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The Duty of Nations to the Church.


The Duty of Nations to the Church.

James Dodson

Man as a creature, is under obligation to obey his Creator. This obligation results from the law of nature, which is the law of God. The most perfect copy or edition of this law we have in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. In the Bible is revealed the economy of the persons in the Godhead. All those who, blinded by the “God of this world,” deny the trinity of persons in the Godhead, equally and necessarily deny the economical relations of these adorable persons. Hence, individual and social rebellion against that divine person who is the Mediator.

Ever since the fall of man, God deals with the posterity of Adam through the mediation of Jesus Christ. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” John 5:22. The Father’s will, made known by the Son, in this economy is,—“That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father,” v. 23. As the Father is first in the order of subsistence among the persons of the Trinity, so he is first in the order of economic procedure. “The Son can do nothing of himself,” v. 19. By commission from the Father, the mediator rules over the universe. The framework of society originates from God, whether it be domestic, civil or ecclesiastical; he, and he alone, has given them the laws of organization. In the natural order of these social organizations, the domestic economy is primary; the Church and the State may be considered auxiliary. The duties growing out of these social relationships are of divine prescription, and occupy a large proportion of the Holy Scriptures. Unaccountable as it may appear, a large majority of the population of Christendom seem to entertain and cherish the apprehension, that civil society is further removed from accountability to the Most High, than the church or the family. This impious but popular sentiment has been recently endorsed by a learned doctor of divinity.[1]

The Mediator having been appointed “head over all things to the church,” Eph. 1:22, it would be anomalous indeed, if nations were exempted from his jurisdiction. But it is quite otherwise. Nations are required by the Father to “kiss the Son,” Ps. 2:12; and inasmuch as the Son “loved the church, and gave himself for it,” it would follow as a necessary consequence, that nations ought to subserve the interests of the Church. Accordingly we find in the actual history of the Church, that Christ has always employed nations and made use of them for the benefit of Zion—raised them up or destroyed them as might best subserve this gracious design. “I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee,” Isa. 43:3. And we have his own word of promise, that he will deal with nations hereafter in the same manner. “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee; therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life,” v. 4. “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee, shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted,” Isa. 60:12.[2]

Hence the duty of those nations, within whose dominions the Church of Christ is placed, is plain enough; “he may run that reads it.” It is in few words—to “serve the Church.” This expression is of extensive import, comprehending many duties to the Church enjoined upon the nations of the earth to “the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” But the nations of Christendom have “embraced the bosom of a harlot,” instead of the chaste spouse of Christ.

In serving the Christian Church, nations are bound to make legislative appropriations for her comfortable subsistence and efficient operation within their dominion; and the civil administration ought to conduct the whole machinery of government in such manner as to evince a real affection to Zion. Such was the affection and the conduct of the “man after God’s own heart,” and of all right-hearted men among his countrymen, Ps. 122:9; 137:6.

I speak of the duty of nations to the Church, for according to God’s institution of civil government, magistrates are accountable to the body politic. They have the right (and all rights are from God), to call magistrates to account in case of maladministration; and if they concur with their representatives in violating the fundamental provisions of the civil compact—that being founded upon the principles of righteousness—the moral “governor of the nations” will hold them responsible. “The people are above the king,” said the famous Samuel Rutherfurd; and he maintained his thesis in perilous times, more than two hundred years ago [i.e., in the mid-17th century]. Well, if the king, emperor or president wrong the Church within his jurisdiction with the consent of his constituents, the representative “perishes,” but he “perishes not alone in his iniquity.” His supporters are doomed to perish with him; “Pharaoh and all his multitude” fare alike at the hand of an avenging Mediator.

The position which the Church of God occupies in relation to the nations of the earth, is one of superiority. I speak not of the actual condition of the Christian Church in our day, but of her rightful position by the divine appointment. Too often the Church has been used as an engine of state policy, and this with the consent and concurrence of her ministers, who coveted to “wear soft raiment and to be in kings’ palaces.” The “civil places and power of kirkmen” has ever been a feature of Antichrist. The Church and the State, being by divine institution co-ordinate, the one may not lawfully invade the rights or intrude upon the jurisdiction of the other. They ought, however, to be mutually helpful in prosecuting the specific and appropriate objects of each. So it was in the commonwealth of Israel, during the civil administration of David, and in the times of his pious and royal successors.

As with a sunbeam, God has written on the page of the world’s history, that he will reckon with the nations that “do his prophets harm;” yea, and also with them that “let the Church alone.” Where are the proud dynasties of Pharaoh, of Nebuchadnezzar, and of the Caesars? Where is the house of the Stuarts of Scotland? Made “as the chaff of the summer threshing floor, God has swept them with the besom of destruction.” Infidel statesmen sagely tell us of the natural decline of empires, just as they do of individuals “paying the debt of nature” [i.e., dying]; but God tells us of “a consumption determined” in the former case, and of “death as the wages of sin” in the latter.—“Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto men more than unto God,” let the reader judge.

Of civil rulers in our time it may be said as in Ps. 82:5, “They know not, neither will they understand; they walk in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are out of course.”

David Steele,

written February 20th, 1860.


[1] Dr. Scott, of San Francisco, California, (O[ld] S[chool] Presbyterian). [We dare say this sentiment has increased since this was first published, in 1860.; Ed.

[2] It is to be regretted that this clear and precious promise to the Church, and threatening to her enemies, is often, I might say generally, misapplied, by applying it to Christ personally.