An Address to President Lincoln

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In the autumn of 1862 (after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, and before it took effect on January 1, 1863), two Covenanter (Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) ministers met privately with President Abraham Lincoln to discuss some particular priority goals that they wished the Lincoln administration to achieve. The Oval Office has rarely heard such a speech reminiscent of Psalm 2.

The address below to President Lincoln was authored and presented by James Renwick Wilson Sloane and Alexander McLeod Milligan (brothers-in-law as well as brothers in the Lord).

TO HIS EXCELLENCY ABRAHAM LINCOLN,
PRESIDENT OP THE UNITED STATES

We visit you, Mr. President, as the representatives of the Reformed Presbyterian, or, as it is frequently termed, "Scotch Covenanter," Church, — a Church whose sacrifices and sufferings in the cause of civil and religious liberty are a part of the world's history, and to which we are indebted, no less than to the Puritans, for those inestimable privileges so largely enjoyed in the free States of this Union, and which, true to its high lineage and ancient spirit, does not hold within its pale a single Secessionist, or sympathizer with rebellion, in these United States.

Our Church has unanimously declared, by the voice of her highest court, that the world has never seen a conflict in which right was more clearly wholly upon the one side, and wrong upon the other, than in the present struggle of this Government with this slaveholders' rebellion. She has also unanimously declared her determination to assist the Government by all lawful means in her power in its conflict with this atrocious conspiracy, until it be utterly overthrown and annihilated.

Profoundly impressed with the immense importance of the issues involved in this contest, and with the solemn responsibilities which rest upon the Chief Magistrate in this time of the nation's peril, our brethren have commissioned us to come and address you words of sympathy and encouragement, also to express to you views which, in their judgment, have an important bearing upon the present condition of affairs in our beloved country; to congratulate you on what has already been accomplished in crushing rebellion, and to exhort you to persevere in the work, until it has been finally completed.

Entertaining no shadow of doubt as to the entire justice of the cause in which the nation is embarked, we nevertheless consider the war a just judgment of Almighty God for the sin of rejecting his authority, and enslaving our fellow-men, and are firmly persuaded that his wrath will not be appeased, and that no permanent peace will be attained, until his authority be recognized, and the abomination that maketh desolate utterly extirpated.

As an anti-slavery church of the most radical school, believing slavery to be a heinous and aggravated sin both against God and man, and to be placed in the same category with piracy, murder, adultery, and theft, it is our solemn conviction that God by his Word and Providence is calling the nation to immediate, unconditional, and universal emancipation. We hear his voice in these thunders of war saying to us, "Let my people go." Nevertheless, we have hailed with delighted satisfaction the several steps which you have taken in the direction of emancipation. Especially do we rejoice in your late proclamation, declaring your purpose to free the slaves in the rebel States on the first day of January, 1863, an act which, when carried out, will give the death-blow to rebellion, strike the fetters from millions of bondmen, and will secure for its author a place high among the wisest of rulers and the noblest benefactors of the race. Permit us, then, Mr. President, most respectfully yet most earnestly, to urge upon you the importance of enforcing that proclamation to the utmost extent of that power with which you are vested. Let it be placed on the highest grounds of Christian justice and philanthropy; let it be declared to be an act of national repentance for long complicity with the guilt of slavery. Permit nothing to tarnish the glory of the act, or rob it of its sublime moral significance and grandeur, and it cannot fail to meet a hearty response in the conscience of the nation, and to secure infinite blessings to our distracted country. Let not the declaration of the immortal Burke in this instance be verified: "Good works are commonly left in a rude and imperfect state through the tame circumspection with which a timid prudence so frequently enervates beneficence. In doing good we are cold, languid, and sluggish, and of all things afraid of being too much in the right." We urge you by every consideration drawn from the Word of God and the present condition of our bleeding country, not to be moved from the path of duty, on which you have so auspiciously entered, either by the threats or blandishments of the enemies of human progress, nor to permit this great act to lose its power through the fears of its timid friends.

There is another point which we esteem of prominent importance, and to which we wish briefly to call your attention. The Constitution of the United States contains no acknowledgment of the authority of God, of his Christ, or of his law as contained in the Holy Scriptures. This we deeply deplore, as wholly inconsistent with all claim to be considered a Christian nation, or to enjoy the protection and favor of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is above all earthly rulers. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is the one Mediator between God and man, through whom alone either nations or individuals can secure the favor of the Most High God, who is saying to us in these judgments, "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings! be instructed, O ye judges of the earth! serve the Lord with fear. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that trust in him. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted."

This time appears to us most opportune for calling the nation to a recognition of the name and authority of God, to the claims of him who will overturn, overturn, and overturn, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. We indulge the hope, Mr. President, that you have been called, with your ardent love of liberty, your profound moral convictions manifested in your sabbath proclamation, and in your frequent declarations of dependence upon Divine Providence, to your present position of honor and influence, to free our beloved country from the curse of slavery, and secure for it the favor of the great Ruler of the universe. Shall we not now set the world an example of a Christian State governed, not by the principles of mere political expediency, but acting under a sense of accountability to God, and in obedience to those laws of immutable morality which are binding alike upon nations and individuals?

We pray that you may be directed in your responsible position by divine wisdom, that God may throw over you the shield of his protection, that we may soon see rebellion crushed, its cause removed, and our land become Immanuel's land.

Another Covenanter minister, Thomas Sproull, reminisced shortly after Lincoln’s assassination about the president’s response to this powerful appeal:

Some time last winter two men connected with the Reformed Presbyterian Church were in Washington City, and called at the President’s house. While in the room that is always open to visitors, the President came in, and got into a conversation with them, in the course of which mention was made,of the Covenanters. The name seemed to arrest his attention, and he remarked: “I know something about these people — they want the Constitution amended by putting slavery out of it, and by putting a recognition of God in it.” To this they assented, and he proceeded to speak in kind and earnest terms of the brethren who had been with him urging the amendments. He added that they had obtained one object of their mission during his first term in office, and he hoped they would obtain the other before the end of his second term.

National Reform Association Officers at Log College Press

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We have previously written about the history and mission of the National Reform Association (NRA) here. Although closely associated with the Reformed Presbyterian of North America (RPCNA), which emphasizes the mediatorial kingship of Jesus Christ over all things, including nations, the mission of the NRA — firstly, to amend the US Constitution to acknowledge Christ’s kingship over the nation — was widely supported by 19th century American Presbyterians from a range of denominations. The number of ministers who were supporters or officers of the NRA is remarkable, some of whom are available to read here at Log College Press. The names which follow — and some of the quotes — are all highlighted in the January 31-February 1, 1872 and February 4-5, 1874 Proceedings of the National Convention to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and the 1877 National Reform Manual.

National Reform Association.jpg
  • Samuel Agnew - The Treasurer of the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia also served as the Treasurer of the National Reform Association.

Our duty is plain. We must search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. The loss of his favor will explain everything that has happened. And the grand aim should be to learn how we have lost his favor, and by what means we can regain it. This is too large a theme to be discussed within the compass of a few pages. But there is one feature of our government too closely connected with this question and too conspicuous to be passed by in silence. I refer, as you will readily suppose — for the topic is a familiar one— to the absence of any adequate recognition of the sovereignty of God, and the religion of which he is the author and object, in our Constitution, and in the practical administration of our political system. It may be conceded that the spirit of Christianity is to a certain extent incorporated into our Constitutions. The legal recognition of the Sabbath, the oath on the Holy Evangelists, and the appointment of chaplains, are, so far, an acknowledgment of the Christian religion. But our national charter pays no homage to the Deity. His name does not once occur in the Constitution of the United States. And, as if to confound the charity which would refer this omission to some accidental agency, the same atheism is repeated and perpetuated in another form no less excusable. . . . . The coinage of the United States is without a God. . . . . Is it too much to hope that this opprobrium may be wiped away? If we have never been taught the lesson before, we are admonished of it now, that the ‘Lord reigneth.’ Has not the time come to make our formal national confession of this fundamental truth — to impress it upon our coinage; to insert it (peradventure it may not be too late,) as the keystone of our riven and tottering Constitution? If the country is not ready for these two simple but significant steps in the direction of Christianity, we have been chastened to very little purpose (The Sovereignty of God, the Sure and Only Stay of the Christian Patriot in Our National Troubles: A Sermon (1862), pp. 20-23).

The Constitution Should Contain a Recognition of the Sovereignty of God Over the Nation.

In the consideration of this topic three things will be assumed, as their establishment (in substance) belongs to another tract of this series, viz. -- (1) That every nation is an organism, a moral person, of which Jehovah is Creator and Sovereign; -- (2) That God, as Sovereign, gives a Nation its prosperity and its adversity, and that He gives these for purposes of reward, of chastisement, and of special training; -- (3) That it is the duty of every nation -- especially of every Nation blessed as we have been -- to recognize, as an organism, His Sovereignty (The Religious Defect of the Constitution of the United States (1868), pp. 1-2).

There is one strictly national, that commenced in the adoption of the Federal Constitution, which is, the want of an acknowledgment in it of a Supreme Being and of a Divine revelation. That all-important engine of our national prosperity is, in form at least, entirely atheistical. Undoubtedly it was a great sin to have forgotten God in such an important national instrument, and not to have acknowledged Him in that which forms the very nerves and sinews of the political body. He had led us through all the perils of the Revolutionary struggle, and had established us in peaceful and plentiful security, and then to have been forgotten in the period of prosperity, certainly demanded His rebuke. Therefore hath the voice of His Providence proclaimed and even still it sounds in our ears: “I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted; therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore will I be unto them as a lion; as a leopard by the way will I observe them” (Judgment and Mercy: A Sermon, Delivered...On the Day of "Humiliation, Thanksgiving, and Prayer" (1820)).

George Duffield V (not an NRA officer):

“Ye have robbed me, even this whole nation,” and as a nation He will hold us responsible for this robbery of his service and honor, just as much as he did Israel, and Babylon, and Persia, and Greece and Rome. To deny that God is ‘“THE GOVERNOR OF THE NATIONS,” (Ps. xxii. 28,) is to deny HIS DIVINE PROVIDENCE, acknowledged in the Declaration of Independence, and to deny the providence of God is to deny his ATTRIBUTES. * * * It is that old story of Israel and human nature over again: “Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked.” Temporal prosperity was too much for him. “Then he forsook the God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.’” (Deut. xxxii. 15.”)

* "That no notice whatever should be taken of that God who planteth a nation, and plucketh it up at his pleasure, is an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate. Had such a momentous business been transacted by Mohammedans, they would have begun, "In the name of God." Even the savages, whom we despise, setting a better example, would have paid some homage to the Great Spirit. But from the Constitution of the United States, it is impossible to ascertain what God we worship; or whether we own a God at all. * * Should the citizens of America be as irreligious as her Constitution, we will have reason to tremble, lest the Governor of the Universe, who will not be treated with indignity by a people, any more than by individuals, overturn, from its foundation, the fabric we have been rearing, and crush us to atoms in the wreck." —Works of J. M. Mason, D. D., Vol. i., p. 50.

“Was this omission intentional, as in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence? or was it a moral oversight, even greater than the tremendous political oversight in the original Articles of Confederation?” "Is it not strange that it appears not to have been perceived by any one at the time that the whole of this controversy arose out of a departure from the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the substitution of State sovereignty, instead of the constituent sovereignty of the people, as the foundation of the Revolution and the Union?" — ''Jubilee of the Constitution," by John Quincy Adams, April 30th, 1839, pp. 30-36 (The God of Our Fathers: An Historical Sermon (1861), pp. 13-15).

We have formed an association to effect an amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Our proposed amendment does not touch to change — much less to abrogate — one of the truths, the principles or the features of that great instrument. Nor does it imply that we are wanting in appreciation of it; that we are dissatisfied or are restless under its working hitherto. Whoever likes the Constitution will find that we like it, and the institutions that have grown up under it, in the same measure and probably for the same good reasons. He will find us joined with him in the loyal support of all the good that is in it, its implied assertion of the rights of man and its wise provision for the growth of the nation. For such political wisdom given to our fathers we devoutly thank God; and it is our conviction and our boast that this Constitution is the best national charter recorded on the pages of history. But our fathers were not infallible, and the Constitution which they made for us was not perfect. Our nation's growth and experience have suggested several important amendments which have been already adopted ; and, as it seems to us, the time has come to discuss the adoption of another. There are certain evils and cer tain signs of coming evil which give us anxiety. These evils and evil omens we trace back to an omission in the Constitution, and it is evident that if this omission be supplied the evils will be averted. And this is what we propose to do. Our amendment, like all the others, is suggested by our experience, and, however it may seem to be late in the day, can never be out of date. There is no mention of God in the Constitution, no word which recognizes His sovereignty over human affairs or His interest in them. One of the great — one of the chief characteristics of our people at the time they entered into national com pact is thus ignored. The underlying faith of our forefathers, a faith which must have given life and shape to their politics and their institutions, is thus not alluded to. I repeat, this is the omission which now engages our attention and which we wish to supply. We feel that such an omission does injustice to the people, who, because of it, are but partially described and but partially represented in their Constitution. It would seem as if they had not understood how great and how grave was the work of nation-making in which they were engaged, and that they gave to.it only such earnestness as showed their desire for safety peace and wealth — mere material interests — though our forefathers, as we know, were a serious, thoughtful people, accustomed to do everything of a public nature in the name and the fear of God ; and though they settled the land and made their laws from the beginning as much for religious faith as for civil freedom, or rather, for the freedom of religious faith (Address of Dr. Edwards to the National Convention to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (1872)).

It is often claimed that the omission of all reference to God and His authority was simply an oversight; that His name was dropped from the oath by a mere inadvertence, and that the "no religious test" clause meant only no sectarian test; that some of the colonies had adopted sectarian tests, and that this was intended to forbid such tests under the Constitution. There are two things to be said in reply to this claim: First, that such deep forgetfulness and such astounding inadvertence in so grave a matter and in such circumstances, is wholly incredible and would scarcely lessen the nation's guilt if it were true. "For the wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God." And, second, there are historical facts connected with the framing, adoption, and first administration of the Constitution, which put beyond all question that our Constitution and government has this Godless, Christless character by the design and purpose of its founders (Lectures in Pastoral Theology, Vol. 3 (The Covenanter Vision) (1917), p. 293).

It is time that, without any narrowness or bigotry, Christians were united in the affirmation that this is and shall be a Christian land, and that the acknowledgment of this truth shall be put beyond all peradventure by being formally in the National Constitution (Letter to David McAllister, December 11, 1873).

This Church [Reformed Presbyterian (Covenanter) Church of North America] is the special leader in the National Reform Movement. This is in the line of its testimony from the earliest days of Scotch Presbyterianism down to the present time. The thing which is peculiar to the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Old Side) and which distinguishes it from all others, is the refusal of its people to vote, hold office, or do any other act definitely incorporating themselves with the government until the nation shall specifically recognize Jesus Christ as the source of its civil authority, and God's law as the rule of national conduct in legislation and in the administration of its affairs, both international and domestic. While the Covenanter Church is alone in maintaining the consistency of its political dissent by refusing to vote, large numbers of Christian American citizens in other communions look upon it as a radical, if not fatal defect of the Constitution that it contains no recognition of God as supreme, or of the nation as a moral person bound by the moral law. The Constitution acknowledges no benefit to be derived from the Bible, the Sabbath, Christian morality, or Christian conduct in officials, and gives no legal basis for any Christian feature of the government.

...Reformed Presbyterians feel specially called upon to aid the success of this association at any cost or personal sacrifice. They believe that when the proposed amendments to the Constitution shall have been incorporated into that document, and not until then, shall this be a truly Christian government.

...That Movement seeks to add to the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States, as the source of its civil authority some acknowledgment of God and the Nation's accountability to him. At present the Preamble of the Constitution simply says 'We, the people of the United States,' as if the people were independent of the Almighty. The National Reform Association seeks to have that Preamble amended by inserting after the words just quoted, 'recognizing the dominion of Jesus Christ over the nations, and this nation's subjection to the Divine law (Presbyterians: A Popular Narrative of Their Origin, Progress, Doctrines, and Achievements (1892), pp. 420-421).

Christ’s Mediatorial authority embraces the universe.—Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11; Ephesians 1:17–23. It presents two great aspects. 1st. In its general administration as embracing the universe as a whole. 2nd. In its special administration as embracing the church…

The truth as held by all branches of the historical church is, that while Christ has been virtually Mediatorial King as well as Prophet and Priest from the fall of Adam, yet his public and formal assumption of his throne and inauguration of his spiritual kingdom dates from his ascension and session at the right hand of his Father….

The state is a divine institution, and the officers thereof are God’s ministers, Romans 13:1–4, Christ the Mediator is, as a revealed fact, “Ruler among the Nations,” King of kings, and Lord of lords, Revelation 19:16; Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9–11; Ephesians 1:17–23, and the Sacred Scriptures are an infallible rule of faith and practice to all men under all conditions…

It follows therefore— 1st. That every nation should explicitly acknowledge the Christ of God to be the Supreme Governor, and his revealed will the supreme fundamental law of the land, to the general principles of which all special legislation should be conformed. 2nd. That all civil officers should make the glory of God their end, and his revealed will their guide. 3rd. That, while no distinction should be made between the various Christian denominations, and perfect liberty of conscience and worship be allowed to all men, nevertheless the Christian magistrate should seek to promote piety as well as civil order (“Confession of Faith,” ch. 23, § 2). This they are to do, not by assuming ecclesiastical functions, nor by attempting to patronize or control the church, but by their personal example, by giving impartial protection to church property and facility to church work, by the enactment and enforcement of laws conceived in the true spirit of the Gospel, and especially in maintaining inviolate the Christian Sabbath, and Christian marriage, and in providing for Christian instruction in the public schools (Outlines of Theology, pp. 428-429, 434).

The point we want recognized in the Constitution is not a dogma of the churches, nor a theory of the schools, but a simple fact, everywhere operating, and universally recognized by believers. Jesus Christ is, as a fact, “Ruler among the nations,” (I.) providentially guiding their affairs, and determining their destinies; (2.) morally, by the revelation of truth and duty, the exhibition of motives, and stimulus and discipline of providentially arranged circumstances. If this be a matter of fact generally believed, should not a great self-governing community like this nation, conscious of its acts and of their character, make a distinct profession of its allegiance?

The practical recognition of this fact is no new thing in American history. It has formed a prominent characteristic of our successive governments, colonial, state, and national, from the beginning. We propose the adoption of no new principles, and no radical change of customs. We propose only to recognize, as a fundamental principle in the National written Constitution, that which has been a universally recognized principle of national life from the first. We aim not at change, but at conservation. We want to preserve through all coming time, and consistently carry out in all departments of law, the hitherto universally admitted fact, that Christianity is an element in the common law of the land (Address Concerning a Religious Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1874)).

The grand defect in the bond of our national union is the absence of the recognition of God as the Governor of this world. We have omitted — may it not be said refused? — to own him whose head wears many crowns, as having any right of dominion over us. The constitution of these United States contains no express recognition of the being of a God: much less an acknowledgment, that The Word of God, sways the sceptre of universal dominion. This is our grand national sin of omission. This gives the infidel occasion to glory, and has no small influence in fostering infidelity in affairs of state and among political men. That the nation will be blessed with peace and prosperity continuously, until this defect be remedied, no Christian philosopher expects. For this national insult, the Governor of the universe will lift again and again his rod of iron over our heads, until we be affrighted and give this glory to his name (The Little Stone and the Great Image; or, Lectures on the Prophecies Symbolized in Nebuchadnezzar's Vision of the Golden Headed Monster (1844), pp. 280-281).

We have never believed it perfect. Doubtless some improvements are possible; but it makes abundant provision for them, without utter demolition. The principal defect apparent to our vision meets us at the vestibule. The portico lacks one gem to perfect its lustre. There is union and justice, common defence and general welfare, blessing and liberty, but we cast our eyes about in vain for that which alone can give stability and beauty to the whole. The Koh-i-noor, whose radiant glories crown the grandeur of the beautiful temple, the Shekinah, is absent. The grand bond of our national Union does not distinctly acknowledge the being of a God. For more than forty years, a Fourth of July has seldom passed, on which I have not preached and warned my countrymen of this defect, and told them if it be not supplied, God would pull down their temple and bury a nation in its ruins. This warning has been sounded forth from thousands of pulpits in the land, and would have been much more extensively trumpeted but for the paralyzing influence of the fallacy couched in the demagogue's double entendre. ‘Religion has nothing to do with politics’ (Political Fallacies (1863), pp. 305, 306).

Nations have no difficulty in recognizing and acting on the principle of national, responsibility in their dealings with each other. In our recent troubles with Spain on account of the capture of the Virginius and the barbarous deeds that followed, we did not go to the individuals who perpetrated the outrage; we did not go to Cuba with our demand of reparation; we took our case directly to those who represented the supreme authority of Spain. From the nation we demanded reparation, and from it we received it. On the same principle God deals with all nations. They may refuse to acknowledge his authority; they may seek to throw off all responsibility to him; but it is in his prerogative and power to hold them to it, whether they acknowledge it or not. He claims, not only under his general ordinance, but in specific terms, to be the “Governor among the nations;” and in his Providence, as in his word, has shown that he does “judge among the nations,” and that “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” The sacred history abounds with records of this, not only in respect to the chosen people, but the nations around them whose history is interwoven with theirs. And in records outside of the sacred history, we have the evidences, in all the ages, of his judgment and power, approving or condemning, blessing or punishing, the nations according to their character and acts. The history of our own nation is a sufficient illustration of this; as, also, of the fact that no existing nation of all the world has been brought under greater obligations to acknowledge and honor him (Moral Responsibility of Nations (1874)).

  • David McAllister (NRA General Secretary) - McAllister’s labors on behalf of the National Reform movement were diverse and extensive. Some of his writings from the 1870’s promoting an amendment to the US Constitution to acknowledge Christ as King are available to read at Log College Press. He also wrote a manual of the NRA’s history and principles.

The amendment proposed is such an addition, in substance, to the Preamble of the United States Constitution, as will suitably express our national acknowledgment of Almighty God as the author of the nation's existence and the source of its authority; of Jesus Christ as its ruler; and of the Bible as the fountain of its laws and the supreme rule of its conduct.

This is the great purpose of the National Association, based on the fundamental truth that a nation, as such, stands in clear and definite relations to God and his moral laws, and that in the Constitution, as well as the administration of its government, it is under obligations to acknowledge these relations (The Aims and Methods of the Movement to Secure the Religious Amendment of the Constitution of the United States (1872)).

The doctrine here advocated is, that as the different branches of our national government, the executive, legislative, and judicial, are co-ordinate, each supreme within its own sphere, and independent of the others, but all alike responsible directly to the people, so the church and state are co-ordinate institutions, totally independent of each other, each, in its own sphere, supreme with respect to the other, but both alike of Divine appointment, having one and the same head and fountain of all their powers, which is God. Whence both alike are bound to acknowledge, worship, and obey him. It is as great a solecism for the state to neglect this, as it would be for the church. Many seem to think that the complete separation of church and state, implies that the state, as such, has no duties to God, and no religious character. As logically it could be inferred from the family’s independence of the church, that that family has no religious character, and no duties to God. The family, the church, and the state, these are all co-ordinate institutions, severally independent of each other, yet all alike having one and the same Head, which they are equally bound in solemn form to acknowledge, worship, and obey. When the state, for any reason, declines to do this, it falls into a gross anomaly, and exemplifies that which is described in the second Psalm: Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Jehovah, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; Jehovah shall have them in derision (A Nation’s Right to Worship God (1859), pp. 36-37).

Nor is slavery by any means the only sin with which, as a nation, we are chargeable. Our constitution of government, and its administration, are, to all intents and purposes, atheistic, ignoring the existence of God and every institution that he has established among men. This constitution was formed at a period when this country and Europe were both overrun by the principles of French infidelity, by men who were notoriously sceptical, and by whom all recognition of God was purposely excluded from this “remarkable document.” This no one can deny who has any acquaintance with the history of this period (God's Judgments, and Thanksgiving Sermons: A Discourse (1858), p. 12).

The first which I name, Religion, is first also in point of importance and necessity. This is a prime support of national greatness and perpetuity. No government, much less one that is wholly dependent upon the morals of the citizens, will long exist without it. By religion in this connection, I do not mean merely the religion of the individuals composing the State, but national religion acknowledged in the Constitution, embodied in the laws, and entering as an element into all those institutions which are the outgrowth and the exponents of the national life….We refuse, then, the profane maxims current in the mouths of political speculatists: "Religion has nothing to do with politics," "The State has no God," "Law knows no Bible."…We do not affirm that as a nation we are wholly destitute of the Christian element. There is much in our country which is the direct result of its influence. There are certainly here a large number devotedly attached to Christian principles. Our great benevolent and educational institutions are largely moulded and controlled by Christianity. Its powerful and permeating influence is everywhere felt. Nevertheless, as a government, we are not merely profoundly laic, as Guizot would say, but absolutely infidel and atheistic. Our Government is no more Christian than it is Jewish or Mohammedan. There is no recognition of God in its Constitution, no allusion to his name, authority, or law, not the most remote allusion to that great fundamental truth which, as the General Assembly in its late deliverance upon this subject truly declares, must underlie all our claims to be considered a Christian nation; viz., that there is one mediator between God and man (The Three Pillars of a Republic (1862) in Life and Work of J.R.W. Sloane, D.D. (1888), pp. 235, 238-240).

We respectfully submit to your consideration, whether these amendments are not simply an appropriate recognition of the relations which all just human authority sustains to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe. Is not anything less than this wholly inconsistent with those relations? We propose the recognition of God, not only be cause He is the Supreme Ruler of all men and all organizations, but because it is He who has given the institution of civil government to man, and the just authority of the magistrate is derived from Him. "There is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God." It is surely fitting that a constitution framed by a Christian people should recognize a higher source of civil authority than the mere will or con sent of the. citizen. And in presenting civil government thus, as a divine institution, we enforce, by the highest possible sanctions, its claims upon the respect and obedience of the citizen. The true strength of a government lies in the conscientious regard felt for it as the ordinance of God. Thus only is the magistrate clothed with his true authority, and the majesty of the law suitably preserved. "The sanctions of religion," says De Witt Clinton, "compose the foundations of good government."

Government is instituted for man as an intellectual, social, and moral and religious being. It corresponds to his whole nature. It is intended (o protect and advance the higher as well as the lower interests of humanity. It acts for its legitimate purposes when it watches over domestic life, and asserts and enforces the sanctity of the marriage bond ; when it watches over intellect and education, and furnishes means for developing all the faculties of the mind; when it frowns on profaneness, lewdness, the desecration of the Sabbath, and other crimes which injure society chiefly by weakening moral and religious sentiment, and degrading the character of a people. Acting for such purposes, government should be established on moral principles. Moral principles of conduct are determined by moral relations. The relations of a nation to God and his moral laws are clear and definite: 1. A nation is the creature of God. 2. It is clothed with authority derived from God. 3. It owes allegiance to Jesus Christ, the appointed Ruler of nations. 4. It is subject to the authority of the Bible, the special revelation of moral law. In constituting and administering its government, then, a nation is under obligations to acknowledge God as the author of its existence and the source of its authority, Jesus Christ as its ruler, and the Bible as the fountain of its laws and the supreme rule of its conduct.

Up to the time of the adoption of the National Constitution, acknowledgments of this kind were made by all the States. They are yet made by many of the States. And in the actual administration of the national government the principle is admitted. But the fundamental law of the nation, the Constitution of the United States, on which our government rests and according to which it is to be administered, fails to make, fully and explicitly, any such acknowledgment. This failure has fostered among us mischievous ideas like the following: The nation, as such, has no relations to God ; its authority has no higher source than the will of the people; government is instituted only for the lower wants of man ; the State goes beyond its sphere when it educates religiously, or legislates against profanity or Sabbath desecration.

The National Association, which has been formed for the purpose of securing such an amendment to the Constitution as will remedy this great defect, and indicate that this is a Christian nation, and place all Christian laws, institutions, and usages in our government on an undeniable legal basis in the fundamental law of the nation, invites all American citizens who favor such an amendment, without distinction of party or creed, to meet in Thorns' Hall, Cincinnati, on Wednesday, January 31, 1872, at 2 o'clock, P. M. All such citizens, to whose notice this call may be brought, are requested to hold meetings and appoint delegates to the Convention (Call For a National Convention (1872)).

Persuaded that God is the source of all legitimate power; that he has instituted civil government for His own glory and the good of man; that he has appointed His Son, the Mediator, to headship over the nations; and that the Bible is the supreme law and rule in national as in all other things, we will maintain the responsibility of nations to God, the rightful dominion of Jesus Christ over the commonwealth, and the obligation of nations to legislate in conformity with the written Word. We take ourselves sacredly bound to regulate all our civil relations, attachments, professions and deportment, by our allegiance and loyalty to the Lord, our King, Lawgiver and Judge; and by this, our oath, we are pledged to promote the interests of public order and justice, to support cheerfully whatever is for the good of the commonwealth in which we dwell, and to pursue this object in all things not forbidden by the law of God, or inconsistent with public dissent from an unscriptural and immoral civil power. We will pray and labor for the peace and welfare of our country, and for its reformation by a constitutional recognition of God as the source of all power, of Jesus Christ as the Ruler of Nations, of the Holy Scriptures as the supreme rule, and of the true Christian religion;. and we will continue to refuse to incorporate by any act, with the political body, until this blessed reformation has been secured (The Covenant of 1871)

Samuel Davies taught us to 'live not for yourselves'

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During his final illness, Samuel Davies selected the text upon which Samuel Finley would preach Davies’ funeral sermon: “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:7-8). This was done by Finley under the title The Dis-Interested and Devoted Christian [1761]. George Pilcher says that this Scripture text “expressed the belief that had governed [Davies’] life” (Samuel Davies: Apostle of Dissent in Colonial Virginia, p. 187).

Davies was a man who loved his family and his studies, and would have contented himself to serve his flock in rural central Virginia for the rest of his days. In 1751, he wrote to his brother-in-law, John Holt:

I can tell you that I am as happy as perhaps the Creation can make me: I enjoy all the Necessaries and most of the Conveniences of Life; I have a peaceful Study, as a Refuge from the Hurries and the Noise of the World around me; the venerable Dead are waiting in my Library to entertain me, and relieve me from the Nonsense of surviving Mortals; I am peculiarly happy in my Relations, and Providence does not affect me by afflicting them. In short, I have all a moderate Heart can wish; and I very much question if there be a more calm, placid and contented Mortal in Virginia.

But though Davies, with characteristic humility, thought himself unworthy to take up calls to serve the College of New Jersey (Princeton) by fundraising in Europe or in the capacity of President, and resisted those calls strenuously, he was not deaf to the call of duty when pressed upon him by others. He himself preached war sermons during the French and Indian War in which he told others: “FOLLOW THE PATH OF DUTY wherever it leads you” (Religion and Patriotism: The Constituents of a Good Soldier [1756]).

As President of Princeton — which he spoke of as “a Seminary of Loyalty, as well as Learning, and Piety: a Nursery for the State, as well as the Church” (A Sermon Delivered at Nassau-Hall, January 14, 1761, on the Death of His Late Majesty King George II [1761]) — Davies delivered a discourse on the importance of cultivating a public spirit which is reminiscent of wisdom from Thomas à Kempis, who said “Never be entirely idle; but either be reading, or writing, or praying, or meditating, or endeavoring something for the public good” (The Imitation of Christ). Let us give heed to Davies:

Whatever, I say, be your Place, permit me, my dear Youth, to inculcate upon you this important instruction, IMBIBE AND CHERISH A PUBLIC SPIRIT. Serve your Generation. Live not for yourselves, but the Publick. Be the Servants of the Church; the servants of your Country; the Servants of all. Extend the Arms of your Benevolence to embrace your Friends, your Neighbors, your Country, your Nation, the whole Race of mankind, even your Enemies. Let it be the vigorous unremitted Effort of your whole Life, to leave the World wiser and better than you found it at your Entrance (Religion and Public Spirit: A Valedictory Address to the Senior Class, Delivered in Nassau-Hall, September 21, 1760 [1762]).

Samuel Davies did much good in the span of 37 years on this earth. He left a legacy of godliness which continues to encourage and inspire. May his “important instruction” to the students of his beloved college ring in our ears today: “Leave the world wiser and better than you found it at your entrance.”

The former American slave-turned Presbyterian missionary who signed the Liberian Declaration of Independence: Amos Herring

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The history of Liberia, founded in the 19th century by the American Colonization Society (ACS), to enable former American slaves to live free in Africa, is very much interwoven with American Presbyterianism. The Society was established in 1816 under the leadership of Presbyterian minister Robert Finley, who died one year later. It was in 1847 that Liberia officially became an independent nation (more on this later). Ralph Randolph Gurley, a Presbyterian chaplain to the US House of Representatives, was another founder of the ACS.

Not all black Americans or black American Presbyterian ministers supported the idea. Theodore Sedgwick Wright and Samuel Eli Cornish jointly published a rebuttal to the project in 1840 titled The Colonization Scheme Considered. They were both editors at Freedom’s Journal, which had previously engaged in an 1827 dispute with Samuel Miller, who had transmitted to them a letter signed with the nom de plume “Wilberforce,” likely authored by Archibald Alexander, which was critical of the journal for its anti-colonization perspective. Frederick Douglass also engaged in a bitter dispute with African-American Presbyterian minister Henry Highland Garnet over this issue (and others). Garnet would go on to become the first black minister to preach to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1865, but also was appointed the first black American to serve a high-ranking federal position when he was appointed US minister and consul general to Liberia in 1881, where he died the following year.

It was Alexander who preached the ordination sermon for both John B. Pinney and Joseph W. Barr, the first foreign missionaries sent by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, in 1832, but Barr died before leaving for Africa (his funeral sermon was preached by Miller). Pinney served under the auspices of the ACS as missionary and Governor of Liberia. John Leighton Wilson was also sent to Liberia in 1833, and spent almost two decades on the mission field there.

Other black Presbyterians were eager to minister the gospel in Liberia, such as Armistead Miller, James Ralston Amos and his brother, Thomas Henry Amos, all of whom were ordained in 1859 by the New Castle Presbytery. James M. Priest, a former slave from Kentucky who was freed and sent to Liberia by his former owner, returned, studied for the ministry, and was ordained by the Presbytery of New York and sent as the first foreign missionary of McCormick Theological Seminary to Liberia. Eventually, he served as Vice-President of Liberia from 1864-1868, and later as a justice on the Liberian Supreme Court.

The Liberian national flag.

The Liberian national flag.

All of which brings us to Amos Herring. Born as a slave in North Carolina, Herring moved to Augusta County, Virginia as a child, where he came under the ministry of the Old Stone (Presbyterian) Church. After gaining his freedom at the age of 26, he took his family and emigrated to Liberia in 1833 under the auspices of the ACS. He became pastor at the Presbyterian Mission in Monrovia and was esteemed so highly that in 1847 he served as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, where he signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution on July 26, 1847 - a date which is celebrated annually as Liberian Independence Day. He was one of eleven signatories to the Declaration and the Constitution (hence, eleven bars in the Liberian flag). In 1871, after the disappearance and presumed death of the Liberian President, James Roye, Herring was one of three men appointed to a executive committee which temporarily took charge of the government. Herring himself died two years later on November 14, 1873.

The Liberian motto adopted in 1847 reads: “THE LOVE OF LIBERTY BROUGHT US HERE.” The Declaration of Independence, which Herring signed, unlike its 1776 American counterpart, contains an acknowledgment of God, and it tells the story of Liberia’s remarkable founding as well.

We the representatives of the people of the Commonwealth of Liberia, in Convention assembled, invested with authority for forming a new government, relying upon the aid and protection of the Great Arbiter of human events, do hereby, in the name, and on the behalf of the people of this Commonwealth, publish and declare the said Commonwealth a FREE, SOVEREIGN, AND INDEPENDENT STATE, by the name and title of the REPUBLIC of LIBERIA….

Our churches for the worship of our Creator, every where to be seen, bear testimony to our piety, and to our acknowledgment of His Providence.

The native African bowing down with us before the altar of the living God, declare that from us, feeble as we are, the light of Christianity has gone forth, while upon that curse of curses, the slave trade, a deadly blight has fallen as far as our influence extends.

Therefore in the name of humanity, and virtue and religion — in the name of the Great God, our common Creator, and our common Judge, we appeal to the nations of Christendom, and earnestly and respectfully ask of them, that they will regard us with the sympathy and friendly consideration, to which the peculiarities of our condition entitle us, and to extend to us, that comity which marks the friendly intercourse of civilized and independent communities….

It is our earnest desire that the affairs of this government may be so conducted as to merit the approbation of all Christendom, and restore to Africa her long lost glory, and that Liberia under the guidance of Heaven may continue a happy asylum for our long oppress ed race, and a blessing to the benighted and degraded natives of this vast peninsula. To secure which is our ardent wish and prayer.

With these profound words, the Liberian Declaration of Independence makes clear the nation’s early reliance upon Almighty God for its success. As Liberian Independence Day is observed in 2019, may American Presbyterians take note of this inspiring history, recalling to mind Amos Herring and the many who served as missionaries to Liberia, and continue in prayer for a nation that was founded by black Americans who sought freedom to live and to worship God in Africa.

George Duffield asks, "Who should be our rulers?"

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When a committee headed by Benjamin Franklin was formed to prepare a Constitution for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1776, Bishop William White was called upon to lead in prayer, while Presbyterian minister (also chaplain to the Continental Congress) George Duffield II (1732-1790) drafted an essay outlining Biblical principles for the selection of civil magistrates to aid in the work. He added brief remarks to the essay in 1787, but it was not published until his grandson, George Duffield V (1818-1888), included it in his The God of Our Fathers: An Historical Sermon (1861).

The title — Who Should Be Our Rulers? — is immediately expanded upon with this question:

Query. — May a community of professing Christians, of right require any profession of the Christian faith of those appointed to bear rule among them, previous to their admission to office, or make a profession of Christianity, a suspending term of their being admitted to any of the principal offices in the state?

Answering in the affirmative, Duffield offers seven reasons to explain.

1. Officers in the State are to be considered as the servants of the public, employed by the Body, to perform certain services for them, and for which service, they receive that reward or hire, which the community agree to give; though officers are the servants of the State, it is yet the highest honor the State can confer on any of its members, to repose confidence in them, to transact for them the public concerns.

2. No man, or set of men, has any natural right to any office in the State, more than he has a natural right to oblige or demand his neighbor to hire him to perform any service he has to do, and consequently none of his natural rights are in fringed — if the community think proper not to employ him, more than the farmer infringes on the natural rights of the laborer, when he chooses to employ another rather than him.

3. Every community has an undoubted right to choose whom they will employ, to perform any service for them, equally as the farmer has, to choose whom he will employ to perform any labor for him. And as they have a right to choose as they please, whom they will employ — So,

4. They have for the same reason, an equal right to make such regulations as they see proper, respecting the persons they will agree to employ in their service, so that these regulations infringe on no man's natural right, nor inflict any penalty on those they may not think proper to employ.

5. For a society of professing Christians, to agree to employ none in any of their principal offices of service in the State, but such as profess Christianity, appears to be no more than a proper mark of respect paid to themselves, as a body, and to the Christian religion they profess, and cannot therefore, in that point of view be condemned. Whereas, on the other hand, to act a contrary part, must appear in the eyes of the far greater part of the community, treating Christianity with a degree of neglect, and has a direct tendency to sink it lower in the public esteem, and induce many through the influence, a connection of ideas has on the mind of man, to hold it on a par with Infidelity, in other respects as well, also, as in that wherein they would thus see it placed by the Constitution of their government.

6. Good morals are essentially necessary to the health and prosperity of the State. Whatever measure therefore, appears best adapted to preserve and promote the morals of the state ought to be embraced. Christianity is much better calculated to preserve and pro mote good morals than infidelity; as much therefore, as Christianity is better calculated for this great essential purpose, so much more advisable and prudent it is, to have Christian magistrates and officers, rather than infidels, especially when we consider,

7. The experience of all ages has confirmed the observation, that the principles and practice of superiors, and especially of rulers, have great influence on those of inferior rank; as in the history of the Jews; the complexion of the people at large, as either moral or profane, may generally be known by adverting to the character of the rulers that were over them, and it is ever to be expected, that every man will endeavour according to his opportunities for that purpose, to promote the sentiments he himself has embraced, and induce others to join him in practice.

These reasons being given, our author surveys some of the Scriptures that have bearing on how rulers should rule and how they should be selected. After highlighting Proverbs 14:34 (“Righteousness exalteth a nation…”), the Scriptural characteristics of a king (chief magistrate) given in Deuteronomy 17 are identified:

1st. He is to be of their Religion, that is a Jew, incorporated in that body and professing the Jewish Religion, no matter of what tribe or order, save only that none of the tribe of Levi, are to be chosen. This is all the exception made, and it is a good exception, still, nor will any of the clerical order desire it, unless they have forgotten the apostolic injunction, "Give thyself wholly to these things," 1 Tim. 4:15.

2d. He is to study the word of God, for though the expression, (Deut. 17:18,) has a special reference to the judicial law of that people, it cannot with propriety be restricted to that. It was the whole law which was with the priests and Levites, but this was the whole of the Divine Revelation, is still of excellent use to form even the highest officers of the State, for a faithful discharge of their trust to the commonwealth as well as to form the individual for usefulness here and glory hereafter.

3d. He was to learn to fear the Lord — but how is this most likely to be obtained to have rulers that are taught to fear God? Is it by choosing Infidels or by choosing Christians?

4th. He was to set an example to the people — and this example was certainly not for nothing, but that it might have influence; it was therefore as much the people's duty to observe and follow the example of their rulers, as it was theirs to set it. But what example shall we expect from Infidels? Are they likely to walk in the law of the Lord? &c, or ought we to choose examples of infidelity to set before us and our children to copy after?

More Scriptures follow:

A second direction from the sacred pages, 2 Samuel 23, "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." This is an express command of God, and delivered in terms so general, as render it impossible to be restricted to the Jews, but equally designed for us as any other portion of Sacred Writ. And will any say that an Infidel answers to this character, or is likely to rule in the fear of God? The 101st Psalm is generally understood as descriptive of those the Psalmist, by divine direction, was determined to employ in the service of the State; and such are characterized, v. 6, by walking in the perfect way. But is it possible to suppose infidelity can be that "perfect way?" Or if the Psalm should be understood of domestic servants, will not the argument hold much stronger with respect to those who are to serve the State?

In Isaiah 49:23, it is promised among the singular blessings that shall attend Christian States in the day of their greatest prosperity, that their rulers shall be "nursing fathers," &c, to the Church of Christ. But are Infidels likely to be these nursing fathers? Or when we know God generally accomplishes ends in the way of means adapted to these ends, shall we use the means that are most directly opposed to it, in order to obtain the so valuable and desirable ends?

He also considers several objections in favor of complete separation of church or state, that is, things civil and things religious. This leads to a discussion of the place of the Sabbath, which is part of the moral law of God.

It is said the Church and State ought to be kept entirely separate, and no connection admitted between things civil and religious, as they have no connection in nature, and many mischiefs have flowed from blending them together. If this be so, then great care must be taken to establish nothing of morality, for this is one grand essential constituent of religion, which consists in loving God supremely and our neighbors as ourselves; doing to all men as we would wish them in like circumstances to do to us. If any say the good of society requires this, I answer this is only giving up the position, and saying that though civil and religious things are to be kept entirely apart, they are yet in many things so inseparably connected that it is impossible to separate them one from the other. If this be so, we can then have no Sabbath established in any State, however composed entirely of professing Christians, unless it be somewhat of a political Sabbath, and entirely dissimilar to the word of God, for as the observation of a Sabbath is a part, and that a very material and foundation part of true Religion — for any State, therefore, to establish the observation of a Sabbath, is so far to blend Religion with their civil constitution; which, according to the above position, ought by no means to be done, but the two be kept entirely separate from each other. Nay, further, as the observation of a Sabbath is a part of revealed religion, and depends entirely on the divine authority of that revelation which enjoins it, we cannot establish the observation of a Sabbath without previously admitting, and equally establishing the divine authority of that revelation on which the Sabbath depends. We must, therefore, inevitably either admit and establish in our civil constitution the divine authority of the Scriptures, or we must utterly reject the Sabbath from amongst us, save as any one may choose of his own accord to observe the day. There is no alternative in the case. Admit, then, the Sabbath rejected, as on the above position it absolutely must be, and no one obliged to observe it, I leave it to any man who has observed how difficult it is with all the care that can be taken to have a Sabbath observed, I leave it to him to judge what our situation in a few years will be. Whether we shall be likely to have a Sabbath among us at all, but in this respect be purely heathen, and the Sabbath entirely gone, though the wisest and best of men in every age have esteemed the observation of the Sabbath of essential use to promote not only piety towards God, but morality toward men, and the great good of society; and God himself laid it down as a first grand foundation principle in the Jewish constitution, instantly after bringing them forth out of Egypt. The truth of the case is, it is impossible to run a line of distinction between things civil and religious, so as to separate the one from the other, in any civilized State. They are in many respects what God and nature have joined together, and man may not put asunder.

Duffield concludes with this thought:

I shall close my remarks on this subject at present with observing, old customs and institutions with which we have long been acquainted are like old friends, whom we shall not hastily cast off, without weighty reasons urging thereto. We have tried now for near a century an institution, the same in sub stance with that above pleaded for, formed by the celebrated founder of this State. No inconvenience has ever arisen from it. It has obtained universal esteem, is interwoven into our earliest thought of the matter, and grown up with our judgment; under this the people will feel themselves contented and happy; whether the case will be the same with the proposed alteration is greatly to be questioned, or rather the negative is certain, and the experiment, if made, will but too probably in its consequences verify in the State of Pennsylvania the Prophet Hosea's remark, (8:3-4) — "Israel hath cast off the thing which is good, they have set up rulers but not by Me."

Eleven years later, in 1787, also in Philadelphia while the national Constitutional Convention performing its work, Duffield remained of the same opinion:

The above piece was written at the time of forming the Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, and though I wish to exercise all the charity I can for all mankind, and abhor the idea of subjecting any person to any, even the least injury on account of his religious sentiments or tenets in things pertaining to another world, so that he behave himself as a good citizen, yet, on a calm review of the case, at this distance of time, I cannot but think the arguments here adduced have weight, and that, on the whole, it is the safest line of conduct. - Philadelphia, Sept. 5th, 1787

We note that the 1776 Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania contains but one religious test for public office. Elected state representatives were required to swear to the public before they could be seated in the general assembly:

I do believe in one God, the creator and governor of the universe, the rewarder of the good and the punisher of the wicked. And I do acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by Divine inspiration.

A similar provision has been retained in each of the following (1790, 1838, 1874 and 1968) governing constitutions of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:

No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

Perhaps Duffield’s essay — authored for the benefit of the original Pennsylvania constitutional drafting committee and essentially affirming that religion is a necessary component of a good civil magistrate — provides us with a better understanding for the retention of this religious test for public office that Pennsylvania has kept even until the present day (although disannulled by a 1961 U.S. Supreme Court decision). Read the rest of this remarkable essay here to see what, if anything, Duffield has to say to the 21st century Christian citizen and civil ruler.

"A nation is but a congeries of families" - Moses D. Hoge

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It was at the Sixth General Council of the Pan-Presbyterian Alliance, meeting in Glasgow, Scotland in 1896, that the Rev. Moses Drury Hoge delivered an address on “The Educative Influence of Presbyterianism on National Life.” He spoke of the importance of the family in relation to the health of the commonwealth, and took note especially of the role of mothers for the good that they do on behalf of their families which in turn is a service to the nation at large.

A nation is but a congeries of families, and what the family is, the nation will be….Under the great dome of the sky I do not believe there are any surpassing our Presbyterian mothers in the faithful training of their children to walk in the right ways of the Lord, nor do I believe that there are any who have influences transcending those of Presbyterian households in preparing children to become good citizens of the country and of the kingdom of Christ.

The death of our old Calvinistic mother has been frequently announced, and her funeral oration pronounced. Well, the death of a mother is a great event in the lives of her children. A minister in my own country says, “When we came to lay our mother in the grave, one of us said to a friend at his side, ‘We will remember the works that will follow her.’ ‘What works?’ asked the friend to whom he spoke. He replied, ‘She bore ten sons and trained them all for Christ. We are all standing around her grave to bless God that she ever lived.’”

Mr. President, fathers and brethren, we, too, bless God for our dear old Presbyterian mother, who has borne ten thousand times ten thousand children and trained them all for Christ; but we are not standing around her grave! We rejoice that she is still a living mother — her eye not dim, nor her spiritual force abated, and when our descendants are as near the close of the twentieth century as we are to the end of the nineteenth, another council will meet to celebrate her virtues and her works in strains of adoring gratitude compared with which our utterances tonight are cold and poor. — Source: Peyton Harrison Hoge, Moses Drury Hoge: Life and Letters, pp. 370-371