Civil government was ordained of God, and consequently for a good purpose. This being so, no true child of God can ever be an Anarchist, or resist the powers that be. But, although ordained of God, and for a good purpose, civil government was not ordained to make men religious, or for the punishment of those who are irreligious. Its sphere does not reach to the realm of religion.
When, and for what purpose, then, was civil government ordained? Mr. Young, in laying down the principles of government and law in his Government Class Book, p. 12, and thus showing the necessity for civil government, says: "Man is by nature selfish, and many would infringe the rights of others for their own selfish ends, unless restrained. Hence we see the necessity of some fixed rules, that each may know what he may do, and what he must not do."
This in brief gives the whole ground and basis for the existence and necessity of civil governments. Their object is to protect men in their rights by restraining others from infringing upon them. They were designed to act as a check upon the carrying out of selfish ends, a curb on selfishness. They have been a recognized necessity in the nature of things, a necessity because as Mr. Young says, "man is by nature selfish," and therefore needs something to prevent him from acting out this nature, so long as he is possessed of it.
But when did man become selfish? When did this trait, which is the taproot and mainspring of all the evil and misery the world has ever known, become a part of man's nature? Certainly it was not at creation, for "God made man upright." Man, therefore, as he came from the hand of the Creator, had no need of civil government. There was no need of civil government at creation. If, then, we can ascertain when selfishness entered the world, we can tell when civil government became a necessity. But this is not hard to determine. It was when man fell, when he yielded to temptation, when he became the servant of that being who is the embodiment of all selfishness, by choosing to follow his directions for personal improvement, in utter disregard of the express command and prohibition of God. This was when man by nature became selfish. And only subsequent to this time could there be any occasion or necessity for civil government.
Following this line of thought a little farther, it must also be apparent that the necessity for civil governments can exist only so long as man remains in a fallen condition, so long as he is possessed of a selfish nature. There will be no such governments in the redeemed state. The necessity for it will then have passed away.
Still further, it is evident that those who have been converted, whose affections have been changed, who have in them the mind of Christ, who came to this world not to please himself, have no need of civil government even in this world, in order to keep themselves within the bounds of civility. They do not refrain from stealing, lying, and killing because the government threatens vengeance upon those who do such things, but because it is not in their hearts thus to do. So far as they are concerned, men's lives and property would be as safe without civil governments as with them. Those for whom these governments were ordained as a restraining power, seek to escape from punishment usually when they commit these offenses; but with Paul the Christian will say, "If I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die." Acts 25:11.
The Christian recognizes and regards the rights of others because he is converted, because he loves his neighbor as himself. In his actions he is governed by the higher law of love, and not by the penal code of the State. On the other hand, the fear of punishment is the chief incentive by which the State influences those who recognize no higher power, to respect the rights of their fellowmen. "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? . . . For if thou do 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." Rom. 13:3, 4.
Let it not be forgotten, then, that the proper object of civil government is the restraint which, through the fear of the punishment it threatens and executes, it places upon those who would otherwise disregard the rights of others in carrying out their own selfish ends. It can deal only with the fruits of selfishness. With the heart, the seat of selfishness, it has nothing to do. To transform this by such means is an utter impossibility. A change of heart is a work requiring creative power. It can be done only through the influence which religion brings to bear upon the soul, by the gospel, which is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth."
The province of civil government and that of religion are therefore widely separated. Those, therefore, who seek to accomplish through the former that which can be attained only through the latter, show their ignorance both of true religion and of the proper sphere and object of civil government. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, seeking and using the power of the State in their religious work, instead of the power of God. Civil government is of this world. "My kingdom," says Christ, "is not of this world." And of his followers he says, "Ye are not of the world." John 18:36; 15:19. The weapons of the State are carnal. "He beareth not the sword in vain." But, speaking for the church, Paul says, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." 2 Cor. 10:3, 4.
Those, therefore, who appeal to the State to enforce their ideas of religion cannot be Christians, however high their profession of Christianity may be. There can be no more certain evidence that a church which in the past has enjoyed the blessing and power of God, is fallen and has lost its connections with God and its hold upon Him, than for it to seek the support of the secular power in its work. To all such the message, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen," applies. And when this condition of things become general, the true and sincere children of God cannot long remain in their communion. They will hear and heed the call, "Come out of her, my people." And, although the laws of the land may have been brought to the support of certain religious rites and customs, and are urged upon them on the ground that they should be in subjection to the powers that be, they will refuse obedience to whatever conflicts with the word and law of God, knowing that The Province of Civil Government extends not to things religious. With the apostles they will say, "We ought to obey God rather than men," and with the Reformers, "We pledge, therefore, our obedience to the emperor in all civil matters; but as for the Word of God, it is liberty that we demand."
The judgment will come; but he who preaches the Gospel in truth must say, "The hour of God's judgment is come." Rev. 14:7. In other words, the books are now open, and all cases, both of the dead and of the living, are to be decided for eternity before Christ can close His work in the heavenly sanctuary, and return to the earth to bring the promised deliverance and reward to His servants.
The Savior has kindly sent us this message, not that we should be left to wonder when the judgment will begin with the living, or when our case will appear, but that we may "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." Heb. 4:16.
God is not an arbitrary ruler or judge, but in all His dealings with man he invites man to cooperate with God in His work, as it is written, "Surely the LORD God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto his servants the prophets." And thus in the matter of the judgment, the LORD has sent a message to His people, in order that they may know of the work that is being done, and that they may come and present their cases before the throne, and have them decided at once for eternity.
The first angel's message (Rev. 14:6, 7) is not given for the dead, but that the living may recognize their great privilege to come and present their cases for judgment after having made preparation.
There are but three steps necessary to prepare us to come before the judgment seat with perfect confidence, and with the assurance that the verdict will be satisfactory.
Firstly, acknowledge the claims of God's law. "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty." James 2:12.
Secondly, recognize our own unrighteousness. "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags." Isa. 64:6.
Thirdly, accept of the perfect righteousness of Christ. "And this is His name whereby He shall be called, "YAH is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." Jer. 23:6. (see also Ps. 68:4, KJV.)
After having taken these steps by faith, we are ready to pray the prayer, "Save me, O God, by Thy name, and judge me by Thy strength." Ps. 54:1. And the verdict will come back at once, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Rom. 8:1. Advancing daily in the Divine Life you are secure.
"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Rom. 8:33, 34.
When we have received this message by faith we can go on our way rejoicing, with our "faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration," for we shall realize that we have "passed from death unto life." 1 John 3:14. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Eph. 2:10.
The Father is waiting for us to receive His precious truth in all its fullness, which will be followed immediately by the out-pouring of the latter rain, ripening our fruit for the earth's final harvest. Won't you receive His saving judgment today and be prepared for the soon coming of our blessed Master?
"The Word of the living God is, not merely written, but spoken. The Bible is God's voice speaking to us, just as surely as though we could hear it with our ears. If we realize this, with what awe would we open God's Word, and with what earnestness would we search its precepts! The reading and contemplation of the Scriptures would be regarded as an audience with the Infinite One." Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 393.
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