صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

It is not the essence of popery that has as yet been affected : it is only his temporal power, which according to them is a mere accident, that has been overthrown; while his absolute primacy has not been shaken by what has occurred, but, on the contrary, his sway over the whole priesthood, in all the corners of the earth, has been strengthened by the bonds of sympathy for his humiliation, and of selfishness, which sees its own existence and honour inseparably linked with his. If, therefore, the spiritual power of the Papacy is alone to be regarded, then, as yet, nothing has befallen it, and the parties adopting such a theory are not very consistent with themselves, in speaking of the end of the Papacy as if it were certain, when, if their statements are to be credited, it has, as yet, been wounded only in its temporal power, which is one of its mere accidents.

United Pres. And it is not quite certain that the Pope shall not be restored to his temporal power.

Orig Sec. We cannot tell; but the greatest likelihood is that he will. On this point we must beware judging after the sight of our eyes.' Those who have done so, have literally been like reeds shaken with the wind.' To-day they would tell you that the Pope is down for evermore-to-morrow he is just about to be restored—the third day he is left at Gaeta, in great disconsolation-and when they speak of him afterwards, though they cannot help prophesying, their predictions are seldom two days alike.

United Pres. This is a frailty of which, for the honour of religion, it would be highly desirable if many good men could be cured. They cannot resist the temptation in exciting times, of finding something in prophecy, corresponding to what is taking place in the world, and thus they unnecessarily commit the honour of christianity, and damage their own reputation for solidity and wisdom.

Orig. Sec. To be cautious, and able to keep silence, until events interpret themselves, is the path alike of wisdom and humility; and a little temporary credit obtained for a plausible conjecture, is dearly purchased, at the risk of being one day, and perhaps no very distant day, doomed by time, that infallible exposer of whatever is unsound, to take a place among the long list of those who have been weak enough to put forth their own fancies, with as much confidence as if they were the everlasting verities of God's unchangeable word. But we had better break up for the present.

MR LOCKE'S BILL. It is impossible to estimate the benefit which may be conferred on society by the repeal of a bad law, already existing, or by the enactment of a law that is wise and good. This is especially true of laws that affect the whole community. The good resulting from the well-directed exercise of legislative wisdom of this kind, will circulate to the extremities of the social frame, and may flow onward, diffusing inestimable blessings to the latest posterity. The reverse of this is the case, when a good law is repealed, or a bad law enacted. It is impossible to calculate the evil that may be done to a community through all its generations, by a law that is injurious to civil liberty, and still more by one that is hostile to the interests of morality and religion. When the rulers of a people place their enactments in opposition to the law of the great God of heaven and of earth; when they command their subjects, or any of them, under pains and penalties, to do what their Creator and Judge has commanded them not to do; it is impossible to estimate the presumptuous wickedness of such a proceeding; or to calculate the amount of immorality and ungodliness of which it may be the parent; or to think, without alarm and sorrow, of the accelerated impulse which it must give towards the completed degradation of the national character, and the consequent prostration, and fall, and ruin, of the nation itself. Whatever he may think of the sincerity of his heart, and the purity of his intentions, the author of a law that encourages immorality and irreligion, is one of the worst of all his country's enemies. The wicked individual, in private life, has his influence bounded by the grave; but the author of a bad law lives, politically and morally, as long as his enactment has a place in the statute-book, and by the train he has originated, may continue to work mischief after he has ceased to live, and may be spreading moral corruption throughout society long after he himself has turned to "corruption' in his grave.

Such being the value of a good law, and such the incalculable evil of a bad one, especially when it bears upon the interests of morality and religion, it is incumbent on all, whether rulers or subjects, to consider it a duty which they owe alike to man and to God, to the present generation and to posterity, to resist, in the most determined spirit of devoted patriotism, by all competent, constitutional means, the passing of any bill into a law of the land, the evident tendency of which is to injure the interests of morality and religion, and still more when it is directly opposed to these. Now, we conceive that the bill introduced into the British Parliament by Mr Locke, to compel all Railway Companies to run trains for the conveying of passengers on the Lord's-day, should it receive the sanction of the legislature, would be one of the worst and most pernicious of laws, the effect of which, in producing immorality, profanity, and ungodliness, it would be difficult to over-estimate. Therefore, it ought to be resisted by all who desire to prevent a dreadful increase of our national sin, and of our exposedness to national judgments.

The recent controversies respecting the Sabbath serve as a gauge of the moral and religious tone of the country; and its condition, thus estimated, is far from being satisfactory to any one who forms his opinions by the word of God. What devoted zeal has been manifested for the interests of Mammon, even in defiance of the laws of God? What supineness, and apathy, and neutrality, what want of heart and soul, what utter carelessness about the preservation of the Sabbath, in its purity, have been manifested by many who glory in the name of liberal, and enlightened, and evangelical christians? With the most frivolous, and unmanly, and despicable excuses, they have shut their eyes, and folded their hands, and resolved that the Sabbath may sink or swim for them.

K

By this shameful desertion of duty, such persons may win for themselves, from the enemies of the Sabbath, the reputation of being sensible men; but if the wisdom of the world be foolishness with God, of what will this certificate avail at last? If all men had been possessed of the same spirit, never anything great or good would have been done in the world. If patriots, and reformers, had been imbued with this kind of sense, the history of the human species would have been robbed of those noble examples of constancy, and devotedness, and selfdenying magnanimity, which have shed down upon mankind so many blessings, and set before them a pattern of excellence, the effect of which, on the civilisation and advancement of society, has been far greater than shallow thinkers may be prepared to admit. Though many of the sons of Ephraim, who lack neither bows nor arrows, turn faintly back in the day of battle,' let not the tribes of Israel on that account be dispirited. The time has now arrived, when no one, who believes the fourth commandment to be still binding, can expect to obtain the slightest credit, for having doubts whether it be wrong to pass a law to compel a vast multitude of men to labour every Sabbath-day, under a heavy penalty to be exacted from their employers. There is, therefore, no longer ground for hesitation, and mere pretences are now too hollow to obtain currency. The line of demarcation, now drawn, is so broad, and conspicuous, that all persons of ordinary capacity, by whom it cannot be seen, must be in the dark from some other cause than weakness of intellect.

The law, now proposed to be made, is directly the opposite of what we have always maintained to be the magistrate's duty in regard to the Sabbath. We maintain—and we do not care whether it be called illiberal or not, for we are sure it is scriptural—that rulers ought to make laws to prevent Sabbath profanation. It is beyond their power, and, therefore, it is no part of their duty, to attempt to compel persons to keep the Sabbath holy; but they have the ability, and it is competent to them to prevent persons from doing any public work on the Sabbath - day. Even on natural principles, such a use of their authority might be vindicated; for the Sabbath being one of the greatest temporal blessings to mankind, to appoint a Sabbath, had there been none appointed by God, would have been just as competent as the passing of any other enactment that is of general advantage, and having passed such a law, they would have been as much entitled to exact obedience to it by compulsion, if necessary, as they are to use compulsion for the purpose of securing obedience to any other law. Thus, even upon the ordinary principles of civil legislation, can the exercise of magistratical authority, against the profanation of the Sabbath by labour, be most completely vindicated. And we think it is not less certain that they are required to do this by the fourth commandment. That precept is not only binding upon individuals, but it binds all possessed of authority to secure that it shall be observed by all who are under them. It not only says to the parent

thou shalt not do any work,' but thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.' By divine authority it is thus made imperative on parents to prevent their children from performing any labour ; and upon masters to prevent their servants ; and upon the rulers of cities, to prevent all the inhabitants, and even the strangers that are within their gates, from doing any work. And by thus compelling men to keep the fourth commandment, the conscience of no one can be more affected than it would have been if compelled to observe the Sabbath in obedience to a law devised by the state for the benefit of the country. In this manner the fourth commandment was understood by the magistrates of old, as we may see from the case of Nehemiah. When the Tyrians brought fish and all manner of ware unto Jerusalem, and sold on the Sabbath to the children of Judah and in Jerusalem, the godly Tershath remonstrated with the nobles of Judah on the sinfulness of such conduct, and, in the exercise of his magistratical authority, he commanded the gates of Jerusalem to be shut till after the Sabbath, and set servants at the gates to prevent any burden being brought in on the Sabbath-day; and when the merchants and sellers of ware continued after this to lodge on the outside of the walls, he threatened them if they should do so again he would lay hands on them, and from that time forth came they no more on the Sabbath.' And for what purpose was this recorded in the bible, unless to teach all possessed of authority, when placed in similar circumstances, to go and do likewise? The interference of the magistrate to prevent all railway travelling, of a formal and systematic nature, can thus be vindicated on the general principles of political legislation, and is rendered imperative by a dutiful regard to the requirements of the fourth commandment.

There are some, however, who, in regard to this point, are exceedingly sensitive and squeamish. Whenever you speak about the magistrate doing anything to promote religion, it has, intellectually, and morally, the same effect on them as the sight of a black beetle had upon the body of Peter the Great—it throws them into convulsions, from which they can only be restored to calmness by gazing on the glorious and divine form of civil and religious freedom, as Peter was restored by the presence of the Tzarina Catharine. When it is proposed to pass a law to compel persons to profane the Sabbath-day, here is a field on which all who think that the magistrate should do nothing in favour of religion ought, if they would not be found recreant to their own principles, to be found, to a man, standing in the front rank of the battle. For surely, if they set up so loud a shout, as they sometimes do, when the magistrate attempts to pass a law in favour of religion, they cannot, without the entire abandonment of their own principles and consistency, be silent when it is proposed that our rulers should pass a law, formally and directly, against one of the most important and most vital institutions of the christian religion. Of all others, it most concerns those who maintain the principle that the magistrate, as a magistrate, ought not to do anything in favour of religion, to rise up and withstand this attempt to legislate against religion. If such parties do not stand foremost in the conflict that is now opening, and much more, if many among them “altogether hold their peace at such a time at this;' if persons, who have hitherto been boisterous in their outcries against persecution for conscience sake, and in favour of religious liberty, refuse to move their little finger, or to expend a single breath in opposition to this most direct, and formal, and flagrant proposal to compel men, under pains and penalties, to do what is contrary to the law of God, this will show that the zeal of these parties against the encroachments of the magistrate in religion, when practically put to the test, is really a principle of a tamer and more servile nature, and incapable of presenting that formidable opposition to the encroachments of rulers, or of maintaining that efficient conflict for the just rights of conscience, which has often been done by the stern and strong spirit of the old Presbyterianism of Scotland, in recent as well as in former times.

The bill now proposed to be passed into a law is in direct opposition to the will of God, the supreme Lawgiver, as that is made known to us in the fourth commandment, and therefore it is incompetent to any earthly rulers to make such an enactment. When made, it would be destitute of all moral authority; it would be binding on no man's conscience, but ought to be disobeyed by every man who fears God. To enforce its observance, by pains and penalties, would be direct persecution for conscience sake, and a carrying out of the Erastian principle into ordinary business transactions, so that none should be permitted to buy and sell who refused to receive the mark of this beast or of its image.' The fourth commandment says to all men, whether individuals or public companies, on the Sabbath-day thou shalt not do any work.' But this bill proposes that the law of Britain shall say to every railway company, you must run trains for the conveyance of passengers on the Sabbath-day, no matter although you think it contrary to the law of God to do this, you will not for this conscientious conviction be excused; but in case you shall neglect or refuse to carry and convey all persons desirous of travelling on any such railway by any such train as herein before-mentioned, then, and in any such case, you shall for every such offence forfeit and pay to the Queen's Majesty, for her own use, the sum of two hundred pounds, to be recovered by action in any of the superior courts.'* The law of God says to the railway company, thou shalt not do any work on the Sabbath-day; but this bill proposes that railways shall be bound and astricted' to do all the work necessary for the running of railway trains for the conveyance of passengers, in terms of the bill. The proposed law is therefore contrary to the law of God, and as it is incompetent for the lower authority in any case to issue laws contrary to the laws of the higher authority, it is incompetent for earthly rulers to cancel anything that has the sanction of God, or to command anything which has been forbidden by God; far more incompetent than it is for a sheriff to command the dwellers in his sheriffdom, under pains and penalties, to do what the British Parliament has forbidden to be done.

In the above case the act of the sheriff, being incompetent, would be destitute of all authority, and could lay no obligation to obedience on the conscience of those whom it concerned. In like manner, if a

* The passage contained within marks of quotation is in the words of the bill.

« السابقةمتابعة »