NO text of the Sacred Scriptures is more misinterpreted and misunderstood than Romans 13:1. God never ordained injustice and oppression. Except in the nation of Israel, it is not, and never has been, personal sovereigns in themselves that have been referred to in the statement that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” Is it not the persons that be in power, but the powers that be in the person, that are ordained of God. The inquiry of Romans 13:3 is not, “Wilt thou then not be afraid of the persons?” but it is “Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?” It is the powers and not the person or persons by whom the power is exercised, that is under consideration. God has ordained civil power for the administration of justice, and when those entrusted with the administration of that power are guilty of injustice and oppression they are guilty of usurpation. Having exceeded the limits of their God-ordained power they are in that usurpation no more the ministers of God than is the Christian minister the representative of Christ when he usurps and attempts to wield authority not given by the gospel commission.
IN their appeal to the Home Secretary, published in these columns two weeks ago, among other things, the directors of the International Tract Society, Limited, of London, very properly said:—
We have felt it not disrespectful to address you this note of remonstrance against the action of a law by which the work of our factory is stopped and our factory employés deprived of this means of earning a livelihood.
All just governments are instituted for the purpose of securing human rights. “The powers that be are ordained of God” for this very purpose; “they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing;” and Christians are entitled to share the benefits, the protection of government, equally with unbelievers. “I exhort, therefore,” writes the apostle, “that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” 1 Timothy 2:1, 2.
Such being the purpose for which governments are ordained, and Christians being entitled to share the benefits, what could be more fitting than the act of the International Tract Society to the fact that the Factory Act, instead of protecting certain of the employés of the society, actually deprived them of the means of earning a livelihood! Fanaticism might have said, “We need not concern ourselves about our rights; God will protect us;” just as fanaticism has in some instances said, We need not work; God will feed us; and, We need not use remedies; God will heal us. But true faith uses rather the means that God has ordained for the securing of rights, the providing of food, and for the care of the body, asking his blessing the while upon the efforts put forth in his fear and for his glory.
The point made by the International Tract Society that the operation of the so-called Factory Act infringed the rights of its employés is well taken and is a credit both to the piety and the sagacity of its directors.