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Written by W.M. Mitchell   

 

The Gospel Messenger—December 1894 

COLUMBIANA, ALA., Oct. 1, 1894—Dear Bro. Mitchell: After reading your article in October MESSENGER (page 384), I see you warn the brethren to heed the political faith of the gospel, and to “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.”—Rom. xiii. 1. You then say: “There is no safety to our country, or any peace and safety to the church of God, without obedience to earthly governments, for they are the ‘powers that be,’ which God hath ordained for the good of men, and to resist these powers, as many are now doing, or counseling to be done, is to resist the ordinance of God He that doeth this shall receive to himself damnation; justice will overtake him and he shall not escape.”

Now, my brother, would we not do well, knowing the condition of our beloved State in regard to politics, to heed the 9th verse in connection with the above Scripture: “Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness”? If we must take the above admonition without any exceptions as to how these civil officers came into power (as I cannot see that you made any exceptions) then it surely will carry the idea that God ordains all things whatsoever comes to pass, and then if our State officers who hold office are all God’s ministers, ordained of God for good, then we must conclude that the civil officers of all nations before our day, were ordained of God, and ought to have been honored and obeyed as such; then Mordecai and all the children of Israel, and our American forefathers did wrong, and ought to have been damned for resisting the civil authorities of their day.

You also tell us that any departure from this “principle of justice and equity among men in the administration of human governments by those in authority, is usurpation of authority and rebellion against God.” Now, if these usurpers are in office, and the people must not resist them, for fear of resisting the ordinance of God—and they must not speak evil of those usurpers, or even so much as blow a ram’s horn that the walls of Jericho may fall down—will God come down in person and overthrow this wickedness in high places, or will he put it into the minds and hearts of his people to throw off the yoke of bondage and usurpation, as he did the Israelites and our American forefathers? Did our forefathers throw off the yoke of bondage by obeying their legal British officers? No, but by resisting them as usurpers who sought to execute unjust laws. I hope by reading this letter you can see what I want you to explain. You can do as you wish with this, but please answer through the MESSENGER. JOHN E. DYKES.

REPLY TO DEACON J. E. DYKES.

In reply to Bro. Dykes’ letter, I wish to say that the words “Political faith of the gospel,” were not used on page 384 of October MESSENGER, 1894, in any offensive sense as referring to any political parties of men of the world, but in distinction from them all, whether in “our beloved State,” or in any other part of the world. Perhaps I ought not to have used the word political at all in that connection, as it seems not to have been understood or construed in the sense I intended, therefore I withdraw the word “political” from the phrase, and ask Bro. Dykes, and all others, to read it simply “Faith of the gospel,” without the word “political” attached thereto. The “Faith of the gospel” expresses all that I intended, and therefore please read the admonition to heed the faith of the gospel as set forth in the following:

“Let every soul be subjected to 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 doest that which is evil, be 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 he subject, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake. 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 bath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness.”—Rom. xiii. 1-9.

My remarks and admonitions to Christians as citizens to obey magistrates and be subject to the powers that be, in the article from which Bro. Dykes has quoted, were predicated on the above and similar portions of the word of God, and if there is anything in that article in conflict with the faith of the gospel, or that justifies stealing or bearing false witness,. I confess I am not competent to see it, and I know I intended no such thing. And just why Bro. Dykes should have quoted “Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,” in connection with what he calls the “condition of our beloved State in regard to politics,” I cannot tell. I do not run after political harangues, nor dabble in the corrupt and muddy pools of the factious parties of men, but to the contrary, I admonish all Christians and every soul of them, without regard to their party affiliations among men, to “be subject to the higher powers,” for the simple reason that the “powers that be are ordained of God” to them for good.

But in Bro. Dykes’ letter, referring to my admonition to heed these ordained powers of God, he says, “If we must take the above admonition without any exceptions as to how these civil officers come into power (as I cannot see that you made any), then surely it will carry the idea that “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass.” Now, my dear brother, I do not think my article should be held responsible for any frightful conclusions to which you have arrived by your own suppositions. If the great Head of the Church, even Jesus, has, by his apostles, or from his own mouth, made any exceptions as to how these powers that be, or the officers that serve under them, have come into power, I have utterly failed to find any record of it in the Bible If our brother knows of any powers that be which are ordained of God, that have come into power otherwise than by his ordination, to which every Christian soul is commanded to be subject, it would be a bit of information I have never had from the Bible.

Our Lord hath declared that “All power in heaven and in earth is given unto Him.” His kingdom is not of this world; it differs in all its parts from anything in State policy; yet he never interfered with existing laws or customs of the Roman Empire, though its chief head, Caesar Augustus, was a heathen idolator. He commanded to “Render unto Caesar the things that be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.”— Luke xx. 25. He set the example by paying government dues himself, and commanded his disciples to do the same, making no exceptions as to how “tax collectors” or ministers of state came into power. This seems to be a useless exception or enquiry in treating on the Scriptures, quoted from Rom. xiii., from the fact that it is there declared emphatically that “There is no power but of God.” God is the Supreme power of all and every grade of power that can be righteously exercised in earth or heaven, by angels or men. “By Him kings reign and princes decree justice; and by Him princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.”—Prov. viii. 15, 16. Any other power than that which is derived expressly from God is intrusive usurpation, and must, from the very nature of things, he temporary, transient and short-lived.

Sin and Satan are powers—unbelief, ignorance, and prejudice are powers—but none of them are the ordained powers that be, to which every Christian is commanded to be subject. There is nothing wrong in resisting these powers of sin and Satan in a proper way. Indeed, Christians are commanded to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” But he that resisteth the ordained powers of God resisteth the ordinance of God, and shall receive unto himself damnation.

But we would not have the reader to infer from the foregoing remarks, that there is any power, good or bad, transient or permanent, over which the God of heaven and earth has no control. Sin and Satan, and every form of power or wickedness must fall before our all-conquering “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Were it not so that all these Satanic powers are under the control of Him who has power over all flesh, what safety could there be to the church of the Living God on this earth? Jesus bath declared that the “Gates of hell shall not prevail” against it, but how can he prevent it if the gates or powers of hell are not in any way subject to his authority? Do not even devils obey him, though it be with reluctance? They come out of men when Christ bids them, and they go into hogs only when he says “go.”—Matt. viii. 32.

And now, let me say that any way that I can consider this subject of power, it is difficult to conceive of the existence of any power that is in every sense entirely independent of God. To say that our God has no rule, power or control over wicked men or wicked nations, the “faith of the gospel” will not admit it. He raised up Pharaoh to show his power and to declare his holy Name in all the earth. Who wilt say he did not? Cyrus, a heathen king, is called God’s shepherd, and the Assyrian monarch is used as the rod of God to chastise his people Israel; and even the haughty king of Babylon, in a certain sense, is called God’s servant. Our God, with the greatest Bible consistency, is called the God of all nations, and the “God of the whole earth.”

Now, if God does not bear up the “pillars of the earth and all the inhabitants thereof,” who does?— Psa. lxxv. 3. It is God who speaketh to fools, commanding them to “deal not foolishly,” and to the wicked he saith, “speak not with a stiff neck,” as though they could either live, move or breathe independently of God, who hath created them. He tells them that “promotion cometh not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the South.” And as further scriptural testimony that the powers that be, to which Christians are to be subject, are ordained of God, he declares that “God is the Judge; he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”—Psa lxxv. 4-5. Certainly this text does not leave us in doubt as to how their officers came into power.

He gave Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honor, “and for the majesty that He gave him, all people, nations and tongues, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive; whom he would he set up, and whom he would he put down.”—Dan. v. 19. Never was there a more absolute monarchy than that which this king of Babylon had given him of the Lord. His will was the law; whom he would he killed, and whom he would he kept alive. His government was fearful and despotic; all nations feared and trembled before him. And yet his government is one of the powers that be, to which God’s people are commanded to be subject, and not only to be subject as good law-abiding citizens, but to even seek and pray for the, peace of the city or country where they dwell. The Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saith to his captive people, “Seek ye the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it; for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.”—Jer. xxix. 7.

The above quotation is from the Old Testament, but similar admonitions are given in the New Testament. The apostle, speaking as inspired by the Spirit of God, attaches great importance to praying for “all in authority,” as government officers, but does not once hint that before interceding to God for them we should stop and enquire of interested factious parties of men as to how these officers came into power. “I exhort, therefore,” says the apostle, “that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings and for all in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.”—l Tim. ii. 1, 2. The words “first of all,” in the above text, seems to signify that it is no small matter, but that it is of the first and highest importance to the peace and safety of our common country and of the church of God as citizens. In the peace of the city and country in which Christians live, shall they have peace, and in its troubles shall they have trouble. For this and similar reasons it appears evident to me that the exhortation of the apostle has great importance when he says, “First of all, supplications and prayers be made for all in authority,” whether he is a king, a president, a governor, a judge or a bailiff. God is the Supreme power of all powers, and as we have said before, there is no grade of power or authority, that can be righteously exercised, but what is derived from God. And even some powers which are not right of themselves, God suffers and overrules for good to the church of God, thus in the end making even the “wrath of man to praise Him,” and restraining the remainder. —Psalm lxxvi. 10.

How wonderful are the works and ways of our God! His thoughts are not as man’s thoughts, nor his ways as man’s ways. And here I feel like thanking Bro. Dykes for so faithfully calling attention to what he considered frightfully erroneous in my article. I was quite feeble when his letter came, and my wife also was suffering intensely, and I felt much troubled for a time, because I could not give his request an earlier reply. But after all, I am glad he wrote me and feel like repeating the words of the apostle, that “The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel”—Phil. i. 12. It caused a closer examination of my October article, and also a careful searching of the Scriptures, and I now feel, if possible, even more fully established and confirmed that every position taken by me in that article on the subject, sprung by Bro. Dykes, is fully sustained by the infallible Word of God. By this standard we must all stand or fall, according as it approves or condemns. Bro. Dykes requests that I answer him through the MESSENGER, and says I can see by reading his letter what he “wants me to explain,” but, unfortunately, I fail to see that he wants any explanation on any text or on any comment or inference I have drawn from any declaration of Scripture. But if I see it right, he wants me to explain his own conclusions. This I cannot attempt to do. And it seems clearly evident that if our brother’s letter was divested of its suppositions, inferences and conclusions, there would be nothing left to explain. I know that in expounding or understanding many texts, we must necessarily draw conclusions and inferences as to their real meaning; but these conclusions, if right, must always be in harmony with the positive testimony of the word. We have in the Scriptures positive, negative, and inferential testimony, but all harmonize together. The disciples, who were personally with Jesus, often drew erroneous conclusions from his teaching. Thousands of good brethren with pure motives have done the same from then till the present day. But when our inferences and conclusions contradict, or fail to harmonize with positive declarations of the Word of God, they are evidently wrong. “The powers that be are ordained of God.” This, we conclude, refers to earthly governments as mentioned in Rom. xiii. Then, it seems to me, that it is not a question of mere inference as to how these ordained powers came into power. It is positively asserted in the same connection that “There is no power but of God.” The kingdoms and governments of this world, like individuals, have their day of existence. They rise and fall, live and die, and others come in their stead. But the heart of kings, presidents and governors is in the hand of the Lord, “As the rivers of water, he turneth it whithersoever he will.”—Prov. xxi. 1. The “rivers of water” are kept within a certain channel, though they often run in a very crooked, zigzag direction. They run this way, that and the other, because the channel keeps them within certain bounds, and directs their course. Now it is thus that kings and all in authority, for whom we should pray are in the hand of God—“as the rivers of water”—they are kept within certain bounds, over which they never can go.

As further proof of this fact, we now quote a few texts and then close this lengthy article: “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”—Dan. iv. 32. “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”—Dan. iv. 35. “Let his heart be changed from man’s and let a beast’s heart be given him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the Holy One; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of man, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”—Dan. iv. 17.

Now, Bro. Dykes, with these texts before us and hundreds of others in the Scriptures of like import; how can we be at a loss to know how these powers that be, these kingdoms of men, and these “inhabitants of the earth,” came into authority in their respective governments? The Most High God rules heaven and earth, and “puts down one and sets up another,” and who will say he does not?—Psa. lxxv. 7. He has a wise purpose in all he doeth, that the “living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men,” etc.

Christ declared before Pilate that “My kingdom is not of this world, else my servants would fight for me.” And if He has ever commanded His people to use carnal weapons to build up and defend the doctrine and order of his gospel kingdom upon earth, where is the record of it? It is not in the New Testament, but to the contrary, it is asserted that “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”—2 Cor. x. 4. And as the weapons of the Christian warfare are not carnal, I cannot think that Bro. Dykes is right is supposing that our God and Father puts it into the hearts of his people to use any such weapons for any such purpose as defending the faith of the gospel. His reference, therefore, to our revolutionary forefathers in throwing off the yoke of British oppression, is not proof that the Lord “puts it into the heart of his people” to use carnal weapons. But he does put it into their hearts to “obey magistrates,” and as good citizens to be in subordination to the “powers that be,” and I cannot, as yet, believe that Bro. Dykes will say otherwise.

Trusting that our brother, and the readers of the MESSENGER generally, will understand what I have been trying to set forth, and that they will test it by the Scriptures, I now dismiss the subject for the present.   W.M. MITCHELL.

Last Updated ( Friday, 22 September 2006 )
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