George Smeaton notes, "I have often said that in the Scottish theory we have the ultimate truth on the whole subject of the relations between Church and State, the result of the prayerful investigations and earnest contendings of some of the clearest minds and loftiest characters that adorned the Christian Church during the last three centuries."
This is one of the best short treatments of this subject to be found anywhere. It provides key definitions and should help to clear up many misunderstandings, from both the antiestablishmentarians and those Anglican and Continental theories of "State Churches" which have falsely saddled this liberating and God-honoring truth with odiousness to some.
In short, Smeaton argues,
"It will be necessary, before proceeding farther, to lay down some positions of a more general nature as they are pre-supposed or come to light in every instance of Church Establishment. I shall do little more than state them as fundamental postulates, and I may the sooner come to what is more peculiarly Scottish.
The propriety of Ecclesiastical Establishments may be advocated briefly as follows: The State, considered in its corporate character, is a MORAL PERSON, with a moral standing and responsibility. It is not the creation of the so-called social compact or of the popular will, but a divine institution based on natural religion. It coheres by a moral and religious bond; and its rulers are the lieutenants of God. If the State is a moral person, capable of performing duty, of committing sin, and suffering punishment, which everyone must own who traces the fate of nations according to the divine word, it follows that a nation, acting by its rulers, can accept Christianity and make a public profession of it as the national rule and guide.
It had been held together previous to the recognition of Christianity by some form of religion however impure, without which it could not have existed. And the first duty of the civil ruler when brought in contact with Christianity and persuaded of its divine origin is to RECEIVE THE BIBLE AS A REVELATION in a national way. The immediate effect of this is that it constitutes the State a Christian State, and pledges it to purge out its previous religion in the same way as Pagan and Mahommedan nations constituted themselves, according to their false religions, or as the atheistic state was constituted, or rather attempted to be constituted, by the French Convention.
A nation must have a religion, and the only question is, which it will adopt. And when Christianity comes to the nation, or to the family, it does not frown on either of these institutions, which also are divine in origin, but enters into them with an elevating purifying power, and sweetly coalesces with all that is purely human in both.
These ordinances of God now became vessels by which Christianity is diffused. The national recognition of the Bible as a revelation subjecting the nation to its authority, though a great step gained, does not exhaust the nation's duty, as widely diverging views prevail upon the right interpretation of the Bible. The State must by the necessity of the case ADOPT A CREED which will commonly be prepared by the Church.
The same duty that devolves upon an individual Christian confronts a Christian State, and it naturally appends the civil sanction to the Church's creed. It must distinguish between scripture truth and its perversion. The State, by the adoption of a creed, gives utterance to the self-consciousness of a Christian community. It confesses the Christianity it has adopted."-- From pp. 4-5.
A splendid and much-needed work in our day!