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By ALPHEUS CROSBY, Professor in Dartmouth College.
VIII. INFLUENCE OF MORAL TRUTH ON THE UN-
POLITICAL DUTIES OF CHRISTIANS, AS EXHIBITED IN
By EDWARD W. Hooker, Bennington, Vermont.
The word of God leaves untouched no subject on which a Christian can ever have occasion to ask, What is my duty ?” In the form of precept, general principle, historical fact, or specimen of character which God has approved or disapproved, he will find, in this book, something to free his mind from perplexity, and show him his duty in a light unquestionable. On some subjects, it is true, there is less said, in the Scriptures, than on others. But the measure of light which they shed on any given question of Christian morals, is always in full proportion to its practical importance. And not unfrequently will the Christian, searching his Bible with prayer and a teachable spirit, be surprised and delighted, to see how much more instruction they furnish, adapted to his wants, under given circumstances, than he had before supposed.
The foregoing remarks will be found true, in relation to the subject of the present article. It is an inquiry of no common interest, especially to an American Christian, and in this age of political and civil excitement, revolutions and conflicting interests, " What are the duties of Christians, in relation to the civil government under which they live?” And inasmuch as the Christian is of " like passions with others;” and liable to be swayed from right judgment and conduct; this question should be asked with the Bible open
before him ; and in a devout and diligent prosecution of the inquiries, " what saith the Scripture?" "what is written in the law?"
The general question stated, may properly be resolved into two prominent points of inquiry. The first relates to the rulers of our country, the public servants of the people and the framers and administrators of their laws. The second relates to the body politic, as being the source of authority and government. These will be separately considered, in the following remarks.
I. As it relates to rulers. It may not be improper here to notice the fact, that in the articles of faith of several Christian denominations, as containing their views of the great instructions of the Scriptures, are given explicit statements relative to this question. Indeed, wherever Christianity has prevailed in its purity, and the church has been “ built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets," there have prevailed sound and scriptural views of this subject, as entering into the system of “pure and undefiled religion.” These views have their origin in the character of several “ holy men of old,” as subjects of government; and in specific precepts, recorded by them and others, in the inspired writings. We present some of these, with as much particularity as our limits permit.
Our minds naturally recur to the character of Daniel, showing what a true son of God may be, and ought to be, as a subject of government. His case is one of special interest, from the fact that his light shone in the midst of the darkness of a state of captivity; that his virtues, as a citizen, were exercised not under the government of his native coun
* “ The power of the civil magistrate extendeth to all men, as well clergy as laity, in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men, who are professors of the gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the civil authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.”—Art. xxxvii. of the Prot. Epis. Church.
“God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good, and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.”
“ It is the duty of the people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience sake."--Confession of Faith, Presbyterian Church.
The Cambridge and Saybrook Platforms may be referred to as setting forth substantially the same views.