Alexander Campbell On Moral Societies (1898)



The International Religious Liberty Association,
Entered at the Post-office in Battle Creek, Mich.
No. 53. (extra) MAY, 1898. 25c per year.
Single Copy 1½c.

Portrait of Alexander Campbell
Signature of Alexander Campbell





Mr. Editor,--

        SIR: It appears that the state of society in West Middletown and its vicinity is awfully corrupt. The civil officers are either totally incapable of their duty, or shamefully lax in the performance of it, insomuch that it has become necessary to re-establish the moral society, or inquisitorial club, to suppress the dreadful contagion of vice and immorality that rages in that region. The Examiner of your enlightened town lately issued eight pages of well-digested matter, as the first-fruits of the lucubrations of this moral tribunal; the whole of which is predicated on the moral turpitude of the place, and the rottenness of the squires and the other gentry who have the good-keeping of the morals. I sympathize to the utmost of the nature of the case, with those pure and devout men of this moral fraternity, whose moral souls are daily grieved with the immoralities of the place. Sodom in her day, had but one Lot, but West Middletown has a club of them; may they keep the place from putrefaction.

* * * * *

      The communicative organ of this association in the above speech first addresses what he calls "the mere community or non-commissioned citizens of West Middletown and its vicinity," with the words of an apostle which were spoken to a people of quite another caste than the state of society which he characterizes.

      He impeaches the whole community with the crime of moral perjury. This is a serious charge; but on what is it predicated? He maintains that every man is under an obligation either by his own act, or that of his father, to promote the execution of his country's laws; and charges to the [5] account of "disloyalty, ignorance, and impiety," to assert that he is at liberty to neglect the adoption of any consistent measures for the purpose of securing the execution of our wise and salutary laws. . . . That is plainly this: that every man is bound to join the Moral Society as a consistent measure to carry the laws into execution; that every man who does not become a spy and an informer on the conduct of his neighbor is guilty of moral perjury! To be innocent, then, we must study the laws of the land, and report every man, or bring to some tribunal every man who is not living according to the law of the land. As none are exempted but aliens, from this moral perjury, you and I ought to take heed that the laws be executed, and that all offenders be brought to justice. I have heard it said that there are laws in this country against actual perjury. Now, sir, I know a good many of my neighbors, and perhaps some of them belonging to the Moral Society, who solemnly swore to keep up family worship, morning and evening, Sabbath-day and week-day, all their lives, as often as they got their children baptized; and they do not according to their oath, consequently are guilty of perjury. Shall I, to ease my conscience, report them to the Moral Society?

      Since reading the above description of moral perjury, I am not altogether satisfied how I should act in these things. I have hitherto observed these things and many similar actions without any other emotion than regret and aversion; I was not, in my conscience, chargeable with guilt because I did not report them to the Moral Society. But, if moral perjury consists in whole or in part in not acting the spy and the informer, and if I shall be constrained from conviction to adopt that sentiment, I advise the moral fraternity to take good heed to their ways; for I can assure them that I will not conceal their immoralities much longer. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."

      But I must request you, sir, to advert to the means proposed to be continued in this moral association for the [6] reformation of morals; they are all comprised in one sentence; viz., Make the immoral wretches pay well for their immoralities; and, when in these hard times it costs them more to live immorally than morally, they will become moral as a cheaper way of living. When they pay dear for their sins, they will, from principles of avarice, become morally correct!

* * * * *

      With regard to the motives that have led me to oppose the "moral associations," I can consistently affirm that they are not those of malice, envy, or any unlawful passion toward individuals or the cause of morality. I owe benevolence to all men, and constant regard to the interests of morality. I wish always to distinguish between the agent and the action; and, though I may detest the latter, I would ever commiserate the former. There is but one class of mankind on whose conduct I would, as far as consistent with candor, animadvert with righteous severity. This is that class, composed of all those of every grade, who, unsolicited, mount the judgment-seat, and, uninvited, place themselves in the censor's chair, to deal rash judgment round the land, and on every one they suppose able to pay for their transgressions. When, at the same time, they themselves, perhaps, are not unspotted in their moral reputation.

      If any person should inquire what right I have to interfere with the proceedings of these associations, my answer is: I conceive I have as good a right to sit in judgment upon them as they have to sit in judgment on their fellow citizens; and certainly they can not expect more lenity than they show. These things premised, I proceed to show that these "moral associations" are a moral evil. In doing this, my efforts shall be directed to accomplish the following objects: to demonstrate that they are anti-evangelical, anti-constitutional, and anti-rational. These things being accomplished, it will not be a difficult matter to show that they are a moral evil. [7]


      In the first place, then, I proceed to show that they are anti-evangelical or antichristian combinations. In order to do them and myself ample justice, I shall, agreeably to the rules of the ancients, in the commencement of my discussion, give what I conceive a true and concise definition of a moral association. A moral association, such as that of West Middletown, is an unincorporated, unchartered, heterogeneous, self-created, and impotent association of men, for the professed object of suppressing vice and immorality, by enticing some to become informers, others to collect fines or to imprison as the case may require, for and in consideration of the following sins, only: Sabbath-breaking, profane swearing, drunkenness, card-playing, ball-playing, or any kind of gaming for money.

      As the ambiguity of language is such as to occasion many controversies, I shall further explain one or two words in my definition. By heterogeneous I mean of different religious persuasions and those of no religious persuasion. By impotent I mean powerless, possessing no more legal authority in an association than in a private capacity. The other terms are not so liable in my opinion to be misconstrued.

      Such an association as I have described was not known in the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; nor in the days of Moses, Daniel, St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John. It is a modern invention, and of how much utility we shall see by and by. It is not purely civil, moral, or religious, but a mixture of the three. The Bible, since the commencement of Christianity, only speaks of three distinct corporations existing in the world down to our time--the church, the unbelieving or heathen world, and Antichrist, or an unhallowed alliance of the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of truth. [8]

      The church has jurisdiction over all its members, in regard to their whole moral and religious character.

      The State has jurisdiction over all its own members in things civil and moral, but not religious.

      Antichrist claims an unhallowed, and iniquitous control over every individual under its grasp, in all things,--civil, moral, and religious. It crowns kings, sanctifies and disannuls leagues, punishes and remits sins, and claims the highest honors to itself.

      Now these associations are not the church of Christ, inasmuch as their members do not all profess Christianity. They do not attend in their associate capacity to any of the peculiarities of a church; consequently, as societies, they are not the church of Christ. Nor are they purely civil; for they claim jurisdiction over actions that are not civil, but religious, such as keeping of a Sabbath and taking the name of God in vain. There remains but one association which can justly claim them, and they resemble their mother in the prominent features of their countenance, inasmuch as they claim jurisdiction over actions civil, moral, and religious.

      I shall now, for the sake of argument, suppose that the members of these societies were all Christians, and that they were associated for the express purpose of suppressing vice and immorality by civil pains. I shall further suppose that they are about to inflict civil pains on some men of the world, who are convicted of the crimes of drunkenness, Sabbath-breaking, and profane swearing. In this case, then, I say they are positively prohibited, both by the letter and spirit of Christianity, from exercising judgment and inflicting punishment upon them. The apostle, in the fifth chapter of his epistle to the Corinthians, when he forbids Christians to associate with or to retain immoral professors in the church (some of which he specifies, as fornicators, drunkards, railers, etc.), in regard of such characters out of the church, he [9] peremptorily, and by the strongest figure of speech, prohibits any interference, in these words (verses 12, 13), "What have I [as a Christian or an apostle] to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth." No precept was ever more definite, more authoritative, or more perspicuous than this.

      It is, however, no more than following the example of the founder of Christianity, who, when solicited to divide an inheritance, or to use his authority between two brothers who acknowledged him a master in settling a quarrel about an inheritance, replied, "Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you"? He confessed before a Roman governor that his "kingdom was not of this world." Consequently his servants as such have no right to interfere with men of the world in anything pertaining to God and conscience. Let the men of the world alone; let them stand to their own master and judge. "Follow peace with all men," and take heed to yourselves and those who profess to be under your guardian care, and then your mild, peaceable, upright example will do more to reform the world than fines and imprisonment; walk wisely toward them that are without. Such is the spirit and tendency of Christianity. What a contrast! Constables, fines, imprisonment, to make men wiser and better!

      But I shall place the above supposition in another point of view. I shall suppose that a society of Christians assembled for the above purposes, and that they have before them a number of professed Christians convicted of the forementioned crimes; what then is the course to be pursued in relation to them? Does Christianity allow or authorize them to call in the civil law or civil power to punish them?--"Yes," says the Romanist; but the Protestant says, "No." The Protestant asks, "What are the means commanded to be used toward offenders in the Christian Church?" The Catholic replies, "Excommunications, bulls, racks, gibbets, fire, and [10] every species of cruelty." So they said in former times; perhaps they are wiser since the establishment of the cortes and constitution. But the Protestant replies, "Admonition and exclusion, or excommunication." The heretic and immoral professors are treated alike. Hear Paul: "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject." With respect to the immoral, his words are equally plain and conclusive: "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person." After the heretic and the immoral are excluded from the church, they are to Christians ecclesiastically dead. They have no power or jurisdiction over them. The words of their Master are, "If he neglect to hear the church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican." "But," says the moralist, "let us fleece him after he is ecclesiastically dead; let us send after him and devour his substance! Let us raise him from the ecclesiastical grave, and plunder his sepulcher. Who knows but he may be brought to life again!" If their proceedings have any meaning, if they are not deliberate robbery, such is the meaning of them.

      I hope, sir, there are many members of these associations who are led in unawares; but their leaders are crafty and designing men. No people more richly deserve the ordeal of criticism, the keenness of reproof, and the fullness of exposure, than these would-be heads, of the inquisition.

      Of these things which I have spoken, this is the substance:--

      If the "moral societies" are heterogeneous, if they claim jurisdiction over things civil, moral, and religious, they are antichristian.

      If they are all Christians, they are prohibited from the exercise of any power over them that are not members of the churches, by the express law of Christ.

      And, if they were even a Christian church, and the offenders professed Christians, it is antiscriptural for them to punish them by any civil pains. [11]

      In a word, I affirm that the Bible will justify them equally in burning a man or stoning him to death, as it will in exacting money of him, for his sins. Yea, I will go further, and say, that it is more Scriptural to stone a man to death for sinning against God, than it is to take four dollars or four cents from him on the same account. The former has been done in Old Testament times; but the latter was never done in the days of the Bible. But in New Testament times we read of but one instance of stoning a man to death for the good of his soul; this was the martyr, Stephen. And in it we read of but one society of covenanters--this society bound itself by a solemn league and oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. I will finish the first part of my subject in my next.
  Yours, etc.

Mr. Editor,--

      I resume my argument, and proceed more fully to demonstrate that the moral societies are unscriptural.

      In the epistle of James, I read these words: "He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not steal." The doctrine deduced from these words is, that as it is the same authority that prohibits all vices, all immoralities, he that is guilty of any one of them equally offends that authority as he who is guilty of another, or he who is guilty of all. "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Now, sir, how I shall bring this to bear upon the subject, you will see when I have done.

      The law of Pennsylvania, I understand, values the profanation of the Sabbath at four dollars, the profanation of the Divine name at less than one dollar, drunkenness at so much, etc. Now let me ask why is each sin valued at a different price, and why is any of them at a fixed price? Sins, like other commodities, if they are to be valued at a certain price, should bear a proportion to the state of the currency; what was worth four dollars three years ago is worth but two now. From [12] a parity of reason I would suppose that two dollars is the full value of the above, provided, that four dollars was its full value three years ago. But why fix upon four dollars, if this was not supposed the full equivalent of the guilt contracted; why was it not one thousand dollars, or only six and one-fourth cents, if they did not think that four dollars was the precise price? If one thousand dollars was too much, and if six and one fourth cents was too little, four dollars must, in their judgment, be something equivalent.

      Then why is the violation of the third commandment fixed at about one fourth of the sum which pays for the violation of the fourth? Is the former a sin only against a demi-god, and the latter a sin against the mighty Jove? Or, is there but one fourth of the guilt, in profaning the Lord's name that there is in profaning the Lord's Day? He that said, Thou shalt sanctify the seventh day, said also, Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain. So much for my text.

      But, sir, it is not because there is four times as much demerit in the sin of Sabbath-breaking as there is in that of profaning the Lord's name, that this difference in price is allowed. I will make you acquainted with the philosophy of the principle! When a man sins against his Maker by profane swearing, he sins against heaven alone. But when he does not observe the seventh day, he sins against heaven and the clergy, in not honoring them with his presence to hear them preach. Now, sir, all sins being alike, as they affect the Creator, the one dollar pays for the sin in that sense as it pays for other sins; but the three dollars pays for the insult offered to the clergy.

      What other grounds there are for this difference I can not see. Again, when a man is fined for any offense, the fine is proportioned to the damage he has done, and the fine is designed to cover the damage, so as to become an equivalent to the injury sustained. Thus, when a man is fined for [13] slander, the fine is proportioned to the injury done the slandered, and the slandered receives it as a compensation for the loss sustained. Thus, when a man is fined for Sabbath-breaking, the fine is unquestionably, as in other cases, designed to atone for the damages. The informer is to receive a part for the damages he has sustained in giving the information, and the risk to which he has exposed himself in so doing. The injured party, in this case, if we are to suppose the crime to affect Heaven, can not receive the fines; but it is bequeathed to his favorites on earth, to dispose of for their own ends. If they can not show such a bequest, I do not know by what authority, they take it. It comes naturally to this conclusion, from the above considerations, that it is as immoral to take that from a fellow creature to which we have no right, as it is for him to sin against the divine law. And he that pockets four dollars is as great a sinner as he who breaks the Sabbath.

* * * * *


      Now I proceed to show that these combinations and the laws under which they act are unconstitutional in our good and free State of Pennsylvania. That this proposition may be fully established and illustrated, I shall refer you to the supreme law of Pennsylvania. The text to which I allude is the third and twenty-sixth sections of the ninth article of the constitution of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which is indeed the spirit of the Constitution of the United States. The preamble to the ninth article reads thus:--

      "That the general great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and unalterably established," "we declare (Section Third) that all men have a natural and undefeisible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; and that no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support [14] any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent, that no human authority can in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and that no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship."

      Section Twenty-six: "To guard against transgressions of the high powers which we have delegated, we declare that everything in this Article is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate."

      Let this salutiferous doctrine be applied to the combinations alluded to; and, for the sake of illustration, to one of the subjects of their persecution; viz., Sabbath-breakers. A Sabbath-breaker in the eyes of this association, and in the eyes of the anticonstitutional law under which they say they act, is a man who does not pay a certain degree of religious respect to the day called the Sabbath.

      In the first place, then, let it be observed that the observance of any day in a religious manner is exclusively a right of conscience, and as such, the non-observance of it can not be constitutionally censured and punished by civil law in any shape or form whatsoever. Conscientious regard to any practise in religion is the only regard commendable in the sight of Him to whom religious homage is due. To regard any day in a religious point of view, in any other than in a conscientious manner, is not to regard it. This being incontrovertibly evident, it is obvious that any compulsory observance is non-observance, and to control a man in that which is undeniably the right of conscience only, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and to violate the only guarantee and charter of our freedom and liberty,--the Constitution of our country.

      The encroachments that have usually been made upon the liberties of any people were, in the first instance, trifling, and at long intervals. The specious pretexts under which they have been attempted were "the interests of religion," or "the public good." In so far, this infringement of the [15] excellent constitution of Pennsylvania has been analogous to the first inroads made upon the liberties of those once renowned nations that are now the slaves of kings and priests.

      Again: let it be remembered that there are many valuable citizens, who are entitled to all the privileges of citizens, who can not conscientiously regard the first day of the week, or the Lord's day, as the Sabbath of the Jews. The Jews themselves can not. There are some of them now in Pennsylvania, and the prospect of more. The Jews sanctify our Saturday, their own Sabbath, and can not conscientiously observe the first day as the seventh. The Seventh-day Baptists, or Sabbatarians, of whom there are a good many in the United States, observe the seventh, but can not conscientiously regard the first, called the Christian Sabbath, as some people think they ought.

      Again: the followers of the great William Penn, who founded and once possessed the great State of Pennsylvania, who wished it ever to remain an asylum to the society of the Friends and others, from the withering and destructive breath of persecution,--I say, this society regard every day alike. They must be compelled to pay a mock regard to the day, or pay the forfeit to these persecuting associations called moral. With what justice may they complain that their sect is proscribed and another established by civil law. Yes, the Jews, the Sabbatarians, and the Friends are all proscribed. Yet the Constitution says that "no human authority [not even the West Middletown Association] can in any case whatever control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and that no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship."

      Yet if any of the above sects should conscientiously observe the seventh day or any other, and conscientiously drive their wagon on the sabbath of the majority, they must appease the strong party with four dollars! O Pennsylvania, where is the shade of thy founder? Where is the spirit of thy great [16] William Penn? From what has been said it is incontrovertibly obvious that these moral associations are unconstitutional.

* * * * *


      Now, sir, as preparative to my pointing out "a better way" of improving the morals of the times, than moral societies and fines, etc., give me leave to state my views on several topics, as tending to make way for a correct view of the subject.

      In the first place, then, I view the church of Christ and the State as two distinct communities, neither of them possessing, as such, any power to interfere with the internal regulations, constitutions, law, or duty of the other, but each as independent of the other in these respects, as though the other did not exist. This does not militate against the subjects of the one being the subjects of the other, or against their performing the duties of each according to the requirements of both, when there is no interference with the dictates of conscience, or when the duties of the one does not clash with the duties of the other; but it militates against the mere citizen, because he is a member of the State, interfering with the affairs of the church; and against the Christian, because he is a member of the church, interfering with the affairs of the State. All that I mean to say on this principle is capable of being illustrated thus: Suppose the emperor Alexander is the member of a Christian church; he has no more authority or right to rule in that church than the meanest subject in his realm, who may be a member in that church. Or, suppose a man as holy and as zealous as the apostle Paul, lived in any State; he has no more right to interfere with the management or government of that State than Thomas Paine, if he lived a fellow citizen of that State.

      The civil magistrate, as such, is only to execute the law of the State. He is, ex-officio, to execute the law of the [17] State, and no law but the law of the State. The ruling elder in the church has power, ex-officio, to execute the law of the church, and only the law of the church. Should the ruling elder sustain the office of the magistrate, which sometimes happens; in that case, when he sits on the judgment-seat, he lays aside all the peculiar prerogatives of the ruling elder, and acts merely as a justice of the peace. Again, when he officiates as a ruling elder in the church, he lays aside all the peculiarities of the magistrate, and acts merely as an ecclesiastical officer.

      I presume the above remarks will not be objected to by many of my readers; I therefore proceed to state some of the particulars deducible from them.

      1. The officers of the church and all the members of the church, not commissioned by the State, have no right whatever to interfere with the execution of the law of the commonwealth; but only to take heed to themselves and those in church connection with them, that they be good, honest, quiet, sober, industrious citizens. In this way they will prevent much of the trouble which the civil magistrate has at present.

      2. When any others, either in their individual or in an associated capacity, other than as civil officers, attempt at executing the laws on transgressors, they publicly declare that the civil officers are lame, are deficient in performing their duties, and consequently worthy of being removed. But if they say, "It is to help them to execute the laws," then they plainly tell them that they are too weak of themselves, and therefore useless. But, in fact, the combinations to which we allude are merely spies and informers; for they act no other part than that of spies and informers, in returning the men of the world to civil officers, and they can only receive as much of the fine as the law apportions to the informant. How dishonorable, how useless, and how pernicious their office is, methinks they ought to have long since seen! [18]

      3. As the execution of the laws respecting the maintenance of peace and good order is the duty of the magistrates of the commonwealth, it becomes them to be active and vigilant in their office, and thus prevent the pretended necessity of forming those combinations to maintain good order and morals.

      But as my object, in this number is not to illustrate anything fully, but to introduce the subject in order to discussion, I break off, in the meantime promising you an essay on the office of the civil magistrate in my next.
  Yours, etc.


Mr. Editor,--

      SIR: I proceed to offer a few remarks on the office of the civil magistrate. This is an office of great antiquity and of great importance to the prosperity of society. All those persons in every State who are appointed to execute the laws of the State, are, in our language, called civil magistrates. Emperors, kings, presidents, and governors have been called the chief magistrates of the States over which they severally presided; justices of the peace and judges of courts have also received the name of magistrate. In all countries they are, or should be, men of excellent character, and fathers of the people. In a word, they are, or should be, men selected and authorized by the people, to execute the laws under which they wish to be governed. The preservation of public tranquility, of life, liberty, reputation, and property, are the great purposes which originated this office. The civil magistrate is a State officer, and as such obliged to take into consideration the interests of the State, as far as this can be promoted by the most faithful execution of the laws committed to him.

      In every State the powers of the magistrate should be, and commonly are, prescribed and limited in the commission [19] which he receives, or the laws which institute the office. The corruption of men renders the existence of this office necessary, and consequently should define the duties of it.

      Civil government and the church are institutions intended for the good of mankind; the one to promote his temporal, the other his eternal, good. The one to minister to his fleshly comforts, the other to advance his spiritual interests. They both emanate from the same fountain of authority (Rom. 13:1), and were dictated from the same principles of philantrophy. They are, however, as distinct as soul and body, and should be considered as distinct in their nature, properties, and operations. The office of the civil magistrate has existed in all countries, with and without an established religion. Savage nations, Mohammedans, pagans, and Christians have their civil magistrates, and, among all such, the office is a divine ordinance. Where there is, and where there is not, a church, the ordinance is the same. In Rome the constituted governor, and magistracy, though heathen, and persecuting Christianity, was called, in Paul's time, even when a Nero and a Domitian sat on the throne, an ordinance of God, by that Spirit that can denominate nothing wrong. Yea, in the New Testament the heathen magistrates are called, God's ministers, and he that resisteth them is said not to resist man but God. Yes, the civil magistrate in all the nations upon earth is appointed of God, "to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil" to his neighbor, and to be a terror to evil-doers, and a praise to them that do well. For this purpose he bears the sword of power, and is invested with authority. He is, in the same record which denominates him a minister of God to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil, prohibited from using his authority, which is always compulsory, in any thing pertaining to spiritual concerns. For this purpose the sword of power is never to be unsheathed. It was once wielded for this purpose even in the presence of the Founder of Christianity; but it was returned to its scabbard, [20] with these memorable and instructive words: "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"--that is, not to defend the State, but to support the church. He who is the Author of Christian faith, also said that if his kingdom were of a worldly nature, his servants would use violence in support of his cause. But such was not its nature.

      My creed on this subject is the following; viz.: That, as the civil magistracy is in all nations alike the appointment or ordinance of God, whether they are pagans, Mohammedans, or Christians, it is never to be employed in support of any religion whatsoever; nor are civil rulers on any account whatsoever to use any of that authority which they have received for and from the State, in support of Christianity; nor ever directly or indirectly to use compulsion in anything pertaining to religion; but they are to use all their authority in keeping good order in society, or in preserving the public peace, the life, liberty, reputation, and property of the citizens of the State.

      Those who differ from me on this topic, I request to consider three things:--

      1. That if the magistrates in the United States, for instance, proceed officially to support or defend the religion of this country, the Turkish, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, or any other magistrate has the same power and right (being equally a divine institution there as here to accomplish the moral government of the world) to defend and support the religion of their respective countries.

      2. That swords, cannons, guns, powder, lead, prisons, gold, silver, or bank-notes, can not make the conscience bend, renew the soul, spiritually illumine the human mind, nor give a new moral sense. That racks, gibbets, wheels, whips, or even the mild punishments of four dollars' fine, can not promote piety or benevolence.

      3. That all such efforts on the part of the magistrate are prohibited in the institutes of Christianity. [21]

      I am aware that not a few model both the church and the State after the "commonwealth of Israel," and would have something like the Jew in civil and ecclesiastical concerns. I have yet said nothing respecting the civil magistracy of the Jews, which seems to be a copy after which the "moral associations" would, if they dared, model their little Sanhedrins and their young St. Giles.

      With regard to the Jews I would say, there was no office purely civil. Their government was a pure theocracy; and all their offices were under the immediate appointment of their king, who was none else than their God. Hence, when they sought a king like other nations, the Lord charged them with having rejected himself as their king. Civil and religious offices were reposed in the same hands; hence Moses performed offices civil and religious. The seventy elders, selected to assist him in judging and awarding, took under their cognizance things civil and religious. The Jews can not become a model to any nation in the world, either in their civil government or in their ecclesiastical; for this plain reason, that no nation ever stood in the same relation to God, nor received their political institutes in the same manner. I would remind those who are so eager to imitate them that the only punishment the Jewish rulers inflicted on those who transgressed the letter of the first table of the law, was only death. The Sabbath-breaker and the blasphemer were only stoned to death. There was no commutation of the crime; for, if the sins against God are to be punished as such, there is no temporal privation that can be considered as such. Let those who are zealous of punishing Sabbath-breakers and of executing what they call the law of God, be consistent with themselves and their precedents, and stone to death the Sabbath-breaker and the blasphemer.

      Since the Jewish religion became obsolete, there never was a tribunal on earth appointed of God to take cognizance of, [22] or to punish, sins against God. This power God has committed to none on earth; he has no representative on earth.

      In regard to the Sabbath-day and the institutes of religion, I except them entirely from the jurisdiction or cognizance of the civil magistrates, in any sense whatever. But of this more hereafter, when I review Judge Rush's charge. In the meantime I remain, your humble servant,
      Dec. 4th, 1820.

      [Campbell's complete arguments in this debate are published in another number of the Religious Liberty Library, 39 Bond St., New York.]

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      "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts."

* * *

      "Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's; and unto God the things that are God's."--Jesus Christ.

* * *

      "If the gospel were of a nature to be propagated or maintained by the power of the world, God would not have entrusted it to fishermen."--Luther.

* * *

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."--U. S. Constitution, Amendment I.

* * *

      "I should be afraid to borrow help from government; it would look to me as if I rested on an arm of flesh, instead of depending on the living God. Let the Lord's day be respected by all means; and may the day soon come when every shop shall be closed on the Sabbath; but let it be by force of conviction, and not by force of policemen; let [23] true religion triumph by the power of God in men's hearts, and not by the power of fines and punishments."--C. H. Spurgeon.

* * *

      "The whole of the precepts or commands of the Christian religion are contained in the New Testament. But there is no precept or command in the New Testament to compel by civil law any man who is not a Christian, to pay any regard to the Lord's day more than to any other. Therefore to compel a man who is not a: Christian to pay any regard to the Lord's day more than any other day is without authority in the Christian religion."--Alexander Campbell. [24]

[OME 1-24.]


      On Moral Societies was published in the Religious Liberty Library, No. 53 (Battle Creek, MI: The International Religious Liberty Association, 1898). The pamphlet consists of excerpts from Alexander Campbell's "Candidus" series (39 essays written between 1820 and 1822), first published in The Reporter, a weekly newspaper printed and published in Washington, Pennsylvania, by Samuel Workman (1819-1821) and William Sample (1810-1819, 1821-1825).

The Reporter. On Moral Societies.
 "For the Reporter. No. I." 17 April 1820, p. 1.  pp. 5-7. "It appears that . . ."
 "For the Reporter. No. II." 22 May 1820, pp. 1-2.  pp. 7-9. "With regard to . . ."
 "For the Reporter. No. III." 5 June 1820, p. 1.  pp. 9-12. "I shall now, . . ."
 "For the Reporter. No. IV." 19 June 1820, p. 1.  pp. 12-14. "I resume my . . ."
 "For the Reporter. No. VI." 21 August 1820, p. 1.  pp. 14-17. "Now I proceed . . ."
 "For the Reporter. No. 7." 11 December 1820, p. 1.  pp. 17-19. "Now, sir, as . . ."
 "For the Reporter. No. 8." 25 December 1820, p. 1.  pp. 19-23. "I proceed to . . ."
 "For the Reporter. New Series--No. 1." 17 September 1821, p. 4.  p. 24. "The whole of . . ."

The section titles (pp. 5, 8, 14, 17, 19) and quotations (pp. 23-24) were supplied by the unnamed editor of On Moral Socities.

      The electronic version of the pamphlet has been produced from the copy held by the Disciples of Christ Historical Society. Thanks to Keith Huey for a providing a Xerox copy of the pamphlet.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained. The editor of the printed edition of On Moral Societies made hundreds of changes in spelling, capitalization, capitalization, and a few in diction, from the first printing of the essays in The Reporter. The editor of the electronic version has noted these emendations, but has not cataloged them.

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
Derry, PA

Created 17 March 2000.
Updated 7 July 2003.

Alexander Campbell On Moral Societies (1898)

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