1 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.
The right of man to exercise lordship over his fellow man beyond the circle of his own family, was not granted to him "by the grace of God."... Even his domestic sovereignty was to cease, when the time came for one to leave father and mother.
...If man's domestic sovereignty be thus qualified and limited by the grace of God, shall we say that He conferred on man "a divine right " to govern his species in its spiritual and civil concerns, to found kingdoms and empires, and to invent religions as a means of imparting durability to their thrones? What God permits and regulates is one thing; and what He appoints is another.
He permits thrones and dominions, principalities and powers, to exist; He regulates them, setting over them the basest of men (Dan. 4:17), if such answer His intentions best, prevents them circumventing His purposes, and commands His saints to "be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but it is under God (upo qeou marginal reading:) the powers that be are set under God -- upo tou qeou tetagmenai eisin. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the regulation of God -- tou qeou diatagh: and they that resist shall receive to themselves punishment. For the magistrates are not a terror to good deeds, but to the evil. * * * Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is a servant of God unto that which is good for thee" (Rom. 13:1-5).
God did not commission man to set up these powers. All He required of him was to obey whatsoever He chose to appoint. But, when man became a rebel, his rebellious spirit was transmitted to his posterity; and, refusing to be governed by the grace of God, they founded dominions of their own, upon principles which were utterly subversive of the government of God upon the earth.
He could as easily have quashed their treasonable proceedings as He stopped the building of Babel; but in His wisdom He chose rather to give them scope, and to subject their usurpations to such regulations as would in the end, promote His own glory and their confusion. Therefore it is that Paul says, "every power is under God; and the powers that be are placed under Him." This is matter of great consolation and rejoicing to His saints; for, though the tyrants may propose, it is God only that disposes events.
The saints who understand the word will keep aloof from politics. None are more interested in them than they; but they will mix themselves up neither with one party nor another; for God regulates them all: therefore to be found in any such strife, would be to contend in some way or other against Him. The servant of the Lord must not strive, except "for the faith once delivered to the saints." For this He is commanded to "contend earnestly " (Jude 3); because such a contention is to "fight the good fight of faith," and to "lay hold on eternal life."
In the beginning, then, God reserved to Himself the right of dominion over the human race. He gave it not to Adam, nor to his posterity, but claimed the undivided sovereignty over all man's concerns for Himself by right of creation; and for him whom He might ordain as His representative upon earth.
All the kingdoms that have, or do exist, with the exception of the Commonwealth of Israel, are based upon the usurpation of the rights of God, and of His Son Jesus Christ; nor is there a king or queen, pope or emperor, among the Gentiles, who reigns "by the grace of God." They reign by the same grace, or favour, by which sin reigns over the nations.
They have no favour in the eyes of God.
He bears with them for a time; and makes use of them as His sword to maintain order among the lawless, until His gracious purposes in favour of His saints shall be manifested, according to the arrangement of the times He has disposed. Then, "will His saints be joyful in glory; and the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand: to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written: this honor have all His saints. Praise ye the Lord " (Psalm 149:5-9).
Elpis Israel 1.2.
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Royal visit to Birmingham
A great stir has been caused in Birmingham by a visit from the Queen. The immediate occasion of the visit was the laying of the foundation of a public building ("the new law courts"); but the visit was understood and accepted as the beginning of the celebration of the Jubilee of Her Majesty's reign...
The only representation the truth had in the midst of the general display was the exhibition of a large banner, 21 feet square, bearing the words "An Open Bible the Glory of Victoria's Reign." The words had a meaning the public would not appreciate, namely, that the Bible had been opened during the last 50 years.
The exhibition of the banner combined a testimony for the truth with the manifestation of respect for the powers that be which are ordained of God for the time being. The subject of the relation of the brethren to such a matter was the topic of an informal and friendly exchange of thought at the Thursday night meeting, March 17th. A brother had referred disparagingly to the preparations for the Royal Visit, remarking how much good the money spent on them would do if distributed among the poor.
Brother Shuttleworth said he did not quite relish that view of the subject. We were commanded to give honour to the rulers, and it seemed to him that those who took part in the honouring of human rulers would be more likely to bow the knee to Christ at His coming than those who acted in the spirit of the Bradlaugh sentiment, of "Down with everything that's up."
Brother Roberts supported brother Shuttleworth's remarks, arguing that even on the score of political expediency, it was wise to maintain and honour the throne as the keystone of the social arch. When the French, nearly a hundred years ago, struck off their king's head, they were not long before they would have given all they had to have it on again. The abolition of royalty liberated the lawless elements at the base of society, and when power came into the hands of the mob, there was an end of all security for any man.
The people began cutting off each other's heads, until blood flowed like water. It was not until another king arose, Napoleon I., that safety returned. British royalty was a poor provision for the real needs of mankind. Nevertheless, it was better than popular anarchy. It was at least an ornamental and comfortable form for the current barbarism to have, and for the time being it was a divine arrangement to which it was the duty of the saints to be in respectful submission.
The Christadelphian, April 1887.
7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
The suggestion of a collective Christadelphian Jubilee address to Her Majesty came too late for practical consideration.
Perhaps it is as well. While called upon to honour the ruling authorities, we are not at liberty to act as their friends. They are the world, and friendship given or received would mean God's enmity.
To present congratulatory addresses would certainly be coming forward in the character of friends which would be unnatural.
It is the right thing for the "churches" to do: for "they are of the world, and therefore the world heareth them."
8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
A bro (J.R.) calling attention to Paul's command, "owe no man anything," and Christ's words "from him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away;" says: "Some seem to be of opinion that the latter renders the former null and void, and are ready to borrow for purposes of speculation.
-My view is: That we should not borrow unless compelled by dire necessity-caused by circumstances over which we have no control, such as a want of employment, sickness, &c., and that a brother under such circumstances should (if applied to and has the wherewithal) not turn away.
On the other hand, if asked for the purpose of paying debts incurred in speculation, he would be justified in not lending, as the speculation if a failure, might become the lender's loss, and not borrower's, and might disable him from providing things honest in the sight of all men. I have a horror of borrowing myself, and an old adage is, that if you want to convert a friend into an enemy, lend him money."
These remarks are self-evidently discreet. Paul's advice to keep out of debt is not inconsistent with the merciful attitude prescribed by Christ to those who may be in a position to help the distressed. On the other hand, Christ's command to be ready to help will never be used by a true man as a pretext for evading the words of Paul which are of equal authority.
A righteous man will be as afraid of burdening his neighbour as he will be of getting into debt. As to debt, it is often asked whether the modern system of credit is inconsistent with Paul's command. Attention to the context ought to dissipate anxiety on this point. Paul is commanding the payment of dues. "Render to all their dues: tribute to whom," &c. This is equivalent to commanding the payment of debt, for a "due" is a debt.
Do not put off the meeting of your obligation. Paul does not forbid the incurring of obligations, but the punctual discharge of them when due.
Your rent is not "due" till a certain day. Your quarterly account is not due till the end of the three months: so in business, if a man give you goods on credit (which of course you won't accept unless you are sure you can pay), the payment of them is not due till the time stipulated. The spirit of the two (not at all contradictory) precepts, may be expressed thus: "Pay your debts," and "Don't shut your ear to genuine distress if it is in your power to help."-Ed.
The Christadelphian, Jan 1886
12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
The fact is - and we do wisely to familiarise our minds with the fact - that the interval that yet lies between us and the Lord's coming may have no existence for us, or at all events a very brief existence indeed. Death will destroy that interval for us as effectually as if the angel of the Lord appeared to us suddenly in the midst of our occupations to tell us the Lord had come.
We may assent to this without feeling its full force. There is great power in it when realised. We miss the power of it through thinking that death will be a long time in coming to us. It may, but it may not. We presume on the average of human life, but that average may not be ours. A comparatively young brother (only 27) died over a week ago, who had every prospect within four days of his death that he would have a long and healthy career. A little internal trouble, that might occur to any of us, and of which within five minutes of his death he thought he was getting better, suddenly ended his useful days - for he was very useful in the little ecclesia of which he was a member.
What has happened to him might happen to any of us; and it would mean that in a moment we would be wafted away from the midst of our mortal cares and occupations into the presence of the solemn, though glorious realities that are associated with Christ at his coming. It would seem to us a momentary, an instantaneous transition. Of course, it would not be really so in relation to the progress of events in the universe, but it would be really so in relation to our own feelings, which in this sense are everything to each of us.
We will be out of the grave before ever we are aware that we have gone in. In this case, the signs of the times and the weary evolution, it may be, of our own anxious lives, will be stopped and abolished in a moment.
Is it not wise and helpful to carry about with us a sense of this imminent possibility? The power of the idea will be instinctively felt by every one, and its value also as a corrective of life in all its relations. We can imagine, for example, how powerfully up-borne in a spiritual direction our deceased young brother would have felt during the month before his death if he had known that in four weeks, his course would be finished.
The advantage of exercising our thoughts in this way lies in the similar stimulus it will impart to us if we realise that we may but a short time have to do with the circumstances of life as it now is, and may in a brief period of time stand face to face with the Lord Jesus who was alive ages before we were born, and will live for ever, whatever may become of us.
If men could carry this thought of common sense more constantly and vividly about with them than is commonly the case, things would be different with them on many points. Many things would receive a less anxious attention, and some things would be better attended to than they are.
Bro Roberts - Applying our hearts to wisdom