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BY GILBERT MCMASTER, D. D.
DUANESBURGH, N. Y.
ALBANY: W. C. LITTLE.
ORIGIN, CHARACTER, AND DUTIES OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
Did the offering of a few remarks from me upon the subject of this letter require an apology, your request would furnish it. But none is called for. The subject occupies a prominent place in every system of morals; in it every citizen has a deep concern, and to it our attention is called for a purpose very different from that which engages the mere political partisan.
You do not need, nor does the occasion require, that any remark should be made on the several forms of government which have obtained among the nations. You and I perfectly accord in the preference of our own well regulated rperesentative Democracy, to either the oligarchy or the monarchy ; or any modification of these, such as we find in the British empire. All you require, and all I shall give, will be a mere outline of what occurs to me at the moment, upon the subject. You will take the following positions as containing the principles of my political creed, considered abstractly from any existing government; and I flatter myself, when some unhappy prejudices now existing shall have passed away, and when party conflict shall have been forgotten, they will be found in accordance with the views of most, if not of all, reflecting christians and enlightened statesmen.
POSITION I.-Civil government is the ordinance of God, as the Creator and Governor of the world, for good to man, founded in the moral law of our social nature, the principles of . which law are the standard of its actual constitution and adminis. tration.
The social nature of man and his social interests are too clearly seen and felt, to require any arguinent in proof of
their existence and importance. The constitution of human nature evinces man to be a subject of moral government. Between him and his Creator a relation, deeply interesting and of extensive bearing, exists. It is out of this relation the law of our nature arises. That law is stamped with the authority of God. There is no faculty of the soul of man which does not connect him with his Maker; and there is no attribute of Deity, known to us, which does not connect him with his rational creature. God gave to man this constitution, and thereby expressed his will, that its various principles should be brought into action. The law of our nature is the result of this constitution, related as it is to him who made us, and to those beings with whom he has connected us in life. Its requisition is, that we should act suitably to our relations, in the employment of the faculties of that constitution given us by the Creator. Thus it appears evident, that, our nature being moral, the law of that nature must likewise be moral. Morality cannot be excluded from it in its social aspects, and, consequently, the law of social man is God's moral law, '
This law is common to man. Wherever you find man you find this law extending its authority' over him, and demanding of him a conduct corresponding with its requisitions. The social principle of our common nature urges to enter the social state, and our necessities and dangers come forward, powerfully to second its demands. In these the voice of the law of our nature is heard distinctly speaking, and whilst it presses to the same end, it demands that its principles be duly regarded. Thus civil society and its order are founded in the law of nature, which is common to man, and by the principles of that law, as the immediate rule of action, in the constitution and administration of civil government, must man be regulated.
Man's intellectual, as well as his other powers, have greatly suffered by the fall. He has lost his way to heaven, nor can he find it by any exertion of his own. The world by wisdom knew not God. As regards the affairs of the present life, its relations, its obligations, and pursuits; together with à sense of his amenability to God for his conduct, man is neither in the condition of the insensible stock, nor in the state of the irrational tribes of creation. God, in mercy to our world, has preserved on the tablets of the human heart,
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notwithstanding its depravity, many important fragments of that law whose inscription upon it was once so full and fair.
These having not the law, supernaturally revealed, are a law unto themselves, which show the work of the law written in their hearts. This inscription is read in the light of nature, and to it the world owes many a magnificent display of valour, patriotism, and generous actings. Upon the subject of political rights and order, it speaks with peculiar distinctness. “There is nothing of which natural men are better judges, than of the common rights with which humanity has been endowed by its bountiful author."* The voice of naturé, speaking in nature's law, confesses God 'as ordaining civil society, and appointing civil authority to be the guardian of its rights. The Bible in many a page sanctions the declaration. There is no authority except it be of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. By me kings reign and princes decree justice,-even all the judges of the earth. The atheist alone will be found attempting to separate civil government and its operations from God; and it is the fanatic alone, who will endeavour to settle it upon another foundation, than the common law of our common nature..
Position II. -Political and Ecclesiastical society are essentially different from each other, in their nature, government, and immediate ends.
Political society is secular, conversant in its constitution and administration with what is external, and not to be permitted by any means, to come within the sanctuary of God. Ecclesiastical society is spiritual, having to do with the consciences of men, for their spiritual advantage; and in the economy which it employs, not going out to mingle in the affairs of state. A careful inquiry into the subject will show the government of the commonwealth and that of the church, to differ in their origin, object, form, end, effect, subject, distinct exercise, and immediate rule. An explanation of these several points would carry us beyond our present purpose. You can find them amply discussed in the books. In the cxi Propositions of the Church of Scotland, upon this subject, in A. D. 1645, a distinct, and, in general, lucid statement of
*Rights of God and Map.