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pretations on any other, the meanest Chris-, lishment. The only security was in extian ; since, in matters of religion, every tirpating the power. But this alone would man must know, and believe, and give an have been an imperfect security, if it had account of himself.* The rights of con- not been followed up by a declaration of science are, indeed, beyond the just reach the right of the free exercise of religion, of any human power. They are given by and a prohibition (as we have seen) of all God, and cannot be encroached upon by religious tests. Thus the whole power human authority without a criminal dis- over the subject of religion is left excluobedience of the precepts of natural as sively to the State governments, to be actwell as of revealed religion.
ed upon according to their own sense of “The real object of this amendment was justice and the State Constitutions; and not to countenance, much less to advance the Catholic and the Protestant, the CalMohammedanism, or Judaism, or Infideli- vinist and the Arminian, the Jew and the ty, by prostrating Christianity, but to ex- Infidel, may sit down at the common table clude all rivalry among Christian sects, of the national councils, without any inand to prevent any national ecclesiastical quisition into their faith or mode of 'worestablishment which should give to a hie- ship."* rarchy the exclusive patronage of the na- The preceding extracts from the learntional government. It thus cuts off the ed commentator on the Constitution of the means of religious persecution (the vice United States are sufficient to show that and pest of former ages), and of the sub- the General Government is not restrained version of the rights of conscience in mat- from promoting religion, though not allowters of religion, which had been trampleded to make any religious establishment, upon almost from the days of the apostles or to do anything for the purpose of agto the present age.t The history of the grandizing one denomination of Christians parent country had afforded the most sol- more than another. emn warnings and melancholy instructions There is also a manifest difference beon this head ;£ and even New-England, tween legislating directly for religion as the land of the persecuted Puritans, as well an end of jurisdiction, and keeping it reas other colonies where the Church of spectfully in view while legislating for England had maintained its superiority, other ends, the legitimacy of which is not would furnish out a chapter as full of the questioned ; so that if we admit that the darkest bigotry and intolerance as any States alone could do the former, the Genwhich could be found to disgrace the pages eral Government might, at least, be comof foreign annals. Apostacy, heresy, and petent to the latter, and in this way the nonconformity had been standard crimes harmony of the whole might be preserved. for public appeals to kindle the flames of But this restricted view of the case is persecution, and apologize for the most not necessary. All that the Constitution atrocious triumphs over innocence and does is to restrain Congress from making virtue.
any law “respecting an establishment of “It was under a solemn consciousness religion, or prohibiting the free exercise of of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambi- the same. Everything that has no tention, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the dency to bring about an establishment of intolerance of sects, thus exemplified in religion, or to interfere with the free exour domestic as well as foreign annals, ercise of religion, Congress may do: And that it was deemed advisable to exclude we shall see, hereafter, that this is the from the national government all power view of the subject taken by the proper to act upon the subject. The situation, authorities of the country. too, of different states equally proclaimed the policy, as well as the necessity, of such an exclusion. In some of the states Episcopalians constituted the predominant
CHAPTER VI. sect; in others, Presbyterians ; in others, WHETHER THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED Congregationalists; in others, Quakers ; and in others, again, there was a close numerical rivalry among contending sects. It was impossible that there should not BECAUSE no mention of the Supreme Bearise perpetual strife and perpetual jeal. ing, or of the Christian religion, is to be ousy on the subject of ecclesiastical as- found in the Constitution of the United cendency, if the National Government States, some have pronounced it infidel, were left free to create a religious estab- others atheistical. But that neither opin* Lord King's Life of John Locke, p. 373.
ion is correct will appear from a moment's | 2 Lloyd's Debates, p. 195.
consideration of the case. I 4 Blackstone's Commentaries, p. 41-59.
Most certainly, the Convention which 2 Lloyd's Debates, p. 195–197. “ The sectarian spirit," said the late Dr. Corrie, “is uniformly selfish, * See Kent's Commentaries, Lecture xxiv. Rawle proud, and unfeeling.” — Edinburgh Review, April, on the Constitution, chap. X., p. 121, 122. 2 Lloyd's 1832, p. 135.
Debates, p. 195.
STATES MAY JUSTLY BE CALLED INFIDEL OR
framed the Constitution in 1787, under the, at all, was unnecessary. The Constitupresidency of the immortal Washington, tion was not intended for a people that had was neither infidel nor atheistical in its no religion, or that needed any legislation character. All the leading men in it were on the subject from the proposed General believers in Christianity, and Washington, or National Government; it was to be for as all the world knows, was a Christian. a people already Christian, and whose exSeveral of the more prominent members isting laws, emanating from the most apwere well known to be members of church- propriate, or, to say the least, the most es, and to live consistently with their pro- convenient sources, gave ample evidence fession. Even Franklin, who never avow- of their being favourable to religion. Their ed his religious sentiments, and cannot be doing nothing positive on the subject said with certainty to have been an infidel, seems, accordingly, to speak more loudly proposed, at a time of great difficulty in than if they had expressed themselves in The course of their proceedings, that a the most solemn formulas on the existence minister of the Gospel should be invited of the Deity and the truth of Christianity. to open their proceedings with prayer. These were clearly assumed, being, as it Many members of the Convention had were, so well known and fully acknowlbeen members also of the Continental Con-edged as to need no specification in an ingress, which carried on the national gov- strument of a general nature, and designernment from the commencement of the ed for general objects. The Bible does Revolution until the Constitution went into not begin with an argument to prove the effect. Now the religious views of that existence of God, but assumes the fact, as Congress we shall presently see from their one the truth of which it needs no attempt
to establish. The framers of that Constitution seem, This view is confirmed by what is to be in fact, to have felt the necessity of leav- found in the Constitution itself. From the ing the subject of religion, as they left reference to the Sabbath, in article I., secmany things besides, to the governments tion vii., it is manifest that the framers of of the several states composing the Union. it believed that they were drawing up a It was a subject on which these states had Constitution for a Christian people : a peolegislated from the very first. In many of ple who valued and cherished a day assothem the Christian religion had been, and ciated, if I may so speak, with so large a in some it still continued to be, supported portion of Christianity. Regarding the subby law; in all, it had been the acknowl-ject in connexion with the circumstances edged basis of their liberty and well-being, that belong to it, I do not think that the and its institutions had been protected by government of the United States can justlegal enactments. Nothing, accordingly, ly be called either infidel or atheistical, on could be more natural in the Convention account of its Federal Constitution. The than to deem the introduction of the sub- authors of that Constitution never dreamject unnecessary. There is yet another ed that they were to be regarded as treatview of the subject.
ing Christianity with contempt, because “On this head,” says an able writer, they did not formally mention it as the as on others, the Federal Constitution law of the land, which it was already, much was a compromise. Religion could not less that it should be excluded from the well be introduced into it for any purpose government. If the latter was intended, of positive regulation. There was no we shall presently see that their acts, from choice but to tolerate all Christian denom- the very organization of the government, inations, and to forbear entering into the belied any such intention. particular views of any. Religion was Should any one, after all, regret that the likely to fare best in this way. Men who Constitution does not contain something loved it better than we do nowadays, felt more explicit on the subject, I cannot but bound in prudence to leave it at once un- say that I participate in that regret. Sure aided and unencumbered by constitutional I am that, had the excellent men who fra. provisions, save one or two of a negative med the Constitution foreseen the infercharacter. And they acted thus, not that ences that have been drawn from the omisit might be trodden under foot, the pearl sion, they would have recognised, in a among swine, but to the very end of its proper formula, the existence of God, and greater ultimate prevalence, its more last- the truth and the importance of the Chrising sway among the people.'
tian religion. There is truth, unquestionably, in these I conclude this chapter in the language remarks; still I am of opinion that the of one who has ably treated this question. Convention, while sensible that it was un- “ Consistent with themselves, the people wise to make religion a subject of legisla- of 1787 meant by the federal arrangement tion for the General Government, thought nothing but a new and larger organization that this, or even any mention of the thing of government on principles already fa
* “An Inquiry into the Moral and Religious Char- miliar to the country. The state governacter of the American Government,” p. 72. ments were not broad enough for national
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED
SHOWN TO BE CHRISTIAN BY ITS ACTS.
purposes, and the old Confederation was year passed during the war of the Revoludeficient in central power. It was only tion without the observance of such days. to remedy these two defects, not of prin- At the commencement of that war, the ciple, but of distributive adjustment, that Congress, in one of these proclamations, the public mind addressed itself: innova- expressed its desire “to have the people tion, to any other end, was never thought of all ranks and degrees duly impressed of; least of all in reference to religion, a with a solemn sense of God's superintendthing utterly apart from the whole de ing providence, and of their duty to rely in sign. So that, admitting that the Consti- all their lawful enterprises on his aid and tution framed on that occasion does not in direction." The objects of a general fast terms proclaim itself a Christian document, are set forth : "that they may with united what then?_Does it proclaim itself un- hearts consess and bewail their manifold christian? For if it is merely silent in the sins and transgressions, and by a sincere matter, law and reason both tell us that its repentance and amendment of life appease religious character is to be looked for by his righteous displeasure, and through the interpretation among the people that fash- merits and mediation of Jesus Christ obioned it; a people, Christian by profession tain his pardon and forgiveness.” A few and by genealogy; what is more, by deeds months later we find the following lan-of fundamental legislation that cannot de- guage : “ The Congress do also, in the
most earnest manner, recommend to all the members of the United States, and particularly the officers, civil and military,
under them, the exercise of repentance CHAPTER VII.
and reformation; and farther require of STATES them the strict observance of the articles
which forbid profane swearing and all im
moralities.” And in 1777, Congress called Any doubts that the Constitution of the United States may suggest as to the Chris- upon the nation “ that with one heart and
voice the good people may express the tiant character of the National Government will be dissipated by a statement of grateful feelings of their hearts, and con
secrate themselves to the service of their facts.
divine Benefactor; and that, together with In the first place, in transacting the af- their sincere acknowledgments and offerfairs of the government, the Sabbath is ings, they may join the penitent confession recognised, and respect for it enjoined ; of their manifold sins, whereby they have not only so,
but it is observed to a degree forfeited every favour, and their earnest suprarely witnessed in other countries. All public business is suspended, unless in the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to
plication that it may please God, through cases of extreme necessity. Congress adjourns over the Sabbath ;the courts do not that it may please him graciously to afford.
forgive and blot them out of remembrance; the custom-houses, and all other pub- his blessing on the governments of these lic offices, are shut, not only for a few hours, or a part of it, but during the whole council of the whole; to inspire our com
States respectively, and prosper the public day. In the second place, the Christian char- under them, with that wisdom and forti
manders both by land and by sea, and all acter of the government is seen in the tude which may render them fit instruproclamations that have been made from time to time, calling on the people to ob- God, to secure to these United States the
ments, under the government of Almighty serve days of fasting and prayer in times of national distress, and of thanksgiving
greatest of all blessings-independence and
that it may please Him to prosper
peace; for national or general mercies.
the trade and manufactures of the people, * “An Inquiry into the Moral and Religious Char- and the labour of the husbandman,
that our acter of the American Government,” p. 84, 85.
land may yield its increase ; to take schools | When I speak of the Christian character of the and seminaries of education, so necessary government of the United States, I mean that it is for cultivating the principles of true liberso far regulated by the Christian religion as to party, virtue, and piety, 'under His nurturing take of its spirit, and that is not infidel or opposed hand; and to prosper the means of religion to Christianity-Christian as those of England and other parts of Christendom are Christian-not that for the promotion and enlargement of that every act of the government is truly conformable to kingdom which consisteth in righteousness, the requirements of Christianity. Alas! where shall we find a government whose acts are fully conform peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." In ed to these?
1779, among other objects for which they † When the day for the adjournment of Congress call on the people to pray, we find the falls on Saturday, it sometimes happens that, on ac- following : " That God would grant to his count of the accumulation of business, the session is Church the plentiful effusions of divine protracted through the night into the early morning grace, and pour out his Holy Spirit on all severely censured, as they deserve, by the religious, ministers of the Gospel; that he would and even by some of the secular journals.
bless and prosper the means of education,
and spread the light of Christian knowl- ernment military school at West Point, for edge through the remotest corners of the the training of young officers. Moreover, earth.”
the Congress testifies to its interest in the Similar language is found in the procla- Christian religion, and to its sense of its mations of 1780, 1781, and 1782. Such importance, by employing two chaplains, was the spirit which actuated the councils one for the Senate and the other for the of the nation in the Revolution. And after House of Representatives, to open the sitthe Constitution had gone into effect, we tings of these bodies every day with prayer, find, in the earlier period of its reign, that and who alternately preach every Sabbath days of fasting and prayer for similar bless-to the two houses, convened in the Hall of ings were observed upon the invitation of the Representatives, at twelve o'clock. Congress. In 1812, when the last war In the fourth place, the policy of the with England broke out, we find Congress General Government may be considered as using the following language: “It being Christian, inasmuch as it is directed, in a a duty peculiarly incumbent in a time of large measure, by a Christian spirit. As public calamity and war, humbly and de- a people, we have preferred peace to war; voutly to acknowledge our dependance on we have endeavoured to act with simple Almighty God, and to implore his aid and integrity and good faith to foreign nations. protection, therefore resolved, that a joint With few exceptions, the General Governcommittee of both houses wait on the ment has acted fairly to the Indians on our President, and request him to recommend borders ; and in the instances in which it a day of public humiliation and prayer, to has been blamed, it is not easy to see how be observed by the people of the United it could have acted otherwise. To avoid a States with religious solemnity, and the of- civil war, it has once or twice, perhaps, fering of fervent supplications to Almighty failed to act with sufficient promptitude in God for the safety of these States, and protecting them from their ruthless white the speedy restoration of peace.” And invaders. But, generally speaking, its conwhen the peace arrived, the same branch duct towards the Indians has been mild and of the government called, in like manner, benevolent. From the times of Washingfor a day of thanksgiving, which President ton it has ever willingly lent its aid in proMadison did not hesitate to recommend. moting the introduction among them of the And though President Jackson, I regret to arts of civilized life ; it has expended much say, had, as Mr. Jefferson had, scruples as to money in doing so; and at this moment it how far he was empowered by the Consti- is co-operating with our missionary societution to appoint, or, rather, to recommend ties, by giving them indirect but effectual such days of fasting and prayer, and refu- aid in that quarter. But I shall have occased, accordingly, to do so at a time when it sion to speak elsewhere of the conduct of was loudly called for by the circumstances the General Government with respect to of the nation, the present president, Mr. this subject. Tyler, hesitated not for a moment to call of the chaplains in the United States navy, with the upon the people to observe such a day upon exception of a few comparatively
recent appointthe death of the lamented President Harri-ments, have been little qualified for labouring for the son. And seldom has such a day been so re-salvation of from 400 to 1200 men on board a ship of markably observed in any country, the peo- make the best selection for such a post. It would be
A secretary of the navy is seldom fitted to ple flocking to their respective churches, better done if committed to some of the missionary and listening with profound attention to dis- societies, or to them in conjunction with the secrecourses suited to the affecting occasion. It tary: For more than twenty years after the last war was marked, in short, with the solemnity with England we had no chaplains in our little army, of a Sabbath. The nation felt that God, instance of many of the officers, has appointed twenwho had stricken down the man whom ty chaplains for as many of the chief posts. The they had elevated so lately, and with such chaplains are chosen by the senior officers of each enthusiasm, to the presidency, was loudly post-as good an arrangement, probably, as could be
devised. When there were no chaplains employed calling upon them not to trust in “man, by the government, the ministers in the vicinity of our whose breath is in his nostrils.” The ap- forts and garrisons, and the missionary societies, at. pointment of that fast was manifestly ac- tended to the spiritual interests of the officers and ceptable to the nation at large.
men. The officers and men of a regiment, in some In the third place, the General Govern- cases, raised a sufficient sum among themselves for ment has at various times authorized the or the whole of his time, to preach the Gospel to
the employment of a missionary, for the greater part, employment of chaplains in the army and them. Almost all our forts and garrisons are often navy, and aţ this moment there are such visited by ministers who volunteer to preach at cerin all larger vessels of war, and at twenty Thus is the Word of Life made known to men who of the chief fortresses and military sta- have devoted themselves to their country's service. tions.* There is also a chaplain at the gov- It must be borne in mind that the national army, in
times of peace, has seldom numbered more than + I cannot avoid remarking, however, that the ap- 6000 or 8000 men. It is an interesting fact, that a pointment of some twenty-five chaplains in the very considerable proportion of the officers are pious navy very strikingly illustrates the incompetency of men, and do much good by holding religious meet... the civil power to manage spiritual matters. Most ings in their respective regiments and companies.
In the fifth place, the same spirit appears Virginia, he could not obliterate all traces in what takes place in judicial affairs. As, of it from her laws. first, the rejection of the oath of an atheist; Connecticut and Rhode Island had adoptsecond, the requiring of a belief in a future ed no constitutions of their own when state of rewards and punishments, in order that of the United States was framed. The to the validity of a man's testimony; and, latter of these two states has been govlastly, the administering of oaths on the erned almost to this day by the charter Bible.
granted by Charles II. Both states were In the sixth place, this appears from the of Puritan origin, and the charters of both readiness shown by Congress in making were based on Christian principles. large grants of valuable public lands for the The first Constitution of New York dates support of seminaries of learning, asylums from 1777. It strongly guarded the rights for the deaf and dumb, and for hospitals, of conscience and religious worship. It although aware that the institutions thus excluded the clergy from public offices of endowed were under the direction of de- a secular nature, on the express ground cided Christians, who would give a promi- that “by their profession they were dedicanent place in them to their religious views. ted to the service of God and to the cure This I could show by many facts, were it of souls,” and “ought not to be diverted necessary.
from the great duties of their functions." But I have said enough, I trust, to prove
The Constitution of New Jersey, as origithat though the promotion of religion does nally framed in 1776, besides guarantying not directly belong to the General Govern- to every one the “inestimable privilege of ment, but to the States, the former is nei- worshipping Almighty God in a manner ther hostile nor indifferent to the religious agreeable to the dictates of his own coninterests of the country. This, indeed, is science,” declared that “all persons pronot likely to be the case, so long, at least, fessing a belief in the faith of any Protestas a large proportion of our public men en- ant sect, and who should demean themtertain the respect they now show for re- selves peaceably under the government, ligion. Such respect is the more interest- should be capable of being members of eiing, as it can only flow from the spontane-ther branch of the Legislature, and should ous feelings of the heart. They are not fully and freely enjoy every privilege and tempted by any religious establishment to immunity enjoyed by others, their fellowbecome the partisans of religion. Religion citizens." Whatever may be thought of stands on its own basis, and seeks, not in the style of this instrument, it cannot be effectually, to win the respect and affec- denied that it favoured the professors of tions of all men by its own simple merits. Protestant Christianity. Many of the national legislators are either The Constitution of New Hampshire, afmembers of the churches, or their warm ter laying it down that “every individual supporters; while few among them are not has a natural and inalienable right to worbelievers in Christianity, or do not attend ship God according to the dictates of his some sanctuary of the Most High on the conscience and his reason," says, "that Sabbath.
morality and piety, rightly grounded on evangelical principles, would give the best and greatest security to government, and
would lay in the hearts of men the strongCHAPTER VIII.
est obligations to due subjection;" and THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE INDIVIDUAL STATES most likely to be propagated by the insti
again, “ that the knowledge of these was
tution of the public worship of the Deity, AFTER considering the claims of the and public instruction in morality and reGeneral Government to be regarded as ligion;" therefore, to promote these imporChristian in character, let us inquire how tant purposes," the towns” are empowered far the individual States, and particularly to adopt measures for the support and the original Thirteen, are entitled to the maintenance of “public Protestant teachsame distinction, confining ourselves in ers of piety, religion, and morality.” Althis chapter to the evidence supplied by though the towns are still authorized to their earliest constitutions or fundamental take measures for the support of public laws, which were mostly made during, or worship, that is no longer accomplished shortly after, the Revolution.
by a general assessment. Virginia was unquestionably a Christian The first Constitution of Massachusetts state, but her Constitution is silent on the was framed in 1780. In it we find the subject. It was drawn up under the eye of following language : " That as the hapone of the greatest enemies that Christian- piness of a people, and the good order and ity has ever had to contend with in Amer- preservation of civil government, essenica; but although he had influence enough tially depend upon piety, religion, and to prevent the religion which he hated from morality; and as these cannot be generbeing mentioned in the Constitution of ally diffused through a community but by
ORGANIZED ON THE BASIS OF CHRISTIANITY.