Loading...
Larger font
Smaller font
Copy
Print
Contents
  • Results
  • Related
  • Featured
No results found for: "undefined".
  • Weighted Relevancy
  • Content Sequence
  • Relevancy
  • Earliest First
  • Latest First
    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents

    November 20, 1889

    “The Principles of Constitutional Recognition of God” American Sentinel 4, 42.

    E. J. Waggoner

    In the Christian Statesman of September 5, R. C. Wylie gives quite a lengthy report of the discussion of the proposal to acknowledge God in the constitution of the new State of Washington, which is quite interesting. There were some things said which show that some of the members had the right idea as to the relation of Church and State. When the convention went into committee of the whole to consider the preamble and bill of rights, the following preamble was read:—AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.1

    “We, the people of the State of Washington, to preserve our rights, do ordain this constitution.”AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.2

    Immediately one of the members moved to substitute the following:—AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.3

    “We, the people of the State of Washington, grateful to almighty God for our freedom, to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, do ordain this constitution.”AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.4

    The mover of this substitute afterward with-drew it in favor of the following, after it had been read:—AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.5

    “We, the people of Washington, in order to form more independent and perfect government, ... profoundly grateful to almighty God, for this inestimable right, and invoking his favor and guidance, do ordain and establish the following constitution and form of government for the State of Washington.”AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.6

    The discussion was on the adoption of this, instead of the simple preamble first read. Mr. Comegys, of Whitman, made a strong speech upon this, the force of which Mr. Wylie attempts to break down by a slur upon the personal appearance of the speaker, who said:—AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.7

    I am opposed to the substitute. The gentleman is in favor of it, because he thinks we ought to be grateful to almighty God. I would like to ask him if he thinks this provision would add anything to our gratitude by being in that preamble. He admitted the necessity for brevity, and has made it as brief, he says, as he could and include that point. Now, as I understand it, Mr. President, this has nothing to do with gratitude, or reverence, or irreverence. A man may be very reverent or very grateful, without lifting up his voice on the street corners, or he may lift up his voice and claim to be very grateful and yet not be grateful. The question is, Shall we advertise it in this way? Has it anything to do, here? The framers of the Constitution of the United States had this matter under advisement, and after mature deliberation (and many framers of the Constitution were devout Christians), they deemed it not wise to have any reference to the Deity, because they had agreed that Church and State and matters of religion should forever be separate from civil government. Now, what object is to be attained? Will we be more grateful by reason of putting it there? or will we be less ungrateful, notwithstanding we put it there?”AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.8

    We say that this is sound. Gratitude is shown rather by acts than by words. The people of Washington might all of them be profoundly grateful to God, and yet make no statement of it in their Constitution; and on the other hand; they might make a profession of gratitude in their Constitution, and have none in their hearts. Now, which would be the better condition?—Manifestly, to be grateful, and not to advertise it in the Constitution; that would be far better than to proclaim it from the capitol, and not possess it.AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.9

    But there is another point to consider. If that were stated in the Constitution, would it tell the truth? Are the people of Washington grateful to God for the blessings which they enjoy?—No doubt some of them are; but the most zealous National Reformer will not claim that all of them are. Are even a majority of the people of Washington grateful to God for the blessings which they enjoy? The people of Washington are doubtless as good as the people of any other section of the United States; but it cannot be denied that only a small minority of people in the United States, or in any individual State, have any real gratitude to God. It is not going beyond bounds to say that the majority of the people scarcely ever think of him. The entire church membership of the United States is less than one-fourth the population, that is, less than one-fourth of the people of the United States make any profession of, or belief in, a gratitude to God; and the declarations of leading ministers and religious journals are to the effect that the churches themselves are lamentably deficient in godliness; that thousands of church members are in no respect different from the professed ungodly. This being the admitted fact, it is manifest that for the people of any State, or of the United States, to put in their Constitution a statement that they were grateful to God would be to make their Constitution state a falsehood. If that preamble were adopted which says, “We, the people of Washington, grateful to almighty God,” etc., the constitution would be a lie upon its very face. Certainly no good can be accomplished by falsehood. Truth cannot come from evil. Placing the acknowledgment of God in the constitution would not make a single individual more grateful to God than he now is. Therefore, for people to adopt a constitution with such a statement would be a positive wrong. People who know nothing about God would imagine themselves to be grateful to him, simply because they had subscribed to a constitution which said that they were grateful. So the constitution, instead of making people better, would lave a tendency to confirm them in their ungodliness.AMS November 20, 1889, page 337.10

    One of the speakers in favor of the substitution was a Mr. Cosgrove. He started out by saying that the effort to have such a preamble was not an attempt to connect the Church and the State. He said: “It does not in any way associate the Church and State because of this recognition of God. It is not necessarily recognizing the Church in any sense.” And then he went on to disprove this statement, by saying: “We expect to get a large amount of immigration into this country before many years, and I do not care what the committee intended by leaving it out of this preamble, the masses of the United States will take it as an indirect attack upon the church, and as an indirect pandering to infidelity by leaving out this word.” This statement of his shows conclusively that the substitution would in a way connect Church and State, although it is not true that the omitting of the substitution would be an attack upon the church. Anyone can see that to adopt a constitution which says nothing about the Deity or the church, could not be considered an attack upon the church any more than a bank corporation could be said to be making an attack upon the church if it adopted articles of corporation without making any reference to the Deity.AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.1

    Mr. Cosgrove said further: “Let me say, gentlemen, that this territory would have been built up long ago had it not been that the people of the East believed that Washington Territory was a heathen land, peopled with heathens, without government.” That statement shows the hollownesss of the whole thing; the recognition of God in the constitution was designed simply as an advertising scheme, to induce immigration. But what nonsense to suppose that people would settle in the Territory any quicker because its constitution contained the name of God. Did the speaker suppose that the people of the East are so ignorant that they could be duped into supposing that the insertion of the name of God in the constitution would make the people any better? Would they imagine that the inhabitants of the State were all pious, simply because of a few words in the constitution? The idea is absurd.AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.2

    Mr. Warner, chairman of the Preamble Committee, said that he would yield to no one in reverence for God, but likened the placing of his name in the constitution to the action of the Pharisee in the Scriptures. He did not believe it was needed any more than the Lord’s prayer. This is true, as we have already shown. The adoption of such a preamble would simply be a piece of Phariseeism, and that in reality is all that was expected. Mr. Cosgrove’s argument showed that it was designed simply to advertise to the people of the world that the people of Washington were religious, although the statement would not represent the truth. Mr. Sullivan, of Tacoma, showed the sophistry of Mr. Cosgrove’s statement, that to leave out the recognition of God would check immigration. He pointed to the Constitution of the United States, which contains no recognition of God, and said that there was no trouble about immigration to this country.AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.3

    One speaker said: “If I remember right, the Bible says ‘there is a time and place for everything.’ It also says, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.’ The convention therefore should not place the name anywhere, simply to tickle the ear of any individual or set of individuals.” This, again, touches the very heart of the matter. We have already shown that such a recognition as is proposed would be falsehood upon its face; and because of this, it would be a taking of the name of the Deity in vain. God’s name is taken in vain every time it is spoken lightly, every time it is mentioned in any way by those who have not at heart real reverence for God.AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.4

    Mr. Warner stated that he was a member of a church which had the most reverent devotion to God; but he did not believe it necessary to advertise that fact in their business transactions.AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.5

    Mr. Sturdevant showed the folly of the proposed recognition, by saying:—AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.6

    “As well acknowledge the existence of the Supreme Being and an overruling Providence in the making of a, promissory note, as in this constitution; yet who would not say it was ridiculous if you saw a promissory note something like this: ‘For value received, I promise to pay to John Doe, or order, $100.00, recognizing the overruling providence of the Supreme Court, and the credit business and the great privileges which have been conferred upon me by the Supreme Being by reason of this promissory note.’ Then again: What would be said in court of the lawyer commencing his complaint in this way: ‘John Doe vs. Richard Roe; the plaintiff in the above entitled action, recognizing the overruling power and constant care of the Supreme Being, complains of Richard Roe, and alleges,’ etc. Now that is just as sensible, in my opinion, as placing it in the preamble of the constitution. Let us ask God to guide us and teach us common sense in the business which we are trying he transact in this convention.”AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.7

    We have devoted this much space to the consideration of the discussion in the Washington convention, because the principles involved are the same as those involved in the attempt to recognize God in the national Constitution. We are anxious in this whole National Reform business to get the people to see that opposition to it does not imply irreverence or infidelity on the part of the opposers, but that the one who has the most intelligent reverence for God, and love for truth and pure Christianity, is the one who will be most zealously opposed to the schemes of the National Reformers. E. J. W.AMS November 20, 1889, page 338.8

    “Why They Are Anxious” American Sentinel 4, 42.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The Pearl of Days which, as is well known, is the organ of the American Sabbath Union, and is devoted exclusively to the work of securing the enactment and enforcement of Sunday laws by the State and the national government, presents the following, which was said by an eminent Sunday advocate:—AMS November 20, 1889, page 341.1

    “A gentleman living in the country, whose supply of water for household purposes was scant, had a cistern dug near his house for collecting the rain which fell on the roofs of the buildings. For a time the expedient answered perfectly; the supply of water was abundant. Suddenly, however, the pump failed to give forth the contents of the reservoir. The rain would fall copiously, and for a time a few pailfuls would be drawn, but very soon the supply ceased. The pump was carefully examined and found to be in perfect working order, and no flaw could anywhere be discovered. At length it occurred to the perplexed householder to examine the cistern itself; then the mystery was solved. It was found that in one corner the cement had cracked, and there was a gaping leak which allowed the water to escape into a distant pit. It was now plain that however freely the rain might fall the cistern would soon be empty again, as there was this ever-widening leak through which the water disappeared. Such a leak in our church life is the Sabbath profaned or neglected. The rains from above may fall abundantly, the church’s machinery may be diligently plied, but the law of the Sabbath largely forgotten will prove a leak serious enough to undo and render nugatory the happy influences both of the showers of Heaven and the labors of man. It has been well said: ‘The streams of religion run deep or shallow according as the banks of the Sabbath are kept up or neglected.’”AMS November 20, 1889, page 341.2

    “This,” says the Pearl of Days, “forcibly illustrates the cause of the love of church life.” This may all be true, but to our mind it furnishes no argument for the enactment of a Sunday law. It is strange that people cannot see that the anxiety for Sunday laws is purely from a church standpoint. These people want Sunday laws, for what reason?—Because the church will be the gainer thereby, and because they expect that people will go to church more. Not only do they expect that people who now care nothing for the church will go to church when, other places of amusement are shut up, but they expect that people who are already church members; but who neglect their duties, will take hold of church work, if they are spurred up to it by the State. In other words, they want the State to legislate in behalf of the church, and to enforce church discipline.AMS November 20, 1889, page 341.3

    It may seem to some that the expression just used concerning places of amusement is very irreverent. We do not mean to cast any reflection on the churches, but the point is this. It cannot be denied that the great desire for Sunday law is that people who now find “amusement on Sunday, may constrained to go to church; and those who are working for such laws confess that picnics, theaters, concerts, Sunday newspapers, etc., are greater attractions than the church; but they expect by prohibiting these attractions to induct the people to come to church. That is, people want to pass the time in some way, and if they cannot do it with their favorite amusement they will then take the next thing that presents itself, and will go to church. In other words, they will go to chinch for a pastime the same as they now attend concerts, etc. They will simply substitute a form of amusement which is allowed in place of one which they would prefer, but which is prohibited. The movement may result in filling the churches, but it will not result in the spiritual and moral advancement of the people.AMS November 20, 1889, page 341.4

    E. J. W.

    Larger font
    Smaller font
    Copy
    Print
    Contents