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    August 4, 1887

    “The Second Commandment. No. 2” The Signs of the Times 13, 30, pp. 471, 472.

    “FOR I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” This is the last half of the second commandment, and though it is one of the deepest and most far-reaching clauses of the decalogue, it is perhaps the one that is the least thought of even by those who design to strictly follow the decalogue. The second commandment is commonly passed over with a casual recognition of the fact that it forbids the making and worship of images, and that that is all there is in it. And as the image-worship of Catholics is not now considered sin, but, on the contrary, is allowed to be entirely consistent with Christian worship, this commandment seems to many not to be applicable in this country except perhaps in the cases of the few Chinese who are here. But, as we showed last week under the first part of this commandment, the image-worship of the Catholics is the sin of idolatry as well as is the image-worship of anybody else, so now the reading of the latter portion of the commandment shows it to be applicable to every person on earth, and in every act of life for all time.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.1

    For it declares the Lord to be a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation. Now iniquity is the breaking of the commandments. This is seen by the words of this commandment itself. Notice, it says, visiting the iniquity upon those who hate the Lord, and showing mercy to those who love him and keep his commandments. As, therefore, hate is the opposite of love, so iniquity is the opposite of keeping the commandments. And as the keeping of the commandments is the whole duty of man, this latter half of the second commandments stands before men in all places and for all time, as a warning against sin. Well did David say of the commandments of God, “By them is thy servant warned.” Psalm 19:11. The second commandment stands before all men saying to them, in substance, Do not dare to break one of the commandments of God; for if you do, besides your own individual responsibility for your sin, your iniquity will be entailed upon your children even to the third and fourth generation.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.2

    In this, however, it is necessary to explain what this commandment does not mean. It does not mean that the child is held guilty of the parents’ sin. It does not mean that if a father commits murder the child shall die for it, nor that the child is held guilty of it. God explained this matter, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” Deuteronomy 24:16. And it is recorded to the credit of Joash that as soon as the kingdom weas confirmed in his hand, although he slew his servants which had slain the king, his father, yet, “The children of the murderers he slew not; according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” 2 Kings 14:6.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.3

    Yet in the time of Ezekiel, the people were insisting that the commandment means that the children should be put to death for the sin of the fathers, and were charging God with injustice, and had turned the subject into a proverb to the effect that “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” They argued that God meant that if a man should commit a sin, his child should die for it, and then likened it to the incongruity that would appear in the case of a man eating sour grapes and his children’s teeth being set on edge by it, when they had not touched the grapes at all. But the Lord told them by Ezekiel that “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” “If a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, ... hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God.” But “If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, ... shall he then live? he shall not live; he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him.”SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.4

    Then he carries the subject a step further, thus: “Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, ... [but] hath executed my judgments, [and] hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.” “Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Ezekiel 18:1-20. These scriptures make it certain that the commandment does not mean that the children are made partakers in the guilt of the parents.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.5

    And yet it is eternally true that the iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate the Lord. This is done through what is called the law of heredity. The evil traits of the parents are inherited by the children even to the third and fourth generation. How could it be otherwise? How can parents transmit to their offspring what they themselves have not? And if parents give themselves to wicked courses, and allow themselves to be ruled by ill tempers, evil passions, and perverted appetites, how can it be expected but that their children will inherit the same? How often it is that children inherit the ill temper of father or mother! How often the dissipated father transmits to his child, if not the actual appetite for strong drink, a will so weak that it is impotent against temptations. Now is that all. The writer has personally known three persons who were born drunk. Not, of course, born actually under the influence of strong drink in itself, but born with the nervous system so unstrung that the walk, and in fact every motion, was that of a drunken man; the voice was husky and thick, and the words mumbled, as though the persons were really drunk. All these were cases in which, in addition to the trials and besetments incident to the course of all men, the poor unfortunates were handicapped at the very start with the dreadful weight of “the iniquity of the fathers.” These, to be sure, are extreme cases, but they are only the extreme in a graduated scale of iniquities of fathers which are visited upon the children. And though the evil is not so apparent in all cases, it is none the less real.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.6

    The Encyclopedia Britannica gives the following strongly illustrative instance:—SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.7

    “Mr. Dugdale, an industrious statistician of New York, has traced to its common ancestor a family, the Jukes, consisting of 1,200 people, of which the majority are paupers, thieves, or prostitutes, in a greater or less degree, and who are computed to have cost the State in prison maintenance, almshouse relief, etc., something like $1,300,000. The ancestor was a descendant of early Dutch settlers, and lived much as backwoodsmen do now upon the Indian frontiers. He is described as a ‘hunter and fisherman, a hard drinker, jovial and companionable, averse to steady toil, working hard by spells and idling by turns, becoming blind in his old age, and his blindness has been entailed upon his children and grandchildren.’”—Art. Ethnography.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.8

    As that man was idling about, hunting and fishing, and drinking, living from hand to mouth, living in fact wholly an animal life, how little he thought that he was simply setting a stream flowing that would carry 1,199 persons far on the way to perdition! How much better it would have been for the world, as well as for himself and all this wicked progeny, if he had never been born! And when it is remembered that God will render to every man “according to his way and according to the fruit of his doing,” what a fearful account awaits that man! These things illustrate the awful meaning of the law of God in declaring the iniquity of the fathers visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate him. They also serve in some measure to show the terrible nature of sin. They serve to emphasize the fact that sin cannot be committed with impunity. Every sin leaves a stain upon the very soul, and it may re-appear even in the fourth generation. Every sin implants a spark in the course of nature, which, in the first, the second, the third, or even the fourth generation, may burst into a most vehement flame.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.9

    Nor does this fact sanction the doctrine of fatalism. Though the iniquity of the fathers is thus visited upon the children, the children are not thereby relieved of their own responsibility before either God or man. This is shown by the passage before quoted from Ezekiel, where it is stated that if the wicked man beget a son, “that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like ... he shall surely live.” Of course the child of such a parent will be at a disadvantage, but he will not be irresponsible, unless indeed the iniquities of the parents have rendered him idiotic, as is sometimes the case. In fact the whole race, as generation succeeds generation, is put more and more at a disadvantage in the effort to do the right. By the men of this generation it is harder in a vast degree to do the right than it was for the first generations of men who lived in the world, because we have entailed upon us so many more tendencies to evil than they had.SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.10

    But God has not left us alone in this contest for the right, and the struggle to fulfill his holy law. He knows all our tendencies to evil, he knows all our defects, whether inherited or acquired, and in this very commandment he has laid it down as a part of his blessed law, that he showeth mercy unto thousands of them that love him and keep his commandments. Nor is this simply to thousands of people, it is to thousands of generations. Notice, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands [of generations] of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” This is plainly proved by Deuteronomy 7:9: “know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments TO A THOUSAND GENERATIONS.” No man can fairly deny that when Moses spake these words, he had the last clause of the second commandment directly in view, for he spake almost in the very words of the commandment; consequently it is evident that these words are an inspired comment upon those of the commandment—in short they are the Lord’s own explanation of his own law, and prove that the phrase “unto thousands” is to be used with the word “generations” understood: “showing mercy unto thousands of generations of them that love me and keep my commandments.”SITI August 4, 1887, page 471.11

    Therefore though sin is great, the mercy of God is greater. Though the sins of men may reach even to the third and fourth generations, the mercy of God will extend to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. This mercy is revealed in its fullness in Christ Jesus the Lord, who came “in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” And “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Oh, who will not yield to the mercy and the grace of God? Who will not yield the guilt of sin and the love of it, as well as the tendency toward it, to the abounding grace of God, and the gracious leading of his Holy Spirit? Who will still allow the cruel reign of sin, and refuse the gentle, kindly, loving reign of the grace of God? God pities the sinner, he knows all his weakness, he waits to be gracious, he longs to show mercy to him to a thousand generations, if only he will yield. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” ““For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands [of generations] of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.1

    J.

    “The Powers that Be Are Ordained of God” The Signs of the Times 13, 30, p. 472.

    WE stated last week that the whole Bible bears out the plain truth and the obvious sense of the statement that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” We have not space to present all the texts that might be given in direct proof of it, but we shall give enough to show that Paul when he wrote this declaration was only doing as was his wont, reasoning out of the Scriptures.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.1

    Everybody knows that Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon, and that he was a heathen. Yet God spake by his prophet directly to Nebuchadnezzar, and said, “Thou, O king, art a king of kings; for the God of Heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.” Daniel 2:37, 38. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord sent yokes and bonds to the kingdoms of Edom, and Moab, and Ammon, and Tyre, and Sidon, by the messengers that came from these kings to Jerusalem, and with them also he sent this message: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters: I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; ... and all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come; and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him. And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.” Jeremiah 27:4-8.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.2

    Now as Nebuchadnezzar was a heathen, and as his kingdom was a heathen kingdom, we can hardly think that even the National Reformers would pronounce his authority to be exactly “God’s ideal of civil government.” Yet there can be no shadow of doubt that the power possessed by Nebuchadnezzar and exercised by him over all the kingdoms and peoples round about, was a power that was ordained of God, for the word of God says so, and said so to him in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. The word of the Lord by Jeremiah asserted not only that this power was given to him, but to “his son and his son’s son” as well; and this succession covered the whole period of the kingdom of Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar to its fall. Therefore the proof is positive that the power of the Empire of Babylon was ordained of God.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.3

    The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar—Belshazzar—in the midst of the riotous feast of Tammuz, was told by the prophet of the Lord, “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it;” and, “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” The commander who led the forces of the Medes and Persians was Cyrus and Persian. And of him the Lord had said: “Thus said the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure.” Isaiah 45:1; 44:28. When Babylon fell, the rule of the Medo-Persian Empire fell first to Darius the Mede, instead of to Cyrus. And the angel Gabriel said to Daniel, “I in the first year of Darius the Mede, even I, stood to confirm and to strengthen him.” Daniel 11:1. Therefore the word of God is clear that the power of the Medo-Persian Government was ordained of God.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.4

    But not to multiply instances by noting them in detail, we will quote the scripture that sums up the whole subject in few words: “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; for wisdom and might are his; and he changeth the times and the seasons; he removeth kings, and setteth up kings.” Daniel 2:20, 21. “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” Daniel 4:25. These texts assuredly demonstrate the principle declared by Paul in Romans 13:1, that “there is no power but of God;” and that “the powers that be are ordained of God.” But if these texts should not be enough to demonstrate it, then we may add the crucial text of all Scripture. When Christ stood before Pilate, “Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” John 19:10, 11.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.5

    The demonstration is complete, therefore, that the words of Romans 13:1 are a statement of fact and not of theory; that “the powers that be are ordained of God;” and that “there is no power but of God.” As the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will; when he has given the power to whom he will, whether to Babylon, to Medo-Persia, to Grecia, to Rome, to England, or to the United States; whether that will be direct or permissive, who shall say that that power is not of him? and who shall say that that is not the power that ought to be? And to such powers Christians are taught to be respectful, quiet, peaceable, obedient subjects, and not revolutionists. The following from Macaulay is to the point:—SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.6

    “The powers which the apostle ... pronounces to be ordained of God, are not the powers that can be traced back to a legitimate origin, but the powers that be. When Jesus was asked whether the chosen people might lawfully give tribute to Cesar, he replied by asking the questioners, not whether Cesar could make out a pedigree derived from the old royal house of Judah, but whether the coin which they scrupled to pay into Cesar’s treasury came from Cesar’s mint, in other words, whether Cesar actually possessed the authority and performed the functions of a ruler.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.7

    “It is generally held, with much appearance of reason, that the most trustworthy comment on the text of the Gospels and Epistles is to be found in the practice of the primitive Christians, when that practice can be satisfactorily ascertained; and it so happened that the times during which the church is universally acknowledged to have been in the highest state of purity were times of frequent and violent political change. One at least of the apostles appears to have lived to see four emperors pulled down in a little more than a year. Of the martyrs of the third century a great proportion must have been able to remember ten or twelve revolutions. Those martyrs must have had occasion often to consider what was their duty towards a prince just raised to power by a successful insurrection. That they were, one and all, deterred by the fear of punishment from doing what they thought right, is an imputation which no candid infidel would throw on them. Yet if there be any proposition which can with perfect confidence be affirmed touching the early Christians, it is this, that they never once refused obedience to any actual ruler on account of the illegitimacy of his title. At one time, indeed, the supreme power was claimed by twenty or thirty competitors. Every province from Britain to Egypt had its own Augustus.... Yet it does not appear that, in any place, the faithful had any scruple about submitting to the person who, in that place, exercised the imperial functions. While the Christian of Rome obeyed Aurelian, the Christian of Lyons obeyed Tetricus, and the Christian of Palmyra obeyed Zenobia. ‘Day and night’—such were the words which the great Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, addressed to the representative of Valerian and Gallienus—‘day and night do we Christians pray to the one true God for the safety of our emperors.’”—History of England, chap. 14.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.8

    These, however, were law-abiding subjects and citizens, and not National Reform revolutionists.SITI August 4, 1887, page 472.9

    J.

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