BY THE REV. F. M. FOSTER, PH. D.,
Pastor of the Third Reformed Presbyterian Church,
West Twenty-third Street,
New York City.
“They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not” (Hos. 8:4). In this Scripture, Israel is charged with an attempt to administer civil government without God. We bring down this Scripture to 1908, and insist that we are attempting to administer the government of the United States without God. Reformed Presbyterians refuse to join in this great sin. They will neither vote nor hold office under the government of the United States,—
First: BECAUSE THE CONSTITUTION DOES NOT RECOGNIZE THE KING OF HEAVEN AND OF EARTH, THE LORD OF THE UNIVERSE OF GOD.
One of three positions may be maintained. First: That authority resides in the ruler. This was the theory of the persecutors—King Charles and King James. Second: That authority resides in the people. This is the theory of our Republic. Third: That authority comes from Almighty God. This is the teaching of Scripture. A created being is not a source, but a recipient. He is not to command, but to obey. He is not independent, but subordinate. The state is a moral person; subordinate, not supreme.
In holding to the “second,” we have adopted a constitution in harmony with such view. In the preamble, if any place, such recognition of God would be found. But there is no reference to God in the preamble of the Constitution of the United States. It reads: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” In this there is no reference, near or remote, to Almighty God.
The body of the Constitution is equally silent as to the authority and overruling power of the Great King of heaven and of earth. He is dealt with as if He was not God, and the Lord of this nation.
That this interpretation of the Constitution is just is made clear by a treaty made with Tripoli, dated January 3, 1797, which reads: “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion, and has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Mussulmans.” (See United States Revised Statutes, Ed. of 1875, p. 756.) Though this treaty is not now in force, yet it shows the interpretation put upon the Constitution by leading men at that time.
When President Jefferson refused to appoint days of fasting and thanksgiving, he did so on this ground, as stated in a letter, 1808: “I consider the Government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.”
That eminent journalist, Horace Greeley, in the issue of the “Tribune,” March 7, 1865, said: “Almighty God is not the ‘source of all authority and power’ in our Government; the people of the United States are such source.”
Not many students of the Constitution will attempt to resist the interpretation which affirms that God and His authority are not recognized. To fail to acknowledge Him must be construed as rejection. This, again, must be defined as rebellion.
The Constitution of the Confederate States was much like our national Constitution, except in this one vital matter, IT DID NOT RECOGNIZE THE OVERRULING AUTHORITY OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES. This our government declared to be rebellion, and set to work to put it down. Not to acknowledge the authority of Almighty God over us as a nation is a far more serious matter. “They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not.” That God will put down the rebellion in His dominions is without doubt.
The Christian citizen is, therefore, confronted by these two: First:—The Lord Jesus Christ has revealed Himself as “The King of kings and Lord of lords,” and commanded “in all thy ways acknowledge Him.” Second:—The Constitution of our country refuses to acknowledge Christ as Lord. What is duty? Some believe that they cannot conscientiously participate in the affairs of the Government, and reluctantly, but in duty to the nation’s rightful Ruler, decline to give allegiance by oath. This is the least they can do in fidelity to the Prince of the kings of the earth. But they steadfastly protest against this curtailment of their political privileges by this rejection of the authority of God in the nation. POLITICAL RIGHTS ARE DIVINE, AND TO PLACE THEIR EXERCISE UPON CONDITIONS TO WHICH THE CHRISTIAN CANNOT SUBSCRIBE IS UNLAWFUL AND UNJUST.
Second: Reformed Presbyterians cannot vote, BECAUSE, IN SO DOING, THEY MUST SWEAR THAT THE PEOPLE ARE THE SUPREME AUTHORITY IN THIS NATION. We have refused to say that God reigns; and to make our rejection of Him the more complete, we require all who vote to swear that the People’s will takes precedence over the law and commandment of Almighty God. This oath is made by the voter, or by his representative, in official trust.
In despotisms, the will of one man is supreme. Experience has made the demonstration complete that no man is fit to be trusted with irresponsible power. Enlightened statesmanship has rejected the theory of “The divine right of kings.” But is the goal of liberty reached when you pass on to the second, viz.: THE PEOPLE ARE SUPREME? True, this is better, as life in the United States is better than life in Turkey. But should even eighty millions of people be intrusted with irresponsible power? Is there not danger of the many, as well as of the individual ruler, becoming despotic? There is danger. We go further, and affirm that thirty millions of people, our own flesh and blood, WERE DESPOTIC, and less than fifty years ago held in bondage four millions of slaves. By commandment of the People, mails are carried and post-offices kept open on the Lord’s Day. Who gave the People permission to issue such command in the domains of Almighty God, and despotically execute it, to the disfranchisement of men who fear Him?
The Government discriminates against the God-fearing citizen, and will admit into the service of the post-office department, as post-masters, those only who will swear that they will violate the Fourth Commandment and open the office certain hours on the holy day. This is unfair, as it is a sin against God! It discriminates against the religion of Jesus Christ, and viciously cuts into His law. It puts a premium on irreligion.
Where is the trouble? Where does the source of the difficulty lie? It is in the theory of our Government. IN ATTEMPTING TO DIVORCE RELIGION AND GOD, WE HAVE CLOTHED “WE, THE PEOPLE,” WITH IRRESPONSIBLE POWER, and they have already shut out the conscientious Christian from the post-office department by prescribing an oath which is directly, clearly and specifically antagonist to the Fourth Commandment. Casting your eye down the future, you cannot tell the harm which may come from such vicious principle. It now licenses the liquor traffic, with its unmeasured guilt. In some cities, houses of immorality, in their unutterable degradation and wickedness, are practically protected by law—the will of the majority. Many lines of business are legalized on the Sabbath day.
The principle of exalting the will of the people to be supreme law is demoralizing, vicious, destructive. IT IS, IN OUR NATION, ALREADY SUBVERTING LIBERTY AND PROTECTING SOME OF THE WORST EVILS KNOWN TO MODERN CIVILIZATION. It will lead to national decay and death. We would be guilty of lack of true patriotism, as well as fidelity to the truth of God, did we not cry out against it.
More still, the Constitution not only exalts the will of the people as supreme, BUT IT REQUIRES THE CANDIDATE TO SWEAR, AS HE IS INDUCTED INTO OFFICE, THAT THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND IS THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE; as, also, he must swear that he will uphold laws which directly contradict the law of God. Article VI., second paragraph, says: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” WHEN YOU MAKE OATH TO THE CONSTITUTION, YOU SWEAR THAT THE LAW WHICH REQUIRES THE MAILS TO BE CARRIED, AND THE POST-OFFICES TO BE OPEN ON THE SABBATH; AS WELL AS LAWS LICENSING THE LIQUOR TRAFFIC, SHALL BE THE SUPREME LAW OF THE LAND. HOW CAN THE CHRISTIAN ADMIT THE PRINCIPLE, MUCH LESS SWEAR TO IT, IN ITS PRACTICAL APPLICATION? It is believed that the Christian, loyal to Christ and to His righteous law, cannot make such oath. If he does, he becomes PARTICEPS CRIMINIS in wickedness which is fostered and protected by this Government. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Are not the principles of civil government laid down in the Word of God better? That GOD’S LAW is supreme in national affairs? “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 this law and these statutes, to do them.” No people will long enjoy national prosperity who enthrone the will of the people as supreme. Such nation will, more and more, curtail the liberties of God-fearing citizens by making laws which discriminate against them; shutting them out, by reason of their fidelity to the law of God, from participating in the honors and emoluments of office as is now done to Reformed Presbyterians.
Third: Reformed Presbyterians cannot vote, BECAUSE, TO VOTE, YOU MUST SWEAR THAT GOD’S QUALIFICATION FOR OFFICE SHALL BE SET ASIDE AND REJECTED.
That the Scriptures require religious qualifications in the officer is certain. “Moreover, thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, SUCH AS FEAR GOD, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Exodus xviii:31.) “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 Samuel xxiii:3.) “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. * * * FOR HE IS THE MINISTER OF GOD.” (Romans xiii:3, 4.) These Scriptures suffice to teach that moral qualifications are required in the office-bearer. The fear of God is especially insisted upon. When our Constitution expressly states that “ No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” the God-fearing citizen must stop and consider. Can he swear to that clause when God says THERE SHALL BE RELIGIOUS TEST? How can he swear to that clause unless he denies his Lord? He who is Prince of the kings of the earth, the author of civil government, has laid down qualifications, and MEN ARE NOT AT LIBERTY TO SET THEM ASIDE.
But we have dared to set aside this specific command; and, in the face of Almighty God, we have put in our Constitution, Article VI., this: “NO RELIGIOUS TEST SHALL EVER BE REQUIRED AS A QUALIFICATION TO ANY OFFICE OR PUBLIC TRUST UNDER THE UNITED STATES.”
A test of the meaning of this clause of the Constitution is at hand. Ex-Secretary of War William H. Taft has been nominated for the highest office in the land—that of President of the United States. It has been everywhere published, and, so far as known, nowhere denied, that Mr. Taft is a Unitarian; that he denies the divinity of the Son of God, and that His blood was shed as a sacrifice for sin. Should Mr. Taft be elected, the insult to our Lord, who IS divine, and to whom has been given all power in heaven and in earth, will be national and inconceivably great. It will be putting in office a ruler who not only will not “Kiss the Son” (Ps. 2:12), but who withstands Him to His face, answering, “He is not the Son of God!!” (Since these words were uttered, Mr. Taft has been elected President.)
In this, we have an authoritative interpretation of the clause—“No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” We see what the clause means. Knowing what it means, the Christian is asked to accept it. He is asked to set his disapproval on the Scripture—“SUCH AS FEAR GOD;” and to SWEAR that this Scripture shall not be applied. CAN THE CHRISTIAN MAKE SUCH OATH? Can he swear that God’s command shall not be obeyed in the government of the United States? Will he answer with Pharaoh, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?” Gathering on our little ant-hill, shall we pass edicts against heaven, and set limits to the authority and domain of Almighty God? “Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in; that bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” (Isa. 40:21, 23.) Nebuchadnezzar tried to rule out God, and he was driven from men, to eat grass as oxen, till he knew that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. “He hath on his vesture, and on his thigh, a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords.” “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.” (Ps. 2:10-12.)
Further, and, as we believe, unanswerable, arguments setting forth why Reformed Presbyterians cannot vote can be made; but sufficient have been given. Voters may think they see difficulties in the way of the non-voter. But the difficulties and hard questions for him are straws, as compared with logs of wood, in the path of him who swears to a Constitution that denies the authority of Almighty God. Better study the matter from the side of your own responsibility.
We of the Reformed Presbyterian Church cannot swear that “We, the people,” are supreme in this nation; for God says WE ARE NOT. We cannot swear that man’s law takes precedence over the law of God; for God says IT DOES NOT. We cannot swear that there shall be “no religious test as a qualification for office,” for God says there SHALL be. We cannot swear that laws ordering mails to be carried, and post-offices to be open on the Sabbath, shall be executed; for God says THEY shall NOT be.
The Constitution should be amended in some such way as this: “In the name of God, Amen! We, the people of the United States, acknowledging the authority of Almighty God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler of nations; bowing to His law as supreme, and accepting the true Christian religion, do ordain, etc., etc.” Until the Constitution is so amended, Reformed Presbyterian will refuse to vote.
It is objected that in refusing to vote, you leave the Government, if all Christians should so do, in the hands of the worst. A Dutch cavalry officer, sent with his regiment to execute a certain work, was remonstrated with at a certain point in the undertaking that if he proceeded further, blood would be shed. His reply was befitting a soldier: “My business is to obey orders, not troubling myself about consequences.” The Christian in “obeying divine orders” can safely trust affairs to a God who has never abdicated His throne or His prerogatives as King, and who, strange as it may seem to you, is able to administer the affairs of the world without your help.
“Be strong! We are not here to play, to dream, to drift! We have hard work to do and loads to lift; shun not the struggle—face it, ‘tis God’s gift.
Be strong! Say not the days are evil—who’s to blame? and fold the hands and acquiesce—O! Shame; stand up, speak out, and bravely, in God’s name!
Be strong! It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong—how hand the battle goes—the day how long—faint not! Fight on! To-morrow comes the song!”