Chapter 07 – The Lord’s Course in the Moral Government of the World – The Government of God
We will now enquire, What part the Lord has ever taken in the moral government of the world. In the last chapter I shewed that man has a moral agency; acting under the Lord, and is, consequently, responsible to him for his acts, as a moral agent. But does he leave him alone and unassisted to carry out his designs? No. Looking upon man as his son, he has from time to time offered his services and instructions, as a father. He has given revelations, instructing and warning his people. He has given promises to the obedient, and threatened the disobedient. He has instructed kings, rulers, and prophets. He has also protected the righteous, and punished, by judgments, the wicked. He has promised to Abraham and others lands and possessions. He has held out promises of eternal life to the faithful; but has never coerced or forced the human mind. He destroyed the inhabitants of the old world because they had corrupted themselves. He did not govern their minds; they might forget God, “and every thought of their hearts be only evil, and that continually;” but the earth was the Lord’s, and he was the Father of our spirits; and although man had an agency to propagate his species, it was given him by God; and if he was so blind as to corrupt himself, and entail misery upon millions of unborn beings, the God of the universe, “the Father of Spirits,” had a right to prevent him. And if he was prostituting the use of those faculties given him by God, to the service of Satan, and abusing the liberty which his Creator had so liberally given, although the Lord could not control the free action of his will, he could destroy his body, and thus prevent him from cursing posterity. Hence, if a man transgresses the laws of the land, he is considered a bad member of society, and is punished accordingly; sometimes imprisoned; sometimes banished; and sometimes put to death. Legislators assign as a reason for these things, that such persons are injurious to society; that if crime was not punished, the virtuous and good would be abused; the wicked would triumph; character, life, and property would be insecure; and anarchy, confusion, and desolation would inevitably ensue.
I would here ask, If man acts upon this principle, has not God a right to do so with the affairs of his government? Or should we arrogate to ourselves privileges that we will not allow the Lord to possess? Upon this principle the Devil and his angels were cast out of heaven. The devil having his agency, as well as man, came here, and sought to destroy the works of God; and succeeded so far as to obtain an influence over man’s spirit, and bring his body into subjection to his agency; and if man was so ungrateful and corrupt as to yield to his influence, and obey his agency, God had as much right to punish him as he had the Devil; and as he cast the Devil and his angels out of heaven, he also cut man off from the earth, and thus punished the “spirits that were disobedient in the days of Noah.” Satan, in heaven, had no power over those spirits; but when they came to earth, he gained an ascendency over them, and not having a body himself, made use of their bodies to corrupt the world, and thus thwart the designs of Jehovah; they must therefore bear the consequences of their disobedience. And if I am asked by a sceptic why God destroyed so many human beings, I answer, this was God’s government, they had transgressed his laws, were traitors to him, and he had a right to punish them, as I before stated, to prevent them from bringing ruin upon others, and perpetuating this misery of the human family, in time, and in eternity.
The Lord has given laws, and although he has not forced man to keep them, nor coerced his will, yet he has punished him for disobedience, as a father would a son. A father of a child can teach that child correct principles; but unless he controls or confines the body, he cannot force that child to observe them; he can punish him for disobedience, however, and thus exert a moral or physical influence over him. Our Father does the same. He punished the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon, Ninevah, Jerusalem, and many other cities, and will punish the world on the same principle.
Again: he has offered rewards, and given them to the faithful, such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; he protected the Children of Israel, and blessed them with temporal and national prosperity, when they served him, and punished their enemies; and he would have extended his blessings to the world, if they would have been obedient to him. The Lord has used these influences; but never coerced the will. Hence Jesus said to the Jews, “How often would I have gathered you together as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” God would have benefitted them, but they would not be benefited. Again, the Prophet says, “Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.” (Prov. i. 24-26.) These things clearly prove that man is a free, moral agent, and that God never has controlled the human mind, and that, consequently, if man is found in a state of wretchedness, degradation, and ruin, he has himself to blame for it, and not the Lord. The Lord would have given him his counsel if he had sought it; for he did instruct men of God formerly, and gave them laws, and ordinances; and he told his people that if they called upon him “in the day of trouble, he would hear them;” and James says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” (i. 5.) When the Children of Israel served God and obeyed him, they acknowledged his authority, and said, “The Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” (Isaiah xxxiii. 22.) If the Children of Israel had been obedient, and this principle had extended over the earth, we should have had the Kingdom of God established on the earth, and universal peace and happiness would have prevailed. But man’s corruption and degeneracy have destroyed the world, and nothing but the wisdom, power, and blessings of God can restore it.
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Source: Chapter 7 of the The Government of God, by John Taylor (1852)