“How Are the Powers that Be Ordained? American Sentinel 10, 46, pp. 365, 366.

November 21, 1895

HOW are the “powers that be,” ordained of God? Are they directly and miraculously ordained, or are they providentially so? Did God send a prophet or a priest to anoint Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, or did he send a heavenly messenger, as he did to Moses and Gideon? Neither. Nebuchadnezzar was king because he was the son of his father, who had been king. How did his father become king?

In 625 B.C. Babylonia was but a province of the empire of Assyria; Media was another. Both revolted, and at the same time. The king of Assyria gave Nabopolassar command of a large force, and sent him to Babylonia to quell the revolt, while he himself led other forces into Media, to put down the insurrection there. Nabopolassar did his work so well in Babylonia that the king of Assyria rewarded him with the command of that province, with the title of King of Babylon.

Thus we see that Nabopolassar received his power from the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria received his from his father, Asshur-bani-pal; Asshur-bani-pal received his from his father, Esar-haddon; Esar-haddon received his from his father, Sennacherib; Sennacherib received his from his father, Sargon; and Sargon received his from the troops in the field, that is, from the people. Thus we see that the power of the kingdom of Babylon, and of [366] Nebuchadnezzar the king, or of his son, or of his son’s son, was simply providential, and came merely from the people.

Take, for example, Victoria, queen of Great Britain. How did she receive her power? Simply by the fact that she was the first in the line of succession when William the Fourth died. Through one line she traces her royal lineage to William the Conqueror. But who was William the Conqueror? He was a Norman chief who led his forces into England in 1066, and established his power there. How did he become a chief of the Normans? The Normans made him so, and in that line it is clear that the power of Queen Victoria sprung only from the people.

Following the other line: The house that now rules Britain, represented in Victoria, is the house of Hanover. Hanover is a province of Germany. How came the house of Hanover to reign in England? When Queen Anne died, the next in the line of succession was George of Hanover, who became king of England under the title of George the First. How did he receive his princely dignity? Through his lineage, from Henry the Lion, son of Henry the Proud, who received the duchy of Saxony from Frederick Barbarossa, in 1156. Henry the Lion, son of Henry the Proud, was a prince of the house of Guelph, of Swabia. The father of the house of Guelph was a prince of the Alamanni who invaded the Roman Empire, and established their power in what is now Southern Germany, and were the origin of what is now the German nation and empire. But who made this man a prince? The savage tribes of Germany. So in this line also the royal dignity of Queen Victoria sprung from the people.

And besides all this, the imperial power of Queen Victoria as she now reigns is circumscribed—limited—by the people. It has been related, and has appeared in print, and although the story may not be true, it will serve to illustrate the point, that on one occasion, Gladstone, while prime minister and head of the House of Commons, took a certain paper to the queen to be signed. She did not exactly approve of it, and said she would not sign it. Gladstone spoke of the merit of the act, but the queen still declared she would not sign it. Gladstone replied, “Your Majesty must sign it.” “Must sign!” exclaimed the queen; “must sign! Do you know who I am? I am the queen of England.” Gladstone calmly replied, “Yes, Your Majesty, but I am the PEOPLE of England;” and she had to sign it.

The people of England can command the queen of England; the power of the people of England is above that of the queen of England. She, as queen, is simply the representative of their power. And if the people of England should choose to dispense with their expensive luxury of royalty, and turn their form of government into that of a republic, it would be but legitimate exercise of their right, and the government thus formed, the power thus established, would be ordained of God as much as that which now is, or as any could be.

Personal sovereigns in themselves are not those referred to in the words, “The powers that be are ordained of God.” It is the governmental power, of which the sovereign is the representative, and that sovereign receives his power from the people. Outside of the theocracy of Israel, there never has been a ruler on earth whose authority was not, primarily or ultimately, expressly or permissively, derived from the people. It is not particular sovereigns whose power is ordained of God, nor any particular form of government. It is the genius of government itself. The absence of government is anarchy. Anarchy is only governmental confusion. But says the Scripture, “God is not the author of confusion.” God is the God of order. He has ordained order, and he has put within man himself that idea of government, of self-protection, which is the first law of nature, and which organizes itself into forms of one kind or another, wherever men dwell on the face of the earth. And it is for men themselves to say what shall be the form of government under which they shall dwell. One people has one form; another has another.

This genius of civil order springs from God; its exercise within its legitimate sphere is ordained of God; and the Declaration of Independence simply asserted the eternal truth of God, when it said: “Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It matters not whether it be exercised in one form of government or in another, the governmental power and order thus exercised is ordained of God. If the people choose to change their form of government, it is still the same power; it is to be respected still, because it is still ordained of God in its legitimate exercise,—in things pertaining to men and their relation to their fellow-men; but no power, whether exercised through one form or another, is ordained of God to act in things pertaining to God; nor has it anything whatever to do with men’s relations toward God.

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.” It is 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 be afraid of the person? but it is, “Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power?” It is not the person, therefore, but the power that is represented in the person, that is under consideration here. And that person derives his power from the people, as is clearly proved by the scriptural examples and references given. “To the people we come sooner or later; it is upon their wisdom and self-restraint that the most cunningly devised scheme of government will in the last resort depent.” 414

Share this: