Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Establishment and Limits of Civil Government

The Establishment and Limits of Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans 13:1-7
by James M Willson, 1853.

The subject of civil government is, in all its aspects, of no little importance. It occupies a large share of men’s thoughts in all enlightened countries, and awakens, just now, the liveliest concern. This is not strange; for its influence is felt in every department of human action. It has to do with the peace, the order, the material prosperity of the commonwealth; with the rights and liberties of the citizens, and exercises no inconsiderable influence upon the interests of morals and religion. In all these respects, in the last particularly, the institution of civil government is deserving the attention of the Christian and of the Christian minister. Moreover, the inspired writers take occasion, not infrequently, to state, sometimes summarily in the doctrinal form, and sometimes in narrative and in detail, leading principles by which the intelligent and faithful may be directed as to the part which they are to take in setting up, in administering, or in supporting political constitutions. Hence, no apology is necessary in entering upon such an examination as that which is now proposed. The topic itself is of great moment, and the light and authority of God’s Word are before us.

Again: these researches are imperatively called for, inasmuch as the particular passage to which the attention of the reader is asked — Romans 13:1–7 — has been grievously perverted. One class of expositors endeavor to derive from these teachings of Paul the offensive principle of unresisting, unquestioning subjection to civil authority of whatever stamp. Rulers, say they, may be ungodly, tyrannical, immoral, — they may subvert the liberties, and take away the rights of their subjects. Still, but one course is open; even to such rulers and to such authority, there must be yielded at least a “passive obedience;” no “resistance” is ever lawful, though made by the entire body of the oppressed, and that under peril of eternal damnation: for “the powers that be are ordained of God; and he that resisteth the power receiveth unto himself damnation.”

James M. Willson was home schooled through seminary. He studied theology under his father’s direction, was then ordained by the Presbytery in 1834, and installed as Pastor of First Congregational Church of Philadelphia in that same year. He was later seminary professor of Theology at Allegheny Seminary and died in 1866. Here is the link to his analysis on Romans 13:1-7, which was both the Biblical and the historic Christian perspective: Read More >> The Establishment and Limits of Civil Government

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