“REVERENCE for law” is a very essential thing in good government, but it is not the foundation stone.
REVERENCE for law is not in itself an energizing, purifying force in government. Its value in government is not intrinsic, but is conferred by something else.
REVERENCE for law never shook the throne of a despot, or broke the shackles from a slave.
REVERENCE for law did not inspire the writing of the Declaration of Independence.
If our forefathers had always adhered to the doctrine of reverence for law, the world would never have heard of that Declaration, nor of Magna Charta.
The pathway from despotism to liberty in government has been along the line of revolution, and often squarely across that of reverence for law.
Law, in itself, is not entitled to reverence. If it were, then the worst law ever enacted would be entitled to it equally with the best, and the “three worthies” in Babylon of old did wrong in not worshiping the golden image.
In the Declaration of Independence, our forefathers took a step from the standpoint of reverence for law, to that of reverence for right. And it was a very long step; it meant revolution.
The law of Great Britain said one thing; but right, as they asserted it, said another thing. Right said that human governments were instituted to preserve the unalienable rights with which all men are endowed by the Creator. From the standpoint of reverence for law this was treason; but in the conflict, right prevailed.
Reverence for right is the pole star of good government. It cannot be lost sight of without a resulting deviation from the course which leads to national prosperity.
A person who has no reverence for right, can have no true reverence for anything.
All Christian institutions are founded in right, and hence are entitled to reverence, irrespective of any law in their behalf; nor can any such law contribute at all to the reverence felt for them by human beings.
But there are religious institutions which have no foundation in right; and it is now sought to secure reverence for these from the people by pointing to them as being part of the law of the land. Prominent among these is the institution of Sunday rest.
In behalf of this institution very much is said about the necessity of reverence for law; but nothing at all about the necessity of reverence for right. All the right in the case has to be assumed; it does not rest upon evidence.
Reverence for right is reverence for the higher law of God,—that law which says nothing about the first day as a day of rest, but commands the observance of the seventh day. As against that law, and against the requisites of good government, the doctrine of reverence for human law can be of no force at all.