Source: Christian Nation
Source type: magazine
Document type: sermon
Document title: “The Higher Power” [part 1]
Author(s): Crooks, E. A.
Date of publication: 2 April 1902
Volume number: 36
Issue number: none
|Crooks, E. A. “The Higher Power” [part 1]. Christian Nation 2 Apr. 1902 v36: pp. 1-2.|
|E. A. Crooks (sermons); government (religious interpretation); anarchism (religious response).|
|James II; Nero; Paul.|
Click here to view the second installment of the sermon (published in the subsequent issue of the magazine).
“Preached by Rev. E. A. Crooks, pastor of Old Bethel congregation, the Sabbath following President McKinley’s funeral, and requested by vote of session for publication” (p. 1).
“By Rev. E. A. Crooks” (p. 1).
The Higher Power
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.—Rom. 13:1.
This passage has been the subject of much controversy. It was the stronghold of the Royalists who, during the reign of the Stuarts, preached the doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance. They argued that whatever civil powers existed in the providence of God was de facto and de jure the ordinance of God, and was to be obeyed. The right of revolution was denied. No amount of oppression justified a people in throwing off the yoke of tyranny. This doctrine sounded very plausible as long as the churchmen were using it against dissenting Presbyterians and Puritans of England and the Covenanters of Scotland. But when a Roman Catholic sovereign, James II., attempted to apply it to the Church of England the Anglican theologists could very clearly see its fallacy. The doctrine of non-resistance and passive obedience is an exploded theory.
This passage, however, is still, for the most part, misapplied. It is interpreted as God’s approbation of the existing civil authorities, regardless of the character of their rule. “The powers that be” does not refer to any particular civil power, existing then or since. For if it applies to one it must apply to all. It is hardly to be conceived that Paul intended to endorse the cruel and despotic rule of the tyrant Nero, at whose hands so many Christians suffered martyrdom, as the ordinance of God. Multitudes of like instances preclude this interpretation of the text.
The text refers to the ordinance of civil government. “The powers that be” are the institutions of civil rule. They are divinely appointed. Their right to exist rests on God’s establishment of civil government as an institution among men.
The character of the men who should administer this ordinance is clearly set forth in the context. They are not to be a terror to good works, but to the evil. By failure to comply with God’s moral requiremen [sic] for civil rulers the end of government has frequently been subverted. Just as the Church, in some instances through the corruption of her ministers, has degenerated into a synagogue of Satan, so civil government, the institution of God, through the corruption of its administrators has frequently been converted into the instrument of Satan.
It is not our purpose, however, to speak of pervertion [sic] of civil power. The choice of the text points to the consideration of civil government as an institution of God. It stands in opposition to the popular conception that government is merely a convenience of society  resting, for its authority, on the consent of the governed. Such a theory is in direct opposition to revelation. Practically it is untenable.
At a time when red-handed anarchy has been seeking to strike at the very existence of civil society it ought to be reassuring to look at the foundation on which civil authority rests. We have in the text certain fundamental truths to which we purpose to direct attention:
I.—God is the source of all power.
God was originally the only being in the universe. Everything originated with Him. He is possessed of unlimited and absolute power. Every force that exists has originated with Him. All the forces of nature are from God. He has established the mighty forces that control the movements of the heavenly bodies. He holds them in balance. The astronomer as he fathoms the heavens with his powerful telescope is studying one of the powers God has established. The rivers with their mighty flow which no man can stop, Niagara with its mighty torrent which men can harness, but which they cannot hold back, the ocean with its ceaseless tide, the wind which bloweth where it listeth, are manifestations of the power God has established in nature.
Man has sought out many inventions. He has discovered how to utilize the powers of nature. He has combined the latent heat of coal with the expansive power of water so as to propel the wheels of trade. He has learned to handle the hidden forces of electricity with wonderful skill. But he has never originated any physical force. It is all from God.
All animate power is from the same source. The vital force of animal organism is not self-originated. It is not received from a fellow-creature. It is of God. He kindles the spark that sets in motion the physical life of the world. The scientist has given up as a hopeless task the production of animate life from inanimate matter. He is powerless even to retain this mysterious force when God’s time has come for it to depart. The highest medical skill of the twentieth century was at the bedside of the wounded President. While the world waited with baited [sic] breath these men did all they could to save the precious life, but in vain. God controls vital force. In man physical life is combined with intellectual power. Intellectual power is a God-given faculty. It raises man above the lower creation. It gives him control over the forces of nature. It fits him for responsible association with his fellow men. It makes him accountable to God. It brings him into special relations with God.
There is no force of any kind that does not have its source in God. If He were to withdraw his power from the universe the mind of every intelligent being would become a blank; the vital force of every living creature would stop; physical force would be at a standstill, and the universe would go back to the nothingness from which it was called by His creative power. In all the established order of the universe the forces that control and guide are of God. He administers them directly. There is no intervention of a third party through whom the power is applied. God deals at first hand in nature.
Man in his association with his fellow-men comes in contact with certain organized forms of society. In these he finds duly constituted authority. This authority is exercised by men. Here God intervenes a third party between himself and the object of his control. He governs men in their relation to their fellow-men through men. He has adapted His government to the conditions of free intelligent beings. He has honored man by giving him a part in the government of society. But God has not surrendered any of his right to rule. What is declared in the text of one of these organized forms of society is true of all of them, viz., the powers that be are ordained of God. Man’s relation with his fellow-men is regulated by virtue of divine authority.
Family life is divinely established. It is much more than a convenience of society. He has said: “For this cause shall a man forsake his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” The parties whom God has joined together no man has a right to put asunder. The family exists by divine establishment.
God has provided for the regulation of the religious life of men. The Church is not an outgrowth of the religious sentiment of man. Heathen religions may be traced to this source, but the Church is God’s institution. The authority properly belonging to the Church is of God.
Provision has also been made for the regulation of civil society. Civil government is not merely the result of developing civilization. It is much more than a convenience. It is not to be defined as simply a necessity. It is much more than a voluntary compact. Its source of authority does not come from the consent of the governed. The majority have a right to choose the form of government, but the institution of government is from God. They do not have a right to choose whether they shall have a government or not. God by His providence has gathered the people of the earth together in tribes and nations. He has instituted the ordinance of civil government for the regulation of their civil relations. Like the family it is a universal ordinance. The authority exhibited in the arm of the civil power is the authority of God.
The nation is of divine origin, and it has a divinely appointed purpose to fulfill. God uses nations in the working out of His great purposes. They are mighty agencies for good, or for evil. With the great powers of the world tacitly, or actively on the side of evil it is not much that the individual or the Church can do to reform society. The churches are sending missionaries to Africa, and the civilized nations are pouring in cargoes of rum. The rum is ruining the natives faster than the Church can reach them. The efforts of the Church are neutralized by a traffic sanctioned by nominally Christian nations.
The American flag has been unfurled over the Philippine Islands. These islands are open for the first time to the missionary and the colporteur. But, alas, in advance of these agencies of the gospel has gone the saloon—with all its demoralizing accompaniments. A civil power that sanctions practices so diametrically opposed to the principles of truth and justice in so far cancels its claims to be an ordinance of God. The men who organize and who administer the ordinance of civil government are responsible for the perversion of the end for which it is established.
[(Concluded next issue.)