“The Object of Civil Government” American Sentinel 12, 36, pp. 571, 572.

WE have seen that all persons have rights; and that these rights are given each person by the Creator, and are unalienable.

We have seen also why it is that the Creator gives to each one these rights,—that it is because he has a purpose to be fulfilled in each member of the human family, and a claim upon each one, which would utterly fail if men were not left free to choose between good and evil. Only in this way can God receive what is due him, and man attain to the highest pinnacle of blessing.

But how are these rights to be preserved? How are the life and liberty of each one, which God has given them, to be protected from violence and destruction in this evil world?

Is each one to defend his own rights, using what force may be necessary to repel any invasion of them?

If it were left that way there would be no government at all. There would be no laws against crime, and each one would determine for himself what was a punishable offense and what punishment was deserved by the offender. And he would decide this, as individuals are so prone to do, not after calm reflection, but under the excitement and anger which the offense produced.

In addition to this, his rights would be defended by no power stronger than his own arm.

Such a state of things would be anarchy, worse than anything that we have seen or imagined.

To avoid this, men have formed civil governments; and by means of these, laws against crime are enacted by assemblies of chosen men; the person accused of wrong-doing is tried by men who can proceed in the mater with calmness and impartiality; sentence against the offender is executed without anger, haste, or barbarity; and the power of the whole people together is exercised to defend the rights of each individual.

The Declaration of Independence sets forth the purpose of civil government, in the declaration that “to preserve these [unalienable] rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Thus it is seen that the civil government exists for the benefit of the individuals who enter into it. But the natural tendency in governments is to reverse the proper order, and to hold that the individual exists for the benefit of the government.

When this is done, the rights of the individual, instead of being protected by the government, are sacrificed to the government. Human life and liberty, which the [572] Creator gave to man, and which no government can give him, are considered to be at the disposal of the government. This perverted state of things—this false conception of the purpose and province of civil government—has come to be the prevailing one all over the world.

Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, said: “Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their power, that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us…. The idea is quite unfounded that on entering into society we give up any natural right.”

And when society, or the government, tries to compel us to give up some of our natural rights for the sake of its purposes, it is going contrary to God’s order, and our obedience must be to God rather than to it.

Civil government is not the greatest thing in the world. It is, as we have seen, only an instrument to serve something else; and that which it is designed to serve must be greater than it. And that greater thing is MAN.

Man is the most important thing in the world,—the crowning work of God’s creation. Man is made in God’s own image; to him alone, of all things in the world, is given this overwhelming honor.

The civil governments were made by man; but man himself is a work of the infinite God.

Man, it is true, seems but an insignificant thing,—a being of faults, and weaknesses, appearing only for a moment, as it were, amidst earth’s myriad forms of life and then passing again into oblivion. And of himself he would be only this.

But ah, he is connected with the purposes of God, which reach throughout eternity! Can this be said of any civil government? No, indeed; earthly governments are but transient things; once dead, they have no future. But who can fathom the eternal purpose of Jehovah in the creation of man? To what heights is man, in the unfolding of that purpose, to attain in the eternal ages?

And that this life may afford the conditions suitable to man’s preparation for the future life, civil government has been instituted here by the ordinance of God. But it derives all its importance from the greater importance of man,—the importance of the human individual.

God deals with man individually; his eternal purpose relates to each individually: and in his view, which shows all things truly, no one individual is of more importance than another. He gave his only-begotten Son to save you, reader, as an individual,—not partly to save you and partly to save some one else, or many others, but wholly to save you, wholly to save each one by himself, of the human family.

And this reveals the estimate which God has put upon the individual,—a value which far transcends any that can belong to earthly governments.

Share this: