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manifest their good will and their creed that human government is part of the order of the heavenly King. To pray for the divine blessing on an anti-Christian institution could not be thought of. It is precisely these duties which we find enforced in the Epistles. • Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work” (Titus 3 : 1). “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers; for there is no power but of God. . . For this cause ye pay tribute also. . . Render to all their dues ; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2 : 17). “I exhort . that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place" (1 Tim. 2:1, 2). The duties of the early Christians went to the limit of their powers.
Our duties extend to the limit of our powers, and we have far more influence on the State than had the early Christians, and our responsibility is correspondingly greater. We can vote, influence nominations and elections, help to educate political opinion, do our share toward enforcing wholesome laws, bear office, and freely act in a thousand matters from which the primitive Christians were excluded.
4. The rights of Christians under government.
As the State is of divine appointment and its end impartial righteousness, it follows that Christians have a right to enjoy all its privileges and advantages. Paul used his rights as a Roman citizen to free himself from cruel and unlawful persecution. We read of officeholders of the empire who were Christians, as the Centurion Cornelius, the members of Cæsar's household, and others. They did not surrender their offices on becoming followers of Jesus, but used their powers for his glory.
But rights may be waived in the interest of love and peace and spiritual welfare (1 Cor. 9:5, 19). It is the right of a Christian to get his own by appeal to the court. But if such appeal to the strong arm of justice is made in the spirit of selfishness, if it bring brethren before a mocking,
It may often
unbelieving magistrate as hostile and contentious litigants, then the claim to a right becomes a wrong. be wise to refer a case in dispute, in the most friendly spirit, to a court for definition and adjustment. Social interest often requires that doubtful points of business be settled in this way. But the controversial, warring, greedy spirit which seeks battle in the court is anti-Christian. In 1 Cor. 6:1-11, Paul discusses the subject of litigation of Christians before heathen magistrates. Their quarrels would be a scandal. The enemies of the faith would desire no better weapon.
And it is often easy to extort a cruel award under cover of law. Better suffer wrong than run so great a risk in contention and angry dispute. The oppressor, even if the law is on his side, is not in the kingdom of God, but belongs outside with fornicators, idolaters, drunkards, and the effeminate.
But Christians should avoid such company, seeing that they are now" washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.” But since differences of opinion are inevitable, even among the best of Christians, Paul advises a method of adjustment which some of the wisest of modern writers on economics and politics are advocating as a partial solution of labor and capital disputes. Paul advises a committee of conciliation or arbitration. The most upright men find it hard to avoid prejudice in their own favor. So they call in other upright men, lay all the facts before those who have no money interest at stake, and ask them for advice and decision. Thus a costly lawsuit is avoided, the trouble does not become public, scandal and growing bitterness are avoided, and all remain friends and continue to live and deal in peace and love.
Paul was not content with preaching vague generalities; he was a sagacious leader, and proposed a practical measure to take the place of a hurtful custom. How
beautiful and wise and deep are his words in respect to all human relations, of business, society, or politics: “Doing nothing through faction or through vainglory, but in lowliness of mind each counting other better than himself; not looking each of you to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2 : 3–8). When you say Jesus, you say all.
The last, best word for motive and deed and conduct is—Jesus.
The obligations of property include thrift, honesty, good stewardship of possessions. Poor relief is a part of this obligation. Employer and employed are under the law of love, which adapts itself to changing relations. The family has a divine purpose, a religious significance, and duties determined by the nature of domestic relations. Social fellowship is a Christian's right and opportunity. The church is an institution which can and ought to promote social welfare. The political duties of a Christian compared to his increasing power and influence. The example of Jesus is our law, and his Spirit our guide in the application of the law.
HELPS FOR THE STUDY OF THE EPISTLES
The “Canterbury Revision" of the Bible should be used as the best translation. For the increasing number of our young people who study Greek, the text of Westcott and Hort is to be preferred.
Young's (or Cruden's) Concordance.
American Commentary of the American Baptist Publication Society.
The Cambridge Bible Series.
Conybeare and Howson, “The Life and Epistles of St. Paul.'
Stalker's “Life of St. Paul.”
For those who care to study more ca and critically, the following are recommended :
Meyer's Commentary. (Weiss' Edition.)
, Heinrici (in German), on Corinthians.