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POLITICAL DUTIES OF CHRISTIANS, AS EXHIBITED IN
By EDWARD W. HOOKER, Bennington, Vermont.
The word of God leaves untouched no subject on which a Christian can ever have occasion to ask, “What is my duty ?” In the form of precept, general principle, historical fact, or specimen of character which God has approved or disapproved, he will find, in this book, something to free his mind from perplexity, and show him his duty in a light unquestionable. On some subjects, it is true, there is less said, in the Scriptures, than on others. But the measure of light which they shed on any given question of Christian morals, is always in full proportion to its practical importance. And not unfrequently will the Christian, searching his Bible with prayer and a teachable spirit, be surprised and delighted, to see how much more instruction they furnish, adapted to his wants, under given circumstances, than he had before supposed.
The foregoing remarks will be found true, in relation to the subject of the present article. It is an inquiry of no common interest, especially to an American Christian, and in this age of political and civil excitement, revolutions and conflicting interests, “ What are the duties of Christians, in relation to the civil government under which they live?” And inasmuch as the Christian is of “like passions with others ;” and liable to be swayed from right judgment and conduct; this question should be asked with the Bible open
before him ; and in a devout and diligent prosecution of the inquiries, “what saith the Scripture ? " " what is written in the law?”
The general question stated, may properly be resolved into two prominent points of inquiry. The first relates to the rulers of our country, the public servants of the people and the framers and administrators of their laws. The second relates to the body politic, as being the source of authority and government. These will be separately considered, in the following remarks.
I. As it relates to rulers. It may not be improper here to notice the fact that in the articles of faith of several Christian denominations, as containing their views of the great instructions of the Scriptures, are given explicit statements relative to this question.* Indeed, wherever Christianity has prevailed in its purity, and the church has been “ built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” there have prevailed sound and scriptural views of this subject, as entering into the system of “pure and undefiled religion.' These views have their origin in the character of several “ holy men of old,” as subjects of government; and in specific precepts, recorded by them and others, in the inspired writings. We present some of these, with as much partic-. ularity as our liinits permit.
Our minds naturally recur to the character of Daniel, showing what a true son of God may be, and ought to be, as a subject of government. His case is one of special interest, from the fact that his light shone in the midst of the darkness of a state of captivity ; that his virtues, as a citizen, were exercised not under the government of his native coun
*“ The power of the civil magistrate extendeth to all men, as well clergy as laity, in all things temporal; but hath no authority in things purely spiritual. And we hold it to be the duty of all men, who are professors of the gospel, to pay respectful obedience to the civil authority, regularly and legitimately constituted.”- Art. xxxvii. of the Prot. Epis. Church.
“God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good, and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the .. defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers."
“ It is the duty of the people to pray for magistrates, to honor their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience' sake.”-- Confession of Faith, Presbyterian Church.
The Cambridge and Saybrook Platforms may be referred to as setting forth substantially the same views.
try, but of conquerors of his country; and men not of his own religious faith. And the virtues he exhibited were not alone in public life, and under the extensive observance of men ; but, as will ever be the fact, with men of sound piety towards God, in every walk of life. We briefly notice some of these, in the order in which they arise, in the perusal of the book of Daniel.
We first find him showing his soundness and steadiness of principle, in relation to the luxurious living which was provided for him, at the king's cost ; thus giving a testimony to the conscience of Nebuchadnezzar, on the “temperance in all things which becomes every man, whether near the throne, or upon it. This was all done, too, with the respectfulness and reasonableness of a man who joined good sense with his piety; and putting the matter in question to the test of experiment. He cheerfully made himself useful to the government, on every occasion when his services were called for, or when he could, with propriety, offer them. On the issuing of a hasty and unjust decree, by Nebuchadnezzar, he respectfully but decidedly protested against it, and carried directly to the foot of the throne, a temperate but earnest petition, for favor to a set of men, in danger from the royal displeasure; showing that he was not afraid to speak of mercy to a despot, in the moment when his sword was lifted for the stroke of unrighteous vengeance. At the same time, it is worthy of notice, how kindly he felt for the perplexities of his royal master ; and enlisted the prayers of his pious
associates in his behalf. While in his whole manner he was ụnexceptionably respectful, it should be remarked with
what simplicity and honesty he spoke to a king of the true origin of his power and glory; and of the supreme power and
glory of God, as the “ King of kings, and Lord of lords.” .:. * God removeth kings, and setteth up kings.” “ The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, strength, and glory.” “There is a God in heaven, that maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar, what shall be in the latter days.' « The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.” And here let it be observed, how pious, upright and plain-spoken faithfulness will command respect, and constrain the acknowledgment of God, from a man in authority and honor. Paying to Daniel the most marked deference, Nebuchadnezzar said to him, “of a truth it is that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings.”
“ Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, and extol, and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways. judgment; and those that walk in pride, he is able to abase.” Daniel was at the farthest possible distance from "leasing himself with evil coming from God upon a ruler, though deserved ; on the contrary, he felt tender compassion towards him, as about to come under “ the rod of the. Al** mighty.”
“My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies," was his tender-spirited preface to his interpretation of a dream which forewarned Nebuchadnezzar of his prostration and expulsion to a “dwelling with beasts of the field.” He fully acknowl-, edged all which was illustrious in a ruler. “Thou, O king, art grown and become strong; for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven.” At the same time, with most unshrinking faithfulness, he predicted divine judgments to come upon him for sin : “ till (said he) thou know that the Most High ruleth;” and adding, “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.”
These traits of character and conduct thus far manifested under the government of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel also carried with him under that of Belshazzar and Darius; besides other traits, which we can little more than name. He was independent of all the influences of favoritism and gifts. while he was most cheerful and ready to do his duty. He told a haughty and profligate king, of the sins of his father, before him, as well as of his own ; and yet, did it in such a manner, that a “ chain of gold about his neck," and a proclamation of him as “third ruler in the kingdom," was not considered as forfeited. Such was his blamelessness as a subject of government, that when his watchful enemies " sought to find occasion against him con cerning the kingdom," they “could find none occasion nor. fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any. error or fault found in him.” And they were compelled to acknowledge among themselves, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him 'con, cerning the law of his God.” When the envy of his enemies. had succeeded in obtaining a most unrighteous decree, aimed: directly at himself, he had the moral courage to move as straight onward in the path of duty to his God, as though