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submission ? He might have done so, if God had not taken care to give us in His word directions of another tendency, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God : and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. . 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... For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing" (Rom. xiii. 1, 2, 4, 6).
But how reconcile this with that which we have just said above, that the powers which exist are illegitimate? To do so is not very difficult.
Every power which exists is ordained of God, not only in the sense in which it is said, that not one sparrow falls to the ground without the leave of God (Mat. x. 29), but also in a more positive sense, because all the actually exist form part of that power which God expressly accorded to Nebuchadnezzar, and which passed from the Chaldeans to the Medes, and to the Persians, then to the Greeks, then to the Romans ; in this sense all existing powers have been positively ordained of God.
But, it may be objected that the Roman empire, however legitimate at the commencement, can only have enjoyed the
privilege of being legitimate up to the moment when God Himself resumed His rights in the world, by sending his son to take possession of the vineyard. This is true; and it is precisely thus that we enter into the application of the parable. Evidently, from the moment when Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified, his authority, legitimate as it was before, became illegitimate, and that of all the successors of the emperor Tiberius has continued illegitimate in itself, and in respect of those who exercise the authority; and it is in this point of view that God will call them to account; for He will destroy the husbandmen and will give the vineyard to others.
But it is otherwise, looked at from the position we are in, from the position the Church is in. For them that love God, all things work together for good (Rom. viii. 28), and the magistrate is the servant of God for their good (Rom. xiii. 4). They know that all that happens to them, all the circumstances in which they find themselves placed, and particularly the powers under which they live, are of God (1 Cor. xi. 12; 2 Cor. v. 18), and they yield Him thanks, therefore. In particular, they give thanks for His having placed them under the authority of magistrates, who are not a terror to good works, but to the evil (Rom. xiii. 3), and they are subject to them not only for wrath's sake, but also for the sake of conscience (Rom. xiii. 5).
These are things which every pious soul feels, even though it understands them not; but every position in which there is zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Rom. x. 2) has its dangers; we should grow in knowledge (Col. i. 10; 2 Pet. iii. 18). I pray God that He may deign of His goodness and by His spirit, to make these lines subservient to the advancement of some in the knowledge of the truth, as to those matters to which they refer.
(Signed) STEVEN VAN MUYDEN.
Etudes Scripturaires, 24 June, 1852.
It is not to be expected, that those who have not faith to follow them, should adopt principles which are those of faith. Neither can it be expected at the present time that controversy will be the means of forcing souls to enter upon the path of faith. It is the time now, by the grace of God, to walk in the narrow way and not to talk about it. The circumstances which surround us, and the progress of evil, demand, what God alone can give, a firm and active walk in that path in which faith alone
will find the means of abiding; for events press in upon us every day more
and more closely.
TO SIN AND NOT SIN.
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John i. 8.)
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin ; for his seed remaineth in him : and he cannot sin, because he is born of God" (1 John iii. 9.)
The need of righteousness in order to be able to stand before God is a thought quite natural; it is expressed clearly enough, even by the heathen, in their cruel sacrifices; yet it is a truth which Satan has perverted to evil. As ever, he has sought to cause confusion between the Creator and the creature, to change the truth of God into a lie. That which he has done among the heathen, he has given a second edition of among Christians, in a more subtle form; and he has, alas! but too oft succeeded. How often do we meet with persons who, while they profess to believe in Christ, have no assurance that righteousness is imputed to them; who, instead of having all their expectation from God, expect something from themselves, thus confounding the work of God with the works of their own hands! In order to live happily in the presence of God, the possession of a human righteousness suffices not; we must have the righteousness of God, a righteousness which results from the substitutional suffering of Jesus, for he was made sin for us, in order that we might be made the righteousness of God in him:
If we are content with what man can do, we are content with very little, or rather with nothing at all; for all that man does is spotted with sin, and thereby bears the stamp of worthlessness.
Man may amuse himself by tying fruit to a fir-tree, but he will never make of it a fruit-tree; man may dress himself up as much as it is possible, he remains, nevertheless, man, who has never
brought forth fruit, and who, even when blessed and cared for by God (comp. Mat. xxi. 33–41), ends by rejecting Him who comes to seek for fruit. The impossibility of producing fruits presentable to God proceeds from the death which reigns in the members of man; and how could one ask for fruit from a tree that is dead? If we want that we must first of all seek for life, even that life, of which the Spirit of God speaks to us in the Epistle of John, life which is in Jesus, and which is communicated from the vine (Jesus) to the branches (John xv). It cannot be that the branches bring not forth fruit, if they abide in union with the tree, which has an exhaustless flow of life, even as it is impossible that they should bring forth fruit if they be separated from the vine.
The first Epistle of John presents us with the nature of God in the Christian, by means of the love of God, manifested in Jesus, and shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us. It is the spirit which quickens, sustains the life, and which makes fruits to be brought forth to the glory and praise of God. Be it remarked, all is represented according to its reality before God, and not according to our thoughts
. This is just the reason why many souls feel embarrassed in the reading of this epistle; for man is ever ready to judge things according to his own thoughts, instead of submitting himself to the judgment of God and abiding by it. Christ has done all: to Him alone pertains the honour of having glorified the Father, in every respect. That is the first principle, of which we must not lose sight, if we would understand what God has communicated to us in his word. Christ has brought us life, not merely with a view of showing it to us, but as a gift of grace, in such sort that he that possesses Jesus, possesses eternal life, for he possesses God; he is in direct fellowship with the Father and with the Son. Without a doubt, it is faith alone which puts us in possession of so precious a possession; faith which sets to its seal to the truth of the testimony of God in Jesus. "And this is the testimony, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may
believe on the name of the Son of God" (1 John v. 11-13).
What assurance! what certitude! There is not a shade of doubt, the life is in Jesus! You who as yet believe not in Him, believe and you will have life; and you who do believe, you have eternal life.
All that has been from the beginning, all the counsels of God are manifested as being realized in the person of Jesus, so that whosoever desires to know Him that is from the beginning, and wishes to be a father, has but to seek the knowledge of Jesus. God has at all times wrought for the putting of men into communion with Himself, in order that they may love what is dear to Him; and Jesus is the perfect and infallible means by which we enter into this precious communion with God (comp. 1 Cor. i.9); consequently, it is above all things needful to have Jesus, for without him we can do nothing. Jesus is the light, so that if any one wishes to see clearly, if he desires to be able to distinguish between good and evil, according to the thoughts of God, he has only to abide near to Jesus, for by Him we enter into the true knowledge of what God is, and at the same time of that which we are not. Without Him we are blind; and yet it is worth our while to see clearly, which will never be the case if we are not in the light—if the light is not in us. Indeed, it is impossible for us to walk in the light without seeing clearly.
Is the question about love? the word sends us again to Jesus (1 John iv. 9, 10).
Do we desire to abide in God and that God should abide in us? We are sure of being in that blessed position if we are witnesses for the Son of God (ver. 15); whereas whoever denies the Son is declared to be a liar (ii. 22), and thereby delivered over to Satan, who is the father of lies.
In a word, all the fulness of God is in Jesus: has not God loudly declared, that His pleasure is in His Son; has he not said, “ Hear him?"