The Duty of Christians Under Wicked Rule

Duty of Christians Under Wicked Rule

Samuel B. Wylie,
Two Sons of Oil, pp. 63-71

1. It is our duty to mourn before God over all the prevailing abominations. This is one of the characters of those who are marked with the broad seal of the Holy Ghost, Ezek, ix. 4. And the Lord said, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof.” We ought, also, to confess and mourn over our own sins, which, no doubt, contribute their share to the procuring and continuance of those evils.

2. We ought to pray for their reformation with earnestness at a throne of grace. 1st Tim. ii. 1, we are commanded to make prayer and supplications for all men; and, Jer. xxix. 7, the captives in Babylon are commanded to “pray for the peace of the city, and cry to the Lord for it, that in its peace they might have peace.” This prayer, however, ought not to recognise them in their official capacity; for this would be saying, Amen, to the immorality of the constitution on which they stand. 2d John, 10th and 11th verses, we are commanded, “not to receive impostors into our houses, or bid them God speed, for he that biddeth them God speed, is partaker of their evil deeds.” This must respect them as deceivers, and not as men, for we are commanded to “pray for all men.” 2d Tim. ii. 1.

3. We ought to use every lawful endeavour to promote reformation, such as rational arguments, and decent remonstrances : thus, 1st Kings xii. 3, 4: “Jeroboam and all the congregation, came to Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous, now, therefore, make the grievous service of thy father, and the heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.” To reason, remonstrate, and expostulate with the generation, on this subject, as well as on others of truth or duty, we are bound, by the love we ought to exercise toward our fellow-brethren of men, in not suffering sin to lie upon them, without informing them of it by the obligation we are under to promote the interest of religion, and the advancement of Immanuel’s kingdom, and by the express command of God. Isai. Iviii. 1: “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Israel their sins.” See, also, Ezek. xxxiii. 1, 9, where we are told that, if the watchman neglect to warn the people of the enemy’s approach, if they die in their sins, their blood shall be required at his hand; but, if he be faithful, and give warning, whether they hear or forbear, he shall deliver his own soul.

4. We ought to do no act which may justly be considered an homologation of their illegitimate authority.

Those who, directly or indirectly, consent to the evil deeds of others, are partakers in their criminality. Ps. i. 18: “When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him:” which God severely reprehends. If, therefore, the constitution be essentially at war with the religion of Jesus, an homologation of it is striking hands with his enemies. No oath of allegiance, therefore, can we swear; because we believe the constitution to be contrary to the moral law, and our covenant engagements. Farther,

We cannot elect public functionaries to fill the various offices in the state; for between the elector and the elected there is a representative oneness; so that every official act, done constitutionally by the latter, is virtually done by the former through his representative organ. He must, also, be introduced to office by an oath homologating the constitution. Whatever, therefore, we cannot do ourselves on account of its immorality, we ought not to employ others to perform.

Neither may we accept of any office to which an oath is annexed, obliging either, first, to support an immoral constitution, or, secondly, to apply, or judge, under the direction of an immoral law. First, to support an immoral constitution. Such are all offices considered by the constitution as belonging either to the executive or judicial departments in this state. An oath, to this amount, is expressly required of all officers, executive and judicial. Secondly, to apply, or judge, under the direction of an immoral law. Of this sort we consider serving on juries. The juror must come under an obligation to determine the law and facts.

This must, certainly, be a determining what is the true spirit and meaning of the law, and its application to the particular fact under consideration. Did it mean a determining whether the law be moral or immoral, and so, such as ought, or ought not, to be carried into operation, juries would possess a negative over the legislature, and render their decisions unobligatory and useless? They are, therefore, bound to apply the existing law, in its true spirit and meaning, to the case immediately under deliberation.

If the civil code contain laws in themselves immoral, we ought not to come under any obligation to determine cases by them, or judge under their direction.

Though we believe most of the laws in the civil code to be just and equitable, yet there are some exceptions.

Such are all laws agreeable to, and predicated upon, the immoral part of the constitution, e.g., laws incorporating Roman Catholic societies, &c. Such, also, are some laws which are unconstitutional, e.g., laws recognizing the right of holding slaves for life, and indemnifying masters where slaves are capitally punished.

Supposing a case, in which any of these immoral laws are concerned, comes before a jury; for example, a suit, in which a master pleads his right of holding one of his fellow-brethren a slave for life, and his brother pleads his right of being free, what is the juror bound by his oath to do in this particular case? The poor man was unfortunately, (but through no fault of his,) born before the 1st of March, 1780, and was registered, in due form of law, before the 1st of November, same year, and is, therefore, legally, a slave. The moral law says he is free. Agreeably to which of these laws, thus opposite to each other, does the juror’s oath bind him to find a verdict? If agreeably to the moral law, the law of the state is set aside, and the legislature is controlled by the jury. But if his verdict be agreeable to the law of the state, in that case made and provided, the law of God is set aside the Majesty of heaven is insulted, and the rights of humanity outraged and trampled upon, by those who ought to protect them. We cannot, conscientiously, put ourselves into such a predicament.

But farther, we may not engage in any service, which is regulated by, or puts us under, the control of any immoral law. Engaging in the militia, when called out to actual service, may come under this consideration. We thus pledge ourselves, by our own act and deed, if need be, to fight in defence of any one of the existing laws, under all existing penalties, in such cases made and provided. Who knows, but while on duty, he may be commanded to spill his blood in support of a mass-house, or at the cannon’s mouth, protect the graven images of the gross idolater, which God has expressly commanded to be destroyed? Deut. vii, 5. We ought not, therefore, to put ourselves into a situation, in which we know, that a thing, in itself immoral, may be legally commanded, under the specific penalties, while we stand pledged, by our own act and deed, to yield obedience.

5. We may do every thing commanded, which is in itself right and lawful; provided it be not clogged by some immoral circumstance. This will account for our refusing to avail ourselves of the rights, execute the offices, or engage in the services mentioned in the last particular: though there is no criminality in the things themselves, yet they are connected with such circumstances as we deem immoral.

Many things, not criminal in themselves, ought to be abstained from, on this account. For example, it would not be considered as unlawful, in itself, for a Presbyterian to go to Rome, suppose to make some mercantile arrangements; but, provided that allegiance to the holy see, and worshipping the host, were made a condition of his entering that city, he ought surely not to go thither. In like manner, the offices, &c. which we refuse, though all lawful, considered in themselves, yet, since they cannot be engaged in, unconnected with some immorality, ought not to be accepted at all. But all other things commanded by the constituted authorities, which are neither in themselves unlawful, nor connected with unlawful circumstances, may be done, not because they are commanded by legitimate authority, (which is the true tessera of loyalty) but, either because the moral law requires them, or because we may be compelled to do them by physical force. This may happen to be the case, in those things which are not in themselves morally evil; and when commanded to do such things under heavy pains, of these two physical evils, we may lawfully choose the least. Thus, I may give away part of my property, to save the remainder, though the man who demands it has no other right than physical force, or a power of compelling obedience.

6. We ought to wait patiently, under these disadvantages, till the Lord be pleased to bring back again the captivity of Zion. Thus, the weeping prophet observes, Lam. iii. 26. “It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.” Our principles may, indeed, subject us to much inconvenience; but we ought, like Moses, to prefer affliction with the people of God to the treasures of Egypt, and the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season; keeping our eye upon the recompense of reward. Heb. xi. 25, 26.

Is it reasonable to expect, that, while the Dragon’s successors are in power, and the rulers of the earth endeavouring to heal the wounds of the beast, the woman and her seed will return from the wilderness? Rev. xii. 14, 17. The time, times, and half a time, or twelve hundred and sixty years, are not yet closed, since she fled thither on eagle’s wings, during which period she should lay her accounts with embarrassments and tribulations.

Nay, there is reason to expect, that still more tremendous scenes of persecution and carnage yet await the church, than any she has hitherto experienced. The Witnesses have not yet finished their testimony. One point yet remains to be sealed with their blood, namely, the Mediator’s headship over the nations. ‘Tis not unlikely, that this is one of the articles for which the witnesses shall be slain, when, as we read, Rev. xi. 8, 9, “they shall lie dead three days and a half,” which is equal to three years and a half, in prophetic language. But they shall have a glorious resurrection, when these three days and a half are expired. And though we should not live to see these happy days, let us rejoice in the consideration, that we have been endeavouring, in our civil and religious systems, to anticipate the millennial period when Jesus shall reign in Jerusalem, in Mount Zion, and before his ancients, gloriously. And, if we are faithful and conscientious in doing so, God will say to us, as he did to David, respecting his intention of building the temple, “Thou didst well that it was in thine heart.”

7. We ought to live peaceable and regular lives, “giving no offence to Jew or Gentile, or to the church of God.” 1st Cor. x. 32. “To adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.” Tit. ii. 10. To oppose all riotous and seditious practices, which may arise to injure the peace and prosperity of the land wherein we live to comply with the common order of society, in all things in themselves lawful to live as citizens of the world, and not incorporate ourselves with the national society, in any of their political movements; looking up for the day of our redemption, when God’s appointed time for favouring Zion shall come.

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