The Acceptance Speech of Claude A. Watson

As Delivered by Him at the Buck Hill Falls Auditorium, November 20, 1947

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Learn, Judge Davis and all other ladies and gentlemen present, I wish to talk to you this evening about "God's Plan for Civil Government."

     Today the world around us is engaged in a fateful struggle -- a struggle with the forces of despotism and reaction.  All the fruits of more than a century and a half of effort to develop the democratic way of life are at this moment in deadly jeopardy.  Once again the autocrats, the tyrants, the dictators seek to ride roughshod over the liberties and freedoms of millions of people.  They proclaim an ancient doctrine in modern terms.  Men are but means to ends and not ends in themselves.  Citizens are just slaves of the State, minions of dictators, kpawns in a National Power game.
     These proponents of totalitarianism arraign democracy as decadent, inefficient, muddleheaded and soft.  They disdain the ancient virtues and scorn our ethical and humanitarian traditions.  Mindful of the perils without and of the problems within our land, we should today reaffirm our faith in democracy and pledge ourselves anew to lift high our country's banner and, if need be, to man its ramparts, convinced that democracy is wo4rh defending with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
     It seems regrettably true that all the foes of the United States are not in alien lands.  Sometimes these foes arise by renouncing the original philosophy upon which this country was established and which made it great.  It was the family altar and religion that made America great.  It was the Puritan who prostrated himself before his Maker and out of humility and adoration acquired an inner force that gave him the strength to put his foot upon the neck of the dictator and of the tyrant.  Our forefathers gave us that marvelous Declaration of Independence which declares: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men."
     Have you ever considered what the possibility of an opposite doctrine would be? Namely, that there is no God, and no Creator?  If there is no God and no Creator, then we were never endowed with any unalienable rights; these rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are only a figment of the imagination.  If that were true, this government was established to preserve something that did not exist.

The Author of Civil Government

When men have renounced from their hearts this doctrine of a Creator, as set forth in the
Declaration of Independence, they will not contend long for a form of government based upon God-given rights.  That raises the question, "Who is the author of civil government?"  I answer, "God is the author of all civil government."
     Bible students will be interested in turning to the thirteenth chapter of Romans and reading the first seven verses.  The first verse reads,  "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.  For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God."  The word, power, there means government.  Therefore, Paul is exhorting us to be loyal to the government of God, and he declares further than God is the author of all civil government.  We must keep this fact in mind when we are thinking in terms of government or discussing questions of government.
     It is often said ministers should not discuss politics in the pulpit.  Let us learn the definition of the word "politics"  What is politics?  Politics is nothing more nor less than the science of government.  If God is the author of government, certainly the minister has a perfect right to discuss the science of government in his pulpit.
     If God is the author of government, then He is the author of righteous government.  For we read in the Book, "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."  If the people are to determine what is righteous government and what is unrighteous government, there is but one class of men who are definitely commissioned, according to the Scriptures, to teach the people what is righteousness and what is unrighteousness -- that is the watchmen.  You will recall what the Word of God says concerning the watchman on the wall and his duty:  "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel:  therefore hear the word of my mouth, and give them warning."
     If God is the author of civil government and the government he desires to be a righteous government, who is to administer such a government?  I answer, "Righteous men are to administer such a government."

Rulers for Righteousness

I get this from the Book; it is my authority.  Read the third and fourth verses of the thirteenth chapter of Romans.  They tell us that rulers are to be rulers for righteousness.  In another place we read, "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn."  God is interested in having righteous men bear rule in a righteous government.
     The business of these rulers is described, and their dutires are described, in Romans 13:3, 4.  "For rulers are not a terror to good kworks, but to the evil."  Again, "For he is the minster of God to thee for good."  Therefore, rulers are to be a terror to evil works, but the minister og God to the people for good.
     It is for this very purpose that we pay taxes.  Notice the sixth verse.  "For this cause pay ye tribute."  We ;pay taxes in order that we may have a government that has been authorized by God, a righteous government administered by righteous men as the ministers of God to the people for good, and as a terror to evildoers.
     Looking at it from the reverse, what kind of a government have we if we are to judge it by the terror it brings to the antisocial and evil forces of today?  Look around you!  Do you find the owners of honky-tonks and hell-dives and other antisocial and evil forces that are exploiting the people, with their knees shaking in terror of the government?  If not, then what kind of government have we?  Is that government one that is being operated for God, as the minster of God to the people for good, and as a terror to evildoers?  If evildoers are not in terror, then you may make up your mind whether or not the govrernment  is in league with God or whether other forces  have entered in to militate against God's rule.
Christian Voting in a Democracy

If God wishes a government that is to represent Him in righteousness, how is He to establish such a type of government, particularly in a democracy where we have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people?  Certainly, God is not going to use the evil, the seductive, the debauching, and the forces of prostitution, gambling, and all other evils to establish such a government.  The only way that He can establish such a goverment is by the people who profess to be called by His name, who profess to be His disciples and His followers.  Those are the people God must depend on.
     Did it ever occur to you, my friend, that every selfish, every sordid, every debauching, every evil force, every pressure group in the land that operates for selfishness is organized for political action.  The character building agencies alone, the moral forces alone, are not united for the purposes of political action.  But every other force in this country, every force of a selfish, sordid, debauching nature is united with a definite program, with a definite goal kfor political action to use government for its own purposes.  The character building forces alone are not organized for political action.
     If God is to have righteous government, He must have it through His people; He must use them to establish that government, just as He would to establish a religious reform in any community.  If the ministers of a particular city were to unite to have a revival, they would probably have a prayer meeting somewhere.  Perhaps some good brother would pray, "Lord, take a walk through this city; Lord, speak to the people of this city; Lord, move on the people of this city."  When they got up from their knees, in all probability one of the ministers would arise and say, "Friends, the only way God can walk through this city is with your feet, the only way God can talk to the people of this city is with your lips; and the only way that God can move upon the people of this city is by you and through you."  For have you not read in the Book how the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; the margin says that the Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon; in other words, He used Gideon as a coverall suit and pulled him on over Himself and moved upon that country.  He did it as a national matter.  That is the only way that God can move upon this nation.  Of course Israel called out several thousand men, and several of them had yellow for their colors and cotton strings for their backbone, and when the real test came, many went back home.  There were only three hundred who had the courage to stand with God and with Gideon. But with that small group God worked His will upon that particular nation.

The Watchman on the Wall

This world is a sordid, sorry mess today, and God is looking to the Christian people to give character and ethics to our nation.  How are the people to determine what is a righteous nation and what is an unrighteous nation?  Whose responsibility is it to teach the people and provide them with a yardstick?  The Book says, "The watchman on the wall."  It says if the watchman sees an evil coming and he fails to cry out and the people are destroyed, the blood of the people shall be on the watchman's head.  But if the watchman cries out and the people fail to hear and heed his voice, the watchman shall be free and the blood and the responsibility shall be on the people's heads.  In America tioday if the minister cannot discuss politics, Bible politics, righteous politics, godly politics in his pulpit, how can he train and educate the people and provide a yardstick and a moral standard by which the people may be able to determine what is righteous and what is unrighteous?
     For the minister to discharge his responsibility to society and to his God and to his government, it is his definite responsibility to set up standards by which the people may be able to discriminate between that which is good and that which is evil in government.

Sins of Government

Remember, you can speak against the sins of the people as individuals all you want, but when you begin to speak against the sins of the government, that is when martyrdom comes to God's men and women.  It was not the prophets who prophesied against the sins of the people in the Old Testament who met with martyrdom.  It was the man who prophesied against the sins of government.  God is interested in sins of government.  He sent out his prophets to correct government  when government was wrong.  Those who administered governmentr, finding themselvez criticized, proceeded to use the instruments of government to bring about the death of their critics.  That is what made them martyrs.  The man who will discharge his definite duty and responsibility to society today is a watchman on the wall.  He is definitely under obligation to discharge that duty by erecting moral standards and ethical standards by which government policies may be determined, as to whether they are righteous or uinrighteous in the sight of God.
     By what method will we establish righteousness in government?  Just as we would establish any other program of government, that is, by a political party.  We cannot establish it by any other method.  I am not saying anything against, nor am I saying anything for the New Deal.  But in 1932, when there was a crisis in this country, and some of the people felt that there should be a change in the country's condition, what did they do?  Did they circulate a petition all over the country amd by initiative pass a new law that we ought to have the NRA and the AAA and all those various instrumentalities inaugurated by the New Deal?  No, they took over a political party, gave that political party a new philosophy, elected it to office, and proceeded to put their philosophy into effect.
     This gave them control of all three branches of government -- the legislature to enact the law, the administrator to enforce it, and the judiciary to interpret the law.  In this particular case they passed the law and started to enforce it.  But there was an appeal made, and the Supreme Court, which was a holdover from another administration, repealed the law as unconstitutional.  Did they give up?  No!  They said, "We will enlarge the Court."  But that failed.  Did they give up?  No!  They said, "Well these old men are just about as tired as they can afford to be and probably will be glad to retire at the same salary they now have if we pension them."  Therefore they passed a law pensioning them, and seven of them retired and were replaced by seven new men.  Then, the Court held the law to be effective.  Thus the New Deal became articulate in government by means of a political party.  If we are ever to incorporate the ethics of Christianity and the ideals of Christ into government, it must be done by believers in those principles organizing as a political party and securing control of government for the purpose of writing them into law and making them effective in government.

Political Parties Responsible

Governments are not operated by individuals; they are operated by political parties.  In Germany, government was operated by the Nazis, in Italy, by the Fascists, in Japan, by a military clique.  In Russia it is operated by the Communists.  We hold political parties responsible in other couintries for the kind of government they give.  It is just as important to hold political parties responsible in this country for the kind of government they have given us in the past and are giving us now.
     We equipped and armed eleven million of our men, five million of them we sent across the waters for the purpose of holding the Nazi party responsible in Germany for the kind of government there, the Fascists in Italy for the kind of government there, and the miitarists in Japan for the kind of government there, and it is high time that we begin to hold political parties in this country definitely responsible for the kind of government they give us.  Political parties have moral qualities and moral standards, but these qualities and standards can be no higher than the antisocial or debauching forces they permit to exist when they could destroy them.  It is absolutely possible for the political party in power to destroy every antisocial force in this country if it wishes to do so.  It has the power to pass the law, to enforce the law, to interpret the law, and it can eliminate every last one of those demoralizing, debauching, subversive forces that are exploiting the people.
      Therefore, the political parties in power today are definitely accountable and morally responsible for the kind of government they give us.  They are responsible for permitting public gambling, commercialized vice, and for legalizing the liquor traffic.  The moral quality of a political party can be no higher than the most destructive evil that it permits to exist for the purposes of perpetuating itself in office.