« ElőzőTovább »
earth, when their authors have been forgotten in the dust. It was the instinct of property, the desire to acquire and possess, which first gave birth to commercial enterprise, which constructed the ship and sent her on voyages of discovery to distant and unknown shores.
But we now come to a still higher achievement of the instinct of property. It was this and this alone which gave rise to government, itself one of the most powerful aids to human advancement. The instincts of truth and justice are not the only principles of human nature, nor yet benevolence, which is another principle that engages a man to do the thing that is right. These endowments, which I have already mentioned, enable man to see what he ought to do, and incline him to do it, and would always persuade him were there no other motives of action within him. But the desire of possession, which accompanies the instinct of property, may be indulged to the neglect of the sense of justice, which it. begets. There are certain desires implanted within us, which correspond to certain outward things calculated in their own nature to gratify those desires. Those desires spring up independently of our wills. They are of
course so far innocent. We see food, delicious fruits perhaps, and it is impossible for us to prevent the appetite from becoming excited. But instantly the instinct of property comes up and suggests to us, that it is not ours, and immediately checks the desire and prevents us from being willing to act according to the suggestions of appetite. But it is altogether in the power of our will to choose which of these suggestions we will follow, that of appetite, or the instinct of property. We may stifle the suggestions of the sense of justice, and encourage the appetite for fruit, till at last we determine that we will gratify the appetite at the expense of the moral sense. Then every man feels that he commits sin. And sad experience proves in every community that the moral sense is not strong enough to induce men to do right. What is then to be done? The first attempt is for each individual to defend what he feels to be right by force. That however, will not succeed, for the wrong doer may be physically stronger than the defender of the right. But what one man cannot do, many can. Many individuals combine to defend the right against any one who chooses to violate it. They get together and consult that universal moral nature which God has given to them all, and write out a list of those primary impressions of right which God has inscribed on all their hearts, and agree to stand-by them; and this is the origin of laws. But as the whole community must have something else to do beside standing under arms to keep each other in order, they delegate this office of seeing that those primitive rights are enforced to a few, whom they clothe with sufficient power to accomplish the purpose. Thus it is that law
and enforcement of those moral instincts, which are some of the constituent elements of the human soul. Thus it is that government is called in the Scriptures, and the language of the world, an institution of God. Hooker, in his Ecclesiastical Polity, thus speaks of law: “Her seat is the bosom of God, her voice is the harmony of the world; all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very
not exempt from her power.” It was in accordance with this apprehension of things
the gods. In our own Sacred Writings they are called gods, and sons of God, because they are the ministers of that justice, which is God's, which went forth originally from his throne, and after penetrating and governing all things, comes back to perch for ever upon his sceptre.
Government is the means which, under the guidance of Providence, mankind have adopted for the enforcement of the moral instincts, and it is perfect when it enables every man to enjoy his own, what God has given him, in security and peace. A good government therefore is one of the greatest earthly blessings. It gives the widest scope to the human faculties. It invites and encourages man to put forth his highest energies, and placing no bar to his exertions, enables him to produce the greatest results. Under a good government a people advance with giant strides along the road of improvement. They are strong, prosperous, and contented. God intended mankind for prosperity and contentment, he put his moral law within their hearts to accomplish that purpose.
But it unfortunately happens that governments may prove false to the purpose for which they were created. They may through mistake misinterpret the law written on the heart, or through corruption bend it to their own purposes; and thus power conferred to do good may become irresistible to do wrong. Good laws may be badly executed, or not executed at all. Or they may be incumbered by so many useless forms as to cost more than they are worth, or be attended with so much delay as altogether to defeat the ends of justice. Thus that which was intended by God as the greatest blessing, when perverted becomes the greatest curse. Abuses of government are of all things most difficult to correct. They become so fixed by habit and prescription that it is next to impossible to shake them off. So far are governments often
of the moral sense, the purpose for which they were appointed, that they arm the moral sense of mankind against them, and the whole people rise in their might and put them down, and re-assert and re-establish the primitive laws
It is saddening to contemplate the infinite miseries, which have been heaped upon mankind by bad government. Think of the millions who live, and have lived in Asia, not