From The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland Magazine, Volume 1 (1896)
THE Scripture evidence in favour of an Establishment of religion is so extensive that it is not easy to give a short summary of it. We are obliged, therefore, in this short sketch to confine our attention to the most salient points. Under the terms of the covenant of works man was bound to obey God in all things. Had he kept his first estate all the civil and sacred relations in the world would have been in entire harmony with the will of God. But sin entered, and all these relations ceased to be for the honour of the Creator. Yet it must be remembered that God did not abrogate His own law, and that the obligation to obey Him is still in force over all the nations and individuals on the earth. This being so, they are bound to obey Him, even if they are unable. Nations and individuals would never grudge Him the honour due to Him were it not for sin. Sin is inexcusableable before God, therefore the refusal to acknowledge Him as King and Law-giver is inexcusable. It is an offence to God, even under the terms of a covenant of works, that nations should deny to Him the glory due to His name. The Three Persons in the Godhead were engaged in the work of creation. It was with infinite delight God viewed His own work. In viewing it with infinite delight He had before His omniscient eye the glorious transaction that was to result in the new creation through the last Adam. It was through the Son who was then, as He is now, “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,” that He made the worlds. By the word of His power ” all things were and are upheld. The first Adam, by his sin, ceased to hold the right of heirship under a covenant of works, and Christ who made all things is “appointed heir of all things.” This joyful announcement is made in Eden to those who lost their inheritance by their sin. They must now turn to another covenant for life, a covenant ordered in all things and sure. The history of the Church after this all revolves around the promise. The glory of the first creation consisted in the manifestations of the Trinity in executing this work preparatory to the revelation of a purpose of grace in which greater glory was to be revealed through the incarnation of the Second Person—the appointed heir of all things. This glory was designed to transcend the other. Now, keeping other great doctrines at present in abeyance, the question arises, How is the Heir of all things glorified in respect of the relation that should subsist between the Church and the State? It is the work of the devil to mar every relation by sin; but the work of Christ implies in it the restoration of all these relations into harmony with the mind and will of God. This intention we can only know through a revelation from God. We may conclude at the threshold of our inquiry that God, in taking vengeance upon the enemy, shall do so in the way that will conduce most to the glory of His own name in the manifestations made.of Himself in Christ. Sin is a barrier to this, but the barrier must be removed in order to make room for this glory.
Obstacles are in the way, but He will set them aside. Towering mountains appear to the eye of reason, but His feet shall be all the better seen in their beauty when He travels in the greatness of His strength. It is God Himself who proposes and carries into execution that which was in His mind from all eternity. We must therefore turn to the Word of the Lord for guidance in this matter as in all others. Here we will find the gradual unfolding of the hidden mystery of a purpose to constitute Christ, the last Adam, the Heir of all things, until a consummation is reached in the triumphant shout from the great voices in heaven : “ The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 11:15). But between the time that the Church shall first be established on a righteous basis and the consummation in which there shall be one grand universal Established Church, we may expect to find the two powers, the spiritual and the carnal, the powers of heaven and those of hell, the powers of light and those of darkness, contending for the possession of the kingdoms, and of the relation in which the kingdoms should stand to the Heir and to His bride. And shall we for a moment doubt as to which side shall ultimately triumph? Shall we for a moment lay aside our weapons of warfare because the enemy imagines that he has gained a temporary victory? Shall we give up our efforts in seeking to be in harmony with Jehovah’s will and purpose in constituting His Son head over ail things in the Church, because in our day the subject is involved in serious contention? That were to cease contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. Those who act thus, while admitting the scriptural principle of an establishment of religion, are guilty of ignoring the paramount claims of the mediatorial relation in which Christ stands between God and man. They subordinate principle to expediency,”‘and thereby subordinate the paramount claims of Christ to their own circumstances.
But it may be asked, Is this principle found in Scripture ? How strange if it were not! How strange if this relation were left in the possession of Satan while all other relations are delivered! How remarkable it would be that we should be asked to eat and drink, and to do whatsoever we do to God’s glory with this exception! But it is not so. Scripture plainly shows that the antagonism between the Church and the State can be removed by God in a way that shall in a pre-eminent manner show His glory. Ah! how lovely is everything which He does. How lovely is the relation of Church and State when Christ’s government is set up in both!
Israel’s history furnishes us with clear proof of the possibility and the practicability of Church in union with the State. But we are at once met with the objection that Israel was a Theocracy, governed under the immediate direction of God. Be it so; what objection is there to being immediately governed by God? And is it reasonable to suppose that under the New Testament dispensation we are to be further away from God? That is not the testimony of the epistle to the Hebrews. God “hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.”
The boundaries between Church and State were clearly delineated in the time of David and afterwards, as well as in the time of Moses in the wilderness. David could give commands regarding the ark of God, but he could not do the work of the Levites (1 Chron 15:12-16). If Uzziah even, who is a zealous reformer, invades the spiritual province of the priests, he must be resisted at all hazards (2 Chron 26:16-21.). We have, perhaps, one of the finest illustrations of the practical application of the principle of an establishment on record in the arrangements made when Ezra and Nehemiah rebuilt the temple. It was one of the best days of the Church. She had put on her beautiful garments in such a manner that there was no comparison found for her in any generation but the godly generation in which Joshua led the people. Notice the order that obtains in the restored church. Godly Nehemiah not only obtains permission from a heathen king to build the house, but also obtains an order for the material wherewith it is to be set up, along with the protection of captains of the army and horsemen. Here we have assistance and protection which are not spurned by the Church because of the source from which they are procured. But notice, further, how jealous Nehemiah is in regard to the spiritual prerogatives pertaining to the temple. Nehemiah himself is the Tirshatha, or civil governor; Ezra, with the priests and Levites, preaches and expounds the law, and both parties together enter into a solemn covenant, “ And because of all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal into it (Nehemiah 9:38.). Here we have a lovely precedent for our own national covenant.
We might multiply examples, but let us now inquire into the promises, promises which are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. Do they indicate that the kingdoms as such shall be subject to Christ’s rule ? Do they depict the triumph of Messiah as subduing all things to Himself? Do they indicate that He shall be crowned as King of Kings quite as truly as He shall be crowned King of Zion ?
The declaration of the eternal sonship in the second Psalm is joined to an offer on the part of the Father to the Son of the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. To this is added an imperative call to kings and judges to serve the Lord with fear, to rejoice with trembling, and to kiss the Son. How could they possibly do this withbut embracing Christ in the Gospel in all their regal and judicial capacities? If they refuse, they must inevitably perish for they rob Christ of that glory wherewith He is invested, quite as surely as the Erastian does who invades the royal prerogatives of which the Father speaks when He says in the same Psalm, “Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” And it is rather remarkable that all this is presented to us in a Psalm which predicts the rejection of Christ by “ Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel”(Acts 4:25-27). But the vengeance which God takes upon them will have this shining lustre about it, that the rejected stone shall “become the head of the corner.” Let Herod despise, the scribes and pharisees condemn, and Pilate crucify; Christ shall yet be honoured by kings, princes, and churches, with glory and honour in accordance with an eternal purpose. And if in bringing the First Begotten into the world He saith, “And let all the angels of God worship him,” what folly is it on the part of representatives of nations and communities to treat Him with such indifference as was manifested by Herod when He set Him at nought. If space would permit an examination of the Psalms to which special reference is made in the first and second chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews, it would be seen that among other relations they describe the relation in which Christ is to stand under the New Testament dispensation to the kingdoms of this world as such, as He wields the sceptre of righteousness until all His enemies are put in subjection to Him. Isaiah does not delineate the sufferings of Christ without at the same time describing this as a part of that glory which he saw when he spake of Him, namely, “that kings should see and arise, that princes also should worship, and that kings should be the Church’s nursing fathers, and their queens her nursing mothers”(Isaiah 49). In the 6oth chapter, the good days of the Church are described as deep in which her gates shall be open continually, so that men may bring unto her “the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.” With this is conjoined this terrible intimation: “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish; Yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”
How a nation or kingdom could serve the Church by refusing her assistance and protection in the discharge of her duties is beyond our comprehension. A careful study of the visions of Daniel will show how completely all the nations of the world are to be subordinated to the kingdom of the Son of Man, who was brought unto the Ancient of days that He might receive “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him.” In that day, “ It shall come to pass that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feasts of tabernacles” (Zech 14:16). Then shall men cease to rob God in tithes and offerings; for all nations shall call the Church blessed (Malachi 3).
If, then, “ all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms ” concerning Christ, what a strange and unaccountable omission it would be if this one element were left unfulfilled ! What a remarkable loss to Christ it would be to drop this one only gem out of His crown of gold! There would be a defect in His prophetic office; for He would have no message for kings and judges as such. There would be a defect in His priestly office; for it would fail to satisfy the conscience in the discharge of regal and judicial functions in the representation of a corporate unity. There would be a most marked defect in His kingly office; for it would imply the want of power, exercised through saving blood in a revelation of grace, to deliver the kingdoms of the earth from the power of the prince of darkness. But there is no gem lost. There is no defect in any of His offices. Every jot and tittle of His Word must be fulfilled in this respect as in all other respects. It is in vain that men argue that the establishment principle is not found in the New Testament. They might as reasonably say that the moral law is not found in the New Testament. If the moral law is delivered from Sinai, it does not require to be re-delivered; it only requires to be applied. If the establishment principle is given forth in the Old Testament, it does not require to be re-issued under the new dispensation; it only requires to be applied when nations embrace the Gospel in accordance with the promises that are sealed with the blood of Christ, and that must be fulfilled in the fullness of time. The New Testament is full of the principles that should regulate the relation of the Church to the State. Here it will suffice to refer to one or two of the proofs.
There were two main accusations adduced against Christ: (1) He claimed to be God and (2) He made Himself a King. Both are indissolubly united. When He said that His kingdom was not of this world, He did not thereby absolve the Jewish nation from the allegiance which was due to Him as God. He simply opposes spiritual weapons to carnal weapons in prospect of the magnificent triumph which He was on the eve of accomplishing through His own death as a surety. Nor does He abrogate His kingly prerogatives by His submitting to their obscuration under the shadow of Calvary’s cross. It was an offence to the Pharisees that the multitude should praise Him with a loud voice, saying, “ Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest”(Luke 19:37-40). Had the multitude been silent the very stones would have immediately cried out that truth. But over hardness that was not equalled by the stones, the Son of God wept tears of pity, when He beheld the city that was so soon to show its detestation of His kingly claims. And soon after their rejection of these claims this chief city, and the nation,
as such, had terrible experience of the announcement from the lips of Him who cannot lie to which we have already referred: “ For the nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish : yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” Christ, so to speak, takes it ill of nations to be rejected in His Church as He was rejected in the days of His flesh in His person. Highly-favoured Britain would need to take great care how it should deal with His double crown as King of Zion, and King of kings and Lord of lords.
To Paul the constitution of the civil government at Rome, was well known when he wrote the epistle to the Romans. Yet he says, “Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works but to the evil. Wilt thou, then, not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same, for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom 13). Here we have a distinct intimation that the civil ordinance is an ordinance of God which has been designed for the service of Christ, as head above all things, and while, when regulated by His laws is unspeakably serviceable to Him in jealousy, guarding against every invasion of his headship within the domain of the spiritual sphere in the ordinances of His own house. He “is the head of all principality and power” (Col 2:10), for “by him were all things created that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him” (Col 1:16). And all this is intimately connected with the redemption of His Church, the setting up of his kingdom in opposition to the kingdom of darkness, and his headship over His own body, the Church, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence. Why rob Him of this pre-eminence in any relation whatsoever? Why seek to retard and obstruct the progress of Him on whose head there are many crowns, whose vesture is dipped in blood, whose name is the Word of God—the Word made flesh—and on whose blood- dyed vesture there is written without possibility of erasure— KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS (Rev 19:16).