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CHAPTER IV.-The principles contained in the preceding chapters, applied in an examination of the moral character of the civil and political arrangements of the United States.


CHAPTER IV.-The principles contained in the preceding chapters, applied in an examination of the moral character of the civil and political arrangements of the United States.

James Dodson

"Prove all things: hold fast that which is good," is a divine injunction.[1] Christians are required to examine the moral character and bearings of every thing with which they have any connexion or concern. National institutions are not an exception. The law of God reaches them; and the Christian must go as far, both as to the subject and manner of examination, as he has the moral law of God as his rule and guide. Besides, the influence of political arrangements upon the interests of religion, and of the divine glory, is too direct and powerful, and the questions that may arise in connexion with them respecting personal duty, too important, to allow the supposition that the disciple of Christ is not to examine whether they are moral or immoral in their principles and tendency.—The rule to be applied is, in all cases, "the law and the testimony." Whatever cannot bear the application of this rule, has "no light in it."[2]

To aid in applying this rule to the civil institutions of this land, is the design of the remarks which follow, regarding the moral character of these institutions. That, however excellent in some respects,[3] they do not possess that moral character which should be impressed upon all national institutions set up in Christian countries, will be shown:

I. By presenting for consideration some general facts respecting their character and influence in a moral point of view: And

II. By an examination of the constitution of the United States.

This chapter will then be brought to a close by an investigation of some objections to the views offered.

I. There are at least three circumstances in reference to the civil institutions of this country, which it is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with the idea that they are Christian, or even moral in their character.

1. Ungodly men are entirely satisfied with them in this respect.—The fact will not, probably, be disputed. Fault has sometimes been found by wicked men, with portions of these arrangements; and propositions have been made for their alteration, but in all cases for reasons having no relation to their moral character.[4] No Infidel, Deist, Socinian, Sabbath-breaker, profane swearer, whoremonger, or even Atheist, has ever alleged that the constitutional arrangements of the United States impose upon him any undue restrictions. No such person has ever objected to giving his support to these arrangements as in any way inconsistent with his principles and practices.[5] Nor has any one ever thought of charging Infidels and grossly wicked men, with any thing like perjury when they have taken the oaths or given the affirmation required in becoming a naturalized citizen or in assuming office. And who would think of attempting to exclude a president, or a judge, or a legislator from office, because he was an Atheist, a Jew, or even a Mahommedan, a profane swearer, liar, gambler or adulterer? If all such characters are excluded by any constitutional principles from holding office under the United States’ Government, the country has yet to learn the fact. Indeed, it is the boast of the nation, that such characters are as eligible, if they can find supporters enough, as the best Christian, and this is called a due regard to the rights of conscience!

Now, would it not be strange if that which satisfies an atheist should please God? or even an intelligent Christian? And if the moral law of God, to say nothing at present of the peculiar principles of Christianity, be recognised as the supreme rule in civil things in this land, how can such facts as those just mentioned be accounted for? On this supposition they cannot be. There is no other account of facts so notorious, and yet so painful to every Christian mind, but that Christian people have allowed themselves to join with all sorts of men, and men of all characters, in framing a political system, which could not be objected to even by the worst among them—from which every thing should be excluded that would be deemed offensive by the Socinian, the Infidel, the despiser of Christ, and the open violator of the moral law of God. At all events, these facts furnish exceedingly strong presumptive evidence that no peculiar doctrine of the Christian religion, and not even the moral law, has been incorporated in the Constitution of the United States.

2. The administration has been in the hands, generally of irreligious, and often of immoral men.—The tendency of pure institutions is to repel the irreligious and the profane. Where they are attracted, it is most probable that purity is wanting. We would expect to find Christians and moral men, or at least a majority composed of them, administering Christian and moral institutions. That the majority of the office-holders under this government have not been Christians even by profession, is beyond dispute. It is notorious that they have generally been of an entirely different class. Multitudes of them have been openly immoral men. It is not intimated that all have been of this description. Among the occupants of the halls of legislation, the benches of justice, and the executive chairs, there might be found "upon search" nearly every variety of character. Exact statistics in a matter of this kind, it is impossible to reach. The series, of presidents from 1789 to the present time will furnish perhaps the most favourable example of the operations of the Constitution, in the aspect in which we are now considering them.

There have been elected nine presidents. Of these there have been but three for whom it has been even claimed that they were professing Christians while they were in power: and there are great doubts respecting the claims set up for two out of the three. Of the remaining six, three, and perhaps four, were Infidels: one has made a profession of religion since he left the chair of state: and another intended to make a profession had he lived: at least, so he said upon his death-bed. Among the chief magistrates of this nation, there have been men eminent for the possession of the common gifts of the Holy Ghost; men of intellect, and experience and patriotism; but, alas! of few of them can it be said that they were Christians. Had the system been imbued as deeply with religious as with irreligious principles, the account would have been different.

Would the moral statistics of the legislators, state and national, be more favourable to the moral and Christian character of these institutions? Is not the complaint nearly universal that the legislators particularly, are in many instances openly profane and wicked men? Is it not a notorious fact, that the state capitals are polluted by the presence of the legislatures. The national capital is distinguished for its immorality. Thus, the very places which should be centres and examples of religion and virtue, are the strong holds of impurity and vice. This fact is, of itself, almost evidence enough that the institutions of the country do not possess such a character as the Christian can approve.

3. The practical workings of the civil institutions of the United States, have been adverse to the interests of morality.—That there has been a dawnward progress in morality, during the last half century, in the United States, is, like the preceding observation, too notorious to require proof. Of late, the descent has been greatly accelerated. The want of confidence between man and man, and between the people and their rulers, which is just now so much complained of, bears testimony to the general decay of morality. Men cannot trust each other. And notwithstanding the repeated tokens of the wrath of God with which the land has been visited, it is painfully manifest that the fear of God is diminishing.

Why is all this? It is a land of Bibles, and of Gospel ordinances. Vast moral associations,—Bible, missionary, tract, sabbath, and temperance societies—have been exerting every nerve to stem the tide of immorality. Yet it has gone on, increasing and spreading. Whatever other malign influences are at work producing these results, much of the evil is undoubtedly due to the irreligious complexion and workings of the civil arrangements of the country. To say the least, they are not openly on Christ’s side. And we know that "they who are not with Christ, are against him."[6] There are two points, however, where we cannot fail to see the cause of their adverse operation to the interests of moral order. The example of ungodly office holders,[7] and the violation of the sabbath by law in transporting, on that day, the United States Mail.

The last of these directly attacks the very foundations of morals in the land. Individuals might do as much, and do it as publicly on the Lord’s day, and comparatively few evils result. Sabbath violation by the constituted authorities weakens the sense of its sanctity, and of the obligation of the law of God enjoining its observance. It appears to place man’s law above God’s. It thus weakens the sense of obligation to do the will of God. For if one express commandment may be set aside by the act of a human legislature, all may. There is no resting place left for the sole of the foot. The standard of right and wrong has fallen, or it fluctuates as men change.

If the transporting of the mail on that day did no more than give a national sanction to Sabbath violation, almost every evil might be expected to follow in its train. Take away the Sabbath, and the ordinances of divine worship depart with it. When they are gone, religion and pure morals cease likewise. To assail the Sabbath is, therefore, to attempt the overthrow of every barrier to vice and impiety. This the authorities of this land have done, and the nation as such is, in this way, chargeable with opening the flood-gates to that torrent of wickedness that sweeps over the length and the breadth of the land.[8]

These circumstances, taken singly, are hard to reconcile with the opinion that the Government of the United States is a moral or a Christian government. Taken together they compel, with nearly irresistible force, to an opposite conclusion. That a system of government whose principles with regard to morality and religion, satisfy the most erroneous and vicious; which brings into the administration a large proportion of wicked men; and which in its practical workings is found to be against religion, and morality—that such a government is Christian, is very hard indeed to believe.

II, Let us examine the Constitution itself. And,

FIRST, This instrument violates, in at least two respects, the law of nature.[9]

1. God Almighty is not acknowledged as the God of this land.—That the rational creature should, in all things, acknowledge the Creator, as supreme and absolute Lord, and as the Author and Giver of all blessings, is an elementary—a self-evident principle. Nations are bound to make this acknowledgment in a public manner; for in this way alone can it be a national acknowledgment. Nothing of the kind is found in the national Constitution.[Note D.] This is the more remarkable, as in the Articles of Confederation which were set aside when the present Constitution was adopted, there was an acknowledgment of the being and providence of God.

It may be supposed, that an express mention of the name of God, and profession of submission to his authority, is unnecessary: that the requisite acknowledgment may be made in other ways. It has, in fact, been argued that the being and providence of God, are, by implication, acknowledged in Art. VI. Sec. 3, of the Constitution, in the following words; "the senators and representatives shall be bound by oath or affirmation,[10] to support this constitution." The argument is, that as an oath is an appeal to God, therefore, this nation recognises the true God. To say nothing of its being a mere implication, does the conclusion follow? For suppose it were granted that this article does recognise the being of God and his providence also, so far as individuals are concerned, does it follow that the nation has, in its national capacity, acknowledged God to be its God? Not at all. A protestant magistrate swears a papist upon the sign of the cross. Does he consider this sign to be of any real importance in the transaction? He does not. He merely employs (whether properly or not, is not now in question) the superstition of the papist as the means of getting at the truth. This nation makes the same use of the faith of its citizens in God. It employs the solemnities of an oath to secure their allegiance and fidelity, but that is something very different indeed from putting itself under God’s government. This it never has done.

Let us look at this Article in another point of view. "Oath or affirmation." Does this clause exclude an Atheist? No. He may affirm, or in other words, instead of the Constitution always requiring an oath, it might be all that it is, were there not an office-holder, or even voter, who acknowledged a God! For what is an "affirmation?" It is nothing more than a positive declaration to tell truth, &c., &c. It had its origin in a desire to avoid entirely an invocation of the Divine Being.[11]

Let us suppose a case. An Atheist is elected president; the oath of office is tendered to him. "No," he says, "I acknowledge no God. I will affirm." Does the Constitution exclude him? Could any law be made under the existing Constitution, to exclude him? No. An avowed Atheist might for twelve years occupy the highest office in the nation’s gift. He might have an avowedly atheistical cabinet; and with them there might be an atheistical legislature, yet no principle or provision of the Constitution would be infringed.

A national acknowledgment of God has been inferred from the prayers at the opening of Congress; from occasional proclamations of fasts and thanksgivings; from the cessation of the public works on the Lord’s day;[12] and from the mention of the name and providence of God, in President’s messages. The principle on which this inference is made, is, in certain circumstances, sound and important. In a nation like Great Britain, for example, which has not a written constitution,[13] we must examine the state of things—the laws, the character of public men, the mode of investing with office, the administration, &c., before we pronounce upon the principles of the constitution. Not so in the United States. It is the boast of this country that it has an explicit national creed—a written constitution. Whatever is there, is a constitutional provision What is not there, is no part of the Constitution Whatever is not expressly, or by implication, authorized by the Constitution is unconstitutional. Any thing beside the Constitution is as much unconstitutional as that which is directly against it.

The public prayers, &c., are not authorized by the Constitution. No one pretends they are. And a late president[14] understood that instrument when he refused, because not warranted by the Constitution, to proclaim a day of fasting at a time when the land was trembling before the pestilence. Prayers, &c., are a concession to the Christian feeling of the country; an unconstitutional concession. They might be omitted without violating the Constitution, which they could not be, if that instrument acknowledged God as the object of worship.

The fact that there are so many churches, and Bibles, and Christians, in the United States, adds to the national guilt in refusing to conduct its civil and political affairs in acknowledged subjection to the divine authority. They furnish no argument that it has actually done so.

2. The Constitution sanctions oppression: the oppression of that very part of the inhabitants for whose welfare especially, civil government was ordained: the poor, the stranger, and the defenceless. Slaves are held by millions under constitutional sanctions. There are four provisions of the Constitution referring to slavery; Art. I. sec. 3, 9, and Art. IV. sec. 2, 3. The first of these prescribes the ratio of representation, and direct taxation—making five slaves equal to three freemen. This provision it is impossible to explain in any other way than as a premium for slavery, or an intentional oppression of the slave. The second forbids the prohibition of the importation of slaves until 1808, a period of twenty years from the adoption of the constitution. An article sanctioning and protecting piracy for twenty years, needs no comment. The fourth requires the states to protect one another against "domestic violence;" a provision manifestly referring chiefly to the slaves, whom the free states are pledged to put down by force, should they attempt to recover their liberty by the same means which the states themselves employed when they fought for independence. Under all the circumstances, this is a most infamous provision.

The third is as follows: "No person[15] held to service or labour in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or provision therein, be discharged from such service or labour, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labour may be due." This specification pledges all the states and all their citizens to uphold slavery: and not only this, but to re-enslave freemen.[16] And under it, thousands of poor, panting fugitives from the slave states, have been dragged back to a bondage, embittered even beyond that from which they had escaped. It is this constitutional provision that causes the heart of the poor stranger to faint within him, while hiding by day and journeying by night, with the pole-star as his only guide, he seeks that liberty in the realms of a monarch, which is denied him in his native land. He knows he is not safe from the grasp of the oppressor while he is under the wings of the American Eagle.

It is no justification of this inhuman article, that it would require no alteration were every slave emancipated. True. But while their oppressors choose to drive them, the Constitution holds them, and if they escape, it catches them. Is that system of government established to promote the ends of God’s beneficent ordinance of magistracy, which thus spreads its aegis over the most execrable oppression that the world has ever witnessed? which lays hold of the self-emancipated captive and drags him back to his chains? which incorporates oppression among its elementary principles, and makes it part and parcel of the national arrangements? So wanton an assault upon the inalienable rights of man has rarely, if ever, been committed with so many aggravating circumstances. True, the subjects, of oppression in the United States, are mostly of the African race: "the sun hath looked upon them, and they are black."[17] But, need it be said, God’s law, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the moral government of the Almighty, know no distinctions of colour. To oppress a black man is as high a crime in God’s sight as to oppress a white man. He is "no respector of persons."

The plea of necessity has been set up as an apology. It has been said, that a compromise was absolutely necessary to the national safety; that the combined strength of the whole people was required at the time, for defence against the enemies of the country. Not so. Not a word of this is true. There can be no excuse for compromising with wrong. Besides, the northern states were not compelled to enter into this arrangement by any necessity. The country was at peace. Its independence had been acknowledged.[18] The North was strong enough of itself, and was rapidly increasing. On the other hand, the South was compelled to form a union, if possible. The North had then an opportunity to make stipulations in favour of liberty, which would have secured the emancipation, at no very remote period, of the whole slave population. If the South had refused to stipulate then, the experience of a few years would have compelled them to do it.[19] Such an opportunity the free states will never, perhaps, have again. The day has gone by. They have made the sin of slavery a national sin,—they are reaping the consequences, and have reason to dread, in common with the South, still more dreadful calamities.[20]

In the SECOND place, the Constitution is not conformed to the Scriptures.

1. It makes no acknowledgment of the being or dominion of Jesus Christ.—Without this, no moral person can be said to possess a Christian or Scriptural character. And unless the United States have made that acknowledgment in their Constitution, they have not made it at all, and are not, nationally, a Christian people. Now there is no reference to the Messiah in the Constitution. Neither in the phraseology of that instrument, nor in any of its provisions, would any alteration be required, were there no such person as the Saviour of sinners. The only allusion to Christ, is in the date appended to it; it is dated "in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the twelfth." If this be a profession of subjection to the Messiah, or even an acknowledgment of his being, then will it be exceedingly difficult to find man or woman in all western Europe, or in the greater part of this western world, who is not a disciple of Jesus Christ, not in profession only, but in reality, for all date their deeds, their correspondence, their ages, &c., in the same form. Then would Socinians, Infidels, and even Atheists, be every day of their lives, and every time they write "Anno Domini," acknowledging that the Saviour of sinners is their Lord and Saviour! The truth is, that the prevalence of the Christian religion in Europe has introduced there, and among the descendants of Europeans, the custom of reckoning the lapse of time, and of marking its intervals, from the incarnation of Christ. It is utterly absurd to suppose that the use of this era makes all who do so, Christians.

To return to our argument. Did any one ever think of charging an Infidel with inconsistency in swearing to support the Constitution? Could such a person be rejected if offering to swear the oath? Could an officer be impeached for blaspheming the Saviour? None of all these were ever thought of. Indeed, those very persons who endeavour, on the one hand, to make us believe that the United States as a nation acknowledge Christ, are as clamorous, on the other, against any arrangement which would exclude from office Socinians, Infidels, &c. "The legs of the lame are not equal." Would Infidels, be eligible to office, provided this nation had made in its constitutional arrangements an acknowledgment of Christ? Decidedly not. The conclusion is manifest. The nation has made no such acknowledgment.

2. There is no allusion to the Scriptures in the Constitution, and, of course, no acknowledgment of their obligation.—If the obligation of the Scriptures be recognised any where in the instrument we are considering, it must be by very indirect implication; for no mention is made of the Bible, nor any reference even to its existence. And, let it be again remembered, the Constitution contains all the principles believed by this nation to be essential to a national federative government. What is not there, is not to be taken into the account in forming an estimate of the moral character of the national institutions.

But, it may be said, are there not Bible principles imbodied in the Constitution?[21] Were the fact admitted, (and to a certain extent we are not disposed to deny it,) the conclusion that the authority of God’s law was acknowledged in adopting them, by no means follows. Were they introduced because they are revealed in the sacred volume as God’s will? Many other reasons may have existed for their introduction. Perhaps, we are indebted for them to the fact that they are upon the side of popular rights as between man and man! Had there been any better reason, we might have expected to find some allusion to the principles which so regulate the exercise of these rights as not to forget or neglect the claims of the Almighty. We hear only the words, "we the people of the United States, do ordain, &c." No allusion to a Bible or a God.

It may be supposed that the use of the word Sunday, implies an acknowledgment of the Bible and even of the Christian religion. This word occurs in Art. I. Sec. 7. "If any bill shall not be returned by the president within ten days (Sundays excepted)after it shall have been presented to him, &c." In this provision it is merely taken for granted that, as Christianity in some form prevails in the country, it may happen that the president may be a Christian; and, if so, the nation will not compel him to attend to its business upon the Sabbath. But does the Constitution recognise the heavenly origin and binding obligation of the Sabbath as of God? Or does it not merely, out of respect to the president’s conscience, release him from duty on this day? Is it unconstitutional for the public functionaries to attend to their duties upon the Sabbath? Should both houses of Congress sit regularly upon the Lord’s day: should the judges of the Supreme and Circuit Courts occupy the benches of justice: should the executive departments be in the full bustle of business on the Sabbath: should the business of the navy-yards, custom-houses, and the posts of the army be attended to as usual—would all this be unconstitutional? What article of the Constitution would be violated? Now, need it be observed, that, provided the law of the Sabbath were imbodied in the Constitution, Sabbath violation by the government officers in doing official business, would be as unconstitutional, as the setting up of a monarchy in any of the states would be. The church of Christ recognises the law of the Sabbath. To attend to secular business on that day is, therefore, in the church, unconstitutional. Every Christian family recognises the Sabbath. To attend to secular employments on that day, is contrary to the constitution of a Christian family. It is as directly opposed to the constitution of a Christian state.

That the United States does not compel all [22] its functionaries to attend to its business upon the Lord’s day, is so much concession, for which we ought to be thankful, to the power of the Christian religion; but it is no acknowledgment of any thing more than its existence as a powerful interest in the country. It is no acknowledgment of either its divinity or value.

Indeed the only wonder is, that in a land peopled by the descendants of a Christian ancestry; a land where there are so many Christians; where the influence of the Bible must be widely felt:—that in such a land a Constitution should have been framed without any express mention, to say the least, of Jesus Christ, the Christian religion, or the Bible! The fact painfully illustrates the power of infidelity in this country at the close of the last century.

In the THIRD place, at least three of the provisions of the Constitution are directly at variance with the Bible.

1. The article respecting the surrender of fugitive slaves is expressly opposed to God’s law. God’s law is as follows: "Thou shall 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 iv. Art. 3d, sec. of the Constitution says, "He shall be given up on claim" of his master. Could there be a more express contradiction? A slave escapes. Shall he be delivered up? God Almighty says, No. The Constitution says, Yes. And no man can swear the oaths to the government, hold an office, or become a naturalized citizen, or vote to put men into offices where oaths are required, without swearing to maintain inviolate this compact with tyranny. All who incorporate with the civil institutions of the country are pledged not to throw any obstacle in the way of the recovery of fugitives from oppression. And more: according to the spirit of the compact, they do bind themselves to furnish no aid to the fugitive, and to "give him up" to bondage. In other words, they swear not to do what God’s law requires them to do, and to do what it forbids. Were there no other objection to the civil arrangements of the United States, this provision is enough to forbid the servant of God incorporating with them.

2. By the Constitution, God’s enemies are as eligible to office as his friends. So it expressly declares, Art. vi. sec. 3. "But no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The law of God, (Ex. 18:21,) defining the qualifications of office-bearers in a Christian country, has already been quoted and explained. The principle that magistrates should be good men is plainly implied in Rom. 13:3, "The magistrate, is the minister of God." And should not the servant profess, at least, to reverence his Lord? "If I be a master, where is my fear?" Mal. 1:6. "Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil." Can this be looked for, unless in a very restricted sense, where rulers are open enemies of God and religion? The unerring Spirit has told us, that "the wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted." Ps. 12:8.

Nor is it likely that this anti-scriptural constitutional principle will be corrected or its influence neutralized in practice, by the people choosing men of fair moral or Christian character. The history of the past shows that this is not to be looked for. Indeed the application of a "religious test" by the voter, or, in other words, the casting of his vote upon moral or religious considerations, would be a violation of the spirit of the compact. It has sometimes been said that the Constitution, while it guards against certain evils, leaves the citizens at liberty to put good men into office. No, not in the sense of this objection. True, the voter votes for whom he pleases; there is no physical restraint upon him. But has he not bound himself up from voting upon certain principles? has he not pledged himself to the doctrine that to be an open enemy of God and of his Christ, shall be no bar in the way of candidates for office? that he will not apply any "religious test?" Is it consistent with the pledge which the Christian thus gives to the infidel and the profane man, to turn immediately round, and cast his vote upon Christian and moral principles? Certainly not.

Were a society to be formed in which Englishmen, Frenchmen, Hollanders, Irishmen, and Americans, had the same privileges. Were it one of the fundamental principles of the constitution that no "national test" should ever be required as a qualification to office: that, in this respect, all should be deemed and held to be on the same footing. Would it be consistent with the spirit, or even with the letter of this mutual engagement, to cast their votes for officers upon national considerations? Would it not be in direct violation of the terms upon which they had mutually agreed? Unquestionably it would.

On the same principle, the protestant in the United States, who refuses to vote for a papist, because he is a popish idolater, breaks his compact with the papists. The man of virtue and morality who votes against the profane swearer, the gambler, or the adulterer, because he is any of these, acts contrary to the spirit of his compact with these characters, made when he swore to the provisions of the Constitution. For it is absurd to say that a "test" which it would be unconstitutional for the nation collectively to apply after the man is chosen, may be applied by the same people as a bar to his being chosen. This article is in direct opposition to God’s law; which says that "he who ruleth over men should be just ruling in the fear of God."[23]

3. The first amendment to the Constitution directly opposes the Scriptures. It is as follows: "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." The phraseology of this article, as of the preceding, is very artfully contrived for the purpose of most effectually tying up the hands of Congress from passing any act favourable to religion, and, at the same time, of rendering odious any opposition to this anti-Christian provision. The language is designed to direct the mind to the corrupting and oppressive test acts and religious establishments of European, particularly, Popish countries. The disguise is, however, easily penetrated, and we discern under it a spirit of deep aversion to Christianity. The command of Christ to nations is, to "serve him" and to "serve the church;" and his promise is, that in New Testament times the honour and the glory of the nations shall be brought into his church, (Ps. 72. Is. 60. Rev. 21.) The United States, publicly, deliberately, and solemnly affirm, that nothing, of the kind shall ever be done by the magistrates and rulers of this land: that no national homage shall be rendered to Jesus Christ; there shall be no acknowledgment and support of the principles which he came to teach, and which he ratified by his blood. For to do any of these would be to enact a "law respecting the establishment of religion." This provision is as broadly and expressly opposed to the will of God Almighty as words can make it.

In these three particulars, at least, is the national Constitution anti-Scriptural, and anti-Christian. A fourth might have been added. It refers the ordinance of civil government to no other author than the people themselves. It makes no acknowledgment, as a nation, of the beneficence of the Creator manifested in instituting civil society, nor of the obligation of nations to ascertain the divine will and conform to it in public matters. The principle of the popular will being the supreme authority in civil things, which is the fundamental principle of the institutions of this country, amounts to an express rejection of the paramount authority of God Almighty. But passing from this, we proceed.

III. To notice some facts supposed to conflict with the results arrived at in our examination. And

1. It is said, that the constitution may be defective in many things, and yet be, upon the whole, deserving of active support. That defects to some extent, in civil institutions, do not render them immoral, is unquestionably true. But what place has this principle here, unless, indeed, its operation be extended so far as to cover defects however monstrous. This cannot be allowed. "Sin is any want of conformity unto the law of God." "All unrighteousness is sin," 1 John 5:17. Whosoever doeth not righteousness, is not of God," 1 John 3:10. Provided, indeed, there is no rule of civil duty, but the will of the people—if it has its origin and character wholly from the people—if God Almighty has no concern in the matter at all; then, true enough, "where there is no law, there is no transgression." A Christian people cannot go this length: they will believe that defects so monstrous as leaving out of the Constitution all allusion to the Great Lawgiver, is not a mere pecadillo—not a mere "defect in high and ultimate attainments." It is a defect—a fundamental defect, that corrupts the whole superstructure. A building well founded and constructed may answer the purpose very well without the cope-stones; but if it have only a sandy foundation it ought not to be trusted.

But of what use is this defective principle, in the case before us? There are positive immoralities in the civil arrangements of this country. And these are not mere incidentals, and easily lopped off. They enter into the very spirit and essence of the system. He who swears to the Constitution, swears to it as a whole: he can make no exceptions.

2. It is said, that the government of the United States is not a true national government: that it is merely a league, and, of course, is not to be tried by principles applicable to governments of sovereign and independent communities. Suppose all this were true, would it be any apology for framing a Constitution containing no allusion to the Governor of nations, and imbodying principles so repugnant to the Divine law? But the objection is not true. The convention which framed the Constitution resolved, after much debate, to throw aside entirely the Articles of Confederation, and to form a national government. They did form a "Constitution of government."' In this government, there is a legislative, (Art. I. sec. 1,) a judicial, (Art. III. sec. 1, 2,) and an executive department, (Art. II. sec. 3.) It has, therefore, the faculties requisite for the discharge of all the functions belonging to a real government. Laws are made directing the conduct of individuals, and not States. Leagues act in a manner directly the opposite of this. The United States is a nation. Pennsylvania, New York, &c., are states, not nations. The national Government possesses all the attributes, as well as the faculties of a sovereign power. It makes war and peace—coins money—lays taxes—tries criminals, and inflicts punishment even to death—it has a national symbol, arms, and flag, and negotiates with foreign nations. No State can declare war, coin money, or negotiate with other nations. Foreign nations know nothing of the existence of Virginia, Ohio, Maine, &c., as commonwealths.

As to the reserved power of the States, it is nearly certain that the tribes of Israel retained more of the attributes of sovereignty than the States have done—certainly, as many. In all communities, much local legislation remains with the smaller portions of which it is composed. And, again, how absurd to suppose that the Constitutions of all the states are to be examined, to select what is good, and thus to patch up a system! If we lake a part, we must take the whole—the evil as well as good. And even were them a state whose internal arrangements were agreeable to the divine law, it would not obviate our objections to the system as a whole: for

(1.) "The constitution, and the laws made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties, shall be the supreme law of the land; any thing in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary, notwithstanding," (Art. VI. sec. 2.) Even the Bible must yield to this overshadowing power.

(2.) Citizenship in the United States, and the oaths to the Constitution, are inseparably connected with the exercise of political rights in the States. No man can become an office-holder in Pennsylvania, for example, without swearing to the Constitution of the United States. Of course, he binds himself to the immoral principles imbodied in it.

(3.) Granting that the government of any particular state, is Christian and Scriptural,[24] how heinous the sin which the people of that State commit in becoming so intimately incorporated with the oppressor, the Infidel, &c. so intimate as actually to give away most of their own prerogatives as States, and amalgamate in one mass with them. What is being yoked unequally with unbelievers,"[25] if this is not?

3. It is said, that as this government recognises popular rights—as it is no tyranny—it should receive the approbation and active support of the citizens. That this government is not tyrannical is only in part true. The exclusion of a large part of the population—the slaves—from the benefits of the free principles of these institutions, and the sanction of slave-holding, are exceptions to the boasted liberty and equality of the land, which ought never to be forgotten; God does not and will not forget them. As to the rights of white men, it is cheerfully admitted that numerous important guards have been thrown around them: and that the principle that government is for the people, and not the people for the government, has been rendered in a remarkable degree prominent before the nations of the world in the institutions of this country, is not denied. But this important principle has been set forth in a most unscriptural and licentious manner: in such a manner as not only to exclude the usurping of power by man, but if it were possible, the exercise of authority even by Jehovah himself. The law of God, the true rule of liberty, has been rudely thrown aside to make room for the uncontrolled license of the popular will. This nation has indeed appropriated the privilege of choosing its own rulers, but it has deliberately treated with scorn the restriction annexed by infinite wisdom, that "the rulers of the nations, should be fearers of God—just men, ruling in the fear of God."

The mere fact that a government has been set up by the voice of the people, or exists with their consent, is not enough. The ten tribes of Israel established a government. God says, "they set up kings but not by me; they have made princes and I knew it not," Hos. 8:4. The Spartan constitution was made by the Spartans, but was that unnatural, oppressive,[26] and military government, moral? The revolutionary government of France was a popular government. Something more is necessary to render a government moral, than that it has been made by the nation itself. Unless it has been rightly made, it is immoral notwithstanding.

Other objections have been noticed, and as we believe, answered in the preceding sections. The result of our examination of the moral character of the civil institutions of the United States, may be briefly stated. However excellent some of their provisions are, there are found in them so many gross defects and positive immoralities, that we are obliged to withhold from them our approbation as pure, and as Christian institutions.

[go to CHAPTER 5.]


[1] 1 Thess. 5:21.

[2] Is. 8:20.

[3] That very important principles have been at least partially recognised in these institutions is most cheerfully granted.

[4] Anti-slavery efforts are made by a different class of people.

[5] The fact that the Infidels who were in the convention that framed the constitution, and there were many of them, gave their assent to it, shows how absurd any such objection would be.

[6] Matt. 12:30.

[7] Such scenes as are constantly taking place in the legislative halls are enough to ruin a country, to destroy all respect for law and good order, and, of course, for religion, and morality.

[8] These remarks are well illustrated by the history of the changes that have taken place with regard to travelling on the Sabbath, between the city of Philadelphia, and the neighbouring cities, New York and Baltimore. A few years ago, no transit of passengers took place on the Lord’s day; but the United States Mail was carried. Before Col. Johnson’s report on the Sabbath mail was adopted by Congress, and while the mode of conveyance was not so well adapted for passengers, the malign influence of this national desecration of the Sabbath, was hindered in its operation. But rail-roads were made. The mail was carried by steam. The car could accommodate some passengers, and extra cars could be attached without additional expense. What has been the result. In 1838-39-40 one line—an evening line, ran regularly between Philadelphia and New York. It was the "mail line." The number of passengers increased. Additional cars were put on. And, last year, a new line—a morning line—was added. The whole season two daily lines of passenger cars ran between these two great cities in this Christian country! The same effects have resulted on the Baltimore route.

The state governments have followed in the wake of the general government: the larger states particularly, which have made great internal improvements. The canals and rail-roads of New York and Pennsylvania, are nearly all in full operation every Sabbath. Efforts have been made to bring about a change. Hitherto, these efforts have been ineffectual. It is reported, indeed, that New York is about to set a better example, at least, upon a portion of her improvements; as yet it has not been done. The tendency of all this to increase vice is seen to a lamentable degree in the actual results, Vice is spreading. Much of the blame lies upon the governments, and of course, upon the people whose these are.

[9] By "the law of nature," as used here, is meant the original rule of civil government, such as it was before the fall of man and the interposition of a Mediator.

[10] The attention of the reader is particularly called to the words in Italics.

[11] Quakers do not swear, they affirm. They do so, as all know, because they believe it to be wrong to invoke the name of God under any circumstances: and not because they do not acknowledge the being of God.

[12] This will be noticed again.

[13] Properly speaking, the constitution of Great Britain is partly a written one.

[14] General [Andrew] Jackson, who refused to proclaim a fast in 1832.

[15] The word "slave," does not occur in the Constitution, they are called "persons;" but every body knows that slaves are meant. This only adds meanness, to wickedness.

[16] Slave laws are local. The law of nations does not recognise slavery. Consequently, as soon as a slave, escapes beyond the jurisdiction of the local laws which bind him, he is free. To return him is kidnapping, and of a worse sort than that committed on the coast of Africa.

[17] "Mostly." Some are descendants of Indians, and some have far more French, Spanish, and English blood in their veins than African. Many slaves are as white as their masters.

[18] The constitution was formed in 1787, when the United States were at peace with all the world.

[19] What would the South do at the present time without the North? and would such a union be now formed by the North?

[20] There are signs in the political horizon, portending evil. Slavery is the chief cause. The commercial difficulties of the country are mostly traceable to the same source.

[21] So far as the writer knows there is but one Bible principle in this instrument; namely, that the consent of the governed, is necessary to legitimate a government. A very important principle, it is true: but corrupted here by other doctrines found in the document under review.

[22] Some of them, as post-masters, clerks, carriers &c., are required to labour on the Sabbath. There is the same authority to compel all.

[23] Abolitionists who vote upon anti-slavery principles act contrary in this to their compact with slave-holders.

[24] This is not granted respecting any of the twenty-six states composing this union.

[25] 2 Cor. 6:14.

[26] The largest part of the population, the Helots, were slaves.