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James Dodson

Civil and political arrangements may be viewed either in their social, or in their moral character. Considered in their social character, we are more concerned with them in their bearings upon the welfare of society, the security which they furnish for the preservation of the rights and privileges of the citizens, and, in general, their influence upon the prosperity and happiness of the body politic. Regarding them in their moral character, our thoughts are directed to subjects of investigation altogether different: the conformity or non-conformity of national institutions, to the law of God. The two are, indeed, very intimately connected: for no political arrangements, which are not in accordance with the will of Him who is the Supreme Governor among the nations, can ultimately promote, even the temporal interests of any people. It is the "blessing of the Lord that maketh rich," and that nation alone "is blessed, whose God is Jehovah."[1]

It is the design of this Essay, to attempt an illustration of the subject of national organization, considered in the second point of view. To ascertain, by the light of divine revelation, what is the precise relation in which nations, having the scriptures, stand to Almighty God; and, also, to make an application of the principles of the Bible on this subject, to the existing civil institutions of the United States.

That the subject is important can hardly be doubted by any one that believes the Bible, or even acknowledges the superintending providence of a holy and righteous God. And the times call for a careful examination, humbly seeking the divine direction, of this whole subject, especially in its practical bearings. The history of our nation is very remarkable. God has greatly favoured this land with the common blessings of his providence. He has increased its population. Through his blessing, the earth has brought forth, in plenty; wealth has accumulated; and the United States, from the condition of dependent colonies, have risen with unexampled rapidity to the first rank among the nations of the world. Literature and science have flowed, if not in a deep, certainly in a broad stream over the land. We have the Bible—the open Bible; the Sabbath; the preaching of the gospel; and domestic altar.

All this has been. Just now, ever, there are some dark shades to be mingled with the picture of national prosperity. The hand of God has been upon us: and in anger. He has smitten the land in its business, its character, its union, and enterprise, its social and moral order. The cry of commercial distress is heard in every corner of the land. Our good name has suffered in the estimation of all Christendom, by repeated acts of dishonesty, committed not only by individuals, but by state governments. The Constitution, once regarded with idolatrous reverence, is now no longer deemed sacred. The union of the states is liable, at any moment to be sundered, and the friendship, which it was fondly hoped, was to be everlasting, is likely soon to be converted into deadly hatred. The arm of the law is, in some places, paralyzed, and, in all, its vigour is diminished. Vice of all kinds has increased to a degree that alarms every sober and thinking man. Infidelity lifts itself up unblushingly. The power of conscience is manifestly feeble. God is forgotten; his people are cold; and mammon reigns.

Why are these things so? A few years ago, we heard, on every hand, the loud congratulations of a prosperous and happy people. Christians seemed to think the millennium just at hand. Visions of national glory, and of spiritual conquests, dazzled the eyes, and inflamed the hearts of the coldest among us. Now we see the land prostrate. Christian energy lies dormant. The present is comfortless and the future offers little encouraging, except to the eye of faith.

Under these circumstances, it becomes all, but especially the disciples of Christ, to inquire whether there be not some deep-rooted evil in the body politic, of which we are experiencing the bitter fruits. Some evil that is bringing upon us the Lord’s anger; some disease that is sapping the very foundations of the nation’s strength and purity. It should be inquired whether God has been honoured and his law obeyed; or whether his authority has not been disregarded, and his law set at naught in the constituting, and administering of our present civil organization. And whether the church of Christ has done her duty in calling upon the commonwealth to give the honour and the praise to Him who rules the nations—Jesus Christ the Mediator. Unless the root of the evil is discovered, and the remedy applied there, ail our efforts will be productive of no permanent effects. Expedients may give temporary relief; they cannot accomplish a radical cure.

It is the design of this Essay, to endeavour to cast some light upon this subject—to aid in these inquiries. The order of discussion will be, in the FIRST place, a series of arguments designed to prove that the Lord Jesus Christ is, in the mediatory character, the moral governor of nations, having a right to claim their homage and obedience. In the SECOND place, the purposes for which he has been endowed with authority, will be stated and briefly illustrated. In the THIRD place, some of the most prominent national duties, incumbent upon those who have been favoured with the scriptures, will engage our attention. In the FOURTH place, the doctrines of the preceding chapters will be applied, in an examination of the moral character of the civil institutions of the United States. And, FINALLY, the Essay will be brought to a close by some inferences in reference, particularly, to the duty of Christians in regard to unscripturally constituted national organizations.

There are some important topics connected with the general subject of this Essay, the full discussion of which, as the intelligent reader will perceive, is not embraced in this plan. The origin of the mediatory dominion; its extent; the nature of magistracy in general; the exercise of Christ’s kingly authority over the church as distinguished from that over the nations; the kind, and degree of connexion which ought to subsist between the civil power, and the church; the duty of the magistrate respecting religious affairs; and the kind and extent of subjection due, generally, to civil authorities, are rather incidentally noticed, than fully discussed. The reader will find, it is hoped, the principles which ought to govern us in our conclusions respecting these matters, laid down with sufficient clearness: but not much detail need be expected on these points. Whether the evidence adduced to confirm the doctrines taught in this Essay, proves them to be Bible doctrines, it is for the reader to judge. May God bless and prosper his own truth.

[go to CHAPTER 1.]


[1] Prov. 10:22, and Ps. 33:12.