Christ's Law and Immigration

RPCNA minister James Mitchell Foster (1850-1928) served as pastor of a congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio for nearly a decade before assuming the position of Secretary of the National Reform Association (the same position which this writer currently occupies). Among his many writings is a remarkable study of the kingship of Christ entitled Christ the King (1894). 

In this book Foster examines many aspects of Christ's mediatorial kingship, considering those who came before him as typical representatives, and his kingly rule especially as it relates to the state and society. Many particular societal issues are specifically addressed by Foster in this volume, including the subject of immigration, a matter concerning which 19th century American Covenanters and other Presbyterians were very concerned to address (see William Speer's writings here, for example). The perspective from which Foster examines this and many other topics is well articulated by John Alexander in his introduction: "I would suggest that ...  the Kingship of Christ and the supremacy of His law from which all our proposed reforms logically emanate." 

The chapter on "Christ's Law and Immigration" is highlighted here today not because this writer necessarily concurs with all that the author says, and not because Log College Press takes a particular position on political questions faced by 21st century America, but rather because it is a striking example of how one 19th century Presbyterian minister viewed a topic that almost appears ripped from today's news headlines. 

Foster begins thus: "The law of Christ is the solution of all national questions. He has been exalted to the throne of universal dominion. The wheels of providence in their intricacy, mystery, sublimity and universality are subject to His hand. He is head over all things to His Church. He is the Lawgiver, King and Judge. The legislative, executive and judicial departments of government are under law to Christ. He executes the judgments of God upon rebellious nations. He bestows the blessings of heaven upon obedient nations. All national questions are to be referred to Him." 

Foster then makes a crucial point that the Christian statesman and citizen must consider with respect to the matter of immigration: "Paul said to the Athenians on Mars' Hill: 'God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation.' By precept and example Christ taught that Roman Centurion, Samaritan women, Phoenician, Greek, and Syrian, were as dear to Him as the Jew. Peter was taught by a vision to call no man of the Gentile nations common or unclean. The great principle of Christ's kingdom is thus announced: 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free; but ye are all one in Christ Jesus.' Christ's kingdom is made up of representatives from all kindreds and nations and tongues and people. Under Christ, whether a man be white, black, yellow or red -- 'A man's a man for a' that.'" 

He reminds the reader that "This country was settled by immigration originally. The Pilgrim Fathers came to Plymouth, the Hollanders to New York, William Penn and the Quakers to Pennsylvania, the Germans to New Jersey and Virginia, the Scotch-Irish to North Carolina, the Spanish to Florida, the French to Louisiana and the Northern Lakes.

This country has grown great by immigration. The hand of God is in it, and man can no more arrest it than he can keep back the rising tide. As long as there are lands untilled to be occupied and mines unworked and sources of public wealth undeveloped they will continue to come and we cannot hinder them. The under-currents of supply and demand which sends oranges to Maine, potatoes to New York, tobacco to Wisconsin, cotton to California and money everywhere, sends laborers where they are needed. The Chinese, to exclude the invading hordes from the North and West, built a great and high wall, 1500 miles long on their western border. But it did not serve any good end. We cannot build a wall of legal enactments that will keep out immigrants. As well try to dam up Niagra." 

While Foster desired to see America welcome immigrants of all sorts (notably, he spoke against the then-current anti-Chinese immigration laws), he also desired overall reform in our national system of government. "So let immigrants comes to us from every land. But this nation must adopt and enforce the law of Christ. There must be a constitutional recognition of Christ as King of nations. A constitutional provision must be made for the exclusion of the enemies of Christ from places of office and trust and making the friends of Christ only eligible to office." 

With the aim of applying the principle of Christ's kingly rule to America, Foster thus tackled a difficult subject. Read him for yourself, on immigration and other matters. One might not agree with him in all particulars, but all Christians may unite in the desire to see our country honor Christ the King in all its laws and in how it treats immigrants to this land.