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The New Constitution of Pennsylvania.


The New Constitution of Pennsylvania.

James Dodson

[The following anonymous article appeared in The Reformation Advocate,(vol. 1, no. 7), September, 1875, pp. 197-200. It was written in response to the Constitution of 1874, which had been adopted in the state of Pennsylvania. Although this Constitution was revised by the Constitutional Convention of 1967-8, the phrase animadverted upon in this article remains. Mr. Wylie, in his Two Sons of Oil, made numerous references to the Constitution of 1790, which was in effect in his day. Several footnotes inserted by the editor allude to the fact that Mr. Wylie’s critique has not been superseded by newer constitutions in Pennsylvania. This article has been appended to Mr. Wylie’s book in order to demonstrate that the basic flaw, of Pennsylvania's Constitution of 1790, has been embodied in the present constitution.]

[Article 1.,] Sec. 2. [of the Constitution of 1874] declares that "all power is inherent in the people." By this, Pennsylvania means that the power to institute and administer civil government exists in the people, like a property or attribute in a subject, so as to be inseparable from that subject, and essential to its very existence. Remove the properties or attributes of the magnet from it, and it is no longer a magnet; for the want of the powers or properties of magnetism. But we should remember that magnetism may exist independent of any visible subject, and it may also be communicated to a subject—to a needle, and the needle may again lose its magnetic power. And then the needle again exists without the power of magnetism, and magnetism exists entirely independent of the needle. Then magnetism is not an attribute of the needle, nor is the needle, properly speaking, a subject of magnetism in which it inherently exists; but merely an object upon which some of the properties and powers of magnetism are manifested. And so the people are not a subject in which government necessarily exists as a power, but merely an object, upon which it is intended to act as a power, by him in whom it necessarily exists, as an almighty power—"there is no power but of God." The divine government on earth is thus symbolically represented; Dan. 7:9, "his throne (the Mediator’s) was like the fiery flame, and his wheels (his providences) like burning fire." And civil government, is just the divine government over men upon the earth. Just here is where Pennsylvania in her new constitution was lost. The convention laid it down as an axiom—a self-evident truth, that civil government is a mere human thing—is inherent in the people. A most egregious blunder!

1. Government is the exercise of moral power upon the people as its object: not an emanation or flowing forth of moral power from them, as its origin or fountain.

2. This moral power is all comprehended in supreme love to God, and in loving our neighbour as ourself. "Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two hang all the law and the prophets." This is a great power on man’s moral nature. Matt. 22:37.

3. This moral power, is made an almighty power on the hearts of the people of God, by an invisible—a spiritual agency—by the Holy Spirit. By his operations the word is made quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword; the gospel, by the same agency, is made "the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." Rom. 1:17; Heb. 4:12.

4. There are two kingdoms in this world: the one consisting of the righteous, the other of the wicked; the one is ruled by Christ, "the Prince of the Kings of the earth;" the other by Satan, "the Prince of the power of the air, the Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Rev. 1:5; Eph. 2:2. Satan is also called "the god of this world," and "the ruler of the darkness of this world." And the wicked are called darkness, and are said to be in darkness, and under the power of Satan. Acts 26:18; 1 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 5:8; 6:12.

5. In an unconverted state all belong to the kingdom of Satan, as well nations as people; and they receive all their power—so-called—from Satan, not from God. It is impossible for wicked nations or people to receive power from God, because they "reject the word of the Lord," and the Lord then deals with them as he did with Saul. "Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, the Lord hath rejected thee from being King." 1 Sam. 15:23.

Before any can receive power to rule for God—for his glory, and the good of his people, they must receive Christ as their king, his law as their rule, and his spirit as their guide. Then, it is true, that both righteous and wicked nations have power: not inherent, but given. The power of the former is from God, that of the latter from the devil; the power of the one is to do good, that of the other to do evil. The one is the minister of God to the righteous for good; the other is the minister of the devil to the wicked for evil. The one is sent to be a terror to evil doers, and a praise of them that do well; the other to be a terror to well doers, and a praise of them that do evil. Hence, "when the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when the wicked beareth rule the people mourn." Prov. 29:2. And it is certain that there can no ill befall the righteous, nor any good the wicked: for it is said, "say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked, for it shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him." Isa. 3:10,11.

A power coming from God cannot be evil, nor work evil; and a power coming from the devil cannot be good, or work good. "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Matt. 7:18. "O generation of vipers! how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things." Matt. 12:34,35.

But, 1. we have said, that the power that God gives, is a power to do good, and not evil. He not only gives the power, but causes it to work good—not only makes the tree good, but causes it to bring forth good fruit—not only makes the man good, and the heart good, but he puts the good treasure in the good heart—puts his law in their inward parts, and writes it in their hearts; and then enables this good man—by the Spirit—out of this good treasure, to bring forth good things. And the sum of all these good things is—in the fear of God, to exercise saving faith, and practice holy obedience—is to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and his neighbour as himself. And these good things he will bring forth both in church and state.

2. We say that the power that the Devil gives, is a power to do evil and not good. Now, let us notice what power he exercises over the wicked—wicked nations and individuals. (1.) The Dragon—the devil—gave power—so-called—a throne, and great authority to the beast—the Roman Empire—Rev. 13:2, or in other words, caused all the world to wonder after the beast—to admire him, and submit to his authority, v.3.—caused them to worship the beast, saying, "who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?" The dragon gave him "a mouth to speak great things and blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And power was given him—the beast, by the dragon—over all kindreds, tongues, and nations; and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life." All this power the beast received from the dragon, and any power that the "kindreds, tongues, and nations have," they also received from the dragon, they being in subordination to the beast. (2.) The devil exercises a deceiving power over the nations, "that he deceive the nations no more till the thousand years be fulfilled." Rev. 20:3. (3.) He exercises a blinding power over the wicked, and wicked nations; "for all the gods are idols dumb which blinded nations fear." "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not." 2 Cor. 4:3. (4.) He ensnares and captivates the wicked. "That they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will." 2 Tim. 2:26. (5.) The devils are the "rulers of the darkness of this world." Eph. 6:12. And it is said of the Ephesians, "for ye were sometimes darkness." Eph. 5:8. (6.) The devil moves the men of this world to disobedience and rebellion, Eph. 2:2, "According to the princes of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." Then the devils do not rule by sanctifying, enlightening, and powerfully moving and determining to that which is good; but by deceiving, blinding, darkening, ensnaring, captivating, and moving the men of this world to disobedience and rebellion. Then, Pennsylvania is not enlightened by the word, nor moved by the Spirit when she says, "all power is inherent in the people."—A.