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good of the people, is as really usurpation and tyranny as the most arbitrary despotism. There is no political condition so intolerable as hopeless subjection to the passions of a corrupt and ignorant populace. Any nation will flee from its borrors to the sway of the most arbitrary despot in preference. We may wrap ourselves in our false security, and cry "peace and safety." with as much credulity as we will, but if that majority which is to hold the sovereign power of this nation for the next quarter of a century be not both intelligent and virtuous, the knell of republican liberty will, ere that period has passed, have tolled its requiem. The tide of events will set back in the opposite direction. The mass of the people, under the ancient dynasties of the old world, will no longer be seen struggling to free themselves from the oppressions of hereditary power ; but even in this new world, the descendants of revolutionary heroes will be obliged, for very safety, to flee back to the strength of monarchy for protection. If the alternative is to lie between the domination of a corrupt, capricious, blind and infatuated populace, or the prompt authority of a monarchical government, there can be no hesitation which will, and which ought to be chosen. This nation can never rest in a position, where the government does not secure the good of the people to as high a degree as they are prepared to appreciate. If they are not sufficiently virtuous and intelligent for the superior blessings of free republican institutions, they will soon lose them. No form of government can keep human nature to a higher point of elevation, than that for which its own intellectual and moral worth prepares it. For our own preservation we must go back again to the bondage of Egypt, and eat “the leeks and garlics,” and “make brick” as best we may, till another generation shall arise more worthy to enter in and enjoy the promised land. The source of authority, with us as with all other nations, to be legitimate and valid, must be competent to secure to the people the highest political good for wbich they are qualified.
3. Its legislation must not contravene the claims of natural obligation.
One reason for the necessity of positive authority in the government of man, as we have seen, lies in the fact, that many things essential to the welfare of society can never be settled, by sending each man to direct bis conduct by the nature of things. A great proportion of the province of legislation lies without the region of direct intuition. All that we can have, VOL. XII. No. 32.
therefore, to bind the conscience in those cases where the nature of things does not settle the obligation, is the perception of the rightness of the authority. And as another test of the validity of it, we may appeal to reason in all those cases where it comes within the province of reason. Where they are both within the same field, authority must harmonize with reason or all its legislation is a nullity. 'If a positive precept contradict a plain duty from the nature of things, no authority however high or venerable can make it obligatory. God himself appeals to this standard for the rectitude of his own dealings as a moral governor : “ Are not my ways equal"_“Come, let us reason together." And because of the force of this appeal, it is true, that “ every mouth will be stopped” in the judgment. God's positive legislation never may, and never does, contradict the law of nature. Wherever they meet, there is everlasting harmony. Divine authority often reaches beyond the limits of human reason, but never contradicts it.
And when any human authority demands compliance with unnatural laws, and intuitively perceived wrong edicts, no obligation goes with it. Submission is then a crime, and resistance a duty. God has legislated there in the majesty of nature, and all contradictory authority is usurpation. This must, however, be a case of clear intuition. It does not apply to instances of disputed propriety, or prudential expediency. If there is not direct contradiction to a clear case of natural right and conscience, obligation is on the side of obedience; for the reasons which sustain the authority itself, are plainer than those against its legislation.
4. It must not conflict with any higher authority.
All sovereignty is supreme within its own jurisdiction. It is absolute so far as its limits extend. But these limits are defined by principles, not persons. One person may come legitimately under the authority of a score of sovereignties. He may owe allegiance to the authority of a college, a parent, civil government, a church, and God's general government. Thus to a single individual the sources of his responsibility may be multiplied indefinitely. There is however a principle which settles the limits of bis allegiance in the midst of them all. The universal principle is—a lower source of authority can never bind in conflict with a higher source. There may perhaps not unfrequently be some difficulty in settling the points of precedence between conflicting authorities. Questions of casuistry may
often arise here which shall require more or less care and discernment to decide correctly. But in all such cases it is vecause the fact is obscure, not because there is any liesitation in regard to the truth of the principle. Once settle satisfactorily wbich is the paramount authority, and the mind no longer hesitates. Obligation to the higher authority rests at once upon the conscience.
It was on this principle that the three pious Jews refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. A higher authority had forbidden the worship of idols. This also induced Daniel to make bis supplication three times a day, notwithstanding the prohibition according to the law of the Medes and Persians. And this too was the ground of the bold and unanswerable appeal of the apostles: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” This is a principle of universal application. A higher authority forever prostrates all obligation from the conflicting claims of a lower. The lower authority in legislatiny against the enactments of the higher, so far forth nullifies itself and becomes a non-entity.
Enough has now probably been said to show the necessity of authority to the well being of human society, and the criterion of its legitimacy. When under these conditions, authority from any source comes upon man, it binds his conscience as inviolably as the clearest dictate of natural obligation. Yea, it resolves itself ultimately into a natural obligation, for he intuitively perceives the rectitude of the authority, and that is as natural a source of obligation, as when he intuitively perceives the rectitude of the precept.
He knows before heaven that he is thus bound, and that disobedience to such authority is a sin against conscience and God. More might be said upon the nature and extent of the sanctions by which positive authority is to be sustained, and upon the methods of administration, but this is sufficient for the purpose we have had in view, to show the nature of positive authority as a source of moral obligation.
The following truths result directly from the foregoing view of this subject.
1. Authority may give obligation to that which would otherwise have been a matter of indifference.
If the proper source of authority deem any particular course of procedure, form, or ceremony, to be important in gaining the ends for which it exists, it has a right to impose them. And though otherwise a matter of entire indifference, they are henceforth binding upon the subject. The rightness of the authority settles the question of obligation. Divine authority has thus settled the proportion of time to be observed as holy, and fixed the particular day, which is henceforth binding upon man, though in itself considered we may not be able to see why it was a seventh rather than a sixth or an eighth part of time, and though it be a matter of indifference in its own nature which day of the week should be observed as the Sabbath. After the enactments of authority, it is a matter of indifference no longer. So in civil governinents, the forms of official investiture, the solemnization of the marriage contract, the naturalization of foreigners, the specific regulations relating to revenue, etc. all are matters of indifference in themselves, i. e. other forms might have been substituted that would equally well have subserved the same ends. The good of society, however, requires that these matters should be regulated in practice upon some principle of uniformity, and when the proper authority has done it, it is no longer optional with each man to follow his own private views of expediency or inclination in relation to it. He is bound as a good citizen and a conscientious man faithfully to obey the law. A father may in the same way settle in his own family many regulations in themselves wholly indifferent, and yet when thus seuled by parental authority, no member of that family is at liberty to disregard them. We believe the consciences of many professing Christians need quickening on this point. There is 100 great a readiness in matiers of this kind, where the law may interfere with private interest, prejudice, or convenience, to evade or directly disobey it, and keep the conscience quiet by the fact of its original indifference to moral obligation. The truth is, however, that neither in the sight of God nor an enlightened conscience, is it any longer a matter of indifference. The rightful authority under which you live, is a source of obligation as rigidly imperious as the dictates of natural intuition. If you disobey or disregard it, you can neither be a good citizen, a good Christian, nor an honest man. Whose conscience soever it may be that thus slumbers, needs at once to be aroused by its direct application to the point of responsibility: Authority, as a source of moral obligation, should be placed proininently before the mind, and the man babituate hiinself to the reflection, not—this thing is a matter of indifference in itself—but my conduct in relation to it is against law. If such reflections be suppressed, the fact is not at all improbable, that while you are searing your own moral sensibilities, you are also directly contributing the whole force of your influence, in these respects, to paralyze the power of law over others.
2. A refusal to obey, unless the reasonableness of the precept be exhibited, makes the man either a rebel or an outlaw.
To this extent every man has the right to demand evidence before he can coine under obligation—that the source of authority be legitimate, and that the legislation neither contradicts nature nor higher authority. And this is all he can claim. The sovereign is not obliged to explain the reasons for every precept to his comprehension. If he understand what it is, this is enough without explaining why it is. If he be legitimately circumscribed within the jurisdiction of the authority, he is bound to yield obedience to it. If he is already a subject, bis refusal to obey without seeing the reasonableness of the command makes him a rebel; if his voluntary consent is necessary in order to his becoming a subject, and he will not obey the law without the reason, he is an outlaw. In the first place, he assumes to himself the place of the sovereign, and attempts to give law to the authority which binds him, and he must be subdued or the power of the governinent is prostrate. In the second, he discards authority upon its own territory where it must be supreme, and thus makes it necessary that he should be forced beyond the limits of its jurisdiction. By refusing allegiance to it upon its own grounds, he cuts bimself off from all right to its privileges and protection, and that government owes it to its own dignity and safety to banish him from the community. In the one case the authority, for its own preservation, must punish, in the other case it must expel. And such is the law of every man's conscience, that he will be obliged to yield to the equity of such a decision, and bis inouth be stopped in every attempt to reply against it.
3. The spirit of law fills the whole field of its jurisdiction.
So far as authority extends, it is omniscient, omnipresent and supreme. It goes with every subject to his daily employment and bis secret retirement. Like the eye of God, it watches his going out and coming in, his lying down and rising up. Its protective power is over every place, and no harm can enter but by the very act which violates its sacredness, and for which