A sermon delivered in the North Broad Street Presbyterian Church, Sunday Morning, April 28 1861,
Rev. E. E. Adams.
Published by Request.
Government and Rebellion.
An evil man seeketh only rebellion; therefore
a cruel messenger shall be
sent against him.—Prov. xvii. 11.
We have in these words this plain announcement—that Rebellion is a crime, and shall be visited with terrible judgment. Solomon here speaks his own convictions; God declares his thought, and utters his sanction of law. This is also the expression of natural conscience,—vindicating in our breast the Divine procedure, when the majesty of insulted government is asserted, and penalty applied.
God never overlooks rebellion against his throne—never pardons the rebel until he repent and submit. God does not command us to forgive our offending fellow-men, unless they repent. “If thy brother trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him.” God is in a forgiving attitude; so ought we to be. But he does not express forgiveness until the rebel expresses penitence; neither are we under obligation to pronounce an enemy forgiven until he signify his compunction and sorrow, and desist from his injurious conduct. If my child rebel against my law and my rightful discipline, I am not allowed by the spirit of love to pursue him with vengeance; neither am I bound by the law of God to release him from the penalty of his sin, until he shall have exhibited signs of submission, of sorrow, and of obedience. I may pity him, and cherish toward him the spirit of forgiveness; but for his own sake, for the order of the household, and on account of my innate sense of justice, I must not pronounce his acquittal, nor declare the controversy ended, until he shall have satisfied my governmental authority, and the sentiment of justice which both his own conscience and mine, constitutionally, and therefore by necessity, cherish. And I do not see that Government can safely pardon a rebel against its statutes, its honor and its common brotherhood, until his rebellion cease; until he bow to law, confess his crime, and signify his sorrow. I speak not of oppressive government, of iniquitous law; but of good government, of statutes healthful, humane, equal. Although in the former case rebellion cannot be justified until every constitutional measure has been resorted to for redress,—then, if redress be not given, the voice of the people in all representative governments may legally change oppressive for just laws, and oppressors for rulers who shall regard the popular will. And in despotisms, when the people have the power to redress their wrongs, and to enter on a career of development in mind and morals, in the arts of civilization,—when