Q. Upon the supposition that God had a right, from all eternity, to resolve upon creating a world (which cannot be doubted), had he not an equal right to impose such laws upon it as his own glory and its welfare required?
A. Yes. The creator has a natural inalienable right to impose such laws upon the work of his hands as may in his wisdom seem good; and this proposition is so self-evident, that it requires no argument to prove it.
Q. Are not mankind, through their ignorance, and the blindness of their minds, and the depravity of their hearts, greatly lost to the sense of the theory of moral duty, and the source of rational obedience?
A. Yes. Especially in the reasonings of self-styled philosophers upon the institution of civil government, they seem to forget that there is a God, who claims to be the Governor among the nations.
Q. However confused the ideas of mankind may be upon this subject, in point of application to the important interests of morality, does it not appear among their most common notions, that there both is, and ought to be such a thing as Law?
A. Yes. We know of no nations, however savage, that subsist in society, without some sort of laws or regulations by which their mutual intercourse is limited and directed.
Q. Is not the idea of law most likely to be found in the original constitution of rational nature? And is it not here we ought to fix as its most probable locality, the first principle of that social intercourse which so generally draws the different tribes of the human race into their distinct national associations, which we see spread over the whole earth?
A. Yes. The sense of law, or right and wrong, seems to have been impressed upon the original constitution man’s moral nature; otherwise we could not easily conceive how beings of such a texture, and possessing such a versatility of character, as we find obtains in our own common family, could be brought so easily and universally to deliver themselves up to the restraints of civil authority, without some such principle implanted originally in their hearts.
Q. Do not all laws and regulations among men require some rule by which they ought to be moulded?
A. Yes. All the laws that ever were, or will be made, are mere “ropes of sand,” unless they possess a certain portion of His authority, who is our Law-giver and King; and until men resort to this way of making laws, these fabrics of human order will not long brave the mouldering teeth of time.
Q. Had a little more attention been paid to this principle, would the history of ancient and modern times have worn such a face of blood as it does at this day?
A. No. We should not have seen the miserable race of man outraged without end and without measure, mingling their tears with the dust, under the iron heel of civil oppressors, while there is few or none to comfort the oppressed.
Q. Is it not highly probable God has given up, in just judgment, this earth, to groan under the complicated miseries arising from tyranny find oppression, bloodshed and famine, on account of the contempt shown to his legislative character?
A. There can be little doubt of the truth of this statement: nor can we have tiny reason to believe that the disease will be removed until its causes cease.
Q. What will be the consequences to the nations of the earth of the practical restoration of this right to God, as the Supreme Lawgiver?
A. It will serve as an immovable mound to keep off the encroachments which pride, ambition, and avarice have almost generally made upon all the securities of civil liberty, which, in the depth of their wisdom, nations have been able to contrive; an infallible guardian to the rights of man is in vain sought for in the wise maxims of philosophers and patriotic statesmen; in vain do nations attempt to purchase liberty with the best blood of their citizens, while they deliver it. into the keeping of men unacquainted with, or regardless of the supreme legislative authority of God, under which his friends may sit securely and none to make them afraid.
Q. Although the remembrance of God’s legislative authority may for it time become feeble, can it entirely be obliterated from the heart of man?
A. Infidelity and impiety are often forced to relinquish their strongholds, and openly confess that the darkened prisons of human wretchedness never can expect to be visited with a general jubilee, unless God condescends to avenge the quarrel of humanity, and let the prisoners shake off their chains; sceptical philosophers, who have been obliged to invent an atheistical language to serve the interests of their pride and vanity, have, undesignedly, been obliged to recognise God’s legislative character.
Q. Can you give an illustration?
A. Yes. Philosophers, even of the infidel school, are obliged to introduce the notion of laws for the government of the physical world—as they account for the phenomena in the visible kingdom of creation by the name of laws of nature.
Q. What is the import of the term nature in such a connexion?
A. It can mean nothing more than that order of causes and effects, which the only wise God at first established, and which he continually upholds.
Q. What are the laws of nature, so termed in reference to the physical world?
A. They are nothing else than the will of God, taking continued effect upon the different parts of his extended empire: and whether they are called by specific names, such as attraction, gravitation, &c, they are but the effects of the divine will governing the movements of the material creation which his hand hath formed. Hence when infidel philosophers speak of the laws of nature, they are constrained to recognise the will of the Supreme, upon the principle of Blackstone, that “law is a rule of action dictated by some superior being;” the laws of nature being but the rules of action impressed by the Creator upon the material creation.
Q. Now, if these philosophers are obliged to introduce laws for the government of the physical world, is not this aid much more needed for the regulation of the moral system?
A. Yes. So much the more as the moral transcends in excellency the physical world.
Q. Does not the law of nature, therefore, assume a somewhat different aspect as applied to rational man?
A. Yes. It is not merely a rule impressed upon a material subject to regulate its movements, but a system of moral precepts given for the regulation of the conduct of a dependent rational agent.
Q. Had not God a right as a spirit infinite, &c, to display or give scope to the exercise of his perfections, in such a manner as he saw to be conducive to his own glory?
A. The right is indisputable. To deny man a similar right is judged to be insupportable tyranny; it cannot, therefore, be denied to God.
Q. Has God chosen to exercise this right?
A. Yes. Events have made it evident that he saw it every way worthy of his divine majesty, to command a multitude of creatures into existence.
Q. His right to do so being admitted, as it must, does not his legislative authority follow of course?
A. So necessarily are these things connected, we cannot conceive the existence of creation a moment without the continual operation of a system of laws, suitable to regulate, each of its component parts, and guide all their motions into one central point.
Q. Is not the existence of these wise regulations, rendering this world a comfortable habitation for all its inhabitants, apparent everywhere we turn our eyes?
A. Yes. he that would not believe the testimony of day and night, summer and winter, seed time and harvest, would not believe though one rose from the dead.
Q. Is not the denial of God’s right of legislating for his creatures, to assert—that he never had a right to act at all?
A. Yes. For if once his right to create be granted, it will evidently follow that he behoved to govern the creatures made, conformable to some end, or else declare by him carelessness about them, that he made them in sport, and as a trial of his skill, and for no good, wise, or holy purpose. To assert this would be the most horrid blasphemy.
Q. Has not God given abundant testimony of his own moral nature and rectoral character, in the constitution of man’s rational nature?
A. Yes. This is clear from the moral perceptive capacities with which man is endowed; for its well may we believe that the eye in animal nature, and the light in the heavens, have met and held sweet society together for thousands of years, by chance, as believe a moral capacity in man without moral objects, with which it is designed to converse.
Q. Is not this moral capacity, a distinguishing property of man’s nature?
A. Yes. It is a property which distinguishes him from all the inferior ranks of being, and he is hereby enabled clearly to discover his relation to the Supreme Being, and that the Lord hath required of him, that he should do justice, love, mercy, and walk humbly with his God.
Q. Is this power in men a subject of government?
A. It is: Because, 1. Like all other powers of a derived nature, it must be governed—unless we adopt the absurdity, that it neither needs, deserves, nor admits of such a rule. 2. The more of spiritual and intellectual essence, any creature possesses, it is the more susceptible of government; and, accordingly, as dependent beings rise in the scale of excellency, legislative authority takes the firmer hold of their natures and operations. No man, in his reason, will say that moral nature, capable of such extensive employment among God’s works, needs not a government sufficient to confine it within proper boundaries. 3. The abuse of moral power has kindled the fires of hell, and still keeps them burning. 4. Its proper application has embellished heaven with its most transparent lamps. 5. In proportion as morality prevails on earth, it blossoms like the rose, and sends forth a scent like Lebanon. In proportion as it withers, this earth becomes desolate and bare, and puts on the attire of a mourner—such a power certainly demands government. 6. When it is considered, that a moral capacity in human nature forms one of its principal ornaments, and is that wherein it makes the nearest approach to God, and on which he has expended much cost and pains since the world began, we cannot think it unreasonable that it should be a primary object of Divine legislative authority.
Q. May God’s legislative character be argued from his ends in creation?
A. Most certainly. Whatever could move God to create, must move him to govern. It is manifest that creatures cannot exist a moment independently of their Creator, and consequently cannot move on to their point of final destination without constant direction. It must, therefore, follow, 1. That either God had no end in view in forming the beautiful fabric of nature; or, 2. That he has dropped the end if he ever had one; or, 3. That he has missed the end, and given over any farther prosecution of it; or, finally, that he had an end, that he has signified the same to his dependents, and will most certainly see to its accomplishment. It will be no difficulty with any pious mind, which of these suppositions ought to be adopted.
Q. Does a consideration of the existence of civil society and practice of civil government among men, greatly strengthen the argument in favour of God’s legislative character?
A. Very much, indeed. For, 1. Experience shows, that the relation of civil society cannot exist to any advantage, unless under the protecting shade of morality. 2. An immoral society is a monster in nature; nor can anyone, completely such, ever exist, even among the most barbarous nations on earth. 3. If murder, perjury, theft, and adultery, were legitimated, society must speedily be dissolved. 4. Therefore all nations have found it necessary to encircle themselves with criminal codes of laws, by which the lives, property, and virtue of the community are preserved from destruction. 5. God, in his providence, has so ordered it, that in proportion as the moral law has been incorporated into the civil compact of any collective society, that society enjoys happiness on earth, and progresses towards that which is better beyond it. 6. It is not to be concealed, that our vicious nature often thinks otherwise, and acts upon principles agreeable to its corrupt desires; but as certainly it follows, that such departures from the law of our natures, draw after them national ruin, as has been verified in the history of all ages. The uniformity of similar effects following similar causes, clearly evidences this to be the constitution of heaven. 7. Those, therefore, who think or imagine they can perfect constitutions by abridging the moral law’s operation in civil society, are mistaken in one of those points wherein it is of the highest moment to be rightly informed. 8. And if we admit moral considerations at all to have a place in forming the bonds of human society, no doubt then, the more influence, which are communicated thence, the-social compact will be so much the stronger. So that it does appear, from the impossibility of binding the human race together by any cords but those of a moral nature, that God must have exercised his legislative right, in preparing that code by which our family may harmonize in the bonds of love, while sun and moon endure.
Q. Does not the conscience of man confirm this view of God’s legislative authority?
A. Very forcibly. 1. Whence arises the sense of blame with which men are so severely lashed, notwithstanding all their pains to shield themselves therefrom, or cure the wounds when received? The instances of remorse on record, put it beyond a doubt that the heart of man, by its constitution, is rendered susceptible of such impressions. 2. And however speculative and immortal men may, in their closets and upon paper, have attempted to reason themselves amid others into a belief, that there is no distinction between right and wrong, yet we see they have made no great progress in bringing their proselytes to act up uniformly to such a principle: for who, in his senses, has ever been known to commend the murderer of a beloved father or child? Who ever beheld with delight a beloved wife or daughter defiled before his eyes? 3. It seems, therefore, that however men may he carried away by their imaginations into Utopian fields, when they descend and mingle in real life they cease not to feel as other men do, at least in cases interesting to themselves, and to act on, the same principles.
Q. Does not Revelation confirm this reasoning upon legislative authority?
A. Yes, its evidence is decisive. For, 1. What is the whole Old Testament but a history of the giving of laws, the breaches made upon them, and the consequent punishment? or else of due obedience yielded thereunto, with the rewards annexed? And 2. The New completes the Old by adding those sections which more immediately respect the methods by which God’s law has been honoured, and its credit preserved, together with the functions which it continues to perform on the hearts of all who are redeemed from under its curse, as also what its office will be to eternity in and over those who remain destitute of a covering from its awful demands.
Q. God has not, therefore, created man independent of his authority, and sent him forth among his works exempted from the dominion of law?
A. By no means. The above induction brings us necessarily to the conclusion, that man is a dependent creature, he is dependent upon his Creator, and in the language of Blackstone, “consequently as man depends absolutely upon his Maker for everything, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his Maker’s will.”
Q. What is this will of his Maker called?
A. It is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endowed it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of its motions, so when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature.
Q. Is this law of human nature of superior obligation?
A. This law of nature, says the same civilian, “being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of superior obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately from this original.”
Q. Was this law the basis of God’s covenant with Adam?
A. It was, and was the rule of Adam’s behaviour towards God, and of his dominion which he exercised over this world before his apostasy.
Q. Has this law been abrogated by the apostasy of Adam?
A. By no means. Man’s apostasy did not annul God’s regal dominion over the rebel creature, and the law inscribed upon man’s nature in his creation, whilst it binds him under its penalty, still holds him under the dominion of God; and by it he is under an indissoluble obligation to regulate his conduct in all the transactions of life.
Q. Has not the satisfaction of the law, by the obedience unto the death of Jesus Christ, released man from its obligations?
A. By no means, because believers themselves are said to be under the law as a rule of life. 1 Cor. ix. 21, “Being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.” 2. Christ did not “destroy,” but “fulfilled” the law.
Q. Is not civil magistracy, as the ordinance of Cod, founded in this law of nature?
A. Yes. Magistracy was first instituted in the human family when God gave Adam dominion over Eve and all the works of his hand on earth, (Ps. viii. 6) of which this law was the rule; and still abides the supreme rule of civil magistracy among the posterity of Adam, through all ages of the world. Rom. i. 32, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which do such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” ii. 14, 15, “For the Gentiles which have not the law (written) do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts, the meanwhile, accusing, or else excusing, one another.”
Q. Can there indeed exist any lawful civil power that has not its fountain and its law in this will of the Supreme Lawgiver, the Creator of the heavens and the earth?
A. No. Civil government, we have seen, as is it legitimate, is the moral ordinance of God, and the Deity himself, alone, is the supreme source of civil power; and consequently the government which he will recognise must be founded in this immutable law of human nature.
Q. Is it not a first principle of this law, that God’s authority be recognised by the constituted civil society?
A. Yes. The rejection of his authority and his law has been the source of the “judicial blindness” which God bas inflicted upon the nations. Rom. i. 28, “For even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.”
Q. Is this law fully discoverable by the reason of man from the light of nature?
A. Some faint traces of this law remain upon the moral nature of man, (Rom. ii. 14, 15,) and are revealed in some degree of legibility by the light of nature, (Rom. i. 20-32; Ps. xix. 1,) “so that men are without excuse;” yet man’s intellect has been so much impaired and corrupted by the fall that he is not able fully to discover what the law of nature directs in every circumstance of life, as every man finds in his own experience, that his reason is corrupt, and his understanding is full of ignorance and error.
Q. Has this blindness of human reason given occasion to the benign interposition of the Creator in giving a perfect transcript of this law, in a written revelation of his will?
A. Yes. God has been pleased at sundry times and divers manners to enforce his original law, by an immediate and direct revelation. The doctrines thus delivered we call the revealed or divine law.
Q. Where are they to be found?
A. They are to be found only in the Holy Scriptures; for until they were therein revealed they were hid from the wisdom of the ages.
Q. Is this revealed law contained in the Holy Scriptures of the same obligation with the original law of nature?
A. Undoubtedly; for as the moral precepts of this law are of the same original of this law of nature, and are found, upon comparison, to be really a part of the original law of nature, as they lead in all their consequences to man’s felicity, so their intrinsic obligation is of equal strength and perpetuity.
Q. Is not this revealed will of God in the Scriptures of truth of even infinitely higher authority than that moral system which is framed by ethical writers, and denominated the natural law?
A. Unquestionably. Because the one is the law of nature expressly declared so to be by God himself. The other is only what, by the assistance of human reason, men imagine to be that law. If we could be as certain of the latter, as we are of the former, both would have an equal authority; but till then they are never to be put in any competition together.
Q. Do not all just human laws depend upon these two foundations—The Law of Nature and the Law of Revelation?
A. Yes. No human laws should be suffered to contradict them: if they are contradictory to these they have no validity, not" binding obligation upon the conscience.
Q. What is this revealed law usually called?
A. The Moral Law.
Q. Wherein is this moral law summarily comprehended?
A. It is comprehended in a summary manner in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.
Q. Is this moral law, thus summarily exhibited with all the revealed precepts based thereon, placed in the hands of Jesus Christ the mediatorial King, to be administered by him in the government of the nations?
A. Yes. The law is in the hands of the mediator, and under him the human family, in its national as well as other relations, is commanded to be subject to the law of God. 1 Cor. ix. 21, “Not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.”
Q. Does the Lord Jesus Christ, as the “Governor of the Nations,” demand that their constitution and laws be founded upon his laws, revealed in the Scriptures of truth?
A. Yes. As the King of kings he bath in the Scriptures of truth promulgated his law, and demands that all people, nations, and languages should serve him, by admitting to his sceptre and “taking the law at his mouth.”
Q. Does it appear from the fact already established—the endowment of the Mediator with regal authority aver the nations—that it is the design of God to reduce the human race under him to a condition of obedience and holiness, even upon the earth, nearly resembling that which it would have enjoyed had Adam not revolted?
A. Yes. The MILLENIUM will exemplify this happy state; and in order to reduce the race to this blessed condition, the constitution and laws of civil governments must be based upon the revealed law of Christ.
Q. Wherein is it evident that Christ claims this national recognition of, and subjection to, his law, revealed in the Scriptures?
A. It is evident, 1. In the fact that men, in their social relations, are under the same law that they are under in their individual capacity.
Q. What is the second evidence?
A. The law under which each individual is placed is “the law” (1 Cor. ix. 21)—evidently the moral law revealed in the Scriptures.
Q. What is the third evidence?
A. As this law was the rule, as proved, of civil government, as lodged in the hands of the first Adam, it remains the supreme rule in that relation still under the second Adam.
Q. What is the fourth evidence?
A. 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.” To this the people collectively were to say, Amen.
Q. What is the fifth argument?
A. The commission given to the New Testament Ministry embodies this doctrine, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20, “Go ye therefore will teach all nations, to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”
Q. What is the sixth evidence?
A. The character of civil government and its administration, described in the 13th of Romans, as the ordinance of God, and the Minister of God to men for good, plainly enforces the doctrine of national subjection to the law of God, because his law is the only rule of moral good.
Q. What is the seventh evidence?
A. The example of the commonwealth of Israel demonstrates the doctrine, Exod. xxiv. 7, “And Moses 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.” also v. 3.
Q. What is the eighth evidence?
A. The king, of Israel, in their regal capacity, were to have a copy of the law, and to study and apply it in the administration of the government. Deut. xvii. 18, 19, “And it shall be when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of his law, and the statutes to do them.”—v. 20.
Q. What is the ninth proof?
A. Those kings who obeyed are commended. 2 Chron. xxxv. 26. In the case of Josiah, for “his goodness” according to what was written “in the law of the LORD.” Whilst Rehoboam is blamed (2 Chr. xii. 1) because “he forsook the law of the LORD.”
Q. What is the tenth proof?
A. To possess this holy and divine law was considered the greatest blessing to the nation. Ps. cxlvii. 19, 20, “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel he hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments they have not known them.”
Q. What is the eleventh evidence?
A. It was given to the people as a nation. Thus Joshua addressed the tribes, xxii. 5, “Take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law.”
Q. What is the twelfth proof?
A. National judgments are threatened for its violation, Is: v. 24, 25. “Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble and the flame constumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the Lord, and despised the word of the holy one of Israel.”
Q. What is the thirteenth evidence?
A. The nation is reproved for its violation. Jer. ix. 13-15. “Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them; therefore, I will feed them even this people with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink.”
Q. What is the fourteenth proof?
A. It is predicted that the nations in New Testament times shall be subject to this law. Is. xlii. “The isles shall wait for his law.” Jer. iv. 17; Is. ii. 2, 3. “In the last days—many people shall go and say, come ye and let us go up to the mountains of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
Q. Were these precepts, indeed, addressed not to individuals only, but to the nation as such?
A. Yes. Each precept is in the singular number, thou. This form of expression is used, not merely to indicate that every individual who heard this law is bound to obedience, but also every Christian nation as a body politic or moral person is addressed by the lawgiver, and commanded to obey.
Q. Where is the evidence of this?
A. The evidence is in the fact, that to the nation in its national capacity the decalogue is emphatically directed—I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage. Whom did he bring out of Egypt? The nation, and to it he addressed the decalogue.
Q. Were not the Jews, in their true national organization, as the ordinance of God, designed as an exemplar to all nations in subsequent times?
A. Yes. They wore in civil things, “a shadow,” as it were, “of good things to come.” What was transacted by them as a nation in covenant with God, is an example all nations by whom the record of their deeds shall be read; especially in their covenant subjection and obedience to the divine law.
Q. Wherein lies the evidence of this?
A. The evidence lies in the prediction in Psalm cii. 15-18, “So the heathen (nations) shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth thy glory. This shall be written for the generation to come; and the people that shall be created shall praise the Lord.” The Jewish nation “bowed the knee” to the God of Jacob, as his servants: and after their example, “so” the organized national bodies, and kings, or supreme civil rulers, officially, shall follow their example—shall fear and serve the name of the Lord—the Messiah—the glory of the Lord; shall do him homage as the King of kings, the Father’s glory or representative in the throne of the nations.
Q. When shall this take place?
A. It shall take place, according to the context, “When the Lord shall build up Zion”—bring in the Jews with the fulness of the Gentiles. The Israelitish commonwealth therefore, stands on the inspired page, an exemplar to all the nations of the world of a just national organization; which shall be, in all its moral elements, strictly copied when the prediction recorded in the Psalm [cii] shall be fulfilled—v. 22. “When the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the LORD.” So shall they fear the name of the Lord—by a national subjection to the law of the Lord, in the hands of the Mediator—“the prince of the kings of the earth.”
Q. Is not the decalogue divided into two tables?
A. Yes. The first contains four precepts, and second six. The former teaches our duty to God—the latter our duty to man.
Q. Do the precepts of the first table express the rights of God, which he demands shall be embodied in the civil constitutions of the nations, that their governments may be his ordinance?
A. Yes. They contain “the things of God,” which all nations are bound nationally to “render” him.
Q. Can you give a simple exhibition of these rights or claims of God by the Mediator upon the nations of the earth?
A. Yes. 1. The first requires as an inalienable right of the Godhead, that every nation as such, in its organic character, acknowledge the Lord to be its God. Exod. xx. 3. “Thou shalt have no other Gods before thee.” xxxiv. 14. “For thou shalt worship no other God, for the LORD whose name is jealous, is a jealous God.” Rom. iii. 29. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yea, of the Gentiles also? 2. The second precept requires the nation to establish the true worship of God, and to put down, and prevent idolatry or false worship. Exod. xx. 4. “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, &c. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them,” &c. Deut. vii. 5. “Thus shall ye deal with them; ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire.” See an example, by the king Hezekiah, 2 Kings xviii. 4-7. If idolatry and false worship is a moral evil—violation of the law—then the ruler must suppress it. Rom. xiii. 4. See also, 1 Cor. x. 19-21. 3. The third precept requires the nations to entertain an awful reverence of the holy name of Jehovah, and sincerely to respect everything whereby he maketh himself known. Ex. xx. 7. “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Deut. xxviii. 58, 59. “If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name—THE LORD THY GOD—then the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful,” &c. Mal. i. 1 1 . For from the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; (or nations)—and in every place, incense shall be offered to my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen (nations), saith the Lord of hosts, See Rom. xv. 4; Jam. v. 12; Zech. v. 3. 4. The fourth precept enforces the claims of God upon the nations to observe the Christian Sabbath: to consecrate it as a day of national rest and devotion. Ex. xx. 8. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” &c. See also Jer. xvii. 20-22; Ex. xvi. 22, 23; Num. xv. 32, 33; Neh. xiii. 15; Mark ii. 27. Now, as God is as jealous of his DEITY to-day as of old—as his worship is as sacred—his name as holy—and his sabbath as honourable—it is the duty still of all nations “from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same,” to recognise these his rights, and embody them in their national constitutions, find defend and enforce them by their laws and administration.
Q. Is not the church the only agent now for the application and enforcing of this table of the decalogue?
A. No. The church is an agent in her sphere, but her influence extends over her members only—but civil government is ordained of God as a grand co-operative agent with the church in the application of the divine law to society, and its arm, in the spreading of moral influence, reaches far beyond her boundaries, into the dark places of the land. Besides, if the state is not “for the Lord,” it will be “against him”—it cannot be indifferent, and may paralyse the arm of the church even in the legitimate sphere and manner of her action—as is exemplified abundantly, in our own land, in relation to all the rights of God.
Q. Does not the second table of the decalogue specifically commemorate the rights common to all mankind, and guaranteed by God to all equally, and to be secured to them in the constitutions of civil government?
A. Yes. The rights of men exist before the constitution of civil government—they exist in the divine law; and 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 precepts of the second table of the decalogue.
Q. Have you not already informed us that civil government is the ordinance of man? How does this agree with your statement of the duty of national subjection to the law of God?
A. Whilst civil government is the ordinance of man in a certain view of it; it is, at the same time, the ordinance of God (as we have seen in it former section), in its grand fundamental moral principles, and these views are not inconsistent. Men are free as it respects one another, and have a right to erect government over themselves, and no man s a right to rule his fellows, without authority conveyed by the free suffrages of the majority. But no number of people have a right to establish it government upon any other foundation than the law of God. Civil government subordinately to the glory of God, is designed of God, for the highest good of the whole, and must be so organized as that no one will be deprived, unjustly, of his rights, which belong to him equally with the rest.
Q. Is not the law of God the fountain and rule of human rights?
A. Yes. The rights of men are all derived from God, and the law of God defines them; and the substance of that law, as it is the rule of human rights, is condensed in the golden precept,—“As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” This places all men upon an equality, without respect of persons or complexions. If men observe this rule, they enjoy an infallible security against oppression and wrong.
Q. Can you give a summary enumeration of the several rights which the second table of the decalogue, defines and guarantees to mankind?
A. Yes. The first precept of this table is designed to preserve subordination in society by regulating the mutual duties of superiors and inferiors. 1. It maintains parental authority, which is one of the main pillars of society; whilst it secures, on the other hand, the rights of the child, who is to be honoured as a rational and immortal being, and not the abject slave of a domestic tyrant. 2. It regulates the relation of master mid servant, secures obedience to the former, and the “rendering of that which is just and equal” to the latter. It does not elect the former into a lordly and irresponsible tyrant, with the scourge for his sceptre, and to reduce the latter into the grovelling condition of the brutalized slave. There is no such relation recognised by the law of God. The master is the head of the family, and the servant is as the son, subordinate to the head of the domestic establishment, amid the labourer is worthy of his hire. Jer. xxii. 13. “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by uurighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that uses his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work.” 3. It regulates the relation of husband and wife, minister and flock, and secures their reciprocal rights, as expounded elsewhere in the Scriptures. 4. Civil government, also, has its security under the aegis of this precept. It guarantees obedience to legitimate rulers administering the ordinance of God; and secures the rights of the subject, as those of the son. It presents the civil ruler as a benignant parent, and all the people surrounding him as his beloved children, whom he nourishes and cherishes as a father his son. 5. In one word, the second table guarantees to all equally the preservation of life, chastity, property, reputation, and is designed even to suppress the lustings of the depraved heart after that which is the possession of another. 6. It is true that civil government cannot reach the heart. It regulates the life. Yet it is ordained of God not only to punish overt acts in violation of any of the precepts, but to prevent crime by precautionary regulations, and a parental surveillance. As an illustration—it is the duty of civil government, for the preservation of chastity, secured by the 7th commandment to suppress the houses of temptation, and to protect society against the wiles and obscenity of “the strange women, whose house is the way to hell;” and on the other hand to protect woman from the lust of licentious and debased men, who prowl around the loveliest, that they may seize them as their prey. 7. Thus with regard to every other precept of the decalogue, civil government is its guardian, and is bound to apply it equally to all the subject-, of its sceptre, not only to punish the transgressor, but to enforce its observance by such regulations as will bring the precept to bear upon the minds and consciences and lives of all under its jurisdiction.
Q. Is not civil government bound, as it is God’s ordinance, to execute the penal statute, enacted its sanctions and enforcements of the precepts of the decalogue?
A. This seems to be a necessary deduction from the principles established. Because, 1. Those particular judgements which were enacted for the defence and enforcement of the moral laws are, from the nature of the case, of perpetual obligation, for the penal sanction of a law is a part of the law itself. Take away the sanction, and the law is annulled. 2. They were the punishments decreed of God for crimes committed in violation of his own law, and he knows best what punishment is due to its transgression. 3. The moral law is of universal and perpetual obligation, its penal sanctions must carry with them a tantamount obligation. 4. They were enacted for the defence of the authority of the decalogue, which is ever to be defended—the defence should perpetually surround the law. 5. The nature of crime is invariably the same, no lapse of time destroys its punishable character; hence, like crimes in every age deserve like punishment, as they attack the authority of God the Lawgiver, and subvert the good order, purity; and peace of society with equal malignancy. 6. The judicial judgments to which reference is had, were those which were appended to precepts of the first and second table were reducible to these; were, in fact, the application of these to civil society, by the same awful authority which promulgated the decalogue. He who said, “thou shalt not kill,” said also, “The murderer shall SURELY be put to death.” He who said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” said also, “The adulterer and adulteress shall SURELY be put to death.” He who said, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain,” said also, “He that blasphemeth the name of the LORD shall SURELY be put to death.” 7. Paul, i. Tim, i. 8-10, which see, powerfully enforces this argument. It is evidently the penal law to which the apostle refers, because elsewhere he affirms that believers—the same with the righteous—are under the law to Christ. The righteous man is not liable to the judgments of the penal law, but the transgressor of the moral law is exposed to its sanctions. The law, as it is preceptive, is a rule of life to the righteous, and he delights in it after the inner man. The penal law applies only to the wicked, “murderers,” &c. The sanctions of the law, then, are of equal obligation with the law itself. 8. Other judicial enactments are recognised by Paul as yet binding in their principle as a moral rule. 1 Cor. ix. 9, 10, “For it is written in the law of Moses. Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? FOR OUR SAKES, NO DOUBT, THIS IS WRITTEN. That he that plougheth should plough in hope; and that he that thrasheth in hope, should be partaker of his hope.”
Q. Is it not at least strange, that men favoured with a pure copy of the divine law, in the volume of revelation, should reject this fountain of light, and go back to the indistinct “dictates of conscience” to regulate any part of human conduct?
A. Yes. It is more than strange, it is extremely stupid and utterly inconsistent with Christianity; especially when God declares that it is “To the law and to the testimony we must bring all actions and all relations. If they speak not according to these it is because there is no light in them.” Is. viii. 20. The truth is, that revelation is given to men to supply the imperfections of the law of nature; and to restrict ourselves to the latter, and to renounce the former, in any case in which it is competent to guide us, is at, once to condemn God’s gift and to defeat the end for which it was given; and is as absurd as it would be to require men, when the sun is in the heavens, to shut out its full blaze, and go about their ordinary business by the feeble rays of a taper.
Q. Must not those who adopt anti-government principles and reject civil government as an institution necessary and beneficial to mankind, when rightly constituted, become atheists, and reject not only the authority, but also the being of a God?
A. This seems to be a necessary result of such principles because as man is a rational creature he is necessarily subject to his Creator, who has promulgated his law and instituted civil magistracy as his ordinance, and the civil ruler as his minister, for the application of this in the government of the moral subject.
Q. Is not the authority of God, therefore, and his law paramount to all other authority, even that of “We the people,” in the government of man in his civil relations?
A. Yes. Man has no natural inherent rights of his own. All his are derived from God, are, of course, subject to his law, and are to be defined and regulated by it. A right in opposition to his own, God does not, cannot give; nor is it competent to any power to impart and sanction such a right. The sentiments of Blackstone should, therefore, be deemed axioms, and recorded in letters of gold in the halls of legislation. “Upon these two foundations, THE LAW OF NATURE AND THE LAW OF REVELATION, DEPEND ALL HUMAN LAWS. THAT IS TO SAY, NO HUMAN LAWS SHOULD BE SUFFERED TO CONTRADICT THESE.”
Q. What, according to this law, are some of the qualifications of civil rulers authorized to administer civil government as the ordinance of God?
A. The law of God, revealed in the scriptures of Truth, requires that those who rule should possess much a moral character as will fully entitle them to the designation of MINISTERS OF GOD. They should, therefore, possess the following qualifications:
1. They should be wise, able, understanding men, not children, weak, ignorant, or fools. Ex. xviii. 21: “Moreover, thou shalt provide of all the people able men.” Deut. i. 13: “Take you wise and understanding men, and I will make them rulers.” Ezra vii. 25: “Set magistrates and judges that may judge the people, such as know the laws of thy God.”
2. They should be men of distinction, well known in the community. Deut. i. 13-18: “And known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you. So I took the chief of your tribes, wise men and known, and made them heads over you.” 2 Chr. xix.
3. Just men, men of truth, fearing God and hating covetousness. 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, 3: “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was on my tongue. The LORD God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me: HE THAT RULETH OVER MEN MUST BE JUST RULING IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD.” Exod. xviii. 21: “Men of truth, fearing God, hating covetousness.”
Q. Is there a government on earth that can be recognised by the Christian as the ordinance of God, and to which he can be obedient for conscience sake, and in consistency with his allegiance to Jesus Christ- the prince of the kings of the earth?
A. There is not. Since the captivity of Judah, about 558 years before the Christian Era, until the present day, scarcely an instance has occurred in the whole history of nations, of a kingdom or commonwealth regulating their polity upon purely scriptural principles. Many nations, it is true, have pretended to be Christian; and religion has been scandalized by their unholy interference. Many Christians have also have deceived and misled into a belief, that the kingdoms of the nations were so constituted as to merit their conscientious acquiescence and pious support. But the prince of the kings, if time earth, who gave the revelation to his servant John, teaches us, that now (under the seventh trumpet, Rev. xi. 15, yet future), for the first time, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of God and of Christ. Heretofore they have been thrones of iniquity, having no fellowship with God. (Psalm, xciv. 20), characterized as beasts and horns of beasts, both by Daniel and the writer of the Apocalypse. Servants and admirers and apologists and eulogists they have had in abundance; but there was not a voice in heaven raised in their commendation. They were to be feared but not approved by the servants of the Most High.
Q. Will not the condition of the nations, when they become voluntarily subject to Christ and his law, be most prosperous and happy?
A. Yes. The prosperity and felicity of Ancient Israel, when the law given that commonwealth was faithfully observed, will be the blessed inheritance of the nations when obedient to Christ. Deut. iv. 6-9: “Keep, therefore, and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons.”