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Written by John R. Respess   

From The Gospel Messenger--1886—1888


FIRST CHAPTER OF ESTHER

The reader should carefully read the first chapter of the book of Esther, as that is the text of the present discourse.

It will there be seen that Ahasuerus was king and reigned over one hundred and twenty seven provinces, from India even unto Ethiopia. Provinces are conquered states or countries, more or less remote from the capital. The king’s empire was very great, but did not extend, though large, over all mankind. In that respect it represents God’s moral government in the world.

This government does not, even in this advanced day, extend over all the earth. Whilst it is true that God rules in nature over all mankind, savage as well as civilized and enlightened people, saints and sinners, the savage nations have not been subjected to the moral or civil law of civilized nations, and are not therefore provinces of the moral empire of God. The enlightened nations of Europe and America are provinces of God’s moral government; but the savage people are not, and are therefore unrestrained by civil law. They are under savage and barbarous rule, in which there is no protection of life, liberty or property, but the weaker is dispossessed and oppressed by the stronger; they have no systematized industry; no school houses and cities; no family government and female chastity, but are thriftless, ignorant, lazy, fierce and brutal, living chiefly by plunder and rapine. Few if any of the children of God are ever found amongst savages, but are, as a rule, to be found scattered in civilized countries, as the Jews were in the empire of Ahasuerus, and as the people of God are today in Europe and America. Even the tribes inhabiting the promised land, though to some extent civilized, were largely expelled before the Jews were put into its permanent possession. Savage tribes once inhabited this country, some of whom yet remain on the frontiers, but are receding and fast perishing out before the advance of civilization. When they were in the possession of this whole country there were probably no children of God amongst them. It is true they had some sort of religion or superstition; they believed in the Great Spirit and expected after death a translation to happy immortal hunting grounds. But they were unworthy the fertile lands on which they idly roamed, hunting either game for subsistence, or their savage foes for plunder and murder. Their religion exercised no moral and beneficial influence over their lives, but rather fostered their indolence and brutality. If their belts were strung with the scalps of enemies and their fame trumpeted as bloody handed braves, great rewards were expected in the happy hunting grounds of eternity. But when the Indians’ fullness had arrived, America was discovered, and thus God gave vent to the over-burdened and oppressed population of the Old World. Many of the persecuted people of God, in company with multitudes in quest of wealth and adventure, found refuge from religious persecution in this Western world, and soon an empire of free people sprang up, subduing the savage empire into a province of God’s moral government.

These nations to whom the gospel went by the apostles and early Christians, though heathen in a Christian sense were by no means savages. They had organized governments, and in some of them much enlightenment and refinement; and though ignorant of the ceremonial law of the Jews, had some knowledge of the moral law by nature. They had protection of life and property, courts of justice, splendid cities and large commerce; they had great poets, orators, statesmen, sculptors and philosophers. Indeed the spirit of their morality exceeded, as we may believe, in many places, that of the Jews in the days of the Saviour. In this respect Ahasuerus reigned over the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of his empire; as God reigns over civilized and enlightened nations of the earth; and not as he reigns over all the earth in the law of nature.

The law of nature by which the savage hungers and thirsts sickens, suffers and dies, is the same by which the moral man and Christian hungers, suffers and dies. This law is over all; but the moral or civil law, by which the weaker is secured in his life, liberty and property against the stronger, is not over the savage. He is unrestrained.

The Jews in the great empire of Ahasuerus were the only citizens under the spiritual government of God, or the law of faith. And as Jews were then, so Christians or believers now are the only citizens of civil governments under law to Christ. In common with all citizens they are subject to the laws of the country in which they live, and entitled to all its privileges, but are at the same time under spiritual law, or the responsibilities of faith, of which other citizens are ignorant. While it is the duty of all citizens to obey the laws of the country, it is doubly the duty of the Christian to do so, even if he has no property at stake needing protection, because God commands his allegiance to established governments. It is his duty by the law of faith. For the same reason the Christian is required to keep the law of nature, in not sinning against his own body in excess; in drunkenness and gluttony because a violation of nature’s law destroys life and health. The moral law embraces the good in the natural law, and the spiritual law the good in both laws. We think, therefore, it may be laid down as a rule, to which there may of course be exceptions, that God’s spiritual people are always to be found, in their organized capacity, in civilized countries, and that they possess in spirit, though may be unlearned in letters, the highest order of civilization; and that it may be considered a truth that the temple of truth and holiness arises, as of old, upon the threshing floor of the Jebusite, as civilization rises upon the ruins of barbarism. That is to say, when Christianity is rooted in a country and brings forth its fruit; barbarism, with its vices and brutality, gives way and is extinguished by its moral influences. In this respect Christianity is a blessing to the world. We have in the South now in our midst, a considerable number as we believe of God’s children in the colored people, who by means of slavery have been civilized and by God’s grace made Christians, whilst probably not one has been made a Christian by all the efforts of missionaries in Africa. If in God’s purpose and providence a sufficient number of these colored Christians should return to Africa to subdue by their influence and control that country, a province may there be so subdued to civil law as to give place to the church of Christ in that benighted land.

We think it may also be assumed as true, that the church of Christ will not long exist in any country in which morality is uprooted. Because though it in a spiritual sense be but tares, the wheat will be uprooted with it; and that oftentimes such governments are spared, though the people have become greatly demoralized, for the sake of the church in their midst. But the increase of immorality in a nation is a token of its moral decay, which presages its final overthrow when the light of the church is withdrawn.


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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.