« PreviousContinue »
ed, firmly maintained, and fully developed, and in such a condition that they are not mere clements, but are energies within the social mass—when duly attempered, stand, if not foremost, quite prominent among the forces that are carrying us forward toward a higher civilization." The truth is, religion is just one of those things that can never be wisely run in the rut of the governor's conscience or in that of the conscience of the majority, even for the sake of unity in the faith. By so doing we always purchase the unity at too high a price. The failure to perceive this fact is one of the fundamental errors of the Papacy, and of some Protestants who are half Papists without knowing it.
God has established no visible authority among men, either in any single man or any number of men, whose decisions in matters of religious faith are a final law to every individual. Pretenses of this character, whether ecclesiastical or civil, while unproved assumptions, generally furnish the premises on which oppression, in some form, bases its conclusion and, in view of which, justifies its work. Whether the pretender appears as the governor's conscience or as the majority conscience makes no difference with the fact. Arm either of these consciences with the civil power, and then it has a power to which it almost never fails to add the fact
THE SPECIAL ARGUMENT.
THE DIVINE RIGHT OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
If by the divine right of civil government be simply meant that men naturally exist as political communities, that some form of government is the necessary adjunct of this fact, and that God has established and maintains a constitution of things leading to these results, then it may readily be conceded that civil government exists and operates by a divine right. Earthquakes and volcanoes also exist by the same right. All the relations of means and ends and all natural laws rest on the same basis. God's providence embraces the whole scheme of things; and in the scheme political society and civil government have their place by divine appointment, just as everything else has its place.
Those who affirm the so-called divine right of civil government would not accept this as an adequate statement of their doctrine. They hold that such government is not simply a natural and providential appointment or order of things; but also a divine institution, in the sense of having God's authoritative seal affixed to it. His moral government operates, in part, at least, through the civil government which he has instituted and specially chartered by vesting it with his own authority. The civil ruler is officially the minister of the divine will. God's authority stands behind his authority as its sanction and source. He is to be obeyed as the vicegerent of Heaven, and to resist him is to resist God. His right is an official divine right. He governs in the name and by the authority of God.
The Old Testament account of the origin and organization of the ancient Jewish nation very clearly presents such a fact. The governmental system of that people was a theocracy, established directly by God himself, attended by miracles as signs and seals thereof, and bearing upon its face the broad inscription “ Thus saith the Lord.” Its laws were divine. God was both the object of worship and the civil sovereign. Moses held the twofold relation of being his representative and the leader of the people. God appointed him to this position and supernaturally qualified him for its duties. Joshua succeeded him, and others succeeded him. The Church and the State were the same thing. The underlying theory of the whole system was that God himself was at the head of it, and that men were merely his agents.
Have we the parallel of this fact anywhere else in the history of the world? Is the fact, so far as the question of divine right is concerned, substantially a type of all governments ? No one, surely, is bound to accept such a proposition until it is proved. The proper proof thereof would be historical.
Take, then, as a specimen illustration, the government of Great Britain, and subject it to the historic test. Starting with the native Britons, trace it through the Romans, then through the Saxons, then through the Normans, and then onward through a long succession of political changes, until we at last come to Victoria and the two Houses of Parliament, as forming the existing British Government, on the basis of institutions which have been the growth of more than two thousand years. Study this whole history from its earliest point to the present hour, and where will one find a leaf or even the fragment of a leaf showing that God has interposed in any special way, made any revelation of his will, wrought any miracle to prove such a revelation, appointed or inspired any ruler, or done any other thing different from the usual providence of cause and effect by which he rules in all the affairs of earth? There is not a solitary page of credible history that establishes any such fact. If, then, Victoria rules by a divine right, other than the right derived from the acquiescence and consent of the people of Great Britain, let her show her title-deed, with God's signature affixed to it. If it be said that she has inherited the throne from a royal ancestry, then let us have the king or queen who originally received the right from God, and also the “ Thus saith the Lord” for its transmission in the line of family descent until it has finally lodged in Victoria, and is waiting
to lodge in the Prince of Wales. The plain fact of
. history is that her right is simply that of birth, taken in connection with the established institutions of Great Britain ; and there is not a king or queen on the face of the earth who can present any better title.
It happens to be a fact that all such titles are not distinguished by any divine prerogative, divine interposition, or divine inspiration, that makes them essentially different from the commission of a bank president or the head of a manufacturing company. Victoria has no higher or better warrant from Heaven to perform the duties of a queen than has a common laborer to do an honest day's work for his employer. Her providential position brings with it peculiar duties; and this is true of every man's position. She is simply what she is in the course of a natural providence; and of whom is not this equally true? The hand of God is no more really involved in the formation, constitution, growth, and government of empires than in the formation and growth of coral reefs. Both are the products of natural forces, existing and acting under Divine Providence, and giving in the one case the history and phenomena of empires and in the other those of coral reefs. The most critical study of a State, no matter what may be its form of government, merely supplies facts that run in the channel of natural events. And the same is true of “ of bees or a family of beavers.”