Posts Tagged ‘God’s Law’

Brian Schwertley on the necessity of Biblical Law

January 22, 2013
Brian Schwertley

Brian Schwertley

In order to emphasize the necessity of biblical law for all areas of life (the family, business, the church and the state) one must recognize the fact that all law is inescapably religious. Once Christians understand this fact, they will no longer accept humanistic law presented under the guise of neutrality, freedom and fairness. Many American Christians have bought into two popular (yet thoroughly unscriptural) concepts of law. One says that a person should not legislate morality. The other states that a nation must remain neutral with respect to religion when making civil laws. The thinking behind such slogans is that since America is a large nation composed of hundreds of religions, the path toward “liberty for all” involves keeping all religious beliefs out of civil affairs. The state must be totally “secular” in its foundation and outlook.

There are a number of things to note regarding these unbiblical conceptions of law. First, the idea that a civil law can exist that is not based on morality and religion of some type is a myth. Rushdoony writes: “The statement, ‘You can’t legislate morality,’ is a dangerous half-truth and even a lie, because all legislation is concerned with morality. Every law on the statute books of every civil government is either an example of enacted morality or it is procedural thereto. Our laws are all moral laws, representing a system of morality. Laws against manslaughter and murder are moral laws; they echo the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ Laws against theft are commandments against stealing. Slander and libel laws, perjury laws, enact the moral requirement, ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’ Traffic laws are moral laws also: their purpose is to protect life and property; again, they reflect the Ten Commandments. Laws concerning police and court procedures have a moral purpose also, to further justice and to protect law and order. Every law on the statute books is concerned with morality or with the procedures for the enforcement of law, and all law is concerned with morality. We may disagree with the morality of a law, but we cannot deny the moral concern of law. Law is concerned with right and wrong; it punishes and restrains evil and protects the good, and this is exactly what morality is about. It is impossible to have law without having morality behind that law, because all law is simply enacted morality.” (6) This point does not mean that man can be saved through law or that laws can change people internally making them moral. It simply makes clear what should be obvious to all, that all laws are a reflection of what people consider right or wrong (ethics) and what people consider to be right or wrong is based on a particular world and life view (religion). (A person’s world-view is equivalent to his or her religion because it deals with an ultimate view of reality or an interpretation of the meaning of life).

Second, these unbiblical conceptions of law are rooted in the myth of neutrality. Does the Bible teach that man can somehow transcend himself, his environment and his own presuppositions regarding reality to autonomously discover truth and ethics in the universe? No. Man is a sinful creature who is dependent on God at every single point. While it is true that man is created in the image of God, lives in a God-created and conditional environment, is exposed to natural revelation at every moment and has a knowledge of God (Rom. 1:19ff.) and His law (Rom. 2:14-15), the Bible teaches that this knowledge is continually suppressed in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Natural revelation is enough to condemn man. However, it cannot be used in an autonomous manner to develop a consistent and thorough biblical system of justice. It was never intended by God to be used apart from special revelation. The Bible unequivocally condemns the idea of neutrality in favor of a total allegiance to Jesus Christ and His law word. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Pr. 1:7). Believers are told to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). If Jesus is to direct every thought, why and how can this exclude laws directed to families and society? The only way that nations can have real justice is to “kiss the Son” (Ps. 2:12) and become disciples of all that He has commanded (Mt. 28:20). Unbelievers who walk in the futility of their mind, who have a darkened understanding (Eph. 4:17-18); who have futile thoughts and foolish darkened hearts (Rom. 1:21) obviously cannot develop a just body of laws apart from thinking God’s thoughts after Him. God’s special revelation is the only place mankind can find a truly just, infallible, reliable, non-arbitrary law-system. “In Your light we see light” (Ps. 36:9). “The commandment is a lamp, and the law a light” (Pr. 6:23). One cannot serve two masters (Mt. 6:24). It is impossible to simultaneously adhere to biblical law (the law of Christ) and heathen law-systems. Although there may be surface points of agreement between a Christian law order and a pagan system (e.g., murder is wrong) at bottom each is fundamentally different for one stands upon the bedrock of Scripture while the other flows from rebellious, sinful human autonomy. “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

Modern professing Christians who have adopted a position of “neutrality” with regard to civil laws and affairs have themselves adopted a position that is really not neutral at all. They unwittingly have endorsed a position that is hostile to a Christian law order. The results have been predictable. First, society adheres to a quasi-Christian form of natural law. Direct revelation is viewed as an embarrassment to intellectuals and much too specific for civil magistrates. As a result an appeal is made to general revelation, which in a post fall world is vague and malleable. Society at this time is directed in a general manner by the Christian world-view. Second, natural law theory is co-opted by anti-Christian secularists. Men appeal to natural law as something objective, but the transcendent, the supernatural and the divine are rejected for an immanent natural order. The personal God of the Bible and His special revelation are left out of the picture. At this point men pretend to be objective; however, it is their autonomous minds apart from God’s word that determine what is true and right. Third, there is a shift among intellectuals toward evolutionary thinking. Law is then considered as something that is non-objective and always changing. This last stage leads directly to legal positivism, pragmatism and secular humanism. Law is simply whatever society says it is. This view says that there are no ethical absolutes.

When Christians accept neutrality (e.g., any non-biblically defined version of natural law) in the civil sphere they sign a peace treaty with those at war with Christ and His people. They open the gates for the Trojan horse of secular humanism and its fruits (statism, abortion on demand, sodomite rights, anti-Christian legislation, etc.). Because law is inescapably religious, believers who adopt a portion of neutrality enable their enemies to disestablish the Christian law order (e.g., as seen in the puritan and colonial eras) and replace it with a godless humanism. “Christian scholars have endlessly asserted the existence of neutral, ‘natural’ laws that can serve as the church’s earthly hope of the ages, an agreeable middle way that will mitigate the conflict in history between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. The winner of such a naive quest will always be the kingdom of man. Theoretical neutrality means man’s operational autonomy: men do not have to consider what God requires or threatens in history.” (7)

Third, given the fact that neutrality is impossible, all law systems are founded on a particular world view or faith commitment. As Rushdoony has pointed out, “It must be recognized that in any culture the source of law is the god of that society.” (8) In a society where laws are determined by majority vote and/or public opinion, one could say that mankind (or a majority of the populace) is the god of that society. In an Islamic society the Koran or the false god taught by Mohammed (or perhaps Mohammed himself) is the god of that society. There are Buddhist, Shinto, Hindu and even animist law orders. This fact does not mean that in the modern world cultures do not pragmatically borrow laws and rules from other cultures; they often do. (e.g, In the nineteenth century Japan, which had a Shinto religious base and an emperor cult, borrowed laws and procedures from the west as a path to power, economically and militarily.) However, it does give us insight regarding any society. One can examine the laws of a particular culture and ask: “Why is it wrong to discriminate against homosexuals?” or even, “Why does your culture outlaw murder?” If one responds, “Well, it is against the law;” then one should ask, “Yes, but why is it against the law? Why does your society say that it is wrong (i.e., unethical) to commit murder, or discriminate against sodomites or disallow infanticide (i.e., partial birth abortion).” If one drives the argument, the reasoning, back to its original starting point, then one can discover the faith commitment or presupposition regarding reality behind the laws of a particular culture.

When one applies this process to the American law system it is evident that our society is functioning under a secular humanistic law order with some remaining remnants of a Christian law system (e.g., laws based on biblical ethics which are intended to protect the family). In a Christian nation the state understands its responsibility under Christ to implement biblical law by applying the moral principles of divine revelation to modern culture. Neither government leaders, nor judges nor the people have the right to add or detract from Jehovah’s perfect ethical standard (Dt. 4:2; Pr. 30:6). “Nothing is more deadly or more derelict than the notion that the Christian is at liberty with respect to the kind of law he can have….Neither positive law nor natural law can reflect more than the sin and apostasy of man: revealed law is the need and privilege of Christian society.” (9) However, in modern America laws are made or changed solely based upon the opinion of the people. This law-making process can be by direct vote (the will of the majority), by persons elected by the majority (e.g., the congress and senate), or by declaration of a court (e.g., the supreme court). But, what is the standard, foundation or basis of the various decisions by the people, legislature or courts. Is it God’s law, the unchanging standard of righteousness? No. Appeals to the Bible are deemed a violation of church and state.The only decision acceptable is one based on the autonomous choice of the people. Appeals can be made to human reason, utility, fairness, pragmatics, equality and so on. But, by eliminating all appeals to the transcendent and absolute (the unchanging law of God) society is set adrift on an ocean of arbitrary human desires. Such is the essence of humanism-the exaltation and worship of man. It is the religion of the serpent who said to Eve, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). In American circles of power, truth is whatever idea wins the latest popularity contest. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Jdg. 17:6). “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Pr. 14:12).

America’s radical departure from biblical law toward secular humanistic law raises an important question. Why do the majority of professing Christians in this nation ignore or disregard the emergence of an anti-Christian secularism in the schools, courts and legislatures? A major reason is that modern humanism has disguised its hatred of biblical Christianity under the cover of “pluralism.” America, it is argued, is a nation of great diversity that can only exist peacefully under the flag of religious tolerance. Therefore, the humanists have nurtured a two-tiered system. There is the polytheism and pluralism of the masses. But in the important matters of law there is the secular rule of the humanistic elite. One often observes Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant politicians on television assuring people not to worry, that their personal religious beliefs have no influence on the manner in which they will vote and determine legislation. In other words, “In my personal life I believe in God but when I enter the public arena I am an operational atheist.” In the name of neutrality and tolerance the humanists have taken power with the full consent of a majority of Christians. It is only in the last forty years as the humanists have grossly perverted justice (e.g., the legalization of abortion) and openly expressed its hatred of Christianity that many Christians have become alarmed. Secular humanism is an aggressive religion that is evangelistic and expansive; it seeks total jurisdiction over every area of life. It is the same philosophy that at bottom lies behind Nazism and Marxism.

Christians today must wake up and understand that there are two alternatives for American culture. There is theonomy or autonomy. There is humanistic law or biblical law. There is the tyranny of the secular state that rules by its own decrees and grants or repeals rights as it sees fit; or there is liberty, freedom and justice under God’s unchanging, objective, absolute standard. With God’s law all men, both rulers and citizens are under the same objective law-word. The freedom and incredible cultural advances of the West did not happen by accident. As societies place themselves under the rule of Christ and submit to His law they make great advances in godly dominion. When Christians reject the necessity of biblical law for all areas of life (including the public square) they invite rival philosophies to fill the void. We must put into use the tools of dominion. We must conquer by the Word and Spirit or we will be persecuted by a rival religious faith.

Greg Bahnsen on civil magistrates being minsters of God

November 3, 2012

Greg Bahnsen

Paul, following the Old Testament, had a religious conception or understanding of the civil magistrate. In Remans 13 he twice categorized the magistrate in society as a “minister of God” (VV. 4, 6). If you ask the ordinary Christian today where one can find Gods “minister,” he will point you to the pastor of the local church. He will not think to point you to the city, state, or federal magistrate, for he has capitulated to the mentality of humanistic secularism. Paul had not done so, even though the Roman emperors of his day were far from ‘religious” in the commendable sense of that term. Whatever the C aesars may have thought of themselves, Paul thought of them as Go#s rru”nistm. They were God’s prescribed instruments for maintaining order and punishing evildoers according to God’s will.

In Remans 13:6 Paul used the title of “eitourgos” to describe the magistrate as God’s “minister.” In the ancient world this term was used for work done to promote the social order, work performed in the service of the divine-state. So Paul used the term with a theological twist. The magistrate is not a minister of the divine-state, but rather the state is th minister of God Himself. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), this term is used to describe the ministry of angels, priests, and prophets — and yet it is likewise used for civil leadership. In Remans 13:4 Paul’s term is “diakonos” or “dea- con .“ Outside the New Testament the term is used in the title, “deacon of the city,” an office which aimed at the education of good citizenship. Within the New Testament the term is clearly laden with religious comotation, being applied to the “ministry” of Christ (Matt. 20:28), of Paul (1 Tim. 1:12), and of an office within the church (Acts 6:1-6). Even as there are deacons within the church, Paul declared that there are deacons in the state: namely, men who are appointed by God to minister justice in His name. By utilizing these two terms for “minister,” and by making clear that the ruler is a minister of God, Paul unequivocally teaches the religious character of the civil leader’s office. In the perspective of the New Testament, magistrates must be deemed servants of God. His rule is supreme, and their rules are subordinate. Civil magistrates must be understood to be deputies of God Himself, not free and independent despots who can simply do as they please.

Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today, (1985), p. 258.


Rev. Brian Schwertley on the covenantal sphere of the family and the responsibilities of the Church

March 5, 2012

‎”The dominion mandate was originally given to a family: Adam and Eve. Because of the fall and sin, the church has become the primary administrator of the Great Commission since godly dominion can only be achieved through the preaching of the gospel and the discipling of the nations. The covenant of grace is dependent upon the preaching of God’s grace. The family unit exists on earth, while the church, God’s spiritual family, extends throughout eternity. Although the Great Commission was given specifically by Christ to His church, Christian families are still very prominent in achieving godly dominion. There are a number of reasons why the Christian family is crucial to godly dominion. First, the family is the nursery of both church and state. God has always dealt with families covenantally. The children of believers are members of God’s covenant. God wants believers to think in terms of the future, to think generationally. The Christian discipline and self-government taught in the home will have a tremendous impact on the future of both the church and society. Secular humanists and statists are aware of the importance of controlling children. Thus, state schools are adept at making children “good” citizens of the state. Children are taught to look to the messianic state as savior and lord of society. Whoever controls the children controls the future. For worldwide dominion to occur, it must extend and expand into the future. Second, private property, economic activity and scientific progress rest not with the church or the state, but with the family. The church has the means of grace and the state bears the sword of justice, but neither is responsible for direct economic and scientific progress. The church may own meeting places and theological schools, but it is not an economic or scientific organization. The state, being responsible for civil defense, has a scientific and economic interest in weapons systems and military training institutes, but the state has no biblical mandate to engage in economic activity and own property outside of the limited parameters of civil justice and defense. “The earth is indeed the Lord’s as is all dominion, but God has chosen to give dominion over the earth to man, subject to His law-word, and property is a central aspect of that dominion. The absolute and transcendental title to property is the Lord’s; the present and historical title to property is man’s. The ownership of property does not leave this world when it is denied to man; it is simply transferred to the state.”

– Rev. Brian Schwertley


Rev. Brian Schwertley on the Judicial Laws of the Old Testament

February 22, 2012

Brian Schwertley

A third category of biblical law is the judicial law. The judicial or civil laws of the Old Testament contained a body of laws for the ancient nation of Israel. There are civil laws which applied only to the nation of Israel. There are also civil laws which are moral case laws. These case laws are based upon the Ten Commandments and are moral in character, and as such, are binding on all nations, in all ages. Laws that reflect God’s moral character are as binding and perpetual as the Ten Commandments themselves. The moral case laws flesh out the Ten Commandments. They apply the various commandments to different situations. For example, the command “Thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13) involves more than just murder. The moral case laws that apply the sixth commandment to society set forth rules: to protect life from accidental death and injury (Deut. 22:8); to protect society from dangerous, incorrigible criminals (Deut. 21:18-21); to protect citizens from hatred and personal vengeance (Lev. 21:18-21), and so on. These laws are moral; they are applications of the sixth commandment. To ignore the case laws, or to argue that the case laws are no longer binding, is to gut the moral law. It is, in a sense, a severe limiting of the Ten Commandments themselves, for they were always intended by God to be a summary of the moral law.

The continuing validity and necessity of the civil laws is plainly seen in the case of sexual immorality. The authors of the New Testament presuppose the continuity of the Old Testament moral case laws when they discuss sexual ethics. “Paul appealed to the extra-Decalogical prohibition against incest (1 Cor. 5:1). The case law against homosexuality was upheld in the New Testament (1 Cor 9:9; 1 Tim. 5:18)…. ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’ is a generalized requirement of sexual purity which includes, among other things, the duty to avoid incest, homosexuality, and bestiality (cf. Lev. 20:11-16). If the judicial case laws are now set aside, then the New Testament has a conception of sexual purity different from the Old.”  The fact that bestiality is not condemned anywhere in the New Testament proves that the apostles assumed the continuity of the Old Testament moral case laws. If one argues that bestiality is prohibited by the New Testament injunctions against sexual immorality (i.e., fornication), then one has implicitly accepted the validity of the Old Testament moral case laws, for one is using Old Testament moral case laws to define “sexual immorality.” Laws regarding rape, seduction, homosexuality, prostitution, incest, indecent exposure, and so on are carefully delineated in the Old Testament case laws. To disregard these laws is to make it virtually impossible for a modern state to have a just, biblical system of judicial law.

Much of the misunderstanding and refusal to recognize the moral case laws as binding stems from the fact that a number of the judicial laws have indeed been abrogated. The judicial law not only contained case laws that applied the Ten Commandments to the family and society, they also contained some laws that were local and temporal, that were never meant to apply to the nations outside of Israel. For example, the New Testament teaches that the land of Canaan was but a type of the believer’s citizenship in heaven (Heb. 11:8-16). The kingdom of God has been taken away from the Jewish nation and given to the church (Matt. 21:43). Therefore, laws regarding political loyalty to Israel and defending Israel with physical means are not applicable today. Laws which dealt specifically with the land of Israel (e.g., the laws of jubilee, the cities of refuge) also do not continue. The judicial law contained regulations designed to protect the lineage of the coming Messiah (e.g., levirate marriage and the requirement to keep plots of land within family bloodlines); with the coming of Jesus Christ, these laws are no longer necessary. These laws cannot even be applied to modern Israel; the documents proving family lineage and proper succession of family plots were destroyed in A. D. 70 by the Romans. Other aspects of Old Testament Jewish society that were never intended to be binding on the Gentile nations are the Jewish form of civil government, the location of the capitol, the organization of the military and the method of tax collection (many Theonomists include the method of execution). The judicial laws of Israel have ceased, except those laws which teach abiding universal moral principles.

Some believers attempt to circumvent the moral case laws by arguing that these laws applied to a culture far different from the one which exists today. While it is true that our culture is different from ancient Israel’s, the moral principles which underlie the case laws can and should be applied to every society. For example, the Israelites were commanded by God to put a parapet or fence on their roofs, “that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it” (Deut. 22:8). Few Americans have patios on their rooftops as did the ancient Israelites, but many do have balconies or swimming pools that need to be fenced in the same way. The moral case laws continue, but need to be applied to modern situations. Would Christians argue that it is permissible to leave the railing off balconies in high rise apartments because such a regulation is only discussed in the Old Testament?

The only alternatives to applying the principles of the moral case laws to nations today are: 1.) to argue that all law is relativistic and conditioned by culture; 2.) to assert some sort of natural law theory in which sinful man is free to ignore the clear, inspired precepts of God and instead reason from nature; or 3.) to attempt to derive our own moral case laws from the Ten Commandments and the moral laws repeated in the New Testament. This would mean that the inspired, infallible moral case laws of the Old Testament would be ignored, while fallible sinful men attempt to formulate their own case laws from the general moral commands. History has shown the repeated failure of these alternatives.

Does God’s law apply today? Are civil governments obligated to apply the moral law, including the moral case laws, toward modern society? Are Christians obligated to follow the moral law as a guide to sanctification, or are they simply to follow the Spirit’s leading in a subjective, mystical sense? We live in a time when the church (both Evangelical and Reformed) has to a certain extent an arbitrary, schizophrenic view of God’s law. Many Fundamentalist churches teach that the whole Old Testament law has been abrogated by Jesus Christ. Yet in the battle against secular humanism, it is not uncommon to hear Fundamentalists quoting from the Old Testament case laws in order to stem the tide of anti-Christian statism. Many of those in Reformed and Presbyterian circles like to think of themselves as anti-Dispensational champions of God’s moral law. Yet many, if not most, of those in Bible-believing Presbyterian circles do not believe that the moral case laws found in the Old Testament civil law and their accompanying penal sanctions apply to modern nations. Many have also accepted the idea of religious pluralism (i.e., equal status for atheism, Satanism, Buddhism, Islam, Arminianism, etc.), and believe that the civil government does not have the right to uphold the first table of the law (i.e., punish open heretics, blasphemers, rank idolaters, etc.). The only way to have a biblical understanding of God’s law is to examine the passages of Scripture which discuss the place of God’s law in the New covenant, and the relation of Christians to that law. We believe that the Bible teaches that God’s moral law and the moral case laws “of the Old Testament are still binding on society in the New Testament era, unless annulled or otherwise transformed by a New Testament teaching, either directly or by implication. In short, there is judicial and moral continuity between the two testaments.


Sabbath Observance in a Christian Commonwaelth

February 11, 2012

In this lecture Rev. Brian Schwertley explains the proper role of the State in sabbath day observence:

Matthew Henry on the duty of the civil magistrate to keep both tables of the law

January 20, 2012


“Moreover, when ye shall divide by lot the land for inheritance, ye shall offer an oblation unto the LORD, a holy portion of the land: the length shall be the length of five and twenty thousand reeds, and the breadth shall be ten thousand. This shall be holy in all the borders thereof round about.  Of this there shall be for the sanctuary five hundred in length, with five hundred in breadth, square round about; and fifty cubits round about for the suburbs thereof.   And of this measure shalt thou measure the length of five and twenty thousand, and the breadth of ten thousand: and in it shall be the sanctuary and the most holy place.  The holy portion of the land shall be for the priests the ministers of the sanctuary, which shall come near to minister unto the LORD: and it shall be a place for their houses, and an holy place for the sanctuary.  And the five and twenty thousand of length, and the ten thousand of breadth, shall also the Levites, the ministers of the house, have for themselves, for a possession for twenty chambers.  And ye shall appoint the possession of the city five thousand broad, and five and twenty thousand long, over against the oblation of the holy portion: it shall be for the whole house of Israel.  And a portion shall be for the prince on the one side and on the other side of the oblation of the holy portion, and of the possession of the city, before the oblation of the holy portion, and before the possession of the city, from the west side westward, and from the east side eastward: and the length shall be over against one of the portions, from the west border unto the east border.  In the land shall be his possession in Israel: and my princes shall no more oppress my people; and the rest of the land shall they give to the house of Israel according to their tribes.  And it shall be the prince’s part to give burnt offerings, and meat offerings, and drink offerings, in the feasts, and in the new moons, and in the sabbaths, in all solemnities of the house of Israel: he shall prepare the sin offering, and the meat offering, and the burnt offering, and the peace offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Ezekiel 45:1-8,17).

“Directions are here given for the dividing of the land after their return to it; and, God having warranted them to do it, would be an act of faith, and not of folly, thus to divide it before they had it. And it would be welcome news to the captives to hear that they should not only return to their own land, but that, whereas they were now but few in number, they should increase and multiply, so as to replenish it. But this never had its accomplishment in the Jewish state after the return out of captivity, but was to be fulfilled in the model of the Christian church, which was perfectly new (as this division of the land was quite different from that in Joshua’s time) and much enlarged by the accession of the Gentiles to it; and it will be perfected in the heavenly kingdom, of which the land of Canaan had always been a type. Now, 1. Here is the portion of land assigned to the sanctuary, in the midst of which the temple was to be built, with all its courts and purlieus; the rest round about it was for the priests. This is called (v. 1an oblation to the Lord; for what is given in works of piety, for the maintenance and support of the worship of God and the advancement of religion, God accepts as given to him, if it be done with a single eye. It is a holy portion of the land, which is to be set out first, as the first-fruits that sanctify the lump. The appropriating of lands for the support of religion and the ministry is an act of piety that bids as fair for perpetuity, and the benefit of posterity, as any. This holy portion of the land was to be measured, and the borders of it fixed, that the sanctuary itself might not have more than its share and in time engross the whole land. So far the lands of the church shall extend and no further; as in our own kingdom donations to the church were of old limited by the statute of mortmain.The lands here allotted to the sanctuary were 25,000 reeds (so our translation makes it, though some make them only cubits) in length, and 10,000 in breadth-about eighty miles one way and thirty miles another way (say some); twenty-five miles one way and ten miles the other way, so others.

The priests and Levites that were to come near to minister were to have their dwellings in this portion of the land that was round about the sanctuary, that they might be near their work; whereas by the distribution of land in Joshua’s time the cities of the priests and Levites were dispersed all the nation over. This intimates that gospel ministers should reside upon their charge; where their service lies there must they live. 2. Next to the lands of the sanctuary the city-lands are assigned, in which the holy city was to be built, and with the issues and profits of which the citizens were to be maintained (v. 6): It shall be for the whole house of Israel, not appropriated, as before, to one tribe or two, but some of all the tribes shall dwell in the city, as we find they did, Neh. xi. 1, 2. The portion for the city was fully as long, but only half as broad, as that for the sanctuary; for the city was enriched by trade and therefore had the less need of lands. 3. The next allotment after the church-lands and the city-lands is of the crown-lands, v. 7, 8. Here is no admeasurement of these, but they are said to lie on the one side and on the other side of the church-lands and city-lands, to intimate that the prince with his wealth and power was to be a protection to both. Some make the prince’s share equal to the church’s and city’s share both together; others make it to be a thirteenth part of the rest of the land, the other twelve parts being for the twelve tribes. The prince that attends continually to the administration of public affairs must have wherewithal to support his dignity, and have abundance, that he may not be in temptation to oppress the people, which yet with many does not prevent that; but the grace of God shall prevent it, for it is promised here, My princes shall no more oppress my people; for God will make the officers peace and the exactors righteousness. Notwithstanding this, we find that after the return of the Jews to their own land the princes were complained of for their exactions. But Nehemiah was one that did not do as the former governors, and yet kept a handsome court, Neh. v. 15, 18. But so much is said of the prince in this mystical holy state, to intimate that in the gospel-church magistrates should be as nursing fathers to it and Christian princes its patrons and protectors; and the holy religion they profess, as far as they are subject to the power of it, will restrain them from oppressing God’s people, because they are more his people than theirs. 4. The rest of the lands were to be distributed to the people according to their tribes, who had reason to think themselves well settled, when they had both the testimony of Israel and the throne of judgment so near them.”

“(v. 17). It shall be the prince’s part to provide all the offerings, to make reconciliation for the house of Israel. The people were to bring their oblations to him according to the foregoing rules, and he was to bring them to the sanctuary, and to make up what fell short out of his own. Note, It is the duty of rulers to take care of religion, and to see that the duties of it be regularly and carefully performed by those under their charge, and that nothing be wanting that is requisite thereto: the magistrate is the keeper of both tables; and it is a happy thing when those that are above others in power and dignity go before them in the service of God.”


Recognizing The Authority Of The Lord Jesus Christ and His Law Word

January 10, 2012

James Renwick Willson (1780-1853)

“It is the duty of believers who would be faithful in their allegiance to the “one like unto the son of man”—to Messiah the prince of the kings of the earth, to dissent from all those institutions of civil government, which in christian nations do not recognize the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, nor profess to be governed in their constitutions and laws by the word of God revealed in the Holy Scriptures. “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” Ex. 23:22. “Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” Eph. 5:7. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Rev. 18:4. Were any land, filled with Bibles, thousands of christian ministers, and hundreds of thousands of professors of the christian religion, to frame constitutions of civil government, without naming the Lord Jesus Christ, or his Bible, or his Church; without any recognition of his authority, without any notice of God, as their supreme Lord, without even alluding to the claims of his law; were they to proceed on the principle that the ultimate source of all civil authority, is the will of the majority of the people; were they to open the doors of office, to all the enemies of God, and constitutionally forbid the exclusion of these wicked men from office; and were they to make provision by their constitution for the enslaving and holding in perpetual bondage millions of unoffending men; would not such a nation commit sin in the doing of all this? Could all these transactions be otherwise fairly construed than as acts of rebellion against the Prince of the kings of the earth? Would any christian be free from sin in assenting to these acts of dishonour done to Christ, in making them all his own by an oath of allegiance, and taking an active part in the administration of the laws under such constitutions? If it be possible to offer an indignity to Christ by any national neglect and contempt of his government and law, it would be done by such deeds as these. If any one can commit sin by following a multitude to do evil, would it not be done by such a recognition of such constitutions? Proposed in this abstract form, did no one see its immediate practical bearing, perhaps, there could not be found any believer in the Bible who would not, at once assent to the conclusion that it would be sin. All would probably condemn the nation as guilty of sin, and also all who would incorporate themselves with them in these doings. But popular errors, interest, the fear of man, of reproach, and the pride of life blind the eyes of millions. Such a nation is the United States; a land filled with Bibles, more than ten thousand Protestant ministers, and churches, and many hundreds of thousands of professors baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and claiming to be his disciples. Yet this nation has framed its federal or national constitution on the principles supposed above. Notwithstanding all the disregard manifested for the law of God, the honour conferred on his avowed enemies, and the enslaving of millions of men, under the solemn sanction of constitutional law, the great majority of professing christians assent to all, and are much displeased, when any one calls in question the righteousness of these national deeds. There is no visible body of christians, that have abstained from a participation in these evils, or that bear witness against them, except Reformed Presbyterians.”

The Rule of Duty to Christian Nations to Civil Institutions by James Renwick Willson (1780-1853).