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senators may enact laws, and presidents approve, and judges sanction ; but up to this point the vital fact of government is not touched. For all this, citizens may disobey, withhold taxes, and talk treason. Written constitutions and laws and judicial decisions are but portions of the machinery of government; the real government shows itself only when the power is reached which compels obedience. It is true, the cases are rare wherein the vital exercise of their power is requisite. Loyalty, which, to some extent, is natural, habits of obedience, the feeling that the edicts of government are to be obeyed as a “matter of course," render unnecessary a direct exhibition of the 'coercive element. It is said that trained cavalry horses will continue to “form into line,” even after their human riders are shot from their backs. But loyalty, reverence for law, habits of obedience would rapidly fade from the hearts of the people were the fact not always present, that in case of need, the power to force obedience will promptly appear. And let the fact be kept in mind, that this power to compel is physical, and this, in the last resort, the power of the sword. The right of the people to have a government admitted, the right to make war, in certain contingencies, is admitted.
Non-resistant principles are essentially no government principles. Coming from a person who, in any way, acknowledges the right of government, they are absurd and powerless. The advocate of such principles must take his true position outside of government. Not by thought, word, or vote may he concede its legitimacy. So far as it is possible for a person living in the midst of government to avoid recognition of its rightful existence, he must abstain from giving it countenance, or his non-resistant doctrines will be as inconsistent as exhortations to temperance from the mouth of an inebriate. When, in November last, you voted for a President of the United States, you voted for him to compel obedience to the constitution and the laws, if need be at the point of the bayonet ; you voted for him, in case of armed rebellion, to summon the military force “ armed and equipped ;” and, provided the order to disperse were not obeyed by the rebel horde, you voted that he should, if possible, shoot every rebel to the earth. Your vote, last November, committed you to all this. By that vote, you said that the President ought to disperse rebels—"peaceably
if he could, forcibly if he must.” Do you now, on what seem to you Christian grounds, question the right of the Chief Magistrate to shoot rebels? If so, repent of the vote you gave in November, repent of every vote you have cast under the constitution, repent of every voluntary act whereby you have conceded the right of government, and take your true position, as one who denies the right of a people to have any government whatever.
We submit that the only question for us 'to answer is, Have a Christian people a right to a government? Does the New Testament, in spirit or letter, prohibit the existence of government ? We are not to show that Christianity gives its sanction to any particular form of government, but that it recognises the idea of government. On this point, it seems to us that there is little room for doubt. Christ could not have said, “Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's,” (Matt. xxii. 21.) without intending to concede that some things do really belong to Cæsar. It is very probable that Cæsar claimed some things that did not belong to him-he may have claimed some things that belong only to God; but the language of Christ is equivocal except on the supposition that to Cæsar, as the representative of government, some things were really due.
The words of Paul in Romans xiii. 1-7, so familiar that we need not quote them here,—not merely concede, but positively assert, that government is the ordinance of God. By the words, “ The powers that be,” he may not have meant, in particular, the Roman form of power, or Nero's administration of it; we do not believe that he did mean all this ; but he certainly meant to include as much as the fact of government; and his language is explicit that so much is “ ordained of God.” Not less explicit is the direction of Paul to Titus, “ Put them (the Christians in Crete) in mind to be subject to the principalities and powers, to be ready to obey magistrates.” (iii
. 1). Peter, in his First Epistle, is even more particular than Paul in enjoining allegiance to the civil power. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme ; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him, for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well, for so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (ii. 13-15.)
There is indeed a valid distinction between doing wrong, and submitting to wrong. It may be Christian meekness in the bondman to submit to the hard yoke his tyrant imposes upon him. But the explanation of such passages as we have quoted, that they merely enjoin submission to the decrees of rulers and magistrates, is gratuitous; for it assumes the only point in dispute, that government is necessarily unchristian. Besides, the language is not a recommendation, but a direction, to obey " the powers that be;" and the reason for obedience,--the powers that be 6 are ordained of God,">can hardly be construed as calling for submission to unjust decrees rather than active allegiance to a just authority.
There is, however, a different style of argument, in which the claims of our subject may be treated. We assent most cordially to a reasonable interpretation of the words, “ The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."(2 Corin. iii. 6.) We say most sincerely, that there is little liability to misapprehend the spirit of the New Testament; while we may wrongly interpret isolated passages, the special meaning of which may be largely determined by circumstances of time and place and occasion-circumstances not always within our means of precise knowledge. We regard it a sound formala of interpretation, that, provided due care has been taken to determine the spirit of the New Testament, no interpretation of special passages which militates with this spirit can be allowed. There can be no schism in the word of divine truth-the spirit and the letter must agrec; and in case of seeming incongruity the letter must be interpreted into an accordance with the spirit ; the spirit must never be forced to agree with any particular interpretation of the letter. So palpable is the justice of this rule, that in numerous cases we apply it almost unconsciously. For example, take the words of Christ, “ I came not to send peace but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law," (Matt. 10. 34, 35.) In all Christendom, what man was ever insane enough to follow the letter of this language? Instinctively, we see the spirit of Christ's words and almost unconsciously we adapt the letter thereto.
It is then the vital question, Does the spirit of the New Testament permit the existence of government, and so of the existence of that power of physical coercion-in its last resort, the power of the sword-in which the essence of government consists? We shall be told, that the spirit of Christianity is embodied in the following words: “ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you that
resist not evil ; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. . . . Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray
for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matt. v. 38-44.)
We concede that in these words the spirit of Christianity is embodied. But we must notice in the outset-for the style of argument with which we are now dealing requires us specially to notice—that this spirit is expressed in words. Here, also, as well as in the words before quoted from Paul and Peter, we have a letter to interpret. Surely, it would be very unreasonable to evade the force of Paul's declaration, that governinent “is ordained of God," by appealing to the distinction between the letter and the spirit ; and then, in dealing with the words just quoted from Christ, deny the justness of such an appeal. Is there, then, any distinction to be made between the letter and the spirit in the passage now before us ? A moment's attention will show not only that this distinction holds, but that, to a great extent, everybody spontaneously presumes upon such a distinction. One item of the letter specifies, that if any one smite
on the right cheek, we shall turn the other towards him, that, if he so choose, he may smite that also. Does any one understand Christ as really meaning this ? Would not such an interpretation be a very marked example of killing by the letter? Again, another item of the letter is, that if any one forcibly take from us our coat, we shall carry our submission to the point of giving him our cloak. Is there an inmate of Bedlam, even, that, in this particular, would fail to distinguish between the letter and the spirit ?
Once more, the letter directs that if compelled to go with a person a mile, we shall voluntarily add another. The letter makes no exception for the possible contingency, that the person who deals so compulsively with us, may not have occasion to travel two miles, or, in case he did have such occasion, that our company might not prove agreeable to him for the whole distance! A strict adherence to the letter, even in the words that, more comprehensively than all others, embody the spirit of Christanity, it may thus be seen, will make nonsensical the most beautiful and touching language in all literature.
What then is the spirit of the passage? The answer is, in a word, Love—love to everybody, and so to our enemies; and, hence, implying a course of conduct in all respects consistent with this divine spirit. But do we love our enemies when we shoot at, and maim, and kill them? It is very clear that if we do such things for the sake of doing them ; if we make a pastime out of the maiming and killing our foes; or if we do this as a convenient and summary way of disposing of them, when by other methods we could protect ourselves from them,-in such and similar cases, we do anything but obey the spirit of the New Testament. But here is the question, and the only question, Is there no possible contingency in which we may resort to the terrible alternative of destroying our enemies, except on the supposition that we hate them? Is the idea of loving the very person we seek in a certain emergency to maim or kill, an absurdity ? The Federal government is in arms against the rebels of the South, does it follow that the President at whose order the armies are in the field, and that every person responding to his call for volunteers, is actuated by a malignant, retaliatory spirit ? We believe, and the fact is at least supposable, that in the present national struggle, the South is the aggressor; that the North has carried patience and forbearance to the last point of endurance; and that the proclamation of the President summoning volunteers to the defence of the government, was a “last resort." Now is it a contradiction in terms to suppose that the President has ordered out the military force with reluctance, that he pities the very persons against whom he directs the deadly missiles ? Is it a contradiction in terms, to suppose that he