Source: Christian Nation
Source type: magazine
Document type: sermon
Document title: “The Higher Power” [part 2]
Author(s): Crooks, E. A.
Date of publication: 9 April 1902
Volume number: 36
Issue number: 916
|Crooks, E. A. “The Higher Power” [part 2]. Christian Nation 9 Apr. 1902 v36n916: pp. 1-2.|
|E. A. Crooks (sermons); government (religious interpretation); McKinley assassination (religious response); anarchism (religious response); anarchism (dealing with).|
|Joseph E. Gary [misidentified as Grey below]; Jesus Christ; William McKinley; Elisha Mulford; Paul.|
The following footnote appears on page 2: “It was a great triumph for law that the mob was prevented from taking vengeance on the assassin, and that according to due process of law he was tried, condemned and executed. It would be a good thing for society if his memory could be as effectually destroyed as was his body.” Click here to navigate to the footnote’s location in the text below.
Click here to view the first installment of the sermon (published in the preceding 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
(Concluded from last issue.)
II.—In the administration of the
organized forms of society God has delegated authority to men.
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 institutions.
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 law.
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 support.
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.