Civil government is a divine institution. It is the gift of God to the human family. Man enjoyed it in a state of primeval holiness. Adam was, by his creator, constituted a civil ruler. He was crowned with dominion. But when he broke covenant with God, the crown fell from his head. The sceptre was wrenched from his hand. He forfeited his right to life, and, of course, to all things pertaining to life. "Thou shalt surely die," was the penalty he incurred. He thus lost his right to dominion, with all other blessings both temporal and spiritual. He now stood before his creator as an enemy, a rebel, a guilty criminal, awaiting the execution of the awful sentence; having no longer any claim on the mercy and forbearance of his sovereign judge. But infinite mercy held back the hand of divine vengeance, and stayed the sword of incensed justice, saying, "Deliver from going down to the pit, I have found a ransom." That ransom was the eternal Son of God, who is, "mighty to save." He bore up the pillars of the falling fabric of our sin-stricken world. He interposed on man's behalf, and volunteered to give his life a ransom for many. "He, for the suffering of death is crowned with glory and honour:–all power is given unto him in heaven and earth:–He is made heir of all things." And he has restored to all his saints, all those rights they lost in Adam. Civil government is one of the restored blessings: "By him kings reign and princes decree justice" [Prov. 8:15]. He has, as "Prince of the kings of the earth" [Rev. 1:5], prescribed in his word, the character of those whom he authorizes to administer his ordinance of civil rule. He has given to them ample instruction for the discharge of their official duties. Hence, those rulers who possess scriptural qualifications, and who administer the affairs of the state in accordance with the divine law, are God's ordinance. But those civil governments that are not framed according to the requisitions of the word of God, are not the ordinance of God. They belong to the kingdom of Satan. When Satan seduced our first parents from the path of rectitude, he usurped dominion over them and over the whole of this rebel province of Jehovah’s empire. All ungodly men are under his influence, and engaged in his service. "He is the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" [Eph. 2:2]; for this cause he is called the god of this world [2 Cor. 4:4]. There are, then, two great classes of men and of associations of men in the world–those which belong to the kingdom of Christ, and those which appertain to the kingdom of Satan. All institutions, whether civil or religious, belong to some one of these two classes. The true church and all righteous civil governments belong to the former; all systems of false religion, and all unrighteous civil governments are of the latter–deriving their power, seat, and great authority from the dragon [cf. Rev. 13:2].
Therefore, while we assert that civil government is a divine ordinance, not depending on any civil compact (as infidels teach); yet, at the same time, we deny that every civil institution that may be established in the world is God’s ordinance. Some civil governments are the ordinance of God, and others are not. It is the latter part of this proposition that we design to establish in the following essay; the former is taken for granted. The arguments will be presented as briefly as is consistent with perspicuity.
The proposition we would establish, is,–Every system of civil government that may exist in the providence of God is not God's ordinance. This is proved–
I. From analogy.
1. The order established among fallen angels is not called God’s ordinance. That some kind of government does exist among fallen spirits, we presume none will deny. Eph. 6:12; "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Here is mention made of principalities, powers, and rulers. These terms imply a government. Satan, who is called the "prince of darkness," and "Beelzebub, the prince of devils" [Matt. 12:24], is the head of this empire. Again, in Rev. 12:7, his fallen compeers are called "his angels," are represented as mustered under his banner, and are engaged in fighting at his command. "And the dragon fought and his angels." This infernal order exists in the providence of God, but the mere fact of its existence does not make it God’s ordinance. No more will the mere fact of existence, as some assert, make a system of civil rule among men an ordinance of God. Hence, it is evident by parity of reasoning, that a civil government may exist, and yet not be a divine ordinance.
2. That which is purely a system of crime, is not called God’s ordinance. For example,–slavery, Jesuitism, or piracy. These are all systems of civil (rather uncivil) order; and in some instances they are widely extended. These exist in the all-wise providence of Almighty God; but the fact of their existence does not entitle them to the honourable appellation of Divine ordinance. No more will this fact of existence prove that every popish, Mahommedan, or pagan civil government is the ordinance of God. As the former systems do exist and are not God’s ordinance, so, the latter may exist and not be of divine authority. They may be the ordinance of the devil.
3. In the third place,–Systems of false religion are not called God's ordinance. For example, Mahometanism [i.e., Islam], the worship of Jugernaut [i.e., Vishnu in Hinduism], the faith of the Grand Lama [i.e., the ruler of Tibet]; these and the like systems do exist, yet they are not divine ordinances. So, unrighteous, infidel, or pagan systems of civil rule may be established in the world, and yet not be God’s ordinance.
It does not follow as a necessary consequence, from the fact that God has organized a church in the world as his own ordinance, that every system of religion is the ordinance of God–the church of Christ. Neither does it follow, from the fact that God has ordained civil government, that every system of civil rule that may be set up, is God’s ordinance. A late writer who held that every civil government is God’s ordinance, asks the question,–"Are wicked, tyrannical, pagan powers of God?" He answers–"Certainly they are." We answer, too, they are, in the same sense in which the aforesaid systems of iniquity are of God, and in no higher sense. Again, this writer asks–"Does not he (God) order all things? Does any man become a king without God’s permission granted in mercy or in judgment?" We answer–God does order and permit all things. He orders, permits, and ordains "wicked, tyrannical, pagan powers," in the same sense in which he orders, permits, and ordains the worship of Jugernaut, the faith of the Grand Lama, the infernal order among fallen angels, or any of those systems of iniquity previously mentioned. The former are no more divine than the latter. The despotism of Nero Caesar was no more an ordinance of God than the domination of Satan. These are all component parts of the kingdom of the prince of darkness. He gives them their "power, seat and great authority." Hence, it is evident, that more must be known respecting any system of civil rule, than that it exists. Its character must be ascertained, before it can be determined whether or not it is God’s ordinance.
II. In the second place, our proposition is proved from the Scripture account of the Roman Empire.
If it can be proved from the word of inspiration, that this empire was not the ordinance of God, it will necessarily follow that all other similar institutions are not God’s ordinance. The error of those who maintain that every civil government that exists in the providence of God is a divine ordinance, and that the mere fact of existence makes it so, will have been fully refuted.
1. And first, the Roman Empire is described as a ravenous beast. The prophet Daniel, in a vision, saw "four great beasts come up from the sea." Dan. 7:3,7. These beasts symbolize four great empires–the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Macedonian [i.e., Grecian], and Roman empires. The last of these is described in the seventh verse: "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 the feet of it; and it was divers from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns." This beast was seen also by the apostle John, Rev. 13:1, "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,"& c. In both these instances, the word translated beast, signifies a wild, ravenous beast of prey, and not a tame beast or domestic animal. And the apostle Paul expressly calls Nero a lion; "And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion," 2 Tim. 4:17. All this indicates the beastly, ravenous, ("As a roaring lion and ranging bear" [Prov. 28:15]), and ungodly character of the Roman government.
Again, this beast is a monster. It has more heads than one. The great Creator has given to each one of his animate creatures one head only. But this nondescript has seven heads, showing that it was not formed by the plastic hand of him who made every thing beautiful in its season; but that it was devised and projected by him who was instrumental in introducing sin and all its monstrous productions among our fallen race. These seven heads represent two things; first, the seven hills on which Rome, the capital of the empire, was built [their names are, Capitoline, Palatine, Aventine, Esquiline, Coelian, Viminal and Quirinal; ED.]. Rev. 17:9, "These seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman (`THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS') sitteth." Second, the seven different forms of government that existed at Rome; to wit, kings, consuls, tribunes, dictators, decemvirs, emperors, and popes. Rev. 17:10, "And there are seven kings" [cf. Dan. 7:17].
Moreover, it would appear from the description of this beast that it is a land animal, but Daniel and John both saw it arise out of the sea [cf. Dan. 7:3; Rev. 13:1]. A strange, unnatural origin, which farther exhibits its monstrous character; for the greater its monstrosity, the more suitable emblem [it is] of that beastly and sin-deformed government which it was designed to symbolize. Such a beast God never made; such a government God never ordained as his own ordinance.
2. In the second place; this empire ascends out of the bottomless pit. Rev. 17:8, "The beast that thou sawest was and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit." So also in chapter 11:7. This is the same monster, symbolizing the same system of iniquity as before. This indicates that the Roman Empire was concocted in hell, and established on earth by the influence of the Prince of Darkness. Can any one suppose that a divine ordinance could originate in such a place? Are not all divine ordinances of heavenly origin? The fact that this system originates in hell, proves to a demonstration, that it is not the ordinance of God, but of the devil.
3. In the third place; this empire derives its power, seat, and great authority from the dragon. Rev. 13:2, "And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority." The dragon, who is "that old serpent, the devil, and Satan," gave to this mystical beast–the Roman Empire, its "power," that is, its physical strength; such strength as consists in wealth, armies, and navies. In other words, the dragon made it "Dreadful and terrible and strong exceedingly" [Dan. 7:7]. In the exercise of this power, "it devoured and brake in pieces and stamped the residue with the feet of it:–and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces," Dan. 7:7,23. All this has been literally fulfilled by both pagan and papal Rome. Surely this is not the work of God's ordinance. "By their fruits ye shall know them" [Matt. 7:20].
Again, the dragon gave the "beast" its "seat;" that is its (QRONOS) throne. In other words, he invested it with office. Hence, the right, and the only right to exercise civil rule, which the Roman Empire possessed, was derived from the prince of darkness. Is this God’s mode for establishing his own ordinance? Does he employ, or permit the devil to commission his agents? As well might it be asserted that the government of hell itself is appointed by, and is an ordinance of Jehovah. God himself gives to his own institutions all that official power which they possess. But here is a civil government organized, commissioned, and enthroned by Satan. Such an institution cannot be an ordinance of God. Moreover, the "dragon" gave the "beast great authority;" that is moral power. He imparted a high degree of worldly wisdom, tact and cunning–furnished able statesmen, endowed with ample military and political skill for the prosecution of his diabolical designs–gave vast influence and high renown–so much so, "That all the world wondered after the beast, saying who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."–Rev. 13:3-5. [Matthew] Henry on the passage says–"He (the beast, the Roman Empire), was set up by the devil, and supported by him to do his work, and promote his interest; and he lent him all the assistance he could." Why did Satan thus foster this system of iniquity? Simply, because it was his own offspring–his own ordinance, and performed his own infernal work.
4. The heads of this empire are inscribed with "the name of BLASPHEMY."–Rev. 13:1. Henry says "the name of blasphemy on its heads, proclaims its direct enmity and opposition to the glory of God, by promoting idolatry." Blaspheming God is diametrically opposed to the glorifying of God. Blasphemy, according to the law of God, is punishable with death, by civil authority–"He that blasphemeth shall be put to death."–Lev. 24:16. And it is punishable with excommunication by ecclesiastical authority–"Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme."–1 Tim. 1:20.–Could any individual, the whole business of whose life was to blaspheme God, be considered, by the utmost stretch of charity, a child of God? Certainly not. No more can any association of individuals, be considered and ordinance of God, whose whole employment is to blaspheme that name which is holy, just and true. But this is the character of the "beast" (the Roman empire),–He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."–Rev. 13:6. This is not characteristic of a divine ordinance; but it is descriptive of those who forever "curse their king and their God, and look upward." This name of "BLASPHEMY," inscribed on the seven heads of this monster, proclaims to angels and men its diabolical character, that it is beyond all peradventure, the ordinance of the prince of darkness.
5. In the fifth place, it is hostile to the Lamb. "These (ten horns) shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them; for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings; and they that are with him are called and chosen, and faithful."–Rev. 17:14. Here are two hostile forces that are diametrically opposite the one to the other, in character, disposition, and employment, viz.: The Lord Jesus Christ, the Mediator (in no other character can he be called the LAMB), the true church on earth, all righteous civil governments, and all true believers of the one part, and the Roman Empire–as well as all other ungodly civil governments–all systems of false religion, and all wicked men, with the Dragon for their leader–of the other. These ten horns or kingdoms are engaged in warring against the son of God and all his faithful servants. We have also another martial force engaged in conflict with the same divine character–"There was war in heaven; (in the visible church), Michael (the Lord Jesus Christ), and his angels fought against the Dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels."–Rev. 12:7. This imports that all fallen angels are enemies to God, and rebels to his government. They are here represented as laboring to dethrone the Almighty. It was rebellion against the government of heaven that made them demons. It was this that changed the order that exists among this portion of the angelic hosts, from being an ordinance of heaven, into the government of hell. For this cause the dominion of "Lucifer, the son of morning," is no longer God’s moral ordinance. Rebellion against God, and continuance therein, will have the same effect on all other systems, whether civil or ecclesiastical–"Similar causes produce similar effects." If enmity to God, and opposition to his authority, preclude the kingdom of Satan from being a divine ordinance, will not the same cause prohibit the Roman Empire–or any other similar institution–from being of divine authority? Both are represented as engaged in warfare with the Son of God; both are actuated by the same irreconcilable hatred to the government of "Messiah the Prince" [Dan. 9:25]. And if the latter accomplish less against the kingdom of Christ than the former, it is a consequence resulting only from an inferiority of power, and not from a less vicious disposition. They are in league one with the other; and Satan is the generalissimo of both these martial forces, arrayed against the Lord and his Anointed. Both share the same fate–both are "overcome," and consigned to everlasting destruction by the "Lamb; for he is the Lord of lords and King of kings" [Rev. 17:14]. Hence it is evident that both belong to the same category. Hostility to him "who hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS" [Rev. 19:16]; equally, fully, and forever excludes both from being God’s moral ordinance. The one has no more claim to this honorable appellation than the other.
6. In the sixth place, it is the medium of the devil’s agency against the Church. This argument is nearly allied to the preceding; for that which is hostile to the Lamb, is necessarily opposed to his "called, and chosen, and faithful servants."
In the twelfth chapter of Revelation, Satan is represented as laboring to destroy the Man Christ Jesus and his Church. Verse 3rd–"And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads." "And,"–Verse 13th–"he persecuted the woman (the Church) which brought forth the man child." Here the heads, horns, and crowns of the Roman Empire are set on the Devil. This imagery indicates that the devil operates in, through, and by that empire against the Church of Christ. This is descriptive of the constant and unremitting opposition of Rome–both pagan and papal–to the true religion. It is dyed scarlet color with the blood of thousands of the confessors and martyrs of Jesus, and with the blood of Jesus himself; for it shed his precious blood on Calvary’s cross–"And I saw a woman sit on a SCARLET COLORED BEAST, having seven heads and ten horns."–Rev. 17:3. The Roman Empire, instigated by the dragon, employs all its power, during almost the whole of its existence in persecuting and destroying the Church of Christ–to cut it off, if possible, from the earth–"That of the name of Israel there might no more be mention." Is it so that God has appointed two ordinances in the world, the one opposed to the other? Is this the manner of the kingdom of the Most High? This would be a kingdom divided against itself; and "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation." If the kingdom of God is thus divided, how can his kingdom stand? But it is not divided. Divine ordinances do not so clash. God is a God of order and harmony. Hence that which is opposed to the true church is not of God.
7. In the seventh place, "This Empire carries the mother of harlots."– "And I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." The name of this woman is–"Mystery–Babylon the great, the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth."–Rev. 17:3,5. This metaphorical language imports, that the power and influence of the Roman Empire are employed in promoting the cause of popish superstition and abomination–in supporting "the man of sin and son of perdition" upon his ghostly throne. This Empire is not only at war with the true church, which is the "bride, the lamb’s wife," as has been shown, but it is engaged entirely on the behalf of the well-favored harlot.–This is not characteristic of an ordinance of God. This woman, and the beast that carries her, are both dyed scarlet with the blood of the saints. This evinces that they have both been engaged in the impious work of persecuting the "Lamb," and his "called, and chosen, and faithful servants;" that they have both the same infernal character, and the one has no more claim to be a divine ordinance than the other. Of both it may be said–"Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.–He was a murderer (so also the Roman Empire), from the beginning" [John 8:44].
8. In the eighth place, "it is dangerous to incorporate with this empire"–Rev. 14:9–"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, if any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand." Receiving the mark of the beast signifies incorporating with the Roman empire, thereby becoming a component part of it.–Mark the awful consequences: verse 10, "The same shall drink the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image–and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." From these declarations of the word of God, it is evident that they err greatly who affirm that the apostle Paul means the Roman Empire when he says–Rom. 13:2–"Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." Is it so that God has pronounced damnation on those who refuse to receive the mark of the beast, and at the same time threatens them with the above awful maledictions if they do receive it? Surely God never places any of his creatures in such a predicament. Therefore the last cited passage can only refer to such powers as are described in the verses that follow it. They "are not a terror to good works, (like the Roman Empire,) but to the evil," &c. To this kind of a government alone, we must be subject for conscience sake. Hence it is an imperative duty to incorporate with God’s moral ordinance of civil rule; but those who incorporated with the Roman Empire exposed themselves to the wrath of God both in this world, and in that which is to come, therefore it was not a divine ordinance.
9. Finally, the Roman Empire is not of God, because it goeth into perdition. This is predicated of it in Rev. 17:8,11–"The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition"–be cast into hell. Does the God of heaven consign his own ordinances to everlasting perdition? Surely not. But this Empire, and all civil institutions of a similar character, are–as soon as the cup of their iniquity is full–hurled by the hand of Omnipotence into the pit of misery, where they shall be tormented for ever and ever. "The wicked shall be turned into hell, AND ALL THE NATIONS THAT FORGET GOD."–Ps.9:17. From the fearful doom of this Empire we infer that it is not an ordinance of God.–"They have set up kings, but not by me" [Hos. 8:4].
We have now seen from the word of inspiration, that the "beast" (the Roman Empire), was concocted in hell–ascended out of the bottomless pit; that it was organized, established, and made great, by the dragon, who gave it his power, seat, and great authority; that it is engaged in blaspheming God, his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven; that it is employed during its whole existence in warring against the Son of God, and in persecuting his Church, and cherishes and upholds the mother of harlots, and all her ten thousand abominations. We have seen that, after it has finished its diabolical course, it is, by the retributive justice of God, who takes vengeance on his adversaries, consigned for ever to that infernal pit where it had its origin.
Surely then this system of which all these things are predicated, can be none other than the ordinance of the Devil. Therefore, we infer that every civil government that may exist in divine providence is not God’s ordinance.
III. Our third class of arguments is drawn from what the Bible teaches respecting God’s ordinance of civil government.
And first, it is established in righteousness. The proposed object, and practical effect of God’s moral ordinance of civil rule, is, to suppress vice, and promote virtue,–to oppose the kingdom of Satan, and to advance the cause of Christ in the world. This is expressly stated of those civil rulers who are commissioned to exercise authority in his name. Rom. 13:3,4. "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same; for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil." To such, and to such alone, we "must needs be subject not only for wrath, but for conscience sake." It is this kind of rulers to which the apostle refers, in the first and second verses of this chapter wherein he says, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." But some one will say, as many do, "that the terms here used are general, including all powers without exception." If there is no restriction to be put on the terms used, then the apostle, speaking by the spirit of God, commands "every soul to be subject to " the Grand Lama, the False Prophet, the pope, and to the devil, even: because these are powers that be," and they are mighty powers too. These all fall within the decree of God–are all "according to his determinate counsel and foreknowledge." None of them come by chance, nor "without God’s permission," as some plead with regard to civil government. Is it "damnation" to resist these? But it is said again, that these verses refer only to civil government. This is freely granted. But how is it known that they are to be so limited? The reply is, this is evident from the verses which follow. There these general terms are expressly applied and confined to civil rulers. This is also admitted. But if the third and fourth verses limit those general terms to civil government, they limit them also to a particular kind of government. For if you take the thing described, you must also, by all fair criticism and exposition take the qualities predicated of that thing. These cannot be separated. Hence, it is evident that the meaning of the apostle is, that all moral, legitimate powers, established in righteousness are, "of God"–are God’s ordinance; such rulers as "are not a terror to good works, but to the evil," &c.
The righteous character of God’s ordinance of civil government is farther evinced from the character of those who administer it. Ex. 18:21. "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens." Four qualifications are here specified. 1. Men of talent, `able men,' whose minds are cultivated by a good education, and ample reading. 2. Religious men, `such as fear God,' consistent professors of the faith as it is in Jesus. 3. `Men of truth,' orthodox in principle, holding and professing gospel truth, as revealed in the Bible, and embodied in the subordinate standards of the church. This qualification also embraces men who stand aloof from, and detest all secret caucusing, underhand[ed] management, and political gambling–men who frankly speak the truth in righteousness, resorting to no devices for deceiving the people. 4. Enemies to all unlawful gains, `Men hating covetousness,' such as do not make gain at the gaming table, not slaveholders, [nor slave catchers], who meanly, dishonestly, and basely rob the poor, not only of the proceeds of their labors, but also of their wives, children, and even of their own persons. The same truths are taught in 2 Sam. 23:3. "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." Wicked, ungodly, tyrannical governments have no fellowship with God. Ps. 94:20: "Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?" Surely God would not refuse to hold fellowship with his own ordinance. But he says: "They have set up kings but not by me; they have made princes but I knew it not" [Hos. 8:4]. They were not "set up" in accordance with his law; he never acknowledged them as his ordinance; they were not "sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well."
From all this we infer, that no civil government, but that which is established in righteousness, is God’s ordinance.
2. In the second place, it is in professed subordination to God in Christ. In order that civil government be God’s ordinance, it is necessary that it should acknowledge the regal authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is "the Prince of the kings of the earth [Rev. 1:5]; and who hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" [cf. Rev. 19:16]. He is invested with universal dominion as Mediator, "All power is given unto him in heaven and in earth" [cf. Matt. 28:18]; hence the promise of God the Father to his Son is, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." And the divine command and warning to all civil officers is, "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son (submit to him, acknowledge his authority [cf. 1 Sam. 10:1]) lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." Lest he "break you with a rod of iron; and dash you in pieces like a potter's vessel." Ps. 2:8-12. It is evident from these portions of scripture, that it is the duty of all nations, in their national capacity, to submit themselves to the mediatorial authority of the eternal Son of God. And they are also required to obey his law, which "was ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator" [Gal. 3:19]. It was as Mediator, and not in his essential character, that he gave his law. Of course, in the same character he must be submitted to as lawgiver. We have his law on this subject in Deut. 17:18,19: "And it shall be when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom (sitteth in the presidential chair, or holds any civil office whatsoever) that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests, the Levites. (Provide for himself a copy of the Holy Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments). And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life." And why? What advantage would it be to the civil officer, as such, to read and know the Bible? "That he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, TO DO THEM." Here are prescribed the duties, and here may be learned the characteristics of those civil rulers whom God will acknowledge as his own ordinance. Such rulers, and such alone, are in subordination to God in Christ. (Where have we any such rulers in the days of infidelity and irreligion?–"The wicked walk on every side, when the vilest men are exalted," Ps. 13:8).
3. Finally; the general exemplification of God’s ordinance of civil government in the world is yet future. "And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD ARE BECOME THE KINGDOMS OF OUR LORD AND HIS CHRIST," Rev. 11:15. The civil governments of earth are here said to "become" the kingdoms of Christ; implying that they were not his kingdoms before the time specified, and, of course, not God’s ordinance.
The time when this change takes place is worthy of notice. It is after the witnesses are slain, and arisen again. It is after the seventh trumpet–the third woe trumpet–has begun to sound; "And the seventh angel sounded," &c. This trumpet indicates the wrathful visitations of Almighty God upon ungodly civil and ecclesiastical institutions, immediately before the introduction of the millenial glory of the church and of the nations. All this was future to the time when the apostle saw this vision, and it is yet future. This is farther evinced from the seventh chapter of Daniel. From the 20th verse and onwards, we have a description of the fourth beast seen, in vision, by the prophet, symbolizing the Roman Empire. Its reign and fearful end are also set forth, verse 26th, "But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end." After the entire demolition of this system of iniquity, both as to its pagan and papal form,–"The kingdom (v.27) and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, (all civil governments), shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, (godly civil rulers–God’s ordinance, as described, Rom. 13:3,4), whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him"–the "Son of Man." (v.13). Thus we see that the immoral, beastly civil institutions of the world will be destroyed, and on their ruins will be erected God’s moral ordinance of civil rule, established in righteousness and in professed subordination to God in Christ. And, thus, the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.
From all that has been said, we draw the conclusion, that every civil government that may exist in divine providence, is not God’s ordinance.
Nevertheless, let the witnesses of Jesus take courage. The time of your redemption draweth nigh. The twelve hundred and sixty years of your testimony are, doubtless, nearly accomplished. He that sits upon the white horse, who hath on his head many crowns, who is faithful and true, whose name is KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS will soon go forth conquering and to conquer. He will soon take to him his great power, and reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously. Then shall the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ.–AMEN