June 5, 1889
THE eighth Wisconsin district of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union passed this resolution:—
“WHEREAS, God would have all men honor the Son even as they honor the Father; and,
“WHEREAS, The civil law which Christ gave from Sinai is the only perfect law, and the only law that will secure the rights of all classes; therefore,
“Resolved, That civil government should recognize Christ as the moral Governor, and his law as the standard of legislation.”
What does a civil government want with a moral governor? civil governments have only civil governors; moral governors belong only with moral governments; there cannot be a civil governor in a moral government; nor can there be a moral governor of a civil government. But this is not all; that resolution says, “The civil law which Christ gave from Sinai,” etc. But the law which Christ gave from Sinai was not a civil law at all; it is the moral law; it is the law of the Government of God. If that law is a civil law, then God is only a civil governor, and there is no such a thing in this universe as moral government, or moral law, and no such thing as morality, no conduct can go deeper than civility, and no obligations can rest upon men beyond the restraint of outward actions.
This is the logic of that resolution; this is precisely the mistake that was made by the Pharisees in the time of Christ. ‘The moral law was generally applied as the civil law, not to the acts of the spirit, but to the acts of the body. It was applied to the external conduct of men, not to the internal life. If there was conformity to the letter of the law in external manners, there was a fulfillment, in the eyes of the Jew and the Gentile, of the highest claims that God or man held upon the spirit. No matter how dark and damning were the exercises of the soul; if it only kept its sin in its own habitation, and did not develop it in action, the penalty of the law was not laid to its charge. The character of the spirit itself might be criminal, and all its exercises of thought and feeling sensual and selfish, yet if it added hypocrisy to its guilt, and maintained an outward conformity to the law—a conformity itself produced by selfishness—man judged himself, and others adjudged him, guiltless.”
But Christ came as the instructor and exemplar in morality; the law which he gave from Sinai he carried to the thoughts and intents of the heart,—laid bare the soul itself before the great moral eye of the universe; flashed the light of the divine law upon the awful scene known only to the soul itself,” and showed that these it is that constitute the transgression of the law of God. In this system of government that is advocated by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the National Reform Association, and in principles sustained by the whole Sunday-law movement, there is just such an attempt to reduce the moral law only to the … of outward actions—make it only a standard of civility—as there was by the Pharisees to whom Christ spoke, and to whom he said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and the platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto me, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
This is the only condition to which men ever can be brought by the application of the law from Sinai as a civil law, making it the standard of civil government.
Such ideas as are here embodied in this resolution and such resolutions as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union adopted, and such work as they do in this line, will never do. The women of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and all other people, want to understand that civil government is civil, and not moral; that civil government is based only upon civil law and is governed only by civil governors; that it does not aim at securing morality, but only civlity. Such confused ideas of government and law divine and human; moral and civil, clearly show that the women of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union are not in any sense fit to be trusted with the ballot, or with the legislative power in any degree. That these confused views of government and law prevail to such an extent as they do, even amongst men who have the ballot and the legislative power committed to them ought to awaken every American citizen to the most sober consideration of the fundamental principles of American liberties,—which are the true liberties of man.
A. T. J.