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    May 1887

    “National Reform Interpretations of Scripture” The American Sentinel 2, 5, p. 35.


    AMS the leaders of the National Reform propose to make themselves the interpreters of Scripture “on moral and civil, as well as on theological and ecclesiastical points,” under the Government of the United States, it becomes important to the American people to know somewhat about the National Reform method of interpretation. As the people of this nation are asked to amend their Constitution so as to open the way for these men to make themselves the national interpreters of Scripture, the people ought to know what qualifications these self-nominated candidates possess for the high dignity to which their laboring souls aspire. That we may do our part toward enlightening the people on this subject, we propose, as far as possible to give examples of National Reform interpretations of Scripture.AMS May 1887, page 35.1

    The Scriptures clearly enjoin the obligation of subjection to civil government, of obedience to civil authorities: “To be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates,” and to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.” In Romans 13:1-10 this duty is set forth at greater length than in any other one place in the Bible. The first verse reads thus: “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.” In the Christian Statesman, June 5, 1884, there is quite an extended comment—more than a page—upon this text, written by Rev. David Gregg—the same who was lately installed as pastor of the Park Street Church, Boston. Mr. Gregg interprets this verse as follows:—AMS May 1887, page 35.2

    “‘The authorities that be are ordained of God.’ ‘There is no authority but of God.’ All authorities that are not of God and are not in allegiance to him are usurpers. This is a self-evident truth, i. e., if it be a fact that ‘there is no authority but of God.’”AMS May 1887, page 35.3

    There stands the plain declaration of the word of God that “there is no power but of God.” At this Mr. Gregg gravely observes that all powers that are not of God are usurpers, and that this is a self-evidence truth, i.e., if it be a fact that there is no power but of God. Well it certainly is a fact, for the word of God says it. Therefore, it being a fact that there is no power but of God, then how can there be any powers that are not of God? As the powers that be are ordained of God, and as there is no power but of God, it is impossible that there can be any power but of God. Therefore Mr. Gregg’s comment amounts to just this and no more: All powers that are not powers are usurpers. We think it altogether likely that that is “self-evident.”AMS May 1887, page 35.4

    But, more than this, the National Reformers will not admit that the powers that be are ordained of God. Although the Scripture says as plainly as language can say anything that “the powers that be are ordained of God;” and although the whole Bible bears out the plain truth and sense of the statement, the National Reformers “interpret” it to mean, the powers that ought to be are ordained of God. And as the National Reform power is what ought to be, it follows that National Reform is ordained of God, and when it shall secure that power it will be exercised by a right absolutely divine. That such is the National Reform interpretation is shown by Dr. Gregg’s own words. In telling what Paul was doing in writing the words of Romans 13:1-10, he says:—AMS May 1887, page 35.5

    “He was giving us God’s ideal of civil government. He was holding up a picture of what civil government ought to be. He was teaching Christians what they should strive to make Governments.”AMS May 1887, page 35.6

    And again:—AMS May 1887, page 35.7

    The object was “to furnish then, as now, a standard by which to try existing Governments. It gives us God’s ideal of civil government. If Governments conform to this divine ideal, then we are bound to recognize them as divine ordinances, and to give them conscientious support and homage, but if they do not, we are bound to inaugurate moral reforms and revolutions which will conform them to God’s ideal.”AMS May 1887, page 35.8

    By this style of interpretation, therefore, we are to understand that when the Lord speaks of the powers that be, he means the powers “that ought to be.” When the word of God directs every soul to be subject to the higher powers, it means that every soul shall erect a tribunal and sit in judgment upon those powers. When God directs that we shall not resist the power but shall be subject for conscience’ sake, he, means that we “are bound to inaugurate revolutions.” Where the Scripture sets forth the duty to be law-abiding citizens, leading quiet and peaceable lives, the National Reform interpretation of it demands that men, Christians too, shall be revolutionists, with their eyes constantly on the Government, weighing it in the National Reform balances, and watching for opportunities to inaugurate revolutions. In short, whereas the Scripture directs that men shall be Christians and law-abiding citizens, the National Reform interpretation of the Scripture demands that they shall be scheming politicians and revolutionists. Now could any interpretation possibly be further from the truth of the Scripture, or more directly opposed to the text under consideration? But we are not surprised at it; indeed we do not see how it could be otherwise, in view of the fact that the National Reform conception of the Saviour of the world is that he is a “divine politician.” With such views of Christ, it would be impossible to hold any other views of the duty of the followers of Christ than such as are expressed in the above interpretations.AMS May 1887, page 35.9

    A. T. J.

    “The Powers that Be Are Ordained of God” The American Sentinel 2, 5, pp. 35, 36.


    WE stated above that the whole Bible bears out the plain truth and the obvious sense of the statement that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” We have not space to present all the texts that might be given in direct proof of it, but we shall give enough to show that Paul when he wrote this declaration was only doing as was his wont, reasoning out of the Scriptures.AMS May 1887, page 35.1

    Everybody knows that Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon, and that he was a heathen. Yet God spake by his prophet directly to Nebuchadnezzar, and said, “Thou, O King, art a king of kings; for the God of Heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.” Daniel 2:37, 38. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord sent yokes and bonds to the kingdoms of Edom, and Moab, and Ammon, and Tyre, and Sidon, by the messengers that came from these kings to Jerusalem, and with them also he sent this message: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; ... and all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come; and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.” Jeremiah 27:4-8.AMS May 1887, page 35.2

    Now as Nebuchadnezzar was a heathen, and as his kingdom was a heathen kingdom, we can hardly think that even the National Reformers would pronounce his authority to be exactly “God’s ideal of civil government.” Yet there can be no shadow of doubt that the power possessed by Nebuchadnezzar and exercised by him over all the kingdoms and peoples round about, was a power that was ordained of God, for the word of God says so, and said so to him. In the time of Nebuchadnezzar the power that was was ordained of God. Nor was it only in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. The word of the Lord by Jeremiah asserted not only that this power was give to him, but to “his son and his son’s son” as well; and this succession covered the whole period of the kingdom of Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar to its fall. Therefore the proof is positive that the power of the Empire of Babylon was ordained of God.AMS May 1887, page 35.3

    The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar—Belshazzar—in the midst of the riotous feast of Tammuz, was told by the prophet of the Lord, “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it;” and, “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” The commander who led the forces of the Medes and Persians was Cyrus the Persian. And of him the Lord had said: “Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure.” Isaiah 45:1; 44:28. When Babylon fell, the rule of the Medo-Persian Empire fell first to Darius the Mede, instead of to Cyrus. And the angel Gabriel said to Daniel, “I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.” Daniel 11:1. Therefore the word of God is clear that the power of the Medo-Persian government was ordained of God.AMS May 1887, page 36.1

    But not to multiply instances by noting them in detail, we will quote the scripture that sums up the whole subject in few words: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and might are his; and he changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings.” Daniel 2:20, 21. “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” Daniel 4:25. These texts assuredly demonstrate the principle declared by Paul in Romans 13:1, that “there is no power but of God;” and that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” But if these texts should not be enough to demonstrate it, then we may add the crucial text of all Scripture. When Christ stood before Pilate, “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” John 19:10, 11.AMS May 1887, page 36.2

    The demonstration is complete, therefore, that the words of Romans 13:1, are a statement of fact and not of theory; that “the powers that be are ordained of God;” and that “there is no power but of God.” As the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will; when he has given the power to whom he will, whether to Babylon, to Medo-Persia, to Grecia, to Rome, to England, or to the United States; whether that will be direct or permissive, who shall say that that power is not of him? and who shall say that that is not the power that ought to be? And to such powers Christians are taught to be respectful, quiet, peaceable, obedient subjects, and not revolutionists. The following from Macaulay is to the point:—AMS May 1887, page 36.3

    “The power which the apostle... pronounces to be ordained of God, are not the powers that can be traced back to a legitimate origin, but the powers that be. When Jesus was asked whether the chosen people might lawfully give tribute to Cesar, he replied by asking the questioners, not whether Cesar could make out a pedigree derived from the old royal house of Judah, but whether the coin which they scrupled to pay into Cesar’s treasury came from Cesar’s mint, in other words, whether Cesar actually possessed the authority and performed the functions of a ruler.AMS May 1887, page 36.4

    “It is generally held, with much appearance of reason, that the most trustworthy comment on the text of the Gospels and Epistles is to be found in the practice of the primitive Christians, when that practice can be satisfactorily ascertained; and it so happened that the times during which the church is universally acknowledged to have been in the highest state of purity were times of frequent and violent political change. One at least of the apostles appears to have lived to see four emperors pulled down in a little more than a year. Of the martyrs of the third century a great proportion must have been able to remember ten or twelve revolutions. Those martyrs must have had occasion often to consider what was their duty towards a prince just raised to power by a successful insurrection. That they were, one and all, deterred by the fear of punishment from doing what they thought right, is an imputation which no candid infidel would throw on them. Yet, if there be any proposition which can with perfect confidence be affirmed touching the early Christians, it is this, that they never once refused obedience to any actual ruler on account of the illegitimacy of his title. At one time, indeed, the supreme power was claimed by twenty or thirty competitors. Every province from Britain to Egypt had its own Augustus.... Yet it does not appear that, in any place, the faithful had any scruple about submitting to the person who, in that place, exercised the imperial functions. While the Christian of Rome obeyed Aurelian, the Christian of Lyons obeyed Tetricus, and the Christian of Palmyra obeyed Zenobia. ‘Day and night’—such were the words which the great Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, addressed to the representative of Valerian and Gallienus—‘day and night do we Christians pray to the one true God for the safety of our emperors.’”—History of England, chap. 14.AMS May 1887, page 36.5

    These, however, were law-abiding subjects and citizens, and not National Reform revolutionists.AMS May 1887, page 36.6

    A. T. J.

    “For What Are the Powers That Be, Ordained?” The American Sentinel 2, 5, pp. 38, 39.


    HAVING shown, in another place, that the powers that be are ordained of God, the question comes up for consideration, For what are these powers ordained? The National Reform theory claims that because the powers “that ought to be” are ordained to God, it follows that those powers would be ordained to minister in all things pertaining to God and man. But such an interpretation is just as far from the truth as is the average National Reform interpretation.AMS May 1887, page 38.1

    The powers that be are ordained of God in things that pertain to civil government and in that alone. The magistrate is “the minister of God” solely in things civil and in nothing else. And men are to be subject to the higher powers in things civil, and in nothing else, for those powers have to do with things civil and nothing else. It is admitted by the National Reformers that Romans 13:1-10 treats “of civil government and of civil duties.” Now the definition of civil according to Webster is, “Pertaining to a city or State, or to a citizen in his relations to his fellow-citizens or to the State.” Civil government, therefore, pertaining solely to the citizen in his relations to his fellow-citizens or to the State, in the very nature of the case can have nothing at all to do with the relations of the citizens to God. And as the National Reform definition of religion is, “Man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God,” this is to say that civil government can, of right, have nothing whatever to do with religion. That these propositions are correct, we have decisive proof in two notable instances.AMS May 1887, page 38.2

    We have shown that the power of Nebuchadnezzar was ordained of God. Now this same Nebuchadnezzar took upon himself to play the role of the grand National Reformer of his day. It was not enough that he should be ordained of God to rule in the relations of men with their fellow-men or with the State, but he must take it upon himself to rule in men’s relations to God. It was not enough that his power was ordained of God in things civil, but he must exercise his power in things religious. It was not enough that he should rule men’s bodies, he must rule their consciences as well. He would compel men to worship the god that he should choose and as he chose. Accordingly he made a colossal image, and set it up in the plain of Dura, not far from Babylon, and then sent and gathered together “the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers” to the dedication of the image. Then when all were assembled, he published an edict by a loud-voiced herald, that at a signal sounded by all the musical instruments together, everybody should fall down and worship the great golden image, and this under penalty, upon whosoever refused, of being pitched into a fiery furnace.AMS May 1887, page 38.3

    But in the crowd there happened to be three “political atheists”—Jews they were then called—who chose to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and so refused to obey the law. They were called up and asked about it, but they persisted in their opposition to National Reform, and said plainly, “Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” But according to President Seelye’s National Reform principle, the State, i.e., Nebuchadnezzar, was both “courageous” and “wise,” and therefore did “not falter,” and into the burning fiery furnace intensely heated the “political atheists” were thrust.AMS May 1887, page 38.4


    Then King Nebuchadnezzar “rose up in haste” and cried to his counselors, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O King. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Then the king called to the men to come out, and they did so, untouched by the fire. “Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.” Thus God not only brought Nebuchadnezzar to the kingdom and ordained him a power over all the kingdoms and nations round about, but he also demonstrated to him that although his power was ordained of God, that power was not ordained in things pertaining to God. The Lord showed him that although God had given him power over all kingdoms and nations, he had not given him power over the worship, the faith, or the conscience of a single individual in any nation.AMS May 1887, page 38.5

    The Lord not only showed this to Nebuchadnezzar, but by having it recorded in his word he has shown it to all people to whom that word shall come. And it is one of the most surprising things, that in the end of this nineteenth century, in this land of Bibles and consequent light and liberty, there should arise a set of men who will go about to put in practice in this Government the principles of the heathen Nebuchadnezzar. There might be allowed some excuse for a poor, blind heathen doing such a thing twenty-four hundred and sixty-seven years ago; but what shadow of excuse can there possibly be for men who will do it now, with the Bible in their hands, and in the face of a miracle of God wrought expressly to show the iniquity of it?AMS May 1887, page 38.6

    Nor is this case of Nebuchadnezzar the only instance in which God has shown to men that although the powers that be are ordained of God, they are ordained only in things pertaining to men, in their relations to their fellow-men as citizens, and to the State. Under Darius, the Mede, whose power was ordained of God, some envious officials grew so jealous of the prime minister, that they determined to get him out of the way. But in all their searching and spying they utterly failed to find any fault at all in him. “Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” But there was no State law by which they could interfere with his rights of conscience or his liberty of worship. So like the true National Reformers they were, they set to work to “inaugurate a revolution.” They pretended to be greatly interested in the honor of the king, and the good of the State. Darius, suspecting nothing, but supposing their representations were made in good faith, fell into the trap, and enacted the law which they had framed. At their solicitation he established a statute, and signed a decree that nobody should ask any petition of either God or man, save of the king, for thirty days; and that, too, under the dreadful penalty of being made food for lions.AMS May 1887, page 38.7

    But Daniel knew that the power of Medo-Persia was not ordained to any such work as that, and when he “knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and, his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” Then those men found Daniel praying, as was a foregone certainty, and rushed to the king with the report. Suddenly the eyes of Daniel were opened; he saw that he had been trapped, and took shame to himself that he had allowed himself to be so terribly hoodwinked, and immediately began to try to deliver Daniel out of their persecuting hands. “And he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him,” but there was no remedy; the thing was law and the law had to take its course, for it could not be changed, and consequently to the lions Daniel had to go. But so far as Daniel was concerned the result in this instance was the same as the other, for when Darius hastened to the den in the morning and called out to him, Daniel answered him cheerfully and said, “My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me; forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.”AMS May 1887, page 38.8


    Now the same evil principle illustrated in this case, is being practiced in the United States to-day. And it is being worked in the same way precisely. Preachers professing great interest in the workingman, or great regard for the safety of the State, will go to the Legislature with a petition, and get some one of their kind to introduce a bill, for the enactment of a rigorous Sunday law, or for the repeal of a protective clause in an already rigorous law, and all this professedly as a “police regulation” or “in the interests of prohibition,” or anything else but what it really is. And by pious pretensions, honeyed phrases, and fair speeches, they conceal their real purpose, succeed in hoodwinking the Legislature, and secure the passage of their innocent appearing bill. But as soon as their will has been made law, their interest in the “workingman,” or in “prohibition,” etc., suddenly ceases, and the whole tide of inquisition, prosecution, and persecution, is turned against a few innocent people who choose to worship God on Saturday instead of on Sunday. This thing was actually accomplished two years ago in Arkansas, and in all the working of the Sunday law so secured, we have not been able to learn of a single case in which the person prosecuted was not a Seventh-day Adventist or a Seventh-day Baptist. By the efforts of the lawyers of that State, and the earnest leadership of Senator Crockett, the Legislature has remedied the iniquitous statute.AMS May 1887, page 38.9

    Nor is this evil spirit confined to Arkansas. In California the present year, the same scheme was tried on the Legislature, but it failed. The same thing was tried in the Legislature of Minnesota, about the same time as in California, and there too, at almost the last moment, the real intent of the thing was discovered, and the scheme frustrated. In Texas, also, and other States, it has been attempted, and all within the present year, but so far we believe all have failed, because the evil was discovered before it was too late. And what those men did in the law of Medo-Persia, and what these parties have done, and have tried to do in the laws of these States, that precisely what the National Reform party is aiming to do in the Constitution and laws of the Nation.AMS May 1887, page 39.1

    If the Legislatures of the States, or the national Legislature, will guard against persecution, let them beware of all preachers, people, parties, or associations, who try to secure the enactment of Sunday laws, or the repeal of exemption clauses in Sunday laws already enacted.AMS May 1887, page 39.2

    Nor is it only in the cases of Darius and Nebuchadnezzar that God has shown that civil government is not ordained of God in things pertaining to God, but only in things pertaining to the citizen in his relations to his fellow-citizens and to the State. Christ laid down the principle that severs forever the connection between the State and religion, and which shows conclusively that the powers that be are ordained of God only in things civil, and have nothing whatever to do with any man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God. Certain of the Pharisees came to Jesus and asked:—AMS May 1887, page 39.3

    Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and laid, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Show me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”AMS May 1887, page 39.4

    With that read the following from Paul’s words in Romans 13:1-10, and compare the italicized words:—AMS May 1887, page 39.5

    “Let every soul he subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God... For, for this cause pay ye tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; honor to whom honor.”AMS May 1887, page 39.6


    Now what man can read these two passages of Scripture together, and honestly or truthfully say other than that Paul had in view the word of Christ, “Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar’s? and that Romans 13:1-10 is an inspired comment upon the words of Christ, showing not only that the powers that be are ordained of God, but also showing in what they are ordained of God?—No one, assuredly. This is made even clearer still by the fact that Paul in referring to the duties that devolve upon men under the powers that be, makes not a single reference to any of the first four commandments; but says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” thus referring solely to the second table of the law, and showing conclusively that the powers that be are ordained of God in things civil,—in things pertaining to the relations of man with his fellow-man,—and in those things alone.AMS May 1887, page 39.7

    As in this divine record of the duties that men owe to the powers that be, there is no reference whatever to the first table of the law, it therefore follows that the powers that be, although ordained of God, have nothing whatever to do with the first table of the law of God. Again, as the ten commandments contain the whole duty of man, and as in God’s own enumeration of the duty that men owe to the powers that be there is no mention of any of the things contained in the first table of the law, it follows that none of the duties contained in the first table of the law of God, do men owe to the powers that be. That is to say again that the powers that be, although ordained of God, are not ordained of God in anything pertaining to a single duty enjoined in any one of the first four of the ten commandments. These are duties that men owe to God, and with them the powers that be can of right have nothing to do, because Christ has commanded to render unto God—not to Cesar, nor by Cesar—that which is God’s.AMS May 1887, page 39.8

    Therefore the proof is conclusive, and the truth absolute, that the National Reform ideas of civil government are utterly at fault, and that their interpretations of Scripture on the subject of civil government are only perversions of Scripture.AMS May 1887, page 39.9

    A. T. J.

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