[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


by David Low Dodge


Part 1

Part 2►

The writer of the following pages has, for a considerable time, doubted the propriety of some of the common practices of Christians.  To satisfy himself he has, if he is not deceived, candidly and diligently examined the Scriptures with a view to ascertain and practice the truth.  After considerable inquiry his doubts increased.  He then consulted some highly respectable and pious friends, who frankly acknowledged that they had never fully examined the subject in question, as they had never had any doubt concerning it.  They judged the matter weighty and advised him to arrange his thoughts and commit them to paper.  This he has endeavored to do as well as a very infirm state of body and a press of commercial business would admit.  After submitting what he had written to some of his friends, they unanimously advised him to lay it before the public, hoping that it might have a tendency to call the subject into notice and lead to a more complete and full examination.  With this view he has ventured to commit the following sheets to the press.  He has only to beg that the Christian who may take the trouble to read them will not be so solicitous to reply to the arguments as to examine and clarify the truth.

The kingdom of our glorious Mediator is but little noticed in the world, yet it is precious in the eyes of the Lord.  The Lord has chosen Zion.  She is the redeemed of the Lord.  He has said that he who touches her touches the apple of his eye.  She is purchased by the blood of the Lamb, sanctified by the Spirit of grace, and defended by the arm of Omnipotence.  Notwithstanding she may still be covered with sackcloth, the days of her mourning have an end.  The Lord will raise her from the dust and make her an eternal excellency and the joy of many generations.  The mystical body of Christ is composed of that innumerable company which no man can number – out of every nation, kindred, people, and tongue – which will finally stand before the throne of God and the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands.  It is but one body, although composed of many members.  The temple, which was a symbol of the church, was composed of many stones, although but one building.  The spiritual temple is built of living stones upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.  This spiritual temple will continue to rise under different dispensations until the elect are gathered together from the four winds of heaven and the top stone is carried up with shouts of Grace, Grace, unto it!

The Mediator’s kingdom is not of this world.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”  (John 18:36)  In remarking upon these words we are naturally led to consider:


What the Mediator’s kingdom is.


Its nature.


Its laws.

From which we propose to make several inferences and illustrations for improvement.

I.  Agreeably to the arrangement of our subject, we shall first endeavor to ascertain what the kingdom of the Mediator is; or that kingdom which he so emphatically called “My Kingdom” in distinction from all other kingdoms.  Jesus said, “My kingdom…”  Our glorious Mediator takes to himself the majesty of a sovereign and claims a kingdom.  In his mediatorial character he possesses, in an extensive sense, universal empire.  He is exalted far above all principality, power, might, and dominion, and has a name that is above every name.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is not only king on his holy hill of Zion but he rules amongst the nations.  He is, however, in an appropriate sense, king of saints under the gospel dispensation, as he governs the worlds with a view to his own glory and their exaltation.

That the church, under the gospel dispensation, is in a special manner the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom that Christ so often called his kingdom appears evident (it is thought) from many passages of Scripture.  The prophet Daniel, while interpreting the symbols of the four great empires that were to arise in the earth, said that “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  This kingdom could not be the Church Universal, for that was established in the family of Adam and had continued without being broken in a line of holy men down to the prophet’s day.  It must therefore have a special reference to something in the future.  When John the Baptist came preaching, he said, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” fully implying that it had not then commenced.  He preached repentance preparatory to ushering in that kingdom which the God of heaven was about to set up.  In the days of the fourth great kingdom mentioned in the prophecy of Daniel, the Lord Jesus Christ came into our world to establish his kingdom.  As he entered upon his ministry he declared that the time was fulfilled and that the kingdom of God was at hand.  When he first commissioned his disciples and sent them forth to preach, he directed them to say to their hearers, “The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.”  In speaking of John the Baptist, he said that John was the greatest of prophets, but added, “He that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he,” which must be conclusive evidence that John the Baptist was not in the kingdom of God.  At the Last Supper, after our Lord had blessed and partaken of the bread, he said to his disciples, “I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  In like manner, after taking the cup, he said, “I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God shall come.”  All of which seems fully to imply that the kingdom that the God of heaven was about to set up did not commence before the gospel dispensation.  Christ came under the Mosaic dispensation, that is, under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, by the sacrifice of himself; “and being found in the fashion of a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.  Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and hath given him a name which is above every name.”  After he arose from the dead he appeared to his disciples “by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.  And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.”  Here we see the Mediator possessing a kingdom and giving laws to his subjects and commanding obedience.  Although his kingdom was then small, like a little leaven, yet it had the power to leaven the whole lump.  The stone that was cut out of the mountain without hands will become a great mountain and fill the whole earth.  Every knee must finally bow to his scepter and every tongue confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

From this concise view of the subject, we conclude that the kingdom of God, or Christ’s kingdom, is in a special manner the gospel dispensation that was not completely established until after the resurrection of our Lord.

II.  The next point of inquiry is its nature.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  By this we understand the Mediator’s kingdom, not being of this world, supposes that its nature, its laws, and its government are all distinct from the nature, laws, and governments of this world.  It is expected that the fact that the Mediator’s kingdom is not of this world, but spiritual, heavenly, and divine, will be fully shown by the following reasons.

1st.  From the character of the King.  He was not born like the kings of the earth.  He was the Son of the living God and Heir of all things.  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost and born of a virgin.  His birth was not celebrated with the earthly-pomp of princes, but by a few humble shepherds and a choir of angels.  His palace was a stable and his cradle a manger.  When he was a child, he was not amused with toys, but was about his Father’s business.  When he was dedicated to his ministry, it was not by the appointment of kings or the consecration of bishops, but by the baptism of his humble forerunner, the descent of the Holy Ghost in a bodily shape like a dove, and a voice from the excellent glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  His companions were the despised fishermen of Galilee and the angels of heaven.  He was “a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief,” yet he was the eternal Son of the eternal Father.  Nature owned his voice and devils trembled at his power, but he was despised and rejected by men.  When he fed the hungry multitude, they were gratified with the loaves and fishes and sought to make him a king, but he departed out of the place, for his kingdom was not of this world.  When Satan, the god of this world, offered him all the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them if he would only fall down and worship him, he rebuked him with holy contempt and said, “Get thee hence, Satan,” for his kingdom was not of this world.  The Mediator did not meddle with the affairs of the governments of this world, for his kingdom was not of this world.  When he was solicited to command a brother to divide his earthly substance, instead of complying with the request he only gave a pointed admonition and said, “Man, who made me a judge, or a divider over you?”  When his enemies endeavored to catch him in his words by extorting from him something unfavorable to the laws of Caesar, Jesus answered them and said, “Render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God the things which are God’s.”  When they demanded tribute from him, and that unjustly, according to their own laws, he paid it without a murmur, to set an example of peace and quietness for his disciples.  In all things he avoided interfering or meddling with the governments of this world.

2nd.  From the representations of the Bible, “The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”  The Mediator’s kingdom is founded in right.  His scepter is a right scepter.  He rules in righteousness.  “The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”  Righteousness is opposed to all injustice, oppression, and cruelty; it regards the rights of God and man; it requires love to the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and to our neighbors as ourselves.  His kingdom is a kingdom of peace; he is the Prince of Peace.  At his birth the angels sang, “Peace on earth, and good will to men.”  Peace is opposed directly to all contention, war, and tumult, whether it regards individuals, societies, or nations.  It forbids all wrath, clamor, and evil speaking.  It forbids the resistance of evil or retaliation, and requires good for evil, blessing for cursing, and prayer for persecution.  Our glorious Mediator not only exhibited a pattern of peace in his life but also preached peace in the great congregation.  His last and richest legacy to his disciples was the gift of peace.  “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”  Christ came in the power of the Spirit, and was full of the Holy Ghost.  It is the communion of the Holy Ghost that fills the kingdom of heaven with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.  “Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”  Finally, we have his own express declaration, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

From what has been said it may be concluded that the Mediator’s kingdom is, in a special sense, the gospel dispensation, or the kingdom of heaven, and that it is not of this world, but spiritual, heavenly, and divine.  And this brings us to notice his laws.

III.  The laws by which it is governed.  It is governed by the same laws that regulate the heavenly hosts.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect,” is the command of our Divine Master.  It is the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”  The laws of the Mediator’s kingdom require supreme love to God.  Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; this is the first and great commandment.”  This implies right apprehension of his being and perfections, and supreme love to his word and delight in his law, such as the sweet singer of Israel expressed: “O how I love thy law!  It is my meditation day and night.”  It implies unlimited confidence in God and unshaken belief in the testimony he has given of his Son and a spirit of filial obedience to all his precepts.

The laws of the Mediator’s kingdom require love to man: “Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.”  This prohibits rendering to any man evil for evil; but, on the contrary, it demands blessing.  It utterly forbids wrath, hatred, malice, envy, pride, revenge, and fighting; but requires, on the contrary, meekness, forgiveness, long-suffering, tenderness, compassion, and mercy.  The subjects of the Mediator’s kingdom are commanded to do good to all as they have opportunity, but especially to those of the household of faith.  This command extends not only to the gentle and kind but also to the disobedient and froward – to friends and to enemies.  “If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink,” is the command of our Lord.  It is understood that this injunction is directly opposed to resisting the oppression of enemies by force.  Jesus said, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight”; but, instead of avenging wrongs, the explicit direction is “to overcome evil with good.”  The Mediator is the only avenger of the wrongs done to his subjects: “For it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, and I will repay,’ saith the Lord.”  In a special manner, the subjects of the Mediator must love the brethren.  They must visit the widow, the fatherless, and the afflicted, and live unspotted from the world.  The Lord accepts every act of kindness done to the brethren as done to himself, and regards every act of injustice, cruelty, and revenge towards them as expressed towards himself.  He considers them his own property, the purchase of his blood.  He will, therefore, not only be their portion but their defense – a wall of fire round about them and a glory in the midst.  The Mediator sits as King upon his holy hill of Zion, and is swaying his scepter in righteousness throughout his vast dominions.

Having very briefly considered what the Mediator’s kingdom in a special manner is, its nature, and its laws, we now pass, as was proposed, to make several inferences and illustrations.

1.  If the Mediator’s kingdom is in a special manner the gospel dispensation, and its nature and laws are not of this world, but spiritual, heavenly, and divine, then we may infer that the kingdoms of this world are not united to the kingdom of our Lord, but are opposed to it.  If they are not for him, they are against him; and if they gather not with him, they scatter abroad.  They must, therefore, be at war with the Lamb; but the Lamb shall overcome them, for he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.  The great conflict in our world is between the kingdom of the Mediator and the kingdom of Satan, but the victory is not uncertain.  Although the “heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing, the kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.’  He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.  Then shall he speak to them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.”  “Out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; he shall rule them with a rod of iron, and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”

The Psalmist, by the Holy Ghost, said of Christ, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”  Again, “He shall cut off the spirit of princes; he is terrible to the kings of the earth.”  Isaiah, by the revealing spirit, had the scenes of futurity opened to his view.  He saw the glorious Redeemer marching through the earth in the greatness of his power; for he saw, by prophetic vision, the great day of his wrath appear, and none but his redeemed were able to stand.  In view of the dreadful scene his soul was filled with astonishment, and he exclaimed, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?  This that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength?  I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.  Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?  I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me, for I will tread them in my anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments.  For the day of vengeance is in my heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.  I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered there was none to uphold.  Therefore mine arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.  And I will tread down the people in my anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.”  From this it appears that the nations of the earth will be gathered like the grapes of a vineyard, and cast into the great wine press of the wrath of God Almighty; and the great Redeemer will thresh them in his anger and trample them in his fury.  Their destruction must be inevitable if their laws and governments are directly opposed to the Mediator’s kingdom.  When he shall come out of his place to terribly shake the nations of the earth, then the earth [10] will no longer cover the blood of the slain; for he will make inquisition for blood, and write up the nations.  Then he will stain the pride of all glory and bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.  The nations will be like stubble before the devouring fire, they will be chased away like chaff before the whirlwind, and no place will be found for them.

The interpretation of the symbols of the four great empires by the prophet Daniel fully confirms this idea.  In first describing the vision to Nebuchadnezzar he said, “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces.  Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them.  The stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”  The prophet thus interpreted the vision: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed.  The kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.  Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter.”

Thus we see that the kingdoms of the world, by not submitting to the kingdom of our Lord, but by making war with the Lamb, are devoted to awful destruction, for the Lamb will overcome them.  His kingdom will stand, for it is an everlasting kingdom, and of his dominion there shall be no end.  The gospel dispensation (or the kingdom of heaven) must remain forever, as it is governed by the same spirit that prevails in the eternal fountain of blessedness himself.  It is therefore emphatically called the kingdom of God not only in distinction from the kingdoms of this world but in distinction from all the other dispensations of the church.  It is not of this world; it is the kingdom of heaven – the reign of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

2.  If the Mediator’s kingdom is not of this world, but spiritual, heavenly, and divine, and the kingdoms of this world are opposed to it, then we may infer that the kingdoms of this world must belong to the kingdom of Satan.  There are but two kingdoms in our world.  At the head of one is the Mediator, and at the head of the other is Satan.  Satan is the god of this world and reigns without a rival in the hearts of the children of disobedience.  He is the prince of the power of the air.  All the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them are given to him [11] until the time that God shall write up the nations and make inquisition for blood.  Then the great battle of God Almighty will be fought, the beast and the false prophet will be cast into a lake of fire, Satan will be bound a thousand years, the saints will take the kingdom and possess it, and wars shall cease from under heaven.  After the thousand years, Satan will again be let loose, “and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.”  “And the devil who deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”  Thus it appears that Satan is the mainspring of all warlike powers, and when he is bound wars will cease, but as soon as he is again let loose they will rage.  The writer is sensible that this will be a very unpopular doctrine with the men of this world, and with those worldly Christians who are struggling, teasing, and panting for the profits and the honors of this world.  If it is a fact that the nature and laws of the Mediator’s kingdom are diametrically opposite to the kingdoms of this world, then the inference is irresistible that the kingdoms of this world belong not to the kingdom of our Lord but to the kingdom of Satan – and however unsavory the truth may be, it ought not to be disguised.  Satan is the strong man, but the Mediator is the stronger, and he will bind him and spoil his goods.  The Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the devil.  When he shall destroy the rage of the nations and the tumult of the people, then Satan’s goods will be spoiled.  When Satan is cast into the bottomless pit, tumult and war will retire with him back to hell, and instead of the blast of the trumpet and the groans of the dying will be heard the shouts of the saints and the songs of the redeemed.  Then will be “heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thundering, saying, ‘Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.’”

3.  If the Mediator’s kingdom is not of this world, and the kingdoms of this world are under Satan’s dominion, then we may infer the great impropriety of the subjects of the Mediator’s kingdom using the weapons of this world and engaging in tumults, wars, and fighting.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”  The Jews expected in their Messiah a temporal prince, but, because his kingdom was not of this world, they crucified the Lord of life and glory.  Had he only appeared in the pomp of this world and in the splendor of a temporal conqueror to vanquish the Romans who were in possession of their earthly Canaan and oppressing their nation, they would immediately have rallied round his standard and followed him to earthly conquest and glory.  He was apparently too inattentive to their rights and liberties (which the patriots of this world now emphatically call their dearest interests).  They said, “If we let him alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall take away both our place and our nation.”  It may be asked, “Why were the Jews apprehensive, if all men should believe on him, the Romans would take away both their place and their nation?”  The answer does not appear difficult.  They doubtless perceived that both his life and precepts directly opposed rendering vengeance to their enemies; and, on the contrary, demanded nothing less than love to their enemies, good for evil, and blessing for cursing.  This they could not endure, as it directly opposed their carnal desires and filled them with malice against the Prince of Peace.  They might, with much greater propriety than any nation under the gospel light, have said, “Shall we imbibe this pusillanimous spirit of doing good to those who oppress us, tamely bend our necks to the yoke of tyranny, suffer our dearest interests to be wrested from us without once making a struggle to defend them?  Rather, let us arise and fight manfully, and defend our liberties or die gloriously in their vindication.”  We say they might, with much greater propriety, have made these declarations than any under the light of the gospel, because they considered themselves under the Mosaic dispensation which had fully tolerated them not only in defensive but offensive war.  But when they perceived that the doctrines of the Mediator were calculated to disannul their dispensation and extinguish their carnal hopes (notwithstanding his credentials were divine), their malice was kindled against him, and their vengeance was not satiated until they wreaked their hands in the blood of the Son of God.  And we may confidently expect that wherever the same Spirit of Christ lifts up a standard against the same carnal policy and temporal interest, there will follow the same spirit of envy, persecution, and revenge which was manifested against the Lord of life and glory.  If any man (no matter who) will live godly in Christ Jesus, he shall suffer persecution.  The Spirit of Christ is the same now as it was then, the world is the same, the carnal heart is the same, and the great adversary of souls is the same.  Only let it be styled as “patriotic” to persecute the followers of the Lamb of God, and we should soon see the heroes of this world drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and probably many would be as conscientious as Paul was while breathing out threats and slaughter against the disciples of the meek and lowly Jesus.  It is not impossible that when the witnesses [12] are slain, their crime may be a refusal to use carnal weapons in defense of their country.

As it is a matter of great practical consequence to know whether the subjects of the Prince of Peace are authorized in any case under the gospel dispensation to use carnal weapons or not, we propose in this inference to be a little more particular.  Although it is supposed that the Lord Jesus Christ acted in a threefold capacity – as God, Man, and Mediator – yet we have never heard it questioned by Christians that all his conduct as man was to remain a perfect example for his brethren, and all his precepts a perfect rule for their duty.  As his kingdom was not of this world, he did not meddle with the governments of this world; he only submitted to all their laws which were not contrary to the laws of his heavenly Father.  He was meek and lowly; so little did he possess of this world that he had not where to lay his head.  He went about continually doing good.  He was full of compassion even to his enemies.  He wept over Jerusalem.  He was finally “brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as sheep before their shearers are dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”

When he was reviled he reviled not again, but committed himself to him who judges righteously.  He prayed for his murderers and apologized for his persecutors, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  As the church under a former dispensation had divine authority for engaging in war, it is important to ascertain whether this authority was abrogated under the gospel dispensation or not.[13]  Most Christians allow that many things have been tolerated under one dispensation of the church and prohibited under another.  Few Christians deny that the preceptive will of God is to be our only rule of duty.  The knowledge communicated to us of the preceptive will of God to his church, under the first dispensation, is very limited.  We find, however, no authority for taking the life of man in any case, not even for murder; but, on the contrary, a sevenfold vengeance was pronounced upon him who should slay the murderer.  Under the patriarchal dispensation, he who shed man’s blood by man was his blood to be shed.  In this, defensive war was tolerated.  Under the Mosaic dispensation, not only defensive but also offensive war was tolerated, and not only war was permitted, but retaliation as well: “an eye for an eye,” “a tooth for a tooth,” “life for life,” etc.

The question to be decided is whether these regulations are still in force, or whether they were disannulled by the gospel dispensation.  The life and precepts of our Lord and his disciples while under the unerring guidance of his spirit must be our only authority in this inquiry.  That many things were done away by the gospel dispensation, none will deny who believe the gospel.  The ceremonial part, which was only a shadow of good things to come, vanished away when the substance appeared; and not only the ceremonial part was abolished, but many other practices.  Polygamy was permitted under the law, but forbidden under the gospel.  Divorce was allowed under the Mosaic but prohibited under the gospel dispensation, except in the case of adultery.[14]  Under the Mosaic dispensation the penalty for whoredom was stoning to death.  This penalty was not enforced under the gospel dispensation, as may be seen in John 8:11.  That all kinds of war, revenge, and fighting were utterly prohibited under the gospel dispensation we think appears evident not only from the life of our glorious Mediator, but also from his express precepts.  Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.”  No comment can add force to this passage, for it is expected that no language can be more explicit against defensive war.

In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount he quoted a passage from Exodus, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say unto you that ye resist not evil;but whatsoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  The force of this passage has generally been obviated by saying that we are not to take all the words of our Lord literally.  Although this is admitted, yet we are absolutely bound to take the spirit of every word, if we can understand them, by comparing the Scriptures with the Scriptures.  That the spirit of this passage is directly opposed to the one our Lord quoted from Exodus, we think cannot fairly be denied; and, of course, it disannulled the precept in Exodus, for he who had power to make laws under one dispensation had power to abrogate them under another.

The blessed Mediator did, in the most explicit manner, command his subjects to love their enemies and render good for evil.  We are of opinion that this command is totally incompatible with resisting them with carnal weapons.  He said, “But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”  Let us for one moment compare this precept with defensive war and see if it can consistently be put into practice.  Suppose our country is invaded and a professed disciple of the Prince of Peace buckles on the harness and takes the field to repel his enemy by the point of the sword.  He advances amidst the lamentations of the wounded and the shrieks of the dying to meet his foe in arms.  He sees his wrath kindled and his spear uplifted, and in this trying moment he hears his Lord say, “Love your enemy and render to him good for evil.”  And suppose his kindness to him is like Joab’s to Amasa: he thrusts him through the heart and hurries him to the awful tribunal of his Judge, probably unprepared.  Dear brethren, be not deceived, for God is not mocked.  Who amongst our fellow men would receive the thrust of a sword as an act of kindness?  Only let conscience do its office, and there will be no difficulty in deciding whether defensive war is inconsistent with the gospel dispensation or not.  Carnal and spiritual weapons will no more unite under the gospel dispensation than iron and miry clay.

Our very salvation depends on being possessed of a spirit of forgiveness to enemies.  “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  If men invade our rights and trespass upon our privileges, is it forgiveness to repel them at the point of the bayonet?  The honest Christian will find no difficulty in conscientiously deciding this question, notwithstanding he may be slow of heart in believing all that is written.

All the conduct of our Lord had meaning to it, and much of it was with an express view to teach his disciples by way of example.  A little before he was betrayed, he ordered his disciples to take swords.  The object of this must have been either to use them for defense, or for some other purpose.  The event proves that they were not taken for self-defense.  The question then is, for what were they taken?  The event appears fully to answer the question: to prohibit, by way of example, the use of them for self-defense in the most trying situation possible.  If any situation would justify self-defense with carnal weapons, it must have been the situation in which our Lord and his disciples were placed at the time he was betrayed.  They were in a public garden, they were assaulted by a mob, contrary to the statutes of the Romans and the laws of the Jews, and the object was to take his life.  This the disciples knew, and Peter judged it a proper time for defense, and drew his sword and smote a servant of the High Priest and cut off his ear.  As our Lord’s kingdom was not of this world, he would not suffer his subjects to use the weapons of this world in any situation.  He therefore healed the wound they made and rebuked Peter for his mistaken zeal.  “Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Put up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.  Thinkest thou that I cannot pray to my Father, and he would presently send me more than twelve legions of angels?’”  Here we see that our Lord not only forbade his disciples to use the sword in self-defense, but also added a dreadful penalty to transgressors – “all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”  The disciples did not then fully understand that his kingdom was not of this world.  As soon as they were prohibited using the weapons of this world they all forsook him and fled.[15]


Table of Contents

Part 2►

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

[10] The earth, in symbolic language, is supposed by the writer to denote civilized nations, in distinction from the uncivilized, which are symbolized by the agitated sea.  Civilized nations will no longer cover the blood of the slain, under the specious idea of defending their rights and liberties.

[11] If the kingdoms of this world do not belong to Satan, then it was no temptation to our Lord when the devil offered them to him.  It is expressly said that he was “tempted of Satan.”

[12] The writer has for a length of time been of opinion that no event has ever yet happened to the church which answers to slaying the witnesses.  It has been given as a reason by some that the witnesses have been slain, that so much light has been diffused since the art of printing was discovered, and since the Reformation, that no reason can ever again be found sufficiently plausible to satisfy the consciences of mankind in again taking the lives of their fellow-men in matters of conscience.  If our country was invaded and a law should be passed that every man capable of bearing arms should equip himself for its defense, on penalty of being considered as an enemy and to be publicly executed accordingly in case of refusal for conscience’ sake, there would not probably be wanting patriots sufficient to execute the laws; if they could not be found in our land of liberty, they might be found amongst the tyrants of the Old World.

[13] If the permission given to the church under the Mosaic dispensation to engage in war has not been disannulled by the gospel dispensation (which is by no means granted), it is thought that it does not admit of the consequences that are generally drawn.  The Israelites were God’s covenant people and were utterly prohibited from making any covenant with the nations around them, or engaging with them as allies in their wars.  It must therefore be totally improper for God’s covenant people now to unite with those who are strangers to the covenant of promise, and engage with them as allies in their tumult and fighting.  It is presumed that no one who has ever read our Constitution will pretend that the American nation has, in the Scriptural sense, made a covenant with God.  If the analogy holds good in one point, it must in another; and in that case there is no alternative left for God’s covenant people but either to withdraw from those who are not in covenant with God, or adopt a national religion which must be defended by the weapons of the nation.  It is believed that those who will not admit that the permission granted to the Israelites to engage in war was abrogated by the gospel dispensation can never fully answer the arguments in favor of a national religion.

[14] Transcriber’s note – See Tolstoy’s discussion of this topic in his book What I Believe, which is also available on this website.

[15] Four things are noticeable from this history.  First, the subjects of the Mediator’s kingdom have no right to use carnal weapons for defense, even in the most trying situation possible.  Second, is the promulgation of a decree of heaven: that all they (whether states, churches, or kingdoms) who take the sword shall perish with the sword.  Every political or ecclesiastical body that is defended with the sword will be destroyed by the sword.  In confirmation of this sentiment, we see while the great destroying powers were represented to St. John in the symbols of ferocious beasts, it was added, “If any man have an ear to hear, let him hear.  He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.”  But in opposition to this it is said, “Here is the faith and the patience of the saints.”  We would inquire how the faith and the patience of the saints appear, if they, like the nations of the earth, lead into captivity and kill with the sword?  Third, the weapon that the subjects of the Redeemer are to use for defense is here brought into view: prayer.  Nothing that transpired in the garden prevented our Lord from using this weapon when he was betrayed, except for the necessity of the Scriptures being fulfilled.  Had he prayed to his Father, more than twelve legions of ministering spirits would have appeared as swiftly as lightning to discharge his will.  At the time he shall come in all the glory of his Father, the holy angels will be with him.  He will break through the heavens in flaming fire, descend with the shout of the Archangel and the trumpet of God, cleave asunder the earth beneath, and send forth his angels, who will awake the sleeping millions from their tombs and gather together his elect and take them up into the air to be ever with their Lord.  Fourth, we may expect that angels will be sent to deliver the saints in the times of trouble.  Angels are ministering spirits and are sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation.  What a consolation it is that the subjects of the Mediator can apply for help in times of trouble to him who has the hosts of heaven at his command, and who has said that he will never leave nor forsake them!  The angels of the Lord encamp round about them who fear him, to deliver them out of all their trouble.  If God is for them, who can be against them?