The Rule of Duty to Christian Nations to Civil Institutions.
Printed by J.D. Spalding
THE WRITTEN LAW.
"I saw in the night visions, and, behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him and there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him." Dan. 7:13,14.
The Christian religion is distinguished from all false systems of worship, by revealing a divine Mediator, as the only way of access, by which men can approach the Father in their devotions. It is implied in this that all men are fallen in Adam, by the violation of the covenant of works and "are by nature under the wrath and curse of God"—and "that God is in Christ Jesus reconciling the world unto himself." Pagans and Mahometans approach their gods without reference to a mediator and rely on their own offerings to recommend them to the favour of the objects of their adoration. Papists rely on creature mediation, as that of the Virgin Mary, of other saints, and of angels, on whose intercession they depend for their acceptance with God. By all this they demonstrate that they neither understand the claims of the divine justice, holiness and glory, nor the nature and demerit of sin.
The professors of the true religion, are taught that their persons, devotions and all other acts of obedience to the law of the Lord can be accepted in Christ the Mediator and in him only. It is a remnant of Paganism, to maintain that while all duties that are strictly religious can be accepted in Christ, civil duties may be performed well, and approved of God without reference to the Mediator of the new Covenant. The argument offered for this error is that civil government is founded in the law of nature and not in new covenant mercy, and therefore in its constitution and administration, it is not necessary in order to God’s approbation of it, and blessing on it, that there should be an acknowledgment of the Mediator. The assumption is true, the inference false. For the duty of worshipping God is founded in the law of nature, and yet all acceptable homage must be rendered through the Lord Jesus Christ.
The right of the Son of God in the Mediatorial character to civil homage is clearly expressed in our text. "One like unto the Son of man" is a phrase which in this connection, can mean none other than Christ as Mediator—or the second person of the Godhead, as head of the covenant of grace. That he is God cannot be denied, for no creature could either receive or administer the vast empire which he receives. As God he could not receive it, for in that respect it belongs to him essentially, and because in that character, or as he is the Son of God, he is not "like the Son of man." He receives the Kingdom, as he is the God-man, and "the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus." "The ancient of days" is God, in the person of the Father, by whom, according to the stipulations of the everlasting covenant, "there was given to him dominion" over all people, nations and languages, whose duty it becomes by this donation of the kingdom on the part of God the Father, to serve him. According to this exposition of the text, Paul, Rom. 9:5, says of Christ Jesus: that he "is God over all, blessed forever." The service which all are bound to render is obedience to his law. As his law is clearly revealed in the Holy Scriptures, all nations who have access to the Bible revelation of the will of Christ are bound to obey it in civil as well as in all other things. All are bound "to honor him ever as they honor the Father."
It is then the prominent doctrine of this text:—That as God the Father, has conferred on God the Son, as Mediator, universal dominion, all nations who have access to the Bible are bound in all their civil institutions, to honor him by framing and administering their laws according to its requisitions. The following distribution of the topics contained in this doctrine, will lead to profitable meditation on its high and holy import.
I. Christ the Mediator is God, equal with the Father.
II. As Mediator, the government of the universe is given him of the Father.
III. The will of God revealed in the Scriptures binds all christian nations in civil things.
IV. The objections made to this doctrine are of no force.
I. Christ is God, equal with the Father.
In a nation where the divinity of Christ is rejected, and where is regarded as no more than a created angel, or mere man, national homage to him will be refused. Soon after the Roman Empire became christian, Arianism spread extensively, and was often the heresy of the court. With the progress of this heresy, the religion of the empire degenerated into Popish paganism. In the United States, where national homage is not rendered to the "one like unto the Son of man," the same heresy has advanced with strides gigantic and alarming. The homage rendered to Christ, falls infinitely short of what the Ancient of days requires, if it does not honor him even as it honors the Father. That he is God all Scripture bears most ample testimony.
l. The incommunicable name Jehovah is given to him. Isa. 6:3. "And one cried to another, holy, holy, holy, is the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts: the whole earth is fully of his glory." The name Jehovah signifies, according to its Hebrew derivation, the eternal and self existent God. It is translated. Rev. 1:8. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is and which was and which is to come." It is a name never given to any creature. "God will not give his glory to another." It was evidently the true and eternal God whom Isaiah saw, whom he heard the Seraphim adoring as their "Lord, sitting on his throne. ‘From John. 12:41, we learn that it was Christ whose glory he saw.’ These things said Isaiah when he saw his glory and spake of him." The person of whom John here speaks, and to whom he refers in the pronouns HIM and HIS, is Christ, who had done so many miracles among the Jews.
As Christ is clearly called by the name Jehovah, this aught forever to stop the mouths of all who blaspheme his divinity, by their attempts to degrade him to the humble rank of a creature. But farther, every name employed to denote true and proper godhead is given to him. He is called God. "God over all." "The Mighty God, the everlasting Father," Isai. 9:6. Which must refer to Christ for he is "a child born."
2. He performs works which none but God can do. He creates:—"All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." John 1:3. "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are in earth visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and for him." Col. 1:16. "By whom also he made the worlds." Creation is an act of almighty power, by which out of nothing a being is brought into existence. Nonentity and being may be said to be infinitely distant from each other, and to call from nothing into being, requires the exercise of infinite power. The combined power of all creation could not create the smallest particle of matter—a grain of sand might as well be supposed to create an angel, as that an angel could create a grain of sand. Both are infinitely impossible.
Christ upholds in being all things that have been created. "Upholding all things by the word of his power." Heb. 1:3. The whole physical and moral creation, the universe of matte and mind in all its stupendous magnitude, in its vast, endlessly diversified and complicated machinery, and in all its mysterious and wonderous operations, is in his hand to sustain it, and guide its movements. To all this the energies of an Almighty arm alone are competent. An omniscient eye alone can perceive at once and always, all the various and minute parts, relations, and operations of this great system.
He raises the dead. "I am the resurrection and the life;" says Christ, John 11:25. And to demonstrate the justness of his claim, he proceeds to raise Lazarus from the dead. "Of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." John 6:39. "The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God and they that hear shall live." John 6:25. He rose from the grave by his own power. Who but God can collect, at the last day, all the particles of the dust of all the countless millions of the dead, distinguish them from each other, and re-organize and quicken the self same bodies? He who does this, and Christ will do it, is indeed the Mighty God.
The work of regeneration is ascribed to him. "Even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." John 5:21. The implantation of a new principle of spiritual life in the soul of the sinner who is "by nature dead in trespasses and sins," is the work of God. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again to a lively hope." 1 Pet. 1:3. as Christ performs this work of "creating the sinner anew," he is God.
Again he will judge the world. "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." John 5:22. "Let the floods clap their hands: and the hills be joyful together: before the Lord (Jehovah;) for he cometh to judge the earth." The judgment of the world belongs to Jehovah, the living, true and eternal God, and that judge is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is also the Son of man. Who, indeed, is competent to the work of judging the whole intelligent creation—elect angels, Beelzebub and all his reprobate hosts—all the elect of God, out of all kindred, tongues, ages and nations, and all the reprobate millions of our fallen race, according to all their thoughts, words and actions—who but God omniscient, whose eye has observed all the doings of heaven, earth and hell, and who has recorded, and remembers them all?
All these stupendous works surely prove him to be God. He created all things, he upholds all things, he regenerates the dead sinner, he raises the dead, and he is the judge of the quick and the dead. If any work, if all the works of creation and providence demonstrate the being, and prove the power of God, Jesus Christ is God—"God over all blessed forever."
3. Omnipotence and all other divine attributes are ascribed to him "who is like unto the Son of man." "I am Alpha and Omega—the Almighty." Rev. 1:8. Jesus Christ the faithful and true witness of whom John had the vision in Patmos, affirms of himself that he is Almighty. When God speaks to Job out of the whirlwind, and asserts the glory and rights of his Godhead, it is to the almightiness of his power that he appeals. This same almightiness Christ claims. When the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ,—when Christ takes to himself his great power and reigns to the ends of the earth gloriously; when "the marriage of the Lamb is come;" John hears "as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth." Rev. 19:6. That omnipotence which belongs to him, he demonstrates by the prostration of all the iniquitous thrones of the nations, and the demolition of the whole empire of the prince of darkness, and the establishment of his own kingdom of righteousness and peace on their ruins and amidst their endless desolations. The name of the "child born is—the mighty God." Isa. 9:6. "What Lord is like to thee in mightiness," thou blessed Jesus!
He is also eternal. "I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the earth was." Prov. 8. "In the beginning was the word and the word was God." John 1:1. "Whose goings forth have been of old from everlasting." Mic. 5:2. This passage is applied to him who was the babe of Bethlehem. "For thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a governor, that shall rule my people Israel," Mat. 2:6. Christ says:—"Before Abraham was I am." John 8:58. He does not say "before Abraham," I WAS, but "I AM" in the present tense. He therefore, not only asserts his pre-existence to Abraham, but refers to his duration as not made up of parts in succession, like that of the creatures—to his co-existence, in his eternal personality with all duration past, present and to come. There appears to be an allusion to the name, by which he made himself known to Israel in Egypt by Moses, to whom he appeared at Horeb. "I AM hath sent me unto you." Ex. 3:14. As there is no past nor future with God, so with Christ as he is a divine person, all things are for ever present. He who is from eternity is uncreated and true and very God.
He is omniscient, as might and must be inferred from his upholding all things, and his being judge of all. Omniscience is expressly ascribed to him. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest with whom we have to do." Heb. 4:13. The person of whom the apostle here treats is the eternal or personal Word of God. It is the Son of God in our nature. All things past, present and future in the whole range of creation are at once before him and present to his omniscient eye. He is the Lord that searcheth the heart. "He knowing their thoughts." Mat. 9:4. This is often affirmed of him in the gospels. The searching of the heart is the peculiar prerogative of God. "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reigns." Jer. 17:10. Who can know what is in man, except the omniscient God? Yet Christ Jesus knoweth this, and "needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man." John 2:25. He has even a perfect knowledge of the Father. "No man knoweth the Father but the Son." Mat. 11:27. Hence, he knoweth all that is known to the infinite mind; and for any creature to arrogate this to itself would be a blasphemous claim to divinity. It is no valid objection to this, that "of the day and hour of the last judgment, knoweth no man, no not the Son, but the Father." For this is spoken of his human nature, or the knowledge possessed by his human soul, which was not and never will be infinite. It is, by the way, ground of great consolation, that the Lord Jesus Christ our elder brother and redeeming Head knows all our wants, all our infirmities and pains, all our temptations, all our trials, and all our prayers, and that as he knows and is able, so he is infinitely willing to impart to us all that we need, and enrich us abundantly out of his fulness.
He is omnipresent. "Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world." Mat. 28:20. This is much more than, I WILL BE with you. It is like the phrase, "before Abraham was I AM." He then saw all the conditions in which all his ministers and disciples would be unto the end of the world, and he had made ample provision for all. They were to continue through a long succession of many generations, and to minister to people of many and remote nations, and he says I AM now with them in all ages and countries. Again, he says:—"Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there AM I in the midst of them." Mat. 18:20. In all praying families, in all social meetings for devotion, in all congregations, in all judicatories, in all the assemblies of the saints, though they should meet in the dens and in the caves of the mountains. Could Isaiah, Paul, Peter, or John; could the angel Gabriel, or any other creature have promised so much with truth? Could the faith of all or any of the saints have relied on such a promise made by any creature, or have derived from it any consolation?
4. Religious homage is by the divine command rendered to him on earth and in heaven. When a babe in Bethlehem, the wise men from the east worshipped him in humble adoration: "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshipped him." Mat. 2:11. The aged and devout Simeon and Anna worshipped him. Thomas in adoration says to him:—"My Lord and my God." Stephen worshipping him says when receiving from his hand the crown of martyrdom:—"Lord Jesus receive my Spirit—Lord lay not this sin to their charge." Acts 7:60. Paul when converted on his way to Damascus, says "Lord what wilt thou have me to do?" Acts 9:6. John in Patmos reverently adored him. The forty fifth Psalm—"Thou fairer art than sons of men &c," throughout is a song of praise employer in all ages from the time in which it was indited by the Holy Ghost, to the end of time, in the worship of him "who is like unto the Son of man." The greater part of the inspired psalms are of the same import. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Manoah, Isaiah, all the Old Testament saints worshipped him, which no mere creature might or could claim or receive without blasphemy. Angels are commanded to do him homage. "When he bringeth the first begotten into the world, he saith and let all the angels of God worship him." Heb. 1:6. This high command they obey. "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the Seraphims; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried to another, and said Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory." Isa. 6:1,3. All heaven resounds with devotional songs in the celebration of his praises:—"And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us kings and priests, and we shall reign on earth. And I beheld and heard the voice of many angels, round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory; and blessing." Rev. 5:9,12. Would it be less than gross idolatry to offer homage in strains like these to any creature, were he even the most exalted of the cherubim? More than this cannot be offered to that God "who will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images." Yet in these adoring strains, "every creature which, is on earth, and in the sea," and all that are in them unite; and their object is "one like unto the Son of man."
5. To all this we have added the express declaration that he is God the Father’s equal. "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered, and I will turn my hand upon the little ones." Zec. 12:7. A man is here declared to be God’s fellow, or equal, and to be smitten by the sword. To none other can this be ascribed than to the Lord Jesus Christ, or none other can it be affirmed. In the person of the Son, he is God the Father’s fellow, and he is also the man, who was born of woman, and who suffered crucifixion on Calvary, dying by the sword of divine justice, in the room of his elect. In the New Testament it is expressly applied to Christ. "And Jesus said unto them, all ye shall be offended because of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." Mark 14:27. So that same Jesus who, in our nature died on the cross is equal with the Father, and the true, living and eternal God. To this truth the Holy Spirit bears witness by the apostle Paul. "Let this same mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Phil. 2:5-8. His possession of the essence of the Godhead, is here expressed by the phrase, "being in the form of God" contrasted with the declaration of his humanity in the words "in fashion as a man." He was and is both God and man in one person—he, that is the person is in the form of God and in fashion as a man. And he does not claim too much, in thinking himself equal with the Father. The Socinian perversion of the text, which translates it, he "seized not the prey to be equal with" as it does violence to the idiom of the original, so it is adverse to the whole complexion of the passage, contrary to the analogy of faith, and needs no refutation. How could a mere man be "in the form of God?" And how could he humble himself by being found in fashion as a man? In him, then, "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," and his glory is the glory of the Almighty Lord. To deny this is blasphemously to rob him of "that glory which he had with the Father before the world began."
If Christ is not God, then it will be impossible to prove that there is a God; for all the names and titles of God are given to him; his are all the attributes of God; all the worship of God is rendered to him; and he is affirmed to be equal with the Father. Then if he is not God, the work of man’s redemption that he has undertaken and accomplished, would never have been performed—it would have failed for ever; the government of the empire of Jehovah committed to his administration, would run into ruin; and the faith which rests on his word and trusts in his power, would rest in a creature, and could not be divine, or saving. But as he is declared to be the Son of God with power, and as he is God over all, blessed for ever, he accomplishes his divine and glorious work of redeeming fallen men, he upholds all things by the word of his power; and his people safely rely on his power, for it is the mighty power of God.
II. As Mediator, the government of the universe is given him of the Father. The illustration of this topic will afford ample confirmation of the preceding argument for Christ’s divinity. Here, the distinction between the Son of God as Mediator, and his essential divinity as the second person in the Godhead, must be well understood. As God, and not as Mediator, he created the universe. There was no need of a Mediator in the work of creation; for all things were created very good. If as Mediator he created the world, it would follow that as Mediator he entered into covenant with Adam, whereas, "he is the Mediator of a better covenant." Heb. 8:6. As God, nothing could be given him by the Father; for he is eternally the Father's equal, and all the Father’s in his, by essential right; therefore in no sense as God, could he receive a donation, all being his own naturally. It were just as proper to speak of the Son giving power to the Father, as of the Father giving it to the Son, in this respect, or rather both are infinitely absurd. This distinction between the Son as God and as Mediator, men are slow to understand. It is not revealed by the light of nature, it is no part of the law inscribed on man at his creation, and it is not contained in the covenant of works. Men naturally cleave to the old covenant, and seek life by the deeds of the law. Going about to establish their own righteousness, they come short of the righteousness which is of God by faith. So in the matter of Christ’s dominion, while they admit that he reigns over all, as God, many limit his mediatorial lordship to believers or at farthest to the church. Even some ministers of the gospel, finding their people better instructed than themselves in this doctrine, have preached that Christ is "Lord of all," but have been careful not to explain the sense in which they use the phrase, thus handling the word of God deceitfully to please the people.
In this branch of the discussion, it is Christ as God-man—the Mediator, in his character of Daysman, as the Father’s honorary servant, who is affirmed to have received from the Father, authority to govern the universe.
This important and necessary distinction, will be illustrated and better understood and remembered, by recurring to the grounds on which the dominion over all things is vested in Christ by the Father. They are chiefly two: I. as a reward of his sufferings, "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2:9-11. In the verses immediately preceding, the Apostle gives a brief account of the Godhead of Christ, his becoming man, and dying on the cross, assigning them as reasons of his exaltation to universal dominion; because he who is God became man, and died to save sinners; therefore the Father, to illustrate his delight in his own Son, as the author of eternal salvation to sinners, and to reward him for his wondrous and gracious humiliation to the death, constitutes him Lord of the universe, as he is Mediator. He is exalted in the same character in which he suffered.
To the same purpose is the declaration, "He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head." Psalm 110:7. He drank of the brook of suffering, and therefore, as his reward, the Father says of him, "The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thy enemies." Again, "Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death." Isa. 53:12. Not only is the dominion bestowed on him in the same character in which "he bare the sin of many," and in which "it pleased the Lord to bruise him," but because he took on him the sins of sinners as their surety, and submitted to be bruised in their stead, that they might escape from the wrath to come. Will not the redeemed of the Lord joyfully say amen, to this exaltation of their Redeemer! Trusting that the import of the phrase, as Mediator, is clearly exhibited in the preceding remarks, the sway is prepared for profitable meditation on the extent of his mediatorial authority.
1. In the character of Mediator he is Lord of angels. The homage which they render to him, exhibited in the first topic of discussion, proves that he reigns over them. They announced his birth. "And the angel of the Lord said unto them fear not: for behold I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord"—"and suddenly there was a great multitude of the heavenly host praising God." Luke 2:10-13. They ministered to him. "Angels came and ministered unto him." Mat. 5:11. He submitted to be tempted of Satan forty days, "that he might be tempted in all things like as we are tempted," and know how to succour us. As soon as the devil leaves him, he receives the ministrations of the heavenly host, to shew that he is their Lord. During his agony in the garden of Gethsemane, they waited on him, that the glory of his lordship might appear in the moments of his very deep sorrow and humiliation. "And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him." Luke 22:43. His resurrection from the dead is revealed by their ministration. "He is not here: for he is risen." Matt. 28:6. Angels were with him on the mount Olives, at his ascension. "And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven, two men stood by them in white apparel." Acts 1:10. Thus his angelic servants appeared obeying his commands, and doing homage to enhance the glory of his mediatorial triumph, when he arose from the grave and ascended far above all heavens.
They serve him because he is their Lord. "Worship him all ye Gods." Psalms 98:7. The gods who are commanded to render homage to God are angels. For Paul quotes the text, and renders the word angels. "And when he bringeth the first begotten into the world," he saith, "And let all the angels of God worship him." Heb. 1:6. That worship they performed on the plains of Bethlehem, a great multitude of the heavenly host saying, "glory to God in the highest." Luke 2:14. Even when the babe of Bethlehem, he was their king, and therefore his dominion over them is as Mediator, and uninterrupted. Immediately before his ascension, he declares that angels are subject to his kingly authority, "all power in heaven is given unto me." Matt. 18:18. If angels are inhabitants of heaven, they are among the "all things" over which his economical kingdom there extends. It is not his essential kingdom of which he speaks; for it is by donation, "is given to me," to me who am here talking with you, in my arisen body. It was a consolatory doctrine to his disciples. He was about to leave them and go away into heaven, while the commission which he gives them to execute, would expose them to hatred, scorn and persecution. But let them fear not the holy angelic hosts that excel in strength, were put under his command to be employed in their protection, and in rendering them other kind services. "They are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation." As they had ministered to him while on earth, so they should minister for his disciples in all their trials and conflicts. "What should the enmity of men avail, when they enjoyed the protection of angels,—why should they grieve for the opposition of men, when they were endowed with the brotherhood of angels!
2. The church of God on earth, is his special treasure, the highly favored spot in his great dominion. "I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." Psalm 2:6. "The Lord of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and before his ancients gloriously." Isa. 24:23. "But Christ as a Lord over his own house we are." In the church he reigns as supreme and only Head. He is the author of the laws, institutions, and order, which none may violate, under pain of his high displeasure. The relation which the Lord Jesus bears to the church as her king, is exhibited and illustrated in the Scriptures by various metaphors. He is her head. "He is the head of the body the church." Col. 1:18. "The head from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God." Col. 2:19. In the natural body, the source of vitality and nervous power is in the brain, or head, from which it is diffused throughout the body, sustaining life and imparting energy to all the organs in their several functions. The head possesses a governing influence. In like manner, the church is composed of many members. By this union of individual members to the Lord Jesus, through faith, they become actual possessors of his justifying righteousness, which does not become theirs by imputation, but is imputed to them because it is theirs. By that same faith he puts them in possession of his righteousness. They derive strength from the Head for the performance of all the holy duties which they owe to Christ their King. Thus "grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Christ Jesus." In the language of the Shorter Catechism, Christ "rules in us." He reigns efficiently in the heart of the sinner, "putting his law into his inner parts." and imparting to him his own holy and glorious image, and "making him meet for the inheritance of the saints in light."
As the church’s King, he imparts efficacy by his Spirit to her gospel doctrines, laws and ordinances, for the conversion of sinners and for the edification of her redeemed children. Without this energy of Christ, exercised through the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, all her other endowments would be inefficient—"the letter that killeth." It is this that imparts to the church of Christ her living beauty, excellency and glory. The Lord endow us all with this Spirit.
Christ as her King is called the church’s husband. "Thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name." Isai. 54:5. "As a young man marrieth a virgin so shall thy sons marry thee." By entering into the marriage relation the husband becomes endowed with authority as the head of his wife. "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the church." Eph. 5:23. In the covenant of grace Christ engaged, before the world began, to espouse the church to himself; and in the gospel he offers himself to the sinner for acceptance in this character. In faith the offer is accepted, and a solemn covenant—a marriage covenant, is consummated between the Lord Jesus and the believer. "Saith the Lord, I am married to you." Jeremiah 3:14. The church on the footing of the covenant of grace enters, as often the church did in Israel, and as did the churches of Macedonia in the apostolic age, into solemn public covenant with Christ, to whom she swears allegiance as her King, Lord and Husband. This is public, ecclesiastical covenanting. On account of this entering into covenant with God, in the National Covenant of Scotland, and in the Solemn League and Covenant, and for adhering to them down to our own times, Reformed Presbyterians have been called Covenanters.
It is for the sake of the church, and in subserviency to her interests, that the dominion has been given to Christ "that all people, nations and languages, should serve him." "And he gave him to be Head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Eph. 1:22,23. To display the glory of God in and through the church, the world was created, and all things in creation are, in the administration of providence, by the Lord Jesus, made "to work together for her good." The church cannot refuse to acknowledge his lordship over all; for he holds it by the same charter of the covenant of grace, and by the same act of donation from the Father, that confers on him a right to rule in the church and reign over her.
3. All the material creation is under Christ as Mediator. In the exercise of this dominion he came as Mediator into the garden of Eden, soon after the fall of man. He, at that early date, began to exercise over material things the mediatorial dominion committed to him. "Dust shalt thou eat." Gen. 3:14. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake, in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee." v. 17,18. The serpent, the dust of the ground, the whole earth, are claimed to be under his authority, as he pronounces on them a malediction. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." v. 19. As Mediatory Lord he promises man bread to eat.
To Abraham he promised the land of Canaan, and to his posterity in the days of Joshua. The man with a drawn sword in his hand, it is, and must be admitted was the Son of God in the Mediatorial character. He was the Lord of the earth, and so had a right to put his people Israel in possession of Palestine. In the days of his flesh, "even the winds and the sea obeyed him;" and he fed thousands, to the full, on a few loaves and fishes. Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews, 2:6,7,8, affirms this doctrine most emphatically. "But one in a certain place testified saying, what is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all things in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him." This is a quotation from the eighth Psalm, where we have some of the specifications of what is comprehended under the phrase "all things." "All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea." Our whole planet, its oceans, continents, mineral treasures, atmosphere, the whole vegetable kingdom, and all the tribes of animated nature, are put under the second man, the Lord from heaven. It is Christ as Mediator of whom Paul treats in the Hebrews, and not of him as he is God essentially.
The sun, the moon, the stars, the whole vast system of physical nature, are under the authority of Christ; for all power in heaven is given to him, in the whole heavens created in the beginning. This extensive authority is conferred on him that he may render all things subservient to the good of his church. Hence, the Apostle says to all believers "All things are yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;" 1 Cor. 3:21,22. The title of the saints to all this ample inheritance, is derived from their covenant connection with Christ and their mystical union to him as their spiritual head. "They are joint heirs with Christ." Rom. 8:17. "And he is heir of all things." Heb. 1:2.
The bodies of the saints are formed of material substances, and these before they enter into the bodily organization of believers, are extensively diffused throughout creation,—how extensively we know not. Light and heat enter into the composition of all the vegetable substances of which our bodies are formed. The sun and every star that sends its rays to the earth, contribute to the growth and support of the bodies of the redeemed of the Lord. Christ purchased the whole man, soul and body; and therefore all the matter of which they are formed belongs to him. For their sakes, the world is spared; for they "are the salt of the earth." Matt. 5:13. The tares are permitted to grow with the wheat for its sake. Thus the whole system of the physical universe is rendered, in the hand of the Mediator, subordinate to the good of those who belong to Christ as their redeeming Head. Indeed, this is the result of a more general law of creation; which is that the physical creation is subordinate to God’s moral empire. Matter was created to subserve the interests of mind, and mind was created to serve God, by obeying the laws of his moral government.
4. Civil government is subjected to him. Had it not been for the opposition of ungodly civil rulers, and those who sinfully seek their favour, there is no reason to believe that any professor of the christian religion would ever have called in question the doctrine of the Mediatorial dominion of Christ over the whole empire of God. As Herod and Pontius Pilate; rulers and their ungodly subjects have conspired together against the Lord and his anointed, to cast his cords from them; so time serving professors, have sought an apology for them, in the subterfuge that the kingly authority of Messiah is limited to the church. If any truth can be demonstrated from the Holy Scriptures, it is proved in the preceding particular, that Christ as Mediator rules over natural things. However extensive or however limited the power of civil rulers may be, in one point all are agreed, that it extends to earthly things, or to the rights of property. It issues charter rights, or deeds of title to the soil, from the cultivation of which men derive their subsistence. Now, if the earth belongs to the Lord,—Christ as has been fully proved, then in this thing, they must be subjected to him. They make dispositions of property that is his, and surely he has a right to dictate in what manner this shall be done. In Israel the various tribes had their inheritances assigned them by lot, which was an appeal to Christ who promised that land to Abraham. It has been emphatically called the land of promise; and "in Christ Jesus all the promises are yea and amen." 2 Cor. 1:20. To deny consistently the doctrine of civil governments being subjected to Christ, it must also be denied that temporal blessings are dispensed by him even to the saints; for their property, in common with all others, is subject to regulations. To this extreme, some have been driven, in their zeal to defend civil rulers, in their refusal of allegiance to him "who is Lord of all." It is painful that even with professors of Christ’s religion, a point such as this, requires to be reasoned. But so it is. That Adam by the violation of the covenant of works forfeited a title to life, is undeniable. "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." The forfeiture of life includes that of all that sustains life. If Christ then does not give us a right to our daily bread, and as the title was lost in Adam, then we use what is not ours. But "the saints use the earth as heirs." They have a right to it by inheritance, through Christ. The civil ruler, then, who has committed to him the guardianship of the rights of property, must be under subjection to Christ Jesus, as he is the Mediator of the New Covenant.
It will not avail to reply against this process of reasoning, to say, that civil government originates in the law of nature, and is not founded in the new covenant, as all gospel ordinances are. This is true. But it does not follow that it is not "given to him, among the "all things," to which his mediatorial lordship extends. Adam and Eve and all their posterity were in the covenant of works, subject to the law of nature; and if all that was originally under the law in that form, must be excepted from the objects of Christ’s authority, it would leave him without any person or thing over which to reign. Wherever it originated, the Father surely had a right to subject it to the dominion of his Son.
It is, however clearly asserted in the Holy Scriptures, that civil government is subjected to the Mediatory authority. "All power," says Christ, "is given to me—in earth." Mat. 28:18. If civil government be a "power on earth," it is given to Christ. Here, again the remark applies, that it could not be given to him as God, for as God it was his by nature, and therefore the donation must be given to him in the Mediatorial character. Christ does not say it WILL BE GIVEN to me, when the powers on earth shall acknowledge me; he says "IT IS GIVEN TO ME," I HAVE IT NOW.
The purpose for which this power is granted to Christ, appears from its connection with the ministerial commission of his apostles:—"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you." The imperial government of Rome claimed, at that time, dominion over the whole world. It was the fourth of those monarchies, that have been called universal, and claimed the subjection of the whole earth to its dominion. It had taken under its protection the idolatrous forms of religion, in all the nations subjugated by its arms. The usurpation of power, in which that government was founded, the despotic, and tyrannical administration of its usurped authority, the idolatry and profligacy of the persons who filled its offices of state, and all the false worship of the empire, were adverse to the pure and heavenly doctrines and precepts which Christ commanded his ministers to publish among the nations. The worship enjoined by the magistracy of the empire was in open hostility to that of the church of Christ. In that assemblage of nations subjugated to the Roman Caesars, the apostles were to execute their commission, in teaching a religion adverse to the maxims, practices and commands of the imperial throne. All power in the Roman earth, says Christ, is given to me;—the whole machinery of the empire is put under my Mediatory authority, my kingdom extends over its whole civil rule; so that as Mediator, I have a right by donation from my Father, to set up and establish my church, in opposition to that kingdom of darkness, over which Caesar reigns. "Wherefore," because I reign as Mediator over the empire, "go ye and teach all things whatsoever I have commanded you." Had the kingly power of Christ been limited to the church, he could not as Mediator have sent its ministers to proclaim this gospel in Caesar’s dominions, where he had no disciples.
Into whatever nations the ambassadors of Christ have travelled from the day when Christ gave this commission to the present time, whether under the name of apostles, evangelists, ministers or missionaries, on their first entrance into them, they have found the Pagan civil powers as adverse to the gospel of the kingdom, as those of Rome were at the beginning of the promulgation of the gospel. The same commission, with the same preface, has vested them with authority, and encouraged them, to go forward in "lengthening the cords and stretching out the curtains of Zion’s habitation." "All power is given unto me on earth. Go ye, therefore, &c." The right to subdue all nations to the obedience of faith, in opposition to all Pagan, Mahometan and other governments adverse to the pure religion of the Bible, necessarily involves the extension of his kingly authority over the magisterial rule of the nations. His ministers make no intrusion into territories not belonging to their Master, when they commence and prosecute the work of teaching or discipling the nations inhabiting any part of the earth; for unto Christ is given "all power on earth." In order to engage in their ministerial labours, they have not been bound nor are they permitted, to ask a licence from any Caesar, Monarch, Emperor, King or President, for they have their commission of Him, who is over them all—"Prince of the kings of the earth." Rev. 1:5. How few of the kings of the nations had the Apostles or ministers of Jesus been under obligations to ask of them permission to preach the gospel, in their dominions, would have accorded them the grant? How preposterous would it have been for the ambassadors of God’s eternal Son, to have been required to seek liberty from the kings of the earth, to execute their commission!
The proof of Christ’s lordship over the civil governments of the
world does not rest alone on this declaration—"all power—on earth is given to me," It is inscribed on numerous pages of the book of God’s revelation, so plainly "that he who runs may read." "Moses was king in Jeshuran." Deut. 33:5. He was appointed of God an extraordinary officer to organize the Israelitish church and commonwealth—to announce the institutions, proclaim the laws and constitute both the ecclesiastical and civil government of the Hebrews. That he exercised the power of a civil magistrate is undeniable. Did God, as an absolute sovereign, out of Christ, give him his civil commission, and Christ as Mediator the authority as exercised in the church? Is there any hint that this was so? None—not the least. On the contrary, it is manifest that the Mediator, as Mediator invested him with all his authority. All must admit that it was Messiah who appeared to him in the burning bush, and gave him commandment to go and conduct Israel from Egypt to the borders of Canaan. He who gave him his commission had authority not over Israel only, but over Pharoah. "I will send thee unto Pharoah that thou mayest bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt." Ex. 3:10. "And afterward Moses and Aaron, went in and told Pharoah, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel let my people go." Ex. 5:1. This command to Pharaoh, was issued in the name of Israel’s God, under authority given to Moses and Aaron, by the angel that appeared in the burning bush. If Christ had authority to command Pharoah, so he had, over all the kings of the nations.
He who appeared in the burning bush, dwelt in the pillar of the cloud, and of him God says: "My name is in him." Ex. 23:21. The name of God in this passage is expressive of the authority with which the Redeemer is vested, as well as of the glory of his Godhead. He is called, God’s angel or messenger. "For mine angel shall go before thee." v. 23. All that is uttered—all the authority exercised by this angel, is the work of Christ as Mediator. He governed, by the instrumentality of Moses, all their civil polity, and was the commander in chief of their armies, when they went forth to battle. He gave them a body of civil laws, as a legislator; he applied these laws, in the exercise of judiciary power; and they were executed at his command.
Joshua made war on the thirty and two kings of the Canaanitish nations, demolished their thrones, and executed the divine judgment in slaughtering them, at the command of him, who met him on the banks of Jordan, as "the captain of the Lord’s hosts." He was the Lord of hosts, Christ as Mediator.
The prophet Samuel was undoubtedly an officer in Israel, by authority from Christ, and he anointed both Saul and David. But why should examples be multiplied in what no Bible believer can possibly gainsay—that Christ as Mediatory king exercised lordship over Israel in all civil things?
In this consisted the peculiar glory of the Hebrew commonwealth—this made their land, "the glory of all lands." The pious Israelites did not say as so many professors of religion do in our times:—"We will not have this man to reign over us," in any civil matter. Their songs of praise indited by the Holy Spirit, abound with ascriptions of praise to him as their king, and as the ruler among all nations. "I have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion—Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed ye judges of the earth—Kiss ye the Son." Psal. 2:6,10,12. He is acknowledged as "reigning in Zion, and to the ends of the earth gloriously." "God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet"—"God reigneth over the nations"—"The princes of the people are gathered together" (to do homage to him who is gone up with a shout)—"For the shields," civil governments, "of the earth belong unto the Lord." Psal. 47:5,7,9. This Psalm was composed to be sung, at the grand procession that carried up the ark of the God of Israel, to the place that David had prepared for it in Zion. The ark was the symbol of Christ's presence, and its ascent to the city of David, a type of the ascension of our risen Lord, from mount Olivet. It is the glory of the Lord Jesus, as Mediatory king who with holy shouts of joy, is here celebrated by the church. To him is ascribed the holding of the reigns of government over the kings of the earth—"the shields of the earth." "Yea all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him." Psal. 72:11. They shall do homage to him who is the king’s Son—Christ the eternal son of God, as Mediator. "Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.—The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in his day of wrath." Psal. 110:3,5. This psalm, Heb. 5. is applied by the Apostle Paul to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is "made a priest forever after the order of Melchizedec." 5:6. All pagan and most other kings have been in all ages, enemies of Messiah; but he reigns in the midst of them, as subjected to his righteous sceptre. And when they refuse to obey him, in the day of his indignation, he will break their sceptres, and cleave them together with their palaces and thrones to the dust, for their rebellion against his authority.
It is Christ the eternal logos, word or wisdom, as set up from everlasting in the covenant of grace, that speaks in the eighth chapter of Proverbs, and asserts his claims to dominion over the civil governments of the world. "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth." 5:15,16. But there were no end to proofs, did we proceed with these quotations. This doctrine of Christ’s headship over nations gives a complexion to the whole book of God, and to the whole exposition which it contains of the providential government of the nations. Attempt to remove this doctrine from the volume of inspiration, and you extinguish one of the great lights that illumine the firmament of gospel truth.
It has been embodied in the creeds of the church. The doctrine of the larger catechism is:—"That Christ executes the office of a king by subduing us to himself, by ruling in us and reigning over us, and by restraining and conquering all his and our enemies." Herod and Pontius were certainly his enemies and the enemies of his people. "Why did the heathen rage and imagine vain things?" "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together." Acts 4:25,27. These with all other hostile kings, the Redeemer in the execution of his mediatory kingly office "restrains and conquers." How can he restrain and conquer kings, if he have no authority over them, as he is the anointed of the Lord on his holy hill of Zion? We have the same doctrine in the larger catechism, Ques. 54. "Christ is exalted in his sitting at the right hand of God, in that as God man, he is advanced to the highest favour with God the Father, with all fulness of joy, glory, and power over all things in heaven and earth; and doth gather and defend his church, and subdue their enemies." All this power in heaven and earth, he possesses as "God-man," or Mediator. The texts quoted by the Westminster divines illustrate what they intended to teach in relation to this doctrine. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be Head over all things to the church." Eph. 1:22. "Who is gone into heaven and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him." 1 Pet. 3:22. All this is evidently not as God essentially, but as the Mediator of the new covenant. In the Westminster confession, chap. viii. sec. 8. Christ is affirmed to reign in "overcoming all their" (his people’s) "enemies by his almighty power," and of course all the persecuting kings, over whom authority must be given to him, otherwise he would not have a right to overcome them.
In one word, God the Father having exalted his Son as Mediator to be "Prince of the kings of the earth," commands all nations to whom he sends the Holy Scriptures—all who hear the joyful sound of the everlasting gospel, to "honour the Son even as they honour the Father."
5. The powers of darkness are put under the feet of the Mediator that he may "destroy the works of the devil." 1 Joh. 3:15. During the days of his humiliation, "with authority commanded he even the unclean spirits and they obeyed him." Mark 1:27. He must be endowed with mediatory power over them; for he delegated authority over them to his disciples. "And he gave them power over unclean spirits." Mark 6:7. The commission given to the twelve was, if any thing is, in the exercise of mediatory power, "With authority he commandeth the unclean spirits." Luke 4:36. He that tabernacled among men, and who assumed human nature; in his humanity gave commandment to fallen spirits, with authority; and therefore it must have been done as Mediator; for every act that he performed, in our nature, was mediatory. It is admitted by all commentators, that it was the Son of God as Mediator, who appeared in the garden of Eden and announced the first promise:—"The seed of the woman shall bruise the head of the serpent." In this promise, he asserts his power over the devil, and promises to exercise it in destroying the dominion of the adversary over those who were to be redeemed by his blood. In the crucifixion of Christ, "he destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil." Heb. 2:14. His death was eminently a mediator act, and in it he vanquished the prince of darkness and all his hosts. "And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them, openly triumphing over them in it," that is in his cross. Col. 2:15. When he was exalted in our nature, his dominion over Satan and all rebel angels is declared. "Things under the earth" must bow the knee to him. Phil. 2:10. The devil had gained a victory over man, in the garden of Eden, when through his temptation they violated the covenant of works, by eating the forbidden fruit. As a punishment for their rebellion against their Maker, they were delivered into the hands of the destroyer. Their deliverance by his death and intercession, and by the power of his Holy Spirit in regeneration, was the great mediatory work, for which he was set up from everlasting. To accomplish this, power is given to him, "over things under the earth." John in the apocalypse saw him exercising his mediatory authority most signally in binding, imprisoning the old dragon. "And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit, and a great chain in his hand: and he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent which is the devil and Satan, and bound him a thousand years. And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up and set a seal upon him." Rev. 20:1,3. It is an angel who does this; and it must be the uncreated angel of the covenant—the Lord Jesus Christ, for to him alone is entrusted the key of the bottomless pit. "I am he that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore: Amen; and have the keys of hell and death." Rev. 1:18.
All this is a source of consolation to the Lord’s people. Their "adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour." In their own strength they cannot resist and overcome him. But their Redeeming Head is almighty, and as their elder brother, he possesses authority to restrain and conquer the grand enemy; and they rely on his promise that he will bruise Satan under their feet.
In the preceding enumeration, or classification of the objects of Christ’s Mediatorial authority, all of which, it is believed, have been amply sustained by the testimony of the Holy Ghost, speaking in the Scriptures, it is abundantly evident; that the government of the church and the whole kingdom of Providence, for her sake, is committed by God the Father, to the Lord Jesus Christ, as Mediator, that nothing in the wide extent of creation is omitted in this grant of power. Paul expressly asserts it, in the strongest and most definite terms. "For he hath put all things under his feet." "But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him." 1 Cor. 15:27. The Father, the first person in the Godhead, is the only exception in the whole range of being—all creatures, in all their combinations, and relations, are put under the feet of Messiah, to enhance his Mediatorial glory, and to subserve the good of his chosen. To some this seems too great a grant to be made on behalf of fallen sinners of our race. But let it be remembered that the gift of his own eternal and well beloved Son, is incomparably greater. After that gift, what can be too great for God to give for the good of his people! "He that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely also give us all things?" Rom. 8:32.
If all this is so, then the duty of all intelligent creatures, is to obey him as the Almighty delegate of the Lord Jehovah. Angels, and all saints do so voluntarily and joyfully; and devils and wicked men are compelled, however unwillingly, to be subject to his control. All parents, all masters, all officers of the church, and all civil rulers, in all christian lands, are bound in the exercise of their authority, to acknowledge subjection to Him, and to rule according to his will. That will he makes known, in the Holy Scriptures. As far as relates to Parents and ecclesiastical rulers, hardly any professing Christians, will be found openly to gainsay his authority. In relation to civil government it is far otherwise. We therefore proceed to prove, that the will of God revealed in the Scriptures binds all christian nations in civil things.
III. 1. The law of nature and the moral law contained in the Scriptures, are the same law, though revealed in different manners.
It would appear that some who are willing to be called Christians, maintain that in civil things the people are under no obligations to acknowledge any other rule than the will of the majority as the supreme law. But so deeply is the duty of being subject to the law of God imprinted on the moral constitution of man, that even the profane, who in profession, cast off all restraints on that quarter, are not able to act without some regard to an unalterable rule of right and wrong. Every argument, in every Legislature, for or against any measure, proceeds on the admission, that there is a difference between justice and injustice. The advocate of any project endeavours to prove it right, just, equitable; and its adversaries to demonstrate that it is wrong, unjust, and iniquitous. Close this field of argument, suffer no one to enter it, and at least nine tenths of the debates in the National Congress, and the State Legislatures would be foreclosed. Indeed on most topics a dead silence would reign, where now there is so much noisy declamation and clamorous debate. Who enacted the law to which all are compelled to appeal? Whence did it emanate? How came it to be invested with the attributes of law? All but unblushing atheists will answer it originated from God. He enacted and invested it with those high and holy attributes to which all are compelled to bow, or appear to bow. Indeed it is impossible to proceed one step towards the organization of a government, or even think of devising one, without taking it for granted that individuals have rights of which it is wrong to deprive them, and in the exercise of which they ought to be protected. God the author of our nature, endowed us with those rights. They are ours by the laws of God. He willed that we should have them, he reveals that will, and the revelation is law. This foundation must be raised, (and who will dare with unhallowed hands to attempt that work of unsettling this basis of the moral structure of the universe?)—otherwise it must be admitted that God has enacted laws which extend their obligation to all the civil relations. These laws of nature so far as they go are identical with those contained in the Scriptures. "For when the gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves, which shew the work of the law written in their hearts." Rom. 2:14,15. The Gentiles have not the law, as it is revealed in the Bible; but that same law is written on their hearts. Some remains of the inscription of the rule of duty on man, when he was created, remain undefaced, in his fallen state. The apostle denominates this "the law," and speaks of it as the same law without which, as revealed in the Bible, they are, and to whose precepts they in some degree by nature are conformed; and by which conformity they demonstrate the work of the law written on their hearts. The whole frame work of the apostle’s argument will be broken up, if the law of nature to which the gentiles are, in some part of its letter, obedient, is not identical with that made known in the revealed word. Examine, says he that law, which in preaching the gospel we call on you to obey, and you will find that we make known to you no new commandment. It is the same that you know in part by its impress on your own hearts, and which you have read as it is inscribed on the works of God, which he has made, and which proclaim to all nations, his eternal power and Godhead. It was this law of man’s moral nature that was embodied in the covenant of works, and to which obedience was enjoined under the penalty of death. It was this law, which Adam violated, when he ate the forbidden fruit, and incurred for himself and all his posterity the penalty of death temporal, spiritual, and eternal. "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God." Rom. 3:19. To this law fallen man is bound to make reparation, or suffer forever the wrath and curse of God which it denounces. This none can do, for "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." v. 20. Jesus Christ "was made under this same law to redeem them that were under the law." "But now the righteousness of God, without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all—and upon all them that believe." v. 21. This law is committed by God the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ as Mediator, that he may apply it in the government of the world and in the sanctification of his people. For this purpose he reveals it in the Holy Scriptures enstamped with his Mediatory authority, that all men enjoying this luminous revelation of the will of God, may have the means of knowing their duty, and their obligations to obey the law.
It was not one law that was revealed to Adam, another under which Christ was made for the redemption of sinners, and still another by which as Mediator, he is to govern the nations and rule the church. Indeed, as the great body of the moral law is founded in the nature of things, emanated from the moral attributes of God, and is a transcript of the image of God, it is impossible that the law of nature and that revealed in the Holy Scriptures, should not be the same, so far as they relate to the same things. God is immutable and that which makes him known must be one. His will is immutable, and that which makes it known, must be unchangeable. Besides, the law which was revealed to Adam, was exactly adapted to his moral constitution; between it and the moral powers of the creature there was an exact proportion; and it was adapted to the promotion of his interest and to the full development of the moral attributes of his nature; while therefore, man continues the same, and while he sustains the relation of subjection to God, as his moral governor, the law which regulates his obedience must continue the same, however made known. It is just as true then that nations in their organized state are as much bound to be governed by the revealed will of God, as that individual persons or Christians, are under obligations to live according to the will of God, as recorded in his holy word.
As a matter of fact, whenever a christian nation refuses to subject itself to the revealed will of God, and casts off allegiance to that contained in the Scriptures, it will acknowledge no subjection to the law of nature as emanating from God. It is so plain that the law of God is one in all its forms of promulgation, that obedience to it in one of these forms, implies the necessity of respect to it in all; we shall find that the rejection of it in one, leads to its entire abandonment in all.
2. That the written word of God, is the rule by which civil governments are bound to frame their constitutions, and administer their law, is manifest from the truth that Christ as Mediator is the Prince of the kings of the earth, and that the law of God is given into his hand, that he may apply it in the administration of the government. "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator." Gal. 3:19. "Being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ." Rom. 9:21. We are under law to Christ, because, being made Lord of all to the glory of God the Father, he is the administrator of the law in the kingdom of providence, as well as of grace. Hence at the giving of the law, at mount Horeb, it was ordained in the hand of the Mediator. Moses was a typical mediator between God and the people of Israel; receiving messages from God, he delivered them to the church and commonwealth as an "internuncius." "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear." Deut. 18:15. Moses in all his communications to the people of Israel, never presumed to speak in his own name. He received his commission from Christ. This Moses whom they refused, saying, who made thee a ruler and a judge? The same did God send to be a ruler, and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.—This is he, that was in the church, in the wilderness, with the angel that spake to him in the Mount Sinai. Acts 7:35,38. The angel that appeared to Moses in the bush was Jehovah. "And the Lord Jehovah, said unto him." Eph. 4:2. "That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac., and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee." verse 5. "And God said unto Moses, I AM that I AM: and he said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." Ex. 3:13. He is Jehovah, Moses worships him, and yet he is an angel, he is the self-existent and eternal God, and yet a messenger. All this can agree to none other, but to the Son of God in the Mediatory character. He was the Mediator in whose hand the law was ordained, by whom it was promulged authoritatively, to all to whom it should come. The law of the ten commandments was laid up in the ark in the holiest of all. The ark was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, who dwelt between the cherubim that overshadowed the mercy seat, to intimate not only that he should in his life, and at his death magnify and make it honorable in the room of the sinner, but that it is committed to him as its administrator, in the mediatory office. The old law that was given to Adam, that he as the head of the covenant of works, should fulfil it, and so secure its fulfilment by all his posterity, had he not violated the covenant, is now given to Christ to see that all its claims shall be honoured. Thus the Father hath clothed the Son with all authority to promulge and apply his law in the government of the world; and it is his will "that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father." Joh. 5:23.
God the Father having vested his Son with all authority that he may administer the kingdom in subserviency to the welfare of those that have been redeemed by his blood, commands all men to honour him with the same homage that they render to himself. The allegiance which they render to the Mediator, he considers as yielded to himself. Those who refuse to obey and honour the Son, he regards as in a state of rebellion against himself, and he will deal with them as traitors to his government. As it is his will that all obedience shall be rendered to him through the Son, he will accept of none that is not rendered through that medium. But how can any man, or any nation obey the Lord Jesus otherwise than by subjection to his law that he thath revealed in his word, enstamped with his authority? He proclaims, here is my law which I have authority to enforce, and call upon all men to be subject to me by obeying in all things its precepts. Can any say, we will obey the mediatory king, but we refuse to acknowledge the authority of that law, which he reveals as the rule our actions? The only test of their allegiance is their conformity to law, and the honour which they render him, is their obedience to his law; because he has enacted it and commands subjection. Though men should do many things that are contained in the written law, but not because it is the word of Christ, they would yet be regarded as doing him dishonour; for in these acts, they do not intend, nor profess to be obedient. Many unregenerate men perform some duties that are agreeable to the letter of the law, who finding their worldly interest thereby promoted would do the same things were there no law of God enjoining the. The law, as the law of God is not in all their thoughts; and were their selfish ends promoted by doing acts directly the contrary; they would do the very reverse. Since the fall, no man ever intended to honour God by obedience, otherwise than as rendered through the Lord Jesus Christ. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." However many righteous laws may be enacted in a commonwealth, and however well they may be administered, provided there is no purpose or profession to obey the law under which we are to Christ, no homage is thereby rendered to the Mediator. Still the principle with which the system is instinct remains the same. "We will not have this man to reign over us." To refuse subjection to the Lord Jesus Christ, by acknowledging and obeying his law revealed in the Scriptures, is the most direct act of rebellion against the authority of Jehovah of which man can be guilty. God says obey my Son, and walk according to the laws which he proclaims—obey all his commandments; for he rules in my name, and all he does is by my authority. In the Holy Scriptures he makes known my will. When a nation to whom this word of God thus comes, not only refuses to hear, but in form resolves that it will not even acknowledge this revelation, as from God, and so formally rejects and repudiates its claims, what more direct act of rebellion could they commit? How could they more presumptuously disclaim allegiance to the Lord Jehovah? How could they more directly set at naught his holy and dread authority? All this is to offer the highest indignity to God the Son, "in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," and "in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." It is moreover the basest ingratitude. This Redeemer who is God over all blessed for ever, infinitely blessed from all eternity, "humbled himself and became man, was made under the law to redeem them that were under the law." Yet all this love and condescension are despised and trampled under foot. Thus he is despised and rejected of men and all his love and favour utterly disregarded.
It is besides doing despite to the Spirit of grace, "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
He who adorns the earth with all its beauty, and imparts to the heavens all their garniture and gorgeous glory, and who has inscribed the glory of the Godhead in the whole fabric of the creation, speaks as the Spirit of Christ in the Holy Scriptures. In doing do he impresses his own authority on these laws, and at the same time sets his seal to that of Christ, bearing witness that he has a right to proclaim them as the rule of obedience to all. Homage, then to God the Father, who has delegated authority to Christ, and put the law into his hand, honour to the Son who commands all to obey them, and reverence to the Holy Spirit who gives his high sanction to the written law, as the law of Christ, require that men in all ranks and relations, civil rulers, among others, ought to yield them obedience.
3. The revealed will of God was the rule of civil government under the Old Testament dispensation. This is so plain that he who runs may read—it cannot—it never has been disputed. Moses was king in Jeshurun, and by the authority of Christ organized the whole frame work of the Hebrew commonwealth, by the revealed word of God. It was this that imparted to the Israelitish nation a glory above all other nations of antiquity. "He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments they have not known them." Ps. 147:19,20. This made their land "the glory of all lands." Babylon, Egypt, Syria, Phenecia, Greece and Rome were learned commonwealths. They were populous, opulent and splendid. They had schools of philosophy, formed the most extensive collections of books on all subjects, abounded with learned men, and founded with ample endowments schools of philosophy. They made the science of civil government their study, and expended on it all their intellectual energies. But they were guided in all their researches by the light of nature only; their understandings were darkened, their wills were perverse, and their passions tumultuous; hence their progress was slow. Many absurd, iniquitous, and impure principles were incorporated into their systems of civil government; while in the very first principles of their constitutions there were fundamental defects. They were not, indeed, chargeable with the monstrous impiety and absurdity of acknowledging no God; but the one living and true God, who created the heavens and the earth, they did not recognize as Lord of all. There is more equity, more sound political wisdom, in three chapters of Exodus, than in all the judicial codes of pagan antiquity. Compared with the order and harmony of the commonwealth of Israel, they were a chaotic mass; and with the divine effulgence that illuminated all the departments of government in Israel, they groped in darkness. Why should it not have been so? The Shechinah of glory dwelt between the cherubim, in the tabernacle on mount Zion, and the legislator of Israel was the only wise God, the author and Lord of the Universe. Compare Moses with Zeno, Lycurgus, Solon, or Numa Pompilius, and what are they? As stars twinkling on the margin of night, are to the sun in the splendor of noon day. Why does the face of Moses so shine? Because the Lord God enlightens it, with some beams of his own glory.
Was all this glory revealed to Israel for their sakes, or for ours also, on whom the ends of the world are come? For ours also, undoubtedly. The doctrines and the promises of the old dispensation were designed for all nations, when the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile should be broken down. Their Saviour became the Saviour of the Gentiles; for he hath made both one, and we all have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Why then should we not have a common interest in their wise, benevolent, holy and heavenly code of law? Is there any intimation in the law that it should expire as the rule of civil government with the dissolution of the Hebrew commonwealth? Does it bear internal evidence that it was suited or designed by the Law-giver for one small nation? If so, what is that evidence, what is that feature that indicated its temporary duration or limited application? Try it in the ten commandments. Is not the precept: Thou shalt have no other gods before me; and that:—Honour thy father and thy mother, with all the other commandments, as appropriate for the Chinese, the African, the Briton, or the American, as for the Hebrew? The other details of the moral law, are no more than the development of the great law principles summed up in the decalogue. So they are understood to be by the framers of the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster divines, and by all commentators. What is more, they are so interpreted by Christ himself. "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Mat. 5:28. Admit then the perpetual morality of the ten commandments, and the permanence of the whole code is granted. Admit that the decalogue binds all nations, and you extend as largely the whole body of the moral law given to the Jews.
All perhaps, or nearly all professed believers in the Bible grant that the ten commandments bind to obedience, all individuals of all nations to whom they are revealed, and that it is not at the option of any one whether he will receive them, or reject them. It follows then, as these contain a summary of the whole law, that all is binding on every man to whom it comes. By what rule can its obligation on nations as such be denied, after all this is admitted? No good reason certainly can be assigned for such exemption. the individual in Israel was no more bound by the obligations of the law than the commonwealth; and how can the individual be bound now and not the nation? Is there any intimation in the New Testament that on the organization of the Church under the new dispensation, the moral law of the Old Testament is abrogated? None. Would it not be passing strange, that neither in the law itself, nor in the nature of its provisions, any intimation of its being temporary is given—that there is not a hint of this by Christ or his apostles, and yet that it is all abolished? Surely there ought to be some better reason for this, than mere surmise—some better ground for such a position than the practice of unholy politicians, who have not the fear of God before their eyes.
In the New Testament, it is taken for granted, that the old law as a rule of duty remains still in full force: hence our Lord and his inspired disciples constantly refer to it to prove the truth and to ascertain what is duty. Certainly no man can read the New Testament without prejudice, and not come to the conclusion that the law formerly given is unimpaired in its claims. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." Mat. 19:17. What commandments? Undoubtedly those of the Old Testament; for then there were no others. "Master which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hand all the law, and the prophets." Mat. 22:36,40. While these two great commandments of eternal obligation remain in force, so will all the law and the prophets, of which they are the substance. Indeed, how absurd is the supposition, that there is in the New Testament, either a declaration, or intimation such as follows. Heretofore, both individuals in private stations, and civil rulers have been under obligations to obey the law; but henceforth private persons only are under the law, and that only as members of the church, while all civil functionaries, and men as citizens of the commonwealth are released from its commands!
It is true that the whole ceremonial law, as a system of types and shadows, foreshowing the atonement by the death of Christ is abolished; for the substance is come. But we have a clear intimation of this in the typical ritual itself, and a still plainer declaration of it in the New Testament. "They have ceased to be offered." In relation to this there is no difficulty.
There were also laws peculiar to the state of the Jewish commonwealth—commonly called judicial, which are no longer of force, except as to their spirit and import. Such are the provisions respecting the reaping the corners of their fields, the gleaning of the vintage and of the harvest, that were to be left for the poor of the land. These laws instruct in the duty of making benevolent provision for the destitute; but the prescribed manner of doing so, is no longer obligatory. All the rest remain in their full vigor. Hence Christ says:—"Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these lest commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach the, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Mat. 5:17,19. This is a solemn ratification of the whole moral code of the Old Testament, by the Lord Jesus Christ himself.
4. It is predicted in the Old Testament that the rulers of the nations, in New Testament times shall be subject to the written law, as the civil functionaries of the Jewish commonwealth were. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem," Isa. 2:2,3. We have this prediction uttered in the same words by the prophet Micah. Chap. 4. Here it is most manifest that there are more nations than the Jews who must receive the law of the Lord as it is deposited in the church—even "many nations." They will seek for the will of God respecting the government of the nations, as it is to be learned on the mountain of the Lord, and in the house of the God of Jacob. This prophecy was not fulfilled under the Old Testament, and must therefore refer to the new dispensation. Besides, its accomplishment is to take place, when there shall be universal peace among the nations, and the preparations for war, and even the very thoughts of it are abandoned. For it is immediately added: "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." The days of universal peace have never yet blessed the nations. They learn war, prepare for it by great armaments, and continue to practice it as of old; so they have done in every age from the days of Isaiah and Micah. Indeed, their seeking after the law of the Lord as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and taught in the church and their reducing of it to practice, will infuse into all their constitutions, civil codes, and administrations, a spirit of justice, benevolence, humility and meekness, taming those fierce passions of ambition and lawless violence that urge the nations into the field of strife, blood and carnage. All this is predicted of the nations as a great blessing; and who that believes, loves, and reverences the holy and just and good law of the Lord, can doubt that such an application of it in the government of the nations, would ensure glory to God, and prosperity to commonwealths?
David predicts briefly the same happy events. "All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear the word of thy mouth. Yea they shall sing in the ways of the Lord." Ps. 138:4,5. And again: "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea all kings shall bow down before him: all nations shall serve him." Psa. 72:10,11. They shall hear and obey the word of the Lord revealed by Messiah, in the pages of inspiration, and they shall receive and practice it with joy, doing homage to him, who is "Lord of lords;" and then shall they sing with joy holy songs of peace and prosperity, as they walk in the righteous ways of God, in all their administration of the affairs of empires.
As they will rule according to the law of the Lord, so like the good kings of Israel, they will render all their public acts subservient to the interests of the church, purchased by the blood of the Son of God. "Thus saith the Lord God, behold I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring their sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face towards the earth and lick up the dust of thy feet." Isa. 49:22,23. The kings of all pagan nations, and of many nations called christian, have been hostile to the church of Christ, as were all the emperors of pagan Rome, all Popish and many Protestant princes of modern Europe. They have treated the disciples of the Lord Jesus, as Pharoah did the male children of the Hebrews, ordered them to be slain. But God promises that he will lift up his hand in offering salvation to the Gentiles, and set up a standard by the proclamation of Gospel truth to the kingdoms. The body of the people shall be converted, cast their idols to the moles and to the bats, and make it the animating principle of all their civil institutions, to promote the glory of God, by advancing the interests of the church. they will form holy constitutions, according to the Holy Scriptures, and choose for rulers over them, "men who fear God, able men, men of truth and hating covetousness." "They that rule over men will be just, ruling in the fear of God." Their queens, their households, and their courts will be worshippers of the God of Israel. Then righteousness shall flow in healthful streams, through all the channels of state, conveying peace and joy over the lands. Now none of all this can be accomplished unless the law of the Lord is made the rule of all national legislation, and the national institutions, animated and purified by a spirit of gospel holiness—the result of the right application of the pure truth, and the holy laws of the Lord. Who is the man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, "delights in the law of the Lord after the inner man," and sets Jerusalem above his chiefest joy, that does not from his inmost soul accord all this, and utter fervent prayers to the God of all grace, that these blessed promises may be speedily fulfilled? Is there, can there be a holy soul in the universe that would or could say nay to the fulfilment of these predictions?
5. The Bible contains laws for civil rulers and their subjects. The Old Testament abounds with them to such an extent as to give a political complexion to the great body of the sacred volume. The glory of God, the peace and prosperity of society, and the interests of the church, are so intimately involved in the character and administration of civil government, that God has communicated ample instructions in relation to this important topic. Take from the word of God all that refers to the civil institutions of society, and you not only mutilate the volume of inspiration, but you change its complexion, and even break up its whole frame work. The book of Psalms would be torn to fragments and given to the winds of heaven. The historical parts of the Old Testament would be laid in ruins—reduced to mere heaps of rubbish. The fair and almost splendid temples of truth erected by the prophets, would be demolished, and their lights extinguished in darkness. On this principle of expurgating the sacred volume of all political maxims, the thirteenth chapter of the epistle to the Romans, would be expunged. How greatly would this eclipse the glory of that luminary that shines with such splendour in the firmament of revelation! The whole book of revelation on this scheme must be erased from the heavenly record; for, by the consent of all, the greater part of it relates to the revolution of empires. Now, if there be no obligations resting on men in their civil relations, to yield subjection to the laws recorded in the Bible, on what principle is it to be accounted for that so much of that blessed book is occupied with the affairs of civil government? In truth, any one who reads the Word without prejudice, will arrive at the conclusion that civil rulers are as much and as plainly bound to obey its mandates, as that private individuals are under such obligations.
1. We have in the Scriptures the privilege granted and the duty prescribed of the exercise of the right to suffrage, by the people. "Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you." Deut. 1:13. The people are ordered to elect their rulers who are to be inducted into office.
2. The qualifications of those who bear rule are prescribed. "Wise men and understanding, and known" in the commonwealth. "Able men, such as fear God, men of truth, and hating covetousness." Ex. 18:21. "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." 2 Sam. 23:3. They must be men of piety, patriotism, and talents.
3. The law, or constitution, by which they shall administer the government. "Thou shalt in any wise set him king over you, whom the Lord thy God shall choose. And it shall be when he sitteth on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests, the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law, and these statutes to do them." Deut. 17:15,19. This is an express command to rulers to govern according to the written law.
4. There is an enumeration of sins that he shall especially avoid. "That his heart be not lifted up, and that he turn not aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left." Deut. 17:20. There are many other similar specifications.
5. The duty of subjects is prescribed. "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same—ye must need be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also." Rom. 13:1,6.
Is it conceivable that rules should be recorded in details so extensive, for every thing that relates to magistracy, and yet that men, in their civil relations, are not bound to be subject to the law of the Lord as it is embodied in these Scriptures? How could it ever have entered into the heart of any Christian to admit such an absurdity?
6. The revelation of the law of God is more clearly and fully in the Bible than by the light of nature. Bring together all the discoveries made by philosophers and legislators, in Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Rome, and what are they compared with the law of the Lord revealed in the Holy Scriptures? The greatest and wisest men, in the most enlightened pagan nations of antiquity, were comparatively groping in darkness. "That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him and find him." Acts 17:27. "Darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people." Isa. 60:2. Is it to be thought that any, without the light of revelation, will ever make greater attainments than those ancient nations did? So far from this, heathen nations from age to age have become more and more ignorant of the will of God. That many fine maxims of civil society, and not a few lovely virtues were discovered and recommended by heathen writers in glowing beauties of style, is true; so shine the stars with brilliancy in the firmament of night; but they all disappear, and their lamps are extinguished, when the orb of day kindles his fires in the heavens. Those who recur to the light of nature only, when they have access to the light of the sun of righteousness shining in the firmament of revelation, act not more wisely than he who would reject the light of day, and prefer the glimmerings of a taper. Why were all the other nations of antiquity so far inferior to Israel in their laws and maxims of civil government? Because they had the light of nature only to guide them, while God placed his law in Jacob and his statutes in Israel.
7. There are laws enacted and revealed in the Bible, which civil rulers only can execute. These are all the penalties of the law, in which indemnity for wrong is made by property, and in all corporeal punishment. Every one knows that the Old Testament abounds with such penalties. Such are all the laws respecting theft, damage, gross idolatry, blasphemy, the desecration of the Sabbath, rape, incest, adultery, assaults and batteries, man-slaughters, and murders. That these penalties remain, under the New Testament, in full force, is evident; for they were neither ceremonial nor judicial; they were no better adapted to Israel than to other nations; they do not expire by their own limitation; the crimes against which they were enacted are as aggravated now and as mischievous to society, as of old, and men are now as prone to commit them, as they were in Judea. In brief, all the reasons for enacting these penalties do still exist in their full force. If they were wise, just and wholesome, when enacted, they are now; and if society derived advantage from the, before the advent of Messiah, they will be useful now for the advancement of the public weal.
But we have express Scripture testimony on this subject. "We know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers, and murderers of mothers, for man-slayers, for whore-mongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for man-stealers, for liars, for perjurer persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust." 1 Tim. 1:8,11. It is evidently the law as enforced by penal sanctions, to which the Holy Spirit here refers; for the law as a rule of life was made for the righteous man. "It is a lamp to his feet and a light to his path." "We are under law to Christ." The penalties annexed to crimes were to restrain "the Lawless and disobedient." These penalties, the Holy Ghost affirms, are good under the New Testament, and may be lawfully executed, which is the only use that can be made of them. Besides, the apostle declares, that all this is "according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to his trust." There is nothing in the revelation or enactments of the new dispensation adverse to the infliction of these penalties. It is according to the whole spirit of the gospel now, that murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, and all other malefactors, should be punished according to the laws enacted under the former dispensation.
That these penalties annexed to crime in the ancient code, are still law, is also evident from the consideration, that many of them are revealed by the light of nature. The barbarous people in the island of Melita adjudged murder to be worthy of death. "No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live." Acts 28:4. And in all Pagan nations many crimes are punished, thereby demonstrating it to be a dictate of the law of nature that a penalty is annexed to the law of God. It appears that those who are without the written law, have nearly as clear perceptions of the penalty of the law, as of the precept. Indeed it is not less unreasonable to maintain that the penalty of the laws in the Old Testament is abolished, than that the precept is no longer obligatory.
But if one penalty in that law still remains in force, the inference is necessary, that civil rulers in Christian commonwealths are under obligations to obey the written law. The private person, in any civilized nation, may not avenge his own wrongs. The power to do this is always vested in the civil magistrate, and this is one of the great ends of civil government. The church has no power to inflict penalties—her power is altogether and purely disciplinary; "it is for edification, and not for destruction." The penal part of the written law would be altogether inefficient and nugatory, were it not the duty of the civil magistrate to see that it be executed. Accordingly the Holy Spirit affirms of the civil power—"That he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to EXECUTE wrath on him that doeth evil." Rom. 13:4. How shall he ascertain what is evil, or the measure of vengeance, that he shall execute? Undoubtedly, by finding what penalty God has annexed to the crime. God has not ordained "the powers that be," to punish evil, and neither defined the evil, nor settled the punishment. Nothing can be more certain than the magistrate is bound to execute that law of the Bible, which no other than he can do, according to the good order of society. But the law of the Bible is one—the moral law is one compact system, and when we have proved that a part of it is binding, we have ascertained that the code as a whole is obligatory.
8. Rulers shall be judged by the written law, if they have access to a knowledge of its provisions. Christ is their judge, and he alone. "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son." John 5:22. That ALL judgment is committed to the Son, certainly warrants the inference, he will judge civil functionaries. This doctrine is fully proved in the preceding pages. The object of the Father in committing all judgment to the Son, is "that all men shall honour the Son, even as they honour the Father." v. 23. Kings surely are bound to honour God the Father. The same honour in all Christian nations, they are bound to render the Son, as Mediator. As he has made known his law to kings in all Christian countries, and in that law has given commandment to magistrates, it will of course be the rule of judgment. If they do not acknowledge it as the rule of their administration, they thereby dishonour both him and his Father, and he will call them to account for the indignity they have done him. "As many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law." Rom. 2:12. It is the law revealed in the Scriptures, of which the Spirit here speaks. Who are comprehended in this declaration? "As many," all who have sinned in the law—all who have had access to the written law, and have not obeyed it, shall be judged by its contents. It is not "as many," except civil rulers, shall be judged by the law but ALL, AS MANY. If a ruler in a Christian land oppress the poor and unprotected, he will be condemned by the law, which says: "Ye shall not oppress the widow and the fatherless." If he wickedly and cruelly oppress and enslave the stranger, he will be adjudged guilty by the law, which says: "Thou shall not oppress the stranger." It will not, in the great day of the Lord Jesus, be the will of the people, and the enactments of a corrupt and fickle populace, that shall be taken as the rule for the decisions of the Son of man, on his throne; but the will of the Lord, as made known in the book of the law. Then he that knoweth his Master’s will, a king though he be, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes. If rulers are to be judged by the revealed law, then it binds them to obedience.
9. This has been the current opinion of sound and able divines, commentators, learned and intelligent christian statesmen and civilians generally who have touched this topic in their writings. Henry, Gill, Scott and others expound those passages that we have quoted above, as binding on kings and subjects. They all take it for granted as a truth which had not been questioned by Christians of any class, that the law of God revealed in the scriptures is obligatory on men in all their civil relations. Dr. Dwight, in his discourses on the duties of civil rulers and subjects, refers to the scriptures in almost every particular for the probation of his doctrines. To prove that a "ruler ought to be a man of piety," he adduces the examples of David, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah. Again, to prove that "every ruler vested with the appointment of subordinate officers, is under indispensable obligations to select men of the very same character, men of piety;" he quotes the advice of Jethro to Moses:—"Moreover thou shalt provide able men, such as fear God, &c." Dwight’s Theology, vol. iv. pp. 132,161. The same doctrine is embodied in all the Confessions of Faith formed by the churches of the Reformation. "God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under him over the people, for his own glory and the public good, and to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that do good, and for the punishment of evil doers." Westminster Con. Chap. xxiii. Sec. 1. Here the very words almost of the Holy Scriptures are employed in defining the institution of civil government: and the whole doctrine of this chapter on magistracy, is proved by a reference to the written word. This part of the chapter is still retained in the Presbyterian Confessions of Faith, in the United States. The same doctrine is contained in the Confession of the Dutch Reformed Church, framed by the Synod of Dort, and in the Gallic Confession.
Writers on jurisprudence plainly teach the same important truth. Puffendorf, Grotius, Blackstone, and many other civilians, might be cited in proof—one shall suffice. Heineccius, as quoted by Thorburn, in his Vindiciae Magistratus. pp. 21,22. See the celebrated J. Got. Heineccius, counsellor of state to the King of Prussia, and professor of philosophy at Hull, on the law of nature and nations. Book I. Sec. 61. "The rule of human actions must be either within us, or without us; if it be within us, it can be none other than either our own will, or our understanding and conscience. But neither of these faculties is always right, neither of them is always certain, neither of them is always the same and invariable. Therefore, neither any of them, nor both of them together, can be the rule of human actions: whence it follows, that the rule of human actions is not to be found in ourselves, but if there be any such, it must be without us." Accordingly he determines in his very next aphorism, "that the will of God must be the rule of human actions, and the source of all moral obligation and all virtue." Now, wheresoever the will of God is most clearly made known, that must be the rule of all obligation, according to this learned author, and of course of both international law and jurisprudence.
It is, moreover, well known to all who are acquainted with the history of the jurisprudence of the nations, that with the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures throughout the Roman Empire, the divine law as made known in the Bible, generally supplanted all the ancient obscure readings out of the book of nature. The Institutes of Justinian, a Christian emperor of Rome, is of far different and incomparably better complexion, than all the compends of law that preceded it in the empire. The law of God revealed in the Scriptures, gave it a more just and holy tone. Among those Christian commonwealths, or rather kingdoms, that arose out of the ruins of the empire, the provisions of the revealed law were conspicuous, and continue so to the present time. All that is good in the nations of modern Europe, all that gives them a pre-eminence over the barbarous, or more polished nations of antiquity may be traced to the same source. The condition of society has been ameliorated, and the written law has exercised a controlling influence over the consciences of men, even where the ungodly people and rulers have refused to acknowledge it as an emanation from God by the revelation of his Spirit.
From all these arguments, we are surely warranted in drawing the conclusion, that the duty of acknowledging the revealed law of God, is as obligatory on all christian nations, in framing their constitutions and in administering their law, as it is on individuals in framing their lives according to its just and holy maxims.
If this truth is fully established, as it is believed every unprejudiced Bible believer will admit, then it follows beyond contradiction, that the nation which refuses to acknowledge the national obligation to obey the revealed law, is guilty of a sin, by which God the Father, his Christ and law, are greatly dishonoured. According to this doctrine, when a Christian commonwealth frames a constitution, embracing no recognition of the Holy Scriptures, it formally sets itself in opposition to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom all men are commanded to honour, even as they honour the Father. Again, all who swear to support a constitution so framed, partake in the national sin, and act in a manner, unworthy of the allegiance, which, as Christians, they owe to the Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. The objections to these doctrines are not available. As those for whom these pages are designed, admit that Christ is God, equal with the Father, the futile objections to his divinity, will not be noticed here. There are but few professed Christians, in the protestant denominations of this land, who are so bold as to adventure on the denial of the Universal headship of Messiah. Indeed, it would probably never have been denied by any Bible believer, had it not been in order to apologize for the dereliction of duty in governments, that have refused to do him homage, by the recognition of his law and his church. Objections to that branch of the discussion. May then be also passed in silence. Those made to the doctrine of third topic, are more prevalent, popular and dangerous. Their refutation is easy and shall be brief.
1. To embody an acknowledgment of the Bible in the constitution, is no violation of the rights of conscience. It is true, that there may be infidels in a nation, who of course could not in truth swear to a constitution that recognizes the Holy Scriptures, as a revelation from God, and who would be deprived of the exercise of some of the right of citizenship. But infidels have no right before God to treat his word as a cunningly devised fable. If they have, by whom are they endowed with this right? They never derived it from God, otherwise their rejection of the Scriptures would not be sinful. Since God has not, and could not license infidelity, can any of his creatures do so? Can a nation confer rights which Almighty God has withheld? Can it make that right which God has made sin? If by the recognition of the revealed law, the infidel is deprived of the privilege of holding office, it is no more than the law enjoins. He is not a fearer of God, he cannot rule in the fear of God, and hence, by the divine law, is disqualified for holding office. "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." If this objection be valid, then there never can be a fulfilment of the promise, that "all kings of the earth, shall serve Christ;" for infidels regard him as an impostor. Were there but one infidel in every nation of the world, then on the principle of this objection, that nation must not for his sake, acknowledge Messiah. Men are no more permitted to violate the rights of one man, than of a thousand. It never can be known that there is not an infidel in a nation; and to form a constitution that might deprive one man of his right, would be sinful. But farther, there are those who conscientiously believe it to be a sin against God for a Christian nation to institute a civil government, without recognizing Christ’s authority, and who cannot become partakers of the national sin in giving their approbation to such a constitution by an oath of allegiance. Here are conflicting claims of conscience. Both cannot be satisfied. Either the one or the other must be deprived of the privilege of holding office. The truth is, that conscience is neither the rule, nor the law-giver, but a judge, "to accuse or else to excuse." The law of God is the rule; God is the Law-giver, and the supreme judge over conscience. When the law is faithfully executed, no man can be deprived of his rights; for "the holy and just and good commandment of the Lord, and do wrong to no man."
2. The recognition of the law of God is no more likely to be the occasion of making hypocrites, than any wholesome provision in the state to restrain vice, or than orthodox terms of communion, in the church. And if in any Christian nation, a majority of the people, do in their hearts disbelieve the truth of revealed religion, their rejection of the counsel of God against themselves, does not free them from sin, in this matter. Were the majority of any commonwealth friendly to theft, and to refuse to make laws for its restraint, or to legalize it, their belief would not render them innocent. They would still be guilty of sin, and it would be criminal before God to partake with them in this iniquity. They would be chargeable with the sin of theft in its most aggravated form, were they by law to authorize the stealing of men, and the holding of the innocent in bondage. This would be to legalize the stealing from a man all that he is and has, property, liberty and person. If there were any weight in the objection here referred to, all that would be necessary in an individual or nation to be free from all moral obligation, both to God and man, would be to disbelieve that any duty to God or man is obligatory. In going on to commit all sin, and to refuse the performance of any duty, they might plead; we cannot profess an engagement to any duty; for it would be hypocrisy. Nay, farther, they MUST, on this ground, commit sin; because in abstaining from it they would act hypocritically. It is no doubt true, that when the nations of the world are reformed and brought to the acknowledgement of Messiah and his law, some will profess that allegiance in hypocrisy. And is it to be regretted that the prevalence of Christianity should be so great, that enemies would be restrained and compelled to feign submission? God says to Israel: "O that my people had hearkened to me—the haters of the Lord should have submitted to him." Ps. 81:13,15. The latter clause is much better translated in the metre version,
"The haters of the Lord to him,
submission should have feigned."
The Hebrew word translated, "should have submitted," literally means, should have lied unto him, or which is the same thing, should have feigned submission. Here the Holy Spirit represents it as a blessing to the church, when enemies are brought into subjection to God, though it is only outward and feigned. The subjection of those to the law, who are in heart thieves and robbers, is no evil to society. It is restraint that constitutes the present security of society. There are many, who, like Judas, and Simon Magus, progress faith in Christ according to the good order of the church, while they are enemies in their hearts. Shall all the truth and good order of the church be abandoned lest there should be some to make a profession of their faith hypocritically? If there is any force in the objection, then all that is good in every society should be abolished, in order that thee may be no occasion given to hypocrisy, and that all may act out their wickedness, without restraint. Let those who can, believe that such a state of things is to be desired!
3. The obligations of the written law of God upon nations, is suspended not on the consent of the nation. A writer, who once contended for better doctrine, teaches in a late pamphlet, that the law of God contained in the Scriptures, is not binding upon any nation, until the nation engages to take it for its rule. This proposition is really so monstrous, that it may well be wondered how any one professing to be a Christian, and minister of Christ, could have the effrontery to give it utterance. "Be wise, now therefore, O ye kings—kiss the Son." Ps. 2:10,12. Were any one in expounding this command of God the Father to the civil rulers of the world, to affirm, that no king is bound to kiss the Son, until he engages by covenant to do so, who would, who could believe him? As if God had said "kiss the Son"—however you will commit no sin, it will be no neglect of duty that you do not obey the Son, that you render him no honour, until you consent to receive this my commandment, and promise obedience. Will it be a good plea, at the judgment seat of Christ that they had never agreed to obey him? If the apology will avail for a nation, it will also for individual persons. But we know that it will not excuse them. "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me." Luke 19:27. The sin for which the enemies are slain, is that they would not assent that Christ should reign over them.
The objection to which we are here replying, is based on the infidel principle, that the will of the people is the supreme law; that what they enact binds all, and that nothing is obligatory on a nation, until it is enacted by them. The command of God most solemnly enacted, and most clearly revealed, the objector does not consider binding on the creature, until he consents to take it for his rule of action. Perhaps no sentiment ever did greater dishonor to the Law-giver, than this unholy doctrine. To such extremes are they driven, who become the apologists of unholy governments, and who seek to please men rather than God. But such apologies will not avail the wicked in the day of wrath. "For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted." Isa. 60:12. Their sins, for which they perish, and are utterly wasted, is their refusal to engage themselves to his service. It is not those nations only that have entered into covenant to serve him, and have violated their engagement, but it is the nation that will not serve him; and there is no exception. If they even forget to acknowledge God, destruction awaits them. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and the nations that forget God." Ps. 9:17.
4. There is no obscurity in the law of God, to render it difficult to ascertain what the law requires. Objectors often say, who shall be judge? It is surely not more difficult to ascertain what the law of God contained in the Scriptures is, than to discover it from the light of nature. If this objection avails against the written law, much more will it against the law of nature; for no Bible believer will affirm that the law of the Lord is more obscurely revealed in the pages of inspiration, than in the book of nature. "And the Lord answered me, and said, write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it." Hab. 2:2. "And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err." Isa. 35:8. Compared with the light of nature, the law recorded in the Bible is "a light shining in a dark place." It is "a great light" springing up to them that are in darkness. "It is a light to the feet and a lamp to the path." It is an indignity to the Faithful and True Witness to ask, who shall be judge, and what he means by his revelation; as if he had spoken in enigmas to mock the understanding of his creatures, and bring them into a snare.
This objection might be offered with as much force, in relation to the application of the law of the Lord by the church. It is not easier for the church to discover from the Word what is her duty, than for the state to ascertain what is hers. The character and duty of civil rulers, and the duty of subjects are as clearly revealed, as those of church officers and members. Indeed, the doctrine, that there shall be no social judgment, in relation to revealed law and truth, is as fully carried out by many in the church as in the state; no creeds say they, no terms of communion. Let every man judge for himself; and let no judicatory decide for the members of the church. Open the doors wide, and let all who choose, come in, and bring with them and hold whatever they please, and let all practice as they will. It is as consistent in the one case as in the other. But the magistracy and the ministry are the ordinance of God; and if men cannot judge socially in the one case, because the law is obscure, neither can they in the other. This is that radicalism, which abolishes all law every where, and permits every man, with impunity, to do whatever is right in his own eyes.
5. This doctrine of national obligation to the written law, does not unite church and state, in the common acceptation of that phrase. It does not make the officers of the state, rulers in the church, nor ecclesiastical functionaries, office-bearers in the state; as is done in Great Britain, and in other European countries, where they have establishments of religion. But why should not the two great ordinances of heaven, so co-operate with each other in their appropriate spheres of action, for the promotion of the glory of God and the good of men, that there shall be no collision between them? Are they in their nature and operation hostile to each other? Surely not. Their great, ultimate and holy objects are not repugnant to each other, as many seem to think. They should both aim at the glory of God and the good of men, both here and hereafter. They ought to work together for the attainment of these blessed objects, and be mutually helpful to each other. If this is so, why should they not, as they did by God's ordination of old, pledge themselves by covenant to perform to God and to one another, their respective duties? Nothing more natural, more proper, or more desirable. "Thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah; for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married." Isa. 62:4. "In that day five cities in the land of Egypt shall speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts. And the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day, and shall do sacrifice and oblation; yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord and shall perform it." Isa. 19:18,21. Here are blessed times promised when church and state shall be bound unto the Lord and to one other in solemn covenant, compared to the marriage vow, for the attainment of great and holy ends. These covenants will not blend the two institutions into one, as two nations are not blended and made one by their inter-national treaties. So far from it, that these contracts secure to each its distinct nationality, by wise provisions, for their mutual benefit. After all, it is surely not less for the good of all, that church and state should thus mutually co-operate, than that infidelity and state should be blended. Some professors of religion seem to be in a paroxysm of terror at the thought of church and state, who have no dread of infidelity and state, of immorality and state, of impiety and state. Do they know what they say, or understand whereof they affirm?
6. The apostle Paul, in the thirteenth chapter of his epistle to the Romans, gives no countenance to the rejection of the written law as the rule of jurisprudence. The powers to which he enjoins subjection for conscience’ sake, were not the imperial government of Rome. Even had he enjoined the acknowledgment of Pagan magistrates, it would not follow, that governments established in christian nations without regard to the revealed will of God, are to be regarded as the ordinance of God to men for good. Were a heathen commonwealth to frame, and administer civil institutions, agreeably to the law of nature, and without violating, in their constitution, the provision of the law written on their hearts, these ordinances would be of divine authority. In that case, they would be constituted according to that revelation which Jehovah makes of his will by the light of nature, and as civil government originates in the law of nature, conscientious subjection would be due to them as ordained of God. But the government of Rome was not constituted according to the law of nature. One of the plainest dictates of that law is, that no man has a right to govern another, much less a whole nation, without the consent of the governed. The imperial government of Rome was founded in violence. Julius Caesar subjected it to himself by force of arms. All his successors in the imperial throne held their power by the same tenure. The will of the majority was never asked. It was a government of brute force, founded and maintained in usurpation and violence. It could not be ordained of God, unless he ordains violence, and sanctions usurpation and robbery. The Roman Emperors robbed of their liberties and rights, and possessions, all nations that were subjected by their arms. All the most gross heathen idolatries were incorporated into the framework of their government. The worship of the twenty-six thousand false gods, in the Pantheon, at Rome, was established by law. The emperor was by office, the high priest of all this most abominable idolatry. The government of Rome was not that delineated by the Spirit in the thirteenth of Romans. It was not "ordained of God," but by the sword of the Caesars; it was not a terror to evil works, but to good works—opposed to the christian religion, endeavoring to arrest its progress by all the terrors of persecutions. It did not praise and encourage them who did good, for idolatry was rewarded, and the pure religion of Christ persecuted; it was not a revenger to execute wrath on him that did evil, but to execute wrath on the workers of righteousness. It was not God’s minister attending continually on that very thing which the law of God requires; but the minister of ambition and usurpation, attending continually to the perpetuation of its own despotic power, and trampling under foot the rights of nations. Let any unprejudiced man, in the fear of God and a holy reverence for his word, read carefully the characteristics of the power portrayed in the thirteenth of Romans, and compare it with the origin and character of the governments of the Roman Caesars, and then say whether he an believe that the Holy Spirit in that chapter, intends to set his seal to that monstrous Pagan despotism, and enjoin on the worshippers of God its recognition as a holy ordinance instituted of heave. It was not the ordinance of God; for the same Holy Spirit, Dan. 7:7, characterizes it as an exceedingly terrible beast of prey. "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet." All commentators agree that this is a description of the fourth monarchy called universal, or the Roman empire. The destiny of this beastly power is not that of God’s ordinance. "The ancient of days did sit—a fiery stream issued and came forth from before him—and I beheld till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame." v. 9,11.. God does not so destroy his own ordinance.
The Roman power was not God’s institution; for John in Revelation, 13:1,2, represents it as essentially blasphemous. "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power and seat and great authority." Here again, all evangelical expositors, hold this to be the fourth beast of Daniel, and of course the government of the Roman empire. It comes up from beneath, not from heaven; it is a fierce beast of prey, a leopard; its feet are as those of the ferocious bear, for the tearing and treading down of the nations, its mouth as that of the devouring lion, for crushing the bones and devouring the flesh of the kingdoms; and the dragon which is the devil, gives him his power or physical force, his seat or throne, and great authority, or terrific influence over commonwealths. Dr. Scott on this passage, expressly calls the imperial Roman government, "the Devil’s vicegerent." It is true, Scott very inconsistently, in expounding the thirteenth chapter of the Romans, represents the same power, as the ordinance of God. "Great men are not always wise."
Again, the power in Romans is not the ordinance of God; for the Holy Spirit by Paul, forbids Christians to go to law before the Roman magistrates as unjust. "Dare any of you having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? I speak this to your shame. Brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers." 1 Cor. 6:1,5,6. He rebukes sharply christians for entering suits against one another, before tribunals that were unjust. Would he, could he have so characterized a holy power ordained of God, for "this very thing," among others, of deciding litigated questions of property? If these arguments do not prove that the Roman government was not the ordinance of Heaven, and that it was not intended in the thirteenth of the Romans, we may well despair of ever being able to prove any thing from the Holy Scriptures. Let not the apologists, and panders of immoral governments wrest this much abused portion of the Lord’s word for upholding tottering thrones of iniquity, and the encouragement of national rebellion against the God of heaven and his holy laws.
V. Concluding remarks in application of these principles. In these things we have all a practical, deep and important interest.
1. There is the greatest possible encouragement to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for our salvation. "He is God over all, blessed for ever." "The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." "He bare our sins in his own body on the tree." "The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness sake; for he hath magnified the law and made it honorable." What none but God could do, he hath accomplished. All the claims of the holy law of Jehovah against us fallen and guilty sinners, have been satisfied to the full. In his righteousness there is intrinsic excellence infinite. This righteousness is accepted of God the Father, in covenant on our behalf. Jesus has been raised again for our justification, and is set far above all principality and power, at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He offers himself in the Gospel as our Lord and Redeemer, and his righteousness for our justification; he promises, upon our acceptance of it by faith, to justify us freely for its sake, and save us with an everlasting salvation. He has power to do all that he has promised, for his arm is omnipotent. He can work in us the work of faith with power, and he is the author and the finisher of our faith. The work of sanctification which he begins in our regeneration, he can carry forward, until we attain the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus, until "the cope stone is laid, with shoutings, crying grace, grace unto it." We are frail, he is strong, and can and will perfect strength in our weakness. We are ignorant, "in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." He can and will "make our darkness light in the Lord." We are afflicted with many griefs and sorrows, he sympathizes with us in them as the High Priest of our profession; for he is touched with a feeling of our infirmities; his sympathies are divine; and he can and will give consolation, and impart relief in all our trials. We are exposed to many and malignant enemies of our salvation, against which enemies, we have not power to wage a successful warfare; he will stretch forth his hand against the wrath of our foes; he can and will make us conquerors and more than conquerors. He has for our interest all the resources of the universe at his command, the sun, the moon, the stars, the earth, the sea, the atmosphere, are his servants for our good. The governments of the nations, their wealth, their literature, their armies, and their influence, are under his control, for he is "the Prince of the kings of the earth," and "the Head of all principality and power." The hearts of the kings are in his hand, "and he turns them withersoever he will, like the rivers of water." He controls them in the exercise of his lordship, and prevents them from harming those who are followers of what is good. Devils are subjected to his dominion, that he may bruise Satan under our feet shortly. He extends to us at all times effectual protection against him who goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Holy angels are his ministers that he may send them forth "to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation," bearing them up in their hands lest at any time they should dash their foot against a stone, while on earth; and at death to escort their emancipated spirits to realms of glory. All gifts to enrich for life everlasting are given to him, as the head and trustee of the new covenant, that he may in due time put us in possession of them all. We are great sinners, he is a great Saviour; the work of saving us is a great work, his is a great salvation; we are unholy, he has been anointed with the Spirit above measure, that he may give us of his Spirit for our sanctification; and he is infinitely blessed, that out of his fulness of joy, we may partake of immoral felicity.
2. The headship of Christ over the church as her only Lord, forbids us to introduce or countenance any thing in her ordinances, which he has not ordained. The seven illegitimate sacraments of the Roman Catholic apostacy, their images, pictures, pilgrimages, penances, and auricular confession, are all to be rejected on this ground. Many of them are not positively forbidden in the Scriptures, but as they have not the stamp of Christ’s authority, they are worth of condemnation as corruptions of the worship of God. As to all such inventions of men, the question is asked indignantly: "Who hath required this at your hands?" Isa. 1:12. These human devices offer an indignity to the wisdom of Christ, as not having known how many ordinances, or what institutions were best adapted for the conversion of sinners, and the edification of saints. The import of them is; we who invent them are wiser than Christ, and know better than he how to promote the prosperity of the church; therefore we perfect a system of ordinances that he has left defective. They also impeach his goodness, on the supposition that he knew what ordinances the church needed, but yet that he had so little concern for her welfare, as to neglect their institution. On the same ground, we refuse to employ in the praise of God any other psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs, than those furnished the Church by her Head, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. These human compositions are to be condemned because they are necessarily inferior to the inspired psalms, because they are not needed—the psalms of David containing a plenitude for the expression of all the joys, all the wants, all the petitions, all the adoration, and all the experiences of the Lord’s worshippers. But still the chief ground of their being altogether inadmissible is, they are without authority from Christ—they want a "thus saith the Lord;" and so dishonour the church’s Head, as if he had been less gracious in providing for the edification of the church under the new dispensation, than he was under the old. All ordinances not instituted of Christ, are worse than profitless. "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Mat. 15:9. This is the rebuke of Christ to the Scribes and Pharisees, who charged his disciples with profanely neglecting the traditions of the elders. Many of these commandments of men had much fair show of purity, precision, humility, zeal, and devotion; and were introduced under as plausible pretexts as any others have been since their invention. The Lord Jesus rebukes them all as useless, because they proceed from men only, and have not the authority of God instamped upon them.
Prove that any doctrine is revealed in the word and it must be received; for Christ is the Head of the church, and by him it is revealed. Prove that any ordinance is made known in the word, then it is from the Lord Jesus, and it must be observed, under pain of his high displeasure; for he who has a right to command is its author. Prove that any law is recorded in the book of God and it must be fulfilled; for "we are under law to Christ." Prove that any institution is not ordained in the Scriptures, and it must be cast away as reprobate silver; for in vain do men attempt to worship him in that for which they have no higher authority than their own commandments.
For the same reason; because Christ is the Head of the church, the allegiance which we owe him forbids us to enter into ecclesiastical fellowship with those who corrupt his ordinances, and go astray by their own inventions. Those who do so, make themselves partakers of other men’s sins, and honour men, while they do dishonour to the church’s Lord. Besides the allegiance due to Christ from all his disciples forbids the holding of communion with those who uphold thrones of iniquity, and acknowledge as the ordinance of God that, with which he will have no fellowship. "Say ye not, a confederacy to all them to whom this people say a confederacy." Isa. 8:12. These confederacies with unholy thrones have been the bane of the Protestant churches, both in Europe and America; they have been the stinking fly in the ointment, that has caused the painful degeneracy of many churches, that were once fair and flourishing. "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?" Prov. 6:27.
3. It is the duty of believers who would be faithful in their allegiance to the "one like unto the son of man"—to Messiah the prince of the kings of the earth, to dissent from all those institutions of civil government, which in christian nations do not recognize the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor profess to be governed in their constitutions and laws by the word of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures. "Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil." Ex. 23:22. "Be not ye therefore partakers with them." Eph. 5:7. "And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Rev. 18:4. Were any land, filled with Bibles, thousands of christian ministers, and hundreds of thousands of professors of the christian religion, to frame constitutions of civil government, without naming the Lord Jesus Christ, or his Bible, or his Church; without any recognition of his authority, without any notice of God, as their supreme Lord, without even alluding to the claims of his law; were they to proceed on the principle that the ultimate source of all civil authority, is the will of the majority of the people; were they to open the doors of office, to all the enemies of God, and constitutionally forbid the exclusion of these wicked men from office; and were they to make provision by their constitution for the enslaving and holding in perpetual bondage millions of unoffending men; would not such a nation commit sin in the doing of all this? Could all these transactions be otherwise fairly construed than as acts of rebellion against the Prince of the kings of the earth? Would any christian be free from sin in assenting to these acts of dishonour done to Christ, in making them all his own by an oath of allegiance, and taking an active part in the administration of the laws under such constitutions? If it be possible to offer an indignity to Christ by any national neglect and contempt of his government and law, it would be done by such deeds as these. If any one can commit sin by following a multitude to do evil, would it not be done by such a recognition of such constitutions? Proposed in this abstract form, did no one see its immediate practical bearing, perhaps, there could not be found any believer in the Bible who would not, at once assent to the conclusion that it would be sin. All would probably condemn the nation as guilty of sin, and also all who would incorporate themselves with them in these doings. But popular errors, interest, the fear of man, of reproach, and the pride of life blind the eyes of millions. Such a nation is the United States; a land filled with Bibles, more than ten thousand Protestant ministers, and churches, and many hundreds of thousands of professors baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and claiming to be his disciples. Yet this nation has framed its federal or national constitution on the principles supposed above. Notwithstanding all the disregard manifested for the law of God, the honour conferred on his avowed enemies, and the enslaving of millions of men, under the solemn sanction of constitutional law, the great majority of professing christians assent to all, and are much displeased, when any one calls in question the righteousness of these national deeds. There is no visible body of christians, that have abstained from a participation in these evils, or that bear witness against them, except Reformed Presbyterians.
All these charges can be substantiated against the civil institutions of the United States, and all their abettors by a very brief induction of facts. It has been rare in the history of the world, that a nation has assembled by its representatives in convention and formed a written constitution as the basis of its national organization. Was there ever any approximation to this mode of constituting a nation, without the acknowledgment of any God, until it was done in this land of boasted light, and liberty? In the formation of the Old Articles of Confederation, by the congressional representatives of the Colonies at Philadelphia, there was a recognition of God, as the God of Providence. On his arm the Colonies professed to rely in their arduous struggle for independence.
In the last clause of the Articles of Confederation, we have the following declaration. "And whereas, it hath pleased the Great Governor of the world to incline the hearts of the Legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation, and perpetual union, know ye" &c. Here is a distinct acknowledgment of Almighty God as the Governor of the world and that the framers of the instrument derive their powers to organize a government from him. There is not, indeed, a recognition of Messiah, or of the written law, as there should have been, but the being and authority of the God of nature are admitted and professedly honoured. These articles were ratified in Philadelphia, on the 9th of July, 1778. In the year 1787, or nine years after the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, the Federal Constitution was adopted by the convention of delegates; and the former articles set aside. In the latter instrument there is no recognition of any God either directly or by implication. Let any one read the instrument, and he must admit the charge. Some apologists for the constitution, have maintained, that the recognition of the God of nature, in the Old Articles, is still in force. The plea is fallacious; for if the concluding clause is yet binding, so also is the whole instrument, which no one admits. By what rule of interpretation are all the other articles abolished, and that one retained? It is absurd.
Never in any form, since the United States became an independent nation, has it acknowledged the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor professed subjection to his law. The convention that ratified and unanimously signed the present Federal Constitution, could not have meant to do so, as is demonstrated by many solid arguments. 1. The question was debated, and a very large majority refused to insert any acknowledgment of God, or of the religion of his Son. 2. Had this not been done, the members were men of too much discernment, to have overlooked, through inattention, a matter of so great magnitude. If they intended to acknowledge Christ, it would have been in such terms, as to admit of no doubt. 3. There were many deists in the convention, such as Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, Thomas Mifflin, Governor Morris, and James Madison. Governor Morris and Thomas Jefferson, affirm that General Washington was also a deist. [See Jefferson's writings, vol. iv. p. 512.] Yet all these infidels signed the constitution. Would they have done so in the presence of those who knew them to be opposed to revealed religion had the instrument been christian. 4. Could the Presidents of the United States, three of whom, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, were certainly infidels, numerous members of congress, Governors of States, and many other officers of the General and State governments, have sworn to the Federal Constitution, had it been understood to recognize the headship of Messiah, whom they held to be an impostor? 5. It has never been the understanding of the nation that the constitution acknowledges the Lord Jesus Christ, or professes subjection to his laws. All infidels have sworn to the support of that instrument, and no one has ever thought of charging them with inconsistency. 6. The present President of the United States, in his message to congress, at the opening of the extra session of 1837, says: "The will of a majority of the people is the supreme law, in all things that come within the jurisdiction of the Federal government." In all the opposition to his administration, this sentiment has never been called in question. The politicians of the nation, would generally reject with detestation, the doctrine, that the constitution binds to the acknowledgment of the Bible as the supreme rule of legislation in this commonwealth. 7. All these arguments are sealed, by the following provision. "No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." [United States Constitution, Art. vi. Sec. iii.] This prohibits the passage of any law excluding gamblers, whoremongers, slaveholders, profane swearers, sabbath violaters, gross idolators, blasphemers of the divinity of Christ, deists or atheists, from access to the highest honours of the land, for to exclude any of these, would be to require a religious test. A man might be convicted of any and even of all these sins, and yet be eligible to any office. Here is a flat contradiction to the Bible. "He that ruleth over men must be just ruling in the fear of God." 2 Sam. 23:3. If the constitution acknowledged Christ, the christian religion, or Jehovah, in any article directly or indirectly, it would thereby establish a religious test, as no deist or atheist could swear to its support. This sweeping clause is found in the conclusion of a section declaring, "that all executive and judicial officers both of the United States and of the several States shall be bound, by oath or affirmation, to support this constitution." It has been plead[ed] that this provision acknowledges the christian religion . But how vainly? Heathens swear oaths. An atheist might come into office by an affirmation. The concluding sentence forbidding all religious tests, shews how anxious the framers were to avoid even a seeming acknowledgment of God or his holy religion.
All this is direct rebellion against Jehovah. He says I have set up my eternal Son, the man who is my fellow, to be "Prince of the kings of the earth." "Be wise—now—therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth—Kiss the Son." Psa. 2:10,12. The people of the United States say by their constitution, we will not kiss the Son. It shall not be obligatory on our rulers or judges to do him homage; "no religious test shall be required." The fruits of all this indignity offered to the Son of God by the nation, are reaped in the prevalent, monstrous, and rapidly increasing corruption of public morals, especially among public men—a large proportion are shamelessly and grossly immoral. The ignorance, the intrigues, and the want of principle among the high functionaries of the commonwealth, under which the nation groans, and by which the national resources have been crippled, may all be traced to the constitution. While the nation thus reaps the fruits of its own doings, the judgments of God,—plague, drought, mildew, insect, and conflagrations demonstrate the anger of the Lord.
While God is dishonoured by the constitution, the rights of men are trampled under foot, in the enslaving of unoffending millions of the African race. Many and vigorous efforts have been made of late to free the constitution of this foul blot. This was to be expected. For how can the many thousands of citizens, who of late years have uttered so loud and vehement denunciations of the sin of slavery, swear to support a constitution, that guarantees the evil?
It is, indeed, consolatory to know that every man of those who are engaged in this generous strife for the emancipation of the trodden-down, helpless and hapless millions of slaves, groaning in cruel bondage, do charge this foul crime on the constitution, and many on that account refuse to swear an oath binding them to the support of such an outrage on the rights of man. If anti-slavery efforts prevail, which God grant, all must come to this position. The noxious tree of slavery must be dug up by the roots. That it is in the United State’s constitution is evident, for—1. It existed when the constitution was framed, and the southern states were admitted into the confederacy with the known and avowed intention that it should continue. The importation of slaves was guaranteed by the constitution for more than twenty years. [Constitution, Art. i. Sec. ix.] 3. The southern sates refused to accede to the union on any other conditions, [Debates of the convention, and Luther Martin’s letter.] 4. The restoration of fugitive slaves escaping into other states than those in which their holders reside, is secured. [Cons. Art. iv. Sec. ii]. 5. The force of the United States is pledged to suppress any attempt of the slaves to recover their liberty. [Cons. Art. iv. Sec. 4.] 6. Slaveholders are entitled to a representation in congress, for three fifths of their slaves. [Art. i. Sec. ii.] 7. Congress has legislated on the subject, passing laws under these provisions of the constitution, judges have adjudicated cases under these laws, and the Executive has called out the armed force of the union to suppress insurrections. 8. New slave holding states, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas, have been admitted into the union by congress, with slavery in their constitutions. 9. The people of the United States hold slaves under the constitution, in the district of Columbia, and in the Territory of Florida, where there are no local constitutions. Thus has the United States by its constitution forged fetters for the millions of slaves, and yearly fastens closer the rivets.
Most christians will admit that all this is sinful. But, alas! many think that as this sin is divided among more than twelve millions of citizens, the share of each one will be small. Thy do not well consider that the whole of all these sins against God and man is chargeable on every one who swears to support the whole constitution. If twenty, or twenty thousand men, unite to commit murder, each one is guilty of the homicide, and so the law treats all.
Again, it is plead that as the constitution makes provision for its own alteration, the oath may be sworn to support it with a view to its amendment. This is a subterfuge unworthy of a guileless disciple of Christ. What! swear to a sin, that we may thereby have an opportunity to accomplish its reformation! On this creed, one might swear to all the idolatries of Rome, or Hindoostan, and to the delusions of Mahomet, because, he would thus, by becoming incorporated with those systems, acquire facilities for their reformation. This is "to do evil that good may come, whose damnation is just."
Let then those who would maintain a conscience void of offence towards God and man, not only abstain from making these national sins their own; but let them honour their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by bearing a consistent and faithful testimony for his sceptre, crown, throne and law, and let them boldly, frankly, fearlessly, and magnanimously plead for the inalienable rights of enslaved millions, to all that liberty which all in the goodness of God enjoy. To do all this consistently, it is necessary to abstain from exercising the right of suffrage in electing men to offices, on which they enter by swearing an oath to the constitution, in the name of those who elected them. By sitting on juries, the witness for the law of God, would act inconsistently with his testimony. He would thereby become identified with an immoral system, and his oath as a juror would pledge him, to judge and decide, not by the law of his God, but by a code much of which is immoral and all of which derives its force professedly from no higher source than mere human authority. Let the disciples of the Lord Jesus, beware of corrupting themselves, and defiling their religion by mixing it up with a polluted system of unholy politics.
4. Besides the direct honour done to Christ by such abstinence from evil, and a testimony for truth, all this is intimately connected with the holiness of the christian life. This is an ample topic, but it can be discussed here in a few words only. The transition is easy from the national disregard of the law of God to that which is personal. If a whole nation may trample under foot with impunity the Holy Scriptures, and the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, why may not one man? If in our political relations it is proper and safe to disregard the law of heaven, why may it not be violated in all business transactions? In any christian nation, where the Scriptures are not recognized in the national institutions, they will be little reverenced in the private relations of life. That this is so, to a most deplorable extent, in the United States, is known to all. The effect of the national dishonour done the written law of God, has been to open the flood-gates of immorality, which overflows the land like a deluge. That there has been for many years a rapid and alarming depreciation of public morals, is admitted by nearly all intelligent observers. Men in power, it seems to be the voice of the nation, were never before so incompetent, and so immoral. Few, however, have yet learned to trace the evil to its fountains, in the infidel constitution of the Federal Government and in most of the state’s constitutions.
But this is not the worst feature of the times. Professors of religion, in most Protestant congregations, have become lamentably cold and carnal. Let any one, who lays these things to heart, look around him and he will probably be surprised how few lively and experienced christians are to be found. Let all look into their own hearts and lives. In many, indeed, in the great majority of Protestant congregations, where fifty years ago, family worship was generally attended to with a commendable punctuality, it is now most lamentably fallen into disuse. Many do not even ask the blessing of God on their family meals, or thank him for them [i.e., after the meal is finished]; even where the head of the household and his wife are both professors of religion. How is it that in this general wreck of practical godliness, Reformed Presbyterians have family worship in all their households, every morning and evening? Why have they alone four and five praying societies that meet weekly, or semi-monthly, in all their congregations, except in those that are small, and who have them in due proportion to their numbers? How does it happen that in these prayer meetings all the male members, whether old or young, officiate in conducting the worship of the society? Why do members of this church abstain from cards, all games of the lot, from attendance on theatrical amusements, and on lascivious dancing assemblies? Why do they abstain from travelling on the Lord’s day, and from the reading of Newspapers, and other secular works, and from worldly conversation on the Lord’s day? It is the blessing of God on their testimony against the disregard of Christ’s authority by the nation, in its infidel constitution. The relaxation in the practical duties of religion, on the part of those who have lately gone out from them, and who have professedly identified themselves with the nation, in the national rejection of the written law, as the rule of civil government, demonstrates the justness of these remarks. Many as are the imperfections, over which Covenanters have reason to lament, in their own christian character; they would soon find the barriers against evil in a great measure broken down, by the abandonment of their testimony against the national dishonour done to their Redeemer. His spirit would forsake them.
5. These doctrines furnish the strongest reason for adhering to the covenants of our ancestors, in the British Isles. The doctrines illustrated and enforced in the preceding pages are embodied in the National Covenant of Scotland, and the Solemn League and Covenant of Scotland, England and Ireland. A great majority of the Protestant professors in this commonwealth, are descendants of the actual Covenanters of Britain, or of those who were bound by these instruments. It is impossible to adhere to the British covenants, and not condemn the United States for sin, in rejecting the law, revealed in the Bible, as the rule of civil government. The national constitution, and these holy Covenants are instruments, as far as religion is concerned, diametrically opposite. No one can consistently adhere to both. Since all christian nations, whether they assent to it, or not, "are under law to Christ," and the church in Britain having bound herself to the maintenance and practice of this truth, she cannot without revolt from Christ’s kingly authority over the nations, and the violation of her most solemn vows, relinquish her covenant obligations. All the true friends of the reformation in the British Isles, admit that the church did a holy and noble act in entering into these covenants, and was, and is bound by them so long as she continues to be a church. When the Protestant church of Britain spread her branches over the western continent, she extended her covenant obligations with them. The Jews in Babylon gloried in their covenant connection with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and so should all the children of the British Covenanters, glory in their covenant relation to the same God, through the oath of allegiance which their godly ancestors swore to the Lord Jesus Christ, king in Zion, and Lord of all. They must either violate this oath of allegiance to their Almighty king, or dissent from the infidel civil institutions of this land.
The doctrines of these pages, and their application, are the distinctive principles of the Reformed Presbyterian church. This remark is not extended to the first topic of discussion—the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is admitted by a majority of all Protestants, in Britain and the United States. It is however, the basis of all the other truths asserted above. By fair construction, the doctrine of Christ’s headship over all things, and the obligations of the written law on men in their civil relations, are indeed contained in the Confessions of several branches of the church. But in all, except among Covenanters, they are a dead letter. It must be so, while they bind themselves by oath to all the provisions of the National and state constitutions. Ministers do not preach on these topics, and the people do not know or act on them. It they did, they would preach and act contrary to the fundamental principle of those constitutions to which they have sworn to adhere. Let us hope they thus violate their ecclesiastical standards, through lack of knowledge, and the unperceived influence of a corrupt age.
Whether the reader is convinced of the truth of all the preceding principles or not; it may be hoped he will fairly admit, that Covenanters have not assumed the ground on which they stand, without what may be esteemed by intelligent and conscientious men strong reasons. And all good men will unite in the prayer: "Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations." Psal. 82:8.