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The Signs of the Times, vol. 13

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    “For What Are the Powers That Be, Ordained?” The Signs of the Times 13, 31, pp. 488, 489.

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 488.1

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 488.2

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 488.3

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 488.4


    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 488.5

    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?SITI August 11, 1887, page 488.6

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 488.7

    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.”SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.1


    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.2

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.3

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.4

    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:—SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.5

    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.”SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.6

    With that read the following from Paul’s words in Romans 13:1-10, and compare the italicized words:—SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.7

    “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.”SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.8

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.9

    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.SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.10

    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.—A. T. J. in American Sentinel.SITI August 11, 1887, page 489.11