TO the demand that is now being made upon Congress for such a change in the national Constitution as will transform it from a “godless” document to one that will acknowledge God’s supremacy, it may be truthfully replied, God is already in the Constitution. He is in it just as he was in the Declaration of Independence. As a Methodist minister of Baltimore, Rev. W. F. Hamner, has well said, “That grand parchment is the product of God’s Spirit. If you want to see God in it, read that clause which says that all men are born with equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
God is in everything that is just. Justice cannot be separated from him, any more than can truth and righteousness. There can no more be two sources of justices, truth, or righteousness than there can be two Gods. And God is in everything that gives true liberty to mankind. He created man a free being; so that liberty,—physical, mental, and moral,—became man’s birthright; and God’s eternal purpose is to assert and restore that liberty where it has been lost. The mission of Jesus Christ to this earth was “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” 494 And in defining the nature of the fast that is acceptable to him, God says: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen,—to lose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” 495 God is the author and defender of human liberty.
It was therefore in the direct providence of God that there arose this great nation in the western hemisphere, built upon the divine principle of liberty and equal rights to all men. It was in full harmony with the mind and purpose of God that this doctrine should be proclaimed to all the world, as it was and is in the Declaration of Independence. And as it is the purpose of God that all men should be free to choose whether they will worship him or not, it is in accordance with his mind that our national Constitution declares, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
We repeat, therefore, God is in the Constitution. As certainly as it is inspired by the spirit of justice and of liberty to all in the things which it concerns, as the fundamental law of civil government in this Republic, God is in it, though it does not profess the fact. A person may loudly profess to be a follower of Christ; but the spirit which actuates him, and not his profession, is the real test which shows whether he is such or not. And so with the Constitution; its real nature is shown not by any profession it may make, but by the spirit which it breathes forth. And that spirit is the divine spirit of justice, equality, and liberty.
It is now proposed to change this grand document so as to put within it an “acknowledgment” of God, by changing its preamble to this form: “We, the people of the United States, acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority in civil government, our Lord Jesus Christ as the ruler of nations, and his revealed will as of supreme authority in civil affairs, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”
Does this breathe forth the divine spirit of fairness and equality to all? Let us see. Who is it that makes this acknowledgment of the existence and authority of the Deity?—Answer: “We, the people of the United States.” But hundreds of thousands, if not millions of citizens here do not believe in God, and very many who do believe in him, and rejoice in the gospel of his Son, would not have his will made the supreme law in civil affairs. What about such people? Why, simply this, that they are not the people of the United States, according to this preamble. By its terms they will be disfranchised. And we can say this on the authority of the Christian Statesman itself,—the organ of the party which is most active in demanding the proposed constitutional amendment; for that journal, in its issue of Nov. 1, 1883, published the following upon this point:—
What effect would the adoption of the Christian Amendment, together with the proposed changes in the Constitution, have upon those who deny that God is the Sovereign, Christ the Ruler, and the Bible the law? This brings up the conscience question at once…. The classes who object are, as “Truth Seeker” has said, Jews, infidels, atheists, and others. These classes are perfectly satisfied with the Constitution as it is. How would they stand towards it if it recognized the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ? To be perfectly plain, I believe that the existence of a Christian Constitution would disfranchise every logically consistent infidel.
Certainly; when “we, the people of the United States” do that which no logically consistent “infidel” would do, it is plain that the latter cannot be counted on of “the people.” There are a great many people of all classes and beliefs in this country whom logical consistency, enlightened judgment, and love of justice and liberty would debar form any participation in such action. None of these could, under the proposed amendment, be reckoned as among “the people.” They are all, from the standpoint of this amendment, “infidels,” and of course not qualified to participate in the management of a “Christian” Government. The scheme is in short but the means adopted by the puritanic intolerance of our day for reënacting the traditional resolutions: (1) “Resolved, That the earth was created by the Lord for the use of the saints;” (2) “Resolved, That we are the saints.”
Having thus declared themselves “the people of the United States,” and having established the fact in the fundamental law of the land, it will simply remain for those who are not “the people” to acquiesce in the scheme or seek a habitation in some other quarter of the globe. It will be said to them, We are the people; this is our land and Government; if you do not like it, get out. This much has already been said in advance, as witnesses the following sentence from a speech delivered by Rev. E. B. Graham at a National Reform convention held at York, Nebraska, and reported in the Christian Statesman, of May 21, 1885, thus:—
We might add, in all justice, if the opponents of the Bible do not like our government and its Christian features, let them go to some wild, desolate land, and in the name of the devil and for the sake of the devil, subdue it, and set up a government of their on infidel and atheistic ideas, and then, if they can stand it, stay there till they die!
And should this “Christian” idea of government spread around the globe, as these “reformers” would like to see it, there would be nothing left for the “infidels”—those who differ from them—but to “get off the earth.”
That the term “infidel” as they use it, does include all who will not join with them in their “reform” scheme, is evident from their own statement as well as from the logic of their position. Rev. Dr. Jonathan Edwards, a leading exponent of this “National Reform,” in a speech made at a National Reform convention held in New York in 1873, thus classified the enemies of the “reform” cause:—
The atheist is a man who denies the being of God and future life. To him mind and matter are the same; and time is the be-all and end-all of consciousness and of character.
The deist admits God, but denies that he has any such control over human affairs as we call providence, or that he ever manifests himself and his will in a revelation.
The Jew admits God, providence, and revelation, but rejects the entire scheme of gospel redemption by Jesus Christ as sheer imagination, or—worse—sheer imposture.
The Seventh-day Baptists believe in God and Christianity, and are conjoined with the other members of this class by the accident of differing with the mass of Christians upon the question of what precise day of the week shall be observed as holy.
These all are, for the occasion, and as far as the amendment is concerned, one class. They use the same arguments and the same tactics against us. They must be counted together.
And with them “must be counted” all, of whatever denomination, who “use the same arguments and the same tactics against us,” that is, who oppose the “reform” scheme with its “Christian” amendment as being un-American, unjust, impolitic, and wicked. If this amendment is carried we shall soon have a new and enlarged definition of the term “infidel.”
And by this scheme and this process these “reformers” would put God in the Constitution! Taking out of it that spirit of justice, fairness, and equality for all before the law which is now embodies, they would put in its place that unloving, intolerant spirit which says: We are the people; stand out of our way. It you do not believe as we do, get out of this land to some “wild, desolate country,” and stay there till you die! And this they would call putting God in the Constitution! And this they would do—this era of religious controversy, bigotry, and bitterness, they would inaugurate—to “establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility,” promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity”!
Verily, we do not want this reform “god”—the god of bigotry and intolerance—in the Constitution of this Republic. We want in it the God of justice, truth, love, and mercy for all men; and he is there already.