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THE

PRESIDENTIAL CONTEST.

Excerpted from:

THE

REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN.

No. 8.  

OCTOBER, 1856.

VOL. XX.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Introduction.

As the United States presidential election 2012 approaches, and excitement builds in the contest between contending parties, the following article should be of interest to every Christian within the bounds of these states.  It includes reflections on circumstances remarkably similar to those of our day. To make the comparison between Republicans and Democrats of old with those of our own time, or the controversy concerning the great evil of American slavery with the evil of American abortion will not be necessary, and would only delay the reader’s opportunity to read the article.  With the exchange of these words, and a few others, one might have imagined the article were written by a Covenanter of the present time. But it was not. It was written 156 years ago, and sad-to-say, nothing has changed in this country. Its constitution and its national Atheism are still its curse. Its political parties are still a mere decoy to hide the fact that good men cannot have the management of its affairs. Evil religions which incapacitate men from the right government of their own lives and families, are viewed as having no effect upon their capacity to rule a nation.  We pray it will not be another 156 years before the eyes of men are opened, and they learn to confess what every Christian’s Bible plainly says: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.”—Psalm 33.12.  “He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.”—2 Sam. 23.3.

JTK::2012.09.15.

THE present state of political excitement throughout the country arising from the approaching election of an incumbent for the presidential chair, furnishes matter for interesting and even painful reflection.  To us, who are unconnected with any of the parties, and stand without the suck of the political whirlpool, the question is perfectly natural, what is there in the present realities, or the future probabilities, that produces this wide-spread social paroxysm?  A cause adequate to the effect must exist somewhere, for men do not voluntarily become insane.

It is easy to see that to certain classes the election of a president is a matter of private and selfish interest.  The country is filled with office-seekers; men who seem to think the ship of {238} state is sure to be wrecked, unless they have something to do with its helm or its rigging.  Some of these are in office; far more of them are out.  But the outs want to be in, and the ins want to stay in.  To hear these men talk, a person might suppose that they were the purest patriots on earth, wishing to serve their country for their country’s good.  They have no personal interest in the matter—not they; if left to their own choice, they would prefer to retire from public life; but as matters are, they are willing to sacrifice ease and fortune on the altar of their country!  Of this kind are the speakers at ratification meetings, pole raisings, and other gatherings of the different parties.  Now it is not strange that there are men who have the effrontery to put forward their personal claims backed by the plea of the public good, for the country abounds with men who will do anything that will inure to their own advantage; but it is strange that steady, sober, sane people, can not only listen to such pretensions, but even catch the excitement, and enter into the cause of these pretenders with all the ardor of enthusiasm.  This is strange—passing strange.

It is, indeed, true that in the present political campaign there are certain issues which skillfully managed must exert a powerful influence over the public mind.  We are willing to confess that we feel this ourselves.  Without giving credit for honesty to brawling politicians, but making up our judgment from well known facts, we must admit that the country has reached a crisis, through which it will require no ordinary skill to guide it in safety.  And it must be admitted also, that those who have the management of its affairs manifest an utter unfitness for the places they occupy.  If ever a country was cursed with incompetent rulers, ours is so cursed.  We can view the present administration in no other light than as a judgment that God has sent on our land for its sins.

The question that is now brought before the country for its decision is, shall slavery be restricted or extended; shall it remain where it is, or shall it spread itself into the new territories? This is the naked issue; and it is easy to see that with neither party can consistent anti-slavery men identify.  It is true there is a bad, and a worse.  The bad, however, is too bad to be touched; and that is to engage to protect slavery where it is.  The question is not respecting the evil of slavery in general—it regards merely the evil of it in certain localities.  The Republican party say, in effect, slavery is a very good thing where it is; but you must confine it there.  We will agree to guard and defend it in its present limits, but we insist that it shall not go beyond them.

While, however, we speak thus of the parties in this contest, we still have our preference between them.  And we can have this without yielding any of our principles.  We can have a choice between two moral evils, if we are not to be actively engaged in producing either.  If the question was presented {239} to the country, whether Mormonism, with all its abominations should be established, or merely tolerated, we would prefer the latter, while we would refuse to have any hand in either, and would testify against both.  We would certainly rather see slavery restricted to its present limits than extended beyond them; but we would much rather see it rooted out where it is.  This, the Republican party not only do not propose to do, but they bind themselves not to do it.  They, indeed, declare themselves “opposed to the extension of slavery into free territory;” but they also assert that “the rights of the States must and shall be preserved.”  Now, it does not require proof that “the rights of the States,” here means, the rights secured to the States by the Constitution; and it is equally evident, that to hold slaves in the States where slavery exists, is one of these rights.

Such a creed we cannot subscribe; and for the success of the party holding it, we dare not pray.  With the so-called Democratic party, we have no affinity.  The course pursued by the present administration with regard to Kansas, and endorsed by that party, leaves it without a claim to ordinary respect.  Whether it continue in power, or there be a change in the administration, we are willing to leave with Him who orders all things.  The hearts of men are in His hand.  We earnestly desire the welfare of our country.  We pray for, and we seek its peace.  If God be pleased to grant relief from present evils, by driving from power those who have made a bad use of it, we will be thankful.  At the same time, we have no hope of permanent good from the accession to their place of those who are still in league with sin.

But we are reminded that we are preaching politics.  For this, the mass of our readers will not condemn us.  They are accustomed to such preaching.  If they are not, we have overrated the faithfulness of our ministers.  What minister, worthy of the name, does not preach politics?  We know that there are watchmen who are described in Isaiah 56:10,11.  Alas! there are many of them.  And they are the first to cry down preaching politics.  There is one kind of political preaching that we do condemn—political party preaching.  To make the pulpit the means of advancing the interests of either of the parties in the present contest, would be to degrade, to prostitute it.  But to use it to point out the sins of the nation, whether constitutional or administrative—of men, whether in public or private station, is to honor it, and to honor Him whose message is declared from it.  The same thing is true of the religious press.  And we do say, that we would rather our tongue and our hands were paralyzed, than that we should be induced, by any consideration, to cease to reprove sin, whether public or private—whether of the nation, of rulers, of parties, or of individuals.

There is something amusing in the earnestness with which {240} the charge of being a Roman Catholic is urged against one of the candidates by the opposing party, and denied by his own.  One would be ready to think that to be a papist was to be constitutionally disqualified for the office.  And yet the clause of the Constitution which both parties profess most to admire, is that which forbids a religious test to be required.  Why do the Democrats virtually attack the instrument which they seem to think it is their mission to preserve intact?  And why do not the Republicans charge them with a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, by making a man’s religion an objection to his fitness for office?  It is quite likely that it is hard to tell what Mr. Fremont’s religion is, or rather that he has none at all.  And in itself, it is a matter about which the parties do not care a straw.  Were he the most bigoted Papist, his friends would stick to him; and were he the most liberal Protestant, his enemies would continue to denounce him.  It is not principle, but policy, that has excited all this zeal on the subject of a religious test for office.

We cannot but wish both parties were sincere in their pretensions on this subject.  Surely a Christian nation should be governed by Christian rulers; and surely they do not deserve to be called Christian people who would vote for any others.  Put men into office who are possessed of a competent amount of intelligence, who fear God, and make his law the rule in the government of the nation, and we augur for our country a speedy riddance from her present dangers, and a long future of peace and prosperity.