This article continues a series of weekly posts originally authored by David Lipscomb, an important figure in the Churches of Christ in the 1800s. Learn more about Lipscomb’s background here and here, and see other references to him on LCI here. The series is titled “The Church of Christ and World-Powers”, and it was also originally published as a series of 18 articles in The Gospel Advocate in 1866. (To read from the beginning of the series, start here.)
Lipscomb now turns to the time of the Israelite kings and their dispersal into captivity. Key to his argument is that God provided appointments and laws that the Israelites did not respect, so he actually punished them — by giving them what they wanted — with the institution of their king. Yet even in that punishment, they continued their sin and rebellion rather than repent. That was when they went back into captivity by Assyria and Babylon. It is a warning even now to the church; we ought not “put our trust in princes.”
The Church of Christ and World-Powers (4) — David Lipscomb in The Gospel Advocate, Feb. 20, 1866, pp. 113-116.
In our investigations we have found that God, at all times, kept a wide gulf of separation between his Jewish kingdom and subjects, and the world-institutions by which they were surrounded. No alliances—no affiliations—no courtesies as equals with the man-governments or their subjects, were never engaged in without receiving a signal mark of God’s displeasure. May his subjects not have adopted some government of their own, and have harmonized it in spirit with his laws, and have thus received his approbation? In the beginning, as we have found, God gave the law, perfect and complete, in the most minute particulars. He left no room for human legislation—for the exercise of human discretion. “The law was, ye shall not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes” — “whatsoever things I command you, observe to do it; thou shalt not add thereto nor diminish from it.” Deut. 12:8, 32.
Yet we find in later ages a changed government, altered institutions among the Jews. How did these changes come about? 1st Sam. 8:1. “It came to pass when Samuel was old, he made his sons judges in Israel. His sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel unto Ramah, and said unto him, behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us, like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said give us a king to judge us: and Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people, in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”
He tells them the consequences of this course. But still ordains they shall have a government of their own to punish them for their folly in becoming dissatisfied with God’s government and desiring a human one. If the Jews would ever have been justified in interpolating human laws and human expedients into the Divine government, it certainly was when those institutions of God were perverted to base and unlawful purposes, and his officers failed to do their duties. We see that the desire of a man-government even then amounted to a rejection of God as their king and ruler.
The introduction of this human polity was the main cause of Israel’s many sins and rebellions in her history, of the long bloody family feuds between Israel and Judah, brought upon her, her sorrows and woes, her sad overthrow and long and cruel dispersions as fugitives and outcasts among the nations of the earth. This king, as their head, was the chief cause of turning them from the law of God. We find Saul, David, Solomon, Hezekiah all approved of God in their private walk, so elated with pride at their wonderful exaltation, that they violated God’s law themselves and led their subjects into sin.
If the best among these kings caused their subjects to sin, and weaned their affections from God, divided their allegiance, diverted their sense of responsibility from the law of God to the law of the king, what must have been the fatal effects of her more corrupt and wicked princes. We find them continually leading them away from God’s law into sin. At their return from captivity in Babylon, under Ezra and Nehemiah, it was said Ezra 9:2, “The band of the princes and rulers have been chief in this trespass,” that had brought them into captivity. It was Hezekiah’s forgetfulness of God’s law in his anxiety to be courteous and friendly with the King of Babylon, that produced the second captivity. Hosea speaking of this same rejection of God and choosing an earthly king, says, 13:9, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thy help. I will be thy king: where is any other that may save thee in all the cities? and thy judges of whom thou saidst, Give me a king and princes. I gave thee a king in mine anger, and took him away in my wrath.” Your dissatisfaction with my appointments as I gave them was your ruin. To punish you for this, I gave you a king who oppressed you, who involved you in difficulties, brought upon you war, trouble, famine, and slaughter, but when under this punishment, you failed to humble yourself and repent, but waxed worse and worse in your sin and rebellion, in my wrath I took from you your king and left you desolate, without either a Divine or human head, a prey to all your enemies, to be scattered over the face of the earth, a by-word and a hissing among all the nations, as a perpetual warning to all families, kindred, tribes and tongues, of the folly and sin of becoming dissatisfied with Heaven’s appointments.
God, to some extent at least, recognizes this earthly king as a rival of himself, and indicates the impossibility of man’s having both, a Heavenly and an earthly king. He clearly indicates that the Jew could not have another king, and at the same time be regarded as the subjects of Heaven. We find that the Jew was prohibited of God from either making alliances with human governments formed by nations not of God’s people, or of adopting into the government he had made for them, institutions of their own devising. He was God, and He their only King, ruler, law-maker—they could have none other. To have another was to reject God. “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it. Thou shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” We thus find that God kept his subjects aloof from all connexion [sic] with the world, or human governments. He considered his alliances with these institutions as adulteries in his espoused wife. Ezekiel 23. Under the type of the two sisters, Aholah and Aholibah, in their whoredoms, he represents Judah and Israel in their alliances with the world-governments. In their punishment by their lovers he typifies their punishment inflicted by those nations with whom they formed alliances.
But in process of time this nation of God is so corrupted by these earthly, human institutions and alliances, that God will no longer forbear with them. He abolishes this national institution, and in its place establishes his universal and eternal spiritual kingdom. What relationship does this new and eternal kingdom sustain to the world-institutions by which it is surrounded and with which it comes in contact? is the question of prime importance in our investigation, and one which, in importance to the well being of the church is not transcended by any known to the Christian world. The Jewish dispensation was the type of the Christian kingdom. The Christian kingdom or church superseded the Jewish and occupied the same position with reference both to God and the world that refused submission to Him, that the Jewish did.
Paul in his letter to his Roman brethren, says the Jews, through unbelief, were broken off, and the Gentiles, through faith, were graffed [sic] in. Without determining what is the special position from which the Jews was broken or cast, and into which the Gentile was graffed, it suffices our present purpose to note that just the position with reference to God and the world, from which the unbelieving Jew was broken, the believing Gentile was graffed in. The Jewish institution was the type of the spiritual, teaching through God’s dealings with it, how He would deal with the church, this could not be so unless they occupied the same relationship to God and the world. God’s dealing with the Jew in one relationship, could not teach us how he would deal with the Christian in a dissimilar one. The treatment of the outward nations by the Jews could be no lesson to us as to how we should act towards the unbelieving unless we occupied a like position with reference to them.
These things being so, and God having, through a period of four thousand years, kept a deep and wide gulf of separation between his people, his nation, his kingdom and the human kingdoms of earth with their subjects, having, under every possible form and on every occasion, besought and warned his children against such associations or affiliations; against alliances, individual or national; against relying upon the human institutions for aid or help in any of their difficulties, having shown that the help of the human institutions was weakness, confusion and ruin to them—in a word, God having separated them in every possible manner, and on every possible occasion, he did it all, not for them, but to teach us that Christians must be a separate and distinct people.
With all these teachings, through so long a period, so repeatedly, emphatically and distinctly set forth, it certainly is true, that without some positive net or declaration of God connecting or uniting them, the government of God with its subjects, must forever remain separated from the world-institutions with their subjects, with no alliance or affiliation, no participation of the one in the affairs of the other. Upon him that would connect them, the responsibility of showing when and how God united them, and what that union is, certainly devolves. We shall, in our next, examine the Scriptures to see if they have been so united. (Feb. 20, 1866.)