Category Archives: John Leland: Colonial Baptist Preacher and Patriot

John Leland deserves much credit for the adoption of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Every American and especially every Baptist should know his story and should read his writings.

FREE THOUGHTS ON WAR

An essay on pages 457-68 of The Writings of John Leland
Edited by L.F. Greene, ARNO PRESS & THE NEW YOUR TIMES, New  York, 1969,
Reprinted 2010 by Local Church Bible Publishers, www.LocalChurchBiblePublishers.com

If Christianity forbids national war—if the precepts of Christ, “I say unto you that ye resist not evil,” etc., were intended for the nations of the earth, and are binding on them, as political bodies, it follows, of course, that all the wars that have been since the introduction of Christianity, have been in direct rebellion against God.

Taking this to be the case, what ought to be done to remedy evil, and make an atonement for the long perpetuated crime? Those nations of savages, who have never heard the precepts of Christ, are excepted from present animadversion, but those nations that have been favored with the gospel, and now call themselves Christian nations, are particularly addressed.

A reformation, acceptable to God, consists in a disavowal of crimes—turning to the way of future righteousness—and restoring to the injured that which was wrongfully taken away. In this view of the subject, it becomes the kings and rulers, kingdoms and states, of this world, to confess the sin of war—turn to a course of perpetual peace—and restore all the dominion and territory, that has been taken by war, to those from whom they wrested them. Anything short of this would be hypocritical reformation. It is true, that this procedure, in a retrospective chain, would carry most of the nations and territories back to Rome, with Tiberius Cæsar at their head; in which condition the world was when Christianity was introduced.

This would be utterly impracticable. But the now existing kings and rulers, kingdoms and states, have it in their power to make restoration of the dominion and territory, which they now possess, that were taken from others by the horrid crime of war. And for such rulers and states to plead for peace without a restoration, is like the felon who wishes all others to be  at peace, that he may quietly possess his stolen goods.

When two men are in single combat, and one casts the other, and holds him, he cries, “Will you be peaceable?” But if the master was in the place of the underling, he would think more of extricating himself than he would of peace.

It is now rumored that the great powers of Europe, particularly Russia and Great Britain, are for giving peace to the world. Russia is the strongest power, by land, in Europe, and likely in the world. Great Britain commands the sea, with her navy, which is far superior to that of any other nation, if not to all other nations. Should these nations, therefore, unite to extirpate war from the earth, and establish universal peace, the poor and needy would resound their praise—the widows and fatherless would bless them. But while they proclaim peace, is it their intention to keep their navies, armies and garrisons in such repairs, that other nations cannot effectually resist them? If so, it is but the boast of complete despotism. The plain language of it is this: “We are masters, and intend to be so; we command you all to be peaceable one with another, and with us in particular; if not, see the rod in our hands, by  which we will scourge you until you are peaceable, for we are determined that all others shall be in peace, on the conditions that we prescribe.” Did Napoleon ever wish for more? Can a tyrant ask for more? If this state of the world is desirable, why did not Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and other powers adopt it seventeen years past? What scenes of horror, and seas of blood it would have prevented.

If the now triumphant kingdoms are convinced of the moral evils of war, and wish to make an atonement for the treasure which they have consumed, the powers which they have overturned, and the lives which they have destroyed, let them now confess, reform, and restore all that they can; but, if they justify their past wars, under the pretense that they were necessary, in order to free the world from the tyranny of Napoleon, and bring it  into the happy state which it is now in, other nations may justify future wars, to deliver the world from its  present masters, and bring it into a happier state than it is in at present. But if the conviction of the now triumphant kingdoms is genuine, and their desire is to free the world from the cause of war, without seeking their own supremacy, then let them disband all their troops, and dismiss their military officers—demolish all their garrisons—destroy every ship of war—and convert every implement of war into instruments of mechanism and husbandry. Let them, moreover, restore the provinces and territories, with their respective jurisdictions, which they have taken from others, and make declaration that every section of the world shall attach itself to what government they choose, establish that form of government which is most congenial to their wishes, and have those to administer it whom they prefer, and that every man shall be free in his religion, to worship whom, when, and as he pleases, without any interruption. Let this proclamation be made, and put into effect by the great powers, and followed by all the smaller dominions, and all but tyrants, pensioners, and covetous priests, who make merchandise of what they preach, and the souls of men would hail the halcyon day. For princes to talk about peace, without coming to this standard, is but mocking the people—seeking to be emblazoned for noble generosity after they have killed and taken possession, without restoring to nations their liberties, and guaranteeing to individuals their inalienable rights.

As the project has never assumed the character of system, and been put in operation, it is unknown whether the members that are to compose this congress are to be chosen by the people, or appointed by the sovereigns—whether they are to hold their offices for life, during good behavior, or for limited terms—whether each kingdom and state shall have an equal number of members, or whether kingdoms and states shall be represented according to their numbers—whether, in all cases, a majority shall rule, or in some cases more than a majority should be necessary to carry a point—whether the non-submission of a single power, or several of them in concert, shall be suppressed by force  of arms, or by non-intercourse only.

Should all these questions, and all others that might arise, be cordially adjusted, and a congress assemble in style, it would remind one of what a barbarian said to the senate of Rome: “My own countrymen are hydras, but the senate is an assembly of the gods.”

In a congress thus formed, it is presumed that every member would have the views and wishes of their respective governments at heart. So long as unity continued among them, so long harmony would remain among the confederate nations but in case of disagreement, the same evils that now infest the world would arise in all their baleful aspects. From a knowledge of the physical strength of the greater powers, the smaller ones would feel afraid, as they now do; but supposing the decrees of congress should be contrary to the will of Russia or Great Britain, or against both these powers in connection, would those great powers succumb to the little states for the sake of peace, or would they not more naturally resist? If war is declared to subject the powers that will not acquiesce, the design of the congress, which is to prevent war, will be defeated. If an embargo is appealed to, that none of the confederate nations shall buy or sell any article to the obstinate states, could they enforce it? Would not the avarice and enterprise of the merchant defeat all the laws of congress? It is hard to conceive of any advantage that would arise from a congress thus formed, that does not now exist by friendly embassy, but it is easy to foresee what pomp and expense would attend it.

To prepare a way for a congress to be appointed, to prevent the horrors of war, peace societies are forming to facilitate the grand event. If these societies lay the foundation of their appeal upon this condition: “That on the           day of                              in the year                         all nations, by their agents, shall meet at
for the purpose fo affixing the day, when all armies shall be disbanded—all ships of war be sunk in the sea—alll forts and garrisons be destroyed—all instruments of war broken to pieces—all territory and dominion, taken by force of arms, restored to their best claimants_-all legal establishments of religion repealed, with a pledge that war never shall be appealed to for any purpose, and that no law shall ever be made to regulate religion, all good men, who understand the genius of Christianity, will give them their support. But if their exertions tend only to prevent the military exertions of one nation of the world, while other nations are waxing stronger and stronger, they must not judge that all those who withhold their support are enemies to human happiness.

The remarks already made originated from the supposition that the precept of Christianity, “resist not evil,” was a prohibition of national war; but the precept, connected as it is, looks as much like a prohibition of legal resistance, as it does of military force. If you are compelled, stripped of your coat, persecuted or smitten, never make use of the law to resist the evil, or get redress. Rather than go to law, why do ye not take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? … That the precepts of Christianity, which enjoin non-resistence on the disciples, were not intended as maxims of state policy or civil law, appears pretty evident, from the consideration, that Christ never assumed the character of a worldly king, or civil judge. He said his kingdom was not of this world, and he refused to act as judge, in dividing the inheritance of two brethren, and in pronouncing the penalty of the law against the adulterous woman. The direct tendency of Christ’s kingdom was the eternal salvation of souls; the systems of civil law and national war, have nothing to do with souls and eternity. In the case of the dying thief, both governments show their nature and distinctness. The government of men condemned him to death, which he himself said was just, and the government of Christ pardoned his sin. Christ did not deliver him from the penalty of the law, and the decision of the law did not interfere with the government of Christ, which was wonderously displayed in saying, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The civil judge is not to question whether the criminal is saint or sinner, or how it will fare with him in the world to come; but these characteristics are all important in the kingdom of Christ.

In war, also, which is the same among nations that courts of trial are among individuals, the moral state, and worth of the soul is out of the question, and national justice is all that is (or ought to be) in view. Nothing can be more preposterous and presumptuous than to declaim, or conceive that all who fall in battle, will undoubtedly go to heaven. The agriculturist, the mechanic, the merchant, the sailor, the scholar and the soldier, in this respect, stand on even ground. The truth is, those who fear God and work righteousness, will be accepted of their Maker, and all others will not. The soldier, therefore, who is a devout saint, if he falls in battle, will go from the field of battle to the regions of glory; but he who is a hardened sinner, falling in battle, will sink where he will lift up his eyes in torment.

Christianity was not designed by its author, to be characteristic of the nations of the earth, in their political state; nor was the name given in the days of its purity, to any but the meek disciples of Christ. The name however, has been filched by the enemies of Christ, and Christianity has been prostituted to the vilest purposes. Since Christianity became national, Christian nations have been equally cruel and bloodthirsty, and more unjust and perfidious than Turks or heathens. Nevertheless, Christ has a people among these nations, whom he redeemed and washed with his blood—a peculiar people, zealous of good works; they are not of this world, and the world knows them not. These are his disciples indeed. And to these disciples, there are so many commands of non-resistence, patience, forgiveness of offenses, praying for enemies, rendering good for evil, and blessing for cursing, that if these disciples are not to be considered in a two-fold capacity, it is notoriously wicked for them to bear arms and go to war, prosecute any one for smiting or robbing them, suing any man for debt, or applying to any legal office to secure the titles on their lands.

By their two-fold capacity, is intended, first, their being members of Christ’s body, which is the church; and secondly, their being subjects of the government where they reside.

As members of Christ’s body, or kingdom, their weapons are all spiritual. Force and recrimination are forbidden them. Their law is love. Their armor is the word of God for a sword—faith for a shield, and hope for a helmet. Where legal force, and carnal weapons are used among nominal Christians, to convert heathen, punish heretics, establish creeds of faith and forms of worship, collect money, compel attendance on worship, etc. under a religious covert, the commands of Christ to his disciples are broken. If they think they are serving God in it, they know not what manner of spirit they are of.

In the government of Christ among his members, commonly called church discipline, no force or resisting of evil is to be used. The church is to restore such as are overtaken with faults, in the spirit of meekness, warn the unruly, with all the gentleness of Christ—admonish and reject heretics, and cast from among them wicked persons; but church censure extends no farther than non-fellowship. Fines, imprisonments, punishments and civil incapacities, are not imposed by church censure. A declaration of who and what is fellowshipped, and who and what is not fellowshipped, is all that the church is to do.

But, if the desciples of Christ are considered in the second capacity that has been suggested, members of civil society, other things may be said. Civil society ….

That war, famine, and pestilence, have continued their ravages among men, since the introduction of Christianity, as much as they did before, will be generally granted, it is presumed; and the same is true of earthquakes, eruptions, etc. But for Christ, in his dediatorial character, to direct national war, would be meddling with the government of this world, which does not appear to be included in his mission. He did not come into the world to teach men the arts of husbandry, mechanism or science. He gave no code of laws for the government of nations, nor pointed out the best mode of administration. He left no orders, whether all nations should adopt the ancient Theocracy of the Israelites, or whether they should govern themselves as reason and justice dictate. He came into the world with the avowed purpose, “To glorify God on earth—to seek and save that which was lost—to lay down his life for his sheep—to wash sinners from their sins in his own blood—to magnify the law, make an atonement for sin, and bring in everlasting righteousness—to abolish death, and open a new and living way into the kingdom of glory—to save men ay the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost,” etc. Having these great works to finish, (all of which tended to the eternal salvation of the souls of men,) he did not intermeddle with the affairs of this world, but left the wheels of commerce and government to roll on as Providence led the way.

The great silence, however, in the New Testament, about war, has more sifnification than words could have. Had Christ given a precept that, in certain cases, it was the duty of kingdoms and states to wage war, every nation would make such cases their own, though the war which they waged was ever so unjust. Had he, on the other hand, given a precept that every species of war was criminal, the whole would have been exposed by robbery and death, by the cruelty of an individual, or a few, at most. But, although there is no direct precept in the New Testament, for or against national war, yet there are some useful hints given to direct our minds in research.

John was the forerunner of Christ, and his ministry is called “the beginning of the gospel of Christ.” He admitted those to his baptism, who repented of their sins, and gave evidence of their repentance, by bringing forth its fruits. Some of these were soldiers, who asked the divine teacher “what they should do?”  John never suggested to them that a military life was incompatible with the gospel, and that they must quit the sword, if they would follow the Lamb of God who stood among them; but prudently answered them,  “Do violence  to no man, (who is a private citizen,) neither accuse any falsely, (for a pretence to kill him,) and be content with your wages.” If your work was unjust, your wages would be unrighteous; but, while you do your duty, be content with your pay, and not covet more.

A centurion (captain of an hundred men) sent to Christ, requesting him to speak a healing word, that his favorite sick servant might live. The condescending Saviour answered his request—healed his servant—gave him no reproof for bearing the sword—no orders to relinquish the army; but said of him, “ I have not found so great faith in Israel.”

Another centurion we read of, who was a devout man, that feared God with all his house, wh gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. The character given him is excellent; but he had not, as yet heard of the gospel way of salvation. As he was at prayer, he was warned opf God, bu a holy angel, to send for a New Testament preacher; and the preacher was also warned by a vision to go to the centurion, and tell him the way of salvation, and what he ought to do. Peter came, accordingly, and preached to him the forgiveness of sins, in the name of Jesus; and, when the Holy ghost fell on him, and those that were assembled with him, Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord; but gave him no reproof for bearing a military commission—no orders to resign  his command of the Italian band.

The parable of the marriage made for the king’s son, and the dinner made ready, is so self-evident in its meaning, that all interpreters are agreed about it. The king’s son, is Christ. The sumptuous dinner, intends the blessings of grace in the gospel, including forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The first bidden guests were the Jews, who made light of it, and murdered the servants of the king: they both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets—persecuted the apostles—pleased not God, and were contrary unto all men. For their opposition to the truth, and malice prepense against the messengers of it, He (the king) sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city. That these armies intend the Roman legions, the murderers, the Jews, and the city, Jerusalem, there seems to be no real doubt. This event took place more than three score years after the beginning of the Christian era. Here, then is one instance in which the Almighty made use of war, after the gospel dispensation took place; and wars and rumors of wars have been in the world ever since. Many of the sore calamities, which God inflicts on wicked nations, (spoken of in the book of Revelations,) are evidently effected by the scourge of war.

But one thing should be particularly noticed, viz., that war was never appointed by God, by an original statute. Laws of civil government—putting away wives—war and such like precepts, were not from the beginning. As they all presuppose SIN in creatures, they could not have been appointed until sin had taken place. But after rebellious creatures had kindled the fire of hatred and war, the Almighty varied his precepts to meet their condition, and of course appointed war, which rebellious creatures had made, to punish them for their rebellion. This was the case in Old Testament times, and is as true in these days.

The Old Testament seems to be a kind of accommodation of God to fallen barbarous men, containing the best rules that the condition and general good of the world would admit of, having its special bearings towards the Jews.

The New Testament is not fraught with a code of civil laws, or national maxims, but has the salvation of souls as its object.

It appears, therefore, proper to examine the rise and rage of war among men, and whether any or all wars can be justified, on the principle of eternal right and wrong. Acknowledging this, however, in our examination, that the principle of eternal right and wrong, like a golden cord, runs through the Old and New Testaments, and shines with a thousand times more effulgence, than human reason can paint it with.

It is reasonable to conclude that the parent of all rational beings allots to each of them a certain degree of national right and independence, which no other individual, nor many individuals, in concert, ought to deprive him of. If this was not the case, individuals would never feel guilt for what they do, nor be accountable to their Maker for their deeds; but society must bear the whole. But as guilt preys upon individuals, for overt acts, and as every one must give an account of himself to his Maker, the argument is conclusive that each has a measure of original right, of whie he cannot justly be deprived. In this measure of natural right, exists life, liberty and property. Should one individual, therefore, be attacked by another individual, or a number of them in connection, in quest of life, liberty or property, the injured individual has a just right to use his weapon to defend himself, and if blood and life are lost in the contest, the guilt falls upon the assailants.

If no resistence can be justly offered to repel violence, it would follow of course, that one or two individuals might arm themselves, and destroy whole nations.

This kind of assault began with the first men that ever was born of a woman. His works were evil, and he slew his brother, and has ever since been called a murderer.

In process of time, individuals found it necessary to form into collective bodies, to withstand the aggressions of daring individuals and banditti. And what was unjust or expedient among individuals at first, became unjust or expedient among these collective bodies, now called governments and nations of earth.

As an individual who assaults and kills another, is a guilty murderer, s the nation that wages war, out of vain glory, from enmity, through covetousness, or from any other motive than self-defence, is guilty of murder, and will be treated by the King of kings as such. For notwithstanding any use that the Almighty may make of war, as a scourge to wicked nations, yet the nation that plunges voluntarily into it, is always criminal. Let all unrighteous, offensive wars cease, and there cannot be any righteous defensive wars on earth: for, if there is no assailant, there can be no defendant.

When one nation or government encroaches upon the territory or property of another government, dictates the other about her laws or rulers, or sheds the blood and enslaves the persons of her citizens, whether it is done under a proclamation of war or not, it is offensive war. And after the injured government has remonstrated the exercised all becoming patience, if a cessation and restitution do not follow, a defensive war seems not only justifiable but imperious; for the nation that does not contend for its own right, contends for the wrong of the encroaching nation.

Although Christianity, in its purest state, was not national, but personal and ecclesiastic, yet it is now become a national characteristic, to distinguish those nations where Christianity is professed, from Pagans, Turks and Jews.

Granting the propriety of the title, (which in fact is very disputable,) these nations, as bodies politic, may wage war upon the same footing as other nations, and on no other, viz., to defend their lives, liberty and property from the hands of those who assault them without cause. Nothing can be more horrid and wicked, than for these Christian nations to form their crusades and holy wars to convert the heathen, violently take away the land of the savages and make slaves of the prisoners.

But supposing there was a kingdom or commonwealth, of not only nominal Christians, but of real disciples of Jesus, whose hearts and practices were as perfect as this state of the world admits of, would it be lawful and duty for them to proclaim war, on any account?

This question is predicated upon a supposition which has never existed, it is presumed, since Christianity was introduced among men. The tares and the wheat have grown together, and will continue to do so until the harvest. Some colonies, however, have been settled by companies that made some advances towards it; but Roger Williams, Mr. Davenport and William Penn, with their respective associates, in Rhode Island, New Haven and Pennsylvania found so many tares among themselves, that they were obliged to have civil law (which is always sanctioned by the sword) to govern by. And notwithstanding Williams and Penn were great favorites of the savages, yet those colonies were involved in war.”

There is no doubt but many of those good people, who condemn national war of every description, are sincere in their profession; but should there be a commonwealth, in which all the leading characters, who control the destinies of bodies politic, were real saints, and conscience  bound against all war, should that commonwealth be invaded by a hostile army, of less physical strength than the commonwealth possessed, is there any doubt but what the citizens of said commonwealth would sincerely change their opinion? Would they not be guilty of neglecting the means which were in their hands, to defend themselves from the wrong of others, if they did not? Could not the most pious saint meet the hostile foe, in such a case, with the high praises of God in his mouth, and a two edged sword in his hand? Could he not do as a venerable old man did at Deerfield, in an Indian war? Said he, “I met an Indian, and I loved him; but to defend my right from his wrong, after praying the Lord to have mercy on his soul, I shot a bullet through his heart.”

We may reason from a unit to a universe: that which is right or wrong in an individual, would be the same in a government. Such kind of defensive war, is the only war that can be justified upon the principle of eternal right; all other wars are robbery, piracy and murder. And yet, the misanthropy and barbarity of fallen men are so great, that wars waged in avarice, on purpose to plunder—in ambition to rise high in esteem—or through hatred to a rival, are called honorable wars; and the more they can slaughter, the more splendid is the battle; while those who fall of their own, are said to be covered with glory; and, if they succeed to deprive the nation with whom they are at war, of all its sovereignty and rights, Te Deum is chanted, and the leaders of the war are led in triumph.

Military force, whether armed with staves, stones, battle-axes, swords or fire-arms, should never be called forth, but to repel invasions, suppress insurrections, and enforce the laws. The words of Washington, in his last will and testament, breathe forth the spirit of a good citizen. In bequeathing his sword to his kinsman, he adds, “Never draw it but in defence of your contryu’s rights; and, when drawn, never sheath it until the object is attained.”

It is a melancholy thought, that, in all ages, men, as individuals and as nations, have been so ungrateful, covetous, and full of misanthropy, that justice and goodness could not restrain them without the scourge of severity; but, when the King of kings gives orders to “loose the four angels, which are prepared to kill the third part of men,” it is “in righteousness—HE doth judge and make war.” So individuals, in prosecuting other individuals, and nations, in warring with other nations, should do it out of love to right, and not from a spirit of hatred.

The man who prosecutes his neighbor before a legal bar, does, in fact, declare war with him, as much as one nation does with another when it commences military hostilities. How happy it would be for the world, if there was so much virtue in it, that no kind of war would be necessary! If every man and every nation would do right to their neighbors, there would not and could not be any war on earth. But the reasoning is irrefutable, that those individuals who conduct in a manner that justifies a legal prosecution against them, when collected together in a political body, would conduct so as to justify a war of hostilities against them.

The path is plain before us: let no individual work ill to his neighbor, and let no nation be unjust to another, and war will cease forever.

As things are managed at present, if not in individual, yet a frw control the destinies of each nation. The mass of the people are so ignorant that they know not why war is proclaimed, or so circumstanced that they cannot help it. In such cases, some fight for a living, and others because they are forced to. To conquer or to be conquered leaves them in the same predicament. This is a sore evil under the sun, but it is common among men.

The religion of Jesus, in its genuine course, fills men with such meekness and philanthropy, that, if it was universally possessed, there would be no prosecution at law, nor any wars among men. But, when Christianity is prostituted, to be the characteristic of an unhallowed nation—a principle of state policy—a test to office—a footstool to promotion—a sinecure to religious orders, and a piece of merchandise, it ever will be, as it ever has been, followed by war and slaughter.

Among nations, as among individuals, it frequently happens that each party has injured the other; and, if they plunge into war in that predicament, it is like the potsherds of the earth striving with the potsherds of the earth. Innocency has nothing to plead; justice has nothing to hope. If they mutually make confession and restoration, war will be prevented. If one party only makes all reasonable concessions, and the other party makes none, but rushes into war, the offence lies on the side of the last party, and the first is the defendant.

In this wrong world, right does not always take place. “Truth faileth in the streets, and equity cannot enter;” hence, victory and triumph often attend the basest tyrant, while the unoffending are trodden down like the mire of the street. The king of Babylon conquered and subjugated more than twenty-five kingdoms (see Jeremiah XXV.) and made them drink the bitter cup. The Lord used him as a scourge to those wicked nations; but, as they had done the king of Babylon no harm, he was wicked in his offensive wars upon them; and, therefore, in his turn, the king of Sheshach (Babylon) was made to drink after the.

RIGHT will finally take place. Though the contest between truth and error, right and wrong, is long, and, to appearance, very doubtful in its issue, yet truth and right must triumph at last.

END

THE PARCHMENT. AN ALLEGORY

An essay on pages 435-36 of The Writings of John Leland
Edited by L.F. Greene, ARNO PRESS & THE NEW YOUR TIMES, New  York, 1969,
Reprinted 2010 by Local Church Bible Publishers, www.LocalChurchBiblePublishers.com

As Meslucius was digging in the earth after golden ore, he found an iron chest, which, to all appearance, had lain there a number of centuries. Opening the chest, he found therein a parchment, preserved entire from the waste of ages, and every line thereon written legibly plain. In composition, it exceeded everything he had ever seen. The boldness o the figures—the pomp and sublimity of the style, surpassed all the writings of the oriental regions; but in detailing facts, and describing moral precepts, such artless simplicity appeared, that a child would unavoidably feel the force of the narratives and injunctions. By the face of the parchment, it appeared that it was written by a number of hands, impelled by one and the same spirit. It detailed events which had taken place before the writers lived, in part; and gave an account of the condition of the world, in the days when they lived and wrote; and, likewise, foretold what future events would take place. But, what was most surprising, it gave an account of a certain disease which had raged among men, and how they found a cure. It particularly pointed out a plague that would prevail at the time when Meslucius found the chest, an prescribed a certain, and the only balsam which would restore to health. On the whole, Meslucius reasoned as follows: “At what time, or by whom , this parchment was written, I cannot ascertain. Whether the great events therein related, took place or not, is uncertain. And whether those future events will ever emerge, I know not. But one thing I know, it gives a true account of the condition which the world is now in; with a number of peculiar circumstances, which puzzle me to ascribe to any calculation, short of the foreknowledge of God.

“The plague foretold in the parchment, I not only see raging with all its horrors among all my acquaintance, but feel its ravages in myself. All medicines have proved unavailing, and I will try the prescription of the parchment.”

Meslucius made application of the balsam, and received immediate cure. He then recommended it to others, and all who touched I were made perfectly whole. After this, neither Meslucius, nor any who were healed, entertained ay unconquerable scruple of the truth of all the facts related in the parchment. The intention of this allegory is easy to conceive of.

The present inhabitants of the earth, came into the world seventeen hundred years since the last part of the sacred Parchment (the Bible) was written; at any rate, all of us found it in existence, at the time when we were first capable of knowing. Let it have been written by whom, and at what dates soever—or let it have been preserved by whom, and by what means, we neither know nor imagine; still, one thing we know, the Bible does exist. And is there any reason in man, or any book written by man, that reveals precepts equal to those in the Bible—that describes a mode of life as harmless and useful as the sacred Parchment? The plague of moral evil, in all its stages and windings, is drawn with more than human pencil. Both flattery and effrontery are avoided, and naked truth shines in all her virgin beauty.

After all the reasonings of men, guilt, with her iron talons, seizes their consciences; nor can they evade the assault with all their vain surmises. Where then shall a guilty sinner find relief? The light of nature, philosophy, and state policy are all silent: neither of them can five a gleam of hope beyond the grave, nor show on forgiven. But the gospel of Jesus, is loaded with such blessings as guilty sinners need. Yes, through the blood of the cross, and the resurrection of Christ, pardon of sin is administered and eternal life made known. When sinners are made sensible of their pollution, and feel the plague of sin, on applying to the Saviour, and receiving the balsam of his grace, they obtain a perfect cure. All whoever apply, are received; all who look do live; all who touch, are made whole. Though Christ crucified, is to the Jews a stumbling-block, to the Greeks foolishness, to the men of worldly wisdom scorn; yet to tem who believe, he is the wisdom of God, and the power of God. O! that all my dear countrymen might apply to this balm; then would they joyfully believe in the truth of the scriptures.

ON SABBATICAL LAWS

An essay on pages 440-446 of The Writings of John Leland
Edited by L.F. Greene, ARNO PRESS & THE NEW YOUR TIMES, New  York, 1969,
Reprinted 2010 by Local Church Bible Publishers, www.LocalChurchBiblePublishers.com

The Mosaic institution, which formed the tribes into a theocracy, was very different from the government of any other nation, and from the government of Gospel churches.

The Israelites had no legislature, but received their laws from Jehovah; they had no executive, God was their king. Judges they had, but no salaries provided for them; of course their civil list did not cost them a cent per annum.

Exclusive of their “divers washings and carnal ordinances,” which were typical of good things, they had many laws to regulate   them as a body politic, peculiarly adapted to their circumstances, and binding on no other nation. Their laws for trying jealousy by bitter water; for deciding the cause between the man-slayer and avenger of blood, at the gates of the cities of refuge; against taking usury; to oblige a man to marry the widow of his deceased brother; to release the lands at the jubilee, etc., no other nation has seen cause to adopt, nor felt themselves bound to obey. The incompleteness of the political part of the Mosaic code to govern other nations by, requires no other proof, but just to observe, that the people were forbidden to have commerce with other nations, of course had no commercial laws. Any laws, therefore, which the Jews had to enforce the observance of the Sabbath, or punish the Sabbath-breaker, give no grounds to Christians to exercise like force. The king of Israel gave that people their laws and orders, but Christ has given laws for the regulation of Christianity. Now, if there be any account in the New Testament, that Jesus called upon the rulers of state, to   make and enforce laws, to oblige the people to keep the first day of the week holy, and fine or punish them if they did not; such an account would be direct in point, but such an account we have not.

It has been noticed, in a foregoing page, that the evidence was so clear, that the first Christians assembled in course on the first day of the week, that it hardly admitted of a doubt, and the evidence is about as clear, that it was done voluntarily, as a matter of prudence, without any divine command; hence a disregard of the day was not esteemed a matter of offense. In Galatians, iv., 10, 11, Paul reproves the Galatians for observing days, months, times and years, as the Jews did; for Jewish times, no doubt, are intended. But in Romans, xiv., 5, a day is spoken of, which some regarded, and some regarded not, but none of them were reproved by Paul. It is probable the day here spoken of was the Lord’s day, for if it had been a ceremonial day of the Jews, he would have reproved them for regarding it, as he did the Galatians; but, in the case before us, a regard, or disregard to the day, was not to be a cause of judging and setting at nought a brother, whom the Lord accepted. If, then, a disregard to the Lord’s day was not censurable by the church, can we possibly suppose that it ought to be punished by the state?

For the first eighteen centuries of time, there was no government among men but patriarchal, which took its rise in nature. Next, a more extensive government was formed, by mutual agreement, (Genesis xi., 3, 4,) but, by the address of an ambitious hunter, the government was soon turned into a kingdom. The government of the tribes of Israel was a theocracy (from Theos, God,) because they received all their laws from God. The government of the Christian church is from heaven, and not from men.

Among the nations of the world in general, that government which does not rise in compact, is usurpation and tyranny. When men associate, it is for specific purposes, viz., to protect life, liberty and property, and not to prepare them for heaven. Souls and conscience are inalienable. The gracious an ungracious, all belong to the body politic, and are equally eligible to posts of authority. The work of the legislature is to make laws for the security of life, liberty and property, and leave religion to the consciences of individuals. If the sacred code, in the New Testament, is not sufficient to govern Christians in all their religious affairs, either the wisdom of goodness of Christ is deficient.

Much confusion arises in government, when sins and crimes are blended together. Every state crime is a moral evil or sin, (provided the laws of state are legitimate,) but every sin is not a crime to be punished by law. Malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, pride, impenitence, unbelief, etc., are sins, but not crimes. Suppose, then, that a disregard of the first day of the week is a sin as flagrant as enmity, bigotry or ill-will, yet it is not a crime to be punished by law; for I would here request an instance where Jesus, or the inspired apostles, ever called on the civil rulers to punish Sabbath breakers, or those who disregarded the first day of the week. If there is such an instance, let it be pointed to; but, if not, let clamor cease. When God, by Moses, gave law to the tribes, they had no king, nor any thing that looked like one, but the Almighty, knowing what would take place about four hundred and fifty years afterwards, gave them the character and administration of a king: (Deuteronomy xvii., 14, 20).

When Christianity was first set up in the world, it was small. The power of making laws was in the hands of the enemies of Christianity. Laws to guard the Christian religion could not have been expected, but Christ knew what would come. He knew that about three hundred years thereafter Christianity would rise triumph and; why did he not then give some precept, at least some small thing, that when Christianity should become so general, that then the rulers of state should make laws to establish Christianity, and force the observance of the first day of the week? We look in vain to find any thing like it in the New Testament, and it is generally confessed, that when the event did take place—when Constantine the Great established Christianity in the empire, and forced an observance of the first day of the week, Christianity was disrobed of her virgin beauty, and prostituted to the unhallowed principle of state policy, where it has remained in a criminal commerce until the present moment.

Men of little reading, and less thought, conclude, that if there is no law of state to force the observance of the Sabbath, (for so they name the first day of the week,) it would entirely run out, and not be regarded at all. Why did it not then run out in the three first centuries? How came it to be regarded all that time as purely as it has ever been since? There were no sabbatical laws during that period. Why has it not run out in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York? They have no holy laws in those states, and yet the Sabbath, so called, is not run out, but meeting-houses and public worship in those states are not inferior to those of New England. Those states abound with Quakers, who never thank a legislature for making religious laws, and yet they keep the first day of the week as regularly as the Presbyterians, and the fifth day of the week beside.

The Jews, and some of the Christians, would keep the seventh day—most of the Christians would keep Sunday—the Turks would hallow Friday—infidels no day. Shall that sect, which is most numerous and ambitious, direct the scepter of government to interpose, and force all to submit to one standard, and fine, punish and burn non-conformists? Such has been the course of things, it must be confessed, but does not human nature shudder at the thought, and the spirit of Christianity flee from the sight! Let each sect enjoy their own rights and freedom, in respect of the God whom they wish to adore, the days on which they would pay that adoration, and the modes of performing it. If one sect has the liberty of worshipping whom, when and as they please, why should that sect wish to force other sects to worship whom, when and as they would not?

Legal force is not the armor with which the Captain of our salvation clothes the soldiers of the cross. An honest appeal to the reasons and judgments of men, is all the force that Christians should use to induce others to believe in and worship God as they themselves do. All the punishment that pious Christians inflict on the irreligious, is pity, forgiveness, and prayer, unless the irreligious man breaks out into overt acts, in which case he is to be punished according to his crime. If labor or amusements, on the first day of the week, may be considered as the foulest sins, yet they were no crimes to be punished by law, for the first three hundred years after Christi, nor are they, at this time, crimes in several of the states in our country, and, if laws were fixed as they should be, they would not be crimes any where. If those who keep the first day of the week, in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ, believe themselves to be right, (as they have cause to,*) let them “beseech others, by the mercies of God, to present their bodies a living sacrifice to God, which is a reasonable service,” (Romans, xii, 1,) and not make use of legal force to do it, which will only prejudice others against the day and against themselves.

Where Jews (of which there are eight millions in existence) and seventhdayrian Christians reside, they must either sacrifice conscience, or lose a day in each week. The majority of Christians in our country keep the first day of the week; but if there was a majority who kept the seventh day, and should oblige all others to regard the day, would those who now make the law and plead for its utility, bear the privation of one-seventh part of their labor, or change their day? If they did the first, they would justly complain of partial oppression—if the last, discover the rottenness of their consciences.

It has been observed before, that government should guarantee the rights of conscience to all; consequently if an individual or an assembly should be interrupted by assault, on Sunday, Monday, or any other day or night, either at the meeting-house, a private house, market, field or grove, where he or they should be conscientiously paying devotion to God, the law ought to be open, as it is, to punish the assailants, as disturbers of the peace; for the design of the law is, to punish him who works ill to his neighbor. This law is sufficient for all, every day of the week. It is no assault upon one man’s right for another to refuse to unite with him in his devotion. Those who keep the first day of the week, will work in their fields and travel roads, where Jews assemble in their synagogues, and sevendayrians meet in their meeting-houses on Saturday, and never suspect that they are interrupting them in their worship; why, then, should it be looked upon an interruption for sevendayrians, or those who regard no day, to work in the field or drive their team in the road upon the first day? Yet, in many places, tything-men, or wardens, are chosen as legal officers to prevent labor and recreation on the first day of the week. When I see men turn their backs upon public worship, and pursue their labor or recreation in preference to the service of God, either on Sunday or on any other day, my heart beats in poetic strains,

                         “O might they at last, with sorrow return,
The pleasures to taste, for which they were born,
The Saviour receiving, the happiness prove
The joy of believing, the heaven of love.”

Or breaks out in the language of the Hebrew prophet, “Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” Or vents itself in the words of Paul, “I pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.”

But when I see a man with the insignia of his office, arrest a fellow-man for non-attendance on worship, or labor or amusement on Sunday, it strains every fibre of my soul. Who that ever read the New Testament, which describes the meekness, patience, forbearance and sufferings of the first Christians, would ever have expected to see those who call themselves Christians, avail themselves of such weapons to suppress vice and support Christian morality? The spirit seems to be the same that influenced Peter to draw his sword and cut off the ear of one who did not reverence Christ; or, like that which stimulated James and John to command fire to come down from heaven and consume those who would not receive the blessed Saviour. The first was ordered to put up his sword; and the last were rebuked, with “ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” It reminds me on an instance which took place with one of Burgoyne’s men, who professed to be a zealous Christian. The man, hearing an American speak irreverently of religion, exclaimed, “How I hate him—I will kill him, because he does not love my blessed Jesus.” About two centuries past, the spirit of witchcraft and witchburning ran through a considerable part of the world, like a raging plague. The rulers used to reason thus: “God will burn wizards and witches in the next world, and we who are God’s representatives, must burn them in this world.” But is is though that the following reasoning would have been better: “God is merciful to the poor, deluded creatures, and lets them live, and we will imitate him.” So in regard to those improperly called Sabbath breakers. If they commit overt acts—if they assault the life, liberty or property of any man, let them be punished by law. But if their only error is not worshipping where, when, and as you do, your only weapon is fair reasoning with them. If God lets them live, though in disregard of Sunday solemnities, let not man kill them.

But how must a tything-man feel? The day he conceives to be holy: no civil or economical business must be done on the sacred day; devotion must employ his time and his thoughts; and yet his office is civil; he receives his authority from the acts of the legislature, and not from the acts of the apostles, and his oath obliges him to profane the day which he conceives to be holy, by performing civil actions, for he has no authority to officiate, except on the time which is holy. When he rises on Sunday morning, instead of having his mind disentangled from earthly things, he is watching the fields and the roads; when going to meeting, instead of watching to prepare his heart for the solemnities of the day, he is watching how others behave; when at meeting, his eyes and his ears, which should be open alone to God, and to his word, are constantly looking and harking to prevent the errors of others. And thus, by law, he is obliged to do evil that good may come. However others may seek to regulate religious societies by law and by force, to me a man cannot give greater evidence that he is ignorant of the precepts and destitute of the spirit of Christianity, than by calling the aid of the civil arm to legalize religious days and modes, and punish those who will not submit.

I shall close this part of the subject, with a few reflections on some late events. When the British, (who are called the bulwark of religion,) landed near Saybrook, it was Sunday. The good people of Connecticut would not assemble to drive them off, because it was holy time, until the enemy had burnt the shipping at Pettipague. The God whom they served did not protect them from the depredations of the old “Bulwark.” But on Lake Champlain, the “Bulwark” attacked McDonough on Sunday. McDonough solemnly prayed for success, and then fought with astonishing bravery. The signal victory which he obtained over the “Bulwark,” together with what was achieved by the land forces, under General Macomb, have met with the thanks and rewards of more states than one. I have not yet heard, however, whether the pious apathy of Connecticut, or the profane heroism of the northern fleet and army, meets with the most applause from those who conceive Sunday to be holy time. It is highly probable, however, that there were no tything-men aboard McDonough’s fleet.

The public assembling of Christians for religious worship, is certainly appointed in the New Testament by precept, and abundantly by example. And, as has been noticed, the evidence is nearly conclusive, that the first Christians generally assembled on the first day of the week, not with a view that it was of moral obligation—not in obedience to the fourth command of the Decalogue, which enjoined the observance and rest of the seventh day—nor in obedience to any command given them by Christ, but voluntarily, as a prudential thing, to perpetuate the event of Christ’s resurrection. Their public assembling, however, was not confined to the first day of the week, but daily, in the temple and other places, both day and night, as opportunity served, they assembled for Christian worship. There were some among them, who did not discover any advantages in their assembling on the first day more than on any other day, and, as the day was not divinely appointed, those who regarded it, did not judge and set at nought those who regarded it not, but left every man to be fully persuaded in his own mind.

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SUMMARY

1. God, for once, rested on the seventh day.

2. No proof that God commanded men to rest on the seventh day during the patriarchal age.

3. About two thousand four hundred years after creation, the holy Sabbath was enjoined on the tribes of Israel.

4. The fourth commandment was not moral, but absolute.

5 The Sabbath was not a day of public worship, but of rest.

6. After the return of the Jews from Babylon, of their own accord they built synagogues, and assembled in them every Sabbath, to read and hear the law of Moses and the prophets, for which they had no command, and received no reproof.

7. The Gentiles were never reproved for Sabbath-breaking.

8. The first day of the week was never appointed by Christ, to be kept different from other days.

9. Proof, nearly conclusive, that the first Christians paid particular attention to the first day of the week; those who did not regard the day, were not judged and set at nought by those who regarded it.

10. The observance of the first day of the week, perpetuates the resurrection of Christ.

11. The appointment of religious days, no article of legislation.

12. The observance of the first day of the week was never enforced by law until the reign of Constantine, in the beginning of the fourth century.

13. Tythin-men are obliged, by their oaths, to profane the time which they conceive to be holy.

14. The public assembling of Christians for religious worship, enjoined by New Testament precept, and abundant examples.