Civil Government and Religion

4/38

CHAPTER III. - THE POWERS THAT BE

IN support of the doctrine that civil government has the right to act in things pertaining to God, the text of Scripture is quoted which says, “The powers that be are ordained of God.” This passage is found in Romans 13:1. The first nine verses of the chapter are devoted to this subject, showing that the powers that he are ordained of God, and enjoining upon Christians, upon every soul in fact, the duty of respectful subjection to civil government. The whole passage reads as follows:— CGRRLL 28.1

“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. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, he afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. Owe no man anything, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” CGRRLL 28.2

It is easy to see that this scripture is but an exposition of the words of Christ, “Render to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s.” In the Saviour’s command to render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, there is plainly a recognition of the rightfulness of civil government, and that civil government has claims upon us which we are in duty bound to recognize, and that there are things which duty requires us to render to the civil government. This scripture in Romans 13 simply states the same thing in other words: “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.” CGRRLL 29.1

Again, the Saviour’s words are called out by a question concerning tribute. They said to him, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cesar, or not?” Romans 13:6 refers to the same thing, saying, “For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.” In answer to the questions of the Pharisees about the tribute, Christ said, “Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s.” Romans 13:7, taking up the same thought, says, “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” These references make positive that which we have stated,—that this portion of Scripture (Romans 13:1-6) is a divine commentary upon the words of Christ in Matthew 22:17-21. CGRRLL 29.2

In the previous chapter we have shown by many proofs that civil government has nothing to do with anything that pertains to God. If the argument in that chapter is sound, then Romans 13:1-9, being the Lord’s commentary upon the words which are the basis of that argument ought to confirm the position there taken. And this it does. CGRRLL 29.3

The passage in Romans refers first to civil government, the higher powers,—not the highest power, but the powers that be. Next it speaks of rulers, as bearing the sword and attending upon matters of tribute. Then it commands to render tribute to whom tribute is due, and says, “Owe no man any thing; but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Then he refers to the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth commandments, and says, “If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” CGRRLL 30.1

There are other commandments of this same law to which Paul refers. Why, then, did he say, “If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”? There are the four commandments of the first table of this same law,—the commandments which say, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me; Thou shalt not make any graven image, or any likeness of anything, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Then there is the other commandment in which are briefly comprehended all these,—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” CGRRLL 30.2

Paul knew full well of these commandments. Why, then, did he say, “If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”? Answer.—Because he was writing concerning the words of the Saviour which relate to our duties to civil government. CGRRLL 30.3

Our duties under civil government pertain solely to the government and to our fellow-men, because the powers of civil government pertain solely to men in their relations one to another, and to the government. But the Saviour’s words in the salve connection entirely separated that which pertains to God front that which pertains to civil government. The things which pertain to God are not to be rendered to civil government—to the powers that be; therefore Paul, although knowing full well that there were other commandments, said, “If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;” that is, if there be any other commandment which conies into the relation between man and civil government, it is comprehended in this saying, that he shall love his neighbor as himself; thus showing conclusively that the powers that be, though ordained of God, are so ordained simply in things pertaining to the relation of man with his fellow-men, and in those things alone. CGRRLL 31.1

Further, as in this divine record of the duties that men owe to the powers that be, there is no reference whatever to the first table of the law, it therefore follows that the powers that be, although ordained of God, have nothing whatever to do with the relations which men hear toward God. CGRRLL 31.2

As the ten commandments contain the whole duty of man, and as in the scriptural enumeration of the duties that men owe to the powers that be, there is no mention of any of the things contained in the first table of the law, it follows that none of the duties enjoined in the first table of the law of God, do men owe to the powers that be; that is to say, again, that the powers that be, although ordained of God, are not ordained of God in anything pertaining to a single duty enjoined in any one of the first four of the ten commandments. These are duties that men owe to God, and with these the powers that be can of right have nothing to do, because Christ has commanded to render unto God—not to Cesar, nor by Cesar—that which is God’s. CGRRLL 31.3

This is confirmed by other scriptures:— CGRRLL 32.1

“In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Thus saith the Lord to me; Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck, and send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah; and command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.” CGRRLL 32.2

In this scripture it is clearly shown that the power of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon was ordained of God; nor to Nebuchadnezzar alone, but to his son and his son’s son; which is to say that the power of the Babylonian empire, as an imperial power, was ordained of God. Nebuchadnezzar was plainly called by the Lord, “My servant,” and the Lord says, “And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon.” He further says that whatever “nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish.” CGRRLL 32.3

Now let us see whether this power was ordained of God in things pertaining to God. In the third chapter of Daniel we have the record that Nebuchadnezzar made a great image of gold, set it up in the plain of Dura, and gathered together the princes, the governors, the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to the dedication of the image; and they stood before the image that had been set up. Then a herald from the king cried aloud:— CGRRLL 33.1

“To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up; and whoso falleth not down and worshipeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” CGRRLL 33.2

In obedience to this command, all the people bowed down and worshiped before the image, except three Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. This disobedience was reported to Nebuchadnezzar, who commanded them to be brought before him, when he asked them if they had disobeyed his order intentionally. He himself then repeated his command to them. CGRRLL 33.3

These men knew that they had been made subject to the king of Babylon by the Lord himself. It had not only been prophesied by Isaiah (chap. 39), but by Jeremiah. At the final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the Lord through Jeremiah told the people to submit to the king of Babylon, and that whosoever would do it it should be with them; whosoever would not do it, it should be ill with them. Yet these men, knowing all this, made answer to Nebuchadnezzar thus:— CGRRLL 33.4

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” CGRRLL 34.1

Then these men were cast into the fiery furnace, heated seven times hotter than it was wont to be heated; but suddenly Nebuchadnezzar rose up in haste and astonishment, and said to his counselors, “Did we not cast suddenly Nebuchadnezzar rose up in haste and astonishment, and said to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered, “True, O king.” But he exclaimed, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” The men were called forth:— CGRRLL 34.2

“Then Nebuchadnezzar spake and said, Blessed be the Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent God of Shadrach, s word, and yielded their his angel and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.” CGRRLL 34.3

Here we have demonstrated the following facts: First, God gave power to the kingdom of Babylon; second, he suffered his people to be subjected to that power; third, he defended his people by a wonderful miracle from a certain exercise of that power. Does God contradict or oppose himself?—Far from it. What, then, does this show?—It shows conclusively that this was an undue exercise of the power which God had given. By this it is demonstrated that the power of God, was not ordained unto any such purpose as that for which it was exercised; and that though ordained of God, it was not ordained to be authority in things pertaining to God, or in things pertaining to men’s consciences. And it was written for the instruction of future ages, and for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come. CGRRLL 34.4

Another instance: We read above that the power of Babylon was given to Nebuchadnezzar, and his son, and his son’s son, and that all nations should serve Babylon until that time, and that then nations and kings should serve themselves of him. Other prophecies show that Babylon was then to be destroyed. Jeremiah 51:28 says that the kings of the Medes, and all his land, with the captains and rulers, should be prepared against Babylon to destroy it. Isaiah 31:2 shows that Persia (Elam) should accompany Media in the destruction of Babylon. Isaiah 45:1-4 names Cyrus as the leader of the forces, more than a hundred years before he was born, and one hundred and seventy-four years before the time. And of Cyrus, the prophet said from the Lord, “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways; he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price, nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 45:13. But in the conquest of Babylon, Cyrus was only the leader of the forces. The kingdom and rule were given to Darius the Mede; for, said Daniel to Belshazzar, on the night when Babylon fell, “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” Then the record proceeds: “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom.” Of him we read in Daniel 11:1, the words of the angel Gabriel to the prophet, “I, in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.” CGRRLL 35.1

There can be no shadow of doubt, therefore, that the power of Media and Persia was ordained of God. Darius made Daniel prime minister of the empire. But a num- ber of the presidents and princes, envious of the position given to Daniel, attempted to undermine him. After earnest efforts to find occasion against him in matters pertaining to the kingdom, they were forced to confess that there was neither error nor fault anywhere in his conduct. Then said these men, “We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” They therefore assembled together to the king, and told him that all the presidents of the kingdom, and the governors, and the princes, and the captains, had consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a decree that whoever should ask a petition of any god or man, except the king, for thirty days, should be cast into the den of lions. Darius, not suspecting their object, signed the decree. Daniel knew that the decree had been made, and signed by the king. It was hardly possible for him not to know it, being prime minister. Yet notwithstanding his knowledge of the affair, he went into his chamber, and his windows being opened toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed and gave thanks before God, as did aforetime. He did not even close the windows. He paid no attention to the decree that had been made, although it forbade his doing as he did, under the penalty of being thrown to the lions. He well understood that although the power of Media and Persia was ordained of God, it was not ordained to interfere in matters of duty which he owed only to God. CGRRLL 35.2

As was to be expected, the men who had secured the passage of the decree, found him praying and making supplications before his God. They went at once to the king and asked him if he had not signed a decree that every man who should ask a petition of any god or man within thirty days, except of the king, should be cast into the den of lions. The king replied that this was true, and that, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, it could not be altered. Then they told him that Daniel did not regard the king, nor the decree that he had signed, but made his petition three times a day. The king realized in a moment that he had been entrapped; but there was no remedy. Those who were pushing the matter, held before him the law, and said, “Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree or statute which the king establisheth may be changed.” Nothing could be done; the decree, being law, must be enforced. Daniel was cast to the lions. In the morning the king came to the den and called to Daniel, and Daniel replied, “O king, live forever; my God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt forasmuch as before him innocency was found in and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.” CGRRLL 36.1

Thus again God has shown that although the powers that be are ordained of God, they are not ordained to act in things that pertain to men’s relation toward God. Christ’s words are a positive declaration to that effect, and Romans 13:1-9 is a further exposition of the principle. CGRRLL 37.1

Let us look a moment at this question from a common-sense point of view; of course, all we are saying is common sense, but let us have this in addition: “When societies are formed, each individual surrenders certain rights, and as an equivalent for that surrender, has secured to him the enjoyment of certain others appertaining to his person and property, without the protection of which society cannot exist.” CGRRLL 37.2

I have the right to protect my person and property from all invasions. Every other person has the same right; but if this right is to be personally exercised in all cases by every one, then in the present condition of human nature, every man’s hand will be against his neigh- bor. That is simple anarchy, and in such a condition of affairs society cannot exist. Now suppose a hundred us are thrown together in a in a certain place where there is no established order; each one has all the rights of any other one. But if each one is individually to exercise these rights of self-protection, he has the assurance of only that degree of protection which he alone can furnish to himself, which we have seen is exceedingly slight. Therefore all come together, and each surrenders to the whole body that individual right; and in return for this surrender, he receives the help of the other ninety-nine to protect himself from the invasion of his rights, and he is thus made many hundred times more secure in his rights of person and property than he is without this surrender. CGRRLL 37.3

But what condition of things can ever be conceived of among men that would justify any man in surrendering his right to believe? When he has surrendered his right to believe, he has virtually surrendered his right to think. When he surrenders his right to believe, he surrenders everything, and it is impossible for him ever to receive an equivalent; he has surrendered his very soul. Eternal life depends upon believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, and the man who surrenders his right to believe, surrenders eternal life. Says the Scripture, “With the mind I myself serve the law of God.” A man who surrenders his right to believe, surrenders God. Consequently, no man, no association or organization of men, can ever rightly ask of any man a surrender of his right to believe. Every man has the right, so far as organizations of man are concerned, to believe as he pleases; and that right, so long as he is a Protestant, so long as he is a Christian, yes, so long as he is a man, he never can surrender, and he never will. CGRRLL 38.1

Another important question to consider in this connection is, How are the powers that be, ordained of God? Are they directly and miraculously ordained, or are they providentially so? We have seen by the Scripture that the power of Nebuchadnezzar as king of Babylon, was ordained of God. Did God send a prophet of a priest to anoint him king? or did he send a heavenly messenger, as he did to Moses and Gideon?—Neither, Nebuchadnezzar was king because he was the son of his father, who had been king. How did his father become king?—In 625 B. C., Babylonia was but a province of the empire of Assyria; Media was another. Both revolted, and at the same time. The king of Assyria gave Nabopolassar command of a large force, and sent him to Babylonia to quell the revolt, while he himself led other forces into Media, to put down the insurrection there. Nabopolassar did his work so well in Babylonia that the king of Assyria rewarded him with the command of that province, with the title of King of Babylon. Thus we see that Nabopolassar received his power from the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria received his from his father, Asshur bani-pal; Asshur-bani-pal received his from his father, Esar-haddon; Esar-haddon received his from his father, Sennacherib; Sennacherib received his from his father, Sargon; and Sargon received his from the troops in the field, that is, from the people. Thus we see that the power of the kingdom of Babylon, and of Nebuchadnezzar the king, or of his son, or of his son’s son, was simply providential, and came merely from the people. CGRRLL 39.1

Take, for example, Victoria, queen of Great Britain. How did she receive her power?—Simply by the fact that she was the first in the line of succession when William the Fourth died. Through one line she traces her royal lineage to William the Conqueror. But who was William the Conqueror?—He was a Norman chief who led his forces into England in 1066, and established his power there. How did he become a chief of the Normans?—The Normans made him so, and in that line it is clear that the power of Queen Victoria sprang only from the people. CGRRLL 39.2

Following the other line: The house that now rules Britain, represented in Victoria, is the house of Hanover. Hanover is a province of Germany. How came the house of Hanover to reign in England?—When Queen Anne died, the next in the line of succession was George of Hanover, who became king of England under the title of George the First. How did he receive his princely dignity?—Through his lineage, from Henry the Lion, son of Henry the Proud, who received the duchy of Saxony form Frederick Barbarossa, in 1156. Henry the Lion, son of Henry the Proud, was a prince of the house of Guelph, of Swabia. The father of the house of Guelph was a prince of the Alamanni who invaded the Roman empire, and established their power in what is now Southern Germany, and were the origin of what is now the German nation and empire. But who made this man a prince?—The savage tribes of Germany. So in this line also the royal dignity of Queen Victoria sprung from the people. CGRRLL 40.1

And besides all this, the imperial power of Queen Victoria as she now reigns is circumscribed—limited—by the people. It has been related, and has appeared in print, and although the story may not be true, it will serve to illustrate the point, that on one occasion, Gladstone, while prime minister had head of the House of Commons, took a certain paper to the queen to be signed. She did not exactly approve of it, and said she would not sign it. Gladstone spoke of the merit of the act, but the queen still declared she would not sign it. Gladstone replied, “Your Majesty must sign it.” “Must sign!” ex- claimed the queen; “must sign! Do you know who I am? I am the queen of England.” Gladstone calmly replied, “Yes, Your Majesty, but I am the PEOPLE of England;” and she had to sign it. The people of England can command the queen of England; the power of the people of England is above that of the queen of England. She, as queen, is simply the representative of their power. And if the people of England should choose to dispense with their expensive luxury of royalty, and turn their form of government into that of a republic, it would be but legitimate exercise of their right, and the government thus formed, the power thus established, would be ordained of God as much as that which now is, or as any could be. CGRRLL 40.2

Personal sovereigns in themselves are not those referred to in the words, “The powers that be are ordained of God.” It is the governmental power of which the sovereign is the representative, and that sovereign receives his power from the people. Outside of the theocracy of Israel, there never has been a ruler on earth whose authority was not, primarily or ultimately, expressly or permissively, derived from the people. It is not particular sovereigns whose power is ordained of God, nor any particular form of government. It is the genius of government itself. The absence of government is anarchy. Anarchy is only governmental confusion. But says the Scripture, “God is not the author of confusion.” God is the God of order. He has ordained order, and he has put within man himself that idea of government, of self-protection, which is the first law of nature, and which organizes itself into forms of one kind or another, wherever men dwell on the face of the earth. And it is for men themselves to say what shall be the form of government under which they shall dwell. One people has one form; another has another. This genius of civil order springs from God; its exercise within its legitimate sphere is ordained of God; and the Declaration of Independence simply asserted the eternal truth of God, when it said: “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It matters not whether it be exercised in one form of government or in another, the government power and order thus exercised is ordained of God. If the people choose to change their form of government, it is still ordained of God in its legitimate exercise,—in things pertaining to men and their relation to their fellow-men; but no power, whether exercised through one form or another, is ordained of God to act in things pertaining to God; nor has it anything whatever to do with men’s relations toward God. CGRRLL 41.1

In the previous chapter we have shown that the Constitution of the United States is the only form of government that has ever been on earth which is in harmony with the principle announced by Christ, demanding of men only that which is Cesar’s, and refusing to enter in any way into the field of man’s relationship to God. This Constitution originated in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and here we have found that the Declaration of Independence, on this point, simply asserts the truth of God. The American people do not half appreciate the value of the Constitution under which they live. They do not honor in any fair degree the noble men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor, that these principles might be the heritage of posterity. All honor to these noble men! All integrity to the principles of the Declaration of Independence! All allegiance to the Constitution as it is, which gives to Cesar all his due, and leaves men free to render to God all that he, in his holy word, requires of them! CGRRLL 42.1