasures up proportionable wrath. Consociated transgressors seem to be special objects of Divine indignation. "When thou sawest a thief then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers." This truth applies, with more fearful import, to a nation that transgresses the Divine law, either by constitutional provision, statutory enactment, or national custom. "And behold ye are risen up in your father’s stead, an increase of sinful men to augment yet the fierce anger of the Lord toward Israel." "Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, they have provoked the Lord to anger." These passages prove that God does not approve of a national transgression of his law. If a nation frames its constitution of government, and enacts laws irrespective of the Divine law, or in violation of that law, written or unwritten, he does not approve that constitution, or those laws. That government is not and cannot be his ordinance, the Kingdom of the God of Heaven. As the Head of the moral universe, and the Governor among the nations, the Son of Man cannot approve of a system which despises or violates the Divine law, in his hands its great administrator, any more than he can approve of the contempt and violation of that law by an individual transgressor. He does not punish the solitary individual, and suffer the guilty nation to escape—but nations even, for their sins "are turned into hell." Confederated transgressors, and iniquity sustained by a confederacy, are alike an abomination to the Lord. Sin is not less sinful because national, neither is a sinful principle less iniquitous, because inscribed in a nation’s constitution, and upheld by confederate states, and made the basis of domestic relations. It is impious to teach, or even suppose that the God of Heaven will approve of a national rejection or violation of his own law. "Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not be unpunished."
The Divine law teaches man his duty to God and is therefore obligatory upon a nation. Civil government, as it is the ordinance of God, should have, both in its constitution and administration, respect unto the glory of God, whilst it promotes the felicity of its subject, man. It therefore necessarily recognizes his authority, and must be regulated by his law. The duties which are enjoined upon man in the revealed law to be performed to his Creator and Redeemer, are the claims of God upon man as the subject of his moral government—The rights of God in relation to his creature, man. "Render to God the things that are God’s." These rights are summarily comprehended in the first table of the decalogue: and to the nations, as to Israel of old, in their national capacity, as well as individual, is the decalogue directed. "I am the Lord thy God which brought thee (the nation) out of the house of bondage."
The Divine law teaches man his duty to his neighbor, therefore the nations are bound nationally to receive and enforce it. All who have any correct notions of civil government, admit that it is designed for the good of man. The vast mass of mankind has not been created by God and placed in this world for the advantage of a few, whose prerogative it is to tyrannize over them as their abject slaves. All men are born free and equal, and no one has by nature a higher privilege than the rest. Whilst civil government is the ordinance of God, in its great moral and fundamental principles it is, at the same time, the ordinance of man. Men are free in respect to one another, and have a right to erect government over themselves; and no one has a right to rule his fellows without authority conveyed by the free suffrage of the majority. But no number of people have a right to establish a government upon any other foundation than the law of God. Civil government, insubordination to the glory of God, is designed for the good of the whole, and must be so organized as that no one will be unjustly deprived of his rights. The law of God is the fountain and rule of human rights. The rights of man are all derived from God, and the law of God defines them. The substance of that law, as it is the rule of human rights, is condensed in the royal precept, "As ye would that men should do to you, do you also to them likewise." This places all men upon an equality without respect of persons or complexions. If .men will observe this rule they have an infallible security against oppression and wrong. The second table of the decalogue specifically enumerates the rights common to all men equally, and guaranteed by God, and to be secured to them in the constitution of civil government. The rights of men exist before the constitution of government; they exist in the Divine law. Civil government confers none of them, but is ordained of God to secure and protect them, as the boon of Heaven. Hence, civil magistrates are the administrators also of the second table of the law.
That nation, therefore, which in its constitution and municipal laws recognizes the supremacy of the Divine law, and makes it the basis of its entire rule as paramount authority, is a nation embraced in the Kingdom of the God of Heaven. He has not given to kings or nobles, or we the people, a negative over his law. If this were so, and a nation of whatever form of government, whether a republic or monarchy, has a right to neglect or violate that law in its constitution or administration of government, then Adam, as the first civil governor of the race, sinned not, when he violated that law which was the constitution of his throne and the rule of his administration. He did sin, however, and the crown fell from his head: And the ruler, or the nation that copies his example, likewise sins, and is not entitled to the dignity of a ruler or kingdom comprehended in the Kingdom of the God of Heaven.
In the constitution of the Israelitish commonwealth, you have an example of a government framed upon the principles of the Kingdom of the God of Heaven. "And Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments; and all the people answered with one voice and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do. And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people; and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient."
What a sublime spectacle! A nation bowing in subjection to Jehovah, and receiving the law at his mouth. This is given to us as an example. Here is a constitution of government which meets the approbation of the God of Heaven. His revealed law is the constitution and the basis of legislation and the rule of action. That law which the Israelites received is the same law which all the nations of the earth are bound to receive, and make the basis of their constitutions and laws and practice, as the paramount rule; and their language must be in substance that which they uttered with one voice, "All that the Lord hath said will we do and be obedient."
The preservation of the civil liberties of the subject without respect of persons, is another essential element of the Kingdom of the God of Heaven. The enjoyment of the right of uncontrolled suffrage in the designation of rulers, is the basis of civil liberty in its practical enjoyment. When we examine God’s Magna Charta of human rights, we find this right embodied in the constitution of the Kingdom of God. "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men such as fear God, men of truth hating covetousness. Take you wise men and known among your tribes." There is indeed a wholesome restriction in the exercise of suffrage. The people have not the right of choosing whom they please, irrespective of moral character, and other essential qualifications. They have no right to exalt vile men to high places. Yet they have a free range among the wise, the good, the pious and the disinterested. Happy the nation that practices according to this just restriction. The God of Heaven is the enemy of all oppressions and will not tolerate it in his kingdom. "The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed. Lord thou wilt cause thine ear to hear, to judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress—For the oppression of the poor and for the sighing of the needy now will I arise, saith the Lord, I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him. The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted and the right of the poor.—He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor."
There is no exception here in favor, or against any of the human race. No matter how exalted and glorious the oppressor, and debased and ignominious the oppressed, or what his complexion may be—the oppressor shall be broken and the oppressed delivered, "all that are oppressed." "God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth," and he hath granted to none the right to oppress any of the race. The African and the Asiatic are equally under his protection with the American or European, and the light of his countenance shines upon them with equal benignity. His command to all, is, Release the oppressed. If he is not obeyed, He will execute righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. His kingdom guarantees the freedom of all, and is the uncompromising enemy of every form of oppression; and if men love the gains of oppression, he will, when the cup of iniquity is full, break in pieces the oppressor.
God’s kingdom preaches throughout the globe, "Liberty" to all held in unrighteous bondage. The Son of Man, the administrator of this kingdom, "was anointed to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound." This covers every description of bondage; wherever there is a captive unlawfully detained, to him the proclamation of liberty is made. The minister of the gospel is the messenger of the Lord of hosts in making this proclamation. He must preach liberty and demand the liberation of every captive who is unlawfully bound, and grinds in the prison-house of the lawless oppressor.—This commission is, "ye shall proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof."
How clearly is this kingdom on the side of the fullest liberty! The following are its high demands. "Loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke." This passage manifestly has a reference to the relation of master and servant. Such a relation is allowed in scripture, but not that of master and slave. The master is entitled to obedience, and the servant to the things that are just and equal. The prevalent disposition of masters is to oppress the hireling in his wages. To deprive him of his just gains, and reduce him to bondage. The Jews had practised this iniquity, and made in the meantime great pretensions to piety. "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God." Notwithstanding, they bound upon their servants heavy burdens, and fastened upon them the galling yoke of oppression, smiting with the fist of wickedness. But their hypocrisy did not avail them.—The God of liberty and justice charged their guilt upon them, and commanded them to let the oppressed go free, undo the heavy burdens, and break every yoke. His kingdom establishes universal liberty. His law confers equal rights upon all. He allows no individual to bind the heavy burden—to enslave his fellow: nor will he permit, with impunity, a nation to impose the galling yoke of oppression. If it does; in compassion for the oppressed, as their deliverer, "he will break the yoke of his burden, the staff of his shoulder, the rod of the oppressor." If oppression is established by law, and riveted by constitutional enactments, this will not confer, in his sight, upon the oppressor, the right to the victim of his oppression. The proud oppressor may vaunt himself because of this, and strengthen himself, and harden his heart because his sin is legalized, and the yoke is fastened upon his victim by a nation’s deed; yet all this will avail him nothing, when the cup of iniquity is full. "If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and the violent perverting of judgment in a province, marvel not at the matter, for He that is higher than the highest, regardeth; and there be higher than they."
The Son of Man who is exalted far above all principality, power, might and dominion, is higher than the highest. He regardeth the oppression of the poor, and hears the sighs and groans, and beholds the tears of the oppressed; "and the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered." If the nation will not in righteousness voluntarily let the oppressed go free, the yoke shall be taken away from their necks and be destroyed, and the oppressing nation be broken in pieces.
The kingdom which the God of heaven sets up, protects the rights of conscience. In reference to civil matters, the grand principle in relation to liberty of conscience, is this: That no human constitution or law that is not founded in the Divine law, of which we have treated above, is obligatory upon the conscience of men. "Be ye not the servants of men."
God is the Lord of the conscience. It is absolutely free from the dominion of man, but subject to the authority and law of God. The fact of man’s being a creature, proves his subordinate and dependent state. The soul of man, however exalted its faculties, is under the dominion of its Creator: and cannot be independent of Him in the exercise of any of its faculties. This was its condition in its primitive state, and although apostate, it has not freed itself from the sovereignty of the Divine Lawgiver. It has not a right then of self-dictation, the high prerogative of prescribing a rule to itself. The law of God was originally written upon the mind of man, and was the rule of all its operations. Conscience implies the knowledge of a rule separate front and paramount to any self-dictation of the human mind. It is properly a moral sense testifying the agreement or disagreement of the thoughts of the mind, with the rule of right and wrong prescribed by the Supreme Lawgiver. We must obey God; is the first rule of action. A loose view is entertained by a vast majority of men. That conscience only is the rule of action. Hence the common expression, "The dictates of conscience." Conscience, however, is not a dictator, but a subject. The subject of the Supreme Lawgiver, Jehovah. He is its sovereign Lord, and his dictates, it is bound to obey. He who teaches otherwise is the advocate of rebellion, and strengthens the human mind: in its enmity against God, displayed in disobedience to his law. Liberty of conscience is therefore not a licentious liberty. Men have not a right to think, speak and act, as they please. No man, however exalted, has this right. All our rights are derived—they are derived from God. He has given to no man the right of doing what is right in his own eyes. The will of God is the rule of the intelligent creature’s actions. This will is found either in the work of the law written in the hearts of men, according to which, the Gentiles are a law unto themselves; or, more clearly and fully inscribed upon the page of inspiration. God has not left himself without a witness in the minds of men. Some of the rudiments of his moral law exist there since the fall, that even the heathen thereby may know the judgment of God, in criminal matters, to which, as the Supreme Lawgiver he hath annexed the penalty of death. "Therefore, thou art inexcusable, O man." Whilst this light is not sufficient to lead man to happiness, it renders him without excuse in his criminal indulgences; "for his conscience beareth witness and his thoughts accuse or excuse one another." Man is free from the obligation of doing wrong, but is not at liberty to throw off the obligation of right. Right must always be done, wrong never. The rule of right is the revealed will of God, to those who enjoy it; to those who are destitute of it, the work of the law written in the heart.
The revealed law of the God of heaven binds authoritatively the conscience. It is a first principle of the law, yea, its very essence, that man believe whatever God reveals, and performs whatever he requires. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to harken than the fat of rams. Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you." The dependent relation which man sustains to his Creator, proves that it is his duty to believe whatever God reveals, and perform whatever he enjoins. The holiness and rectitude of the Divine nature secures that nothing shall be revealed and enjoined, but what is right, and the interest of man to believe and obey. "The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times." Whatever, therefore, the God of heaven has prescribed in his revealed will, as a duty, binds the conscience of the human being upon whom the duty is enjoined. To refuse obedience is direct rebellion. All men, all nations, lie under this obligation. They are to observe all things whatsoever the God of heaven hath commanded them.
No human enactment, by whomsover issued, contrary to the law of the God of heaven, is obligatory upon conscience. We must obey God rather than men. This is a grand point amidst the rights of conscience. The human mind is not bound in chains to any merely human authority. The God of heaven has freed the subjects of his kingdom, from the dominion of irresponsible power. He has not bound the subjects of his kingdom hand and foot and placed them beneath the heel of lordly despots, subjected to their will, and obedient to their immoral and tyrannical decrees. They have the right to test the decrees of governments, by the law of God; yea, they are bound to bring every enactment into the presence of the "Law and the testimony," and to cast them aside with holy indignation "if they speak not according to these." This, then, is the glorious liberty of the subjects of the kingdom of the God of heaven. This is the nature of the government which he has authorised among men. He has freed man from an ignominious vassalage. He has endowed him with conscience, which he has subjected to himself alone, and to the dominion of his own law only—and forever freed it from the arbitrary decrees of usurped authority. God’s throne is in the conscience; his law is inscribed there; and that man whose conscience is enlightened in the Divine will, walks forth amongst his race, in all the majesty of the free man of God, a son of the Highest!
The Kingdom of the God of Heaven will triumph over all despotic power and bless the earth with peace and prosperity. The celebrated Mede presents a clear and correct view of the Kingdom of the Son of Man. As the fourth kingdom, or the Roman empire, was represented in a twofold state, first strong and flourishing, "with legs of iron," and then weakened and divided with feet and toes, part of iron and part of clay; so this fifth kingdom, or the kingdom of Christ is described likewise in two states, which may be distinguished by the names of regnum lapidis, the kingdom of the stone, and regnum montis, the kingdom of the mountain; the first when the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, the second, when it became itself "a mountain and filled the whole earth." The stone was cut out of the mountain without hands—the kingdom of Christ was set up while the Roman Empire was in its full strength, with "legs of iron." The Roman empire was afterwards divided into the lesser kingdoms, the remains of which are subsisting at present. The image is still standing upon his feet and toes of iron and clay; the kingdom of Christ is yet a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence:" but the stone will one day smite the image upon the feet and toes; and destroy it utterly, and will itself become "a great mountain and fill the whole earth:" or, in other words, the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and forever." We have, therefore, seen the kingdom of the stone, but we have not yet seen the kingdom of the mountain."
The vision of the kingdom of the mountain is a sublime scene in a not far distant futurity. The kingdom of the stone is about to fall, like an irresistible avalanche, upon the fragments of these beastly despotisms; and "break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and stand itself forever; causing the wilderness and the solitary place to be glad, and the desert earth to blossom as the rose; for the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever." A glorious revolution shall be effected among the despotisms of the earth, chiefly by the instrumentality of the faithful in the church, enlightened in the nature of the kingdom of the God of heaven. By their bold and fearless "testimony"—and by their blood freely shed, as in past ages, in the cause of civil and religious liberty, they shall overcome the spirit of despotism, however strongly entrenched in the constitutions, and laws of existing despotic kingdoms, and however fiercely defended by a ruthless administration. Despised as the church is, and timid and yielding as the vast multitude of its nominal ministers and members now are, yet liberty will find its last strong hold, within her high towers;" there the last battle with iron despotism shall be fought; and there within the strong walls of "the Castle of Zion," shall liberty gain her last and most glorious triumph, through the indomitable valor of the saints of the Most High; and their "war-cry" in the last battlefield shall be that of the fearless Taborite, "The warriors of God and of His law."
Out of the remnants of the nations, now affrighted, and subdued to the service of the Son of Man, the God of Heaven will now fully organize and establish His dominion in the earth,—the kingdom of the mountain, shall be reared, and then shall be verified the rapturous vision of the prophet—"And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he shall teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for out of Zion will go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plow-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."
A wondrous change shall be effected in the disposition of the despotic nations. Their beastly hearts and ferocity shall be taken away, and hearts softened and purified by heavenly love shall be implanted—so that "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the lion and the bear shall feed; their young one shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree, and none shall make them afraid."
All this shall be effected by "the Son of Man," when his benign authority is acknowledged in the earth—for "He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment; and the mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness. He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish and abundance of peace as long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth—yea, all kings shall bow down before him; all nations shall serve Him."
The God of Heaven demands submission, for conscience’ sake, to the kingdom which he sets up. "Let every soul be subject to the higher [or more excellent] powers. For there is no power but of God." All lawful power has its fountain in God. "The powers that be are ordained of God." They are powers, in their very nature just and moral, which God hath appointed or set up. Here, in relation to the kingdom of God, as a benign, moral, civil rule, respecting and establishing both the rights of God and man, is the legitimate application of this much dishonored text. Dishonored, I repeat it: because it is the ready argument in the mouth of every pander of despotic power, from Drs. Sibthorp and Manwaring, in the days of Charles I., down to the pliant doctors of the present day. Listen to one of them in reference to the Fugitive Slave Law, the consideration of which has convened us this evening. "This law has called forth very severe animadversions, and very impassioned and inflammatory resolutions have been passed, and language has been uttered in relation to it—language expressive of entire insubordination and resistance to its requirements, and yet it is a law of the land, enacted by the powers that be, and that arc ordained of God."
Certainly, I may now affirm, in view of the illustration I have just given of the character of the kingdom of the God of Heaven, this is not a legitimate application of the text. The God of Heaven, who is, as we have seen, the Sole Lord of conscience, has not made it subject to every enactment by any providentially existing government, however immoral and despotic. This is not the place in this discussion, to test the character of the law in question—This will be done shortly. But we have quoted the passage from Dr. Lathrop’s sermon, to show how much this noble text is dishonored, and to guard you against its perversion. To moral authority and to a moral enactment of a moral civil authority only, does the God of Heaven demand conscientious submission. And this he does to his own moral government, and to that benign and righteous civil rule which he sets up: and which we have just described.
III. Apply the great principle developed in this discussion in test of the claims of the United States Government to obedience in the capture of Fugitive Slaves, enforced by its authority.
I am aware that I now enter upon an exciting topic. I am also aware that I am endowed with a high degree of excitability—that my soul kindles into a vehement flame of holy indignation at the very idea of oppression. Yet I have solemnly resolved this evening, and upon this topic, to keep cool; and I hope I may be able to conform to my very sensible determination.
The great principle developed by the preceding, perhaps elaborate, discussion, is plainly this one: Men are bound to submit with a cordial, conscientious submission to every morally constituted civil power, and to every moral and righteous decree of such power. But every tyrannical, civil power and every despotic decree of such civil power, must be resisted by every means within our reach. This principle we believe to be a fair deduction from the preceding argument. We have presented several examples of resistance, made with Divine approbation to the beastly powers described, and we have seen the God of Heaven opposed to these brutal powers, and setting up a kingdom of his own in direct contrast, and to the ultimate subversion of these kingdoms—that to this kingdom he demands conscientious submission. The inference is therefore legitimate from the premises established—That submission to moral power that preserves human rights is a duty; and that resistance to immoral and despotic power, that stamps human rights under its feet, is equally a duty. The statement of the principle is but another form of expressing the ancient aphorism, Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
This grand principle is of easy application to the case in hand.
In applying it as a test of the claims of the United States Government to obedience, in demanding the capture and delivery to the master of the fugitive slave, the constitutional clause upon which the law is founded demands a brief notice. It is Art. IV, Sec. II, clause 3. "No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping to another shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor is due." This clause is one of the memorable compromises of the constitution. It was framed by the spirit of commercial avarice which governed the North, and the spirit of despotism which animated the South. And what is compromised? Liberty! God’s precious boon to man. Luther Martin, who was present at the compromise, and one of the committee of compromise, gives its history: of which I have given the substance in the above sentence. And he tells us moreover, that while the framers of this and other clauses in the constitution relating to slavery, were studious to avoid the term, they were very careful to preserve the thing. This clause then, was designed to confer a constitutional right upon the slaveholder to the capture and return to bondage of his fugitive slave. The fugitive slave law of 93 is additional proof that this was the understanding of the United States in framing and adopting the constitution. Whoever then is held in bondage in any state, under the laws thereof, no matter how iniquitous and oppressive these laws, be it remembered, and escapes into a free state as to a place of refuge, under the authority of the constitutional enactment, may be hunted, captured, and returned to the land of bondage, to grind again in the prison house of oppression. Now, let it be distinctly noticed, that this is not a claim in justice, but only by constitutional law, in the way of compromise with injustice. It is a mere claim in law, is the point I wish to be noticed; but recollect it is only human law. It has no higher sanction than the will of the people—the free people of these United States, who framed the constitution to preserve to themselves and their free posterity the blessings of liberty. If any of them even should beget a slave, as some do, he is only a thing—a chattel personal—a mere matter of property, not contemplated among the posterity who shall enjoy citizenship. A thing merely, that if it runs away, snuffing with panting eagerness the atmosphere of liberty, it shall be hunted down, captured and subjected anew to stripes and unrequited toil.
It is a claim, then, only in human law. The Divine law is not recognized in the instrument, nor the God of this law the highest source of its authority is simply the will of we, the people. I again request that this will be particularly noticed, as it is an important step in my argument.
Be it further noticed, that the clause of the constitution expressly states that "persons held to service or labor in a state under the laws thereof, shall be delivered up," when claimed. Slaves are clearly covered by the clause, because the laws of the state, in which the person is held, determines the object be to captured and delivered up. The laws of the Southern states held men in bondage as property, when the constitution was framed, and holds them thus still. The phrase "under the laws thereof" decides who are to be recaptured, there is no need of the word slave.
Let us now attend a moment to the Fugitive Slave law of 1850. It is an amendment of the act of 1793. A part of its title is, An act respecting persons escaping from the service of their masters. The title is evidently founded upon the clause in the constitution, which treats of persons escaping from service, and their delivery to those to whom the service is due, under the laws of the state from which the fugitive has escaped. I shall not investigate the minute details of the act, but invite your attention to the principle clause which is contained in Sec. 4. This clause makes it the duty of the Commissioner, appointed by the act, to adjudicate in the matter, to "grant certificates to such claimants, upon satisfactory proof being made, with authority to take and remove such fugitive from service or labor, under the restrictions herein contained, to the state or territory from which such persons ,may have escaped or fled."
This principle clause of the act, appears upon the closest scrutiny to be strictly constitutional. The law and the constitution correspond. The latter says the fugitive shall be delivered up. The former makes provision accordingly, and secures his delivery in obedience to the peremptory injunction of the Constitution.
I have compared this strong injunction with the harshest requisitions of the act, and it does appear to me to cover each with its awful authority. Its harsh notes sound in thunder tones above them all, the fugitive shall be delivered up upon claim of the party to whom such service or labor is due.
Every noble mind shrinks with horror from the details of the terrible process of delivery, yet every step seems to be necessary to execute the supreme law issued from the mouths of "we, the people," proclaiming with awful solemnity their sovereign will, The fugitive shall be delivered up! All means to effect this are plainly implied, however harsh, however violent, however cruel, however abhorrent to the generous spirit that loves liberty, that would secure equal rights to all without distinction, and would shelter and nourish and defend the oppressed. Yet a reverence for the supreme law of the land, a filial awe of the wisdom of patriot sires, and the towering benefits of a glorious confederacy, unite their influences and demand the execution of the contract.
Yet, after all, this law has no higher authority than the Constitution, which has no higher authority than "we, the people." Is there not a higher than both? Is there not a law towering in glorious supremacy above both? Is there not an authority arrayed in unutterable majesty, and enthroned far, infinitely far, above both, and which has the unquestionable right of inscribing its veto upon the unjust and oppressive enactments of men, however high in place? Yes. there is a higher law. There is a higher authority. The Divine law is that higher law, and JEHOVAH himself the Most High God, is that higher and infinitely majestic authority.
What speaks this higher law, what is the voice of this supreme authority? Listen to it, on the subject which engages so much of our attention, and in which we all feel so deep an interest. I have marked a list of forty-two texts, bearing strongly upon this subject. I write a few.
The God of Israel said, The rock of Israel spake to me. He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. 2 Sam. 23:3. Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, plead the cause of the poor and needy. Prov. 31:8-9.
He that stealeth a man and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. Ex. 21:11.
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him. Ex. 22:11.
Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place, which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best, thou shalt not oppress him. Deut. 23:15,16.
The Lord is King forever and ever, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear, to judge the oppressed: that the man of the earth may no more oppress.
Oppress not the afflicted in the gate. For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them. Prov. 22:22,23.
Thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered, and I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh, and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with new wine; and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob. Is. 49:25,26.
Hear this word ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy. Amos 4:1.
For you know what commandments were given unto you by the Lord Jesus Christ. That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter, because that the Lord is the avenger of all such; as we also have forewarned you and testified, I Thes. 4:5,6.
Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in Heaven. Col. 4:1.
Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed. Is. 1:17.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free; and that ye break every yoke. Is. 58:6.
Let mine outcasts dwell with thee Moab: be thou a covert to them from the face of the spoiler; for the extortioner is at an end, the spoiler ceaseth, the oppressors are consumed out of the land. Is. 16:4.
I was a stranger and ye took me in. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Mat. 25:40.
This law we have proved to be obligatory upon man in his civil relations. Nations are bound by this law. Rulers must be obedient to its exalted requisitions. We have demonstrated that no human authority can bind upon conscience an enactment in violation of this. But the Constitution and laws of the United States government are in direct opposition to this law, expressed in the extracts which we have recited. The question arises, What is our duty amidst these conflicting claims? The higher law must evidently determine us, we must obey God rather than men.
The constitutional enactment is an immoral provision, the law based thereon is an immoral law; neither have any obligation upon the conscience. They violate the higher law, they annul the authority of the Most High. Both must be then most decidedly rejected. Both must be resisted by every means within our power, as fearfully despotic, and cruel, and oppressive enactments.
Let no man misinterpret me. I have promised to he cool; I am cool. What I have uttered is not the conclusion of an excited mind; but a judgment most deliberately formed in the court of conscience, in the light of the higher law, and in the presence of the awful throne of Jehovah, the Most High. You ask me, What do you mean? What are the means of resistance within our power? Before I reply, I ask another question, and give its just answer. Is the act required by the law of such magnitude, an evil of such moral obliquity, that no man can aid and abet its execution without bringing enormous guilt upon his soul? I answer, it is just such an act. The act required, is the delivery of a servant who has escaped from oppression, to his master, to be returned to bondage, in direct violation of the Divine law, and my full justification lies in the character of the bondage to which the captive is returned. Slavery in the United States is oppression in its most abhorrent form. According to this system tested, by its own code, human beings are held as things, chattels personal, human brutes. The slave has no rights. Not even, if we are to believe Congressmen, the right of petitioning the government that rivets upon them their chains. The master is the absolute lord. The slave is known only through his master. The master takes the slave from under the dominion of the law of God, the charter and rule of human rights, and subjects him to his own arbitrary will, tramples upon his rights of conscience, withholding intellectual culture and the Bible, separates husband and wife, parents and children and condemns to a promiscuous concubinage, whilst the chastity of the female slave is the prey of the licentious despot.
The slaveholder reduces man to the level of the brute, and deprives him even of the protection of person and life. In one word, American slavery deprives the African of every right guaranteed to mankind by the law of God. European despotism is liberty in comparison with this. There the serf has, at least, domestic rights. The husband can clasp his wife to his bosom, and call her his own for life. The mother can fold her child to her fond bosom, and the father can dandle it upon his knee, and call it their own, without the frightful apprehension of its being torn from their embrace by a ruthless tyrant, who claims it as his child, and sells it, to be borne afar off—to be seen by their eyes no more forever.
To this horrid bondage the Constitution and the law require us "to deliver the miserable fugitive, wearied and wasted, and almost exhausted by the hardships of his flight from his hated oppressor. To aid in the execution of this law, would bring such guilt upon my soul, that I am, in conscience constrained to say, both to the Constitution and the law based thereon, as the Jews were required of old to say to their golden images, "Get thee hence;" and to resist both by every means within my power.
I am now prepared to answer the question "What mean ye by this?" I can answer for myself, and all those of the same profession. We have been practicing what I mean for more than half a century. We have declared our dissent from the whole system. We have prayed for the purification of the Constitution and laws from all their moral evils. We have openly and honestly testified against these evils. We have endeavored according to the ability given us, to throw light upon the nature of the Kingdom of the God of Heaven, in contrast with the despotic and immoral governments of the earth; and we openly avow that we aim, in the use of all moral means, at the revolutionising of all the governments of the earth, that they be no longer the kingdoms of this world, at war with the God of heaven, but become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ.
To those who cannot go so far as this dissent, for it requires some sacrifices and subjects to much reproach, you can do much in the way of resistance before the last resort,—you can at least decline action, and suffer the penalties—and you can shelter the panting fugitive escaping from the house of bondage—you can reason and you can remonstrate—spread abroad light and stimulate benevolent and heroic feeling—and you can pray to the God of heaven to shield the oppressed;—and should the government be so reckless as to attempt the enforcement of the cruel law by military violence—you can point, with the stern determination of Puritan valor, to the plains and heights of New England, and shout in bold defiance,—Remember Lexington—Remember Bunker Hill. The first drop of blood shed, by remorseless power in this strife, will be the seal of the downfall of oppression, and the emancipation of the oppressed.
 Ninevah and its remains.
 A kiss denoting civil homage. Comp. I Samuel 11.