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by Adin Ballou
Scriptural Objections Answered
Objection 1 – You throw away the Old Testament – Voice of the New Testament – Voice of the Old Testament. Objection 2 – The scourge of small cords. Objection 3 – The two swords. Objection 4 – The death of Ananias and Sapphira. Objection 5 – Human government – Romans chapter 13 – How the apostles viewed the then existing governments – Submission to, not participation in governments enjoined on Christians – In what sense the powers that be are ordained of God – Pharaoh God’s “minister” – Also the monarch of Assyria – Also Nebuchadnezzar – The Roman government – Respects wherein government is ordained of God – Paul’s conduct in relation to government – Conclusion.
I devote the present chapter to the consideration of scriptural objections. Our doctrine is obviously sustained by the most abundant and convincing proofs from the scriptures of the New Testament. It forces a degree of conviction on many minds by no means prepared for the great practical change involved, or even for a cordial assent to the doctrine itself. Hence they fall back behind certain apparently formidable objections, urged by more determined opponents from the scriptures. They demand that these should be satisfactorily answered. It is only fair that it should be done.
Objection 1 – You Throw Away the Old Testament
“You quote exclusively from the scriptures of the New Testament to prove the non-resistance doctrine. Those of the Old Testament are unequivocally against it. They afford abundant precepts and examples in justification of war, capital punishment, and various forms of penal restraint on criminals. Is not the whole Bible the word of God? Do you throw away and trample under foot the Old Testament? If your doctrine were of God, it would be equally provable from both Testaments.”
Answer: It is true that I have quoted exclusively from the scriptures of the New Testament to prove the doctrine of Christian non-resistance. And I grant that those of the Old Testament, with a few unimportant exceptions, are unequivocally against it, i.e., taken independently of the Christian revelation. I also admit the whole Bible, properly considered and interpreted, to be in a general sense the word of God. But I do not admit the Old Testament to be as clearly, fully, and perfectly the word of God as the New Testament; nor to be of equal authority with the latter on questions of doctrine and duty; nor to be the rule of faith and practice for Christians. It is to be held in reverence as the prophecy and preparative of the New Testament – the foreshadow of better things to come. If I can prove this to be the true character and office of the Old Testament, I shall thereby silence the objection before us. Not only so, I shall demonstrate that I pay the highest respect to both Testaments; and that those who claim for the Old an equal authority with the New, discredit both. Let us settle this point. The scriptures of the two Testaments shall speak for themselves. What they say of each other must determine the matter.
Voice of the New Testament
We will commence with the New Testament. “God, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” Heb. 1:1-2. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he that built the house hath more honor than the house.” “Moses verily was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things that were to be spoken after. But Christ as a Son over his own house, whose house we are…” Heb. 3:1-3,5-6. “For if perfection was by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should arise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change of the law.” “There is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before, for the weakness and unprofitability thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by which we draw nigh to God.” “By so much was Jesus made the surety of a better Testament.” Heb. 7:11-12,18-19,22. “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry than they, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For, finding fault with them, he saith, ‘Behold the days come,’ saith the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand, to lead them out of the land of Egypt… After those days,’ saith the Lord, ‘I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people…’” “In that he saith, ‘a new covenant,’ he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.” Heb. 8:6,13. See Heb. 10:1-2. “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” “But before faith came we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith that should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Gal. 3:19,23,25. “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Eph. 3:4-5. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraved in stones, was so glorious that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance – which glory was to be done away – how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious?” “For even that which was made glorious, had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory which excelleth.” “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech, and not as Moses, who put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished. But their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.” 2 Cor. 3:5-8,10-15. “Having, therefore, obtained help of God, I continue unto this day witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come. That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should show light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” Acts 26:22-23. “Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you saying, ‘Ye must be circumcised and keep the law’; to whom we gave no such commandment.” “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication – from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well.” Acts 15:24,29. “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the Law of Moses.” Acts 13:39. “For Moses truly said untothe fathers, ‘A Prophet shall the Lord your God arise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things, whatsoever he shall say unto you.’ Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, have likewise foretold of these days.” Acts 3:22,24. “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my word.” John 5:45-47. “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write.” John 3:45. “These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me.” Luke 24:44. “The law and the prophets were until John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” Luke 16:16. “Among those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:28. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light, the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” “John bore witness of him and cried, saying, ‘This was he of whom I spoke. He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for he was before me.’” “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1:6-8,15,17-18. “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.’” “He (Christ) must increase, but I must decrease. He that cometh from above is above all.” “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” John 3:27,31,34.
Such is the testimony of the New Testament scriptures. The objector professes to hold them, at least, equally authoritative with those of the Old Testament, and to receive the entire Bible as the word of God. Now, does he implicitly believe what is declared in the previously cited passages? Does he believe that “Christ was counted worthy of more glory than Moses;” that Moses was “a servant, but Christ a son over his own house;” that “perfection was not by the Levitical priesthood;” that Christ is the great “High Priest after the order of Melchisedec;” that “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change of the law;” that the old law “made nothing perfect;” that Jesus was made the surety of a better Testament – the mediator of a better covenant; that the old covenant was faulty, that it waxed old and was ready to “vanish away;” that the law was a mere “schoolmaster to bring mankind to Christ;” that the New Testament is not of “the letter which killeth, but of the spirit which giveth life;” that the law was “a ministration of death,” whose “glory was to be done away;” that the Christian dispensation “excelleth in glory;” that the Mosaic dispensation was to be “abolished;” that a veil remained in place in a certain Judaizing class of minds when reading the Old Testament, “which veil is done away in Christ;” that Moses and the prophets wrote of Christ; that Moses wrote of him when he announced the future coming of a prophet, whom the people should “HEAR IN ALL THINGS;” that the law and the prophets were until John the Baptist, and then the kingdom of God was preached; that John was greatest among prophets previously born, and yet inferior to the least in the gospel kingdom; that Christ was before and above John – from heaven and above all – endowed with the Spirit beyond measure – the true “light of the world”? If he believes all this, what becomes of his objection? If he believes it not, what becomes of the New Testament?
Voice of the Old Testament
And what says the Old Testament? Does it contradict the testimony of the New? Does it represent itself as the perfect and final revelation of God respecting divine truth, human duty, and destiny? Does it claim a higher mission, or more permanent authority, than is ascribed to it in the New? Does not Moses predict Christ, and enjoin that he shall be heard in all things? Do not the prophets foretell the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of a new covenant, superior to that of Sinai? Do not all the types and shadows of the old dispensation presuppose a new and more glorious one? Is there any need of my quoting texts from the Old Testament scriptures to this effect? No, the objector will not demand it. He will spare me the labor, for he must admit the obvious truth. To doubt it would be to doubt the divine inspiration of both Testaments, and thus to do the very thing he so much deprecates – discredit the whole Bible. If then, the New Testament claims to supersede the Old, and the Old, by prophecy, type, and shadow, announced beforehand the coming in of a more glorious dispensation than itself, i.e. the New, the point is settled forever. The New Testament supersedes the Old on all questions of divine truth and human duty. In affirming this, I only affirm what both Testaments unequivocally declare respecting themselves and each other. To question it is virtually to question the credibility of both. To affirm the contrary is to charge falsehood on both. Instead, therefore, of throwing away the Old Testament, I receive its testimony and render it a just reverence. By looking to the New Testament and accepting it as my rule of faith and practice, I rendered the most honorable obedience to the teachings of the Old. Whereas they who turn back from the perfection of the New to the imperfection of the Old – from the substance to the shadow – from sunlight to lamplight, to determine their Christian duty, trample on both Testaments, and invalidate the whole Bible. They believe neither; they obey neither.
In this view of the subject, the Old Testament, being in its nature and design a prophecy and foreshadow of the New, is not against but for non-resistance; notwithstanding the anti-non-resistant character, for the time, of its particular precepts and examples. Because it is, on the whole, for Christ and the supreme authority of his teachings, non-resistance included. It is for the New Testament with all its peculiarities, and for the excellence of the glorious gospel. Who can gainsay this? Hence, for professed Christians to quote its precepts and examples as applicable to the present dispensation is not only a gross perversion, but also a kind of pious fraud – not to be tolerated for a moment. That man can be no friend to the Old Testament, who drags it into overbearing conflict with the New. He is the enemy of both.
Nor is he the friend of Moses, who claims equality for him with Jesus Christ. It is no better than an attempt to turn a faithful herald into a rival of the king his master, whose approach he is commissioned to announce and prepare for. Yet there have never been wanting those who have set up Moses in superiority to Jesus. Moses predicted, and instituted preparations for, the coming of a Prophet whom the Lord God should in due time raise up. That Prophet was Christ. And what did Moses enjoin respecting the reverence to be paid to Christ? “Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.” Well, the predicted one came into the world and spoke as man never before had spoken. But he corrected some, modified others, and absolutely abrogated several of the sayings of Moses. Moses, for the hardness of the people’s hearts, had authorized them to divorce their wives for ordinary causes of dislike. But Jesus imperatively forbade them to do so, except for one cause – fornication. Moses sanctioned sacred and judicial oath-taking, and enjoined the most faithful performance of all vows. “But I say unto you, swear not at all,” is the injunction of Jesus. Moses said, “Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” “But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil.” Thus is the mandate of the new Prophet. This very superiority of Jesus to Moses became an offence to the Jews. “Who makest thou thyself?” said they contemptuously. “We know that God spoke unto Moses; as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.” But Jesus said, “If ye had believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.” Yet he became to them a stumbling stone, and a rock of offence. They would not hear him in all things, even though solemnly enjoined by Moses to do so. The same stumbling still happens among professing Christians. When the plain non-resistant precepts of Jesus are urged upon them, and are demonstrated to be prescriptive requirements of the gospel, they are accounted hard sayings. The old law of retaliation is so sweet, and inflictions of evil are so convenient as means of resisting evil, that though unable to avoid the obvious non-resistant construction of the language in which those precepts are expressed, they retire behind the authority of Moses and deny that Jesus abrogated his sayings. They do not know what Jesus really meant, but they affect to be certain that he left war, capital punishment, penal inflictions, and personal resistance just where Moses did. Though Jesus expressly refers to the saying of Moses, “Life for life, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,” and revokes it, still they adhere to it. And this they do under pretence of extraordinary reverence for the word of God – the whole Bible; alleging that non-resistants condemn Moses and the Old Testament, in the very act of receiving Jesus and the new covenant for what those precursors announced they should be. But the accusation returns upon their own heads. They are the condemners of Moses and the Old Testament, for if they believed Moses and the prophets, they would believe in Jesus and the New Testament as more excellent, glorious, and authoritative than their forerunners. But as it is, they receive neither the Old nor the New Testaments as the Word of God, in any such sense as each separately, and both mutually, purport to be. Is it to be believed, then, that if they could summon Moses from the world of spirits, he would commend them for their adherence to his war-like and punitive precepts, regardless of Christ’s non-resistant precepts? Would he thank them for overbearing and nullifying the laws of Jesus by perpetuating and enforcing his code? Would he not rebuke them for their unbelief and rebellion of soul? Would he not, like Elias, say, “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear”? “He must increase, but I must decrease. He that is of the earth is earthly; he that cometh from heaven is above all.” “Hear him in all things.” I consider the objection under notice fairly answered.
Objection 2 – The Scourge of Small Cords
“And Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen, and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money, sitting. And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changer’s money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, ‘Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise.’ And his disciples remembered that it was written, ‘The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.’” John 2:13-17. Is not this transaction of Jesus directly contrary to your doctrine of non-resistance?
Answer. Whether the conduct of Jesus on this occasion was inconsistent with my construction of his non-resistance precepts depends very much on the particular facts of the case. Did Jesus injure or threaten to injure any person whom he expelled from the temple? Did he impair the life or health of any human being? Did he wantonly destroy property? Did he commit any injurious act on the body, mind, or rightful estate of any person concerned? If he did, his conduct was inconsistent with what I have defined to be Christian non-resistance. If he did not, it is perfectly reconcilable with my doctrine. That he displayed an extraordinary zeal for the religious honor if the temple is certain. That by some remarkable means he caused a considerable number of persons trafficking within the temple suddenly to remove from the same, with their animals and other effects is granted. That those persons had no right to occupy the temple for such purposes, and ought to have voluntarily removed upon the remonstrance of Jesus£, will, I trust, be admitted on all sides. The precise point of inquiry is, did Jesus inflict any injury on the persons, estate, or morals of those who were caused to remove by his interference? If it is to be presumed that he inflicted blows on the men with his scourge of small cords, and that he violently upset tables covered with coin, scattering it in all directions, I should have to admit that he injured, more or less, those whom he drove out of the temple. But I want some proof that he touched a single person with his scourge, and that in overthrowing the money-changers’ tables he exhibited a single undignified gesture. He urgently and authoritatively commanded the intruders to remove those things thence, and probably assisted in pouring their money into such vessels as were at hand, and in removing the fixtures they had constructed for their convenience. In all this he was earnest and determined, no doubt. But was he violent, outrageous, or punitive? Are we to imagine him rushing furiously among the sacrilegious, smiting right and left whomsoever he might reach with his scourge; knocking one thing one way, and another the other way; tearing up and breaking to pieces benches, tables and seats, like the leader of a mob? Some minds seem to imagine such proceedings as these, and of course conclude that many grievous cuts of the scourge remained on the persons of the expelled, and that money and other property was wantonly destroyed or wasted, or at least lost to the owners. But as I have an equally good right to imagine how Jesus acted on the occasion, I shall presume that he did nothing unworthy of the principles, the character, and spirit that uniformly distinguished him. When he saw the temple occupied by such a mixed multitude of pretended worshippers; some really devout, some hypocritically observing their formalities, and many others, who, while professing to be promoting the service of God, were intent only on acquiring gain – crowding their cattle, fowls, and money changing tables hard upon the sanctuary – so that the lowing of oxen, bleating of sheep, cooing of doves, clinking of coin, and vociferations of the keepers, mingled confusedly with the prayers, hymns, recitations, and responses of the devotees, his soul was filled with grief, loathing and abhorrence. A divine zeal fired his mind, to testify against and suppress this gross confusion and sacrilegious disorder. Taking up from the pavement a few of those rushes, or pieces of small cord made of rushes, which chanced to lie about him, he fastened them together in the form of a scourge or switch, and holding it up as an emblem of the condemnation in which the multitude had involved themselves, he commenced rebuking them for corrupting the divine worship, and mocking the Almighty with such a medley of prayer and traffic. Waxing warmer, in his denunciations, he assumed a high moral and religious tone of authority, and commanded the temple to be instantly cleansed of all those nuisances. The people, amazed and overawed by the truth, justice, earnestness, and uncompromising energy of his rebukes, shrunk backward from his presence, yielded to the impulse that his moral force imparted to them, almost involuntarily obeyed his directions, and in a short time were actively engaged in the work of removal. Jesus, waving the emblem of condemnation and reproach, but without harming either man or beast, followed up the retreating throng, urging forward the cattle, expediting the clearing and taking down of the money changer’s tables, and pouring forth with increasing fervor his rebukes and admonitions into the ears of the people, until the work was consummated. I take for granted that in this whole proceeding, spiritual and moral power was the all controlling element; that Jesus used very little physical force, and that little un-injuriously; that he acted in all respects worthily of his authority, dignity, spirit, and mission as the Son of God; that there was nothing of the mobocrat, fanatic, or police officer in his manner; and that he did no injury to any human being – nothing but good to all parties concerned. This is what I imagine respecting this affair. There is no positive proof one way or the other; as to the particular facts, we are left to form the best judgment we can in view of the probabilities. These are all on the non-resistant side of the question. It is unnatural, absurd, and altogether improbable to suppose that Jesus drove out so large a number of persons by actually scourging, or threatening to scourge their bodies. That he severely scourged their minds with just reproof, of which his rush scourge was a significant emblem, I willingly admit. And in this there is nothing inconsistent with non-resistance, as I have defined it. I insist, then, that it was neither mobocratic, military, political, or any mere physical force by which Jesus cleansed the temple; but divine, spiritual, and moral power. Therefore, I throw the laboring oar upon the objector, and demand that he adduce some evidence, other than mere inference or conjecture, that the Savior struck a single person with his scourge, or otherwise absolutely injured any human being. When something like this shall be proved, I will confess the force of the objection. Until then, I shall consider it sufficiently answered.
Objection 3 – The Two Swords
According to the 22nd chapter of Luke, Christ directed his disciples to provide themselves swords. “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Swords could be of no other use than as weapons of war or of self-defense. How can this be reconciled with your doctrine of non-resistance?
Answer. There is one other use to which the sword might possibly be put. It might be employed on a memorable occasion as the significant emblem of in injurious resistance, for the purpose of emphatically inculcating non-resistance. I will attempt to demonstrate that this was the special use to which Jesus intended to apply it in the case before us. He gave this direction to buy swords at the last Passover, just before his betrayal in the garden of Gethsemane. When he had given it, his disciples presently responded, “‘Lord, behold, here are two swords.’ And he said unto them, ‘It is enough.’” Verse 38. How could two swords be enough to arm twelve men for war or self-defense? This single fact shows that such was not the design of Jesus. He had a more sublime purpose. When Judas gave the traitorous kiss, and the multitude approached to seize Jesus, his disciples demanded, saying, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” And one of them smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. Verse 49-50. Matthew (26:52) informs us how Jesus disposed of the sword. “Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Put up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” So saying, he touched the wounded ear, and restored it, suffering himself to be borne away by his enemies without resistance. Thus the sequel proved that he caused swords to be provided, for that occasion, (two only being enough) for the sole purpose of emphatically, finally, and everlastingly prohibiting the use of the instrument, even by the innocent in self-defense. Ever after this, those apostles, and for a long time the primitive Christians, conscientiously eschewed the use of the sword. These three facts prove my assertion. 1. Two swords were enough. 2. The moment one of these was wielded in defense of betrayed innocence, it was peremptorily stayed, the wound caused by it healed, and the sublime mandate given, “Put up thy sword again into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” 3. The apostles and primitive Christians obeyed the injunction, never afterwards making the least use of such deadly weapons. This objection then ends in solid confirmation of the non-resistance doctrine, and may be appreciated accordingly.
Objection 4 – Death of Ananias and Sapphira
The sudden death of Ananias and his wife Sapphira, for deception practiced on the apostles, in keeping back a portion of their estate for private use, while pretending to consecrate the whole to the use of the church, seems to have been virtually an infliction of capital punishment. Is this reconcilable with your non-resistance?
Answer. The death of those persons is not represented as the act of the apostles, or as in any manner procured or occasioned by them. It is recorded as the visitation of God, without any curse, imprecation, or wish of men. This will more fully appear from the record itself. “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why hath Satan filled thy heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? And after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thy heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.’ And Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and gave up the ghost. Three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in, Peter said unto her, ‘How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them that have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.’ Then fell she down straight way at his feet, and yielded up the ghost.” Acts 5:1-5,7-10. Is there any intimation in this account, that Peter, or any of the other apostles, assumed judicial authority over those persons? Or that they assumed any power, human or divine, over their lives? Or that they caused, occasioned, imprecated or desired their death? Certainly not. The case then is not one on which the objection can pertinently rest. I therefore dismiss it.
Objection 5 – Human Government – Romans Chapter 13
Human government is recognized in the New Testament as the ordinance of God for good to mankind. Rulers are declared to be a terror, not to good works, but to the evil ministers of God, and revengers “to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil,” who bear not the sword in vain, and ought to receive tribute, custom, and honor at the hands of Christians, “not only for wrath but also for conscience’ sake.” Paul pleaded his citizenship as a Roman to obtain an honorable discharge from prison, and on another occasion to save himself from the scourge. He applied for military protection to save his life from the forty conspirators, and appealed to Caesar to obtain justice in his defense against the accusations of the Jews. See Romans 13:1-7; Acts 16:37, 22:24-29, 23:17, 25:10-12; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14; and other passages. Now, as human government, in all its various forms with its military and penal terrors, is the ordinance of God for good to mankind, as its rulers are declared to be the ministers of God for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty, and as its requirements are to be respected with submission, it follows that Christians, in stead of-non participating therein, on account of war, capital punishment, and penal inflictions, ought to share in its responsibilities, and be its firmest supporters – always conscientiously endeavoring to render it in the highest degree efficient for its divinely appointed purpose. Here then is an insuperable objection to your doctrine of non-resistance – certainly so, as respects government, war, capital punishment, etc.
Answer. This is by far the most plausible and seductive objection, now urged against Christian non-resistance. It deceives and misleads more good minds, and is harder to be answered than any other. And yet it is essentially fallacious and invalid. This I will endeavor to demonstrate. Government is the bond of social order. It is that directing and regulating authority that keeps individuals in their proper relations to each other and the great whole. The intelligent Christian must contemplate it in three several characters: 1. government per se, 2. government de jure, and 3. government de facto. Government per se is authority exercised to maintain and promote moral order. Moral order, of course, presupposes rational social beings. When such beings are in a state of true moral order they are right-minded, and being right-minded, gradually reduce all things physical to the right condition. Mind governs matter and moral authority governs mind. Moral order involves all other order. Imperfect moral order leaves all things in a state of imperfect order. Moral disorder draws after it all manner of physical disorder. Therefore, all depends on a supreme moral authority, or government. This must be inherently divine. It is original and self-existent in God only. Government per se, then, is essentially divine; it is of and from God. It is not original in any created being. Wherever it exists, it is derivable from God. If so, there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as human government. Man is always subordinate to God, and can have no right to enact any law, or to exercise any governmental power contrary to the divine law and government. If human nature possessed original, independent governing authority, men could rightfully repeal, or nullify the divine law. Now they cannot. Consequently all law and government absolutely contrary to the law and government of God are morally null and void. But all law and government in accordance with the divine law and government are morally binding on every human being. This presents government in its second character: government de jure, or of absolute right. That all human governments ought to be conformed to the standard of the divine, none will deny. If they were thus conformed, they would cease to be human in their spirit and character. They would become mere incarnations and elaborations of the divine. But as the word human, when joined to the word government, may imply nothing more than a human manifestation in a well-regulated social organization, I will not discard its use, my meaning being understood. I will say, then, that Christian non-resistance, so far from conflicting with government per se, or human government de jure, i.e., human government strictly subordinate and conformed to the divine government, holds the first supremely sacred and the last as its grand desideratum. And on this very account it requires the disciples of Christ to keep themselves disentangled from all such human governments as are fundamentally repugnant to the divine government – all such as are not de jure, according to the law of God declared by Jesus Christ. This brings into view the third character in which non-resistants are obliged to contemplate government: government de facto, as it is in fact. And what has human government ever been in fact, from the beginning to this day? Has it been identical with the divine government? Has it been radically government de jure, according to thelaw of the living God? Is the present government of the United States, with all its captivating professions and really good things, fundamentally a Christian government? Who will dare to say so? What then was human government de facto in the apostolic times? The government of Herod, Pilate, Nero, and the Roman Caesars, under whom oppression, injustice, tyranny, and cruelty rioted on human rights, deluged the habitable globe with blood, crucified the Son of God, and made myriads of martyrs?
Now, a preliminary question to be settled is whether the Apostle Paul in the 13th chapter of Romans speaks of government per se, or of government de jure, or of government de facto. If only of the first or second, then is there no incompatibility of his words with non-resistance, and the objection falls to the ground. But if he speaks of human governments and rulers, such as they were in the Roman Empire, further investigation will be necessary to set the subject in a true light. I will take for granted that he was speaking of the governments and rulers under whom Christians then lived, for I can suppose nothing else.
How the Apostles Viewed the Then Existing Governments
Taking this ground, we wish to know precisely how he and other apostles viewed those governing powers, and how they counseled the disciples of Christ to feel and act with regard to them. If Christ and his apostles regarded the Caesars and their subordinate kings, governors and magistrates as moved and approved of God, as His conscious ministers in carrying on the government of those times; if they really held the then existing governments of the earth to be ordained of God in the same sense that their own spiritual, religious, and moral authority was, then is the objection before us unanswerable. Then, of course, I must admit that it is the duty of Christians to share in the responsibility of any government under which they may live, and to support its requirements in all things: war, capital punishment, persecution, idolatry, slavery and whatever else it may exact. It would then be God’s own law and voice – to be obeyed implicitly in all things. There could be no limitations or exceptions. Did the apostles teach such doctrine as this? If they did, how happens it that they and the primitive Christians kept themselves so scrupulously aloof from the governments of their times? No, the objector will not contend for any such unqualified endorsement of human government by the apostles. He will disclaim such extreme conclusions. He will admit the gross corruption, tyranny, and wickedness of those very governments that Paul declares to have been “ordained of God.” He will admit more than I shall stop to demand: of horrible impiety, iniquity, and persecution on the part of those very rulers, whom the apostle declares to be the “ministers of God – avengers to execute wrath on evil doers.” He will not argue that such governments as those of the Herods, the Pilates, and the Neroes were “ordained of God” in the same sense that the Church of Jesus Christ was. Nor that those bloody minded rulers and their agents were “ministers of God,” consciously and approvedly, as were the apostles. He knows that Paul never intended to be so understood. Here, then, is the mischievous little catch of the objection. Words and phrases are taken in a false sense. There is a sense in which it is true that “there is no power but of God,” in which “the powers that be are ordained of God,” in which “rulers,” even the worst of them, “are not a terror to good works, but to the evil,” in which they are “the ministers of God for good” to the righteous and “avengers to execute wrath” on men of violence. But what is this sense? Let us investigate the matter.
Submission to, Not Participation in, Government Enjoined on Christians
It is clear that Christians are everywhere in the New Testament enjoined to render respect and submission to human governments, kings, rulers, and magistrates. They are forbidden to resist “the powers that be,” or their ordinances by any act of wanton disobedience, insurrection, sedition, or violence whatsoever. They are commanded to obey them in all things not involving disobedience to God, and then to do their duty patiently, suffering whatever persecution, penalties, or violence government may inflict upon them. But it is equally clear that Christians are nowhere in the New Testament enjoined to enter into political combinations; nor to accept offices of trust and emolument, civil or military, under any human government; nor to apply to courts of law for redress of injuries committed upon them; nor to seek personal protection from the civil or military power. All this being assumed, we wish to ascertain whether Christians are enjoined to pay respect, submission, and tribute to governments and their administrative officers, otherwise than to bodies of men, or individuals not governmentally organized, constituted, and empowered. It would seem that they are. They are to render respect, submission, tribute, and custom to governments and rulers as such. There must then be reasons for paying this peculiar deference and homage. What are they? Paul presents them in the passage referred to, Romans 13:1-7. But there is a difficulty in determining precisely what he means by such terms and phrases as “ordained of God,” “ordinances of God,” and “ministers of God.” What is the true sense of these expressions? Let us see if we can determine…
In What Sense “The Powers That Be Are Ordained of God”
It cannot be in the sense that he requires them to be just what they are, and to do just what they do. It cannot be in the sense that they can do no wrong, commit no sin, and deserve no punishment. It cannot be in any such sense as that kings, counselors, rulers, and magistrates are not moral agents, or are in any manner absolved from the common obligations of other men: to love God with their whole heart, to love their neighbors as themselves, to forgive the trespasses of their offenders, to love their enemies, to bless those that curse them, and do good to them that hate them. It can be in no such sense as would change the law of God, reverse right and wrong, or screen them from condemnation in anything sinful. It must be in some general sense, a sense which implies merely their necessity in the nature of things, and that they are overruled in the providence of God for the good of mankind. In this sense they certainly are ordained of God; and in this sense kings, presidents, governors, and rulers are ministers of God, i.e., instruments in the grand economy of his providence for the good of well-doers, and the punishment and restraint of evil-doers.
And this is as true of the most corrupt, perverse, and tyrannical rulers as of the more worthy. It was as true of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, and Robespierre, as of Melchizedec, David, Antoninus, and Washington. Hence we must make a great difference between a consciously inspired and approved minister of God, and those “ministers of God” that “bear not the sword in vain,” that are a “terror to evil-doers,” and that are “avengers to execute wrath.” Because these latter have frequently no consciousness that they are instruments in the divine hand, that he is using them to any holy purpose, or that he approves of their conduct. On the contrary, they are frequently conscious of setting at defiance his law and judgments, and of trampling under foot everything divine and human which appears to stand in the way of their selfishness, ambition, revenge, and lust.
Pharaoh God’s Minister
Thus it is written concerning Pharaoh: “For this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared through all the earth.” But Pharaoh had no consciousness of all this. It entered not into his motives. He acted entirely according to his own perverse and wicked inclinations. And God punished him just as if nothing but evil was to result from his tyrannical reign. Yet in the great providential sense he was “ordained of God,” was the servant or minister of God for good to Israel and for the punishment of the cruel Egyptians. He knew not the use God was putting him to; he intended not the good that he was made to promote; and therefore received according to the evil that he did intend. Yet probably the whole human race is now in a better condition for his having oppressed the children of Israel, and thereby hastened their exodus from Egypt. The results have been good, by reason not of his righteous motives, but of an all-wise, overruling providence which made the tyrant unconsciously a minister of its beneficent purposes.
The Monarch of Assyria God’s Minister
So it was with the Assyrian government and its monarch. “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so.” “Wherefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. For he saith, ‘By the strength of my hand have I done it, and by my wisdom, for I am prudent.’” “Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? Shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it?” Isaiah 10:5-7,12-15. Thus was the Assyrian government ordained of God, in the apostle’s sense, and the king thereof made to be “God’s minister,” servant, and instrument. He was made to be so not only without any consciousness, but also against his own proud, ambitious, and vindictive will. And like Pharaoh before him, he was judged according to the evil he intended, and not according to the good which God obliged him, unwittingly, to subserve. He was made a rod of correction to hypocritical Israel, in the divine hand “a terror to evil-doers,” even while being himself was a gigantic evil-doer. He “bore not the sword in vain,” “howbeit he meant not so.” Query. Would this have been a good reason why the prophets and pious portion of Israel should go and connect themselves with his government or army? Yet it was a good reason why they should persevere in declaring the truth, in promoting righteousness, and in patiently awaiting the deliverances of divine providence.
Nebuchadnezzar God’s Minister
Nebuchadnezzar affords another instance of the same ordination and overruling of God. “Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, and Nebuchadnezzar, my servant (my minister), and will bring them against this land…” “And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity…” Jer. 25:9,12. Was Nebuchadnezzar God’s minister for good to Jeremiah and the faithful, but ‘an avenger to execute wrath on the wicked Israelites? Was he one who bore not the sword in vain – and who was a terror to evil- doers? Such God made him to be. But was he conscious of it? Was it his motive? Did he work righteousness? Was he not really a very wicked man? Did not God condemn and punish him? Would it have been commendable, in Jeremiah and the upright few among the Jews, to have gone over and become soldiers in his army? They did, indeed, peaceably go out and surrender to him, and counseled their countrymen to submit to his government on the very ground that God had determined to humble them for their great national sins, and had in his providence given Nebuchadnezzar power to subdue them. But they never held up the invading monarch as righteous, and approved in the sight of God.
The Roman Government
If we descend to Paul’s time and contemplate the Roman government, its Caesars and their governors of provinces, should we not be obliged to view them in the same light? We might, indeed, find many laws, institutions, measures, and particular acts of administration worthy of commendation, which no good man would wish depreciated. But how much of the tyrannical, oppressive, cruel, and utterly abominable would rise up before us, to awaken our disgust and abhorrence? What shall we think of the emperor Nero, under whom Paul, Peter, and thousands of Christians were put to death, whose name has become universally infamous for cruelty, persecution, and brutality? Yet he was a “minister of God” – “a terror to evil-doers,” – “an avenger to execute wrath,” – one who “bore not the sword in vain” – to whom tribute should be paid, honor rendered, and unresisting submission offered. Paul, Peter, and the Christian martyrs all acted accordingly. And though he persecuted them unto death, it was doubtless true that God in his providence made him, in spite of his wickedness, a minister to them for good; causing all things to work together for good to them, as the true lovers of righteousness. How else shall we understand the apostle’s doctrine, or interpret the persecutions inflicted on them by “the powers ordained of God,” and by rulers like Nero and his deputies, the “ministers of God”? We cannot for a moment regard these “powers” as approved of God, nor those tyrant monsters as his conscious “ministers,” the oracles and conscientious doers of his will. And yet, in the general sense, the great providential sense, all Paul says of them is true. For is his declaration of this truth useless or unimportant? It is necessary for the comfort, support, and right conduct of Christians amid the uproar, tumult, and apparent confusion of governmental affairs. They must see by faith the hand of their Father guiding the helm of events, restraining the wrath of man, and overruling the most powerful agencies of human society for good. Otherwise they would often despair of the world’s redemption and be thrown into the foaming currents of retaliation, revolution, violence, and war. But now they may do their duty without fear, in full confidence that “the Lord God omnipotent reigneth” in righteousness over all governments, monarchs, kings, rulers, and magistrates; judging them according to their own proper motives and works, but overruling their most perverse doings for the particular good of the just, and the general good of the universe.
Respects Wherein Government Is Ordained of God
I come then to the following conclusions: 1. That government of some sort supplies a fundamental want of human nature, and must exist wherever men exist. In this respect it is ordained of God. 2. That human governments de facto are barbarisms, corruptions, perversions, and abuses of the true government de jure, which God through Christianity aims to establish among mankind; and are therefore the nearest approaches that the mass of men in their present low moral condition are capable of making to the true ideal. In this respect, government is ordained of God. 3. That the worst of governments are preferable to absolute anarchy – being the least of two evils, and rendering the condition of man on the whole more tolerable. In this respect “the powers that be are ordained of God.” 4. That human governments generally proclaim and sanction some great truths and duties, execute some justice, and intentionally maintain more or less wholesome order; that they are in many respects positively good in motive and deed, thus far conforming to the divine government. In this respect they are ordained of God. 5. Wherein human governments and their administrators are fundamentally tyrannical, selfish, oppressive, persecuting, unprincipled, and morally abhorrent, they are overruled in the hand of God as unwitting instrumentalities for the punishment and restraint of violence, and for quickening and purifying the moral sense of the righteous, to superinduce in them a holier, more devoted, and mightier activity in the great work of human reformation. In this respect the powers that be are ordained of God, and rulers are ministers of God for good to the just, but of wrath to the children of wrath. Therefore, Christians are to respect, submit, and render homage to the governments and rulers under whom they live, however anti-Christian and even persecuting; taking care to obey them in all well-doing, to conform to their requirements in all matters not conflicting with the divine requirements, differing from them as peaceably as possible, suffering their wrongs patiently in hope, withstanding them only for righteousness’ sake in things absolutely sinful, and then enduring their penalties with non-resistant meekness and submission. But at the same time they are to be true to the kingdom of God, faithful in their allegiance to the great law of Christ, never departing from it for the sake of assuming the reins of any human government, or obtaining its honors, emoluments, advantages, approbation, or protection. If they can enter into any government and carry their Christianity with them unadulterated and untrammeled, let them enter. If not, it is their imperative duty to remain out of it, peaceable and unoffending subjects. Their mission is a higher and nobler one than that of the worldly politician, statesman, or ruler. They must not desert, betray, or dishonor it. If they continue faithful, they will gradually draw up human government to the divine standard. If they lower themselves down, by renouncing or compromising their principles, for the sake of participating in any fundamentally anti-Christian government, hoping thereby to elevate the moral tone of such government, they will infallibly be disappointed. They will sink themselves, and with them the government will sink still lower than before. They must everlastingly insist on the principles and precepts of Jesus Christ; and whatever will not come to those, leave to its own genius and doom. God will take care of all the rest “for there is no power but of God,” and subject to his own sovereign disposal. The Christian has nothing to care for but to be a Christian indeed, allowing himself never to be transformed into anything, or committed to any undertaking essentially inconsistent with his sublime profession.
If I have taken a correct view of this important, but difficult subject, I have fairly removed the pending objection, so far as it rests on the 13th chapter of Romans, and similar passages. I am confident this view is substantially correct; and I do not believe the opponents of Christian non-resistance can give any other view which will harmonize decently, either with the plain tenor of the scriptures, or with their own doctrine, respecting the nature and functions of civil government. It remains only that I touch on that part of the objection that asserts that Paul, in certain cases, resorted to human government, idolatrous, warlike, and despotic as it then was, to secure immunity, protection, and justice.
Paul’s Conduct in Relation to Government
This is a misapprehension, or at least a false view of the facts. Did Paul ever commence a prosecution at law for the redress of injuries perpetrated on his person, property, or rights? Did he ever apply to the civil or military authorities for personal protection when at large, pursuing his usual avocations? Never. Such a case is not on record. The cases cited all occurred when he was a prisoner, in the charge of government officers. The first instance is mentioned in Acts 16:37. Paul and Silas had been thrown into prison and cruelly beaten by order of the magistrates of Philippi. The next morning those magistrates sent directions to the jailor to let them go, but Paul said to them, “They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privately? Nay, verily, but let them come themselves and fetch us out.” The result was that the magistrates, knowing that they had proceeded unlawfully, were glad to acknowledge their error, and discharge the prisoners in an honorable manner. This was all Paul demanded. He and Silas had done nothing, even according to the laws of the land, to merit such vile treatment; and knowing that they had a right, as Roman citizens, to redress, they meant that the magistrates and the public should understand the facts. They, however, brought no action for redress, but were content to forgive their injuries, if only they might be regarded as the injured party, and as such reputably discharged. This is just what every non-resistant ought to do under like circumstances. It would have been unworthy of the gospel for Paul and Silas to have crept off in a private manner, leaving the people to infer that they were culprits, allowed to escape by mere indulgence. Christianity is as bold, faithful, and heroic in asserting its rights, and sustaining its just reputation, as it is non-resistant in respect to returning injury for injury. It is never mean and skulking, but always open, frank, dignified, and godlike.
The next instance cited is mentioned in the 22nd chapter of Acts. The Jews had raised a mob, and rushed on Paul to kill him. While they were cruelly beating him, the chief captain came upon them with his soldiers, and made Paul his prisoner, causing him to be bound with two chains, and to be conducted to the castle. Having reached the stairs of the castle, he asked permission to address the excited multitude. He was permitted, and was heard for a short time with great attention. But on declaring that God had commissioned him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, the whole throng broke out into the most furious invectives, saying, “Away with such a fellow from the earth; for it is not fit that he should live.” And, as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. This was an extraordinary state of things. An innocent man falsely accused and maliciously assailed by a crowd of bigoted and ferocious Jews, solely on account of his Christianity, was about to be crudely scourged, to extort a confession of some suspected secret. Paul, being a free born Roman citizen, and knowing himself privileged by that single fact from such gross outrage, demanded, as they were binding him with thongs, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?” This stayed the proceedings instantly. “Take heed,” said the centurion to the chief captain, “what thou doest, for this man is a Roman.” “Tell me, art thou a Roman?” said the captain. Paul said, “Yea.” The captain answered, “With a great sum obtained I this freedom.” “But I was free born,” replied the prisoner. “Then straightway they departed from him, which should have examined him; and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” Here was one remarkable excellence of the Roman law and authority: a Roman citizen had to be treated with a certain degree of respect, and fairly heard in his own defense, even though guilty of great crimes. He must be regularly condemned before being subjected to the treatment of a felon. This was nothing but a dictate of plain justice and common sense. But observe, Paul had not recently gone and purchased his privilege of Roman citizenship, in order to provide against such contingencies as these. He was “free born.” All he did was to remind those who were about to violate the Roman law, by scourging him uncondemned, of his rights. He threatens nothing; he only throws them upon their own responsibility. It was his right and privilege to be dealt with civilly, until fairly tried. He pleaded his rights in the most unassuming manner possible, and left those who had his person in their power, to act for themselves. How just, how honorable, how meek, how noble, how non-resistant, was his conduct! There is nothing in it that any non-resistant, in like circumstances, might not and ought not to copy.
The next instance followed soon after. It is recorded in the 23rd chapter of Acts. Paul, still a prisoner in the castle, had received a partial hearing before the chief priests and their council. In the meantime, forty of his most violent enemies banded together under oath not to eat or drink until they had killed him. To find an opportunity for their deadly assault, they agreed to request the chief captain to bring Paul again before the council for further hearing, intending while he was imperfectly guarded to rush upon him and affect their purpose. Paul’s sister’s son, getting knowledge of this conspiracy, communicated it to his uncle, who, thereupon called one of the centurions, and said, “Bring this young man unto the chief captain, for he hath a certain thing to tell him.” The young man did his errand to the chief captain, who kindly sent him away under a charge of silence respecting the matter. To prevent bloodshed and all further violence, the chief captain ordered four hundred and sixty of his soldiers to convey Paul during the night to Caesarea, to Felix the governor. Thus the threatened mischief was avoided. This is what some understand to be Paul’s application for a military force to protect his person. Did Paul apply for protection? Did he demand a military escort? Did he ask anything, or recommend anything, except barely that the centurion would conduct his nephew to the chief captain, that he might communicate his message? No, nothing. He was a helpless prisoner, guarded by the chief captain’s soldiers. It was the duty of that officer to afford him such personal protection as was due to all Roman citizens. Paul knew from his preceding conduct that the chief captain was desirous of discharging his duty according to law. He was apprised of the deadly conspiracy formed against him. Had he been his own man, non-resistance would have admonished him to escape the danger by flight. But he was a prisoner. He was to be brought within reach of his foes, under treacherous pretences of a desire to give him a farther hearing, and then murdered in spite of his Roman guard. What could he, or ought he to have done, either to save his own life, or pay proper respect to the chief captain, less, than to cause the simple facts to be communicated? It was his duty. He would have been most criminal had he done otherwise. He meditated no counter attack on the guilty. He sought no means of punishing them. He counseled no measures of violence. He recommended nothing, threatened nothing, and demanded nothing. He caused the proper information to be conveyed to the captain, and meekly left all to his discretion. And the captain proved his good sense, as well as pacific disposition, by so disposing of the prisoner as to prevent all violence and danger. In all this matter Paul acted just as any Christian non-resistant, in such circumstances, should act most unexceptionably.
His “appeal to Caesar” followed in the train of these events. It is mentioned in the 25th chapter. What was the nature and design of that appeal? He had been falsely accused, subjected to a long imprisonment, and partly tried for heresy and sedition. His trial was still pending after a two years delay of justice. Festus, the new governor, found Paul still in bonds. The high priest and chief of the Jews now moved their suit afresh and requested that Paul might be sent to Jerusalem, “lying in wait in the way to kill him.” But not succeeding in this plot, the Jews went down to Caesarea to renew their accusations before the governor’s judgment seat. Paul reaffirmed his innocence of all their charges, and nothing could be made out against him. Festus, the governor, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, asked Paul if he would “go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things.” Then said Paul, “I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged; to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed anything worthy of death, I refuse not to die; but if there be none of these things whereof they accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.” How noble and Christian-like this appeal! Jerusalem was no place for an impartial trial. It was only adding insult to injury to propose pretexts under such circumstances, to take him back among those prejudiced and bloodthirsty men. If he must be further tried, he claimed his privilege to appear before a higher and more impartial court – to go to Rome. God had directed him in a vision to do so, for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel in that great city. His defense was in fact nothing but the defense of the gospel. He therefore appealed to Caesar. He was not the accuser, but the accused. He had not come into court to complain of and procure the punishment of his enemies. He was not the prosecutor in this case; but a prisoner, falsely accused, detained in bonds unjustly, and now laid under the necessity of going to Jerusalem or to Rome for the conclusion of his trial. He might have his choice; it was his acknowledged privilege; and he availed himself of it as a duty to the cause of Christ, no less than as a right. And in this, as in other instances, he acted just as he ought to have acted – just as any Christian non-resistant would be bound to act. Neither of the cases cited implies the slightest inconsistency of conduct with the doctrine to which they are brought as objections.
Having thus thoroughly canvassed all the important objections to my doctrine, which I recollect ever to have seen presented out of the scriptures, I may now confidently appeal to the understanding and conscience of the Christian reader for a favorable verdict. Have I not triumphantly demonstrated that the Holy scriptures teach the doctrine of non-resistance as defined in the first chapter of this work? Have I not fairly answered the objections urged from the scriptures against it? Is there any doctrine or duty taught in the Bible that can be sustained by more convincing testimony? Or that can be more satisfactorily freed from objections? It seems to me that candid minds, after seriously investigating the subject, can come to no other conclusion. I know that it is a momentous conclusion, drawing after it the most radical change of views, feelings, conduct, and character throughout Christendom and the world that can well be imagined. But will it not be a most glorious and salutary revolution? When all who sincerely reverence the Bible, as in any sacred sense the word of God to mankind, shall contemplate the Old Testament as the prophecy and preparative of the new, pointing forward to the perfect development of moral excellence under the reign of Jesus Christ; when they shall see in his precepts, examples, and spirit a perfect manifestation of the divine wisdom and goodness; and shall feel that his righteousness, imbibed into the hearts and exhibited in the lives of mankind, is the only remedy for all the world’s disorders!
“Fly swifter round, ye wheels of time,
And bring the welcome day.”