From “The Relation of Christianity to Law and Government”
by Leonard Bacon, 1802-1881
The kingdom of God, is it a dream? The consummated identity of law with right, the completed subjection of human powers and sovereignties to the will of God and to his Spirit, is it a dream? Sometimes as we watch the vicissitudes of the long conflict between good and evil, we are tempted to discouragement. When shall the darkness flee away? When shall the powers of darkness be dethroned? We see liberty betrayed and cloven down by people who were sworn to defend her. The flaunting banners of victorious wrong offend our vision, might scoffs at right and violence and fraud join hand in hand to trample upon justice. Tempted to unbelief, we cry, where is the kingdom of God, where the influence of Christianity in the sphere of law and government? Is it a dream?
No; by the ancient word of promise, by the prayers which for thousands of years have been wafted to the throne of Infinite pity, by the groans of the ages that have travailed in pain together, by the cross and its victories, we know that it is not a dream. The force by which the world shall be subdued to Christ accumulates as time advances. The work is his with whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day. He suffers nothing to be lost. No martyr’s ashes scattered on the winds, no protest against public wickedness, no example of patience under wrong, no appeal to the justice on high, no breath of prayer has been or shall be in vain. All has been gathered up. All has been added to the slow accumulation. Let us then do our part with an unfaltering hope. Who is there, of us all, that can do nothing? It is not ours to give a silent testimony only, when wrong is perpetrated in the name of law. It is not ours to suffer only, in uncomplaining meekness, waiting for God to vindicate our cause and his. Ours is a higher calling. We are not slaves. We are not subjects merely. We are free people. On public questions of mere expediency and policy, we may perhaps be silent or even indifferent. But when the power of our nations are to be employed in some great wrong, then if our voices do not ring out, fearlessly, in loud protest and remonstrance, we are traitors to the kingdom of God. There is no gift of genius, no advantage of culture, of position or of reputation, no skill, no knowledge, no power of thought or of utterance which may not be made serviceable to this high calling. The statesman in the senate or in the cabinet, the jurist on the bench or at the bar, the journalist in his close contact with popular thought and feeling, the historian making up the record of past ages, the philosopher, the teacher in the university, the teacher in the church, the poet with his melodious words of might, the artist with his creative touch, the most retired and quiet person of letters, each in their own sphere, each in their own way, each in the measure of their own light, may bring the contribution of their sound thought and earnest feeling, the effect of their own communion with the mind of God in Christ, to aid in the dethronement of wrong and the victory of truth, by helping to illustrate the legitimate bearing of Christian principle and sentiment on all the interests and duties of humankind.
Let us take courage from the contrast between the past and the present. How slowly, through what conflicts and sufferings, through what errors of true and earnest people who had caught only the glimmer of a dawning truth, through what cycles of revolution and of seeming retrogression, while people’s hearts were failing them for fear, has Christianity, thus far, wrought out the application of its own principles to questions of right and duty in the state. Let us not be discouraged. In all things right shall yet give law to power. We will not faint then. We will not be discouraged. Above all unjust law and usage, above all tyranny, all usurpation, all iniquity establishing itself in the name of right and robing itself in the sanctities of law, there is a higher law that stands forever. Above all the forces by which wrong is sustained, are the mightier forces, invisible and divine, by which Christianity will yet make its way to universal recognition and dominion. Then the tabernacle of God shall be with humankind and law shall be identified with the will of God.