Reasons Why The Baptists, Generally, Espouse Republicanism (1808)


[Editor’s Note: Republicanism in this article refers to a form of national government rather than a modern political party.]

IT is well understood by our neighbors, that the Baptists with us are generally Republicans, and we suppose it consistent with our history, to assign our reasons for adopting that policy. We have numerous reasons for it, but we will comprise the whole in as few as possible.

When duty was laid by act of parliament on articles imported from Great Britain to the United States of America, and the purchaser compelled to pay the duty, although the then colonies had no representation in parliament, nor ever consented to it; this conduct appeared so arbitrary in the British government, Americans took the alarm, and after petitioning and remonstrating without success, the alternative was a resort to arms, and a manly resistance of such usurpation and tyrannical procedure. The amount of taxation as yet might have been borne, but it was the assumption of power claimed by them to tax us in all cases whatever. As parliament claimed that power, had it been given up none could say where it would end; in process of time every article imported might have been loaded with an enormous tax, and if in all cases, a duty might have been imposed on home manufactures as well as on imports, a compulsion might have been for our furnishing for Britain, from American citizens, a large part of the British army, to be taken to remote and distant parts of the world, build and equip a great portion of her shipping, and so tax after tax, until the load would have been insupportable, and we reduced to abject slavery. Human foresight could not tell the length it would go, or where the oppressive measures would terminate. For monarchial usurpation cannot be glutted, it never cloys; the desire of pomp and enlargement of empire has never met with an entire gratification.

Things being thus circumstanced, the Baptists took an active part with their fellow citizens in opposing British usurpation and aiming to secure our just rights which we deemed right then, and we have never retracted since.

The procedure of monarchial government, as above stated, leads us clearly to decide in favor of a government by the people. A second reason, it is the people that is to bear the expense of government, to expel an enemy when their country is invaded, and suppress insurrections among themselves, should they arise. This is not done by an individual despot, nor by a limited monarch, nor by a senate, but by the people -and therefore reasonable the people should be represented, by those of their own choice, and so have a voice in government -it is not to be expected that a perfect government, free from errors will ever be composed by frail man, but it is most likely to be freest from blemishes when composed by the representatives of the people, and should there be defects it will be submitted to with greater care and may be remedied as soon as the public mind can be collected.

Besides, the wisdom of a nation, is contained in the great body of the people; man in high life, and live as they suppose, at the source of information, may conclude wisdom dwells wholly with them, and better for individuals to judge for, and govern the nation, than for the people to govern themselves -but this cannot be admitted in a country where they enjoy the freedom of speech, and of the press, the means of aiding their enquiries and investigating and discussing political questions, and a free communication of their sentiments to each other on points interesting to the nation. By these means the wisdom of the nation is collected and the representatives of the people are the better fitted to legislate, knowing the sentiments of their constituents.

For after all the clamor, tyrants designedly have made about government, supposing it wrapt up in obscurity and hid from the people, there are but two leading portraits in the system of policy, first to have a government so formed that will secure the protection of the persons, and property of the citizens: – And secondly, at as little expense as will answer the purpose, pursue these two leading objects, and the other parts of a well directed government will of course take place; we therefore think it most safe to leave the government with the people, and that it will be less subject to corruption.

A third reason that determines us in favor of a government by the people is, we have not lost the remembrance of the hardships and persecutions we endured under monarchial government and the oppressive measures exercised on us by that government; our desire is that such times may never return; it is natural for burnt children to dread the fire -monarchial government, and an establishment of religion, are twins; wherever the one is, the other appears. To talk of a national church is so far from the construction of Christ’s church in primitive time, that it appears no more than a name; it is in fact a church in name adulterated into a wicked nation, and the ruling power in such nation becomes an engine of oppression and cruelty, and all that cannot conform to the established system, and the rules of the established church, must reconcile themselves to suffering, for it is sure to be their portion. –

A fourth reason is, our religious education agrees with and perfectly corresponds with a government by the people; for where men possess capacity to form a system in their own minds, or a mind strong enough to digest a written system, it has ever been, and will continue, a coincidence and agreement between their religious and civil systems, as much so as temporal and spiritual things can agree.

Facts are stubborn, and it is a fact that cannot be denied, that where unlimited monarchy prevails and a single despot governs a nation, that establishments have been set up and the clergy possessed with an unlimited control over the church, and it never has failed that where the civil power exercised unlimited control, and the clergy considered absolute, where these two have united it has ever terminated in the deprivation of the rights of the subjects, and the loading them with enormous burthens (burdens), and the shutting them up in gross ignorance. When we cast our eyes abroad and carry out enquiries into distant countries we find a similarity between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities; for instance, despotism in the civil, and supremacy in the ecclesiastic, limited monarchy and some small checks to the ruling clergy, a people governed by a senate, and the church by the clergy in general -where things are thus circumstanced, the body of the people have no hand in the governing themselves as a nation nor have they a voice in governing the church of which they are members -all that is expected of them is due subjection to the decree, proclamation, or council, if the ruling authority, be it civil or ecclesiastic; and if there should be a turning aside by any of the people or a complaint uttered, they share the fate of the poor innocent beast on which wicked Balaam rode.

When we consult the divine oracles and draw our conclusions of the form of Christ’s church as described in the gospel, it appears to have no connection with the world; for Christ has declared His kingdom is not of this world, His people being called out from the world and fitted by grace for a spiritual house, when compacted together becomes a standing temple for the divine residence, and will remain an everlasting monument of His rich, free, and unfrustrable grace; it would be degrading the bride, the Lamb’s wife, for her to draw her maxims and rules of government from worldly policy, for the church of Christ is the highest court God has established on earth, her code of laws were given her by the King of Zion, the Lord Jesus Christ, in which every instruction is given that is necessary for the furnishing the children of God to every good work; the head of the church is a spiritual King, His subjects are spiritual, His laws and ordinances spiritual, and it is the province of Christ’s subjects to worship God in spirit and truth -the church being purchased by the precious blood of Christ are all renewed by the same efficacious grace, and born heirs of the same heavenly inheritance, and of course have an undoubted right to a voice in the church of Christ; the New Testament clearly decides in favor of a free and independent government by a congregational, constituted church, from whose bar there is no appeal to any higher court; this independence of church government and the right each individual member has to a voice in such government, appears from many passages in the New Testament; the apostle’s instruction to the church at Jerusalem was to choose out from among them, men possessed with necessary qualifications, that they might appoint to the office of serving tables; this power of choosing their first officers rested wholly with the church: it appears the prerogative of the church and the church alone to exercise discipline on an offending member or one who had trespassed against his brother; the right of excluding disorderly members from church fellowship, is given up by the apostle to be vested in the church. When the members of the church at Corinth met together, having the apostle’s judgment with them, they were to deliver the wicked member to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus; and the apostle takes care in his second epistle to the same church, (where signs of repentance appeared in the excommunicated person) to confirm their love to him, for the punishment inflicted by many was sufficient; and it became their duty to take him into brotherly affection and restore him to his former privileges in the church, it follows, the right both of exclusion from, and reception into, rested with the church -it further appears by the instruction to the church, that if any member be a fornicator, profane person, or drunkard, or liar, or extortioner, no, not with such an one to eat, they ought therefore to purge out the old leaven that they might be a new lump: from these passages the power was vested in the several members of the church, united in one religious body, to choose their officers, to exclude disorderly members or receive them in.

Christ has so tempered His mystical body and united the several members, that they form but one body, and all are designed for usefulness; in this congregational form Christ’s church appeared in the apostolic age, and the grand reason why we admire it in later days.

Taking into view the ruin and destruction that has been brought upon so many different nations in different ages, by usurping tyrants, leads us to admire the easy government under which we live which extends privileges to us which the subjects of tyrants never enjoyed the sweets of. -It appears that despots and kings have ever been a curse to the nations of the world -their thirst for the extension of empire, and to immortalize their memory, have led them to every excess. Armies have been raised by them and millions slaughtered in the field or drowned in the deep, while laborers at home have been burthened (burdened) with taxes until life has become burthensome (burdensome); populous countries have become thinly inhabited, and productive fields turned into barren deserts; while we set under our vine and fig tree, quite tranquil, and none to make us afraid. Taking a view of the whole ground, and contrasting despotism or monarchial government, with republicanism, the depriving the people of their rights, the burthens (burdens) with which they are loaded, and exaction of everything their monarch requires, and not even allowed to complain -a government by the people is very different, no ambition for empire, but what they honestly purchase; no going to war, but on the defensive, and when under absolute necessity, for the safety of our persons, and our property. The right of expressing our sentiments, wherein the national good is concerned, in petitioning to government for redress of grievances, and the repeated elections of men into the national councils that are avowed advocates for equal liberty , the encouragement such a government gives husbandry and manufactures, trade and commerce, and hangs our premiums to discoveries and inventions, merit, and not high birth, weighs heavy in the scale of public opinion, and the applause of the wise. Put all these things together, attaches us to our republican form of government, and it is our desire it may long continue in its purity, free from corruption; that the administration may be in wisdom, and her councils filled with such as fear God. -May peace and prosperity long spread her beneficial wings over these united and confederated States!

Note :


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *