« הקודםהמשך »
is due, the defence and support of rulers in the due exercise of their power—a support even extended to the making of every lawful sacrifice on behalf of the interests of truth and righteousness, devolves on all placed under a christian government. And in order that such subjection be properly maintained, a salutary fear, not merely of the wrath of man, but of the wrath of God, and a conscientious regard to duty, must be cherished.
- Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake.”:48 When the fear of the sanction annexed to the transgression of any law is the only motive to obedience, that obedience cannot be genuine. Not merely the lower, but also the higher principles of our nature, must lead to that course of conduct which is estimable in the sight of men, and what is more important by far, acceptable to God. The moral being whom the fear of punishment alone would deter from doing evil, by threats would be equally hindered, and perhaps more so, from doing good. And he whom a sense of duty would not urge to right conduct, would not always be led to it by a view of the consequences resulting from doing evil. They who love the law of God will obey it, because of his holy will ; and his authority will be recognised in the commands of those who rule for him, according to its manifestation, not less than in the express dictates of his word. All the institutions of God, and all the means which he has appointed for the promotion of his own glory and for the good of men, are dear to his people ; and while they seek to declare the glory of God, and endeavour to promote the best interests of men, at once they will fear and hate to sin.
The people of God, however, have not always, nay
have seldom, in His providence, been privileged to live under civil governments, sanctioned by His high authority. In their unfavourable circumstances how ought they to conduct themselves towards those who rule over them? Ought they to join themselves with the people of the lands wherein they dwell, in supporting thrones of iniquity ? or, are they to uphold the authority of those who rule not for God? Since the enjoyment of outward privileges—such as the protection of life and character, and property, brings under obligations, which may be acknowledged,
48 Rom. xiii, 5.
without the recognition of any attribute of a government, nay even with a dissent from its enactments and constitution of evil, these obligations, in living at peace with all men, in giving scope wisely and consistently to every good law, and in the paying of dues lawful in themselves, they ought to acknowledge; even in cases where the imposts of such a government are so combined, as that it may be difficult or impossible to distinguish between what is required for lawful, and what for unlawful purposes, within certain limits, they will not withhold their contributions, but protest against the sinful uses to which the revenues of the nation may be put. But when, by direct contribution or otherwise, they are required to support or countenance measures palpably sinful, or to give a pledge of loyalty by oath, or otherwise, to systems immoral or unscriptural, accounting it better to obey God rather than men, this they ought at all hazards to refuse. And when privileges, ensnaring in their nature, and in the acceptance of which is implied an acknowledgment of such governments,
are held out to them, reflecting that the oaths sworn and the various other public actions performed by the representatives of the people, are accepted in the name of the one and the other, and are attributable to both, and that those who bear rule, are in general
49 Such as, in the British dominions, so long as the civil constitution is not scripturally reformed, the use of the “ Elective Franchise,” or the office of a ruler, or legislator.
viewed as pledged to promote the system for which they act, these they ought conscientiously to reject ;50_-pondering the question addressed to Jehoshaphat,—“Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord ?"51 tems of government, therefore, under which the unlawful authority of the rulers is homologated by the servile acquiescence of a majority of the people, a minority are not bound to yield subjection. The laws of a nation, only when accordant with the statutes of the Eternal, confer obligation; and no acts of men can annul the demands of statutes formed according to His word, and consequently deriving their authority from Him. When will Zion be built
if her children testify not against the principle of those rulers who, divided as to means, but united in design, assail, as it were, with axes and hammers the institutions of religion, like the carved work of God's sanctuary, and defile the same by attempting to cast them to the ground ? Let the voice of a distinct testimony for the prerogatives of Messiah the Prince, be resolutely lifted up. And though it would not, nay could not, in many cases be faithfully uttered in the councils of a nation, nor amid the shouts of many who, praising civil power, and a Church so degraded as to act as its creature, cry out in the spirit of the men of Ephesus, who said, “ Great is Diana of the Ephesians," would for a time be not much heard through some portions of the land : yet by the blessing of God it would be the means of exhibiting the nature of true reformation, and, if accompanied by uprightness of deportment, would be productive of benefits that should be enjoyed, when the works of the abettors of tyranny would have for ever perished.
50 In order to direct attention to the duties of civil society favoured with the word of God, especially to the obligations of the members of every community existing under an immoral and unscriptural civil constitution, we beg leave to refer, in addition to the “ Mediatorial Dominion,” before noticed, to the “ Claims of the Divine Government applied to the British Constitution, and the use of the Elective Franchise." Thomas Neilson, and Charles Zeigler, Edinburgh ; and John Keith, and William Marshall, Glasgow—1813.- A pamphlet, the argument of which from Scripture is clearly and powerfully brought out; and the perusal of which is earnestly recommended, particularly to all who love the prosperity of their country, and cherish the desire that all ranks within it would perceive duty incumbent upon them, and be led to the advan. tages and true honour arising from performing it, especially in a day when civil power is put forth to cherish various ungodly systems, to extend the dominion, not merely of prelacy, but of popery under its darkest aspects, and to rob the true Church of the blood-bought privileges bestowed upon her by her Lord.
51 2 Chron. xix. 2.
Rulers greatly miscalculate when they reckon as obedience the apparent submission which without hypocrisy is given to their laws, by those who deny their power to legislate to be of Divine authority. That quiescence possesses neither of the features which together constitute an act an offering of genuine obedience. It proceeds neither from wrath, that is, from the fear of their wrath, nor from a conscientious sense of obligation to obey them. To do what unqualified rulers command, is one thing; to do that from a regard to their pretended authority may be another. The sentiment is wrong, that a thing may be done for wrath, which cannot be done for conscience' sake. The acts done under incompetent rulers, by those who disapprove of their claims, come from neither. Their observance of good laws administered by such rulers, is not maintained either from a dread of the power of those to inflict a penalty, or from an approving regard of their claims to authority, but proceeds from the fear of the wrath of God, and from conscience of duty to Him. Wicked commands cannot be obeyed at aii. An act performed for wrath, is not lawfully done if not done for conscience sake also; and no service that men do under an unlawful government should proceed from either of these, in reference to those in power. Such rulers act as if the doing of what they require were obedience to them ; but, when their demands are lawful in themselves, the performance of them should neither be made nor received as obedience to them, but rendered as service to God: when they are unlawful, they should be wholly disregarded.
The doctrine is evil, that so long as any law exists, it ought to be obeyed. If a law be good, what it requires ought certainly to be done. But though rulers demand obedience to every existing law, whether it be good or bad, yet when they give effect to those that are bad, they are chargeable with crime, and the people who yield are culpable. It is true, that bad laws should be changed: but most erroneous, that till they be regularly removed they should be obeyed. “ It is criminal voluntarily to support, for a single hour, laws which are immoral, unscriptural, and anti-christian ; and an oath promising such support cannot but be sinful. It is a grievous error to maintain, that it is a duty to obey and support any law, however wicked, so long as it remains in the statute-book. There is a law above all the laws of men, the authority of which remains for ever anchangeable; and when any human laws are in opposition to the divine, it is our duty to obey God rather than man. Laws framed by men in opposition to the will of God, ought to receive no countenance or support, in any form whatever, from the followers of the Lamb."52 There is the same reason for discontinuing to obey a bad law as there is for annulling it and substituting for it a better. Difficulties that might arise in consequence of a people refusing to obey an evil law before its abolition, afford no reason why it should be observed till removed in what is termed a constitutional way, but are chargeable on those who made it and gave it scope.
52 “ Claims of the Divine Government,” &c., p. 53.