Learn To Discriminate
1. Learn to discriminate between no resistance of evil at all, and Non-Resistance of evil with evil - injury with injury. Christians can, may and ought to resist evil in many ways, but never with evil, by doing injury to the soul or body of any human being. He, therefore, who tells you that the Non-Resistants hold to no resistance of evil at all, tells you a very foolish lie.
2. Learn to discriminate between physical force and injurious force. Physical force is good or evil, beneficial or injurious, according to the right or wrong use made of it. Cain killed Abel by physical force. Paul's friends let him down over the wall of a city by physical force, and thereby saved his life. In Abel's case, physical force was injurious force. In Paul's case, it was beneficent force. The mother bears about her tender infant in her arms, and the humane man rescues a drowning person by physical force. No one can have any objection to physical force beneficently used. Christians can, may and ought to use physical force in many ways, but never injurious force, whether physical or moral. Take care, then, and never say Non-Resistance disallows physical force.
3. Learn to discriminate between vengeance and restraint. Vengeance is torment, misery, painful suffering of soul or body inflicted as a punishment. Restraint is the withholding of power or liberty from a creature to do mischief: An insane person might kill a thousand people, if not restrained by a wholesome, uninjurious, physical force. Therefore place the unfortunate being under kind keepers, and within limits where nothing but kindness and comfort will surround him, and there cure his malady if you can. Let him enjoy all the liberty he can have without endangering the welfare of others. Treat the dangerous criminal precisely in the same way. Do not punish him. Do not hurt him. Do him all the good you can. Enlighten, reform him. Look well after his physical and mental health. Never give him cause to feel that anybody but God himself punishes him. This is restraint, wholesome, benevolent restraint. But to shoot a man, or behead him, or strangle him, or stone him, or maim him, or deprive him of anything which he can enjoy without injury to others, is vengeance. And vengeance belongeth only to God. He alone can use it without abusing it. Let not sinners take vengeance on sinners. But let them forgive, as they need to be forgiven.
4. Learn to discriminate between law and right. Law may be divine or human, right or wrong, just or unjust, any thing by turns, and nothing permanently. But Right is eternal, unchangeable - never wrong - never unjust - never unmerciful - always as it should be. Men make and unmake all sorts of laws, according to their limited virtue, their knowledge, interest, prejudice or caprice. The divine law is always founded in perfect right. Human laws sometimes are, and sometimes are not founded in right.They are to be tried by the divine law - by settled principles of eternal rectitude. If they contradict or subvert these, they must be set at nought. No human law is of any binding force which is clearly contrary to the dictates of immutable Right. When, therefore, you hear men cry, "Law, law, law! Great is law!" shout in response, "Law always when it is right - never when it is wrong!" He who worships law for its mere name's sake, is the idolater of a shadow. He who worships Right, worships God. Divine law and Right are identical. Let men conform their laws to this only standard of rectitude; then will the kingdom of heaven have come on earth. This is our doctrine - let who will denounce or ridicule it.
5. Learn to discriminate between no governmentism and no anti-Christian governmentism. No-governmentism is social disorganization, anarchy, "confusion worse confounded." If we could imagine a medley of atheists, acknowledging no authority, divine or human, attempting to live without any fixed principles, or conventional social arrangements, it would be no- governmentism practically illustrated. But no anti-Christian governmentism is non-participation in, and disfellowship of, anti-Christian governments. We believe in the utility and necessity of social organization under written constitutions, laws, and well understood conventional arrangements. We also believe that they physical restraint of notoriously dangerous persons is necessary and proper. We believe in the necessity and utility of legislative and judicial courts; in fine, of regularly organized and properly administered governments in human society. But the constitutions, laws, regulations, arrangements, prescribed duties and administration of such government ought always to be in strict subordination to the divine government and law - thoroughly conformed to the principles, precepts, and spirit of Christianity. And it ought to be settled in the fundamental law of the state, that no rule, regulation or act of government is of any binding force which violates, or requires any man to violate the precepts "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," "Whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you, do ye even so unto them," "Recompense to no man evil for evil," "Forgive and ye shall be forgiven," "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you, and do good to them that hate you." Such a government would be a Christian government, and Christians might conscientiously participate in and support it. Such a government would have no army, navy, militia, forts, arsenals, gibbets, pillories, whipping-posts, stocks or instruments of vengeance. Its places of confinement for dangerous persons would be asylums of kindness, peace and useful instruction - enclosing ample fields, replete with all the health and beauty of nature, carefully contrived for the highest good of the unfortunate prisoner, as well as of society; providing for the secure personal restraint of the absolutely dangerous, but allowing the utmost liberty consistent with the protection of the otherwise defenseless; managed by the most wise, benevolent, patient, prudent, firm philanthropists, and visited frequently by virtuous and devoted women.
Such a government would develop and bring into requisition every moral power in the whole range of nature for the prevention of vice and the cultivation of pure virtue. It would be administered without pomp, display, emolument, useless expense, or show of arbitrary power. It would be the disinterested conservator of righteousness, order and social welfare.
We are for such a government; and we are opposed to present governments, not because they are governments, but because they are fundamentally anti-Christian; because no enlightened Christian can participate in them, obey their requirements, and voluntarily support them, without violating the law of God in its most sacred precepts. This is our ground; and whoever says it is no-governmentism, utters a foolish slander.
6. Learn to discriminate between obedience and submission to government. Obedience to any government or authority implies approval of it and fellowship with it, as just and righteous. Submission implies only physical subjection and Non-Resistance. I submit to a wrong, an injury, an insult; but obey only what is right. I may be the Non-Resistant subject of a very wicked government, without obeying any of its wicked requirements. I may refuse to obey man when required to disobey God, but God himself has made it my duty to "be subject to the powers that be" - even the most tyrannical of them; to obey them cheerfully wherein they are right, and to submit to them inoffensively always, under the most cruel persecution. Therefore I may be peaceable subject of the governments of Massachusetts and the United States, or of Great Britain, Russia, or Japan - obeying all righteous laws, and conforming to all innocent regulations - yet refusing to obey any wicked law, and patiently suffering the penalty which may be inflicted on me for refusal. In that case I should "be subject to the powers that be," and "submit myself to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake," as becometh a Christian; but I should not be one of the government, nor morally responsible for any unrighteous law, decree, or proceeding thereof against which I conscientiously protested. On this ground Non-Resistants refuse to vote and hold office under governments fundamentally anti-Christian, and yet are peaceable subjects of those governments for conscience' sake. They disobey wicked requirements of governments, but submit patiently to the forcible execution of those requirements. This is the difference between obedience and submission.
7. Learn to discriminate between God's providential ordaining, ordering, and overruling "the powers that be," and his moral approval of them. Providentially, God ordains, orders and overrules all kinds of government, for the highest good of the world. But he never morally approves of anything in government, or rulers, but what is in itself morally right. In his overruling providence, he ordained the Pharaoh's tyranny and oppression should facilitate the emancipation of the Israelites, and their final settlement in Palestine, for his own glory and the good of the human race. But he condemned and punished Pharaoh and his counselors for those very acts which he turned to so good an account. Because in them all was wickedness. They meant it unto evil. He ordained and overruled for good the election or a king over Israel, when they would have one, though at the same time he rebuked them for their rebellion against him in desiring such a ruler, and foretold them that they would suffer grievously for their folly. He ordained and overruled the Kingdom of Assyria,. and made old Nebuchadnezzar his minister to chastise the corrupt Israelites by war and captivity. Assyria was the rod in his hand, and Nebuchadnezzar his battle-axe. But Assyria meant no such thing, and Nebuchadnezzar acted only from the most wicked impulses of his own heart. Therefore God did good with him without his knowing it, and in due time punished him according to his moral deserts. Just so Herod, Pilate, Nero, Robespierre, and our own heartless pro- slavery rulers, are powers ordained, ordered, and overruled of God for good to mankind - unconscious ministers of his pleasure to promote the wise ends of his benevolent providence, and yet not a whit the less guilty in his sight, punishable before his judgment seat, and deserving the utter disfellowship of Christians. Because Nero was providentially God's minister for good to Christendom, he was not therefore the less guilty for his cruel persecutions. He cut off Paul's head and God turned it to the good of Paul and mankind. But he damned Nero none the less for committing the crime. Once seen, these things are all plain. Learn therefore to discriminate. When you hear the enemies of Non-Resistance quoting a string of texts about being "subject to the powers that be," "submitting to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake," being "subject to principalities and powers," &c., &c., remember that none of those texts contradict the doctrine of Christian Non-Resistance at all.