MINISTER OF THE ASSOCIATE CONGREGATION OF
ACTS 9:15. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY NEILL AND SONS;
JOHN JOHNSTONE, AND WILLIAM WHYTE AND CO.,
EDINBURGH; AND WILLIAM COLLINS, GLASGOW.
These Lectures were originally delivered for the instruction of the author’s Congregation. In compliance with the desire of many who heard them, they are now published. Although they appear as two Lectures, they contain the substance of what was delivered in three, besides several additions made while in the press. The author looks upon the controversy about Establishments, not as a party contest, but as a contest between Truth and Error: he looks upon the principles held upon this subject by the body to which he belongs, as the cause of God and the cause of man, which all ought to defend in their generation, who value the divine glory and the welfare of posterity.
HADDINGTON, March 22, 1839.
In every discussion it is of the utmost importance to have the subject in debate clearly defined at the commencement, and steadily kept in view as we proceed. Truth is always promoted by clear definition and definite expression. She has a dress worthy of herself only, when, like her Great Author, she is “clothed with light as a garment.” Error on the contrary, generally endeavours to shelter her deformity beneath vague terms, and half explained principles, and under the covert of this friendly darkness, she urges her pretensions to be acknowledged as divine, and receive the homage due to truth. From this cause, in my opinion, arises to a great extent the plausibility of what are called the Voluntary principles. Ambiguity has all along been the secret of their success in this country. The advocates of that system, did not unfold their principles as a whole, and at once—they presented them gradually, just as their people were able to bear them. they generally commence their attack upon Establishments, without defining either the principles to be opposed, or those to be defended,—and during the discussion, not being confined by such a definition, they too often introduce subjects that are wholly extraneous, select a detached part of their system that has the aspect of generosity, and present it to their auditory as if it were the whole; appeal to interest instead of principle, to prejudice instead of candour, to party feeling rather than patriotism; and indulge in flights of declamation, during which, many of us lately saw one of them become invisible amid the light ineffable of a Court levee, and by his fall from the region of mechanical sublimity, we were reminded of the fate of Daedalus, whose waxen wings were melted when he approached too near the sun, a warning to all not to attempt the eagle’s path, until they are gifted with the eagle’s wing.
That we may not be chargeable with ambiguity, we shall at the outset endeavour to state the principles of our opponents without exaggeration, and our own without concealment. And, here we have to complain of the very unfair definition of Voluntaryism, lately given by the most talented of all its Scottish advocates, Dr. [Ralph] Wardlaw. “What Sir,” asked he, “is the Voluntary principle? what is it, but the principle of Christian love,—of love to God,—love to Christ,—love to the church,—love to mankind, operating in deeds and gifts of generous self-sacrificing beneficence,—the spirit of that love, without which, all religious profession is a “sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal.” In this definition, we have another proof that great men are not always wise, and that modern liberality is monopolizing and intolerant. If the Voluntary principle, be the principle of Christian love, then all who are not Voluntaries must be destitute of love to God. In other words, if this definition be correct, the Voluntaries alone are entitled to the name of Christians; for if the opponents of Voluntaryism may possess Christian love, then the Voluntary principle to which they are opposed cannot consist in love, and Dr. Wardlaw’s definition must be looked upon as one framed without deliberation, as we may charitably suppose, from confounding the motive by which he is actuated, with the principle he is labouring to advance. If the Voluntary were only the principle of Christian love, who would be so impious as obstruct its progress, or retard its triumph for one single hour? Who would not bid them God speed? Who would not proclaim himself a Voluntary, and pray that the world might be filled with such? If, however, our ecclesiastical establishments stand until they are subverted by the principle of Christian love, they are likely to remain as long as “sea surrounds our shores—and sunshine warm our soil.”
We may arrive at the fundamental principle of our Voluntary brethren by a deliberate consideration of the end they are seeking to accomplish. Their declared intention is to subvert the Established Churches presently existing in so far as these are national institutions. They seek to accomplish this end, not that they may enrich themselves with the spoil; not because there are errors in the creed, or corruption in the administration of these churches; but because they are of opinion that every civil establishment of religion is unwarranted by Scripture, unjust to dissenters, and injurious to religion. If they were the legislators of the world, religious equality would be the first maxim of their government,—all sects would receive equal countenance, and all creeds equally support—because none of them would receive any. What they ask of the magistrate is to withdraw all endowments granted by the State of the Church, to repeal all civil laws in her favour, and from henceforth to act towards her upon the principle, that in their official capacity, religion is a subject with which they have nothing to do. They ask the magistrate to be neutral, just to cease from persecuting the church, give her free toleration, and let her alone. That we are doing no injustice to the sentiments of our opponents will be evident by the following extract, from an address delivered at the first public meeting of the Edinburgh Voluntary Church Association, by the Rev. Dr. John Brown [of Broughton Place]. “We unequivocally avow, what we are prepared satisfactorily to prove, that the civil establishment of religion, under the New Testament economy, is unjust, impolitic, unscriptural, and mischievous; and that, therefore, our object is to obtain, not a less objectionable form of the connexion between Church and State, but the complete dissolution of that connexion,—the putting an entire end to all interference on the part of the civil authorities with regard to religion, in the way of sanctioning creeds, appointing ministers, and providing for their support. In other words, our object is to induce civil governments to let religion alone, and to allow every man, and every body of men, while they conduct themselves as good citizens, to manage their own religious concerns in the way they think to be most agreeable to the will of God, ‘with whom’ alone, in such matters ‘they have to do.’ This is the object—the sole object—of the Voluntary Church Association.” It being thus the alone, the Voluntary principle properly so called, is, that magistrates in their official capacity have nothing to do with religion.
In opposition to this, we hold that all power is from God, and should be devoted by God, “That though civil government is founded not on revealed but natural principles, yet it is the duty of nations and their rulers, who are favoured with revealed religion, not only to embrace it, but to recognise, and give public countenance to the profession of it; and by their laws and administration to provide, in every way competent to them, consistent with its nature and peculiar laws, and the just rights and liberties of rational agents, that its salutary influence have free course, and be diffused through all orders and departments of society.”* Acting in accordance with these principles, there are three objects to the attainment of which the efforts of nations and their rulers should be especially directed. These are the stability, reformation, and extension of the Church of Christ. Every magistrate should endeavour to render the church as permanent as the state. To aid by his countenance and influence, the removal of every thing contrary to sound doctrine, to the exercise of scriptural discipline, to the independence of the church, the liberties of her members, and the prerogatives of her exalted head. He should also endeavour to make the Church of Christ thus purified, co-extensive with his territories; using his lawful authority, in a lawful way, to extend it until “every desert” within his dominions “shall be glad,” and every wilderness “shall blossom as the rose,” till every distant solitude and highland glen shall echo with the jubilee sound of the Gospel; yea, until every eye be glad with the light of truth, and every cottage vocal with the voice of Psalms. The means that should be used by nations and their Rulers for the attainment of these ends, are not simply their example and prayers as individuals. The social influence of nations, and the official influence of their rulers should also be employed. The manner in which this should be exerted, may vary, we apprehend, with the circumstances of the Church and Nation. The general rule is, that it should be exerted in that way, which in the existing circumstances is calculated most effectually to accomplish the three-fold object to which we have already alluded. The principle of Establishments then is this,—That magistrates as the representatives and rulers of nations, are bound to make use of their official influence for advancing the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom. At present we contend only for this principle, and not for any of its practical exemplifications.
We shall now endeavour to remove some misapprehensions or misrepresentations of the question in debate.
I. The question is not about the corruptions that may presently exist in any Church Establishment. Whatever, in any Establishment, can be proved to be contrary to the word of God, we say concerning it, let it come to an end. As its doom is to perish some time, let it perish suddenly. “Every plant that my father hath not planted shall be plucked up.” We admit that there have been, are, and ever will be errors in all established churches, just as there have been, are, and ever will be errors in all churches that are not established; but unless it can be shewn, that these proceed from the principle, and not from the imperfections of the fallible men by whom it is carried into practice, then are our brethren bound to use the besom [broom] of reformation and not the “besom of destruction.”
Abuses flowing from the improper exercise of human authority, are no argument against its lawful exercise. I might open the page of history, and speak of the doings of despotism from the days of Nimrod, down to those of the reigning Autocrat of Russia [i.e., Nicholas I.]. I might speak of their laws written in blood, of their deceitful policy, of the injustice and rapacity of their administration, of millions oppressed that they might riot in luxury, or sacrificed without compunction to the demon of their ambition; or, waxing figurative, I might tell you that tyrants are the storms, pestilences, and earthquakes of the human race, under whose dominion commerce languishes, the human mind becomes stunted in its growth, and religion pines like an Indian flower amid the Greenland snows. And what conclusion would you draw from this? Because there have been evil rulers, would you refuse to have good ones? Would you abolish civil government altogether, and restore
“The good old rule—the simple plan
That they should take, who have the power,
And they should keep who can.”
You would never think of that,—you would seek to reform the civil constitutions of the world, but not to subvert them. Upon the same principle, all arguments against the existence of establishments drawn from their corruptions, are utterly irrelevant. They prove that corrupt establishments should be reformed, not that they should be annihilated. Although, as we were lately told, “in the days of Mr. [James] Innes of Gifford, there were only two evangelical ministers in the county of Haddington, belonging to the Establishment; although in the early days of Dr. Adam Thomson of Coldstream, there were only two that preached the Gospel in all Berwickshire, and these very lame hands; although one minister in coming out of the pulpit, asked at a farmer, ‘where do the foxhounds meet to-morrow?’ and another was told by a Quaker, that the safest place for a retreating hare, of whom he was in pursuit, would be to take refuge in his own library;”—allowing all this to be perfectly true, it no more follows, because there have been careless ministers in the Establishment, that there should be no Establishment, than it follows, because there have been careless ministers, that there should be no ministers at all. Least of all does it prove that the establishment should be abolished, when the majority of her ministers are evangelical, and have given up the pursuit of hares and foxes for the ingathering of the heathen.
II. It should be distinctly kept in view, that we plead only for the Establishment of the true religion. Truth alone has claims upon mankind. When any system is proved to be erroneous, all obligation to countenance and promote it ceases. The magistrate, therefore, can be under no obligation to establish a false religion. On this point, there is no debate betwixt us and our opponents. We hold as distinctly and decidedly as they, that it is wrong in the magistrate to give countenance to error; as far wrong as it would be in a private individual. But that countenance and support which is sinful when given to promote error, may not be sinful when exerted for the advancement of truth. It is sinful in an individual to make a profession of popery and give of his substance for its maintenance and extension; and yet it is a duty incumbent upon all to profess and to support the true religion. It is sinful in a Mahomedan to use his parental authority to impress the doctrines of the Koran upon his children; nevertheless, it is the duty of a Christian parent, to use all his influence to make his children acquainted with the Bible. It is sinful in a minister to make use of his office for the propagation of error, and yet it is his duty “to preach the preaching that God hath bidden him;” and upon the same principle, while it is admitted to be sinful in the magistrate to make use of his influence for the advancement of error,—we hold, that it is his duty to use it for the advancement of truth.
All arguments, therefore, that do not prove it wrong to establish the true religion, are irrelevant and inadmissible. But it may here be said, what is the true religion? Each party think they are in the right, all seem equally convinced of this, who then is to decide between them? Is the magistrate infallible, so that he can certainly establish only what is true? To this we answer, the true religion has already been infallibly defined. The Lord of the understanding and conscience, hath revealed his will to us in the sacred Scriptures, which are the repositories of the true religion. And surely the meaning of the Bible may be ascertained? Were Prophets commissioned, and Apostles inspired to write it? Was it attested to be divine by miracles performed in the Heavens above, and on the Earth beneath? Did confessors suffer, and martyrs die in attestation of its truth? And after all, is it no better than an enigma,—the meaning of which we can only guess at? Must we live in perplexity, and die in doubt about its meaning? Must we always be wavering like a wave of the sea tossed to and fro, from shore to shore, by tide after tide? What becomes of the assertion, that “he that runs may read the Bible,” if its meaning cannot be learned by the most diligent and prayerful study? How then could it make the “simple” wise? How then could it be “a light unto the feet, and a lamp unto the path?” What then becomes of the “unction from the Holy One that teaches all things;” and of the promise, that when the spirit came, He “would lead unto all truth?” How useless the command, to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” if the faith delivered to the saints cannot be known? To those of our Voluntary brethren who ask is the magistrate infallible, we would say in return, are ye infallible? Can ye certainly know the truth? If there is nothing but doubt in this lower world, then you proclaim yourselves peace-breakers and schismatics, who are guilty of wantonly embroiling our distracted country, and rending the unity of the Church,—about a matter regarding which you are not certain, but after all you may be in the wrong. If truth cannot be certainly known, then have mercy on your bleeding country! Have mercy on the Church of Christ! Add no more fuel to the flames that ye have kindled about a matter of doubtful disputation. But if on the other hand, truth may be found,—ye will not, surely, hold that it can be found only by Voluntaries. If ye may certainly arrive at the truth,—others may also arrive at it with certainty, and so may the magistracy of a nation. The magistracy of a nation may err, and establish a false profession, but this does not free them from the duty they owe to truth. “In this respect, communities stand on a level with individuals. It is the duty of every individual to make a religious profession; yet it is at his peril if he adopt a false religion. Accordingly, he is enjoined to “prove all things, and hold fast that which is good;” nations acting by their rulers must follow the same course. They are bound in duty to examine what profession is most scriptural, and to give that the national sanction. In so doing, they are not required to assume the character of ecclesiastical judges of true and false religion, any more than the individual does, when in the exercise of his private judgment, he ‘proves all things’ with the view of adopting his profession; but most certainly they are to exercise a discretive judgment, with regard to the profession which they are nationally to adopt and sanction.”*
III. When the term magistrate occurs in this discussion, you are to understand by it, the supreme civil authority of a country. “No independent state can subsist without a supreme power, or a right of commanding in the last resort.” This power is entitled to make, to alter, and enforce laws; to dispose of the life and property of the nation, and from its decisions there is no appeal. It is possessed of this unlimited power, because it represents the nation, which should be viewed as willing, and acting through this accredited organ. When, therefore, we use the term magistrate, you are to understand by it, the authority, or authorities, by which the mind of a nation is expressed. The question, therefore, now is, not whether one individual may choose a religion for the nation,—but whether the nation acting through its representatives may choose a religion for itself? Not, whether it be proper to compel men to give of their substance for supporting the Gospel,—but whether a nation may not voluntarily set apart a portion of its funds for this purpose? You are to think of Establishments, then, not as the magistrate’s church, but as the national church, established by the representatives, appointed by the nation, to transact its business. Viewed in the light of a national act, the appropriation of part of the public funds for religious purposes is no more unjust to dissenters, than it is unjust to the minority of any Society, when the majority adopt resolutions with which they cannot agree.
IV. The question is not about the stability of the Church,—but about the duty incumbent upon nations and their rulers, to make use of their influence to render her stable.
Our opponents have often spoken and written, as if they were endeavouring to get it believed that we thought the Church of Christ unstable. We are often asked in language, that betrays the inward triumph of the interrogator, What! Does the Church of Christ indeed, need an Establishment? Is she become old and tottering now that she needs a prop, or lame that she needs crutches?
Now we know, and rejoice to know, that the Church of Christ is stable. Amid all the changes and convulsions of the world, she shall endure. Kings may die, and thrones may totter; the predicted day may come, “when the earth shall shake, and the sun be darkened; when the moon shall be turned into blood, and the stars of Heaven fall as the leaves of an untimely fig shaken with the wind;” but the Church shall stand, because “Jehovah is a wall of fire around her, and the glory in the midst.” Secure in His protection, she may ever sing “we have a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and for bulwarks.” “Surely, there is no enchantment against Jacob, nor divination against Israel; the Lord, his God, is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.”
Though, however, the Catholic Church of Christ be stable, the existence of the Church in any particular country is by no means certain. The “lamp ordained for the anointed” will never go out, and yet it may cease to burn where it is now brightest. If the inhabitants of any land desire to have the Church permanent among them, it is not enough that they believe in the stability of the Catholic Church, they must make use of means to secure the stability of their own Church. And the question we are presently discussing, is, whether nations and their rulers may make use of their influence for accomplishing this desirable end? To tell us that they should do nothing because the church is stable, is to beg the question; assuming, that because the end is certain, the means are unnecessary. For if the stability of the church be an argument of itself, against the use of one kind of means, it is an argument against the use of all means. We might adopt the same argument, and say to our Voluntary brethren, the Church of Christ is stable,—and although you withhold your voluntary support, she will be firm and immoveable; and if the logic in the one case be sound, then sound it is also in the other; and if Church Establishments ought to be annihilated because the Church is stable, then, because she is stable, voluntary support should also be withheld; and then, what was said by the Rev. David Young of Perth, ambiguously, would be really and literally true of him and his brethren, they would be left “to live upon Godliness.”
V. The question is not about the spirituality of the Church, but about the means that should be used for advancing this spiritual Society, To hear some of our Voluntary brethren express their sentiments, you would suppose that no human agency whatever should be employed about the Church. As an example of this, I quote another passage from the address of Dr. John Brown, to which I have already referred: “To attempt” says he, “to establish the true Church, seems to us equally preposterous. Can human, can created power form the materials of which the true Church is composed? ‘Is the residue of the spirit’ with any civil government on earth, that by his plastic influence, they may make men new creatures?” “No, they are His workmanship, created anew unto good works.” And again, “To establish the true religion by human means, seems to us impracticable, if it were desirable, and useless, if it were practicable. Can all the power and authority on earth, give additional evidence to divine truth, or additional authority to divine law. It is to hold up a taper in the effulgence of noon-day.” This language is only properly characterized, when we say it is pure Quakerism. If the sentiment which it embodies be carried to its legitimate consequences, it will annihilate all the outward and ordinary means of grace, and leave the conversion of the world to the influences of the Spirit apart from means. I might with equal justice, use the same argument against the preaching of the gospel. I might say to Dr. Brown, is the “residue of the spirit with you, that by his plastic influence you can make men new creatures.” It might be urged as a reason, why there should be no professors of Divinity. I might say to Dr. Brown, can your professor of exegetical, or pastoral, or doctrinal theology, “give additional evidence to divine truth, or additional authority to divine law.” To attempt it, “is to hold up a taper in the effulgence of noon-day.” It may be used as an argument against Church government. I might say, can the session of Broughton Place Chapel, or the United Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh, “form the materials of which the true Church is composed,” and answer, as he does, No. They are His workmanship created anew unto good works.”
The error in the above quotation, arises from confounding two things that are distinct, and should be carefully distinguished by every one who would obtain rational and scriptural views upon this question. The influence of divine grace by which souls are converted, is confounded with the external means by which the Church is supported. The Holy Spirit works by outward means, particularly by the external dispensation of divine ordinances. A class of office-bearers has been set apart for the administration of these. These office-bearers have temporal wants that need to be supplied. Though the magistrate cannot convert souls, he can give outward countenance and support to those ordinances appointed for their conversion; for the support required is temporal, and not spiritual. Though it be temporal, however, it is not carnal. There is nothing more carnal in the money that comes from a magistrate, than in the money that comes from an individual making a profession of his faith in, and adherence to the divine cause. When a Christian nation, having the glory of God as their end, love to Christ as their motive, and sacred Scripture as their rule, agree to provide out of the national funds for the maintenance of divine ordinances in every part of the country; there is nothing more carnal in this, than there is in a neighborhood agreeing by joint contribution to erect a dissenting church, and pay a dissenting minister. The church was as much a spiritual society under the Old Testament, as she is under the New, yet she was then supported by the State, a proof that her spirituality is not inconsistent with a national provision. We just beg everyone who speaks about the spirituality of the Church as an argument against Establishments, to turn to the book of Zechariah, and pursue the 4th chapter. In one verse he will hear God proclaim, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts,” and if he thinks this Voluntaryism, as many have done before him, (surely, without considering the passage,) then let him read onwards, and he will see the “plummet in the hands of Zerubbabel” the chief magistrate, and hear it promised, that “as the hands of Zerubbabel had laid the foundation of the house, his hands should finish it.” A proof that while all in the Church is done by the Spirit, all is done by means, and that magistratical influence is one of the means which he employs. It must, therefore, be perfectly consistent with the operations of the Spirit, and the spirituality of the Church.
VI. The question is not whether the Church of Christ be possessed of intrinsic independence in all matters that are purely spiritual, but whether this independence be incompatible with civil countenance and support. In pleading for the independence of the Church we will go hand in hand with our Voluntary brethren, and, if necessary, will suffer for it side by side. We hold that the civil and ecclesiastical powers are both ordinances of God, instituted to advance the divine glory, and promote the best interests of mankind. To each of these powers a distinct sphere has been assigned, within which the other may not intrude. The magistrate must not lift the censer, nor the priest draw the sword. Within their own sphere, both are supreme and irresponsible to the other. The Church may not assume dominion over the State in things temporal, as is done by Popery; nor may the State assume dominion over the Church in things spiritual, which is the error of Erastus. Within the State, the rulers of the Church are subjects, who have no right to enact laws, appoint officers, inflict punishments, or confer rewards. On the other hand, when the magistrate enters the Church, he must go in, not as her head but as a member, not to reign but to obey, not to receive homage but to offer it, to Him “by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice.” He has no right to enact a new institution in the Church, or to annul an old one; no right to fix her form of government, or appoint her office-bearers; no right to expunge an article from her creed, or to insert one; no right to dictate unto her ministers what they shall teach, or unto her members what they shall believe. Though the Church and the State are each supreme within its own sphere, they may cooperate with one another for advancing the great ends common to both, and assist one another in accomplishing the special ends for which they have been severally appointed, and yet the independence of each may remain untarnished. Without infringing upon the temporal independence of the State, the Church, by a vigorous exercise of her spiritual powers, may effectually promote those great ends for which civil government has been instituted. And, without infringing upon the spiritual independence of the Church, the State, by an enlightened exercise of its temporal authority, may increase the resources of the Church, and thereby enable her more effectually to gain those ends for which she was erected.
It is not, however, every alliance between Church and State, that is inconsistent with the independence of the former. If the civil powers should offer the most liberal endowment unto the Church, upon condition that she should yield unto them the appointment of her ministers, the calling of her assemblies, the framing of her creed, and agree to use her influence to support the political measures of government, it would be highly sinful in the Church to accept of such terms. To those who make such an offer, she should reply, Never will I barter my livery for wealth, or consent to wear chains even though they are golden. A mortal brow shall never wear the crown of Zion. The spouse of Christ shall never be a tyrant’s tool. Sooner than bask in the sunny beams of power, upon such ignoble terms, I will brave every peril, and endure every hardship; I will rather again array myself “in sheepskins, and goatskins,” and make my home in the cave or the mountain side, trusting in His protection, who “had not where to lay his head,” and whose disciples, when sent forth without “bag or scrip, lacked nothing.”
Though connexion between Church and State be sinful upon some terms, is it, therefore, sinful terms of every kind? Is the State essentially corrupt? Are its hands leprous, or its breath contagious? Must the Church necessarily be hurt by its help, and become a slave when she accepts an ally? No. Civil government is an ordinance of God, and therefore pure in itself, and capable of aiding, without either contamination or enslaving His Church. The “water of life” may be “clear as crystal,” when it flows in the full stream of a national provision, as well as when it flows in the little rill of individual effort. We hold that the State, as an act of homage unto Jesus as the King of Nations, and from conviction of the benefits derived by society from the preaching of the gospel, should give national countenance and support unto the Church, in order that she may more effectually and extensively accomplish her blessed designs. Now, is it not implied in these very terms, that the Church be left in full possession of her spiritual privileges? We plead that the State should perform a duty towards her, which is inconsistent with depriving her of her rights. We plead that this be performed as an act of homage unto Jesus, and, consequently, in the very act of giving it, Jesus received by society from the gospel, is another reason why the magistrate should support the Church. Now this also implies that she be left in possession of her spiritual liberty, because, when deprived of this, she is palsied and powerless, and incapable of producing those effects upon the heart by which alone society is truly elevated, and government really strengthened. It is, therefore, implied in the very statement of our principles, that the Church, while she receives support from the State, should be left independent; and our Voluntary brethren are bound to do one of two things, either to prove it utterly impossible in the State to support the Church without infringing her privileges, or, to prove that support received from the State is in itself sinful.
VII. The questions presently in dispute is not whether voluntary liberality be right, but whether the Voluntary principle be right. When the expression voluntary liberality occurs in this discussion, you are to understand by it, a part of his substance freely given by an individual, for the support of the gospel. The Voluntary principle is, that the magistrate, in his official capacity, has nothing to do with religion. Now, are not these two things most widely different? May not voluntary liberality be scriptural, and yet the Voluntary principle be utterly unscriptural? Because an individual may freely give of his substance for the support of the gospel, does it follow that nations, acting through their magistracy, may not do the same? There is no connexion whatever between the premises that personal liberality is scriptural, and the conclusion that national liberality is unscriptural. To prove it to be a duty in an individual to support the gospel, is certainly a new and most extraordinary way of proving it to be sinful in a nation to do the same. Though voluntary liberality and the Voluntary principle be so palpably distinct from one another, they have been confounded by every upholder of the Voluntary system. They prove to us that voluntary liberality is right, and then they think they have proved that the Voluntary principle is right. This miserable fallacy is indeed the principal argument that our Voluntary brethren have attempted to bring from the Word of God. They tell us that Christ hath commanded “him that it taught in the Word, to communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things;” and, that “the Lord hath ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” From this they draw the two-fold conclusion, that the Voluntary principle is the only scriptural principle, and that the advocates of establishments are guilty of setting aside an ordinance of Christ, which they say is as plainly enjoined as the Lord’s Supper, and more clearly than the Christian Sabbath.* To this we answer, you have proved that voluntary liberality is right, but you have not proved that the Voluntary principle is right. You have proved that it is right in individuals to give of their substance for supporting the gospel when this is required, but the passages adduced do not prove that it is sinful in nations to do the same. Far less do these passages prove that the magistrate has nothing to do with religion. Look at them again. “Let him that is taught in the Word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” By no ingenuity in torturing Scripture can this verse be made to teach, that the magistrate, in his official capacity, has nothing to do with religion. By no ingenuity can it be fairly shewn that it interdicts a national provision for the ministers of the gospel. There is no connexion whatever between the Bible premises, that he “that is taught in the Word, should communicate unto him that teacheth;” and the Voluntary conclusion, that it is sinful in nations as such, “who are taught in the Word to communicate unto him that teacheth.” On the contrary, from this very verse, the warrantableness of national endowments may be clearly inferred. It will be allowed that when a nation is blessed with a dispensation of Divine ordinances, it is incumbent on every individual to attend these; and this text makes it incumbent on every individual to give of his substance for their support. Now, what is dutiful when done individually, cannot be sinful when done jointly. The support which is due from every individual in the nation, cannot be wrong when given by the nation. This will be more evident if we consider the principle upon which this precept is founded. That principle evidently is, that in consideration of the benefits received by the preaching of the Word, may lawfully contribute to the support of the teacher. Now nations, as such, it will be admitted, are inexpressibly benefited by a pure dispensation of Divine ordinances. Nations, therefore, as such, are warranted by this verse to make provision for the ministers of the gospel, and they who assert that a national provision for the gospel is sinful, most assuredly receive no countenance from this verse. No more successful is their appeal to the other passage formerly quoted. Let us take another glance at it also. “Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things, live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” Now, is there anything in the words used, or the principle laid down in this passage, that has the shadow of an appearance of teaching that magistrates have nothing to do with religion? Is there any-thing that forbids, what is the most obnoxious part of an establishment, a national provision for the maintenance of the gospel? What is here ordained is, that the ministers of the gospel should receive temporal support for their spiritual labors alone, without being under the necessity of laboring for it in any other calling. But this ordinance does not prohibit nations from supporting the gospel. It says that the ministers of the gospel ought to be supported; but it does not say that they ought to be supported only by individuals. That they ought to be supported is Christ’s ordinance; that nations, as such, ought not to support them, is the ordinance of our opponents only, to which no countenance whatever is given by this text. Nay, such a doctrine is in direct opposition to the spirit of this passage, which, when examined more narrowly, appears to be pregnant with disaster to the Voluntary cause. Like a bolt from heaven, it lays, we will not say their towers and bulwarks, but their tents and tabernacles completely in the dust. They that ministered about the things of the temple, and waited upon the altar of old, were supported, not simply by individual liberality, but by a national provision; and the apostle declares, that “even so the Lord hath ordained, that they which preach the gospel, should live of the gospel.” To say that a national provision for the gospel is sinful, is to pour contempt upon this passage of the Divine Word, by tearing asunder the texture of the apostle’s argument, and making him draw a conclusion in direct and pointed contradiction to his premises. If, as our Voluntary brethren affirm, a national provision for the support of the gospel be condemned in this passage, then the apostle’s argument is this; they that ministered in the temple, and waited at the altar, received their support from the nation, therefore it is sinful in the ministers of the gospel to receive support from a nation. But no such conclusion can be drawn from these words. The argument for the support of the ministers of the gospel, in this passage, is drawn from the support of the Levitical priesthood, and that support being national; if this inspired argument be valid, it sanctions a national support of the ministers of the gospel. Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
VIII. While we hold that it is the duty of nations, and their rulers, to make use of their influence for advancing the gospel, we do not hold that they ought to compel men, by physical force, to conform to the national Church. None of the defenders of establishments think, or ever thought, that the magistrate has a right to dictate unto his subjects what they shall believe. They all know that the belief of an individual is a matter for which he is responsible to God alone. They all hold, that it is not with the belief, but with the outward profession that the civil powers have to do; and that so long as there is nothing in a religious profession, or the manner of maintaining it, that is hostile to the interests of society, or the safety of other professors of religion, it may and ought to receive negative toleration. It would be vain to attempt to force men to be orthodox. Error cannot be bound in chains or smitten with the sword. It cannot be tied to a stake or shut up in a dungeon. It would be as impossible to illuminate a mind, by Acts of Parliament, as to attempt, by the same means, to make the sun rise amid the darkness of a December midnight. Violence may multiply hypocrites, but it cannot add one additional member to Christ’s mystical body, or improve the morals of one member of society. Nor is it simply useless, it is productive of the most baneful consequences to the Church and to the world, as the history of the former abundantly testifies. Let Mahomet go forth with his Koran in the one hand and the sword in the other. Let Popery come forth with her articles and her ensigns of cruelty, as the only arguments that can be used in her favour. But let not Christians—let not Protestants, use any other weapon to force conviction but the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” On this point we and our opponents are entirely agreed. We both hold that it is vain and sinful to attempt to compel men’s consciences. But still there is a question, betwixt us, that is undecided. That question is not, whether the magistrate may erect military barracks and police offices in every town and hamlet, for the purpose of compelling men to be orthodox at the point of the bayonet or through fear of the prison, but whether he may not erect churches and send forth ministers to subdue sinners to the faith of the gospel, by moral compulsion,—by the preaching of the gospel,—“a weapon that is not carnal, but spiritual;” that does not force but change the will. We plead only that the magistrate should provide the outward means of grace, and leave the result of these unto the Supreme Ordainer. In the providing of these means, there is evidently no infringement upon the right of conscience to believe and profess what seems truth to be understanding. Because, if men dissent from the doctrines taught in the established good Church, they are at perfect liberty to do so, and so long as they are good citizens, the magistrate will not interfere with them. For example, although we are Seceders from the established Church of Scotland, you know that we have the fullest liberty to form our own religious opinions, yea, to lift up a testimony against the defections of the established Church. And is not this a complete demonstration, that a national establishment is not necessarily connected with persecution for conscience sake. Yet to hear some of our opponents describe an ecclesiastical establishment, you would suppose it to be a great engine of oppression,—a second Antichrist come forth upon his “scarlet coloured beast,” to “make war upon the Lamb,” and “make himself drunk with the blood of slaughtered saints.” You would suppose that the wheel, the rack, the gibbet, the faggot and the fire, were the only means ever used by an establishment for the conversion of men. After listening to a rhapsody of this kind, Seceders, such as we are, can answer it in one sentence—“I awoke, and behold it was a dream!”
IX. If you would obtain correct views about the importance of the present controversy, you must never forget that the whole dispute is not about endowments. The general principle that we are maintaining is, that it is the duty of nations and their rulers to exert their influence in that way, which, in the existing circumstances, is most calculated to advance the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom. From this it follows, that they ought to endow the Church when, in the existing circumstances, an endowment will be most calculated to promote her prosperity. It also follows, that the endowment granted should be given in that way, and to that extent, which will be most conducive to the usefulness of ministers, and the edification of the people. The revenues of the Church, should neither be so great as to tempt avarice, and dazzle the eye of unprincipled ambition; neither should they be so limited as to expose the ministers of the gospel to the temptation of spending their time, and their talents, to procure a livelihood from secular or literary pursuits. The office-bearers of the church should neither be elevated so far above the members, that they will become princes instead of pastors, who will rule over God’s church instead of feeding it; and account it beneath them to carry the message of mercy to the “poor and the maimed, the halt and the blind.” Neither should the resources of the church be so limited, that the minds of her office-bearers shall be liable to anxiety about their temporal subsistence, and be incapable of relieving the wants of the poor, the old, and the helpless. Whether the support of the minister should come entirely from the nation, or partly from his own flock, is a question about which the friends of Establishments are not unanimous. Some are of opinion that the happiest arrangement would be to give a partial endowment, and leave voluntary liberality to supply the deficiency. To us, this appears the likeliest mode of obtaining permanently a succession of zealous working ministers. Some of the defenders of Establishments have said, that when a minister is entirely dependent upon his congregation for temporal support, he is in danger of becoming a man-pleaser. On the other hand, the opponents of Establishments say, that when a minister is entirely independent of his people, when he knows that his salary is certain, whether his work be done, or left undone, this has a tendency to make him indolent in the performance of his duty, and careless about the souls committed to his charge. On both sides, too much has been made of these objections, for candour will admit that there is much truth in both. When a minister is entirely independent of his people, the natural tendency of this, when not counteracted by Divine grace, by excitement in society, or a more than ordinary love of fame, is to produce negligence. On the other hand, when a minister is entirely dependent upon the contributions of his people, the natural tendency of this, when not restrained by a strong sense of duty and love of truth, is to make him preach, not what his people need to hear, but what they wish to hear. And where this is not the case, how many instances are there of faithful ministers being exposed to great hardship on account of the limited provision made for them, and examples are not wanting of godly and laborious men being under the necessity of leaving the situation in which they had spent the flower of their days, simply, because their people were unable to support them. But were a minister rendered partly independent of his people, because he received an endowment from the nation, and yet left partly dependent upon them, because the national grant was inadequate to his maintenance, this would lessen the evils, and unite the benefits of both systems. It would be a spur to indolence, and, at the same time, a support to independence. It would give the whole people a direct interest about the maintenance of the Church, which would tend to make them value their privileges more, while it would free them from those painful emotions which are often experienced by conscientious and judicious dissenters on account of the limited, and often insufficient remuneration received by their minister.
Such are our sentiments about the best mode of arranging the temporalities of the Church. It is, however, much to be regretted that in this discussion so much has been said about money. Some appear to consider that money granted by the State is all that is important about Church Establishments; and all that seems evil about them, to others, is the money that is required for their support. This latter class weigh the question, not in “the balance of the sanctuary,” but in the scales of avarice. When they think about an Establishment, it is not what it does, but what it costs. The very mention of it conjures up before their mind scenes of past robbery, and fills them with a nervous dread of future plunder, under the influence of which, they give vent to their passion, in terms as lugubrious and variable as those of Shylock about his ducats and his daughter. Conscience! my money! the tax-gatherer, my money, and my conscience! are uttered in such mournful strains that you would suppose both money and conscience had been actually stolen from them. Now, to suppose that the whole discussion is about money, is to entertain most unworthy and groveling views of this great question. It is to give it a secular aspect that is highly unfavourable to its temperate and disinterested investigation as a question of principle. We hold that endowments are perfectly lawful, but so far from considering them to be the whole of an establishment, we do not even hold them to be absolutely essential. The Church of Scotland was the Established Church before she was endowed, and she might continue to be the Established Church, although her endowments were withdrawn. The question between us and our Voluntary brethren is not properly about endowments, but about the principle on which they deny these to be lawful. They hold that nations and their rulers have nothing to do with religion. Let them look this principle fairly in the face, let them prove that it is scriptural and rational, and then it will follow that endowments are sinful. But, although it were proved that it is sinful in the magistrate to endow the church, this would not prove that the magistrate has nothing to do with religion. Although endowments were withdrawn, the Voluntary principle would not then be carried to its legitimate consequences. Further triumphs would await it. It would forbid the magistrate to protect the Sabbath, to punish the grossest blasphemy, or to prevent the observance of idolatrous rites. It would teach him, in his public character, to pay as much attention to the Koran, as to the Bible; to the worship of Juggernaut [i.e., Hinduism], as to the religion of Jehovah. Upon the Voluntary principle, a magistrate is bound to act, in his public character, as if there were no immortality, no responsibility, and no God. In opposition to this, we hold that he that “ruleth over men,” should not only be “just,” but should also “rule in the fear of God.” We hold, that when the monarchs of the world use their influence for advancing religion, “she will be an ornament of gold about their neck,” fairer than the brightest star upon their bosom, richer than the costliest jewel in their crown. If Victoria, our Queen, be really a “nursing mother” of the Church of God, it will be a far higher honour to her, than if she had a retinue a thousand times more brilliant, and a form a thousand times more exquisite than it appeared to Dr. Adam Thomson, to whom she seemed a form of faultless symmetry, with a voice of such “entrancing ravishment as never issued from another mortal mixture of earth’s mould,” to which he looked and listened as if there had been magic in each word she spake, and witchcraft in each ray of her royal eye, and each beam of her royal features; and almost as if, with all his antipathy to “nursing fathers” of other churches, he could have been content to receive Queen Victoria as the “nursing mother” of the United Secession.
In appearing the advocate of Church Establishments, we lament that we have to contend against the professed friends of Jesus. Were it only with Deists and Atheists, and speculating politicians that we had to fight the battles of the faith, the task would be more delightful. But Christianity raises her venerable figure amid the dust of the conflict, and say, “It is not foes alone that reproach me, or this I could endure,” but “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.” Those whom I have fed at my table, and suckled at my own breast, are lifting up their parricidal hands to wrench the crown of supremacy from my brow, whenever I step beyond the privacy of individual life. “Save me from my friends, and I will defend myself from my enemies.” To this call we are bound to attend, and, in obedience to it, must oppose the saints when they oppose the Savior: as Moses did Aaron, “the priest of God,” when he set up the golden calf: as Paul did Peter, when he was “carried away with the dissimulation.” “He that loveth brother or sister more than me, is not worthy of me.”
We cordially admit the claims of many of our opponents to high attainments in piety and talent. But if the dispute were to be settled in favour of that side of the question, which had been supported by the greatest number of talented and pious men, it would most undoubtedly be settled in our favour. Voluntaryism is comparatively a modern heresy. In defending Establishments, we walk in the footsteps of the noble, and the wise, and the good of every age; of all the virtuous and admired patriots and legislators of every country. Around our standard have rallied those in every age, whose piety sheds a halo of never dying glory on the darkest pages of the church’s history. It was unfurled and upheld by all our reforming ancestors, and all our seceding ancestors, and by all the martyrs and confessors of the Church of God. Though, however, we have such a “noble cloud of witnesses” leading us on to the contest, let not our opponents for one moment suppose that we fly to their great names for shelter. Let them not suppose that we can give no better account of our belief than the Samaritan one, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain.” We are the advocates of truth, and she is too venerable in herself to be made more so by the splendour of the greatest names. She commands her disciples to be “ready to give unto every one that asketh, a reason of the hope that is in them.” And for this we are prepared. In defence of our principles, we are prepared to shew evidence, clear, strong, cumulative.
On every point of faith we appeal first to the “law and to the testimony.” We ask not what is the opinion of man, but what is the mind of God? What saith the Scriptures? And whatever is not sanctioned by Scripture, however numerous its adherent, however eloquent its advocates, though it be sanctioned by law and shielded by power, burnished with gold and grey-haired through antiquity, we must enter our protest against it, and expunge it from our creed. We have no interest in believing, and professing what is not true. If, therefore, Ecclesiastical Establishments can be proved to be contrary to Scripture, we shall frankly recant our present principles. Tomorrow our voice shall swell the war-cry of ecclesiastical destructionists, “Go ye up upon their walls and bring down their battlements, for they are not the Lord’s.” “Raze them! raze them,” from their deepest and oldest foundations, and instantly let them take their place among the relics of Paganism and Popery, and be held as unnecessary to the outward advancement of religion, as images and crucifixes are to aid in her devotions.
1. That nations should use their influence for advancing the Gospel, is evident from the fact, that all things are put under the Redeemer’s feet, for the “church’s sake, which is his body.”
In the eyes of its inhabitants, our earth appears larger than all the worlds that roll in immensity. Compared with it, the stars seem to be points, and the sun himself but a spot. Yet the earth is only one of many satellites that revolve around the mighty orb of light. Seen from his surface, it would dwindle into insignificance, and appear a speck almost two small for notice in the vast of being. Emblem this of the real glory of the Church, compared with what it seems to a man of the world. In his eyes it seems of little importance, compared with earthly States and Empires. Yet, it is for the Church, that “kings and kingdoms rise, and kings and kingdoms fall.” Empires are preserved for her sake, and destroyed on her account. And half the Church’s glory has not yet been told. In subordination to her interests, the whole affairs of the universe are managed. It has been supposed that in the interior of creation, there may be one central orb, larger in itself than all the myriad worlds of immensity, around which they all roll in harmony. What is only a supposition in regard to the works of creation, is true in regard to providence. There is a centre in which the universe revolves. That centre is the Church of the living God. It is a doctrine of Scripture not less certain than it is consolatory and sublime, that the whole universe is subjected to the Redeemer for the sake of his Church. “All power is given unto me in heaven, and in earth.” “He humbleth himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given Him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.” In Ephesians 1st and 20th, we are told, that “the Father raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” From these passages it is evident that all power in the universe is delegated unto the Redeemer, for the advancement of his church. Since all power is put under him, the power of nations, as such, must also be put under him; and since all power is put under him for the sake of the church, the power of nations, as such, must be put under him for this purpose; and should, therefore, be exerted to promote the Church’s welfare. It may, however, be objected, that when all things are said to be put under the Redeemer, we are only to understand by this, that he overrules all beings and events, so that they are ultimately conducive to his church’s prosperity; and, therefore, though nations as such be put under Him, they are so only passively, and not actively. To this we answer, First, that such an interpretation of these passages is wholly unwarranted. When all things are said to be put under him, it implies, that they are put under Him with all their powers, but rational creatures being endowed with will and activity, must be put under him, not only as passive instruments, but as active and voluntary agents. It is, therefore, the duty of the whole moral creation, actively to use all the influence they are possessed of, for advancing the Redeemer’s cause, and the duty of nations, as such, to do the same. This is evident in the Second place, from what we are told in Scripture about the angels. They also are put under Christ for the Church’s sake. In the same sense, then, in which they are put under him, are all orders of moral beings under Him. And are angels only passive instruments in the Mediator’s hand, or neutral spectators of the Church’s conflicts? Because they are not members of the Christian Church, because Christianity is the religion of a distant world and a fallen race, do they act upon the principle, that they have nothing to do with its advancement? No, they study it with the most intense interest. Notwithstanding the majesty of angelic endowments; notwithstanding that from the first of days, they have been conversant with the beatific vision; notwithstanding that in their character, as “ministering spirits,” they have probably visited in person many of those worlds of which we have got only a glimpse through the eye, and possibly others which no eye on earth hath seen, and no telescope discovered, distant so far, “that of their birth no tidings yet have travelled to our planet,” yet they study the themes of Christianity, as matters of the most elevated nature, and most absorbing interest. “Into which things the angels desire to look.” Not only do they derive instruction from the Church, they also offer homage unto Christ as Mediator. When He came into our world, “all the angels of God worshipped Him.” Around the shepherds as they fed their flocks by night, Bethlehem’s plains were illumined by a radiance purer than sunshine, and the voices of the blessed above were heard in a chorus of triumphant melody below. It was angels singing the natal song of Messiah their prince. And when he left our world, these blessed spirits came from heaven in glorious procession, to welcome home their King, “God’s chariots were twenty thousand, even thousands of angels, the Lord was among them as in Sinai.” The upper air resounded with the song of angels, who, with holy emulation, stirred one another up to higher ardour in their songs. “Sing praises unto God, sing praises to our King, sing praises.” Region after region echoed back their melody, star after star, saw forms pass fairer than their own sullied light. Arrived at the new Jerusalem, its “gates that last for aye,” were lifted up, and the King of glory went in, and the angels offer him everlasting homage as Mediator. “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and the beasts, and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne , and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.” And not only do angels acknowledge Christ’s supremacy as mediator, they are actively engaged under Him in advancing the interest of His Church. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister unto them that shall be heirs of salvation.” And when conversion work goes on, their hearts are filled with celestial gladness, a louder hallelujah circulates through their ranks, and the stanzas of their everlasting song, to the “worthy Lamb,” peal in loftier melody through the ample continent of glory. “There is joy in heaven before the angels over every sinner that repenteth.”
These facts, regarding angels, open up unto us the most magnificent and soul elevating views. They shew us, that Voluntaryism is at variance with the whole policy of heaven’s wide and everlasting monarchy. From the fact that angels derive INSTRUCTION from Christianity, we are taught that it is designed, not only for the instruction of the church, but for the manifestation of the divine character to the whole moral creation, that, in every station, and through every world, they may worship God, not only as He has revealed Himself in the architecture of the universe, but as He has revealed Himself in the face of that Son “who is the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” And from this it follows, that nations, who are blessed with the truth as it is in Jesus, should glorify God, not only as the God of Creation and Providence, but as “the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” In other words, that the Bible should be the directory of their official conduct, which is utterly destructive of Voluntaryism. From the fact that angels offer homage unto Christ, we are taught, that not only the powers that derive their origin from Christ, as the Head of the Church, but those also that are derived exclusively from God as Creator ought to offer homage unto Christ as Mediator. From which it follows, that nations and their rulers, though deriving their origin from God as Creator, ought to offer homage unto His Son as Redeemer.—From the fact that angels “are ministering spirits sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation,” we are taught that not only the members of the Church, but all moral beings, to whatever race and whatever world they may belong, are warranted and bound to use their influence to promote the advancement of the church. And is not this destructive of Voluntaryism, the very essence of which is, that the church should reject all aid that does not come from her own members. From the fact that angels use their influence for promoting the prosperity of the Church, taken in connexion with the passages which assert that all things are put under Christ’s feet for the Church’s sake, we are taught that the perfecting of the work of redemption is the end of the divine plans, and the central object in the cabinet councils of heaven, to promote which, the whole hosts of the unfallen, in an association wide as the universe, are workers together with their great Father and eternal King. And shall this golden chain, suspended from the everlasting throne, encompass the whole universe, and leave out of its embrace the kings and rulers of the world? To say that civil government as such, has nothing to do with religion, is to make it an anomaly in creation, is to free it from the universal law of the divine empire. To make it a neutral power in the contest between the “Father of Lights” and the “Prince of Darkness.” And while the powers and principalities of heaven “bow the knee” to Jesus, shall the power and principalities of earth stand erect as in the presence of an equal? Shall angels and archangels, from their thrones of glory, sing, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!” and is it, indeed, a part of Christianity, that the monarchs of the earth when seated upon their thrones, must say like the recreant disciple, “I know not the man?” Shall the highest dignitaries of the universe bend from the pinnacle of created existence to become “ministering spirits” unto the Church, and must the dignitaries of earth sit still in icy stateliness, saying, with all the heartlessness of Cain, “Am I the keeper of my subjects’ souls?” Is the advancement of the Church the end of Jehovah’s policy, and is it, indeed, the glory and perfection of human policy to account religion none of its matters? Shall the whole unfallen universe be one grand Missionary society, and are human associations for this purpose sinful, whenever they comprehend a whole kingdom? Here, ye nations of the earth, behold your highest glory! To cooperate with the holy universe in advancing the Redeemer’s cause. Learn, ye monarchs of the world, to rise above objects of vulgar ambition! Glory, not because you have the blood of princes flowing in your veins,—not because of the victories you have won, and the provinces you have conquered. Let it be your ambition to imitate and emulate the powers and principalities above,—to become fellow-workers with angels, and cooperate with God in the conversion of the world. Think not that your honor will be lessened by care about the church, for she is an object of attention to “Michael the prince,” and to “Gabriel that stands before God.” Imitate Gabriel then, rather than Gallio.
Ye Senators of the land, whose arms wield the destinies of empire, think not that in Christianity there is anything little, anything unworthy of the most expansive intellect, or offensive to the most classical taste. Suppose not, that the strongest infusion of her spirit will dim the splendour of your eloquence, or pollute the fountain of your genius. Think of the angels, the firstborn of creation, eldest offspring of God. They breathe empyreal [heavenly] air, and drink inspiration from the countenance of the Eternal, While our life is bounded by the narrow span of threescore years and ten, they have existed since the dawn of time; while our view is limited to a narrow portion of space, and the dispensations towards one family, they may have traced in the way of distinct and intelligent observation, that universe of which we only know the name. How grand then must be their general literature!—How glowing their eloquence!—How profound their Philosophy! They will see the top of thoughts that we of human stature never see. “Yet into these things angels desire to look.” “They are ministering spirits sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation.” And may not this teach you to imitate the princes of heaven, by consecrating your stations and your talents to the advancement of Immanuel’s cause. This will be a higher honour than to be peers of the realm, and the representatives of the most ancient and honourable families.
2. We argue that nations as such, should use their influence to advance the Redeemer’s cause, because it is specially said, that all power on earth is given to Him for this purpose. Many Christians, who are certainly as much distinguished for simplicity, as they can be for sincerity, believe that magistrates have nothing to do with religion, because no positive command is given to them in the New Testament to establish the Church. There are others, who look upon civil government as being so inherently, so inveterately, so irreclaimably depraved, that the Church of Christ must for evermore refuse its cooperation and friendly assistance. That we may see how futile both these objections are, it is of importance that we specially direct our attention to what is said in Scripture about Christ’s power over this world, although it be virtually included in the preceding argument. and you need not be told that Christ is possessed of unlimited and universal power over this lower world. There are many passages in Scripture that treat upon this illustrious subject. In order to give unity to our argument, we shall concentrate our attention upon one of these, that must be interesting to every Christian from the circumstances in which it was spoken. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.—Amen.” These were the last words of the Saviour of men. They consist of two parts, a command and an encouragement. The command embodied one of the noblest conceptions that ever had been presented to the human intellect, the Christianization of the world. But how was this to be accomplished? Here was a field too wide for the philanthropy of a nation to occupy, and “what will these feeble Jews do?” Unknown, without influence, without learning, what impression can twelve fisherman make upon the world? To encourage his disciples, the Saviour told them, that though they were weak, He was almighty; though their resources were small, His were unbounded; though all the power of the world might be against them, it was all given unto Him: “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” From the connection of the encouragement with the command, it is evident that all power on earth is given unto the Redeemer for the extension of the gospel. No exception, no restriction, is made by Him, and none must be made by us. Whatever power, therefore, is possessed by individuals, or societies, belongs to Jesus. He has received it in grant from the universal proprietor. What men call theirs, belongs to them only in a secondary sense. They have it only as the stewards of Jesus Christ. And it is no more incumbent upon the ministers of the gospel to teach all nations, than it is incumbent upon every being, and every society to aid them in the accomplishment of this god-becoming scheme. From every region of our earth, where the banner of everlasting love has never been planted upon the citadels of darkness, from every city in which the fane [temple, or shrine] of the idol stands, and from every tongue in which the praise of the idol is sung, is heard the cry,—a cry, solemn and piercing, as from souls tottering on the brink of Tophet, “come over and help us.” And the voice of the Saviour is heard from heaven, saying “go teach all nations,” and saying to every being, and to every society in the world possessing power, All power is given unto me for the extension of the gospel, and what I have entrusted with you, it is your duty to employ for my cause. Now nations as such, possess power additional, and superior to that which is possessed by the individuals who compose the nation. All power earth, being given unto the Mediator for the extension of the gospel, national power must also be given Him for this purpose, and it is the duty of nations to frame their civil constitutions so as to afford facility to the spread of the gospel, and to give of their resources for this purpose. This may be proved from several considerations connected with this passage. All power is said to be given unto Christ on earth, as universally as all power is given unto Him in heaven, and all the powers and principalities, thrones and dominions above, aiding in the advancement of His cause; all the thrones and dominions, principalities and powers of the earth, should also openly and actively appear upon His side. This is evident in the second place, from the manner in which it is admitted, that all other earthly power may be exerted for the extension of the gospel. It is admitted that the power of parents, masters, teachers, and the power arising from the association of neighbourhoods, should be devoted to the propagation of Christianity. And upon what principle, and by what authority, exclude, and forbid such an exercise of national influence? Why call upon every other power to come forward, and call upon that mightiest and most influential to stand back? Is it the duty of the head of a family to rule for Christ, and is it indeed the duty of the heads of nations to rule equally for Christ and Antichrist? This is Voluntaryism, but surely it is not reason. May every association and corporation of men give of their peculiar treasure for the advancement of the gospel, and must nations alone be forbidden “to honour the Lord with their substance, and the first fruits of all their increase.” This is Voluntaryism, but surely it is neither gratitude nor liberality. Is it the glory of every other society to give generously unto Jesus, and is it indeed the glory of nations to give nothing? May the doors of the exchequer be opened, and splendid sums be lavished for the advancement of science, and though districts and provinces within their dominions may be without the gospel, and annually sending their thousands, and their tens of thousands to an undone eternity, ought nations, indeed, to bar the doors of the treasury and say, we have nothing to do to provide for the soul,—we have nothing to do to aid in preparation for eternity? This is Voluntaryism, but it is contrary to all that we know of faith, hope and charity; to all we know of humanity and mercy.
In obedience to this command, “Go teach all nations,” it is incumbent upon Christians to endeavour to spread the gospel until it shall fill the world, the field which it is destined of God yet to occupy. It is right enough to form Missionary Societies for this purpose, when these are constituted according to the word of God. There would be nothing wrong in the inhabitants of the parish of Haddington forming themselves into a Missionary society. There would be nothing wrong in the whole country of Haddington associating for this purpose. Would it not be a gladdening sight to behold our landed gentry and their tenants, our agriculturists and their hinds, our men of law and learning, our tradesmen and our men of business, animated by one divine impulse, pouring forth through every highway and bypath unto the general meeting, “to give as the Lord hath prospered them?” If there would be nothing wrong in the country of Haddington being formed into a Missionary Society, there would be nothing wrong in any country of Scotland forming itself into a Missionary Society,—there would be nothing in a general society being formed which was to comprehend the whole of Scotland, to meet by their representatives to aid and encourage one another in the great work of propagating the gospel. And, on the same principle, there would be nothing wrong in all Britain being formed into one great confederacy for accomplishing the same end. There would be nothing wrong in the British parliament, as the representatives of the people, making use of their influence to propagate the gospel abroad. Nothing wrong did I say? It would be the most gladdening and most glorious sight that ever was seen in Britain, to behold our Parliament annually resolve itself into a Missionary Society, to see our premiers and chancellors, our peers and commoners, with the Queen at their head, engaging in prayer, “to Him that liveth for ever and ever,” and encouraging one another in the way and work of the Lord. If Britain’s senators in this way knew the grandeur of her destiny, and improved it; if they were as anxious to make her good as to make her great; if British statesmen would begin to seek the approbation of heaven, more than the favour of monarchs, or the plaudits of the populace; if they would lay our money for the salvation of souls as freely as they have done for the shedding of blood; if while they are as attentive as they now are to the rights of men, they would begin more to recognize and reverence the rights of God; then the name of Britain would become a guiding star to the nations of the earth, generations unborn would bless her, heaven would smile on her, the fame of her philanthropy would eclipse that of her arms, and the bloodless laurels gathered from the tree of life, would be green and glorious around her brow, when those of Trafalgar and Waterloo had withered and decayed. And if there would be nothing wrong in the nation forming itself into a Missionary Society to propagate religion abroad, there would be nothing wrong in the nation forming itself into a Missionary Society to propagate religion at home. And what is a Church Establishment when scripturally constituted, but a National Home Missionary Society, acting through its representatives?
3. It is possible that some may exclude the power of nations and their rulers from the “all power,” which is said to be given unto Jesus in the passage upon which the above argument is founded. The divine word, however, is perfect, and all evasions that are made to escape the force of one passage, are swept away before the more special and pointed language of other portions of the sacred record. The attempt to evade the conclusion of the foregoing argument seems to us wholly neutralized, by some special titles, given to Christ in Scripture, to which we have not yet referred. In the Twenty-second Psalm, he is called, “The Governor among the nations.”—In Revelations, 1st chapter, and 5th verse, He is called “Prince of the Kings of the Earth.” In Rev. xix. 16. it is said, that “He hath on his vesture, and on his thigh, a name written, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” Now through Christ be called “Prince of the Kings of the Earth,” and “King of Kings,” we do not suppose that the civil powers derive their origin from him as Mediator. The doctrine which teaches this, is the one extreme, and Voluntaryism is the other. The former makes a nation an Ecclesiastical state, the latter makes kingdoms independent of Him “by whom kings reign.” We hold, that the Bible doctrine upon this subject, lies between them, and that it is this, that while the civil powers have their origin in nature and not in grace, being derived from God as Creator, offer homage to the Redeemer; or as parents, whose authority is founded in nature, are yet bound to use it for “training up their children in the admonition of the Lord.” The direction in which a power is exerted, affects not its origin or its nature. And when civil government is put under Christ for the advancement of his cause, its origin and nature are still unchanged. And, surely, the titles “King of Kings,” and “Prince of the King of the Earth,” imply that Christ has authority over the civil rulers of the world, or these are mere names without a meaning, and titles that have the appearance of power without its substance, which it were blasphemy even to suppose. If Christ be King of Kings, the kings, of whom he King, are under him in their official capacity, for, in their private capacity, they are not kings. To deny that they are under him in their official capacities, is to make him King of individuals and not of monarchs. In other words, it is plainly to contradict this passage of Scripture. It is just as scriptural to say, He is their King in a private capacity only, as to say that they are his subjects only in a private capacity. It must, therefore, be admitted that Christ is the superior of kings in their official capacity, and, therefore, in their official capacity, it is incumbent on them to serve him. And surely it is strange service that he requires of them, if he commands them, as our Voluntary brethren affirm, to abstain most carefully from countenancing his cause. Surely, the world would think him a strange King who would forbid his subjects upon pain of his royal displeasure, to give no more homage unto him than they gave to other sovereigns. And is it rational to suppose that kings should give public homage alike unto Christ and to Christ’s enemies? Suppose that Mahomet and the Son of God had both appeared together in Britain in person teaching their religion, should the British legislature have given equal countenance to the Arabian impostor and to the incarnate God? Would it not have been their duty publicly to own and acknowledge, and give homage unto the Son of God? Now the Church is Christ’s representative on earth, and the duties that nations would have owed to him in person, they now owe unto her.
When our Voluntary brethren tell us, that Christ never commanded nations and their rulers to aid in the advancement of his cause, we point them to that text, “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth,” as a proof that Christ claims all earthly power as his for the advancement of the Gospel. When they tell us, that “Christ’s kingdom is not of this world,” we answer, Very true—but though his kingdom be not of, it is over the kings and kingdoms of this world; for “His kingdom ruleth over all.” And what we complain of in you is, that you restrict his Kingdom too much to the Church, and forbid kings and nations, who are his subjects, to offer him homage. It is on this account principally that we oppose Voluntaryism. It is hostile we believe to the best interests of society. It is hostile to the best interests of the Church. But its radical evil is, that it is opposed unto the glory of His kingly office, “whose name is above every name,” and whose glory is above every interest. It takes from the Saviour’s head the diadem of the nations. It seeks to erase from his vesture and from his thigh, the written name, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It rears the standard of revolt in one of the provinces of his dominions, proclaiming upon Kings and nations that they are independent. “Upon his head there are many crowns:” and, in opposing Voluntaryism, the motto on our banner is, “FOR ALL THE CROWNS OF THE MEDIATOR.”
It may be asked, what have you to do with Establishments, who are not a member of one yourself? To this I answer, much every way. I have to do with them as a citizen of this free country, who has a right to form his opinions, and express his sentiments upon every question civil or ecclesiastical. I have to do with them as a lover of my country, who feel myself bound by affection to her, and duty upon God, to resist the spread of every principle, that would tarnish the national glory, and lessen the national happiness,—as promptly as our fathers would have drawn their swords against every foe, that touched our soil with hostile intent,—and, it is my opinion, formed after much reading, much thinking, and a sincere willingness to know the truth; that the principles opposed to Establishments, are hostile to the true welfare of nations. I revere and respect many who hold these principles, I believe they are sincere though mistaken. While I respect them, I believe, that if ever the principle they hold about the magistrate’s power, shall gain the ascendency in this country, that then “Ichabod” may be written upon Britain’s banner: a cloud of wrath will gather above her towers and palaces, and her fate be that of Atheistic France in those dismal days, when the nation bent before the goddess of reason,—a demon, with the guillotine for her sceptre, and the hearse for her triumphal car. I have to do with Establishments of religion as a Christian, because a most important principle of the word of God is involved in this question. I have to do with them as a minister of the gospel, whose duty it is to warn his people against every error, and defend every truth that is assailed, not only when assailed by Deists, and Atheists, and Heathens, but also when assailed by its professed friends. Have I not to do with Establishments as the minister of this Congregation? Are there not many before me who know that this Congregation has suffered for the truth which I have advocated? Was not my worthy predecessor deposed because he would not break his ordination vows, by recanting the original opinions of the Secession on this subject? For its steadfast attachment to these principles, was not the Congregation deprived of its church, and had to worship God frequently in that great temple in which Adam worshipped in Eden; and our fathers worshipped in the days of persecution? And if we suffered for it at a former period, shall we be silent about it now? If we fought for it then, like a forlorn hope—like Leonidas in Thermopylae—shall we desert it now, when supported by the talents, and the prayers, and the wishes of the thousands, and the tens of thousands of the Establishment? If we should do so, we would shew that we had not a drop of Covenanter’s blood in our veins; that we were unworthy of the Erskines [Ebenezer and Ralph], and [Gabriel and William] Wilsons, and [Alexander and William] Moncrieffs, of the early secession. Unworthy of [Archibald] Bruce and [James] Aitken, of [Thomas] Chalmers, [George] Paxton, and [Thomas] M’Crie, to whom we are more nearly related. In fine, I have to do with Establishments, because I am a Seceder from the Church of Scotland. We are not Dissenters,—we are Seceders. We have the same confession of faith, the same form of Government,—we are the same in doctrine, with all evangelical ministers within her pale. We have seceded from her, because a ruling party within her, which is rapidly declining, departed from her standards, and as soon as she returns to these, we are pledged, and so were all our brethren at one time, to return to her communion. It is our sincere and oft repeated prayer, that she may shew to the world a third reformation more glorious than the second. Next to beholding the millennium, would we desire to see the mantle of her Knoxes, and Melvilles, and Hendersons, descending upon her ministers. To hear of the spirit of the Erskines, and Glencairns, and Argyles, descending upon her elders, and to see her people with unanimity and joy, entering into the oath of God, lifting up their hands to heaven, and swearing by Him that liveth for ever and ever, that they will never desert that cause, which their fathers left them as a legacy, purchased by their sufferings, and sealed with their blood. yes! Friends of the Church of Scotland! to see your ancient banner that was unfurled in the battles and the breezes of old,—that was held by the hand of martyrs,—that was defended by the wisdom and the arms of patriots,—to see it, with its noble motto, “For Christ’s Crown and Covenant,” floating triumphant on your battlements, amid the breezes of a third reformation, as freely as it floated of old, above the mountain sanctuaries of our fathers,—this will yield the purest joy to every genuine Presbyterian—to every genuine Seceder.
Some of our Voluntary brethren have called the question of Establishments, the “Questions of Questions.” It is wrong to give it this name. There are many questions of unspeakably greater importance. Is Christianity a message from heaven, or a fabrication of priestcraft? What shall I do to be saved? Have I been born again? These are the most important questions that can be asked by immortal spirits, and we must all beware lest our minds become so anxious about any public question, that we shall neglect “the one thing needful.”
The body of professing Christians to which we belong, have not worldly motive for defending National Establishments of religion. Although they were all annihilated, our worldly interest will not suffer; although they are permanent, we will not be gainers. We at least cannot be called state-paupers, or pension-fed clergy. We never received pecuniary assistance from the State. We never sought any. We have no intention of doing so. By God’s blessing we will stand as we have stood, until we can enter the Establishment with clean hands and uncorrupted consciences. It may be long ere that period arrive, and we may have many hardships to encounter. We will, I trust, be enabled to testify from Christ’s prerogatives as King of Zion, without assailing his prerogatives as King of Nations.
4. We find our principles verified by an example that is possessed of divine authority. In the only nation for which God ever condescended to legislate, he erected a national establishment of religion. That establishment, it should be borne in mind, was instituted before there were kings in Israel. After the Jewish government became Monarchical, we find the kings commended or blamed, favoured or denounced of God, just as they did, or did not, use their influence to advance religion. Every discriminating reader of the Old Testament must be struck with the powerful effect which the conduct of the King towards the Church had upon the aspect of religion and the civil welfare of the nation. When idolatry was countenanced by the monarch idol temples arose “upon every high hill,” and idol rites were performed beneath the shadow of “every green tree.” When they thus forsook God, God forsook them—wisdom departed from their councils—valour from their hearts—and victory from their arms. On the other hand, when the Kings were godly men, who used the influence of their station to promote the worship of Jehovah, then the true religion prospered,—the shrines of idolatry were deserted,—its images destroyed,—and its deities disowned. Then the light of God’s countenance shone upon the land. The subjects were blessed for their princes’ sake. Jerusalem became “the praise of the whole earth,” and Judea, “a field, which the Lord has blessed.” God turned back the tide of battle from their gates, or “when the enemy came in like a flood,” he went forth with their hosts in the day of conflict, and breathed into them the victorious and triumphant energies of faith, animated by which “they waxed valiant in fight, and put to flight the armies of the aliens.”
Seeing God established the Church under the former economy, we must have strong evidence before we can believe that all connexion between Church and State, is now essentially unjust, intolerant, and antichristian. We must have strong evidence before we can believe, that what was so beneficial to the Church of old, is become fatal to her now. Nothing but divine authority will satisfy us, that what of old, called down so remarkably the blessing of God upon the head of the King, and the resources of the country, will now only provoke his displeasure, and call down his vengeance. We say to our Voluntary brethren, it was once the duty of nations and their rulers to promote the advancement of religion, if they have been released from this obligation, point out to us where it is said so, that we too may see it and believe. “Christ’s kingdom was not of this world,” under the Old Testament, any more than it is now, although the Church was then established. It is, therefore, no proof, that there should be no establishment, to tell us that “Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.” The weapons of the Old Testament church were “not carnal, but spiritual,” although she was an established Church. It is, therefore, no proof that there should be no establishment now, to tell us that the weapons of the Church’s warfare “are not carnal, but spiritual.” The Jewish establishment existed for a long period before there were Kings in Israel. It therefore can be no proof that Ecclesiastical establishments are now sinful, to tell us, that the Jewish kings were types of Christ. It has never been proved that all the Jewish kings were types of Christ, but allowing that they were so, it is evident that the Jewish establishment did not originate in the typical character of the Jewish Monarchs, for this very obvious reason, that it existed before the country was governed by kings. What is essentially unjust, is so at all times, and in all places. No power in the universe can render it lawful for one moment. If, therefore, as our Voluntary brethren often assert, it be essentially unjust in nations to use their influence to advance religion, then it must have been unjust three thousand years ago, as much as it is now,—as unjust in Judea, as it is in Britain. “Is there then unrighteousness with God? God forbid.” The fact, that He connected Church and State under the former dispensation, proves that the natural relation subsisting between these two bodies, and between both and Himself, is such as to warrant union and cooperation between them, otherwise, He must have rendered that warrantable by authority, which was unwarrantable in itself. It may be said that a positive appointment of God renders that a duty which was not a duty formerly, and that the duty of the civil powers to promote the prosperity of the Church, under the former economy, arose from a positive command to the Jewish nation, which command was a part of the Mosaic dispensation, and has been abrogated along with it. To this we answer, first, that though a positive command from God, may make that a duty, which was not a duty formerly, yet, it would be to entertain the most unwarrantable notions regarding God and morality, to suppose that He could render that lawful, which was in itself unjust. And, therefore, the connexion between Church and State, which He sanctioned under the former economy, could not be unjust in itself previous to this sanction, and must therefore still be just. Secondly, The obligation upon the civil powers to promote the interests of religion, under the former dispensation, did not arise from a positive command of God. The outward ordinances of religion, which they were required to promote, and the peculiar manner in which they were to do this, arose from positive appointment; but the obligation to advance these, arose from the relations that nations bear to God. While, therefore, the manner in which the Jewish nation were required to advance religion, was transitory as the Mosaic dispensation, the obligation to advance religion, was as extensive and immutable as the moral law, and, therefore, extended to all nations and to all ages. That this is the case, will appear very evidently, if we attend to the distinction between the acts of obedience required, and the obligation to perform them. The obligation to obey, must always exist between two parties before any command from the one to the other can be binding. Before any command of a parent can be binding, there must previously exist in the party commanded, the obligation arising from the relation between sovereign and subject. God as the moral governor of the world, acts according to the moral law. The obligation to obey any positive commands of His, arises not from the sovereign command itself, but from the relations which the party commanded previously occupied towards Him. The positive command, to observe the Mosaic rites, did not create the obligation on a Jew as an individual to worship God. It found that obligation already existing, and it pointed out the particular acts by which the obligation was to be fulfilled. And the positive command to the Jewish nation to maintain and observe the Mosaic economy in a national way, implied that there was an obligation previously lying upon them to give religious homage unto God as a nation. To suppose that there was no previous obligation lying upon them to render religious homage unto God as a nation, is to suppose that they were called upon to do what they were under no obligation to do. In the case of the Jewish nation, as much as in the case of an individual, the Mosaic economy did not create the obligation to give national religious homage unto God. It found that obligation already existing, and it pointed out the manner in which it was to be fulfilled. When the Jewish economy came to an end, it released the individual Jew from the particular manner in which he once worshipped God, but it did not free him for an hour from the obligation to worship Him in some manner. That obligation arose from the relation in which he stood to God as a creature, and was therefore as enduring as his existence. So when the Jewish economy came to an end, it freed the Jewish nation from the obligations they were under to the Mosaic dispensation of religion, but it did not free nations for an hour from the obligation they were under to religion itself. Christianity has now come in the place of Judaism. There is thus an alteration in the objects of religious duty, but there is no alteration in the subjects who owe these. All who owed homage to Judaism, owe homage to Christianity. Now when our Voluntary brethren assert that nations and their rulers have now nothing to do with religion, observe how far their assertion goes. They affirm not simply that the acts of national duty are altered, but that national obligation is altered. That the moral relations of the world are changed; and the ties are cut asunder which once bound society to God.
Let our brethren deal with us upon this point in a fair, manly, Christian manner. Scorning the slender shifts of sophistry, and the pitiful evasions of those cowardly partisans who attack the shadow, and fly from the substance, let them meet our just requirements. Let them not shew that the object of national religion is altered, but let them shew that the ethics that once bound nations to religion are annihilated. Let them not shew that the Jewish dispensation is repealed, but let them shew that the sway of Christianity is less extensive, than was that of Judaism. Let them shew, that though nations were subjects of the one, they are not subjects of the other. It is one thing to affirm that the law is altered, and another, and a very different thing, to affirm that the Empire which is subject to the law is lessened. Now, this is the real difference betwixt us and our Voluntary brethren. They affirm not only that the outward laws of religion are altered, but that her empire is more confined; that, whereas it extended to nations formerly, it now extends only to individuals. Now, let them prove this affirmation. They tell us, if you bring back part of the Jewish dispensation, why not bring it all back? Why not restore sacrifices and the passover? Now we plead for no part of the Jewish dispensation being brought back. We plead for the very opposite. We contend that all the subjects of Judaism are now become the subjects of Christianity; and that nations as such, being the subjects of the former, are now become the subjects of the latter. What thinking being would assert that that man contended for the restoration of dethroned king, who was endeavouring with his whole energy to demonstrate that all his subjects owed fealty to his successor. Suppose that after the revolution, an individual had been enforcing the principle, that all who formerly paid tribute to King James [II.], now owed it to King William, would it have been a reply to which any man would have listened for a moment; Oh! if you bring back one part of the Stuart dynasty, why not bring it all back? Why not bring back the star chamber? And successors to treacherous Sharp and bloody Claverhouse? the answer would have been, I am not bringing back the Stuart dynasty. I am doing the very opposite I am seeking to uphold the Protestant succession by pleading that all James’s subjects, are now subjects of William. And when we plead that all the subjects of Judaism are now become subjects of Christianity, it is as senseless to cry, Oh, if you bring back one part of Judaism, why not bring it all back? We bring back no part of Judaism. We do the very opposite, we hold, that all who owed homage to her, now owe it to Christianity, and that nations being subjects of the former, are so also of the latter. Let our Voluntary brethren prove that this obligation has been repealed. In proof that it is repealed, Dr. Wardlaw says, “It cannot be denied in point of fact, that, in the New Testament, a constitution was actually by divine authority given to the church entirely different from the old, by which the Church was placed on a totally new footing without the remotest recognition of State connexion either present or prospective. Is not this enough? Is this not a sufficient statute of repeal? It is actually more than a statute of repeal. A statute of repeal can only set aside what had existed; but the actual introduction of a new constitution, not only removes what had been, but fixes what is now to be.” There is indeed a statute of repeal; and more than a statute of repeal, but of what? Of the Jewish economy; that is indeed repealed, and more than repealed by the present dispensation. Now there was no need whatever of Dr. Wardlaw telling us, that the Jewish dispensation is repealed, and more than repealed, because no Christian denies that. But it is necessary to prove that all national obligation to religion is repealed. It is necessary to prove what he has not attempted, that while nations were the subjects of Judaism, individuals only are subjects of Christianity. In proof that this obligation is repealed, Dr. Wardlaw farther states, “That what is now called the Civil Establishment of religion never existed; and, therefore, could need no statute of repeal to set it aside. What! it will be said, do you deny that theirs was a union of Church and State under the Jewish economy? By no means. But the union which then subsisted was a union in which Jehovah was the head of both—the legislative head of the State, as well as the legislative head of the Church. When Jehovah assumed this twofold relation to the Jewish people, the union was a thing of course; it was necessarily involved in the very assumption of it. This, then, was what existed of old. But this is not what exists now. No, verily. The position which God thus occupied was no mere unimportant accident to the union then subsisting—it was its very essence. The oneness—for it was not a mere connexion and alliance—the oneness of the Church and the State arose from God’s placing himself in this double relation. Where, then, is the logic that can make out a legitimate inference from the propriety of a union in which God sustained this relation to the State as well as to the Church, in favour of a union in which he sustains no such relation?” Now in this there is a great deal of solemn trifling. There is first the assertion, with a twofold meaning, that under the former economy, Church and State were one. If this had meant that they were only one society, it would have been contradicted by the plainest assertions of the Old Testament. All, however, that Dr. Wardlaw means by this oneness of Church and State, is, that they had but one legislative head. He might, therefore, with equal propriety assert, that all the subjects of the same King are but one individual, or that the offices of Moses and Aaron were not merely connected, but really one, because they received their commission from the same God. We have then a third unproved assumption, that the connexion between Church and State under the Jewish dispensation, arose from the twofold relation in which God stood to the Jewish people as at once head of their Church and State. Now it is demonstrably certain, that the obligation upon nations, under the Old Testament economy, to advance religion, did not arise from the special government under which the Jewish people were placed. The government of Persia was not a theocracy. God was not the legislative head of the country in things civil. Yet several of the monarchs of that country are commended in Scripture because they used their official influence to advance religion. It is, therefore, culpable obstinacy to persist in affirming that the national homage received by religion under the former dispensation arose from the peculiar relation in which all nations are placed to religion and to God. To suppose that the Jewish nation were under no natural obligation to advance religion before they were called upon to do it in a particular way, is to say, they were bound to obey what from the relation they occupied naturally towards God, they were under no obligation to obey, which is absurd. Although the special relation in which God once stood to the Church and State be altered, yet the Church and State still exist, and are still lawful societies, and if they can still act separately, why may they not still act together? The very fact of the closeness of their relation under the former economy shews how nearly Church and State can be connected without losing their individual identity, and instead of proving that they ought never to be related, proves that they ought never to be separated. “What God hath joined let no man tear asunder.” Cease caviller! Call not that connexion unclean which God hath sanctified by his own legislation. The fact that He connected Church and State is an argument against Voluntaryism that can never be shaken. We see our principles vindicated by the example of our God, and therefore pure and holy, let men call them what they please. Nothing discovers the inherent imbecility of Voluntaryism so much, as the ineffectual attempts she has made to overturn the argument from the Mosaic dispensation. Surely there is neither a shield nor a spear in all her armoury, when her choicest champions can only brandish a rush in her defence, and can protect her dowerless and defenceless head from the sword of the Spirit, only with a covering of cobwebs. The attempts they have made to obscure the argument from the Old Testament, resemble a man scattering dust in the sunbeams, which may dim his own eye and those of the bystanders, but still the light shines. Their arguments are like the ghosts of his fathers, as described by the son of Fingal, which were so slender, that the stars twinkled through their phantom forms. Or, like the mists that rise from marshy ground, that cloud the sky, but cannot quench the sun.
We have hitherto only attended to the pleas urged by our Voluntary brethren, to prove that the argument drawn from the Jewish establishment is not valid. These pleas we have seen are destitute of force. We shall now adduce a few considerations to shew that our inference from the Jewish establishment is valid, and that it is the duty of nations in present times, to use their influence to advance religion. The fact that Church and State were connected by God himself, proves that connexion between them is not essentially unjust. From the circumstance that God was the author of the Jewish establishment, it is much more rational to conclude, that it was rather intended as an example to be imitated, than as an exception to be shunned. This inference is greatly strengthened by the fact that a large portion of the divine word is occupied with the history and transactions of the Jewish nation towards the Church. Indeed, the greater part of the Old Testament is occupied with national religion. Now, since the Old Testament was designed for universal circulation through all ages, is it not thereby proved, that it was designed for universal instruction? And since a great part of it is occupied about nations, it is thereby proved that it was designed for the permanent instruction of nations—that they ought to imitate the conduct therein praised, and shun the conduct therein condemned. When we read those portions of the sacred narrative in which the Holy Spirit has immortalized the deeds of the good kings towards religion, it has no appearance of teaching that what they did was a ceremonial rite, which it would not be sinful in any monarch to imitate. Their pious conduct instantly commands itself to our understandings and our hearts. We instantly forget the Jew, and behold only the man acting upon the enduring principles of the best part of man’s regenerated nature. We feel, that while the acts performed were Jewish, the principle upon which they acted, was everlasting as the relations of creature and Creator. That the obligation upon nations to advance religion is founded in human nature, is evident from the fact that all nations, in ancient and modern times, in Christian and in Pagan countries, have connected their civil and religious affairs. And does not this prove that Voluntaryism is not only contrary to Scripture, but a heresy against the light of nature?—It shews us, that with all her pretensions to enlargement of mind, her character is essentially sectarian. That she is a dissenter from the voice of the whole world, not upon a question of speculative belief, but upon a question about the moral obligation of nations, upon which the consciences of heathens are competent to pass a just decision. If you read the book of Ezra, you will see that the kings of Persia are commended for the encouragement and aid they afforded to the Jews in rebuilding the temple. Now, if it was dutiful in them to use their official influence for advancing religion, this shews that the obligation to advance the true religion, arises from the relation in which all nations stand to God, and is, therefore, binding upon all. If it was dutiful in heathen princes, much more, surely, is it incumbent upon Christian princes. If it was not sinful in them to apply the money raised from their subjects to advance a religion which they believed to be false, this proves that their ideas are discordant to those of inspiration, who hold that those in a nation who dissent from the true religion, cannot be lawfully taxed for its support. When we consider that the Jewish church was an established church, and that all the nations around had a national establishment; when we consider that the Old Testament was designed for universal circulation; and that the magistrate must be under a great temptation to establish the Church, who reads it, and sees how invariably the divine curse alighted upon the land, when the monarch was careless about the interests of the Church, and how invariably the divine blessing descended upon the country and the king, when the royal authority was exerted to abolish idolatry, and advance the true religion: if it be sinful in nations and their rulers, to use their influence for the advancement of religion, we might have expected that they would have been solemnly warned, and sternly prohibited, from committing a sin so natural, so universal, and to which so much countenance is given in the Old Testament. It is nowhere said, in that volume, that nations are now freed from the obligation they were once under to advance religion. How sinful then in men to condemn what God hath not condemned! How awfully presumptuous to say that nations are now free from all obligation to promote religion, when it is certain God hath nowhere said so! In blind zeal for the rights of man, this is to trample on the rights of God; to grasp his sceptre with unhallowed hands, and pass laws on earth that were never passed in heaven. It is without a warrant to proclaim that nations are independent of the Most High; and that, though they were His subjects formerly, they are not His subjects now. How blinding is human prejudice! when it can lead the real friends of God to think they are doing Him service—when they are superseding the authority of His throne. Nations once owed homage to religion, and God hath nowhere said, that the obligation to render this is now repealed. When men therefore affirm that nations have nothing to do with religion, it is just to act towards the “Governor among the Nations,” as that individual would act towards the British Government, who would go into one of our Colonies, and assert that they now owe no homage to the Crown of Britain, because, in reading all the acts of Parliament, during the reign of her present Majesty, he nowhere found one that created that colony a subject of Britain. In such a case, every legal authority would be unanimous in declaring, that they were, and would continue to be subjects of Great Britain, until an act was passed, positively repealing the relation in which they once stood towards her. And though no law be found in the New Testament, declaring the nations are still subjects of religion, yet unless a law can be produced dissolving the relation in which they once stood to her, they are still bound to use their influence to promote her prosperity. They therefore reason illogically, who affirm that the silence of the New Testament, is a proof, that the relations in which Nations once stood to religion, and to God, are altered. This silence is a proof that the relation is permanent, just as the fact that no law is passed repealing the union between Great Britain and Ireland, is a proof that the union still exists. Allowing that the New Testament were silent upon the subject, it would thus be a proof that national obligation is unaltered. Silent it is without doubt, in every thing that is friendly to Voluntaryism, but silent it is not in arguments against it. There are many passages of the New Testament, which teach us, that the Old Testament is designed for the instruction of the Church, under the present dispensation. As we read in the Old Testament of events being recorded “for generations yet to come:” So, in the New Testament, we read, that “what things were written aforetime, were written for our learning.” “That all these things happened unto the Church of old for ensamples, and were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for reproof, for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” From these passages, it is perfectly evident, that the Old Testament was written designedly for the instruction of the New Testament Church. This shews us, how much opposed to the New Testament is that spirit which refuses all instruction from the Old Testament upon this question. If all Scripture be profitable, then those parts of the Old Testament, which record the pious conduct of the Jewish kings must also be profitable. But if magistrates have now nothing to do with religion, these passages are wholly unprofitable. What is therein held forth as a duty, is now become a sin; what was then commended, will now be denounced. Besides the peculiarities of the Mosaic economy, were as great in the case of individual to imitate the principle upon which the Jewish nation acted, because it would be sinful in them to perform the same acts, then, because it would be sinful in private Christians to do the same things that were done by individual Jews, no argument drawn from the conduct of the one, can be binding upon the conscience of the other. Thus, instead of all Scripture being profitable, the whole Old Testament would be altogether unprofitable. Whatever examples, whatever threatenings, whatever promises are brought forward from the Old Testament to enforce any duty, the party to whom they are addressed, has only to pronounce the omnipotent charm: “Oh, but that’s the Old Testament!” and instantly all the powers of logic and common sense, will become palsied and powerless, as if they had been smitten by the blasting rod of an enchanter. How far different is the language of the New Testament, it affirms that “all Scripture is profitable.” We are not bound to perform all the same acts, but we are bound to act upon all the same principles that are commended in the Old Testament. Acts may be transitory, but principles are everlasting, as the relations from which they spring. And though modern nations are not bound to do the same things, they are bound to act upon the same principle displayed by the Jewish nation towards the Church. Our whole reasonings upon the Jewish economy, are sanctioned by the apostle’s argument, in 1st Corinthians, ix. 13, 14. “Do ye not know, that they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” Now we cordially admit, that when a law is laid down in the word of God, without a reason being assigned for its enactment, it is our duty to believe and obey without asking questions. But whenever the Spirit of God condescends to employ arguments, these must always be just in themselves. It is impious to suppose that an argument that is false, can be rendered sound by divine authority. In this passage, that argument for the temporal support of the Christian ministry, is drawn from the temporal support of the Levitical priesthood. This argument must, therefore, be sound, and being so, all the cavils of our Voluntary brethren, against the argument we draw from the Old Testament economy, are scattered by the hands of an apostle like chaff to the winds of heaven. If the apostle’s argument be sound, then it establishes the principle, that it is warrantable to argue from the obligations of men under the former dispensation, to the obligations of men under the present dispensation—from the temporal support of the Old Testament Church, to the temporal support of the New Testament Church. Now they that ministered in the temple, and waited at the altar of old, were supported by a national provision. If, therefore, it was sound reasoning to infer, that what was done by the Jewish nation, might now be done by individuals, then it is equally sound reasoning to infer, that those commands to support the Gospel, addressed to individuals in the New Testament, are binding upon nations. If it be sound reasoning, to infer, that because the Jewish priesthood were supported, therefore, the minister of the Gospel ought to be supported, then it is equally sound reasoning to infer, because the Jewish priesthood had a national provision, therefore, a national provision for the ministers of the Gospel is scriptural. No objection can be urged against the argument from the Old Testament when applied to nations, that may not be urged with equal force against it, as applied by the apostle, to individual Christians in Corinth. When the apostle said, “Do ye not know, that they which ministered about holy things, live of things of the temple.” It would have been no sufficient answer, to say, “Oh, but that’s from the Old Testament!” and, therefore, when we say, that the Church of old received national support, there is no argument in the cry, “Oh, that’s from the Old Testament!” When the apostle pressed upon the Corinthians, the obligation lying upon them to support the Gospel by an argument, drawn from the Mosaic economy, would it have been refutation of his reasoning, to have said, that that economy is repealed, and more than repealed; or, that the obligation upon the Jewish people, arose from the peculiar relation in which God stood to them, and that there could, therefore, be no argument drawn from a case in which he bore so close a relation to one in which he bears no such relation. And if no objection can be drawn from these peculiarities against the application of the argument, from the support of the Old Testament priesthood, to the support of the ministers of the Gospel, when this is done by individuals; then no objection can be drawn from them, against the application of the argument from the national support of the Old Testament priesthood, to the national support of the ministers of the Gospel. When the apostle argued from the support of the Levitical priesthood to the support of the Christian ministry, our Voluntary brethren do not understand that it is incumbent upon individuals who obey this law, to support their ministers by “tithes and offerings” in every respect the same as those given by the Jews to their priests. They admit, in the case of individuals, that it is only the obligation to support the Gospel that is permanent, while the manner of doing so is annulled. And when we argue from the national support of the Aaronical priesthood to the national support of the Christian ministry, it is very unfair to assert that it follows from this principle that the tithes and offerings, and other arrangements of the Jewish church, should be in every respect copied in all national establishments of religion. They can distinguish the obligation from the manner of discharging it, in the case of an individual, and though it may require more candour, it requires no more discrimination to distinguish these in the case of a nation.
The fact that the apostle argues from the temporal support of the Jewish priests to the temporal support of the Christian ministry, is a proof that mankind are under the same obligations to support the Christian religion, that they were once under to support the Jewish religion, and the Jewish religion having received national support, the Christian religion may lawfully receive the same. It is inconceivable that the apostle would have drawn his argument from a national establishment of religion, if all national establishment of religion are now sinful. An argument in behalf of any institution drawn from the national support given to the Church of Scotland, must necessarily imply that it would not be sinful to give national support to the institution, whose claims are advocated; and, in like manner, the apostle’s argument from the national support of the Jewish church to the support of the Christian ministry, necessarily supposes that it would not be sinful to make a national provision for them. We are aware that our Voluntary brethren have asserted, that this text is a proof that nations have nothing to do with religion. We are sorry to see them reduced to the sad alternative of wresting Scripture. It is certainly the last text in the New Testament that they should mention. their attempts to set it aside, remind us of him who tried to split the oak, and “was wedged to death in timber which he could not rend.”
That it is still the duty of nations as such, to recognise and countenance the Church of Christ, is evident from the divine dispensations towards the Jews under the present economy. How severely have that people been punished. To use the language of a traveller in the Holy Land: “Their city was given up to the spoiler, the glory departed from Israel and the sceptre from Judah, the day of vengeance arrived, and the rebellious sons of Jacob are scattered and peeled, and driven under every wind of heaven, without a country or nation to call their own, unamalgamated, persecuted, plundered, and reviled, like the ruins of a blighted tower, whose fragments remain to shew the power that smote it, and to call aloud to heaven and earth for repair. What a tremendous lesson for the kings and people of the earth to learn wisdom, and, in the midst of their prosperity, to recognize the hand from which their comfort flows.” This punishment was properly a national punishment. Their civil constitution was then entirely dissolved, their cities were destroyed; the cure, like fire from heaven, scorched their very soil, and turned it from a fruitful to a barren land. Their national existence was thus brought to an end by the stroke of divine anger. There are millions of Jews still alive, but the Jewish nation has not existed for nearly 1800 years. The punishment that was inflicted upon them was thus properly a national punishment. Now, it will not be denied, that this punishment was inflicted upon them for their sins, and particularly for their rejection of the Gospel. This is evident from Luke xix. 41-44., “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” From this passage it appears, that the sin for which the Jewish people were punished, was neglecting “the things which belonged to their peace,” expressions which can mean nothing else than their rejection of the Gospel. Their punishment being inflicted by a just and holy God, they must have sinned to all the extent that they have been punished. Seeing therefore they have been punished as a nation, they must have sinned as a nation, and seeing they have been punished as a nation for rejecting the gospel, they must have sinned by rejecting the gospel in a national capacity. From the divine dispensations towards the Jews in New Testament times, we are plainly taught that God still deals with nations as such, that there are still national sins, national judgments, and national duties. We are also taught, with a clearness with no sophistry can darken, that nations, as such, ought still to recognise and profess the true religion. For if the Jews have been punished as a nation for rejecting the gospel, then, it is evident, that as a nation they ought to have embraced and professed the gospel.
There are many prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the New Testament Church. From these, it is very evident, that national power and authority shall yet be generally exerted for the advancement of Messiah’s kingdom. Psalm lxxii. 8, 9, 10, and 11., “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before Him; and His enemies shall lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him.” Isaiah, lx. 10, 11, 12.—“And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee; for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish: yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” Isaiah, xlix. 22, 23.—“Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing-fathers, and their queens thy nursing-mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” Daniel vii. 27.—“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Our Voluntary brethren do not deny that these passages refer to the New Testament church. Neither do they deny that all kings and kingdoms will yet countenance and support her. But they deny that these prophecies refer to kings and kingdoms in their public capacity, and hold that they are fulfilled when, as private individuals, rulers, and their subjects embrace and countenance the cause of Jews. Now the title king properly belongs to a monarch only in his public capacity, and the word kingdom is only properly applied to a nation as such. To restrict the meaning of these prophecies, therefore, to nations and their rulers in their private capacity, is to prohibit them from serving Christ in the only capacity in which they are properly kings and kingdoms, which is wholly unwarrantable. When parents and masters are spoken of in Scripture, it is always as the heads of families and households, and why adopt another rule in interpreting those passages which speak about the heads of nations? The expressions in the 72nd Psalm are evidently borrowed from the homage rendered by tributary kings unto their superior,—“The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him.” Now it is in their official capacity that kings render civil homage unto superior kings, and therefore, in their official capacity, they ought to render homage unto the “Prince of the kings of the earth.” In the prophecy quoted from the 60th chapter of Isaiah, it is said, strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee. From this, it is evident, that they shall minister unto the Church in the same capacity in which they are the kings of their people. “Their kings shall minister unto thee.” Now it is in their official capacity only that the kings of strangers can be called their kings; it is, therefore, in their official capacity, that they shall minister unto the church. In the passage quoted from Daniel it is said, “that the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.” And surely this implies that all the power, and influence, and authority, of civil kingdoms, shall yet be given to the saints of the Most High. In other words, that the civil constitutions of the world shall be Christianized, and the management of them committed unto the friends of religion. And this cannot be committed to them as individuals, but only as nations. Seeing the dominion given to the saints must be understood as having been given to them as nations, when it is said that all dominions shall “serve Him,” this service must also be understood as being given to Him by nations in their national capacity. We are aware of the attempt that has been made to fritter away the meaning to that delightful prophecy in the 49th of Isaiah, “Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers.” It has been said, that in this passage, kings are spoken of, not in their official, but in their private capacity. Our Voluntary brethren have attempted to defend this interpretation, from the occurrence of the pronoun “their” before the word “queens.” This implies they say, that the “queens” are spoken of not as queens regnant, but as queens consorts. And seeing a queen-consort has no official capacity in which she can nurse the Church, they hold that the king also should nurse the church only in his individual and not in his official capacity. This was, at one time, conceived by our Voluntary brethren to be a master-piece of acuteness, and was allowed by their opponents to be ingenious, probably because they were refreshed by anything that had even the appearance of that quality, after such a famine of it in the ordinary objections of their assailants. It is, however, now considered, a very barefaced sophism. We allow that queens are here spoken of as queens consorts, and not as queens regnant. But though a queen consort possesses no official power, her husband does. And it is therefore an obvious fallacy to argue, that because queens consorts, who have no official power, can nurse the Church only in a private capacity, that therefore the kings, their husbands, who are possessed of official power, should nurse the Church only in a private capacity. In the second place, when it is said, that queens shall become nursing mothers of the Church, this implies that they will use all the influence derived from their high stations as united unto kings, and why admit that queens should use all their influence, and assert that kings should only use the least important part of their influence? Queens ought to exert all the influence they possess as the consorts of kings, and this implies that it is lawful in kings to use all the influence they possess as kings. For if it be sinful in the king to use his official influence, then it would be sinful in a queen to use the influence which she has derived from the official station of the king. In the third place, seeing the wealth possessed by the monarch is derived from the exercise of his office as king, if it be sinful in him to use his official power to “nurse” the Church, it must also, upon this principle, be sinful in him to “nurse” her with what is derived from the exercise of his office. And thus our brethren, by their refining upon the plain meaning of Scripture, have adopted a principle which would exclude the king from aiding the Church in his individual as well as in his official capacity. In the fourth place, the expression “their queens,” instead of proving that kings are spoken of only in their private capacity, is a plain proof that they are spoken of in their official character. This is evident from the fact, that the consorts of kings are called queens solely from the official stations in which their husbands are placed. This appears from the consideration, that if they were united to their husbands while private individuals, they were not then called queens. And if their husbands should again lose their official character, they would then also cease to be queens. It is evident, then, that the title queen, is derived from the official, and not from the private capacity of the king. Since, therefore, Scripture asserts, that kings are to be nursing fathers of the Church, in the same capacity from which their consorts derive the right to be called queens, and since this right is derived solely from their official character, it is plain, that in their official character, kings are promised to be “nursing fathers” of the church.
“Kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their Queens thy nursing mothers.” Although there were not another argument against it, this text would overthrow the Voluntary system. Let us compare what God says, with what Voluntaries say about magistrates. God says, “Kings shall be the nursing fathers” of the Church. Voluntaries say, King have nothing to do with the Church. They tell us, that Kings have no more to do about the Church, than any other member. Now, according to this, every member of the Church is a nurse, and if they are all nurses, pray, where shall they find employment? When they are all nurses, pray whom shall they nurse? They tell us that magistrates have only to cease from persecuting the Church, and let her alone. How does this agree with our notion of nursing? Does she perform the duties of a nurse, who having ceased to wound and bruise the helpless infant, leaves it to its own management, without food, without clothing, without a shelter from the storm? Yet, this is the way in which our Voluntary brethren would have Kings to nurse the Church of God, just to cease from persecuting her, and to let her alone! Had they themselves been nursed in this way Voluntaryism would never have been heard of, and as they will all undoubtedly commence this way of nursing in their own families, we may let the present race of them do that which is right in their own eyes, as their seed will never inherit the earth to agitate posterity.
In these prophecies, we have security from God, that, in despite of the outcry which is now heard, raze them! raze them! Ecclesiastical Establishments shall extend until, “under the whole heaven, the kingdoms of the earth shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” Tandem triumphans [Triumphant at last] is written upon the banner of National Churches, and that standard is upheld on the buckler of divine faithfulness. Let then the Kings of the earth kiss the Son of God in token of their homage. As every crown in Heaven, let it be our prayer that every crown on earth be cast at the Redeemer’s feet—that every magistrate may be a Nehemiah,—every premier a Daniel,—and that Victoria, our Queen, may be a second Esther.
5. That it is the duty of nations to use their civil influence to advance the true religion, may be evinced from the nature of man, and the position he occupies in this world.
Union between Church and State, is not something that is unnatural and arbitrary. It has its foundations in the human constitution. That constitution consists of two parts, a mortal body and an immortal soul. In this twofold nature, we have the origin of man’s temporal and his spiritual interests, and a foundation for a permanent connexion between them. The soul and body are distinct from one another. Their natures differ as much as the clod in the valley does from the angel before the throne. Yet the mortal is united to the immortal. They are thus distinct without separation, and when united, it is without confusion. The body is not then spiritualized, nor does the spirit become material. Each retains its own properties. Yet they cooperate for the attainment of ends common to both, and aid one another in the attainment of those ends that are peculiar to each. The soul aids the body to promote its temporal well-being. Nor are the bodily faculties of man less conducive to his spiritual advancement. With the ear, the soul listens to the words of life,—the eye is a window by which it looks abroad upon the divine works, and converses with its maker,—by the tongue the soul is poured forth in prayer, or lifted up in praise. Now man is a social being. God formed him to live with others; to aid and be aided; to comfort and be comforted; to protect and be protected; to improve others and be himself improved. From the twofold nature of man, taken in connexion with his sociality, we have the origin of all the beneficial institutions that ever were erected in the world. In the sociality of his nature, taken in connexion with his temporal interests, we have the foundation of civil society. In the same principle, taken in connexion with his spiritual interests, we have the foundation of ecclesiastical society. In the sociality of his nature, taken in connexion with the union between his temporal and his spiritual interests, that is laid in the union between his body and his soul, we have the foundation of a union between Church and State. If the twofold nature of man may cooperate, why may not the institutions that are derived from this nature? If one individual may attend to both his temporal and his spiritual interests, why may not a nation attend to both? When they do so, they assume no power, and act upon no principle, that is not assumed and acted upon by individuals. And as multiplication cannot convert good into evil, what is right when done by an individual, cannot be wrong when done by a nation. It is as unnatural to prohibit nations from using their civil powers to support the outward means by which their spiritual interests are promoted, as it would be to prohibit the mortal body from performing any act that was to benefit the immortal mind. It is admitted, that the Church, though erected for spiritual purposes, may, and ought to give to her spiritual wealth, for the support of the State; that she ought to endeavour to promote peace, and order, and equity, and loyalty, unto the “powers that be.” Now, if the cooperation take place on the one side, it may lawfully take place on the other. If the Church, by an exercise of her spiritual powers, may establish the State, then the State, by an exercise of her temporal powers, may establish the Church. So long as the Church, which is a spiritual society, gives the State only spiritual support, and the State, which is civil society, gives the Church only civil support, nothing is done inconsistent with the nature of either. If the State is to be prohibited from assisting the Church, because the latter society is spiritual in its nature,—then the Church must be prohibited from assisting the State, because the State is temporal in its nature. If the State is to be prohibited from attending to the spiritual well-being of its subjects, because that is properly the province of the State. If the State has nothing to do with its subjects in their religious character, then the Church has nothing to do with her members in their political character. If nations have nothing to do with the keeping of the first table of the moral law, because that refers to the worship of God, which properly belongs to the Church, then the Church has nothing to do with the keeping of the second table of that law, because it refers to the civil intercourse of men, which is under the superintendence of the State. Men may lie, and cheat, and steal, and commit murder, and the Church has nothing to do with them, because they do all this in their civil capacity. In short, if the State has nothing to do with the Church, the Church has nothing to do with the State. If the Church must not accept support from the State, because the State can only give it civil support, then, for the same reason, she must decline the support given by an individual, because the money he gives belongs to him as a citizen of the empire and not as a member of the Church, and there is no difference as to principle between civil support given by an individual, and civil support given by a nation. The opinions of our Voluntary brethren are properly characterized by the epithet—romantic. They may do for Utopia, but they will not do for Earth. They are founded on defective views of human nature, and may do well enough, for anything that we know, for beings without bodies, but they are not adapted to the nature of incorporated spirits, in whose very constitution a union is formed between things temporal and spiritual, which union impregnates the thoughts, and plans, and actions of man, and ought to be recognised and acted upon in the formation of every institution designed to promote his welfare.
Our argument from the nature of man is not yet ended. We have already said, that he is a social being, formed to live in union, and to act in concert with his fellow creatures. Let us view this principle in connexion with the divine law, and with the ends for which man was made and placed in this world.
View the social principle of man’s nature in connexion with the divine law. The whole nature of every individual, it will be admitted, is subject to God and under his law. The social principle of our nature must therefore be under the divine law. Now, if the law of God extend to the social principle in man’s nature, it must extend to those associations that originate in this principle, because, it is in these only the sociality of our nature is manifested; and if it extend to one association, it must extend to every association, otherwise it takes cognizance only of some developments of our social nature. The origin of nations as such being in the social nature of man, nations as such must therefore be under the divine law. To suppose that they are not under the divine law, which regulates the duties man owes to man, but it is denied that they are bound to obey the first table, which regulates the duties that man owes to God.
In opposition to this, we hold that nations are bound to obey the first, as well as the second table of the divine table. First, because the whole ten commandments, when written by God upon the tables of stone, were given to a nation, and it will be strange if our Voluntary brethren can prove, that the keeping of the moral law became a ceremonial act, as soon as it was done by the Jewish nation. In the second place, there is no passage of the divine word, which says that nations are bound to keep the one table of the law and neglect the other. Our brethren have just as much warrant for affirming that nations are not bound to keep the second table, as for affirming that they are not bound to keep the first. In the third place, no parallel instance can be given of any other society, being free from obligation to observe the first table in the way competent to them. And by what authority, and for what noble purpose, make nations an exception? In the fourth place, the first table of the divine law, it will be admitted, extends to all the powers and faculties of every individual. It therefore extends to the social principle, and consequently to nations as one of the manifestations of this principle. In the fifth place, the obligation to obey any law as a law, always presupposes the existence of the lawgiver, and a recognition of his authority by the party obeying. In like manner, the obligation upon a nation to obey the requirements of the second table as the law of God, supposes that the nation previously recognising God’s existence, and acknowledges his authority over them as a nation. They may do what is required in the second table as their own will, without recognising God’s existence and authority, but they evidently cannot do it as the will of God, while they do not acknowledge his authority over them. But to recognise the being of God, and acknowledge his authority over them, is just to acknowledge that they are under the first table of the divine law. The fact, then, that nations are under the second table of the divine law, proves that they are also under the first table, because the obligation to obey the second as the law of God, arises from the first. In the sixth place, it is evident, that nations are under the whole moral law, and bound to obey its every precept, because they may be guilty of national sins against every precept of both tables of God’s law. This cannot be better illustrated than it is in the following extract, from a very admirable pamphlet, published a few years ago, by the Rev. Ebenezer Ritchie of Kirkwall:
“For example, if nations, as such, should in no way acknowledge the only living and true God; or if they should make laws in favour of the worship of a plurality of Gods, like the idolatrous nations of antiquity, or endow idol temples, or encourage the worship of idols, they would be guilty of a national sin against the first commandment, which is in these words, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ If they make laws in favour of the worship of God by images, or in any manner encourage it, then they are guilty of a national sin against the second commandment. If they should issue blasphemous publications against the Trinity, or any of the divine persons, or encourage the sale of such blasphemous writings, they would be guilty of a national sin against the third commandment. If they should (as was done in the reigns of James VI. and Charles II. by the publication of ‘The Book of Sports,’) encourage the profanation of the Sabbath, they would thus be guilty of a national sin against fourth commandment. In like manner, if they should license stews [brothels], like the Greeks and Romans, encourage theft, enact laws in favour of the murder of aged parents or deformed children, like the ancient Spartans or Lacedaemonians, they would be guilty of national sins against the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments; and the same might be said of the violation of the two remaining precepts of the second table.
“Admitting, then, that nations may be guilty of national sins against any of the commandments of God, whether of the first or second tables, it follows, that they are bound to obey every precept of the moral law, for where no law is, or where individuals or societies are under no law, there can be no transgression. And having ascertained the fact, that nations as such are under the moral law in its whole extent, we would now remark, that the first commandment respects the object of worship; the second, the manner of his worship; the third, the matter of his worship; and the fourth, the time of his worship. All these being obligations on nations and their rulers, the first binds them to know and acknowledge the only living and true God, and to make provision for his being publicly honoured; the second, to make provision for his being worshipped in the manner required in his word; the third, to make provision for the due observance of all his ordinances or the parts of his worship; and the fourth, to make provision for the outward sanctification of the Sabbath in all places of their dominions. In like manner, the second table obliges them to make provision for the observance of all the duties of morality in all parts of the kingdom, or by all the members of the civil community. Nations favoured with the word of God cannot neglect any of these duties, without being guilty of national sin, and in various ways they may provide for everything which God’s law requires of them, without interfering with the rights of conscience, or depriving the Church of her privileges and independence; for example, they may do so by taking care that ‘vile men,’ as the Psalmist speaks, ‘be not exalted,’ or by making religion and morality necessary qualifications for office in the state, and by furnishing all the subjects with the means of religions and moral instruction. The result of the argument is, that the moral law binds nations to establish religion and morality, or, in other words, that a national establishment of religion is required by the moral law. Let none, therefore, say, that there is no warrant for such a thing under the New Testament, unless they can shew us that the moral law has been abolished under the new dispensation.”
Let us now view the social nature of man in connexion with the end for which he was made. The grand end for which the universe was formed was to shew forth the divine glory. To glorify God, is, therefore, the end, that rational beings should propose to themselves in all their actions. “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Since man is a social being, he is bound to glorify God in every station that he fills, and in every relation in which he stands, and in every society which he forms. The glory of God is, therefore, the grand end which nations should propose to themselves in the whole of their administration. To suppose that the happiness of the nation is the supreme end of national government, is to put self in the place of God—is to adopt a morality for nations that would be immoral in individuals. To affirm that nations are not bound to make God’s glory the end of all they do, is to make them act like Pharaoh, when he said, in the pride of his heart, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey the voice?” What was the crime for which Nebuchadnezzar was driven from the dwellings of men? What was the lesson he was sent to learn amid the beasts of the field? His sin was that he looked upon himself as his own end, and the architect of his own fortune. The lesson he learned was that he was entirely dependent upon God, and should consecrate all he had to his service. Gazing upon the magnificence of Babylon, and looking upon himself as the centre and the end of all, his soul swelled to more than mortal dimensions, and he exclaimed, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, The kingdom is departed from thee: And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”—Daniel, iv. 30, 31, 32. Still more worthy of notice are the words addressed to Belshazzar, (Daniel, v. 22, 23,) “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou and thy lords, thy wives and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the Gods of silver and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.” From the punishment inflicted upon these heathen kings, because they did not glorify God, the nations of the earth should learn to make the glory of God the end of their whole administration. To every ruler, the language of these words is, Remember Nebuchadnezzar!—remember Belshazzar! To every nation they say, Remember Babylon, “the golden city,” “the queen of nations,” “the lady of kingdoms,” whose walls and towers seemed destined to be eternal. Think how she was punished because she did not glorify God, and learn to shun her conduct, if you would not share her fate.
When it is admitted to be the duty of nations to make the glory of God their supreme end, this implies that they must previously know and acknowledge the only living and true God. It is not an unknown God they are to glorify. It is not their own conception of deity,—it is not the spirit of nature,—it is not the destiny of nations they are to glorify. It is the God in whose hand is their being, and whose are all the ways. And is not the Maker of Heaven and Earth, and the “King of Nations,” a three-one God? Before he can be glorified intelligently he must be known as such. And where is the doctrine of the Trinity to be learned? Not in the works of creation. It is neither written on the earth around us, nor legible in the heavens above us. It is taught only in the sacred volume. Before, therefore, nations can glorify a three-one God, they must acknowledge the Bible to be divine. And when they acknowledge the Bible to be divine, so far from countenancing all religions alike, they condemn every religion but that contained therein. They condemn Atheism, and Deism, and Polytheism, and Judaism, and Mahomedanism. Aye, more than that, before they can glorify a three-one God, they must condemn Arianism and Socinianism. And is not this destructive of Voluntaryism, the very marrow of which is, that nations should countenance all religions alike? To know the only living and true God is not, however, all that is implied in glorifying him. It is farther implied, that they should discountenance everything that is dishonouring to God, such as blasphemy, idolatry, Sabbath-breaking, profane swearing. Is not this the doctrine of the Old Testament? Is it not the doctrine of common sense? Could that nation be said to “honour their king,” in which the laws were so framed that the subjects were prohibited from insulting and calumniating one another, but left at perfect liberty to insult the monarch, and utter treason against his government? In such a case, would not the king be the least honoured man in the kingdom? In this country the subjects are strictly prohibited from injuring one another in their person, property, and reputation. In this respect the meanest vassal is as powerful as his mighty lord. While such laudable impartiality is displayed in defending the rights and the characters of the subjects from one another, if they should be left at perfect liberty to violate the rights of God,—to blaspheme the divine name,—and desecrate his holy day, could the country be said to make God’s glory its supreme end? Would not less zeal, and less care, in that case, be shewn about God’s honour, than is shewn every day about the interest and the honour of the meanest citizen of the country? Yet this is Voluntaryism. The substance of that scheme is, that so long as men are what is called good subjects, so long as they do not rise in arms against the government, while they pay their taxes, and are not guilty of murder, theft, or anything that is injurious to man, they may hold what opinions, and utter what sentiments they please regarding God, and the magistrate has no right to restrain them because religion is entirely a matter between God and their own consciences. Is not this to exalt the honour of man above the honour of God? Is it not to deify selfishness, and give a liberty to the erring conscience, which is as cruel to the sinning creature, as it is dishonouring to the Great Creator? If nations ought to make the glory of God their supreme end, it is not enough that they discountenance all that is dishonouring to him, they ought to give positive countenance unto everything by which he is glorified. And the true religion being that by which God’s glory is displayed in a manner superior to what it is in the works of creation, it is incumbent upon nations, by such means as are competent to them, to promote the advancement of the truth.
Let us now view the social nature of man, in connexion with the design for which he has been placed in this world. He has not been placed here, simply, that his bodily powers may unfold, flourish, and decline. The present state is introductory to a future and endless life, and man is placed here, that he may be prepared for a glorious immortality. We behold generation after generation, fading like the leaves of the forest, and withering like the grass of the field, and the remembrance of the past is forgotten in the present, as the flowers of one summer are forgotten, when those of another are in bloom. When we connect this with the marvellous dwelling-place, that infinite wisdom and goodness have prepared for man’s residence, and with the wondrous faculties wherewith he himself has been gifted; so disproportionate are the means employed, to the end accomplished by man’s earthly career, that we cannot help exclaiming, “surely, thou hast made all men in vain!” But when we think of this life, as only the dawn of an existence, that is to brighten into everlasting day, or darken into everlasting night, then the position of man in this world is invested with a dignity and an importance that transcend all comparison, and all conception. He then appears a combatant for everlasting freedom—a candidate for eternal glory. If he fail, the greatness of his loss cannot be uttered in earthly words, nor conceived by any mind, nor equalled by any catastrophe, nor image by any resemblance. What then are politics? What is philosophy? What is wealth? What is pleasure, compared with salvation? “What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” The grand design for which man is placed in this world, being to prepare himself for a state of future blessedness, he should live on earth like a pilgrim. All he is, and has, and does; his whole talents, and influence, and acquirements, should be subordinated to his spiritual improvement. And man being a social being, all his social influence and authority, all the associations that he forms, all the alliances into which he enters, all the schemes in which he cooperates, should be subordinated to promote his progress heavenward. And when men are associated into a nation, I submit to you, is it not utterly ridiculous to assert, as our Voluntary brethren do, that all their national acts should be bounded to the narrow limits of time, and confined to the little interests of earth? Is it not worse than ridiculous to affirm, that when the monarch ascends the throne, and the national representatives assemble in parliament, it is sinful in them to deliberate one hour about the spiritual well-being of the country? Is there not something extremely harsh in the assertion, that mercy and love must be forbidden to enter the senate, or interdicted when there, from listening to the cry of perishing immortals? Shall it be held patriotic in the magistrate, to provide bread for the infirm and the aged, and shall it be held antichristian to provide that bread which preserves the spirit from eternal death? Shall jubilees be held, and thanksgivings be offered, when, by a national act, the slaves are emancipated from temporal thraldom, and when the national influence is exerted to emancipate slaves from the thraldom of the creator and the king of despots, shall this excite the wrathful feelings, and arouse the jealousy, and call forth loud and angry words from professing Christians? If we were all more awake to the inexpressible value of immortal souls; if our breasts were fuller of that heaven born benevolence, that pants for the rescue of spirits from destruction, there would then be fewer disputes on this subject. We would hail every ally that could do anything to further this great work, and though all the millions of British money that have been laid out, or that will be laid out in supporting all the Law Established Churches, were only to be the means of converting one immortal soul, we would say it would had been well spent. In India there are ninety millions of immortal beings under the superintendence of the British Government. All these are destitute of the Gospel; ignorant and without a teacher; guilty and without a Saviour; living without God, and dying without hope. I appeal to you as men whose hearts glow with love, and melt in pity,—I appeal to you as convinced sinners, who have “known the terrors of the Lord,” and as experienced Christians, who have “tasted that he is gracious,”—I appeal to you as children, who have been “trained up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and as parents who would desire to see your offspring in heaven,—I appeal to you as creatures who would do unto others, as you would have wished others to do unto you. Would it be unjust? would it be tyrannical? would it be persecuting, to make the conversion of India an object of national legislation? Will the Legislation of Britain be condemned at the tribunal of God, if they shall endeavour to annex this mighty Continent to the kingdom of Christ? Will they be found guilty of trampling on the rights of conscience, if they shall employ the revenue drawn from their Indian dominion, to subvert that religion in which their Indian subjects were educated? They may believe so who can, it cannot be believed by us. But if there would be nothing wrong in giving of the national funds for the conversion of India, there can be nothing wrong in giving of these for the permanent Christianization of Britain.
6. We argue, that it is the duty of nations to use their civil influence to promote the advancement of religion from the benefits thereby conferred upon the Church. This is very well illustrated in the following extract, from the pamphlet of Mr. Ritchie, to which I already alluded,
“This contributes greatly to the extension and enlargement of the Church. When provision is made by a nation for teaching all the inhabitants to read the Scriptures in their own language, for making them acquainted with the first principles of the oracles of God, and for furnishing the poor with the bread and the water of life, by the erection and endowment of schools, and of places of worship for the preaching of the Gospel, and the dispensation of the ordinances of Christ, even in the remotest districts of a country; the fallow ground is thus broken up, and the incorruptible seed of the word is sown, which, by the divine blessing, will spring up, and bring forth fruit, in some places thirty, in some sixty, and in some a hundred fold. The Church will thus reap, in due time, a rich harvest of members to her communion, and the fruit ‘of an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains, shall shake like Lebanon, and they of the city shall flourish like the grass of the earth.’ It must tend greatly also to the prosperity of the Church, when the State, in its own sphere, labours to promote the welfare of civil society, by the encouragement of religion and morality, and by testifying its displeasure against vice and profaneness; when, for the honour of God, and the temporal welfare of men, it takes his word and his day under its special protection; and when it is so much alive to its own duty and interest, as to fill all places of power and trust with the tried fearers of God, and the true friends of his Church, ‘who shall prove a terror to evildoers, and a praise to them that do well.’ In fine, a civil establishment of religion is a mean of perpetuating the existence of the Church in a nation. We know that it is built on Christ, the rock of ages, and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it. But Satan has often succeeded in uprooting it in countries where it has been planted. All other societies, in order to render them stable and permanent, endeavour to obtain from the State a legal ratification of their rights and privileges; and a national establishment of religion was the principal outward means which infinite wisdom employed for perpetuating the existence of the Church in the same little spot of the earth for upwards of a thousand years.”
In reply, it is said, that civil establishments have been the cause of all the persecutions of the Church. This it might easily be shewn is incorrect. But, allowing it to be true, it certainly must be a new mode of reasoning, by which they infer, that because some magistrates have injured the Church, therefore, it would be sinful in others to yield her assistance. We are also told, that there was no civil establishment during the three first centuries, and yet the Gospel spread more rapidly then, than it ever has done since. To this it is sufficient to reply, that the apostles were endowed with miraculous gifts, and it was owing to these, and to the wonderful outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and not to the absence of an establishment, that the Gospel flourished so wonderfully. We can point to an equally astonishing display of the efficacy of that principle we are advocating—in the reformation from popery. That was the most beneficial event which has occurred on this earthly theatre since the days of the apostles. It was a new era in the world’s history. The human mind then awoke from the slumber of a thousand years; a day then dawned that is to brighten into the full splendour of the millennium. Now both in this country and on the Continent, this great event was accomplished by the cooperation of Church and State. It is well known that the league of protestant princes in Germany, was the grand means under God of furthering the reformation. Here then is an example of the benefits of our principles,—they gave birth to the reformation. And shall we call that great work of God antichristian, because it was accomplished upon principles opposed to Voluntaryism? To hold that Antichrist’s throne was shaken by antichristian principles, is just another version of the Jewish supposition, that Christ “cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.”
7. That it is the duty of nations and their rulers to use their influence to advance the true religion, may be demonstrated from the temporal benefits that the dissemination of Christianity confers upon society. Let it now be conceded, for the sake of argument, that the happiness of society is the sole end for which civil government has been instituted. Then, the all comprehensive question in politics is, How shall the greatest amount of happiness be conferred upon the greatest number of the citizens? What are the means by which crime can be most effectually prevented,—by which the morals and the manners of society can be most speedily elevated? It will be admitted that the magistrate is bound to use all lawful means for the attainment of these ends, and to use those means first, by which they can be most certainly and successfully accomplished. Now, of all means that can be used, Christianity is most adapted to promote the temporal well-being of society. Designed by infinite wisdom as a remedy for sin, when admitted into the heart in her purity, she drains the sources of crime. How blessed would be that land of which all the citizens were Christians! There would be no riot in the street—no knavery in the market-place—no injustice in the courts of law—no party spirit in the senate—no insubordination among the people, nor tyranny in the rulers. Fearing God, all men would honour the king obey the laws, be content with their condition, courteous to inferiors, respectful to superiors, kind to the poor. Not only would they do what was right, but do it in the meek, gentle, amiable, attractive spirit of Christianity, so that like the fruit of the apple tree, their doings would not only be inherently good, but outwardly lovely, all that they did being set off by the manner in which they did it, so that it would be “like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”—In a country, all the citizens of which were Christians, there would be less disease, because there would be more temperance—less poverty, because there would be more industry,—fewer complaints against the rulers because there would be more resignation to God. Such a nation would be seldom exposed to war, because it would never be guilty of unjust aggression; and if an enemy should land upon its shores, the banner of war “would be displayed in the name of God,” and the army would be invincible, because it went forth to battle in the name of the Lord of Hosts. And not only is Christianity conducive unto the peace and comfort of society, it is the most powerful of all means for guiding the human species forward unto perfection. The objects which she presents to the human mind, are the most boundless, endless, and sublime, that can be contemplated. Compared with these, the most splendid discoveries of science are but as a spark elicited from a flint that is barely visible amid the darkness, compared with the never-setting sunlight, that at once fills the whole heaven. The contemplation of these raises and expands the human spirit, and gives birth to noble sentiments and valuable inventions. In the revelation of the “first perfect and first fair,” she discloses unto mankind the origin and the pattern of the beautiful and the true. In bringing immortality clearly to light, she gives an infinite motive to the attainment of excellence. Stimulated by these the human spirit attains a nobler growth. Taste is purified and perfected by contemplating “the beauty of the Lord.” In the divine character the intellect has presented to it, the idea of infinite existence, loveliness, and majesty. By the reflex influence of this, the highest faculties of the soul are refined from earthly grossness. The arts and sciences that dignify and embellish life, advance. The painter obtains a more exquisite conception of excellence, and imparts new beauties to the creations of his genius. The poet’s eye is illumined by a ray from heaven, and the philosopher having beheld his God, traces creation downward from the Creator, and then “lifts up to heaven an unpresumptuous eye, and, smiling, says, My Father made them all!” Christianity, in short, is capable of unfolding all the faculties of the human soul, carrying society aloft to a region of clearer light and more perfect love, and bringing earth nearer to the purity and bliss of heaven. That the true religion is capable of producing such effects, Christian Voluntaries will not deny. If then it be the duty of rulers to encourage whatever is conducive to the happiness of society, surely they ought to encourage the dissemination of that religion, the diffusion of which is so conducive to the national welfare. If Christianity be the best means of promoting national happiness, then, is it not ridiculous, to interdict rulers from promoting its diffusion? Why permit them to use every other mean, and forbid them to use the mightiest and most efficacious? To call upon rulers to promote the happiness of the nation, and yet to prevent them from diffusing the true religion, is to act as unreasonably as Pharaoh when he demanded “the full tale of bricks,” and yet “refused the straw wherewith to make them.” If a person should affirm that it is sinful to admit the light of heaven into our dwellings, and that nothing but tapers should burn there, this would be accounted no mark of an enlarged mind, seeing it is evident that God has hung out the sun in the heaven for that very purpose, and the light afforded by him is far more pure than that afforded by any human invention. And seeing God has sent Christianity into the world to promote the present as well as the future happiness of man, they give very equivocal proofs of mental superiority, who call upon the magistrate to countenance only human expedients for promoting national happiness, and forbid him to give any countenance to this “witty invention of divine wisdom.”
The benefits conferred upon society by the Gospel, enable us to give a distinct and decisive answer to the complaint, that it is unjust to compel men to pay for supporting ministers from whose preaching they receive no benefit. Such persons may receive no direct benefit from the preaching of the established clergy; but if the true religion be established, and the preaching of it tends to promote the peace, and order, and advancement of society; and by this the property of every individual is rendered more secure, and his life more safe. And are not these important benefits? And since they are common to all, may not all be called upon to support the institutions by which they are conferred? It is sometimes said that it is unjust in the state, to shew greater partiality is shewn when one sect is endowed, while all others are left unendowed. This objection has arisen from confounding the persons of men with their religious profession. The persons of all the citizens ought to be equally protected; but the state is not more bound to shew equal countenance to all their opinions upon government, education, or commerce. Nay, it would be most unjust, to give equal aid to error and to truth. For example, to give the same countenance to the ravings of Paine and the blasphemies of Voltaire, that is given to the Holy Scripture, would be as unjust, as to give equal countenance to the thief and the man of honour—to the traitor and the patriot. True religion benefits society—false religion is injurious. To assist them alike, is therefore most iniquitous.
The nation that uses its influence to promote the glory of God by advancing his cause, may expect his blessings. They who neglect this, may expect his curse; for, it is written, “the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee, shall perish!” God has promised “them that honour me, I will honour.” If we look back upon the past history of the world, we will see that he has faithfully kept his word, and conferred enduring fame upon those princes who used their influence to promote his cause. Many of the stars of human glory have set in darkness. The fame of many, that were styled immortals while living has long been covered with the ashes of oblivion. The hand of time, and the award of posterity, will dethrone many of our modern immortals from the seats they now occupy in the Temple of Fame. In the holy and peaceful years of millennial glory, when the “trumpet shall be hung in the hall,” and “the spear be turned into a pruning hook,” the laurels of many a warrior shall wither, and the crowns of many of the Kings of literature will be cast to the ground, and crumble into dust. But after three thousand years the names of the Asas, and Jehoshaphats, and Hezekiahs, and other pious princes of Judah, still live. They honoured God by using their magistratical influence to promote his cause, and God honoured them with everlasting renown. In the pages of inspiration, He has erected to them a monument nobler than marble, and more enduring than brass. There, their fame shall last, imperishable as the Bible, even till the dead shall rise, and the elements dissolve. And them that honour God, he will honour still. Let the rulers of the world walk upon this divinely appointed path to fame. Let them take care of God’s glory, and he will take care of theirs.
8. We argue, that it is the duty of nations to use their influence to advance religion from the pernicious consequences that would flow from the adoption of the Voluntary principle.
I believe that many call themselves Voluntaries, who would detest Voluntaryism most cordially, if they perceived what it really is. They have been accustomed to think of it, as something of celestial loveliness and power, which if it were once introduced into the world, would be a panacea for all the woes of humanity. Let us now draw aside the veil of Utopian texture, with which the friends of Voluntaryism have arrayed her. Let us blow away the clouds of incense that rise from her altars, and view her with impartial eyes. The Voluntary principle you know is this, that the magistrate in his official capacity has nothing to do with religion. Let us suppose this principle to be admitted and acted upon by our nation.
If the magistrate has nothing to do with religion, then religion ought to be entirely separated from every system of national education. If it be sinful in the magistrate to pay ministers to propagate religion, it must be equally sinful in him to permit this to be done by those teachers who are appointed by the Government, and supported by a national provision. And only think of the effects that must follow, when common education is separated from religion. If our children are only to be taught to read, to write, and to sum up figures, must they not be a generation of Infidels? And will any learning compensate for this? What though our daughters in the gaieties of politeness, may be fitted to adorn a court, if they have not that holiness, which is the courtesy of celestials, and without which none can see the Lord? What though our sons may walk with the step of giants from on splendid discovery to another; though they may surpass Gibbon, and Voltaire, and Laplace, in secular science, if they walk in the path of their infidelity? In such a case, their knowledge is only a star to lighten the way to eternal night. They are raised to the pinnacle of fame, only that they may fall the further into the depths of hell. The most intense efforts are presently making to separate religion from common education. Probably on this arena, the contest between British Christianity and British Infidelity will soon be determined. Let every lover of his children, of his country, and his God, stand up for national educated based upon the Bible. Science without religion, is like the waters of Marah, without the palm trees of Elim. When no branch from the tree of life is engrafted on the tree of knowledge, “its grapes will be grapes of gall, and its clusters bitter.”
Upon Voluntary principles, a national system of Education cannot be defended. If the magistrate ought not to countenance the education of his subjects for eternity, no reason can be shewn why he should attend to their education for time. Is the aversion of ignorant minds to education, pled as a reason for his interference? their minds are more averse to religion. Are the benefits conferred by education upon the subjects adduced as a reason? Is not the benefit they receive from the true religion greater? Is it said that education elevates society? We reply, that true religion elevates it higher, and, therefore, if these reasons prove that there should be national schools, they also prove that there should be national Churches. But perhaps some of our Voluntary brethren may be of opinion, that there should also be no national Schools. This were to afford another proof, that, in following of march of modern intellect, men may enter upon the path that leads to barbarism, just as navigators by sailing eastward, may arrive in a western harbour. A government that pays no attention to the education of its subjects, will never emerge from a barbarous condition; and a nation that ceases to do this, will lose the civilization it once possessed.
If the magistrate has nothing to do with religion, then all national protection of the Sabbath is sinful. If the magistrate has nothing to do with religion, he has evidently nothing to do with the institutions of religion, and the Sabbath being entirely a religious institution, he has nothing to do with the Sabbath. If religion be a matter entirely between God and a man’s conscience, then it is entirely a matter between God and a man’s conscience, whether he shall devote a seventh part of his time, or any part of his time, to the exercises of piety. Upon Voluntary principles, therefore, all the civil laws in defence of the Sabbath ought to be instantly, and utterly, and forever annulled, and every man left at perfect liberty to do upon that day, that which is right in his own eyes. Some Christian Voluntaries may not yet be prepared to carry their principles thus far, but they naturally lead thus far, and thousands are desirous of seeing them carried to their full length. And only think of the consequences that will inevitably follow, when there is no national Sabbath, It may then be said, Britain, thy glory shall depart, thy name shall sink among the nations!
If the rulers of a nation ought to countenance all religions alike, then, it would be sinful in our legislators when assembled in parliament, to supplicate the divine blessing upon their deliberations. To pray unto a three-one God through Jesus Christ as the alone mediator, is to condemn every species of heathenism. It is also to condemn Arians and Socinians, who deny that there are three persons in the Godhead, and also papists who look upon the saints as mediators. Upon Voluntary principles, therefore, prayer must be excluded from that place, where of all others it is most required. If the magistrate has nothing to do with religion, then the more indifferent a man is to religion, he will in this respect be the better qualified to be a magistrate, because he will be the less liable to be influenced by a desire to use his official authority for the advancement of truth. If the magistrate ought not to use his official influence to promote the interest of the Redeemer, then no Christian can lawfully be a magistrate. The Christian is not his own, but Christ’s, and is, therefore, not at liberty to fill any station,—or to enter any relation,—or to accept of any office, which he cannot use for the glory of his master.
It would be very interesting to investigate the causes that have led Christians to the adoption of principles so dishonouring to God, and dangerous to society. This is a part of the subject that deserves more attention than it has ever hitherto received. On the consideration of this, however interesting, we cannot enter at present.
We now conclude this discussion, undertaken for your benefit as a congregation. I have spoken nothing that I do not believe to be important truth. Everything personal I have entirely shunned. Of sentiments that I consider dangerous, I have spoken in those terms of strong disapprobation, to which I thought them entitled. Endeavour to acquire more knowledge of your professed principles on this subject. Be steadfast in your adherence to them. Let neither the temper of the times—nor the soft sayings of a specious scepticism,—nor the shallow pretensions of a bastard charity,—nor the sneers of a spurious liberality,—deter you from openly appearing on the side of assailed and insulted truth. Beware, however, of defending God’s cause by weapons from the devil’s armoury. You are not more warranted to reproach a man because he is not of your opinion, than you are to take away his life on this account. Love, is the party spirit of Christians. Assume this as your party badge, and then the more party spirited you are the better.
The present aspect of the church and world is such, as to cause great anxiety to every friend to Jesus. Contemplating the state of affairs, it is natural to ask with the prophet, “O, my Lord, what shall be the end of these things.” These jarring elements, can they ever be harmonized? This flaming fire can it ever be quenched? How? When will this take place? Shall we behold it? Or must we live in the tempest all our days? Must we die and leave our beloved country, the scene of such unseemly, such unchristian strife? Or is this but the beginning of sorrows? This noise made by the elements of society, is it the sound of Jehovah’s chariot wheels coming to the field of Armageddon? Are we just beginning to enter the shadow of that dismal eclipse after which “the light of the moon, shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun as seven days.” These are questions that we cannot answer. But we know that whatever be the fate of this country, it is in the hands of God who doth all things well. And though at this time, the worst should come; though the elements of society should be wrought into a hurricane, the fury of which, would sweep away all that is settled and sacred in the country—overturning the bulwarks of liberty and the landmarks of wisdom—laying the altar and the throne together in the dust—even then, though sad in heart, we need not despair. Great is Truth, and she shall ultimately prevail. Though God in wrath should permit the national establishments of religion in Britain to be overturned for a time, we have security in the divine promise that religion shall yet be established in every nation of the world. Long ere that period arrive we may have “gone the way of all the earth.” Let us now give all diligence, that we may be among that glorious company in heaven, whose blessed voices are then to exclaim “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.”