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From such teaching as this, illustrated as it was by his own practical commentary living and dying, the first teachers of Christianity might well conclude, that, in enforcing the duty of civil obedience, they were only echoing the precepts of their Divine Master. The force and value of such instruction are enhanced to our minds by the knowledge of the circumstances under which it was given. The early church lay under the peculiar suspicion of being hostile to the civil magistracy. The Jews, who formed a large part of the first converts to Christianity, had been religiously taught that the sceptre belonged to the issue of David's line, and that any other king than a child of Abraham must be a usurper. An easy inference from such principles would be, that resistance to the political powers was an act of devotion to God, and rebellion was only heroic piety. And these principles [9/10] were not, in fact, without their fruit. About fifteen years before the beginning of the Savior's ministry; there had arisen, in Palestine, an impostor, called Judas of Galilee; who maintained that it was unlawful to render tribute to the usurping Roman government; and claimed for his system, a spirituality which set it aloof from all political inquisition or control. His system was soon exploded, and the term "Galilean" became a name of suspicion and reproach. When, therefore, Jesus Christ came forth from Galilee, proclaiming a new and spiritual kingdom, it was natural that he should incur the odium attached to this association of facts, and be mistaken for an abettor of the old political heresy. This circumstance explains the question touching the tribute money; and the reason of the common suspicion of his character and designs. Now, when we are informed that the title of Galileans was commonly applied to the early Christians, even to the time of the emperor Julian, thus identifying them with the disciples of a religious school which refused subjection to every political power; we can perceive the peculiar pertinence of the Apostolic injunctions of civil obedience. Indeed, it was deemed so essential to the reputation, as well as the truth of Christianity, that it should not be confounded with the profane and revolutionary scheme which it was accused of perpetuating; [10/11] that we find the early apologists for Christianity levelling some of their strongest refutations against the specific charge of its seditious tendency. [* V. Chrysostom, Hom. on Rom. 13.]
But another suggestion arises; How far does the power of government extend? Must it leave each citizen to act out his separate individuality; to pursue his happiness according to his own views of happiness, and of its method; or shall government prescribe the mode, as well as point out the end? Shall it enforce its prescriptions with authority, and bind the whole nation to a systematic education, in both mind and morals; in religion, no less than in learning? These are questions which our practice has not fully solved; but whose answer may be inferred from our text. "He is the minister of God to thee for good." It would reasonably appear to belong to such an office, not to leave the highest good to the pursuit of each separate citizen; but to mark out the path of pursuit, and lead him to engage in it.
The divinity of government empowers it to stand up in advance of the people; and to direct them in whatsoever affects their best interests. It is the state's organic judgment and will, its eye and hand, to secure for the state, by both its wisdom and its power, the highest weal of man. It should, therefore, constrain the whole education of the people, and specially enforce the sober, solemn teachings of religion. On this [38/39] point, unless I mistake, our national practice needs a corrective. It has been remarked, of the two great states of ancient times, that Roman education was a part of the government; and the Grecian government a part of its education. [*Maurice's Lectures on Nat. Education, Lec. 1.] In this respect, our own system bears an evident resemblance to the Grecian. Our polity is the embodiment of our philosophy; and our philosophy is the expression of our national habits and training. But, in the Grecian education, we discover two distinct methods, depending, for their vitality and power, on different principles. The Spartan method was made effective by the pervading principle of control; the Athenian drew its efficiency from incitement. The former was a system of restraint; the latter, of development.
A glance at our national peculiarities shows how nearly kindred they are to the Athenian characteristics. We are a commercial people as well as they; restless, busy and enterprising; fathoming all depths; measuring all distances; and testing all the powers of nature and art. Our education, instead of resting on the principle of restraint, aims supremely at successful effort. We plant a ladder at every post of honor. We widen the paths of social distinction. We lay open the arena of political strife, and give the crown to the [39/40] best wrestler. The life of our education is incitement; its result is development. It is an education which makes much of man, the individual. It grows naturally from our theory of individualism. It is admirably adapted both to stimulate and indulge the energies of an energetic people. But the education of simple development is not the education for fallen man. It is based upon a grand fallacy of theology and of human nature. If all the human attributes were pure and virtuous; if the germ of man's spiritual character had no worm of evil gnawing its vitality; if all that is necessary were, merely to give Heaven's light and warmth to powers whose natural growth is heavenward; this would be unquestionably the best education. It would be the training of Heaven itself. But since the fall has depraved us, and our faculties and affections have suffered a bias from that shock, no experiment could be more unwise than an education of simple incitement. Even if we aimed to develope only the better parts of human nature, leaving its perversities untouched; yet life is full enough of unholy stimulants, and the insurgent instincts of wickedness are strong enough of themselves to develope all the evil of our natures at an equal pace, to say the least, with our virtues. That is the only wise training which nurtures the tardy good, and fetters the [40/41] swift evil, of our humanity. The radical want of our educational system is that of restraint.
And this is no second-rate influence. It is the only mould of a really heroic character. All the noblest attributes of man are laid in his control of his own nature. Few men were ever self-denying, who had not been trained to denial in their childhood. The system of development may produce characters of marked individuality; of surpassing energy; of high mental or physical prowess. It may engender independence of feeling, and impatience of tyranny, and a vaulting ambition, and the jealous pride of self-respect. But, in all this, if it be exclusive, it only insulates each man, by strengthening his biases, making him less like his neighbor, and developing his peculiarities into offensive singularities. He is more self-indulgent, less social, less fitted for the accommodation of society, less considerate of the common interest, less observant of law, and a worse citizen. His moral qualities, the source of all motive-power, prone to evil, and, by this system, unhindered, must inevitably bend his other energies, with all their trained strength of development, to a course of wayward indulgence and inveterate self-will.
If this be not our present character, its germinant signs may be detected in all the departments of social [41/42] influence and training; from the nursery, through the schoolhouse and the college, up to the Commonwealth. There is a premature development of self-will, an early pride, a jealous insubordination, a want of reverence for authority, which are neither wholesome nor encouraging. What their finished work may be on the national character, and through how many generations these qualities will run, gathering force and aggravation before they explode the corporate unity of the nation, is foreign to my purpose to forecast. We have not yet realized it; perhaps, because we have not survived the influences of an education into which discipline was allowed to enter. But let the future be wary and watchful for these consequences. Be it ours to obviate the cause. The plain remedy is found in the principle of restraint, exerted upon the will and the propensities of the citizen, from his childhood, upwards. It is a cogent and wholesome power. It teaches self-denial; the love of order and of law; filial reverence to authority; and that submission which, as Bishop Berkeley says, is "the cement of society." [* Minute Philosopher: Works, Vol. II, p. 14.] It curbs the salient propensities; strikes off offensive peculiarities; engenders the sympathy of a common life; and, by directing all wills to one central authority, it creates a national unity and compactness, which [42/43] is not only proof against invasion, but an equal preventive of insurrection. It implies the true, ancient sentiment, of patriotism "for our altars and our hearths;" a sentiment that halts on one foot when you take away its religious element, and leave no altars; or, what is the same thing, no reverence for their divinity. It is but half a patriotism, at last. If the principle of restraint were exclusive, or strongly paramount, in our education, I admit that it would produce only the mechanical uniformity of Spartan character, or the stolid, impregnable hardness of the Russian. But, when combined with the system of development, gathering all the energies of individual character, as they are brought into lively play by incitement; and banding them together by a common subordination to law and order; and thus adding to the sum of individual energies the power of a corporate life, it would seem to present the theory of a perfect national education. There would seem to be no pitch of grandeur which we may not reasonably aspire to, and safely reach. It is vain, in our day, to ground this rule of restraint on any other than a religious basis. This want of our system is philosophically met by the scriptural theory of government, and by nothing else. 2b1af7f3a8