“Editorial” American Sentinel 10, 20, pp. 153, 154.

May 16, 1895

ONE of the most far-reaching and destruction errors of the day is the exaltation of the State to a place it was never designed to occupy, and which in the very nature of things it cannot occupy without destroying at once liberty in both civil and religious things, and putting man in the place of God.

THE pagan conception of the State is summed up in the motto: “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” The proper conception of the State is tersely expressed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; … that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

HERE the individual and not the State is given the first place; and government, instead of being lord and master, is the servant of the people, created by them and deriving its just powers from them. God, the Creator, and not the State, is declared to be the author of rights. And not only is he in this declared to be superior to the State, but he is likewise set forth as superior to the people; hence it is impossible that the voice of the people should be “the voice of God.” The people make the State, and it derives all its just powers from the people; but even they, the people, the makers of the State, do not make rights, and cannot destroy them. They may by despotic power invade these rights, but they still exist, for they are God-given and are co-existent with their Author, for they subsist in his very nature.

TO deny the existence of inalienable, God-given rights, rights that are above and beyond the power of human government to take away, is to deny the sovereignty of God himself and to make him subordinate to the State; for it is to put the State in the place of God, or rather to make the State of God, which is, in fact, the pagan conception of the State; hence the pagan motto previously quoted, or in other words, the assumption that the people in their aggregate capacity are divine, that by sufficiently multiplying the finite, infinity is the result, that by massing humanity, divinity is created.

THE doctrine of inalienable rights was not new, as some seem to suppose, when the Declaration of Independence was written. Eleven years before Jefferson wrote that immortal document, Blackstone had published to the world this statement of the same principle:—

Those rights which God and nature have established, and are therefore called natural rights, such as life and liberty, need not the aid of human law to be more effectually invested in every man than they are; neither do they receive any additional strength when declared by the municipal laws to be inviolable.

IT was perhaps only liberty pertaining to civil things, to the mere temporalities of life, that Blackstone had in mind when he wrote these words; but be that as it may, a greater than Blackstone had, centuries before, enunciated the doctrine of inalienable rights as pertaining to man’s relations to his Creator; for this doctrine is set forth as certainly in the words: “Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s,” as in the Declaration of Independence itself.

BUT even before the time of our Saviour this principle had been discovered and boldly announced in the court of the most powerful monarch of ancient times. The three captive Hebrews were conscious of rights superior to human law when they boldly declared to Nebuchadnezzar: “Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” This was a declaration of independence long antedating the one written by Jefferson, and was as truly an avowal of the existence of natural, God-given rights as was the document signed by our forefathers in Philadelphia, on the Fourth of July, 1776. The words of Daniel to the king when he had deliberately disobeyed him in the matter of offering prayer, are likewise an assertion of the same divine right. He had disobeyed the king, and yet he said boldly: “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.”

THAT the doctrine of inalienable rights must be true is evident from the fact that in no other way could God retain the throne of moral dominion. Man must have, so far as his fellow-men are concerned, perfect liberty in things pertaining to God, or else God could not govern by a perfect law. Had God committed the administration of his law to men, it must necessarily have been imperfect since the administrators of law must also interpret the law which they administer; and the law is, for the time being, whatever its authorized interpreter says it is. Hence, had god committed to men moral government there could in the very nature of the case, have been no certain moral standard.

GOD has committed to man the maintenance of his own rights in civil things; and it is for this purpose that civil government is ordained. Hence civil government should be used for no other purpose than the conservation of civil rights. It was Jefferson who said of the duties of legislators: “Their true office is to declare and enforce our natural right and duties and to take none of them from us. No man,” he continues, “has a natural right to commit aggressions on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him; every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of society; and this is all that the laws should enforce upon him.”

BUT some may query, Why spend time proving in this enlightened age, in the closing decade of the nineteenth century, a truth which was recognized as self-evident more than a century ago? Simply because it is neither as clearly seen nor as universally recognized to-day as it was in 1776. A different theory of civil government obtains largely to-day. Instead of being regarded as the creatury and servant of the people, the State is clothed with “that divinity” which was once supposed to “hedge about a king;” government, instead of being merely the conservator of natural rights, is said to have “unlimited and undivided power [154] over every individual within its jurisdiction, over every institution that its subjects may establish within its territory, and over every commodity that exists within its territory.” [279] In short, the State, like the king, “can do no wrong.”

SUCH a theory is utterly destructive of both civil and religious liberty. It destroys all individual liberty and makes every man a slave. Yea more, it puts the State in the place of God and makes every man who accepts it a veritable pagan; and that whether he realizes it or not, for no man can accept this theory of government and say with the apostles: “We ought to obey God rather than men.” For this reason the AMERICAN SENTINEL protests against the doctrine as un-American and unchristian. [154]

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