[from The Reformation Advocate, Vol. I, No. 1, March, 1874, pp. 31-32.]
We believe it is known wherever Covenanters are known, that they do not use the elective franchise in choosing civil rulers. From this circumstance—“they are men wondered at.” Some have hence inferred that they do not believe in civil government! Others have even charged them with “resisting the ordinance of God—anti-government men!” For a period of nearly half a century, we have often met and answered the question—“Why do you not vote, and help us to choose good men for office?” Christian men, and men who are no friends to Christ, have alike propounded this question with wonder. We shall attempt, for more than the thousandth time, to give a comprehensive answer to this interesting and important question.
Reformed Presbyterians are popularly called also Covenanters, because they are under moral obligations, by covenant and league, in which God is a party; and they believe that He is the author of civil government. The Constitution of the United States is a National Covenant in which God is not a party. Covenanters know that God the Father has given a kingdom to his Son as Mediator, and that this kingdom is universal. (Rev. 1:5. Luke 22:29. Dan. 7:14.) But neither the being nor the authority of the Father or the Son is acknowledged in the Constitution. Now the Lord Christ says, “He that is not with me, is against me:” and it is a fearful fact that “the Christianity of this country” has “voted Christ out of its constitution!” Covenanters fear “partaking of other men’s sins.” This national sin is greatly aggravated from the consideration that the posterity of the Pilgrim Fathers, who fled from persecution to the asylum prepared for them here with the Bible in their hands, should thus vote the Saviour “out of their coasts!” Covenants cannot cooperate in this impiety. This is the principal reason why they remain voluntarily disenfranchised. All who fear God agree with them in the conviction, that the late fratricidal war was a just divine visitation for the constitutional and legal violation of the rights of man. What then may be expected when God arises to recover and vindicate his own rights? If an infidel “tremble for his country when he remembered that God is just,” in reference to slavery; what should be the apprehensions of a Christian in view of persistent national atheism? “Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” The family and the state are equally divine institutions; but no Christian man can consistently maintain that his family shall be either organized or governed by mere “natural principles.”
These few principles, although seemingly abstract, may be easily understood and applied, even by “such as are of weaker capacity;” and they will partly account for the peculiar position of Covenanters in civil relations. But as example teaches better than precept, we have at hand a fine and authentic illustration. A New-Englander and Reformed Presbyterian were providentially journeying together by boat on the Pennsylvania canal. The rival candidates for the Presidency at that time were Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson. In conversation the Covenanter ascertained that his fellow-traveler had no knowledge of the distinctive principles of Reformed Presbyterians on civil government—had never heard of such people! On farther intercourse it came out that the gentleman from New England did not intend to vote at the ensuing election! The Covenanter was curious to know the reasons why his friend denied himself the privilege of his citizenship. “Well,” said he, “I thought with myself, if Christ were now personally on the earth, for which of these candidates would He vote? and I concluded that He would vote for neither, and that I ought to ‘have the mind of Christ.’” This is a short and easy way of ascertaining Christian duty. That man had a sanctified conscience which must not be violated, and according to the measure of his light his reasoning was conclusive. He had not, however, discovered the evil of the organic law which renders such characters eligible to any civil office—yea, to “the highest office and honor in the gift of a Christian people!” Slave holders and duelists, and both the candidates were such, are legally dead—dead by the Divine Law, a law which individuals and nations have vainly and wickedly attempted to repeal. Covenanters cannot join in such conspiracies with the ecclesiastical or civil beast.” (Rev. 13:1, 11. Dan. 7:7, 8, 11, 19, 21.)
A Correspondent of the Presbyterian Banner, June 25th 1873, on the moral character of nations, says—“A nation is not a moral person—is an abstraction, an abstract organization, an abstract conception, an invisible entity, a legal fiction,” &c. The Bible says, lawful magistrates are God’s ministers, and legitimate civil government is “the ordinance of God.” (Rom. 13:2, 6.)
A Correspondent of the Reformed Presbyterian Advocate, January 1874, p. 9, says,—that the Erastian supremacy of the British monarchy (against which Covenanters testified unto death,) “has become a mere legal abstraction.”—“I saw,” says John, “upon his heads the names of blasphemy.” (Rev. 11:1.)