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In love of usefulness, to bring
God's gifts to bless and help our neighbour,
When serving God in loving labour.
God-joined the two should never part.
To Him whose love flows on for ever;
Must surely make our lives still brighter.
Love, Truth, and Joy, combine with Duty.
HUMAN AUTHORITY, IN THE STATE, IN SOCIETY, AND IN THE CHURCH.
I. IN THE STATE.
F. VON MULER, speaking of Goethe, says: "Men of genius are prone to wander beyond the boundaries of reality. In their endeavours to find new and stimulant food for the sensibilities, they often disdain the narrow limits of social order; and, devoted with one-sided exclusiveness to the ideal, neglect the study of the actual world and of the obligations it imposes." Unhappily this characteristic is not confined to men of genius, but we find it acting as an incentive to disorder in men who can lay no claim to special gifts of any kind. It is every
where alike, from the House of Commons to the humblest home, and from genius to imbecility; and wherever it appears it introduces strife and disunion.
In these papers it is not the writer's intention to teach passive submission to "the narrow limits of social order," where submission would be hurtful; nor to advocate conformity to "the obligations which the actual world imposes," where conformity is a hindrance and not a help to social advancement. No man is justified in giving passive obedience to laws that are manifestly unjust, nor in passively submitting to a government whose impositions are purely despotic. We have duties towards everything which is bad, not less than towards everything which is good. Towards things that are good our duty is love shall we therefore conclude that the converse is true, and boldly assert that towards things that are evil our duty is hatred? The question is easier asked than answered. In theory the converse is a charming doctrine; in practice no man can stand by it. Good and evil, in social and national life, are not fixed terms; that is, what is good or evil to one man or nation may not be to another. It is perfectly true that we ought not to love anything that we know is not good: yet we must often tolerate many things that are not good for the sake of others. In this world our choice very often lies between the smaller of two evils. Half a loaf is better than none. And the proverb that says, Never throw away dirty water till you are sure of clean, contains good counsel. When we cannot get sweeping reforms, the choice very often lies between a small reform or none; and the whole of our conduct is a choice between being imperfect to a small or to a great degree. No man can live out his ideal; no man is as good as he wishes to be he must therefore choose in everything between a little good, less good, or none. We may hate all evil in a sense, but not in the vulgar acceptation of the term, and, as a result, fall foul of everything that does not reach the absolute. The truth is, if man had his evils violently taken from him, he would be as one dead, and his life to his own thinking would cease. While, therefore, no man ought to give passive submission to laws that seem hurtful, yet his resistance is always to be tempered with discretion.
Here a word upon expediency—a term which in some minds is the synonym of all baseness. It is not intended in these pages to advocate the use of expediency as commonly understood. The word, however, has several meanings, just as a knife may have several uses. If the fool uses the knife for an evil purpose, that is surely no reason why
the wise man should not use the knife at all. Because the fool uses a knife to injure his neighbour, therefore I will not use the knife at all, is far too often the logic even of New Churchmen. It is, however, neither wise nor well to allow passion to mislead reason; though expediency has a bad name, yet in a certain sense we can ill spare its service. The word expediency means haste, despatch, expedition, adventure. Generally speaking, it means fitness, or suitableness to effect an intended purpose; and in an evil sense it means aiming at selfish or inferior good at the expense of that which is higher; self-interest, self-seeking. In the last sense no good man will regard expediency with favour, either in the state, in society, or in the Church; but in its best sense no man can do without expediency in any relation of life. It is a simple necessity of existence; it is the first condition of usefulness among men ; it rests on the spirit of kindly adaptation to cases and circumstances, as seen in giving milk to babes and meat to strong men, as illustrated in cutting one's coat according to the cloth, in giving easy lessons to the simple and hard ones to the learned, in adapting institutions to suit men's growing needs, and as seen in the works of the Divine Providence. In its evil sense expediency will be studiously deprecated; but in its best sense as a necessary scaffold to the building of a house, as a spirit of adaptation to human requirements, illustrated in the use of spectacles to aid defective vision, and woollen clothes for winter days, expediency will be regarded as the first constituent of human society and progressive life.
If human authority is not an unavoidable necessity of order, progress, and well-being in general, as much as wheels are necessary to a locomotive, we shall do well to discard it. In these papers I shall not regard human authority merely as an expedient, but as an imperative necessity, and, though it be contemptuously called by odious names, I shall not forget Juliet's comforting philosophy to Romeo,
"That which we call a rose,
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Having met some of the objections which might have been urged against human authority, we may now advance a step further, and look at this bugbear-as it is too often regarded-just as a naturalist would look at and study either an entirely new specimen or an old specimen not fully understood. From one point of view "human authority" has many inhuman features: it is a monster all claws and fangs, a thing moved by low cunning, without pity, and void of all compassion. Such it has been, as we see it in ancient civilization and
among some modern nations. In many nations it has made a weak race slaves, to gratify the lust of ambition in the strong. And our own history is too fruitful in example of how it has fettered and crushed the feeble. It has set law aside and overthrown justice with no more compunction than an anaconda enfolds its victim. We, for instance, regard our trial by jury as a first necessity of English liberty. But in the time of Mary, jurors were punished by order of the Queen for acquitting innocent men. And in this aspect, "human authority" has been on a level with the aggressive weapons of wild beasts. But from another point of view, it has been a wise and tender mother, full of happy contrivance intended to secure the liberties and guide the developing faculties of her children. And in no other aspect do I wish to advocate its claims. In this sense, as a tender mother, human authority never sinks to the level of mere expediency, but is always the necessary adaptation of means to promote order and peace, and to secure for man the highest possible good.
Here let us pause a moment to ask and answer the question, What is the origin, and what is the reputed source of "human authority?" To trace its origin, we have in a measure to deduce what has been from what is. Supposing human nature to have been, or regarding it as long as it has been in the past, similar to what it is now, it is not difficult to see that state authority grew out of human association, and dates back to the first compact agreed upon in order to secure a common advantage.
No sooner did man cease from a wandering life, subsisting upon the fruits supplied by the productive forces inherent in nature, or on the spoils of the individual sword, and settle down to peaceful industry; no sooner did he found a home and cultivate a given tract of land, than he found it necessary to his own advantage to cultivate friendliness with his neighbours. Property drove men to combine for mutual protection. It was early discovered that combination gave strength, the idol of the natural man. If men could command strength they felt themselves secure; and for the sake of strength men waived the love of uncontrolled freedom, and bound themselves to observe a common law. From this cause, laws, purely human, though quite as necessary for the common good as if they had been a revelation from God, were originally made, and out of this necessity human authority sprang.1 Each law sprang out of a common want, and was intended to secure some blessing not otherwise obtainable.
1 This ordinary philosophical account of the origin of human society and of
In different countries the effort to secure strength and the other advantages dependent upon authority resulted differently; and out of the various forms of government, tried at different periods and in different places, three primary kinds only have stood the wear and tear of time, and continue among us at the present day. The first of these is absolute monarchy or despotism; the second is oligarchy, or government by a privileged aristocracy; and the third is democracy, or republicanism, meaning the government of the people. There are several other forms of government in which the above are blended, but for the present purpose they are of no avail.
At the present time different countries are ruled in different ways, but so far as we can see, the experience of mankind has discovered no better way of reducing the ideal justice of the people into permanent forms, than by an assembly composed of representatives elected by the people themselves. Thus we conclude that the true source of human authority is in the popular voice, or in an assembly which represents that voice.
From this it will appear, that a true form of government is the necessary exponent of the national spirit and will; it must express the nation's wisdom, be adapted to secure the good of every citizen, and be amenable to changes in conformity with the changing conditions of national life; in short, it must be republican, or, as our government is, representative. The wisest form of government is not perfect, but only conditional. Neither in this nor any other country are the laws made by perfect men, or intended to govern a perfect people. Still for most purposes ours is an effective government, it is representative, and at present we are acquainted with nothing better. Even if we could find a perfect man, there is no reason why he should dictate laws, unless he stood alone.
We now pass on to notice the uses of state authority. In every
human authority is an obviously fallacious one. Did not all tribal and national compacts grow out of the domestic family relations? and did not all authority "spring" out of parental authority? We surely don't need to think of men as first existing as a number of unconnected and independent savages, and gradually learning the advantages, and even the necessity, of union? Are we to gain nothing from our New Church knowledge, besides what we obtain from our common sense? Are we to shut our eyes to the light, that we may grope with the naturalist? Surely Swedenborg's account of the earlier, not to speak of the earliest state of man, enables us to give a more rational account of the origin of human society, and laws, and authority, than the guesses of philosophers, the Darwins, of history.-ED.