The Higher Power
(Concluded from last issue.)
II.—In the administration
of the organized forms of society God has delegated authority to
The only authority that any individual
may rightfully exercise over another is delegated authority. In
an individual capacity I have no right to exercise over you, nor
you over me. If a stranger in citizen’s dress were to place his
hand on your shoulder and say: “You are my prisoner,” you would
at once question his authority. If he were able to satisfy you as
to his official authority you would go with him leaving the question
of your guilt or innocence to be decided by the courts. Otherwise
you would refuse to obey his summons, for as an individual he has
no right to command you.
Even little children resent an assumption
of authority. Just let some imperious little fellow try to lord
it over his companions on the playground, and how quickly he will
be told in emphatic language that he is out of his sphere.
There is a God implanted principle
of personal independence that says to every other man in his individual
capacity, “you shall not interfere with my individual liberty.”
No individuals, or no number of individuals, as individuals, have
a right to demand of you that you do thus and so. Their wisdom or
their experience might make it wise for you to accept their counsel,
but they have no right to demand that you comply to their wishes.
I repeat it, then, no individual, or no number of individuals, have
a right to dictate to another individual.
Even parental authority does not rest
on the natural relation of parent and child. It is God-given authority.
“Honor thy father and thy mother.” “Children obey your parents in
the Lord; for this is right.”
The individual Christian has no right
to assume authority over his brother. But the Lord has established
an authority in the Church which every Christian is bound to respect.
Likewise He has established civil authority, and delegated to it
power over the property and lives of men.
The just powers of a government are
not derived from the consent of the governed. Such a government
could only rightfully exercise authority over those who had given
their consent to be governed by it. By the withdrawal of the consent
the power of the government would be annuled [sic]. There
is not one of the 76,000,000 of the population of the United States
who has ever been asked if he was willing to be ruled by the Government
of the United States. A little over a generation ago the people
of the South declined the authority of the United States Government.
They claimed the right to set up a government of their own. But
the claim was not allowed. At a fearful expenditure of life and
treasure the rebellion was suppressed. Certainly if the just powers
of a government rested on the consent of the governed that great
body of people had a right to withdraw from the civil compact. The
anarchist only asks that the just powers of the government shall
be based on the consent of the governed. He has already withdrawn
his consent and declined the authority. But anarchists are hanged
for murder just as other criminals. Ah, my friend, we must go back
of this superficial statement for a firm foundation for our civil
institutions. Because  we have
been building on this sand our magnificent institutions of freedom
are in danger.
The just powers of any government
rest on the fact that God has ordained civil government for the
regulation of the civil relations of men. Only by recognizing and
acting on this principle can there be security to the best of civil
The power of civil authority is delegated
power. How few men in official life regard it as such. Their conception
of official position is not the one presented by Paul. They are
very far from regarding themselves as ministers of God. There are
noble exceptions, but the majority of men in office regard themselves
as nothing more than the servants of the people. Is it strange that
such men are ready to follow any course of self-aggrandizement that
the people will tolerate? Politicians look on the office as the
legitimate prey of the man who is able to capture the majority vote.
“To the victors belong the spoils” is a most corrupting political
heresy. It is perfectly right that an executive’s official helpers
should be in sympathy with his policy. But to regard office as political
spoil is simply to invite political plunder. It encourages men to
buy office. It invites men to accept bribes when in
office. It is the testimony of multitudes of men in political life
that politics are corrupt to the core. Such men will tell you that
the office goes to the man with the money. They will tell you with
scarcely a blush of shame that the average legislator can be bought.
This is all a part of the game played on the principle that to the
victors belong the spoils. Such a condition of affairs is the legitimate
and practical outgrowth of the accepted principle, that the just
powers of a government are derived from the consent of the governed.
The only way to right the abuse is to correct the principle of action.
Write it in the fundamental law of the land, and instill it into
the hearts of men, that the just powers of a government are derived
from God, and then, and only then, will you have a law with which
you can move the consciences of men. There will be no permanent
reformation of these glaring political abuses until this fundamental
principle of government is recognized. Before you can dry up the
stream you must stop the fountain.
Before we leave this point, a word
about the “consent of the governed.” These words were framed under
the sting of tyranny. They were aimed at human tyranny rather than
divine authority. The mischief has arisen from a misconception of
the idea. Mulford says that “the sovereignty of the nation is from
God and of the people.” If I rightly understand this distinguished
political economist he means three things. 1. The authority of civil
government is from God. Civil government exists not of necessity,
or by accident, but by divine appointment. This indeed is the position
of every political writer of any consequence. It is undoubtedly
correct. It is in direct opposition to the secular theory of government.
2. I understand Mulford to mean that the people of a nation have
a right to determine what form of government they shall have. After
centuries of conflict this principle is beginning to be generally
recognized. No intelligent people will long submit to a form of
government that is distasteful to them. There is no divine right
of any particular kind of civil government. The people are permitted
to choose for themselves. The people are above any form of government,
but not above the ordinance of government. 3. The third principle
involved in Mulford’s statement is: The people have a right to a
voice in the administration of the government. This is the great
principle of free governments. These principles cannot be successfully
refuted. They have behind them the authority of the men who have
made this subject a most careful study. What is of more weight,
they are fully borne out by the word of God.
III.—It is a sin not to submit to
all the lawful requirements of civil authority. God has established
the ordinance. He has delegated the authority. The individual is
under obligations to cheerfully acquire all that is lawful in its
demands. To resist is to sin against God. To fail to obey all that
is lawful and right is to sin against God. The only instance in
which the individual is justified in violating the law is when it
binds to something positively and morally wrong. The fugitive slave
law is an illustration. The government that enacts and enforces
an iniquitous law ceases, in that particular, to be an institution
of God, it matters not what its avowed relations to God may be.
So far as its enactments do not contravene the law of God they are
to be obeyed for conscience sake as an ordinance of God.
There is a moral and religious obligation
to obey civil law. A proper conception of civil government as an
ordinance of God will greatly promote obedience to law. Let men
be taught that in violating civil law they are sinning against God,
and you have a power superior to any police force to secure obedience
to law. Only by the recognition of this higher obligation to obedience
will law be respected and obeyed properly. Men who would not think
directly of violating any of the precepts of the decalogue, will
evade the wholesome and necessary provisions of the civil law, where
moral questions are not directly involved. They do so because they
do not regard the violation of civil law in itself as a sin.
This disregard for the sanctity of
law works a double injury. It prompts men to take the law in their
own hands. In the fury of indignation at the crime the prisoner
is taken from the officers of the law and put to death by private
citizens. The crime may be one for which the accused deserves to
die. There may be no doubt of his guilt, but this does not justify
private citizens in assuming the execution of the law. Such an execution
is the avenging of a crime by the commission of murder. The frequency
of mob violence is strong evidence of the low conception that people
have of the sanctity of law. Our lamented President showed a Christ-like
spirit when he said of the vile wretch that fired the fatal shot:
“May God forgive him.” And he showed a deep and abiding sense of
the sanctity of law when in the agony of a mortal wound ho remonstrated
against any acts of personal violence toward his assailant. If there
were no other reason for cherishing the memory of President McKinley
it ought to be handed down in high esteem to coming generations
because of his dying plea for the sanctity of law.*
There is no stability for civil government,
and especially for a republican form of government, except as God
is recognized as the power behind the institution. Convince men
that God is the authority behind civil government, and you have
something with which to touch their consciences. But encourage them
in the belief that government is nothing more than a civil compact,
and you have laid the foundation for all kinds of disregard for
There is a class of men to whom the
authority of God makes no appeal. They are moral degenerates who
fear neither God nor man. Out of such material anarchists are made.
It is little use to preach the fear of God to an anarchist. The
only thing to do with a fully developed anarchist is to deal with
him in a way that will best conserve the peace of society. Suppress
his teachings, for they strike at the very foundation of society.
“Words are things, and men are responsible for them,” as Judge Grey
said, in sentencing the anarchists for the Haymarket massacre. The
nature of the evil demands strenuous measures for its suppression.
The safety of society demands that the youth of the land be taught
that there is a God whose authority stands back of every organized
form of society.
Law alone will not protect our civil
institutions, or the lives of our rulers. Men must be taught to
regard civil institutions as God’s ordinance. No people will be
consistently and conscientiously law-abiding without God behind
the law. Now, if this is needful on the part of the citizen, what
is necessary on the part of the representative of law?
IV.—It is the duty of all in authority
to recognize God as the source of their authority.
This is simply the converse of the
obligation of the subject to recognize the institution of government
as the ordinance of God. If the principle applies to the subject
it must also apply to the ruler. If it is necessary for the proper
kind of obedience that the subject should see God behind the law,
is it not equally needful for the proper discharge of official duty
that the officer should recognize God behind the authority that
he exercises? Certainly if the officer is to be recognized as the
minister of God he must first recognize himself as such. Is not
this correct? Certainly this is plain. If it be true then that the
officer is under obligation to recognize the authority under which
he acts this leads us back a step to the consideration of a fundamental
principle. It is this: The government itself is under obligation
to acknowledge the source of its authority. “There is no power but
of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.” Certainly the power
is under obligation to recognize the source from which it has derived
its authority. The authority is of God. It is not derived from the
consent of the governed.
It is unwise for a government to neglect
to recognize the source of its authority. By so doing it weakens
the ground on which it can appeal to its subjects for conscientious
But more than this, it is a sin for
a government to neglect, or refuse, to recognize the source of its
authority. It is no light thing to stand in God’s stead and administer
his ordinance. It can only be rightly done when the constitution
of authority is recognized. The proper place for this recognition
is in the fundamental compact of government. Where there is a written
Constitution as in the United States such a recognition should be
found there. Only by this kind of a recognition can this or any
other government place itself in the right attitude toward God.
Only when this recognition is made can we have a just claim on God’s
blessing and protection.
God the Father has appointed His Son,
the Lord Jesus Christ, to be the mediator between God and man. He
has given to Him all power and authority. He has made Him King of
kings and Lord of lords. To Him every knee shall bow and every tongue
confess, both in heaven and on earth. To put civil institutions
in the right relation to God there must be a recognition of Jesus
Christ as the Person in whom governmental authority is vested. The
Bible should be recognized as a rule of action in civil relations.
Only in this way can a government bring itself into right relations
to God, and secure His blessing and favor. Only thus can it insure
the respect and obedience of its subjects.