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quite piteous to hear the moanings of many, for now the dealers in negro flesh sighed sadly that this bonny invention came too late for them; oh, that it had come earlier ! then might the delights of the middle passage have lasted, and a fine traffic have continued in the blood and bones of men; still might the woods of Trelawney have echoed with Jamaica's long wonted music—the crack of the whip and the wild shriek of the lacerated slave. But alas ! this bugbear had no existence then, and Christians, and especially Dissenting Christians, believed in their simplicity, that every political influence might not only allowably but righteously and nobly be employed on behalf of suffering humanity. Their piety, their holy benevolence, did not scorn political instrumentality as a weapon unworthy of their sainted head ; on the contrary, they took it into the closet when they communed with God, and having laid it upon the altar which sanctifieth both the giver and the gift, it became a consecrated weapon mighty through God. With them politics lost its earthliness, being not tinged but impregnated with piety : their political strength acquired its intensity in the chamber of devotion where their weakness allied itself to the Divine great
Talk to us of piety, why the more these men drank into the spirit of their Lord the more did they clothe themselves with zeal as with a cloke, the more strenuous did they become in their determination and their efforts to break off every yoke, and to let the oppressed go free. Alas! why were they so political? why did they not stand aloof from the noisy din, and leave the men of this world to enslave, and manacle, and scourge as they would? and why were they not content to leave to those who neither feared God nor regarded man, the settlement of these matters, the doing justice and loving mercy, since Christians should not meddle with politics.
But we are getting serious; and reason is that we should, for the evil on which we have undertaken to animadvert is of too serious a nature to be lightly touched; and the fact that in so many quarters there is reiterated, usque ad nauseam, the same silly denouncement against Christians interfering with politics, may well make serious any one who desires that religious men should stand forth to the world in all that noble manliness of character which Christianity inspires, and who knows full well that your emasculated pigmies only bring contempt on that religion which furnishes them with an excuse for their feebleness and their littleness : it may well make serious any one who, looking but a very little onward, sees not only its absurdity in theory, but its mischief in practice.
Save me from my friends, is a common saying, often full of pith, but never more pregnant with meaning than when used in reference to Christianity. If religion require, or even render desirable, that we should abjure our rights as citizens, that we
should as to our civil relationship live in a state of single blessedness, of political celibacy,--if Christianity constrains us to a political suicide,—then is there an a priori argument, and no mean one, against the truth of that system which would produce effects so withering. For there are certain things existent, and facts ascertained, and relationships discovered, as intended by the Author of all things, prior to revelation : of this kind may be specified the connexion between children and their parents with the mutual duties thence resulting, also the nature of civil society and government, which revelation does not first teach. Every man stands in a certain relation to the state of which he is a member, and is bound to seek its welfare by the advantages he derives therefrom; every such advantage, and they are more numerous than a superficial observer would imagine, bringing a correspondent duty; but if one may hold himself released from all obligation to care for the well being of his country, (and to care aright he must act,) all may, and then you have the dissolution and falling asunder of the framework of society ; the sacred edifice which was the very home of the citizens, falls with a fearful crash, covering our native land with its melancholy ruins. And this general wreck, this dismal decay of the roof-tree of the nation, the legitimate result of the working of religion which, according to the dogma we are considering, absolves citizens from their duties as such under the plea that their citizenship is above! But cannot heaven be peopled except at the expense of earth; is there an original and necessary opposition and contrariety between these two parts of one vast empire; and can the God of heaven wish this his lower province to be devastated by the pilgrims on their way to the Holy City? Before any of the pious utter again this pitiful exclamation against the fullest performance of our duties as citizens, let them take heed and beware of the end to which an opponent, not of their politics but of their Bible, might legitimately make their concession lead. For our own part, we must confess ourselves of the number of those who, in the sacred stillness of the closet, have learned from devout meditation on the oracles of truth, that it is the bounden duty of every Christian man to act the citizen as becometh the gospel of Christ* To our eyes it is written as with a sunbeam, that the performance of our civil duties cannot be neglected without injury to the community, while the right discharge thereof would extensively serve not only the temporal but the religious interests of our countrymen and the world at large, bringing also to religion a revenue of renown. Nevertheless some, from mistaken views of religion, as if it could only flourish in the dark shades of a useless seclusion; some, from cul
* Μόνον αξίως του ευαγγελίου του Χριστού πολιτεύεσθε. Phil. i. 27.
pable indifference to the general welfare ; some, from the want of a worthy firmness, combined with the ignoble love of ease; and alas ! some, oh, tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon, fearful of suffering loss, and preferring place or pence to principle, not only neglect these duties themselves, but thankfully take up at second hand the phrase which they find ready coined for them by their Established opponents, whose secret malice they traiterously gratify when they repudiate for themselves, and apply to their brethren as a term of reproach, the epithet, political Dissenters. And why not be political Dissenters, as well as mercantile dissenters, and scientific dissenters? I thank
thee, Jew, for teaching me that word.' The word is a good word, and so far from shrinking from the appellation, we deem it even honourable; it does not rightly stand opposed to the term religious Dissenter, as our cunning foes have endeavoured to teach us. Truly it is amusing to see how they can bedaub with their praise the religious Dissenter, as they hypocritically call the good easy soul that comes into their trap, and plays their game, and allows himself to be made a cat's paw to hinder and annoy his more consistent brethren. Yes, if to be political is to be vile, we will be yet more vile than we have been; but the term tells its own tale, which is simply this—that we love our country and study to promote its welfare, using whatever means we possess for its improvement and happiness; that we love our principles, and stand by them on all occasions with the hope that the holy leaven, as we cannot but deem it, will eventually pervade the whole mass. For political institutions of every kind are not an end that we rest in, but only a means to an end, and that end is the greater security, peace, freedom, and happiness of men, to which these are a proper means.
But the end is not only allowable for Christians to aim at, it is obligatory on them above all men; and if the end be legitimate and the means be appropriate, it follows that by how much Christians are bound to seek the end, by so much they are bound to use the means. Thus, then, if it be any shame to be political, we will even glory in our shame. The duty to which we take the liberty of summoning our brethren is that of conscientiously and thoroughly performing the various civil obligations that devolve on them. Sometimes these are merely parochial, and involve the good management of a parish ; but even in this smaller circle there is room for much good or evil, since, for example, and to omit other particulars, the comfort of the sick and needy poor depends materially on the kind of guardians and relieving officers that are chosen, and a vote even for the master of a poorhouse is important, from its bearing on those children of sorrow to whom the temper and disposition of their keeper are all in all. Sometimes these duties are municipal, and the good order of a town or city is concerned ; nor can the character and principles of our official men be without considerable influence on the morals and the political honesty of many. At other times we are called to the appointment of men who are intrusted with all our national concerns, and who, by legislating for Great Britain and her colonies, affect mightily the whole world. And is it quite immaterial what kind of men shall frame our laws, regulate our foreign as well as domestic policy, and govern our wide-spread colonies, when not only the happiness of individuals is to a great extent bound up in the institutions of their country, but an observant God treats nations according to their national character and national acts? If a nation, acting as such, by its constituted authorities, shall trample on probity, humanity, and justice, neither fearing God nor regarding man, will He that sitteth in the heavens smile still, and scatter the blessings of peace, and plenty, and prosperity-or will not his awful brow gather blackness, and his right hand be bared to strike? The one great lesson which all history teaches is, that as nations exist as such only here, it is here that the Judge of all the earth administers to them reward or punishment. With what judgment they judge they shall be judged, and with what measure they mete it shall be measured to them again. And thus whether we regard the bearing of public measures immediately on the general welfare, or mediately by securing the favour or the frown of the Great Ruler, we cannot but abhor the short-sighted policy which would hinder from interference the men who of all others are the most qualified to interfere by their love of right, and their love of truth, and by their devotedness to their heaven-descended principles. Yes, if the happiness of man in any degree depends on the laws and institutions of his country, to improve these is to benefit him; and to benefit man in every possible way, and to the highest degree in our power, is a religious duty taught us by the Great Master, who bids us love our neighbour as ourselves. Yet Christians must not be political! Let them teach that sentence of sanctimonious seeming to a prating parrot if they will, but let it not proceed henceforth from those who by their shape would seem to belong to that order of intelligent creatures who are made but a little lower than the angels, lest they should constrain us, for the sake of a correct classification, to admit the proposition that there is after all a connecting link between man and the lower animals.
Why, what can be a greater absurdity than to leave civil duties and political questions to the irreligious ? Yet is this what is really pleaded for whenever it is asserted that Christians should not touch politics. What! shall those who do not even pretend to act from a desire to please God be the fittest to manage our affairs ?—are the worldly and profane the most trustworthy, the best qualified to fill all offices ?-rather is not this to request that enemies would garrison our towns; is it not to entrust to wolves the guardianship of the flock? Carry oụt the idea; if the principle be correct it will bear to be thoroughly acted on; it is this, then, that if it is advisable for Christians, because they are such, to abandon their civil duties, it is of course incumbent on all Christians; but if it is advisable for all Christians to avoid political affairs, it is advisable for them (for it is the same thing) to leave all offices and all public duties to those who are devoid of the best and only principles which will enable a man to steer a consistent and righteous course! As well say that the rich are ipso facto disqualified for being benevolent, or the wise for teaching, as say that Christians, the only men of right principles all through, are by that very christianity, which has imparted to them all their worth and excellence, prevented from employing their talents for the general good. It is just this monstrous absurdity --that religion disqualifies a man for usefulness on a large scale ! Verily, the infidel will thank us for our concession, the enemies on earth of truth and justice will rejoice at our folly, and those enemies to man whose home is in outer darkness will raise a shout of triumph when they see Christians, the only men they fear, retire from active life.
In popular assemblies the presence and influence of Christians have often prevented much evil, much sin. Amid scenes of excitement the presence of men respected for their consistency and integrity, as real Christians ever will be, has frequently served as oil on the troubled waters. The sight of a man eminent for his virtues has on such occasions moderated in a moment the rancour that was displayed.
* Ac veluti magno in populo quum sæpe coorta est
The more Christians are present the less will there be of confusion and profanity, while if they stand aloof and leave all public duties to the irreligious, we must not wonder at any excess. We have known, on the eve of a contested election, committee meetings, and the whole business of the election managed almost with as much decorum as a church meeting, because Christians of deserved influence have taken the lead and given the tone, and, by their calm and dignified bearing, imposed unconsciously a restraint on more uproarious spirits. We have known men who have felt as devotional on the hustings as at a prayer-meeting, men who were thus engaged not from love of