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SECTION VIII.-The Duty of Nations, in their National Capacity, to acknowledge and support the True Religion.

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SECTION VIII.-The Duty of Nations, in their National Capacity, to acknowledge and support the True Religion.

James Dodson

Q. Is civil magistracy, as the ordinance of God, conversant only about the transient and paltry affairs of merely animal gratification?

A. Such a view, though common, is utterly incompatible with the origin and design of the institution, which has descended from the throne of God, for the express purpose of preserving moral order among men.

Q. Is there any institution given to God to men, so happily adapted to preserve moral order among mankind as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ?

A. There is none—for its very nature is to promote “peace on earth, and good will towards men.”

Q. Are the two great institutions—civil government and the Christian religion, or church and state, hostile to, and in their nature and action calculated to frustrate each other, in the benign influence which they may respectively exert upon the human race?

A. No. They are friendly powers under the same moral regimen,—the law of God, and designed in their respective spheres and by the means peculiar to each, to advance the same objects, the glory of God on earth, and the best interests of mankind.

Q. Are they distinct powers?

A. Yes. They are distinct powers, and independent one of the other as will appear in its place, and each has its distinctive and particular sphere of action.

Q. Is it not the custom of independent civil powers to form treaties of alliance, offensive and defensive, against a common enemy and for mutual benefit?

A. Yes. It is a common practice, and generally, if the principles of the treaty are just, tends greatly to the pence, security, and mutual interests of the contracting parties.

Q. have not church and state their common enemy?

A. Yes. Sin is their common enemy, presenting itself in the specific forms of ignorance, immorality, and irreligion. “Righteousness exalteth a nation, sin is a reproach to any people.”

Q. May not church and state form, and is it not their duly to do so, such friendly alliance for the promotion of intelligence, morality, and religion, and the suppression of the baneful influence of their common enemy?

A. Certainly. As they have a common enemy, and (as stated) a common object, they ought to form such friendly alliance, that they may have a mutual understanding of their legitimate and distinctive spheres of action ; and co-operate, encourage, and mutually strengthen each other in the advancement of the common good.

Q. Should the true church of Christ, “The bride, the Lamb’s wife,” form such all alliance with a heathen, antichristian or immoral state?

A. By no means. The same law applies to the church collectively which applies to the individual members, not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers;” even as God’s ordinance of civil government in operation in Judea, was forbidden alliance with a heathen and idolatrous civil power. Isa. viii. 12, “Say ye not—A confederacy—to all them to whom this people may say—A confederacy.” 2 Cor. vi. 15, “What concord hath Christ with Belial?”

Q. May God’s ordinance of civil government form an alliance with a corrupt, heathenish and anti-Christian?

A. By no means: any more than a Christian man should ally himself in marriage with a polluted harlot, impenitent, and unreformed.

Q. Has not the church in past ages received detriment and does she not in some nations at the present time sustain injury by being thus unequally yoked with immoral anti-Christian civil powers?

A. Yes. She has been and is still greatly injured, and from the very nature of society, she must suffer in such connexion, until both learning and power are transferred into the hands of godly men, and so made subservient to piety. Independently of the impressive lessons of long and painful experience upon this Subject, it is quite reasonable to expect that if unsanctified men incorporate revealed religion with civil government, such a form will certainly be given to religion as may suit unsanctified power. The daughter of Zion is much better without such an alliance, for it is the very essence of anti-christianism. The Bride, the Lamb’s wife, cannot he supposed to escape pollution, if taken into the embraces of unholy men, and rendered dependent upon a government which they administer. It is safer for the friends of religion to continue like the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, faithfully struggling in poverty against the frowns of power, than to become the stipendiaries of irreligious statesmen.

Q. As you do not approve of every kind of union church and state, and as no existing union receives countenance, for what kind of union of these distinct independent powers do we plead?

A. We plead only for a union between God’s moral ordinance of civil government, duly constituted as his minister to men for good, with pure Christianity, or the Bride, Lamb’s wife.

Q. As both of those institutions, church and state, from God, is it not a just inference, that they are designed by Him to dwell together in harmonious union, and co-operation, for the promotion of the good of mankind—like the “two olive trees”—that through “the golden pipes;” pour their oil into the common bowl?

A. It cannot be justly questioned. Because, if not allied as they exist in the same community, they must frequently come into conflict with each other, and thus mar their influence respectively: for if the state has no regard, in its administration, for religion, it will desecrate its most sacred institutions, as is the case in this land with respect to the Christian sabbath.

Q. Is it not a dictate of nature (among those notices of God and our duty which we have independently of revelation) that God is to be worshipped by man, not only in his individual, but also in his social capacity?

A. Yes. Hence we find, even the most savage benighted tribes have their social, and even national religious observances and festivals.

Q. Have we not the substance of sabbatic institutions taught us by the light, of nature?

A. Yes. Heathen nations have their stated times to public national homage to their gods.

Q. Must not these times of social and public assembling for religious worship be appointed and regulated by national law?

A. Yes. Because upon no other principle could there be a general concurrence of the community in the times of meeting, and the enjoyment of tranquillity and order when assembled. Hence all nations have their times of meeting for religious purposes fixed by a national decree.

Q. Is not the idea of a nation destitute of the religious sentiment shocking to our moral nature?

A. Yes. Religious sentiment and practice is absolutely essential to national happiness, and even its existence—of the truth of which we have all awful illustration in the history of revolutionary France: where the leaders of the dominant factions discarded the religious sentiment, when iniquity in every monstrous form raised its head, and stalked through the land; virtue and piety were crushed; amid the blooming plains of France were saturated, and its rivers flowed with blood.

Q. Did not Greece and Rome bear decided testimony to the high importance of a national faith, and incorporate with their constitutions laws respecting religion?

A. Yes. The heathen teach us. These nations so celebrated in history, yielded a national allegiance to their gods, and aimed at the sanctification of their civil institutions and all their national enterprises, by the approbation of their gods. The State was the guardian of their religion and upon every victory they brought their national “votive offerings” to the temples of their gods.

Q. Is there an object on the earth so sublime in its character and so worthy of national care as the Christian church?

A. No. There is not among the ranks of created being one object worthy of comparison in point of sublimity with the Christian church—“A moral empire consisting of members animated by the Eternal Spirit, the Mediatory person, God manifest in the flesh, as its head, the vast machinery of creation moving in regular subordination to its interests, and exhibiting the ineffable glory of the Divinity, is an object to be contemplated with admiration and awe.”—“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.”

Q. Is not the Headship of Christ over the nations a convincing argument in proof of the duty of nations to maintain and cherish his religion?

A. There cannot be anything more conclusive. Christ’s dominion over the nations, as over all other things, is for the good of the church. “He is head over all things to the Church;” and certainly so important a part of his empire, as national society, is not exempted from the duty of exerting its influence for the welfare of that church, for the special benefit of which Christ is exalted “Lord of all.” As civil government is subjected to Him, it is with the intent that, in its administration, it shall contribute to the welfare of Zion. And this is done by a national embrace of his religion to the exclusion of all others, and an engagement to its support.

Q. Have we not examples in the Old Testament scriptures, of this happy alliance between church and state?

A. Yes, several. 1. The patriarchal system of government prevailed generally in the world until the time of Moses. The Patriarch was King and Priest, exercising a species of extended family government, in which, among the godly, all temporal affairs were managed in subserviency to religion. Such were Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, who “commanded their households to keep time way of the Lord.” What an ancient Patriarch and his patriarchate or family did for advancing among themselves the interests of godliness, every nation as it body may and should in substance now do, for the present mode of government has succeeded this primitive institution—is merely an enlarged family. 2. Melchizedec was King of Salem, and at the same time Priest of the Most High God. His civil dominion was subservient to the interests of piety. 3. By divine authority the civil government of the Jews succeeded the primitive patriarchal institution—which was also rendered completely subservient to the religion of the Son of God. Legal countenance and support were given to the institutions of religion; and Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, and others, concerned themselves in the capacity of civil rulers about the interests of the Church. The erection of places of worship—the support of the ministers of religion, the removal of obstacles—and the correction of abuses, occupied much of their attention. A clear evidence that union between church and state is not necessarily, and in itself sinful—else it never could at any time have received the divine approbation and sanction. 4. The union and co-operation of the King and the Priest. Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Eleazer, David and Abiathar, Solomon and Zadok, Hezekiah and Azariah, Zerubbabel and Joshua—and Samuel “who judged Israel and built an altar unto the LORD,” [1 Sam.] vii. 17. 5. The example of Cyrus and Darius, Ezra i. 1-4; vi. 9-12. Approved of God, vi. 12, 16, 20, 24, also viii. 10. 6. The King of Nineveh, when God’s prophet denounced judgment, proclaimed a fast, giving an interesting example of the duty of magistrates to exercise a care about the moral and religious interests of their people.

Q. Were not these examples, especially that of the subserviency of the Jewish civil policy to the true religion, designed to be limited to that dispensation?

A. By no means—as is evident from the consideration, that it was founded in reason, or the immutable principles of Christian philosophy; for religion is intimately, yea, vitally connected with all that should be done by man in this life, and lies at the foundation of all that, regards his prospects of future blessedness and glory; and it is unreasonable to suppose that he should lose sight of it utterly the moment he acts as a member of the civil community. An immortal being should act everywhere with reference to his immortality. The reason is as valid to-day as in ancient times, and these examples are therefore to be copied in all succeeding ages. “What was written of old times was written for our instruction.”

Q. May not the duty of nations to acknowledge and support the true religion, be conclusively reasoned from the character of civil magistracy, as the ordinance of God described by the apostle in Rom. xiii. 2, 3?

A. The passage is conclusive, as is evident, 1. From the title given of the ruler. “The minister of God.” Can the ruler he the minister of God, and yet in his rule have no regard for religion? 2. From the objects of his office. “A terror to evil doers,’—a “revenger,”—“a terror to him that doeth evil.” Are not offences against the first table, which relates to God and his worship, evils? He is also to be “a praise to them that do well.” Are not the deeds of piety worthy of his countenance? If the magistrate is “the minister of God,” and “a terror to evil doers,” he must be so not only to the immoral, but to the profane and irreligious; and if “a praise to them that do well,” he must be so not only to the moral, but also the religious—inasmuch as the works of piety are incomparably more excellent and worthy of fostering care than those of cold morality. 3. Moreover, the passage teaches that civil magistracy is especially designed for the good of the saints. For they are particularly addressed,—“to thee,” “the saints.” Rom. i. 7.

Q. Is not this argument confirmed by the reason given for the prayer for the conversion of magistrates who were notorious enemies of Christ and persecutors of his religion? 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.

A. Yes. For this is not a prayer for the success of an ungodly, immoral, civil power, but a prayer for the conversion of civil rulers to Christianity; that their government being founded upon Christian principles, and its administration regulated by the Christian law, the subjects may live under its jurisdiction “a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness” or, which is the same thing, the practice of true religion.

Q. Is not idolatry punishable at the judicial tribunals and is not this a proof of the care civil rulers should exercise about the true religion?

A. Yes. Job declares it, xxxi. 26, 27, to be “an iniquity to be punished by the judge,” and thereby teaches that the civil ruler should exercise a guardian care about religion in the suppression of idolatry.

Q. 25. Does not the prophet Isaiah, xlix. 22, 23, write “Kings shall he nursing fathers,” &c., forcibly teach the duty of civil governments to acknowledge and support the Christian religion?

A. Most clearly. The passage manifestly refers to New Testament times, and predicts that a prominent feature of those times shall be the subserviency of civil rulers to the church. The figure employed, of “nursing fathers,” is a similitude which imports the most tender care, the most anxious solicitude, not mere protection, but active and unwearied nourishment and support.

Q. Does this Passage give countenance to the opinion entertained by some, that the best thing the state can do for the church is “to let her alone?”

A. Certainly not. Such an idea is utterly inconsistent with the figure. Strange and unnatural nurse, indeed, who takes no interest in the welfare of her feeble charge, but lets it alone, to shift for itself! On the contrary, the just import of the figure clearly teaches that in New Testament times it will be esteemed one of the most important and interesting functions of men in the most exalted civil stations, to nourish and cherish the church of Christ, as a tender nurse the beloved child committed to her charge.

Q. Is the opinion of some correct, who, to neutralize the force of this passage, hold that rulers are here spoken of not in their official but in their private and personal capacity, inasmuch as “queens” may be here viewed not as queens regnant, but consort?

A. We answer in the words of Dr. Symington, “It is, however, far from self-evident that queens are spoken of here in the latter capacity; for every candid person will admit that the very same phraseology might as naturally be employed in speaking of queens regnant in relation to their husbands as of kings regnant in relation to their wives. It is, therefore, not by any means clear that queens are here to be understood as consorts only; or, admitting this, will the inference follow from it legitimately that the kings are to be understood merely in their private domestic capacity, as consorts of the queens. When subjects pray for the blessing of God on their king and his queen, as they are every day in the habit of doing, the queen is of course the queen consort, but surely it cannot for a moment be supposed that they do not refer to the monarch in his official capacity. Because his partner can only be viewed as associated with him in her private capacity. Yet it is only on such a supposition as this that the meaning we attach to the passage before us can be evaded. Even admitting then, for the sake of argument, the interpretation proposed with regard to queens, they are referred to only as consorts, the inference drawn from it with regard to kings, does not follow. It does not follow that kings are referred to only in their private capacity. The kings may still after all be kings regnant, and the utmost that the passage can be made to bear is, that both kings and whether regnant or consort, are bound to exert all the influence they possess, in their own proper spheres, to aid and foster the interests of- Messiah’s kingdom in the world. Because queen consorts can do this, only in their own private sphere, it does not follow that kings regnant, in their proper sphere, are not also bound to do the same. On the contrary, the prediction before us leads us to conclude that in the times of the gospel, persons of the most exalted public stations shall exert their influence in behalf of the church of Christ.”

Q. Does not Isaiah, lx. 11, 12, 16, “Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be still day nor night: that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee Shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings,” powerfully enforce this doctrine?

A. Yes; with great power. “Here there cannot be the shadow of doubt about the sense in which kings are spoken of. The pronoun ‘their’ in this sentence, at least, is decidedly in favour of the view that they are to be regarded in their public capacity; they are spoken of as the people’s kings, or kings in the possession and exercise of official power and influence. In this capacity they are represented as ministers to the church of Christ in various ways. Nor is this passage less decisive that it comprehends a threat of awful judgement denounced on such nations and rulers as shall refuse to yield the service required.”

Q. Have we not an additional argument of great weight in Ezek. xlv. 17, “It shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all the solemnities of the house of Israel, and he shall prepare the sin offering?” &c.

A. Very weighty indeed. The mysterious prophetic vision with which the words quoted are associated, is believed by all judicious commentators to refer to the church in New Testament times. Some portions of the figurative allusions are to us mysterious, but the passage quoted plainly teaches that in those times the civil ruler, in his official capacity, will contribute largely to the support of religious institutions.

Q. Does not Psalm xlv. 12, “And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift, even the rich among the people shall entreat thy favour,” beautifully instruct us in the same grand truth?

A. It does. The church in this psalm is exhibited in the splendid array of a queen, the consort of Christ, the king of glory. The accession of the Gentiles to the church seems to be here predicted under the name of Tyre, a neighbouring city, and at that time the mart of the world; for even the richest of the nations will in due time submit to the Messiah, “consecrate their gain” to him, in support of his religion and kingdom, and court the friendship, and solicit the prayers of his church. “Thy favour,” פָּנַיִךְ. The pronoun is feminine, and the queen, the church, is especially meant.

Q. Have we not a further conclusive argument in Is. ii. 2, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the tops of the mountain, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it?”

A. Unquestionably. “The last days,” or latter days, signify the time of the Messiah. As Solomon’s temple, the centre of Israel’s worship, was placed upon a mountain, to which the people resorted with their sacrifices from distant places, so the church of Christ and its instituted worship are represented as a temple built upon a mountain. “Mountains” and “hills” are scripture symbols of the greater and lesser kingdoms of the earth (Amos iv. 1, Jer. li. 25), and the passage plainly teaches the establishment of the church by these kingdoms, or the national acknowledgment and support of the religion of Christ.

Q. Does not Rev. xi. 15, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ,” forcibly teach this duty of nations?

A. Very forcibly. Because its manifest interpretation is, that it teaches a national recognition of the authority of Christ, and a national profession of his religion as kingdoms promised to Christ. It is not the private and individual regard of many of the inhabitants of the land that constitute it the kingdom of its Prince, but the publicly declared and pledged alliance of the people, and of their representatives. “It imports their becoming Christ’s as formerly they had been antichrist’s. As the nations under antichrist did acknowledge and submit to antichrist in a national way, so shall they as solemnly reject antichrist, and take Christ in his room, and become his people in a national capacity,” by submitting to his authority and embracing and supporting the true religion.

Q. Does not Rev. xxi. 24-26 beautifully seal this argument in proof of the duty of nations nationally to acknowledge and support the true religion?

A. Yes. Here are glorious blessings promised. “The kings of the earth in the church.” “The nations walking in the light of Zion.” The kings of the earth promoting the prosperity of the church by consecrating time wealth and glory of their empires to the Son of God, to beautify the place of his sanctuary.

Q. Is not the Christian religion, or church of Christ adapted to exert a benign influence upon the nation by which it is embraced?

A. Yes, in a great variety of ways. 1. It teaches the true character of civil government, as a benign institution of heaven, or God’s own minister for the promotion of the happiness of man, and is adapted by its teachings to restrain tyranny on the one hand, and to prevent anarchy on the other, be establishing the just spheres of rulers and ruled. 2. It. is favourable to true liberty, by checking selfishness and inspiring benevolence, and teaching a strict moral equality. 3. It operates favourably upon national wealth, as it requires all to “be diligent in business,” for “he that will not work shall not eat;” teaches moderation in the use of earthly good, and inspires all to exercise a tender regard for the poor, and prevent, or at least ameliorate, the evils of pauperism, “which spread like a leprosy over an immoral population.” 4. Greatly promotes the peace of a nation. It proclaims “peace on earth and good will towards men;” unites men and nations in the bonds of Christian love; and securing peace with God, inclines its subjects to “follow peace with all men;” and will ultimately eradicate the fierce and warlike passions of our depraved nature, and bring about, in proportion as it is nationally embraced, that blessed period when “nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” 5. It secures the true morality of a nation. It alone carries with it those influences by which corrupt man is changed in the disposition of his mind, and his affections are sanctified. Its laws and institutions are adapted to advance the same process of purification; particularly its Sabbath is a national blessing, as the most effectual instrumentality for the promotion of the national morality and piety. 6. It places the nation which embraces and practises it under the divine protection, and secures it “God’s full flood” of blessings, so that by his arm it is defended against all its foes, and by his bounty it is rendered prosperous and happy Thus Israel was protected and blessed, as the nation adhered, to the religion of the Messiah; but “wrath came upon it to the uttermost” when his religion was corrupted and abandoned.

Q. Is not God’s ordinance, as his minister, qualified to exert upon the Church the most happy influence?

A. Yes. 1. The state may legally recognise and protect the true religion, and thus make religion honourable in the nation, and secure to it a wide-spread influence. For this reason, rulers, in scripture, are called “the shields of the earth,” and as such, the property of Christ (Ps. xlvii) and “nursing fathers,” so that by a just administration the pious may “lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.” 2. The civil government can interpose the sanction of the law, and thus secure a national observance of the Christian sabbath, without which sanction the church cannot enjoy in pence her Sabbaths, and without which institution the nation will become utterly demoralized. 3. The civil magistrate may restrain many things injurious to religion and the best interests of society. Prov. xx. 24, “A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.” 1 Pet. ii. 14, “Governors, who are sent, for the punishment of evil doer, and for the praise of them that do well.” Rom. xiii. 4. Gross blasphemy, profane swearing, open idolatry and the desecration of the Sabbath, are legitimate objects of magistratical interference, not merely as prejudicial to the commonwealth and offensive to the members of society, but as injurious to religion, and highly displeasing, to the Almighty. 2 Chron. xiv. 2-5; Job. xxxi. 26-21 4. A nation may maintain religion by pecuniary support, Numb, xviii. 26, “When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance.” 2 Chron. xxxi. 4, 5; Neh. x. 32, xiii. 10. Predictions, Psa. lxxii. 10-15; Is. lx. 3,6,9.

Q. What will necessarily be the consequence to a nation of an entire separation of religion from the state?

A. Civil society will become essentially and avowedly infidel and the nation be subjected to the terrible judgment denounced by Jehovah. Is. lx. 12. “The nation and kingdom that will not, serve thee (the church) shall perish; ye those nations shall be utterly wasted.”

Q. Is it practicable for the nations to maintain an entire neutrality respecting religion?

A. No. The nations cannot separate themselves entirely from religion: but the evil is—they have usually assumed unhallowed supremacy over the church; and even where, in our own country, they profess indifference, they assume lordly power over the subject, and dare to place “the bride, the Lamb’s wife” in the same position, as it respects their “nourishing” care, with the false systems, Muslim, Papal and Pagan. Christianity scorns mere toleration as an associate with idolatry, and superstition, and falsehood—she is exclusive and uncompromising, and demands implicit acknowledgment.

Q. Is this a “peculiar” doctrine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church?

A. Nearly so. Some other denominations have maintained it. Generally, it is loosely held; and has, of late, become unfashionable, through a spirit of conformity to all infidel world—and is now left by the many in the hands of the “two witnesses,” to be maintained as a reviled and contemned portion of “the testimony of Jesus.”

[ON THE SPIRITUAL INDEPENDENCE OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST]