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formed into ploughshares and pruning-hooks; selfishness, avarice, injustice, oppression, slavery, and revenge are to be extirpated from the earth; the tribes of mankind are to be united in the bonds of affection and righteousness, and praise spring forth before all nations; the various ranks of society are to be brought into harmonious association, and united in the bond of universal love; the heathen world is to be enlightened, and the Christian world cemented in one grand and harmonious union; the landscape of the earth is to be adorned with new beauties, and the 'wilderness made to bud and blossom as the rose ;''the kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Messiah,' 'the whole earth filled with his glory,' and his sceptre swayed over the nations throughout all succeeding ages." If such a work is to be wrought, surely nothing but the Christian religion can effect it. Human reason would fail here. Lord, hasten the universal triumph of the cross!
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
ART. V.-OUR COUNTRY.
THERE is a feature in Christianity which seems to have been overlooked by most writers on morals and religion. That it is a remedial system is admitted on all hands. But what is it to remedy? Manifestly, human nature. They are not the works of God which it proposes to remedy. These are all perfect. It is not the state of the physical world which Christianity proposes to remedy-unless it be by that awful and sublime process which is to produce a new material universe, after the general conflagration, for the future residence of the saints.
It is, then, the moral nature of man that Christianity proposes to remedy. It finds this disordered, and prescribes a remedy for the disorder. It does not, indeed, profess to create new faculties, either of body or mind; but it finds the understanding dark, and proposes to enlighten it; it finds the conscience asleep, and arouses it to action, that it may do its office. The affections of the heart, the desires of the soul, are fixed on wrong objects, or thrown out to the blast of every wind. These are taken in hand by this kind restorer of human nature, purified from their grossness and defilement, drawn off from forbidden objects, and placed where they may repose with tranquillity, and perform their functions without either remorse or distraction. All this is done by the remedial influence of that Christianity which has come down from heaven to renovate man, and to "make all this new."
This is no new thought. It has been proclaimed a thousand times; and would to God that it might be more generally realized by those for whom the provision has been made.
It was said that this divine remedy is for man. It is designed to fit him for his station; to qualify him to "act well his part" in that relation he sustains in the creation, whether as a lord over inferior animals, as a cultivator of the soil, a merchant or a mechanic, as a subject of the government of God, as a citizen of the world, as a
subject or citizen of a particular country, as a husband, father, or son, as a magistrate, or as one who is bound to obey the laws. In whatever respect he is unfitted to sustain himself in any of these relations, or to discharge the duties arising out of them, Christianity comes in as a restorer, proposing a remedy for his defects, and imparting, by means of its internal energies and its external instructions, capabilities and qualifications to enable man to fulfil his high destiny.
We mean to apply these remarks to the subject indicated at the head of this article, and thereby bring into view that feature of this religion which seems to have been, in some measure, overlooked by Christian moralists. Christianity, then, does not propose what form of civil government shall exist among men. It has existed and flourished under all possible forms. When it first made its entrance into our world, imbodied in the person of its adorable Author, it found mankind under a monarchy of the most absolute character. It did not make war upon this monarchy. The structure of the civil government, whether as displayed in the person of Herod, whose jurisdiction was confined to the land of Judea, or in the person of Cesar, whose jurisdiction was of almost unlimited extent, it left to itself, simply teaching the people to "render to God the things that are God's, and to Cesar the things that are Cesar's." This divine maxim, which fell from the lips of the Founder of Christianity, comprehended every thing; every duty, civil and religious. It found a government existing, and commanded its disciples to conform to its requisitions, so far as they could without abridging the rights of God; which, indeed, always have had, and always must have, a prior claim upon the homage of mankind.
The apostles, who were the authorized expounders of the doctrines and precepts of Christianity, living under a similar govern ment, but in the hands of a tyrant of the most atrocious character, inculcated obedience "to the powers that be." They did not intermeddle with the civil powers any farther than to exact obedience from their followers to the constituted authorities of the land. Read over the Evangelists, the Acts, and the apostolic Epistles, and if you can find any officious intermeddling with the affairs of state, we will then allow that we have but imperfectly understood this divine system of religion.
But, while it left all these things to be regulated and managed by those to whom they belonged, they did not fail to attack the vices of all, whether high or low, whether in or out of office; whether the delinquent wielded a sceptre, wore the ermine, brandished a sword, or occupied a less conspicuous station, or mingled with those in the more humble walks of life. Here Christianity knew no compromise, took no bribes, held no parley; but openly, boldly, and with an honesty of purpose which would not be turned aside for any earthly consideration, rebuked, entreated, and instructed all.
We see, therefore, that in this respect, also, the system presented its remedial character to the consideration of mankind. It did not, indeed, propose to alter or modify the civil government of the country. It expressed no preference to a monarchy, an aristocracy, or a republic. It knew perfectly well that it could live and flourish under either the one or the other, provided the administration were in the hands of men who "feared God and gave glory to his name."
Instead, therefore, of undertaking to prescribe of what character the civil government should be, the public teachers of Christianity sought to bring all men, the ruler and the ruled, under the reforming influence of their religion; knowing, full well, that if its remedial effects were felt in the heart and expressed in the life, no unjust laws would emanate from the throne or the senate, nor would any cruel acts of administration issue from the bench of the magistrate. If all men were brought under the influence of a religion which teaches mankind to "do justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with their God," there would be no tyranny exhibited in the conduct of civil magistrates, no unjust and oppressive laws enacted by the legislature, no more than there would be resistance or rebellion on the part of the subjects or citizens. All would be bound together as a band of brothers, and actuated in their several relations by the reciprocal laws of justice, truth, and equity. This is the remedial character of Christianity. While it teaches its disciples to "submit themselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake," to honor the magistrate as "God's minister, sent to them for good," and "to render honor to whom honor is due," it proclaims, in tones of thunder, the just judgments of God "against evil doers" of every description; rebuking sin, though in respectful language, whether in high or low places. To the obstinate violaters of God's law it denounces wo and death, in terms that cannot be misunderstood; declaring to one and all, that "except they repent, they shall all likewise perish." Nor is this all. It reveals and enforces, by the most solemn and awful sanctions, laws suited to all conditions and ranks of men. To these laws implicit obedience is demanded. Duty is thus inculcated upon all. "Fear God, honor the king,”—that is, the civil magistrate, and "love the brotherhood," comprehends the whole duty it requires of man.
But suppose it finds mankind in a state of rebellion against God, against the laws of their country, and infringing upon the rights of each other, what does it propose to do? Does it propose to remodel the government? Not at all. Here it comes in its remedial character. Instead of seeking to change the laws of God, or to subvert the government of the country, or to annihilate the rights of individuals, it aims its blow at the rebellious hearts of men, seeks to change them, to subvert the false principles by which they are governed, and to restore them to the possession of their individual rights and privileges. This is its sovereign remedy, and it seeks none other. It knows, all its advocates who understand its principles know, that if this remedy can be applied to the heart and life, those other evils which arise solely out of this radical evil, this heart-sin, this hereditary disease, will be removed, just as naturally and as necessarily as the leaves will fade and die when the tree is plucked up by the roots. Let the governor and the governed thus feel the remedial influence of this sovereign antidote for the ills of human nature, and each one will "do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God;" and when this is done, it is a matter of indifference who is the ruler, what the nominal character of the government, or by what party the administration is carried forward. Neither justice, mercy, nor humility can work any ill to our neighbor.
These general remarks admit of a particular application to our VOL. VIII.-October, 1837. 38
own government. This is our country, and we love it. We love it not only because we were born in it, and have, therefore, received it as an inheritance from our fathers, but we love it more especially because we think we have one of the most happy, just, and equitable forms of government in the world, or that the world ever saw. This may be prejudice. If it be, it is a prejudice of a pardonable character. It is a natural one. Is it not, in fact, commendable? Is not that man to be commended who loves his country-the country which gave him birth-nurtured him—and which now protects him in all his rights and privileges-natural, civil, and religious? We hope, at least, that this feeling of the heart, prompted as it is by those impulses which are coeval with our earliest recollections, will meet with a hearty response from every one who may read these pages.
Shall this government stand? Shall our institutions, civil and religious, under which we have so greatly prospered thus far, be handed down to posterity unimpaired? Shall that constitution, the noblest monument of human wisdom, withstand the shocks of its assailants? Shall it be preserved as the palladium of our liberties and as the great "landmark" for future statesmen; the polar star to guide the national ship in the midst of the storms and tempests which may arise out of the conflicts of parties, and the rushing of human passions and prejudices? These are questions which every American patriot ought to put to himself. Nor let the Christian think that he ought to love his country less because he is required to love his God more.
It has frequently been observed that this government is an experiment. It is, indeed, an experiment upon a large scale. The fate of millions is involved in the issue. Not merely of those now living in this country, enjoying all the untold blessings guarantied to them under the constitution which binds, limits, and controls the action of the supreme legislature of the Union, but also of generations unborn in this and in other lands. And who can be indifferent in respect to the success of an experiment pregnant with good or evil of such an incalculable amount?
There are many reasons why it is called an experiment. It had no archetype; no precedent in the history of the world. The world, indeed, had seen the patriarchal, the monarchical, aristocratical, and the democratical forms of government alternately rise and fall; but until the American Revolution had effected the emancipation of these colonies from the dominion of the mother country, the world never saw a representative government in which the power of legislation was delegated by the mass to the hands of a few, chosen for that purpose by the united voice of the people. Rome, to be sure, had its senate; but this was neither checked in its legislative action by a constitution, nor were its proceedings balanced by an upper and lower house. Hence the almost perpetual vacillation from a republic to a monarchy; from military despotism to the anarchy of popular uproar and confusion. And what were the governments of Greece? Were they not so many petty, turbulent democracies, in the deliberations of which neither the voice of wisdom nor experience could be heard whenever the popular frenzy was wrought up by the harangues of artful demagogues? Those wild democracies,
often more tyrannical, and always more whimsical than an absolute monarchy, formed no fit precedent for the frame-work of the American confederacy. Here is an aristocracy of power, created, for the time being, by the people themselves; during which time the latter have agreed to surrender up a portion of their liberties into the hands of a few; reserving, however, to themselves the right of reclaiming this delegated power whenever they shall think it has been abused, and of putting it into the hands of others. This is the experiment.
Here are wheels within the wheel. Here are the several state governments, moving each in its own sphere, while the outer wheel of the general government throws itself around them all, and protects them without interfering with any. If these are so balanced and managed that each one can turn upon its own axis without interfering with its fellow, and at the same time keep within its destined sphere of action, so as not to clog the wheels of the general government, by the blessing of a munificent Providence the whole machinery may go on harmoniously, without interruption; and, if kept in proper order, may not wear out under the influence of its own friction. We say this is the experiment. The strength of the system is yet to be tested. Its durability must depend, not simply on the theory of the government, but upon the wisdom, the integrity, and devotedness to the interests of their fellow-citizens, of those who are appointed to manage the system.
For this we have some fears. And, though we do not wish to be set down as croakers, nor classed among the prophets of evil tidings, we cannot avoid the duty-so we feel it-of noticing some things which, we fear, forebode disastrous consequences. The mentioning of these is the chief object of this article; and, in doing this, we shall keep in view the principle with which we commenced, namely, that our Christianity-for we desire to sustain the character of Christian patriots, and not to take the hue of any political party—is a remedial system; that it intermeddles not with the forms of civil governments, but aims simply to make good citizens and subjects under every form where its disciples may dwell.
1. The first thing we would notice, as an evil to be deprecated, is the fatal influence of what has been called Lynch law. Ever since the scene of the Vicksburgh massacre, in which the majesty of law was set at defiance, and the honor of the magistrate merged in the virulent spirit of a mob, we have felt for the honor of our country and the safety of its inhabitants. Had, indeed, the civil authorities of the state frowned upon those deeds of atrocity, and expressed its voice of reprobation against the disgraceful acts of that inhuman butchery, we might hope that a repetition of such deeds of violence need not be feared. This, however, so far as we have heard, has never been done.
Let it not be thought that we offer a palliative, much less a plea of justification, for the desperate conduct of those villains on whom the vengeance of an offended people fell. By no means. If truth has been told of their character and doings, they justly deserved chastisement. But was there no civil process by which their deeds could have been brought to light, and the punishment due to their enormities inflicted upon them? If not, then the legislature of the state have been strangely unmindful of their duty.