July 1, 1897
ISRAEL’S venture of conducting a kingdom, a State, like all the nations, was a complete, a deplorable, and a ruinous failure.
Israel was the church at that time: and this awful failure in her attempt to conduct a State was traced in full detail as an instruction to the church in all ages.
The essence of that instruction is that it is not possible for the church properly to conduct a State or to manage a kingdom.
The result of that attempt of the church to conduct a State and manage a kingdom, was the ruin of the kingdom and the annihilation of the State, which they had created, and the subjection of the church to heathen powers forever after.
Then from all this the plain lesson plainly and emphatically taught is, that the heathen are better qualified to conduct States and manage kingdoms than are the people of the church: that the people who are of this world are better qualified to perform the things that pertain to this world, than are the people whose calling and profession are those of another world.
If any one will say that this is not so, then let him tell why it was that when the State which the church of Israel had established, had failed and perished, and the people had risen to the dignity of a church once more, they were put by the Lord, and kept, in subjection to the heathen powers—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome—as long as they existed as a distinct people. And why He commanded the Christian church forever after, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.”
No, the church is not in the world to rule men; but by love to serve men. It is not the office of the church to govern States, but to serve the Lord. She is not here to compel men, but to persuade men. She has no commission to enforce the law, nor to preach the law, but to preach the gospel. She is not to condemn men, but to save men. This has ever been God’s will concerning his church: and whenever she has lost sight of this, and departed in any degree from it, she has only frustrated the grace of God, and spoiled herself.
It became necessary however for the Lord to reach the heathen nations and rulers that they could not of right exercise jurisdiction in religion.
Nebuchadnezzar set up a great image and commanded all to worship it.
Among the people present were three of the captives of the church of Israel, who refused to obey the commandment of the king.
He called the three men and repeated to them distinctly the command to worship his god, or else be cast into a furnace heated seven times hotter than usual, especially for them.
They replied that their God was able to deliver them, but that whether he would deliver them or not, they would not hearken to his decree nor worship the golden image which he had set up.
He therefore commanded that the three men should be cast into the roaring furnace. But immediately he was almost struck dumb with astonishment at what he saw.
He cried out to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men, bound, into the burning fiery furnace? They answered, True, O king. But lo! I see four men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire: and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” He then called them forth, and they were taken up out of the furnace, and there was not so much as the smell of fire upon them.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar spake and said: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own God.”
This thing happened unto them for an ensample: and, it was written for the admonition of kings and people who should come after. It happened, and it was written to teach all kings and people, that though people be subject to the power of States and kingdoms, this power does not in any sense extend to the religion of the people. It tells all, that when the law of king or State to the religion of anybody, such law is to be disregarded by the people, and must be changed. The religious right of the people must stand, and king and State must yield. It happened and was written to teach all kings and people that there must be no union of religion and the State.
When the kingdom of Babylon had passed away, and the united powers of Media and Persia had come in, the same lesson had to be repeated for their benefit. A law was enacted by Darius the Mede and his counselors that for thirty days nobody should ask any petition of any god or king, but King Darius. Daniel was chief minister of the empire, and he paid no attention to the law; he went just as before, and presented his petition to God three times a day. He was arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and the penalty according to the law was executed: he was cast into a den of lions. But God sent an angel and shut the lions’ mouths, because that before  God innocency was found in him; and also before the king had he done no hurt.
Thus God regards, and declares, the man innocent who knowingly and openly disregards any law touching his duty or relationship to God, who disregards any law touching religion. And this second example happened and was written to teach all kings and States that they never can rightly have anything whatever to do with any question of religion: to teach all kings, States, and people that God requires the absolute separation between religion and the State.
And that it was done twice, is significant: when God showed to Pharaoh, by the seven thin ears of corn, and by the seven thin kine, the seven years of famine that were coming on the land, it was said to him, “The dream is one…. And for that the dream was doubled unto Pharaoh twice; it is because the thing is established by God.” And when God has doubled unto kings and States for all time, the lesson upon the separation of religion and the State, it means that the lesson is one; and for that the lesson was doubled, it is because the thing is established by God.
And if kings and States, and churches, professing to know God, go directly contrary to this thing that has been established by God; if they will yet put forth edict and law touching religion, it can only be, because they are blinder than Pharaoh. For “the unjust knoweth no shame.”
THE SENTINEL is against every form of despotism,—religious or civil.