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James Dodson


Sixthly. It is the duty of nations, as such, to have respect to religion.

This is a point which, from its intimate connection with the Mediatorial dominion, its vast importance in itself, and its being a subject on which the public sentiment at the present time is greatly divided, demands particular consideration.

That civil government has anything to do with religion is by many pointedly denied. Every sort of alliance betwixt Church and State, is condemned as unlawful and unscriptural. Not content with exposing the abuses of existing civil establishments and seeking their reformation, their entire overthrow is demanded, and the very principle on which they are founded held up to unmeasured reprobation. We are not blind to the evils that prevail in the national churches of our land, and should be sorry that anything we might say should have the effect of perpetuating or palliating these in the least. They are too palpable to be overlooked, and too great to admit of being justified. We are not prepared to approve of the nature even of the connection subsisting between Church and State in our existing establishments; and, of course, we frankly admit that it is not a reformation of abuses merely, but an entire constitutional change that is needed. Nevertheless, believing as we do that it is the duty of nations to concern themselves about religion, that consequently a union between Church and State, of an unexceptionable kind, is capable of being formed, and, moreover, that the formation of such a union is not only lawful in itself, but dutiful and obligatory, we are anxious that the principle should be distinguished from the corruptions that have been grafted upon it. In lopping off and giving over to merited destruction the excrescences, it is not necessary that the root should be destroyed. In the preservation of the principle, we see involved the glory of the Messiah, the good of his Church, and the best interests of civil society itself. For this reason, and not by any means to uphold or apologise for existing corruptions, in whose maintenance we have no interest, and for whose continuance we have no wish, we are induced to submit the following statements respecting the duty of Christian nations towards the true religion of Jesus.

It is of consequence, in every controversy, that parties have a distinct idea of the point in dispute. The things in which they agree and those in which they differ, ought to be well understood. In the present instance, it may not be easy to give unexceptionable definitions. We beg attention, however, to the following distinctions:—

It is not, whether it be the duty of a Christian nation to establish a false religion;—but whether it be not its duty to establish the true religion.

It is not, whether it be the duty of the Church of Christ to seek alliance with a heathen, anti-christian, and immoral State;—but whether it may not enter into alliance with a government, possessing the character, and subserving the purposes of the moral ordinance of God.

It is not, whether it be the duty of the State merely to afford legal protection, or positive toleration, to the true religion;—but whether it be not its duty to extend positive favour, encouragement, and support, to the Church of Christ.

It is not, whether the Church of Christ may not exist, and even prosper, without the favour, encouragement, and support, of the State;—but whether it may not be the duty of the State to extend such countenance to the true religion.

It is not, whether the State has power in and over the Church, so as to interfere in any way with her internal jurisdiction and management;—but whether it be not competent to, and the duty of, a Christian State to frame regulations about the Church, or respecting the external interests of religion. Whether, in short, a Christian State be not possessed of power circa sacra, although having no authority whatever in sacris.

These statements will help to limit and explain the point on which the present discussion turns. And, without adopting any of the definitions of a civil establishment of religion that have been given, either by their friends or by their enemies, or venturing on any definition of our own, the proposition we design to explain, confirm, and defend, is this:—that it is the duty of a nation, as such, enjoying the light of revelation, in virtue of its moral subjection to the messiah, legally to recognise, favour, and support, the true religion.

In this discussion when we make use of the term State, we mean a civil government possessing the character of the moral ordinance of God; and when we speak of the Church, we mean the Church possessing and maintaining the true religion of Christ.

First. This proposition is but a natural and necessary inference from the fact, already established, of national subjection to the Messiah. Nations and their rulers are, as we have seen, the subjects of Christ. They are under, not only his providential control, but his moral authority. Now the religion of Christ, that is to say, his Church or spiritual kingdom, must be to him an object of the deepest interest; it is that, indeed, to which everything else is subordinate. To it, of course, the nations of the world must be subordinate; and if so, is it not utterly inconceivable that they should be freed from all obligation to have respect to the interests of religion? Indeed, it sounds paradoxical or self-contradictory, to say, that nations, which hold so prominent a place among the moral subjects of the Messiah, should be not only exempted, but absolutely prohibited, from taking any concern about that which is dearest to the heart of their Sovereign. The dominion of the Head of the Church over civil society, renders it, not only expedient and safe, but dutiful and obligatory, for nations, as such, to interest themselves about the true religion. The doctrine of the Mediatorial headship over the nations, lays a firm and ample foundation for an alliance between Church and State, which has been rashly pronounced to be in every case unlawful, unchristian, and sinful. While this doctrine is admitted, it will be difficult to refuse the legitimacy of the inference in favour of the alliance in question. If men would only look, without prejudice, at the plain testimony of revelation, there might be less disputing on this point. Does not the apostle Paul speak of God having put all things under the feet of Christ, and ‘given him to be Head over all things to the church?’ Mark the language. It is not only ‘Head over all things;’ but ‘Head over all things to the Church.’ It is for the sake of the Church that he is invested with universal regal authority: in other words, the end of Christ’s universal Mediatorial dominion is the good of the Church. Thus far, all is clear and undeniable. But the nations are among the ‘all things,’ over which Christ is appointed ‘Head.’ It follows, then, that Christ is appointed Head over the nations for the good of the Church. If so, there must be some way in which the nations are capable of subserving the interests of the Church. Is it possible, then, to conceive that it is not the duty of the nations to promote, by every means in their power, the good of the Church? Is it conceivable that nations are not under obligations to advance the very end for which they are placed in subjection to Christ? Believe this who can. To us it appears that, although there were not another passage on the subject in the whole Bible, that which we have now in view should be sufficient to prevent us from giving our assent to the proposition that the nations have nothing to do with religion.

We are not unaware that an inference of an opposite nature has been drawn from the Mediatorial dominion over the nations. The argument is this:—Christ as Mediator is governor of the nations—he does not govern the nations immediately, but has delegated this to the people—the people, however, are almost universally wicked—it is, therefore, absurd to suppose that the Redeemer should commit the care of his Church to the wicked. But, in this mode of reasoning, there are several fallacious and mistaken assumptions. It is, first of all, assumed that the theory of an establishment supposes that Christ commits his Church to the care of his civil government, whereas all that it implies is that it is the duty of the civil government to extend countenance and protection to the Church of Christ. There is, farther, the unreasonable and pernicious assumption, that organised civil society and the world lying in wickedness are one and the same, whereas the one is the kingdom of Satan, who is the god of this world, and the other a moral ordinance of God. Moreover, while it is admitted that Christ has committed the power of government, in some sense, to the people, it is forgotten that he has, in his Word, both commanded the people to qualify themselves for the right use of this power, and furnished them with an infallible rule to guide them in the exercise of it.

Secondly. The manner in which the object of the magistrate’s office is described in the New Testament, confirms and illustrates the preceding observation. He is the minister of God for good, and a terror, not to good works, but to the evil. The terms good and evil are expressed without limitation or restriction; and, without some other information than the passage itself furnishes, we are surely not warranted to conclude either that offences against religion form no part of the evil which it is the duty of the ruler to discourage, or that the interests of true religion form no part of the good which it becomes him to promote. ‘Had it been said,’ writes Dr. Willison, ‘power is an ordinance merely to enforce common justice between man and man, or to protect one from another’s violence; and had the ideas of justice and protection been carefully limited according to the modern theory, which, by the way, circumscribes them almost as arbitrarily as the Scripture terms, good and evil themselves;—had it thus defined the magistrate’s province, then our controversy with those who are ever alleging that secular things only fall within his care, were at an end. But let it be observed, no such limitation is introduced. It is not said, indeed, on the other hand, what offences the magistrate is to resent under the head of evil, nor how far, and by what means, he is to promote good. But we ask, Does not the burden of proving that offences against religion are excluded from the one, or that the positive advancement of that cause is not included in the other, lie upon our opponents? The analogy of the Old Testament entitles us to call for this. But our right to call for it rests on the broader ground of the moral relation in which the ruler, as well as the nation, stands to God;—a moral relation for which the moral law must be the rule. We claim, on this ground, a positive right to interpret the expressions above quoted in a larger sense. We must remind him who would restrict the province of the civil authorities to the second table of the law, that crimes against the first table are not only, at least, equally offensive to the God of nations, but equally injurious to the safety of the State. Outrages on the Majesty of heaven, open contempt of the mysteries and the rites of religion, are more to be dreaded by society than even fraud or oppression, and will more certainly work a nation’s ruin. And, on the other hand, the good connected with the encouragement of sound morals, and the diffusion of Christian truth, is more valuable than any resulting from the wisest human policy, acting merely on the selfish principle of man. We do not, then, forget that the more immediate end of civil government is the outward order of the community. But, if every ordinance of God is bound, as it surely is, to seek its end in connection with his glory who ordained it, they who rule may not warrantably regard with indifference the best, because the divinely-appointed means of moralising and civilising the human race. And besides that in this view Christianity comes into the contemplation of a right and wise policy—surely he who is God’s minister for good must be bound, as far as secular power may go, to second its higher object.’[1]

Thirdly. The Scriptures of the Old Testament undoubtedly contain divinely-approved examples of such a connection between Church and State as that for which we contend. Under the Patriarchal economy (which, by the way, bore a closer resemblance, in many respects, to the Christian dispensation than did the Jewish), we meet with a striking combination of things civil and ecclesiastical in Melchizedec. This remarkable person was both a king and a priest.[2] He was ‘king of Salem’—that is, a prince, a monarch, possessed of regal authority, and exercising civil dominion over a particular district more or less extensive and populous. He was also ‘priest of the most high God,’—that is, invested with the sacred functions of the sacerdotal office, and appointed to treat with God on behalf of men by means of sacrifice. These offices were real, not figurative merely. His bringing forth bread and wine to Abraham, when returning from the slaughter of the kings, was a regal act; his blessing Abraham, and receiving from him tithes, distinctly recognise his sacerdotal character. Now, the fact of these offices being combined in the same person—whatever design there may have been to point forward by it to him who sits ‘a priest upon his throne’—shews that there is no such incompatibility between things civil and sacred as to render all union of them necessarily sinful and improper. It is utterly inconceivable that Melchizedec was required, either, on the one hand, to abstain from any exercise of his regal functions which might subserve the ends of his priesthood, or, on the other, in the discharge of his sacerdotal functions to avoid having any regard to the civil interests of the people over whom he ruled. Such a separation of objects and interests may be pronounced to have been, in the circumstances, impracticable, and, to say the least, unnatural. This is sufficient to convince us that it was not required; and we may safely conclude that Melchizedec, in acting in the double capacity of king of Salem and priest of the Most High God, felt no jarring of claims, no jealousy of interests, but the most perfect harmony and co-operation between the functions of his respective offices. Here, then, we have one example, at least, of the combination of things civil and sacred possessing the authority and approbation of God, as it is spoken of in the Scriptures, not only without censure, but with obvious commendation.[*]

We have another example, under the Mosaic economy, in the case of the Jewish kings. Into the nature or details of the civil establishment of religion under the law, it is not necessary that we should here enter. We have at present to do with the fact that legal countenance and support were given, under that dispensation, to the Church. That Moses, and Joshua, and David, and Solomon, and Hezekiah, and Josiah, concerned themselves, in their capacity of civil rulers, about the interests of religion, about the erection of places of worship, the support of the ministers, the removal of obstructions, and the correction of abuses, will not be denied. This is all that we require for our present purpose. It proves, beyond all controversy, that union of Church and State is not necessarily, abstractly, or in itself sinful, else it never could have received the sanction of divine approbation at any time. There may be room for discussion as to the kind of union that happens to exist, or that may be proposed to be formed; or as to the expediency of forming a union at all in certain given circumstances, but the undeniable fact of its having once existed and that for a lengthened period with the express approval of heaven, demonstrates that there is nothing sinful in the thing itself. This, one should think, ought to teach a lesson of moderation to our opponents, in the denunciations in which they are accustomed to indulge.[**] However unsparing in their censure of abuses, or decided in their opinion of inexpediency, they ought to beware of even seeming to cast a reflection on the wisdom and rectitude of the Almighty, by unceremoniously pronouncing all civil establishments of religion as, in their very nature and tendency, unscriptural, anti-christian, oppressive, unjust, and essentially sinful. Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And, as if to teach us, in the most impressive manner, the perfect compatibility of a friendly alliance between civil and ecclesiastical matters,—as if to make it palpable to all and for ever, that there is nothing incongruous in the union of the king and the priest, the throne and the altar, the sceptre and the censer, the crown and the mitre,—at every stage of the Jewish history we meet with two distinguished characters, the one civil and the other sacred, acting together a conspicuous part, and exhibiting the most perfectly harmonious co-operation. Such were Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Eleazar, David and Abiathar, Solomon and Zadok, Hezekiah and Azariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua. These are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth![3]

To all this it may be said, in reply, that these are Jewish things, that they belong to a system which has ‘vanished away,’ and furnish no pattern for the imitation of believers under the New Testament dispensation. It is admitted that there were some things peculiar in the Jewish establishment, which succeeding nations are not bound to imitate. But it will not surely be contended for, that the whole was peculiar; there were certainly some things about it both moral and exemplary; and the question is, whether the duty of the civil ruler to interest himself about religion was not one of these things. ‘It is not pleaded that all the actions of rulers among the Jews are imitable by Christian magistrates, or that the latter have exactly the same power which was allotted to and exercised by the former.… But it will not follow from this, that we can draw no argument from the conduct of Jewish rulers, to establish the warrantableness and duty of Christian magistrates employing their power in support of religion. Some are ready to conclude that the argument is entirely set aside when it is allowed that there is not an absolute sameness between the two cases. Nothing can, however, be more unfounded than this conclusion. Such a mode of reasoning is of the most dangerous tendency; and, if applied in all the extent to which it will lead, it would cut off the practical use of the greater part of the Old Testament. According to it, no argument could be drawn from the approved examples which it records, of persons of any rank, or in any station, of parents or children, husbands or wives, masters or servants, because many of their actions were peculiar, or clothed with extraordinary circumstances.… The apostle argues for the support of a Gospel ministry from that which was given to the Levitical priesthood; but his argument did not imply that they should be supported exactly in the same way (1 Cor. 9:13, 14). The priestly and prophetical offices were extraordinary and typical, in a sense in which the regal among the Jews was not; yet we do not scruple to illustrate the office, and enforce the duties of ministers of the Gospel, from those of the priests and prophets, especially in their actions with reference to the public state of religion, and in advancing reformation. The judgments inflicted upon the Israelites in the wilderness were in many respects peculiar, yet the apostle holds them out as monitory ensamples to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 10). The prayer of Elijah was extraordinary, yet the apostle James urges it as exemplary to Christians (James 5:16–18). And shall we suppose that the actions of Jewish magistrates form a single exception, and that they were so peculiar, that we cannot reason from them in the way of example or analogy?… Persons may affect to talk of the difficulty of ascertaining what is moral and exemplary from what was peculiar; and by dwelling on the more intricate cases, may endeavour to lead away the attention from the subject altogether. But why should it be magnified, and represented as insurmountable, any more than others of a similar kind? The peculiarity of the divine government of Israel, or, as it is commonly called, the theocracy, consisted in general in two things; in a system of laws which was immediately given to that people from heaven; and in the exercise of a peculiar providence in supporting and sanctioning that system, by conferring national mercies and inflicting national judgments, often in an immediate and extraordinary way. Now why are not the difficulties which are started as to the application of the first of these, urged also as to the application of the last? If we cannot apply what is said in the Old Testament, concerning the duty of the rulers and nation of Israel respecting religion unto Christian nations and rulers, because the former were under a peculiar law; then we cannot apply what is said in the Old Testament, respecting the judgments denounced against the nation and rulers of Israel, unto Christian nations and their rulers, because the Israelites, as a people, were under a peculiar providence, which constituted a part of their theocracy. The same distinctions will remove the difficulty in both cases.’[4]

To these extracts from a source of high authority, we beg to add the following judicious remarks by an acute and able writer on the same subject. ‘We cannot discern any evidence of the Old Testament example of a church establishment being a ceremonial thing. Nor can we believe that any reader of the Old Testament, unbiassed by system, in reading of the pious care of a David and a Solomon, a Hezekiah, a Josiah, and others, for the building, repairing, and purifying, the house of God, could have reckoned this an exercise of kingly authority, only fitted for the period of the church’s nonage. There is something in it which recommends it to the best feelings of the heart, as worthy of all times and countries. We are confirmed in this when we recollect that it was not only to be a figure of the church to come, that the Almighty set apart that peculiar people; it was also to be a witness to the nations around, for the one living and true God, in opposition to their universal idolatry. We see that while the ceremonial worship was evidently ordained for one country, and was therefore impracticable for other nations, being in fact as a sort of wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles; yet in the great features of their national policy, it was intended by God that other nations should observe and learn from Israel.[5] If, then, the care of the Jewish princes about the affairs of religion had not been a duty to be imitated by others, it is certain that the polity of that nation, set up as God’s witness to mankind, was, throughout its whole duration, fitted to confirm them in a great and prevalent error. The laws of all nations took cognisance of religion. Now, we see that the manners and worship of the Jews in almost all circumstances, were so framed as just to be contrast to the manners and worship of the heathen. Strange, if this was so great an error, I mean the principle of a national recognition of a Deity, that the most prominent part of the Israelitish constitution should have been fitted rather to perpetuate than to correct it! What nation, looking on, but must have deemed this one of the very points in which Israel was “an understanding people.” How could they look at its religious character at all, without being impressed with the lesson, that the acknowledgment of the true God is the first duty of states and highest honour of princes? Why they did not learn of them more to profit, it does not fall to us here to explain. But we are sure it was in the plan of Providence,—even while the typical institutions could not be adopted by them as nations, and the mystery was to be “hid for ages,”—that the great principles of natural religion should be visible in the church and state of the peculiar people, and so far make the heathen inexcusable. Just, then, as the reasons specified in the judicial law itself shew that certain statutes above referred to were of moral and perpetual obligation, so do these reasons appear to us conclusive, as proving that the precedent of a national establishment of the church is available as a moral example.’[6]

So much in reply to the objection by which it is attempted to neutralise the argument from Old Testament examples, namely, that these examples are Jewish. But it may not be irrelevant to remind our readers that the Old Testament contains others besides Jewish examples. We have already specified an instance, before the Mosaic economy, in the case of Melchizedek; and we now beg leave simply to remark that several instances are on record of Gentile princes who, with marked approbation and distinguished success, employed their influence to promote the welfare of the church. Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a decree respecting the rebuilding of the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, and we are expressly informed that it was the Lord who stirred him up to do so.[7] Darius afterwards published an edict to the same effect.[8] Another regal enactment of the same nature was passed by Artaxerxes.[9] These are examples the force of which cannot be set aside on the score of being Jewish: and yet they were highly approved. ‘Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers,’ said the pious and patriotic Ezra, in grateful acknowledgment of the divine goodness, ‘who hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.’

Fourthly. From the examples just adverted to, it may be inferred to be agreeable to the light of nature or sound reason, that nations should interest themselves in religion. The cases we have specified may be said to be extraordinary, but the fact that almost all nations, ancient as well as modern, barbarous as well as civilised, have incorporated with their constitutions laws respecting religion, shews that these extraordinary impulses were in accordance with the dictates of nature. We wait not, however, to argue from this fact, but avail ourselves of it only as introductory to some observations on the intimate connection subsisting between religion and civil society. The church and the state, so far from being diametrically opposed, are intimately connected, capable of friendly co-operation, and fitted to exert the most happy mutual influence on each other. On the one hand, there is much that religion can do for a nation; and on the other hand, there is much that a nation can do for religion.[***]

Let us, first of all, see what religion can do for a nation. True religion, apart from the influence it is fitted to have on the inhabitants and rulers of a country individually, cannot but affect beneficially its civil institutions and interests. Whether the government be monarchical, aristocratical, democratical, or mixed, it is not difficult to see that religion must have a mighty effect in directing it toward the ends it is designed to subserve, and guarding it against the evils to which it is incident. Religion alone can effectually guard the monarch against an arbitrary abuse of his prerogative, tyrannical oppression, and rapacious aggrandisement; or can teach him to feel and to act as the father of his people, and thus at once enable him to promote their good and merit their affection and confidence. Religion alone can restrain the nobles of a land, from seeking the supposed welfare of their own order, at the expense of that of the humbler classes of society. Nor can any thing but true religion ever prevent the claims of popular liberty and rights from degenerating into licentiousness, and issuing in tumultuary anarchy. Religion is requisite to teach legislators to have respect, in their enactments, to the honour and decrees of the supreme Lawgiver, rather than to the unstable dictates of worldly expediency. In courts of law and justice, religion is well calculated to disengage civil enactments from that embarrassing ambiguity which goes far to defeat their end; to put a stop to the pernicious practice of pleading any cause however bad; to place an effectual barrier to the taking of bribes, which blind the eyes even of the wise; and to inspire with a sacred regard, at all times, to moral rectitude and honesty.

Religion is favourable to liberty. By checking selfishness, inspiring benevolence, and teaching a strict moral equality, it proves itself decidedly friendly to the rights of the people; while, by its opposition to injustice and oppression, it directly tends to suppress whatever is unfavourable to freedom. Without religion, nations may aim at freedom, but they can never attain it; and even although they could, they would be unfit for enjoying it, for, to the end of time will it hold true of communities as of individuals, that ‘whom the Son makes free, they and they only are free indeed.’

It might even be shewn that religion is fitted to operate favourably in regard to national wealth, by securing industry; by restraining indulgences injurious to health; by hindering all profuse and foolish expenditure of public money; and by preventing to a great extent, and at all events ameliorating, the evils of pauperism which spreads like a leprosy over an immoral population. However despised and overlooked by worldly economists, the statement will be found to rest on a basis of immovable truth, that godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.[****]

It requires little penetration to see how religion is subservient to the peace of a nation. It is directly opposed to those false views of national honour, which would associate the glory of a people with the pomp and circumstance of war. Martial music, glittering arms, mustering troops, and far-spreading conquest, have about them a glare by which men are apt to be deceived. It should never be forgotten, however, that war is at the best a necessary evil, and inseparably connected with bloody carnage, fell bereavement, territorial devastation, and a long train of horrible, nay, indescribable miseries. Religion directly tends to promote the blessings of peace. Securing peace with God, it inculcates peace between man and man; it puts a check to those ambitious designs and wicked passions which will be found, on the one side or on the other, or perhaps on both, to originate those wars which prove a scourge and a curse to mankind; while it teaches all to aim at bringing about that happy predicted state of things, when men shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Religion can alone secure the true morality of a nation. Its sanctions are powerfully calculated to restrain those outbreakings of injustice and violence which the laws of civil society are designed to repress, and against which mere human enactments and punishments will be found but an ineffectual safeguard. Nor can any thing but true religion present effectual barriers to that torrent of impiety and profligacy, against which no penal laws can be directed, but which powerfully tends to sap the very foundations of national prosperity, and to call down the curse of God upon a people.

In short, without religion no nation can feel itself secure. Ungodliness provokes the anger of the Lord, and, like Israel of old, the nation that neglects religion and gives itself up to iniquity, will not be able to stand before its enemies. It may truly be said of such, Their defence is departed from them, for, by so doing, they incur the displeasure of Him who is the only sure defence and refuge in the day of trouble. Warriors and statesmen may affect to despise all this, while they put their trust in human wisdom and prowess, but God can soon teach them that it is religion alone that can render a country invincible; that the prayers of the godly are more to be trusted than swords of steel,—the sighs of true penitence a surer safeguard than all the thunders of artillery. Religion is, in truth, ‘the cheap defence of nations.’

These remarks, on the connexion between true religion and the welfare of a civil community, are supported alike by Scripture, reason, and history. Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people (Prov. 14:34). This sacred maxim is illustrated by all history. The nation of Israel was most prosperous, when it was most religious, under the pious reigns of David and Solomon. And when did it become an abomination, and a hissing, and a destruction, but when it departed from the Lord, and filled up the cup of its iniquity by rejecting the Messiah? The same thing might be said of other nations of antiquity. The period of their greatest prosperity will be found to be that of the greatest prevalence of public virtue. It has been remarked, that, in proportion to the prevalence of truth, justice, benevolence, and industry, were their glory and splendour; while their decline and final overthrow were marked by luxury, voluptuousness, envy, injustice, and vain-glorious ambition. ‘The nations which have been hurled down from the supremacy which they formerly possessed, perished not from the want of resources, but of the courage and the skill to use them. God had taken their hearts from them, and they fell into an evil snare. They bowed down under the load of unrepented sin, and submitted their necks to the conqueror. Babylon, Persepolis, Greece, Rome, and Constantinople, were fuller of wealth and arms on the day that they opened their gates to the conqueror than when poor and few in numbers, but resolute in spirit, they first started in the career of victory. Had God restored to them the mind of their forefathers, they would soon have rolled back the battle from their gates, difficulties and dangers which were bringing on their speedy doom would have disappeared as a dream, and with united hearts and hands they would have re-edified to more than their former height their temples and their bulwarks. But sin, with the power of an avenging God, is the ruin of every people. He turns their wisdom into folly, and their strength into weakness. All these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed, because thou hearkenest not unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his statutes and his commandments which he commanded thee. Because thou servest not the Lord thy God with joyfulness and gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things; and He shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck until he hath destroyed thee.’[10]

Such being the close connexion between religion and the best interests of civil society, passing strange were it, indeed, if nations were not at liberty, nay, were not under obligations, to interest themselves about religion. It will be difficult to shew that there is any one thing which can contribute more directly or extensively to the true prosperity of a kingdom than religion; and yet we are asked to believe that this one thing a kingdom must do nothing to introduce, to support, or to diffuse! Every nation is surely bound to use all lawful means of advancing its prosperity; and are we to be told that the means which, above all others, tends most powerfully to this end, is one of which it is unlawful for a nation to avail itself? True, the direct and immediate end of civil government is not the maintenance of religion, but the promotion of order, peace, and justice. Yet religion being a means, an eminent means, to the attainment of this end, no government, having the opportunity, can neglect to improve it, without incurring the guilt of neglecting its own true welfare.

As religion can do much for a nation, so a nation has it in its power to do something (may we not say much also?) for religion. It is admitted to be a difficult matter accurately and minutely to define the line and extent of the magistrate’s power, circa sacra. We have before remarked, that the church of Christ is strictly independent of the state. Civil rulers, we repeat, have no right to dictate to her her creed; to institute her ordinances; to appoint her office-bearers; to control her government or discipline; in short, to interfere in any one way with either her constitution or her administration. All this we firmly maintain. Yet are there many things which, it appears to us, a Christian nation, through the medium of its rulers, has it in its power to do for the true religion.

The civil magistrate can extend protection to the church, in the profession of her creed, in the exercise of her worship, in the administration of her ordinances, in the enjoyment of her privileges, and in the possession of her undoubted rights and liberties. These are all capable of being outwardly assailed; but having in herself no power of defence from external attack, she is entitled to look for this to the collateral ordinance of civil government, which possesses the power required, and is under obligation to exert it for this end. Thus much is unquestionably supposed, in those who are described as ‘the shields of the earth’ being spoken of also as ‘nursing fathers to the church,’—a character which they could ill sustain without throwing the strong arm of protection over their tender charge; as well as in the circumstance of its being specified as one end why Christians should pray for those in authority, ‘that they may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.’ This, we believe, will be readily admitted; but what we contend for, is, not a vague passive toleration of the true religion, in common with all manner of false and heretical systems, but an active, formal authoritative protection of the true religion, to which the others have no right, and which consequently they ought not to receive.

The nation is capable, also, through its functionaries, of giving a judicial or legal recognition to the true religion. The confession of the church’s faith may be adopted and ratified by the state, without the state being at all chargeable with the iniquity of dictating to the church what shall be her creed. The authoritative sanction of the magistrate can add nothing, indeed, to the evidence, or weight, or obligation, or authority of the truths to which it is appended. Nothing of the kind. Nevertheless, such an act of legal recognition or ratification serves the end, not merely of pledging the nation’s honour to the defence of these truths, but of constituting an open, public, national profession of the true religion. A nation, being a moral subject of Messiah, is as much bound to make a profession of religion as any private individual whatever. Can that be a Christian nation which makes no profession of the religion of Christ?[*****] And how can such a profession be nationally made but in some such way as we have supposed, namely, by the functionaries of the nation, in their official capacity, giving their authoritative sanction to the church’s creed?

It is vain to plead, here, the difficulty civil rulers must feel in arriving at the knowledge of what is the truth, for this difficulty is not greater on their part than on that of the church or of private individuals, who, it is never once supposed, should be exempted, on this score, from the obligation to profess the truth. The volume of revelation cannot be what its name supposes, if its meaning is incapable of being ascertained; and, if ascertainable at all, it is as much so by one as by another, who possesses the means, and chooses to make use of them for arriving at a knowledge of its contents. Infallible accuracy, it is true, is incapable of being attained by the magistrate; but here again he is only on a level with the ecclesiastical functionary and the private Christian, neither of whom can pretend to infallibility any more than the magistrate. Nor is perfect accuracy, in either case, at all necessary; all that is required being that they make a proper use of the means with which they are furnished of arriving at correct views of religion, and that they pronounce according to the best of their judgment. It will be admitted, that the civil magistrate may warrantably legislate on subjects connected with the advancement of the arts and the sciences. Does this suppose him to be accurately acquainted with all these? Or would it be sustained, as a sufficient excuse for his not interfering in such matters, that he is not an artisan or a philosopher? We apprehend not; and why, we ask, should he be precluded from legislating in behalf of religion, on the ground of incompetency to judge in such matters? Has not the magistrate more easy access to the source of information on the subject of religion than to that on the arts and sciences? besides the subject being one in which he must be understood to be far more deeply interested than in the others.

It is quite a mistake to say, that the magistrate’s giving his countenance to one set of religious opinions in preference to others, involves the essence of persecution. This arises from supposing that, when the government of a country expresses its approbation of a certain doctrinal creed and form of worship, it must forth with enjoin on all its subjects conformity in their opinions and practice, and authoritatively require the subjects to believe as the rulers believe. But does this follow? The legislature does not, in any sense, dictate to the subject what his religion shall be. It only determines what system of religious belief shall be taught with the aid and countenance of the state. No means but what are moral are employed to bring the public mind into conformity with that of the rulers. Every man is left, as far as civil authority or legal coercion is concerned, to choose or reject as he sees fit. The conscience of every individual is left free and unfettered; no one has the slightest ground on which to set up the cry of persecution.

The magistrate can, farther, interpose the sanction[******] of the law with regard to the time set apart by God to the stated services of religion. We refer here to the institution of the Sabbath. To be sure, on grounds altogether distinct from the sanctions of civil authority, all who have the volume of revelation are bound to ‘remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy;’ and there can be no proper sanctification of the Lord’s day, in which there is not respect had to the paramount authority of God. But, without the interference of the magistrate, it is impossible that Christians, however well disposed, could, generally at least, have it in their power to obey, in this matter, the law of heaven. And it is surely a duty which nations, as such, owe to Messiah, to take order that there shall be a national observance of the day set apart for celebrating the resurrection from the dead of their Prince, even of Him who ‘died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.’ To the peaceful, orderly, and profitable enjoyment of the Sabbath, by those who are disposed to observe it, it is important that the outward observance be general; and there is no way by which this can be secured, but by the intervention of civil authority enjoining a universal cessation, throughout the land, of the business and amusements of other days. But for such interference, it must be obvious, such is the ungodliness of many and such the spirit of competition among worldly men, that every species of occupation and diversion would go forward on the Lord’s day with the same eagerness and publicity as on the other days of the week. There might be some who would suspend their ordinary pursuits, and, retiring into the sanctuary of their dwellings, there pursue their pious meditations and studies; but the bustle that reigned without would effectually prevent their retirement from partaking of the nature of a holy quiet, while their less scrupulous neighbours would, meanwhile, get the advantage of them in the gains of their worldly calling. There might be, and there would be, numbers, who, in spite of the sacrifices they were required to make, and the scoffs with which they were sure to be assailed, would still go up to the house of God, and seek the advantages and the delights of the solemn assembly. But, as they went and as they came, not to speak of the disturbance to which even the acts of public worship should be exposed, how should their pious feelings be hurt, and every serious and edifying reflection be dissipated, by the sounds and the sights of busy secularity, which should everywhere meet their senses!

It is vain to tell us, that the magistrate cannot enforce the spiritual observance of the Sabbath, and that the Sabbath is not kept as it ought, if kept only outwardly. This is a driveling evasion of our argument. We know that the magistrate cannot enforce the spiritual observance of the Sabbath, and we do not ask him to do so. We know that secular authority can reach only to what is external. We know that it is the prerogative of God to touch, as it is his only to judge, the heart. But does not this hold true in other matters besides the observance of the Sabbath,—matters, too, in which magistratical interference is admitted to be lawful? Might it not as well be pleaded that the magistrate should not make laws for the protection of human life, because he cannot restrain man from cherishing deadly hatred towards his brother man; or laws for the protection of property, because he cannot secure moral honesty; or laws against perjury, because he cannot impart to men a sacred regard to truth; as that he may not legislate on the subject of the Sabbath, because he cannot secure its spiritual observance? Although he cannot do this, we contend that it is still competent for him to interpose the solemn voice of law, and the strong arm of power, in order to secure to the nation a season of rest from public business and public amusements; and that, too, on distinctly religious grounds: and we ask him to do what he can do.

Some who deny to the magistrate all power whatever in matters of religion, nevertheless, admit the propriety of magistratical interference in regard to the Sabbath. But, for consistency’s sake, they are compelled to maintain that the civil enactment of a day of weekly rest, proceeds on secular grounds entirely. It is, from the common consent which is understood to be given it by the people of the nation; or, because of its being necessary for the protection of property; or, as a day of mere secular rest;—it is on some such grounds as these that the magistrate is to be understood as warranted to interfere. There must be no respect to the authority of God; no regard to the spiritual ends of the sabbatical institution. It must be brought down entirely from the high and sacred ground of religion, and placed on the low basis of a worldly motive. None of these inferior grounds, however, will be found sufficient to furnish a platform broad enough, even were it firm enough, for the structure of a national Sabbath.

The ground of common consent will not serve the purpose, inasmuch as it is preposterous to expect that Jews and infidels would ever agree to an arrangement, which should lay them under a restraint to which they did not feel themselves compelled by their consciences to submit, and their submission to which would consequently tend to involve them in the disgrace of hypocrisy.

Neither will the protection of property serve the purpose. For might not the Jew, in this case, complain of being compelled to suspend his lawful employment on the first day of the week, in obedience to the law of the land, after having felt constrained to cease from working on the seventh day, in obedience to the dictates of his conscience? Nay, if the Sabbath is recognised as property, and only to be protected as such, although no man may take another’s property, what should hinder a man, as has been acutely argued, from giving his property away? ‘He who chooses to give up his time to his master may not surely be hindered, nor the master hindered from accepting of it.’[11]

But after all, the low ground of property can only, at the best, secure a cessation from business, while it leaves the sanctity of the Lord’s holy day open to desecration by every form of amusement, provided only that those who contribute to the entertainment of others, take care to let it be understood they are not pursuing a trade. By day, the streets and avenues of the city, and the places of public resort, may be frequented by crowds, trying their skill in athletic exercises; conducting, in due form, their manly sports; witnessing feats of jugglery; listening, amid shouts of obstreperous merriment, to some low buffoon; or, perhaps, feasting on the deadly combat of noble animals brought together for the purpose of gratifying a refined taste, by tearing each other to pieces. And the evening of the day of holy rest may be spent in the fascinating dissipations of the concert, the ball, the assembly, the masquerade, or any other form of fashionable extravagance, which those who are ‘lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God’ may demand.[*******]

Such are the consequences that must inevitably spring from maintaining, that civil authority can be interposed on behalf of the Sabbath on no higher ground than that it is the common property of the inhabitants of a nation. But is it so, that the day of the Lord is to be regarded and spoken of as only a species of human property? ‘We absolutely deny,’ says Professor Willison with becoming indignation, ‘that the fourth commandment is one concerning property; no, not even, properly speaking, is it in part so. Except as connected with the end of serving God, the Sabbath is given to no man as his own. It is not merely time which no man may exact from another: it is time which no man may alienate to himself. It is neither the servant’s nor the master’s, except as to be devoted by both to the highest ends of their being. Property! why, there is another command for that, whether, in truth, it be money or time that is in question.… It will not do:—go where we may to seek our warrant for a law on that principle, let us not go to that sacred statute whose foremost words proclaim its sublimer objects, “Thou shalt remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy!” Such words repel us, as, in a sort, profaning holy ground, as doing a kind of sacrilege, when we would, either in the name of an individual or society, grasp at that part of the commandment which may more immediately serve our worldly interests; and, separating it from the rest, and calling it our own, would avow that with God’s part of it we have nothing to do! We know this right would not be pleaded for the individual; but if society can only thus approach the sacred statute, we would say, in the name of religion and of consistency, let the commandment alone! This is desecrating it. It is bringing it down from its lofty altitude. It is erazing from it His image and superscription who challenges it as his own.… The time of the labourer is his property! And so to this it must come in seeking to acquit a nation of the duty of recognising the whole divine law as its rule! You have to set up instead, as supreme, the will of man! Man will not obey such a law long, however well he loves to wield such a power. Man armed, even the ruler armed with such a power, will soon wield it either too little or too much. Public sentiment, forming upon such a standard, will speedily manifest the opposition of the natural will of man to the will of his Maker. The pious, the timid, will soon find enough to do to hold on in their veneration of religion and its ordinances, unseduced by the example, or undismayed by the scorn, of others. Farewell to the national Sabbath—farewell, as to most, to the Sabbath itself—when the law shall avow no higher reasons than these! Farewell the holy quiet of that morn which was wont to be disturbed only by the ringing of the church bell, or the tread of the passenger repairing to the house of prayer. First blessing of our country! first friend of the poor! first among our cherished recollections, when in a land of strangers! Instead of the peasant and the labourer conducting their well-ordered households to the sanctuary of God, we shall see the parties of pleasure mustering for their sports;—Jew pursuing his traffic with his brother Jew;—and the company of worshippers crossed in their path by the crowds repairing to the factory; where the offered alternative of working on that day, or another being found to do the work, shall have proved too powerful for the juvenile labourer, and carried it over all the sacredness and authority of a parent’s example and precept; or shall have tempted even the willing child against his mind, and for the very parent’s sake, not to forfeit the means of dependence, perhaps for both! Nor is it the pious and the timid alone who would have reason, in the issue, to mourn the adoption of such a political theory: the irreligious themselves, brought within the mercy of human covetousness, would exclaim, ere long, Let us fall into the hands of God, but let us not fall into the hands of men!’[12]

If, again, the ground assumed, as that on which legislation is to proceed, is merely that the Sabbath is a day of secular rest, of cessation from ordinary worldly employment, it will be found that neither will this ground serve. For, apart from the authority of God and the religious purposes for which he has instituted the Sabbath, what right has any government on earth to interdict its subjects from labour for any length of time whatever, provided they themselves are willing to work? Admitting it to have such a right, how is it to fix on a seventh part of time, as the due proportion which the season of rest is to bear to that of labour? This difficulty superseded, might not the second, the third, or any other day of the week, serve the end of secular rest as perfectly as the first? Nay, if civil legislation is to have no higher end in view than to secure secular rest, the magistrate can have no higher respect for the interests of his moral subjects in this matter than that which he has for beasts of burden! Cattle are capable of sharing in all the advantages of secular rest. We are far from thinking it beneath the dignity of a Christian nation to enact laws in favour of the inferior animals: the great Lawgiver himself has not thought it beneath his dignity to do so. But foul scorn do we hold it, to maintain that God’s minister for good, when using his authority to enforce the observance of the Sabbath, is to be regarded as having no higher respect to the interests of his moral subjects than to those of the brutal tribes. We enter our solemn protest against this attempt to degrade man, by confounding him with the beasts that perish, by placing him on a level with the ox and the ass.

It thus appears that, if we depart from the high vantage ground of the moral law, if we abandon the authority of God himself, if we lay aside all respect to the religious ends of the divine institution of the Sabbath, and descend to the low motives of political expediency, we shall find that the magistrate must be completely in the dark in attempting to legislate at all on such a subject. There is nothing for him, in short, but to take his stand on the high platform of the fourth commandment. Let him have respect, in all his enactments on this subject, to the best interests of ‘the strangers within his gates.’ Let him take, as his model, the lofty patriotism of the governor of old, who, when his heart was grieved at the complicated Sabbath desecration he beheld, contended with the nobles of Judah, and said, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the Sabbath day? If ye do so again, I will lay hands on you.[********]

The interposition of civil authority may be of service, in the way of restraining many things injurious to religion. This is confessedly a point of great delicacy; and to define the full extent to which the magistrate is entitled or bound to go, in this department, must be acknowledged to be a matter of no ordinary difficulty. On the general point, however, there is no difficulty at all. Because it is not easy, in every case, to describe exactly the limits of magistratical interference in the way of restraint, to conclude that the magistrate should not interfere in this way at all, is no better reasoning than it would be, to maintain that a father should have no manner of discipline in his family, because he may feel at a loss, in certain cases, to determine to what extent he should carry the restraints of parental authority. That restraint of some kind belongs to the civil ruler must be admitted. ‘He is a revenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil.’ ‘A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.’ ‘A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.’ ‘Governors are sent for the punishment of evil doers.’ ‘Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.’[13] Now, that the restraint of evils which affect the interests of religion should come within the province of the magistrate, might be inferred from the tendency of religion to benefit civil society, which, of course, supposes a tendency in irreligion to injure it. The Scriptures confirm this view. They furnish us with examples of pious kings, whose authoritative and judicial suppression of blasphemy, idolatry, and Sabbath profanation, are spoken of with manifest commendation, while others, for the neglect of this, are reproved. Take the case of king Asa, for instance. ‘And Asa did that which was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God; for he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and broke down the images, and cut down the groves; and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment. Also he took away, out of all the cities of Judah, the high places and the images, and the kingdom was quiet before him.’[14] The well-known words of Job shew the conviction that was entertained by that individual, apart altogether from the judicial institutes of the Jews, that idolatry was a fit object of civil restraint. ‘If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand; this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God that is above.’[15] Gross blasphemy, profane swearing, open idolatry, and desecration of the Lord’s day, are legitimate objects of magistratical interference; not merely as things hurtful to the commonwealth, and offensive to a majority of the members of society, but as injurious to religion, and highly displeasing to the Almighty. It is altogether out of the question to suppose that ‘the minister of God,’ in using his influence to put a stop to such iniquities, is to lay aside all regard to the glory of God, and to restrict himself to a low motive of political expediency. The thing is impossible. What is it that renders it politically expedient to restrain such evils, but that they are calculated to bring evil upon the community? And how is it that they bring evil upon the community, but by incurring the displeasure of God, and provoking him to visit them with providential rebukes? It is, as offences against religion, and on religious as well as political grounds, therefore, that the magistrate can alone interpose in cases of this kind. The manner in which the offences are to be met, and the degree of restraint which it may be necessary to exercise in particular cases, are matters in which great prudence and discretion will be required. Whether it may be proper to inflict civil pains, or to interpose only civil disabilities, or perhaps to exercise forbearance, must depend upon the nature and degree of the offences; and the determination of these points must be left to the judgment of the framers and executors of the constitution and laws. Wisdom is profitable to direct.

It is vain to say, in reply to all this, that civil interference cannot promote inward reverence of God’s name, or the spirituality of his worship, or the internal sanctification of his holy day. We know that it cannot. But it is not these things we are speaking of. We are speaking of overt acts of profanity, impiety, and immorality. And, although the authority of the civil magistrate cannot promote the former, it is fully within its power to restrain the latter, and, by so doing, to confer no mean benefit both on society at large and on the church. Nor will it do to plead, in opposition to what we have here advanced, that it interferes with liberty of conscience. The conscience has no inherent absolute rights; all the liberty it possesses is conferred upon it by God; and it is utterly absurd to suppose that any man possesses from God a right to blaspheme his name, to worship an idol, or to profane his sacred day. As well might a man claim a right to murder, to commit adultery, or to steal, if only his conscience might permit or prompt him to perpetrate such atrocities. Were civil authority interposed, for the purpose of enforcing on men the profession of certain principles, or the observance of certain forms of worship, or of compelling them to wait on public ordinances on the Sabbath, there might be some ground for complaint on the score of violating the rights of conscience. But the restraint of gross and open acts of irreligion and ungodliness is quite a different thing, and can afford no legitimate ground for such an objection.

A nation may promote the interests of religion by contributing pecuniary support.[*********] For the erection of places of worship, for the maintenance of ministers, and for providing the elements requisite in the administration of at least one of the ordinances, the church must have emoluments. Now, a nation, as such, not only may, but ought to interest itself in providing these supplies. That there was a legal provision for similar purposes, under the Law, will be admitted. In what it consisted we wait not now to inquire. Neither do we wait to discuss, whether a nation ought to interfere in this matter, by direct legal assessment, or only by giving encouragement to voluntary liberality. All that we insist upon is, the obligation of a nation to interfere, some way or other. We observe, that there was once an ample legal provision for religion, which was collected according to law, and could not be withheld by any one, without violating the commandment of God, incurring the divine displeasure, and subjecting to civil coercion.[16] Now, why should not something of the same kind exist in New Testament times? Has God forbidden it? Shew us the prohibition. God has, it is true, ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel, and that he that is taught in the Word should communicate to him that teacheth in all good things. But is the teacher to go forth only among such as are able and willing to pay? Is he not also to go forth, among those who have as yet no relish for his spiritual communications, and who, consequently, cannot be expected to contribute for what they have yet to learn to appreciate? How is he to subsist, till his labours have been blessed for the conversion of a number sufficient to support him? And, supposing the teacher supported, how is the place of worship to be provided? By the voluntary contributions, do you say, of such as have already felt the power of divine truth? Not to say that most of these have enough to do with themselves, does not this suppose religion to have been formerly introduced, and to have taken root to some extent in the land? thus shifting the difficulty only a step farther back, where it meets us again with all its force.

It is insisted upon, that it is a privilege, as well as a duty, for the people to support religion themselves, and that legal support goes to deprive them of this privilege. Sure we are that the apostle Paul had no such transcendental view of Christian privilege; for, so far from thinking that he had done wrong, in preaching the Gospel freely to the Corinthians, he boldly vindicates his conduct: ‘Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the Gospel of God freely? When I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man. In all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so I will keep myself.’[17] Is it still contended that the Scripture rule is, that those who receive the benefit of the Gospel shall contribute to the support of the Gospel? Be it so. And does the nation derive no benefit from the existence of religious institutions in a land?—If, after all, taking refuge in a word, it is insisted upon that the support of religion must be voluntary, we ask what should hinder it to be both legal and voluntary too? May not a thing be legal and voluntary at the same time? Everything that is legal is not necessarily compulsory, as everything that is voluntary is not necessarily optional.[**********] We do many things voluntarily every day, which it is not optional with us, as far as law and obligation are concerned, whether we shall do them or not. A legal assessment for the support of religion, it is easy to see, may be rendered compulsory, by those who ought to pay it voluntarily and cheerfully refusing to do so. But on whom, in this case, is the evil of compulsion to be charged? Why dwell, however, on such points as these? To what object, we ask, can the resources of a nation be, not only more harmlessly, but more profitably applied, than the maintenance and diffusion of that religion which exalteth a nation, and which is at once the glory and safety of a land? Shall countless sums be lavished on wars, and bridewells, and prisons, and penitentiaries, and all the machinery of legal, judicial, and police establishments, for the detection and punishment of crime; and shall not a single farthing be given from the public purse for the support of those religious institutions, the due administration of which is calculated to effect the suppression of crime of every name, and thus, not only to advance the comfort of the community, but to save the expenditure of the national funds?[***********] Nay, do not the predictions which refer to the diffusion of Christ’s kingdom in New Testament times, make mention expressly of the pecuniary contributions of persons in authority in their official character? ‘The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. He shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba.—The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising—they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord. Surely the isles will wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the Lord thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.’[18][************]

Thus do we see the benefit which a nation, as such, has it in its power to confer on the church. This may be deemed a sufficient answer to those who would represent all national interference with religion as calculated only to injure it. To say that it is capable of being abused, is only what may be said of the very best things that exist. That it has never been abused, we have no design to maintain. But that such interposition of the civil power, as we have supposed, must necessarily tend to secularise and corrupt the religion of Christ we cannot admit. Many, we are firmly persuaded, practise deceit upon themselves here, by confounding the state and the world with one another. The world of the ungodly, which is the kingdom of Satan, is confounded with civil society, which is the moral ordinance of God: and, because all connexion of the church with the former cannot but injure her, it is concluded that so must all connexion with the latter. But merely to name the distinction between the state and the world, is all that is necessary to detect the fallacy. Civil society and the church of Christ, being both ordinances of God, can have no necessary tendency to corrupt each other, but must be capable of dwelling together in friendly co-operation, and of exerting a mutually beneficial influence. And, as for the case of Constantine, so frequently and so vauntingly brought forward in support of the opposite opinion, who does not know that the corruptions which were brought to light at the period in question, had been long before in operation, and that the more flagrant of them proceeded from the excess of that very principle which is contended for, in opposition to all legal recognition of religion?

But, it may be asked, does not such a connexion as that contended for, tend to confound church and state, to blend in confusion things that are essentially distinct? By no means. Our argument, not only is consistent with, but necessarily supposes, an essential distinction between the two. But distinction does not necessarily imply hostility. Things may be diverse without being adverse. That civil society and ecclesiastical society differ, we admit;—they differ in their immediate origin, objects, and ends; in their form of administration; in the light in which they regard their subjects; and in the character of the effects they respectively produce. But they are not, on this account, necessarily opposed to each other. On the contrary, there are many things in which they agree;—they agree in their original author, God; in the rule and standard of their administration, the Word of God; in their ultimate end, the glory of God; and in their subjection to the Messiah. They are, therefore, capable of existing in close combination, without being confounded. The church and the state were always distinct; yet we know that once they existed together in perfect harmony, without confusion: so that the objection in question is at variance as much with fact as with the very nature of the respective societies themselves.[19]

Fifthly. To say that the church and the state, that national society and true religion, are capable of existing together in harmonious co-operation, and of producing a mutually advantageous effect on each other, is, however, not saying all that may be said on this subject. We may go farther, and affirm that injurious consequences of the most frightful kind, would spring from insisting on their being entirely separated. The amount of pernicious consequences that should, in this way, ensue, it is impossible fully to depict. Society must, of course, in this case, forego all the advantages which, as we before observed, may be derived to it from religion, and religion all the advantages which may be derived to it from the countenance, encouragement, and support of the civil power. Not only must religion struggle, unbefriended and unaided, in its benevolent attempts to pervade the great mass of society with its principles, and to diffuse its light among the poor and the illiterate; but civil society must become essentially and avowedly infidel. If the nation must have nothing to do with religion, then, in the constitution of the country, there can be no acknowledgment of God, no recognition of the Bible. Electors may, in this case, feel themselves at full liberty, in the choice of their rulers, to throw aside all respect for religion, and allow themselves to be wholly swayed by the all-powerful influence of party politics. The rulers even must be set free from the trammels of an oath, which is a religious matter, and exempted from all obligation to recognise God in their official enactments. Every allusion to divine Providence may be justly characterised as ‘cant and humbug.’ There must be no prayers in the national assemblies. There must be no appeal to the divine law in the senatehouse. The judge on the bench must be precluded from referring the unhappy culprit whom he condemns, to the solemnities of a judgment to come, or even of recommending him to betake to the blood of atonement for the salvation of his soul. The Sabbath of the Lord may be employed, with impunity, in every kind of business and sport. And the nation, although as we have seen a moral subject of Messiah, must be debarred from ever expressing its allegiance to its King!

Sixthly. But is such a separation as is contended for, practicable, even were it proved to be desirable? We venture to think that it is not. We see not how, in any case, there can be found a basis of national policy at all, where there is an entire disregard of all the sanctions of religion. But the separation is rendered more difficult still wherever Christianity exists. So extensive are the obligations, so powerful the principles of the religion of Jesus, that, where these are felt, it will be found utterly impossible to disregard their influence, even in the ordinary transactions of civil life. The ruler, if a Christian, will not feel himself at liberty to disregard the motives and the interests of religion, in the discharge of his official functions; neither will the subject, either in the choice of his rulers, or in his obedience to the laws. The very existence of the Christian church in a land, must render it impossible to legislate and act in the same way as if it had no existence there. In short, things civil and religious are so closely interwoven, in the circumstances and very constitution of man, that, to effect an entire separation between them, may safely be pronounced chimerical,—impossible if it were attempted, and foolish and wicked in no ordinary degree if it were possible.

It is easy to say, in opposition to the whole argument maintained on this subject, that Christ did not call in the aid of the civil power in support of his church at the commencement; that it flourished notwithstanding, and in spite, too, of bloody persecutions, during the primitive ages; and that, from the time of its alliance with the state, its purity and prosperity began to decline. The case assumed in the latter part of this statement is, as has been often shewn, not matter of fact. The corruptions of the Christian church, as already hinted, were in existence long before the time of Constantine, and the decline of her prosperity can be traced distinctly to other causes than the countenance extended to her by that distinguished individual. And, as to Christianity’s having been established at first without the aid of the civil power, this circumstance would form an unanswerable objection to any one who should maintain, that religion could not exist or prosper without the aid of the civil magistrate. But this, be it remembered, is not our opinion. The question is not, whether religion can exist without national support, but what is the duty of nations towards the religion and church of Christ. And, if her primitive prosperity without the countenance of the state is to be pleaded as a valid reason why the church should always remain in the same circumstances, might we not, with equal propriety, contend that there should be no such thing as a course of preparatory education required of ministers; nay, that it is desirable that the civil authorities in a land should, not simply let religion alone, but that they should persecute it with all their might, as it was by means of unlearned men, and amid fire and blood, that the church, in that age, prospered and flourished? What the Head of the church may choose to do for her protection and support, in extraordinary circumstances, and in order to subserve the purpose of setting in a clearer light her spiritual independence and divine vitality, can form no rule of procedure in other circumstances. It is not for us to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. It is our duty, while we observe with devout adoration the workings of his providence, to take as our guide the dictates of his holy and infallible Word. Nor does it become us to prescribe to God the manner in which the expression of his will, in any case, shall be conveyed to us. The want of a direct precept can form no valid objection, in the matter under consideration, any more than in other cases, such as infant baptism and the Christian Sabbath, for which no direct injunction can be pleaded, and whose obligation is admitted, on much the same sort of grounds as those on which the duty of nations to encourage and aid the true religion is supported.

Such are some of our reasons for maintaining that it is the duty of nations, in virtue of their moral subjection to the Messiah, to have respect to the interests of his church. The grand basis of this obligation, we beg to remind our readers, is the moral supremacy of Christ over the nations. From this, as we have already seen, springs the duty of extending their countenance and support to his church. The other arguments may be regarded as corollaries from this great principle or axiom. Indeed, both the church and the state being placed under the mediatorial dominion,—being, so to speak, only different moral provinces of the same King,—separate departments of one vast moral empire, it is not easy to conceive of them being so irreconcilably opposed as to be incapable of subsisting in close and friendly alliance with one another. The titles, King of saints, and King of kings, imply nothing contradictory. They are inscribed on the same escutcheon; they sparkle on the same diadem; and, apart from the prejudices engendered by party contentions, one should think that they can call up, on being named, no feeling of incongruity. Let us not, then, be found guilty of attempting to put asunder what God has joined together.

It is impossible, in connexion with the duty of nations toward the church, not to lament that the kingdoms of the world have been so little careful to select the true religion as the object of their fostering care. The continental nations have, for the most part, extended their favour to that church which is the Mystery of iniquity, and which is emphatically antichristian. They have given their power to the Beast. Instead of favouring the chaste Spouse and Bride of Christ, the kings of the earth have taken to their embrace the Mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth; and, by so doing, have furnished the enemies of all alliance between church and state, with a plausible, though ill-founded objection.

By our own nation, it is deeply to be lamented, civil countenance has been extensively given to the same false and pernicious system, both in the colonies and in Ireland. The Protestant establishment of England itself, is, to a considerable extent, an establishment of error, being essentially prelatical, and otherwise loaded with a burdensome mass of unscriptural and superstitious ceremonies. Even the Presbyterian establishment of Scotland, in so far as the creed and government of the church were prescribed by the state at the Revolution Settlement, and ordained because agreeable to the wishes of the people rather than founded on the Word of God, and inasmuch as a decidedly Erastian power is both claimed and exercised over the church, particularly in the appointment of her ministers, is highly objectionable. Both the church and the state, it ought ever to be borne in mind, in entering into alliance for the purpose of securing the mutual advantages which such an alliance is calculated to subserve, are bound, in duty to Christ, to have respect at once to the character of the ally with whom they unite, and to the nature of the alliance that is formed between them. Both of these are indispensable to a legitimate and useful alliance. Neither must the state, on the one hand, confer support on error and superstition, nor the church, on the other, enter into association with an immoral and antichristian power. And, even supposing the state and the church to be both what they ought to be, care must be taken that the union formed between them, be not such as involves an encroachment of the one on the prerogatives of the other. It must be such as is perfectly consistent with the spiritual independence of the church, such as leaves her in the free and unfettered enjoyment and exercise of all the privileges and immunities that belong to her, by the grant of her glorious and divine Head.

How far this rule has been violated, with regard to the existing establishments of our land, it is not our present object to inquire, or to shew. But it certainly becomes the friends of these institutions to consider, whether much of the opposition with which they are assailed and by which their very existence is threatened, may not arise from this source; and whether, for their stability and security, a thorough searching into every defect, an unsparing reform of every abuse, a complete purgation of every evil, may not be the course which true policy, as well as fidelity to Messiah the Prince, would seem to dictate. It is the existence of these abuses, they may rest assured, that has given weight and influence to the objections of their opponents; and we would, with all possible earnestness, counsel their speedy and complete rectification. It is certainly much to be regretted, that a certain class, in their zeal against great and undeniable evils, have permitted themselves to be carried beyond this legitimate object of assault, and have assailed a glorious and Scriptural principle. For this they are undoubtedly to be blamed. But it concerns those of the other class to bear in mind, that the whole blame does not rest with their opponents. Not a little of it is chargeable upon themselves, for countenancing and perpetuating those abuses of a good principle, which have brought the very principle itself into danger and disrepute. And having called upon the one party to attend to an immediate and thorough reform, we would earnestly and respectfully entreat the other to restrict their opposition to the evils in question. They will find here ample employment for all their artillery. In this department, while they conduct the warfare like men breathing the spirit of the Gospel and seeking the interests of truth, let them spare no arrows. But oh! let them beware of pointing a single shaft against the sacred principle of Christ’s moral supremacy over the kingdoms of the world. Let them shrink from entertaining a sentiment, or maintaining a theory, which would go to pluck from the head of Emmanuel the crown of the nations, and to blot from his escutcheon the resplendent title, King of kings and Lord of lords.

There are those who occupy neutral ground; who are connected with neither the one party nor the other; who stand aloof from existing establishments, on account of what they conceive to be wrong in them, and who yet feel themselves bound to contend for the principle that nations ought to have some respect for religion. Such we would recommend to keep their ground firmly, and to turn to good account the influence their peculiar position enables them to exercise. They may find it difficult to steer clear of taking a side, in a controversy which is waged with much fierceness. But let them be persuaded that by doing so, they must impair their usefulness. At once their duty and safety are to stand still. Not that we mean that they should stand still in idleness or unconcern,[*************] but that they should continue to occupy the ground to which they believe those who have erred, on the one side and on the other, must ultimately come. Let them contend earnestly for the truth of the great principle, the adoption of which in its purity, is, they are persuaded, to bless, in the end, both the church and the nations, with contentment, peace, holiness, and glory. And let them hold up to the view of all the banner of Christ’s crown and covenant, that both civil and ecclesiastical societies may come under its protection, and do homage to the King in whose name it is unfurled. By identifying themselves entirely with the one or with the other class of combatants, they must give up something for which it is important they should strive, and can only subserve, at the best, the interests of a party: but, by holding fast the position they now occupy, they may be of service to the general cause of the Redeemer.

The friends of truth, the subjects of Him who is King in Sion, must stand prepared to surrender the applause of man whose breath is in his nostrils; must value, above everything, the approbation of the Almighty; and aim, at all times, at being able to say in sincerity, We serve the Lord Christ. By taking a decided stand on their own proper ground, without being moved from it by the dread of singularity, and without suffering themselves to be swallowed up in the devouring vortex of party strife, or of latitudinarian indifference, their very position of apparent neutrality will carry in it a distinct and palpable testimony for the truth as it is in Jesus. Prove all things, hold fast that which is good. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown!



[1] National Establishments, &c., page 32.

[2] Gen. 14:18; Heb. 7:1.

[*] Inglis’s ‘Vindication of Ecclesiastical Establishments,’ p. 25.

[**] When this book was written the voluntary controversy was at its height, and language was used on both sides of a kind which has, happily, long ceased to be heard.—Ed.

[3] Zech. 4:14.

[4] M‘Crie’s Statement, pp. 121–128.

[5] Deut. 4:7, 8; 28:10; 29:24; 32:27.

[6] Willison on National Establishments, &c., pp. 85–88.

[7] Ezra 1:1–4.

[8] Ezra 6:8–12.

[9] Ezra 7:12–20.

[***] The author has here made a reference to certain pages of Birks’s Christian State which contain the following sentences:—

‘The general laws of Christian duty, when applied to the case of rulers, lead us to infer that his aim ought not to be, as many conceive, barely to secure property and life by motives of compulsion and fear. The wise distribution of wealth and its right improvement should be the objects of his policy, far more than its mere accumulation. Even in his efforts to secure the temporal prosperity of the nation he needs religious truth, and its open confession, to qualify him for the task.… What is the true character of a national policy framed on these maxims [those of an entire divorce of religion from the state], and where are they carried out consistently to their natural issue?… The whole system, like some chemical mixtures, detonates and explodes when the least gleam of sunlight from eternity breaks in upon its quiet darkness.… Wherever the light of Christianity has shone, the nations which have drunk its truths most deeply have risen the most, even in outward greatness; and when it has been quenched in the mere spirit of religious strife or superstitious darkness, their strength has commonly begun to decay. Though a fitful gleam of worldly greatness may be secured where the truths of religion are despised and cast away, the world has never seen a state openly irreligious and profane that has been more than a meteor flashing with a momentary brilliance, and then setting swiftly in darkness.’—Pp. 140–144.

[****] Very striking remarks of Canon Birks on the necessity of true religion to sound political economy, are here referred to by the author—pp. 153–160. He called the attention of his students to them, and rejoiced in receiving confirmation of his views from such a quarter. ‘To create riches, and in creating to diffuse them so as to ensure the solid well-being of the State, to preserve the people from the double curse of cankered gold and luxurious profligacy—these are tasks which require the knowledge of higher truths, and a heavenly wisdom in those who would indeed fulfil them.… Wealth is not measured by gold and silver; for these change their value continually. It does not consist in bales of merchandise; for these ruin the producers when no market can be found for them. It is not measured by the labour bestowed on production; for labour itself may be wasted on useless follies, or on things worse than useless, the fuel and incentive of wickedness and crime … Every theory of its nature must be worthless which does not distinguish real from illusive wants, and measure the former by a true standard, derived from the real, solid, and lasting interests of mankind.’

It might have been added, as a matter of history, that each of the great world-empires of antiquity went down under the sheer weight of its precious metals, that is, perished through the effeminacy and moral corruption engendered by fulness. The experiment now being made, under the government of the Mediator, on modern nations, is how far faithful use of the leaven of divine truth will avert from them the same fate. See p. 283 infra.—Ed.

[10] Douglas’s Prospects of Britain, pp. 16, 17.

[*****] The author here calls attention to Birks’s Christian State, chap. v.

[******] The author refers here to Birks’s Christian State, pp. 380–386.

[11] Willison, p. 48.

[*******] One is reminded of the pathetic language of Richard Baxter, about the state of things which prevailed during his boyhood. He was three years old when the Book of Sports was issued by authority of King James. ‘There was no savour of Nonconformity in our family:’ yet the sports were carried on, ‘not an hundred yards from our door.’ ‘We could not, on the Lord’s day, either read a chapter, or pray, or sing a psalm, or catechise or instruct a servant, but with the noise of the pipe and tabor and the shoutings of the street continually in our ears.’ ‘When the people, by the Book, were allowed to play and dance out of public service-time, they could so hardly break off their sports that many a time the reader was fain to stay till the pipes and players would give over. Sometimes the morris-dancers would come into the church in all their linen and scarfs and antic dresses, with morris bells jingling at their heels; and as soon as the common prayer was read, did haste out presently to their play again.’—Editor.

[12] See National Establishments, &c., pp. 54–60. We recommend the whole section from which the above extract is taken, as a masterly exposure of the reasonings of those who take any lower ground for a national Sabbath than the moral law.

[********] The author has here made a reference to Dr. Alexander’s Life of Wardlaw; remarks on Wardlaw’s Treatise on the Sabbath.

[13] Rom. 13:4; Prov. 20:26, 28; 1 Pet. 2:14; Rom. 13:3.

[14] 2 Chron. 14:2–5.

[15] Job 31:26–28.

[*********] The author refers to Birks, pp. 404–407.

[16] Num. 18:26; 1 Sam. 8:15; 2 Chron. 31:4, 5; Neh. 10:32; 13:10, &c.

[17] 2 Cor. 2:7, 9.

[**********] Birks, p. 482.

[***********] In the second edition the author inserts here the following passage from the Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel’s Letter to Lord Melbourne, p. 34:—‘A body of faithful Christian ministers, whether in the establishment or out of it, are the means of diffusing religion throughout the land. By thus implanting in men’s minds the fear and love of God, they dry up the sources of crime, diminish the cost of gaols and hulks, of convict ships and penal settlements, sweeten social life, discountenance fraud, condemn oppression, and lay solidly the foundation of all national prosperity. A grant, therefore, for the erection of new churches by increasing the number of such ministers, would lessen the labours of the police, support the magistracy, uphold the laws, and tend to perpetuate sobriety, good order, industry, wealth, and contentment in the whole nation. That grant refused, the legislature will consign a dense population to religious ignorance,—with the full and certain knowledge that, by the operation of its own laws, by the force of circumstances which it has itself created, they are prevented from being otherwise instructed. It will then doom them to the influence of gin and Sunday newspapers, of vice and ungodliness, of revolutionary orators and furious demagogues. It will provide policemen to apprehend them, gaols to shut them up, ships to transport them, and soldiers to shoot and sabre them when necessary; but it will give them no instructors. It will raise the most costly apparatus to punish them, if criminal, but will not devote a farthing to render them virtuous.’

[18] Ps. 72:10, 15; Isa. 60:3, 6, 9.

[************] Those who knew the author could not mistake the reference of this passage to be purely theoretical. For the sake of others, it may be said that no one stood more thoroughly aloof from any gifts of the state which involved compromise of the church’s purity and freedom; no one rejoiced with more enthusiasm in the great Act by which state support was relinquished in 1843; and no one more earnestly and intelligently taught those principles of Christian giving which are embodied in such books as Gold and the Gospel. The conclusion of this chapter sufficiently indicates what the author’s position was as to any practical connexion with the existing state.—Editor.

[19] ‘It is not true, though it has been often recklessly affirmed by the opponents of establishments, that under the former economy the church and the state were blended together. A most obvious distinction was marked between them. The church was not the nation, nor was the nation the church. Each had its distinct rulers, courts, laws, subjects, penalties, and duration. Moses and his successors were the rulers in the state; Aaron and his successors rulers in the church. The church had her courts of the synagogue and ecclesiastical sanhedrim; the state, those of the gate and the civil sanhedrim. The ceremonial laws were those of the church; the judicial those of the state. Civil and religious privileges were not necessarily extended to the same persons. Proselytes might be members of the church without participating in the privileges of the state; whilst, on the other hand, scandalous offenders against the ceremonial and the moral law, permitted to enjoy civil rights, were nevertheless debarred from the fellowship of the church. A distinction was marked, too, in respect of penalties. Those of the church were purely ecclesiastical, as casting out of the synagogue; those of the state extended to fine, and even to death. In short, the distinction between the Jewish church and state is obviously marked in their respective duration. The latter ended when it became a province of Rome; the former subsisted and retained its ecclesiastical character, down to the destruction of the temple, and the scattering abroad of the Jewish people among all nations.’—Mackray’s Defence of Civil Establishments, p. 53.

[*************] At this place the author has added in the margin of his lecture the following clause:—‘Not that there should be no negotiating with other churches with a view to union.’

[The following comment was made by the editor of this edition, the author's son, who abandoned the faith of the Covenanted church. It is left here as of historical interest and as a warning. It is not the place of unfaithful heirs to make assertions as to the hypothetical actions of their faithful fathers, especially when these assertions are that their fathers would have, given the same opportunity, departed from the faith. Although sons should be more faithful than their fathers, sadly, such is not always the case.  It is appropriate that this was the thirteenth note added to this chapter by the backsliding son.]

This is interesting and pleasant. The first note of union was sounded in 1863, a year and a half after the author’s death, and this significant clause was inserted probably long before. Those much misunderstood both his head and his heart who used his name as that of one who would have been opposed to union. Dr. Symington held the Solemn League and Covenant of the three kingdoms not as an instrument of sectarian isolation, but as a bond of union. He would have deplored as bitterly as his friend Dr. Robert Buchanan did the lamentable interruption of hopeful negotiations in 1873, and would have rejoiced with all his heart in the partial incorporation attained in 1876.—Editor.