Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

tinuing in an unconverted state. The sovereign or the members of government, be they one or many, ought each to be able to say, I am a disciple and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. To Him I am determined to yield my obedience. A part of that obedience is my conscientious care to promote the holy interests of my own soul, and of my family, and all within the circle of my power of fair and benign persuasion. The sacred observance of the Lord's day is necessary to that object. No creature has a right to intervene between me and my God. His I am, and Him I will serve.

I serve my country, in the conscientious and laborious discharge of my official duties, through six days of the week. More than that you have no right to require of me, except in some case of evident necessity; and I am ready to yield to such a demand. Further I cannot go. The Lord's day is my own ; and I am determined not to part with it, but to keep it holy, according to ny conviction of the duty which I owe to God, to my own soul, and to the influence of my example.” Dr. Smith then proceeds to show that it would be the duty of such a christian governor to seek out and employ “real christians” in all departments of the national service, “and that for the protection of these in their rights as well as for the general good order of society, the state should enact laws for the observance of the Sabbath.”

On the other hand, the Christian Observer contends, that the question is brought to this issue; “ Do what you will, you must either admit the general principle of religious legislation, or give up all national recognition of the Lord's day, and of every thing else that is good : it is in vain to try to get out of this difficulty by vaguely talking of protecting well-disposed persons. You can give no reason why the legislature should say that your neighbour is to shut his shop on Sunday when you open your chapel, without embodying principles which go to the full length of the national recognition of the gospel ;" and in reference to the employment of “real Christians” alone in offices of state, the editor not unjustly remarks (page 186), “ How often have dissenters asserted, that preference implies persecution ; that rulers are to make no inquiry concerning subjects, except which serves the state best; that they are not to know, or care, who reads his Bible, or sings psalms, or has family prayer, or goes to church or chapel; nor is a man of talent and honour to be rejected from any public employment, because he does not happen to follow the National Creed."

In the remainder of the papers we have the principles on which the national recognition of Christianity is defended, brought out with much tact and ability, and we cannot but admit, with considerable regret, that Dr. S. appears to us to have somewhat the worst of the argument, because if we concede that it is the duty of the monarch to be in the first place himself a “real Christian,” and to choose such to fill the offices of the state, we must allow that it is his duty to use his influence to the utmost of his power in promoting the spiritual welfare of his subjects ; and if we cast even the most cursory glance over the history of those kings, to whom alone we can look for examples of what God approves in the conduct of supreme governors entrusted with the power of using such influence, we must see that the mere force of personal example, was not all that was required of them, but that a zeal for the honour of Jehovah, and for the glory of his name, was to be shewn forth in the overthrow and destruction of all that was inconsistent with the mode of worship He himself appointed. “The scriptural example of David and other holy monarchs shews, (see for instance Psalm ci.), that kings are to exert religious influence; and why we repeat may they not do it, in instituting the worship of God throughout the land?" (Ch. 06. 186).

We thank the editor for referring us to this Psalm. As it most aptly illustrates the views we entertain of the degree of “religious influence" which the Jewish monarchs were required to exercise. “Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house : he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land ; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.”

As a forcible illustration of that which was righteous and acceptable in the sight of the Lord in a ruler set by him over his people, we would refer to the narrative left us in 2 Kings xxiii. regarding the actions of that king, of whom it is recorded to his honour in the book of God, that “ like unto him was there no king before him that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses;

neither after him arose there any like him." We then read how Josiah “ slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them," and that “all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.” If then we were conscientiously satisfied to go the mile with Dr. Smith, we scarcely know how we should stop short of proceeding the twain with Cranmer, and admitting as just and scriptural, the principles on which he based the establishment of the Church of England, which we have thus recorded in Stilling fleet's Irenicum, as stated by Cranmer himself. “ All Christian princes have committed unto them immediately of God, the whole care of all their subjects, as well concerning the administration of God's word for the cure of the soul, as concerning the ministration of things political and civil government.'

But if we have advanced correctly and safely thus far on our journey, we confess there is yet another stage before us, which appears to follow most legitimately in the train of the preceding conclusions, and that is a deduction on which Kamehameha III. king of the Sandwich Islands, has just based an edict* against the

* “We notice an ordinance issued by Kamehameha III., headed with the words 'Rejecting the Catholic Religion. It is published in English, and in the native language, and is altogether a very curious and singular production. It sets forth with its reason for the prohibition thus :

". As we have seen the particularities of the Catholic religion, and the proceedings of the priests of the Romish faith, to be calculated to set man against man, in our kingdom, and as we formerly saw that disturbance was made in the time of Kahumanu I., &c.

Therefore, I, with my chiefs, forbid by this document that any one should teach the peculiarities of the Pope's religion, nor shall it be allowed to any who teaches those doctrines, or those peculiarities, to reside in this kingdom, nor shall the ceremonies be exhibited in our kingdom, nor shall any one teaching its peculiarities, or its faith, be permitted to land on these shores; for it is not proper that two religions be found in this small kingdom.'

“The ordinance then proceeds to 'prohibit all vessels whatever from bringing any teacher of that religion into that kingdom; and enacts that if any vessel shall bring a teacher of the Pope's religion, or anything similar, that such vessel shall enter the harbour subject to the regulation, that no teacher from on board the ship be permitted to come on shore, and that if any such teacher should come on shore, he shall be seized and returned to the vessel. And :

"If the master of a vessel shall refuse to obey this law, and shall set on shore the teacher prohibited by this Act, in contempt of the Government, then the vessel shall be forfeited to the chiefs of these islands, and become theirs, and the cargo on board the vessel shall likewise become theirs; and the master of the vessel shall pay the sum of ten thousand dollars; but it may be optional with the chiefs to remit any part of the sum.'

“ The ordinance adds, that, if it shall be granted to a stranger, either a mechanic or a mer

disembarkation of Romish missionaries amongst the people of his charge. “ It is not proper that TWO RELIGIONS be found in this small kingdom.” Now if the example of divinely appointed monarchs of the chosen race be of any avail to the “ Christian prince” it is perfectly clear that he is right in the principle thus laid down. The toleration of other than the divinely appointed worship was surely in them a sin before Jehovah, and at all costs and at all hazards, it is incumbent upon this monarch to exclude all Jews, Turks and infidels, all heretics and evil doers from his dominions; to resist vi et armis the introduction of popish priests with their endless mummeries into his territories; and if laws be instituted for the observance of the sabbath, to carry them out consistently to the extent which Dr. Smith says, is conceivably within the scope of the natural power of a government to do (p. 172), “ Laws might be made prohibiting all trafficking, all working, public and private, on the Lord's day; all travelling, visiting, walking abroad for health and recreation, and all amusements: and commanding all persons, with a few insuperable exceptions, to frequent certain places of public worship; and, in the hours of interval, to carry on domestic and secret religious duties. Such laws might operate by ą, well organised machinery of civil officers, who should be authorised and empowered to enter all habitations, from the palace to the cottage, the garret and the cellar; and the penalties might be various sufferings in purse and person, which would be no paltry trifles like the five shilling fines of an act of Charles II. (which when once paid is a kind of licence for conten«pt and violation of the law all the day long), but such fines or castigations as would make sure of the submission of princes and peers, and all down to the lowest peasants and artisans. This ideal sketch will be thought a strange imagination, unnecessary and foolish to be made : but, let me be allowed to say, that something very much like it would be the result of an honest attempt to apply the Jewish law of the sabbath, since the abrogation of the Mosaic economy. All persons, however, who will reflect, must be convinced that it would be utterly impracticable." Doubtless, the attempt thus consistently to act upon the example of the monarchs referred to, would cost Kamehameha his crown, either through internal revolt or external aggression of foreign powers; but

duty is ours, events are God's,” and we must not lower the standard of duty to suit our convenience : we can find no warrant for TOLERATION of evil in the whole scripture.

But we learn that this Christian prince has been compelled to suffer the Romish missionaries to land under the guns of a French frigate. What would Nehemiah have recommended in like case, “ Be not ye afraid of them, remember the Lord which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses."

We should then have had the commencement of a most just national defensive war, in which, if we can, for argument's sake, imagine the parties more evenly matched, we might see them forming alliances offensive and defensive, chant, to reside there, and that he is afterwards found teaching the doctrine of the Pope, that he may be retained as a prisoner, or banished, after having paid a fine at the discretion of the chiefs. And in order that this law may be extensively known, it is made the duty of the pilot to carry with him the ordinance, and show it to the master of the vessel ; in default of which, the pilot is to pay to the chiefs one hundred dollars. The ordinance ter

" If any one, either foreigner or native, shall be found assisting another in teaching the doctrine of the Pope's religion, he shall pay to the Government a fine of one hundred dollars, for every such offence.'

“ KAMEHAMEHA III. “Lahaina, Maui, Dec. 18, 1837."

Record, Feb. 20.

minates thus :

involving other nations in this most direful of all calamities -blood flowing profusely, treasure lavished without end, and, when mutual devastation had made repose indispensable, the dove of peace resting at length on an island rendered a spectacle of desolation by this most Christian and mercenary war! But the king has yielded, and his well-intended proclamation has proved but a brutum fulmen.

The missionaries have landed-bye and bye they gain converts. The Sabbath-laws harass them, and, perchance, a public meeting is called, similar to one held at Mobile, in the United States, in 1830, at which the following Resolutions were passed (p. 189) "Resolved, that a portion of the present meeting is composed of Roman Catholics, whose religious opinions do not compel them to close their stores or shops on Sunday ; that this custom prevails in all catholic countries in the world; that they have inherited these maxims from their forefathers, and are tolerated in them by their own church, and their conduct has never been called into question in New Orleans, the capital of our sister state of Louisiana.” Or dissatisfaction with the established order of things may proceed further, and, as recently happened in Moravia, a whole village may request permission to change their religion.*

What is now the situation of our Christian king ? Truly a pitiable one, in which it would be exceedingly difficult for him to take the New Testament in his hand, and say,

“ How would my Lord and Saviour have acted in such a case as this ?" Surely the thought could scarcely be foreign to a Christian breast at such a moment. “ Is the situation of authority in which I am placed compatible with discipleship to Jesus?” This is the previous question, which, before discussing the duties of Christian princes, we wish both churchmen and dissenters to decide, according to the precepts and example of Him whom they call Master and Lord.

We are aware that we are now treading on tender ground; but we say, the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word—it is because there is no light in them.” We

say, that when once a passage can be brought forward from the New Testament, recommending Christians to accept, or directing them how to conduct themselves in, situations of worldly authority in the present dispensation, we will renounce all our views of the present duties and situation of the Christian, and bow before the advocates of national and established christianity. It is very remarkable, and

may furnish a subject of much instructive research, how entirely the precepts of the New Testament are adapted to a state of things in which the servant of Christ is surrounded by those who are not subject to his laws. They are framed on the supposition that those around him will not act rightly: but through the midst of this evil they mark out for him a plain path. Had the precept been “ Love them that love you,” it would have made it needful that the believer should be surrounded by friends before his heart could be fully tuned to the gospel pitch; but “ Love your enemies," at once makes his heart a channel for the outflowing of those streams of refreshment which make glad the wilderness around. Even so with

" To

*“We read, in the Journal de Debats, of the 29th Sept. last, 'A whole village of Moravia has requested permission to change their religion. The inhabitants are abjuring the Roman Catholic faith, and becoming Protestants. These words sound strangely in the ear of a Christian. To ask permission to change the religion as we demand permission to change the name, or as schoolmasters, printers, &c., are obliged to request permission to make a change of residence. When will the governments of the earth understand that the consciences of individuals belong not to their domain-but are responsible to God alone ?”Arch. du Christianismi.

« Resist not evil,” and many other blessed but too much neglected precepts. And thus the New Testament provides a path plain and safe for the believer, with reference to magistracy: it calls upon him to be “subject to the powers that be," and most clearly teaches him that “ there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.” We hold it as indisputable truth, that unconditional submission, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake, is the duty of the Christian, save only where obedience to God imperatively interferes with this duty. Nor less do we hold and practise the duty of praying for kings, and for all that are in authority. But that worldly power can be in any country administered with entire consistency by a simple-hearted and devoted servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, we do not believe. He has given precepts for the conduct of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of masters and servants, and of those invested with authority in the church ; but the New Testament, always contemplating Christians as disciples of a Lord rejected by the world, provides nothing for their filling stations of power and dignity, in a world which crucified their Master. The New Testament knows nothing of national christianity, nothing of Christian princes; but the character of the whole dispensation, as regards us, is unfolded in the address of James, " Simeon hath declared how God, at the first, did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.” It is not till the tabernacle of David is built again, till the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, that the administration of the world is ever spoken of as committed to the people of the Lord.

6 To him that overcometh and keepeth my word unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations.” This is no dream of the fanatic, but the spiritual reign with Christ of those who are for ever delivered from the burden and evil of the flesh. But the attempt of real Christians to take part in ruling the world now, just ends in showing the weakness and powerlessness of the beloved of the Lord when clothed in the armour of Saul. How can the Christian, looking with a single eye to the glory of Jesus, take part even in a country so highly blessed as this, in the execution of a government which embodies in its very nature EXPEDIENCY as a principle of action. How can a member of the legislature read in the morning “ I say unto you, that

ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” - .“ Love your enemies ; do good to them that hate you, &c. &c." and at night vote supplies to maintain a standing army and navy-indispensable it may be in the present state of the nations, but defended not on the ground of abstract christian principle, but of expediency. How can the executive of a Christian government be cognizant of the spread of Popery, Socialism, and Infidelity, without putting forth its power to suppress these evils ? But were any government so disposed, would not the arm which should “not wield the sword in vain” be paralysed by expediency. Can the christian magistrate, as an individual, show all meekness and gentleness to all men, walking in grace towards them that are without, knowing that “them that are without God judgeth;” and in another capacity, with another individuality, a different conscience, an opposite or varying standard of action, deal out impartial and even-handed justice (apart from grace) to the sinner, as “a revenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil ?” These things, we confess, are beyond our power to reconcile, as much so as it is beyond our ability to perceive in what manner the glory of the Lord Jesus is exalted in the conduct of some of those who are yet “ members of his body," but who have so little drunk into the spirit of their Master, and so deeply into the troubled stream of political strife, as to appear almost ready in their public career to call down fire

« AnteriorContinuar »