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    July 26, 1897

    “Society and the State, or the Origin of Civil Governments” The Bible Echo 12, 30, pp. 235, 236.


    “THE First of all the commandment is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all the soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.1

    “And the Second is like, namely. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.2

    “There is none other commandment greater than these.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.3

    “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.4

    It is certain that if these two commandments had been always observed by all men, there never could have been a state on the earth.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.5

    There would have been government but no state. The government would have been altogether the government of God; He, the only king, the only Governor, on earth even as in heaven.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.6

    There would have been society, but no state. Because, men loving God with all the heart, and all the soul, and all the mind, and all the strength, and their neighbours as themselves, the will of God would have been done on earth even as in heaven. All would have been one united harmonious, happy, holy, family.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.7

    There is an essential distinction between society and the state.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.8

    “SOCIETY is the union which exists between men without distinction of frontiers—without exterior restraint—and for the sole reason that they are men.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.9

    “The civil society or STATE is an assemblage of men subject to a common authority, to common laws,—that is to say, a society whose members may be constrained by public force to respect their reciprocal rights. Two necessary elements enter into the idea of the state: laws and force.”—Janet: “Elements of Morals, p. 143.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.10

    This distinction, however, though clear and easily evident, is seldom recognized. Indeed, it is not recognised at all by those who are anxious to secure the union of religion and the state.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.11

    But men did not observe these two “first of all the commandments.” They would not love God with all their heart; they would not love their neighbours as themselves. They rejected God as the only Ruler, their only Sovereign, and became ambitious to rule over one another. And thus originated politics and the state.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.12

    The Scripture outlines the story of this:—BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.13

    “When the knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and to fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.14

    Note, that at the first, men did know God. But they chose not to glorify Him, not to honour Him, not to give Him the first place in all their thoughts and actions. Knowing God, they did not like to retain Him in their knowledge.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.15

    The next step was that they became vain in their own imaginations. They professed themselves to be wise, of themselves. The consequence was that they became fools: and their foolish heart was darkened.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.16

    In their vain imaginations they made gods of their own. And then to assist them in their worship, they made images of the gods which they had imagined. The image was always the outward, tangible form of the god which they had already conceived in the imagination. Imagining is simply mental image-ing. The outward form of the god, whether it be the shining sun in the heavens or a hideously shaped block of wood or stone, is only the outward form of the image-ing that has already been performed in the imagination.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.17

    Thus, from the knowledge of the true God, they went to the worship of false gods. From the light they went into darkness. From righteousness they went to wickedness.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.18

    This is the truth. And the records of the earliest nations witness to it. The earliest records—those of the plain of Shinar—witness that the people at first had a knowledge of the true God. The records of the neat two of the earliest nations, Egypt and Assyria, bear witness to this same thing.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.19

    In all these places the earliest records testify that the gods were their first rulers and the real kings, while men in the places of authority, were but the servants, the viceroys of the god who was held to be the real king.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.20

    For instance, one of the earliest records from Shinar runs thus:—BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.21

    “To the god, Ninridu, his king, for the preservation of Idadu, viceroy of Ridu, the servant, the delight of Ninridu.” Another: “To [the god] Ninip the King, his King, Gudea, viceroy of [the god] Zirgulla, his house built.” Another: “To Nana the lady, lady splendid, his lady, Dudea, viceroy of Zirgulla ... raised.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.22

    These are not only the earliest of the records that have been found in that land, but they themselves show that they are of the earliest records that were made in that land. And they clearly testify of the time when as yet there were no kings amongst men. The gods were the kings; and the men in authority claimed only to be the viceroys of the gods who were held to be the real kings.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.23

    And all this testifies of a time further back, when the people knew and recognised God as the only King and rightful Rule, of men. They show also that this knowledge of God was so recent, and still so strong upon the minds of the people, that men who stood in places of authority had not the boldness to assume the title of king, even though they held the power.BEST July 26, 1897, page 235.24

    The records of Egypt and Assyria testify precisely to these same things. And so far there was as yet no state. There was society.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.1

    There came a time, however, when even this lingering knowledge of God as King and only rightful Ruler was cast off; and the man assumed the full title and prerogatives of king himself.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.2

    The first man to do this was Nimrod. Nimrod was the first man in the world who had the boldness to take to himself the title and prerogative of king, in the face of the yet lingering idea of God as king. And the name which he bears, itself testifies to the fact that his action in this was considered by men and also by the Lord as precisely the bold thing which we have indicated. The name Nimrod “signifies rebellion, supercilious contempt, and is equivalent to the extremely impious rebel.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.3

    The Bible record of Nimrod is that “he began to be a mighty one in the earth;” or, as another translation gives it, “He was the first mighty one in the earth.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.4

    That is, Nimrod was the first one to establish the might, the power, the authority, of human government, in the form of an organised state. He was the first man to assert the power and prerogatives, and assume the title, of king over men. “And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.5

    Consequently, “With the setting up of Nimrod’s kingdom the entire ancient world entered a new historical phase. The oriental tradition which makes that warrior the first man who wore a kingly crown, points to a fact more significant than the assumption of a new ornament of dress, or even the conquest of a province. His reign introduced to the world a new system of relations between the governor and the governed. The authority of former rulers rested upon the feeling of kindred; and the ascendency of the chief was an image of parental control. Nimrod, on the contrary, was a sovereign of territory, and of men just so far as they were its inhabitants, and irrespective of personal ties. Hitherto there had been tribes—enlarged families—Society: now there was a nation, a political community—the State. The political and social history of the world henceforth are distinct, if not divergent.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.6

    Such was the true origin of the state. It was the result of the apostasy of men from God. Such only could possibly be its origin; for if all men had always observed the two “first of all the commandments,” it would have been impossible for there ever to be any state. There could have been no human authority exercised. All would have been equally subject to God; He would have been the only Sovereign.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.7

    Before Nimrod there was society. Respect of the rights of persons and of their property was maintained. It was only when the apostasy grew, and men got farther and farther from God, that the monarchical idea was established and personified in Nimrod.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.8

    Let us not now be misunderstood. We do not say, nor do we intend to imply, that there should now be no human government, that there should be no state, nor even that there should be no monarchy. We simply say that which is the truth, that if there never had been any apostasy from God, there never could have been on earth any of these.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.9

    It is true that these things are the consequences of the apostasy from God. But men having apostatised from God, these things all, even to such monarchy as that of Nimrod or of Nero, became necessary, just in proportion to the degree of apostasy.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.10

    It is better that there should be a government, bad as it may be, than that there should be no government at all. Even such a government as Nimrod’s of Nero’s is better than none at all. But without apostasy having gone to a fearful length, there never could have been any such government as Nimrod’s or Nero’s.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.11

    Nimrod’s example was eagerly followed by all the nations around, until they were all absorbed in it. Society had passel away, and only states remained; and these universally idolatrous. In all that region, only Abraham believed God; and even his own parents were idolaters “They served other gods.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.12

    God chose Abraham then to be the father of all them that believe God; the father of all who will have God alone to be their God. Abraham represented then the religion of God, the beginning of the church of God.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.13

    And from that state God separate Abraham. He said to Abraham, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house into a land that I will show thee.”BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.14

    And in thus separating Abraham from that state, from his country, God taught the people then, and through all him, the separation of religion and the state the separation of church and state.BEST July 26, 1897, page 236.15

    A. T. JONES.

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