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II. The particular forms of Church and State Government, must and will depend upon the virtue and intelligence of the people.
1. Democracy is self-government, and can never be safe or useful, except so far as there are sufficient intelligence and virtue in the community to impose, by mutual consent, salutary self-restraints, and to enforce by the power of public sentiment, and by the fear and love of God, the practice of those virtues which are indispensable to the highest good of any community.
2. Republics are another and less pure form of self-gov
3. When there are not sufficient intelligence and virtue among the people, to legislate in accordance with the highest good of the state or nation, then both democracies and republics are improper and impracticable, as forms of government.
4. When there is too little intelligence and virtue in the mass of the people, to legislate on correct principles, monarchies are better calculated to restrain vice and promote virtue.
5. In the worst states of society, despotisms, either civil or military, are the only proper and efficient forms of government. It is true indeed that a resort to despotic government is an evil, and all that can be truly said is, that in certain states of desperate anarchy, despotic government is the less of two evils.
6. When virtue and intelligence are nearly universal democratic forms of government are well suited to promote the public good.
7. In such a state of society, democracy is greatly conducive to the general diffusion of knowledge on governmental subjects.
8. Although in some respects less convenient and more expensive, yet in a suitable state of society, a democracy is in many respects the most desirable form, either of church or state government:
(1.) It is conducive, as has been already said, to general intelligence.
(2.) Under a democracy, the people are more generally acquainted with the laws.
(3.) They are more interested in them.
(4.) This form of government creates a more general feeling of individual responsibility.
(5.) Governmental questions are more apt to be thoroughly discussed and understood before they are adopted.
(6.) As the diffusion of knowledge is favorable to individual and public virtue, democracy is highly conducive to virtue and happiness.
9. God has always providentially given to mankind those forms of government that were suited to the degrees of virtue and intelligence among them.
10. If they have been extremely ignorant and vicious, he has restrained them by the iron rod of human despotism.
11. If more intelligent and virtuous, he has given them the milder forms of limited monarchies.
12. If still more intelligent and virtuous, he has given them still more liberty, and providentially established republics for their government.
13. Whenever the general state of intelligence has permitted it, he has put them to the test of self-government and self-restraint, by establishing democracies.
14. If the world ever becomes perfectly virtuous both church and state governments will be proportionally modified, and employed in expounding and applying the great principles of moral law to the spiritual and secular concerns of
15. The above principles are equally applicable to church and civil governments. Episcopacy is well suited to a state of general ignorance among the people. Presbyterianism, or Church Republicanism is better suited to a more advanced state of intelligence and the prevalence of Christian principle. While Congregationalism, or spiritual Democracy, is best suited and only suited to a state of general intelligence, and the prevalence of Christian principle.
16. God's providence has always modified both church and state governments, so as to suit the intelligence and virtue of the people. As churches and nations rise and fall in the scale of virtue and intelligence, these various forms of government naturally and necessarily give place to each other. So that ecclesiastical and state despotism or liberty, depend naturally, providentially, and necessarily upon the virtue and intelligence of the people.
17. God is infinitely benevolent, and from time to time, gives the people as much liberty as they can bear.
III. That form of Government is obligatory, that is best suited to meet the necessities of the people.
1. This follows as a self-evident truth, from the consideration, that necessity is the condition of the right of human government. To meet this necessity is the object of government;
and that government is obligatory and best, which is demanded by the circumstances, intelligence and morals of the people.
2. Consequently, in certain states of society, it would be a Christian's duty to pray for and sustain even a military despotism; in a certain other state of society, to pray for and sustain a monarchy; and in other states, to pray for and sustain a republic; and in a still more advanced stage of virtue and intelligence, to pray for and sustain a democracy; if indeed a democracy is the most wholesome form of self-government, which may admit a doubt. It is ridiculous to set up the claim of a Divine Right for any stereotyped form of government. That form of Government which is demanded by the state of society and the virtue and intelligence of the people, has, of necessity, the Divine right and sanction, and none other has or can have.
IV. Revolutions become necessary and obligatory, when the virtue and intelligence or the vice and ignorance of the people demand them.
1. This is a thing of course. When one form of government fails to meet any longer the necessities of the people, it is the duty of the people to revolutionize.
2. In such cases it is in vain to oppose revolution; for in some way the benevolence of God will bring it about. Upon this principle alone, can what is generally termed the American Revolution be justified. The intelligence and virtue of our Puritan fore-fathers rendered a monarchy an unnecessary burden, and a republican form of government both appropriate and necessary; and God always allows his children as much liberty as they are prepared to enjoy.
3. The stability of our republican institutions must depend upon the progress of general intelligence and virtue. If in these respects the nation falls, if general intelligence, public and private virtue sink to that point below which self-control becomes impossible, we must fall back into monarchy, limited or absolute; or into civil or military despotism; just according to the national standard of intelligence and virtue. This is just as certain as that God governs the world, or that causes produce their effects.
4. Therefore, it is the madest conceivable policy, for Christians to attempt to uproot human governments, while they ought to be engaged in sustaining them, upon the great principles of the moral law. It is certainly stark nonsense, if not abominable wickedness, to overlook either in theory or practice, these plain, common sense and universal truths.
V. In what cases human legislation is valid, and in what cases it is null and void.
1. Human legislation is valid, when called for by the necessities, that is, by the nature, relations and circumstances of the people.
2. Just that kind and degree of human legislation which are demanded by the necessities of the people are obligatory.
3. Human legislation is utterly null and void in all other cases whatsoever; and I may add, that divine legislation would be equally null and void; unless demanded by the nature, relations, and necessities of the universe. Consequently human beings can never legislate in opposition to the moral law. Whatever is inconsistent with supreme love to God and equal love to our neighbor, can, by no possibility, be obligatory.
VI. In what cases we are bound to disobey human governments. 1. We may yield obedience, when the thing required does not involve a violation of moral obligation.
2. We are bound to yield obedience, when legislation is m accordance with the law of nature.
3. We are bound to obey when the thing required has no moral character in itself; upon the principle, that obedience, in this case, is a less evil than revolution and misrule. But,
4. We are bound in all cases to disobey, when human legislation contravenes moral law, or invades the rights of conscience.
VII. Apply the foregoing principles to the rights and duties of governments and subjects in relation to the execution of the neces sary penalties of law:-the suppression of mobs, insurrections, rebellion; and also in relation to war, slavery, Sabbath desecration, &c.
In discussing this branch of the subject I must,
2. Apply these settled principles to the subjects first named.
1. Notice some principles that have been settled.
In the preceding lectures it has been shown,
1. That all government is a means to an end, and that the end of all righteous government is and must be the highest good of both the ruler and the ruled.
2. We have seen that all law is either moral or physical. 3. That all law for the government of free moral agents is and must be moral law.
4. That moral law is that rule of willing and acting that is suited to the natures, relations and circumstances of moral agents.
5. We have seen that the right to govern is founded in the value of the end to be secured by government, and conditionated,
(1.) Upon the necessity of government as a means to this end, and
(2.) Upon the natural and moral attributes of the ruler, and also upon his ability and willingness to so administer government as to secure the end of government.
6. We have seen that the right to govern implies:
[Let the reader here recur to what is written under this head on pages 21 and 22.]
7. We have seen that the right to govern is bounded only but absolutely by the necessity of government; that just that kind and degree of government is lawful which is necessary as a means of promoting the highest good of both ruler and ruled; that arbitrary legislation is invalid and tyrannical legislation, and that in no case can arbitrary enactments be law.
8. We have seen that no unequal or inequitable enactment can be law, and nothing can by any possibility be law but the rule "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self."
9. We have seen also that human rulers can justly legislate only in support of divine government but never against it. That no enactment can by any possibility be law that contravenes the moral law or law of God.
10. Let us now proceed to apply these immutable and well established principles.
1. To the rights and duties of government in relation to mobs, riots, &c. It is plain that the right and duty to govern for the security and promotion of the public interests implies the right and duty to use any means necessary to this result. It is absurd to say that the ruler has the right to govern, and yet that he has not a right to use the necessary means. Some have taken the ground of the inviolability of human life, and have insisted that to take life is wrong per se, and of course that governments are to be sustained without taking life. Others have gone so far as to assert that governments have no right to resort to physical force to sustain the authority of law. But this is a most absurd philosophy, and amounts to just this:-The ruler has a right to govern while the subject is pleased to obey; but if the subject refuse obedience, why then the right to govern ceases, for it is impossible that the right to govern should exist when the right to enforce obedience does not exist. This philosophy is in fact a denial