"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VII No.I Pg.18-25
Septermber 1944

Reducing The Issue

T. B. Wilkinson

Jacksonville, Tex. April 15, 1944.

Dear Brother Wilkinson:

I have just finished reading your article in The Bible Banner, "The Christian And Carnal War." I agree with you in many of the things said in that article, and principally in the idea that the use of the sword in the punishment of evildoers is assigned to civil rulers or earthly governments; that "no mob, clique or clan, or individual has the right to use it." But this position is contrary to that held by others who hold similar views to yours. For instance, brother W. W. Otey in the Firm Foundation declared that any one who would not defend his home against intruders would be consistent in refusing to defend his country against aggressors. Brother Otey thinks if it is consistent for a Christian to defend his country it is equally consistent to defend his home. He said one could not defend his home against such by "moral persuasion or by merely calling the police out." Do you agree with Otey and the Editor of the Banner in this?

The issue, as I see it, is not does the government have a right to "punish evil doers," but do Christians have a right to share in that punishment? It is not enough to quote, "be in subjection to the powers that be," to prove that it is a "Christian duty" to use the sword unless we have an example of where some Christian did that. Wives are commanded to "be in subjection" to their own husbands. But are we to take this as evidence that she is to "be in subjection" in all things which he might demand? Are we to construe this to mean that, regardless of the demands made, she is to "be in subjection?" Certainly there are demands made of Christians by civil powers, such as paying tax and obeying such laws as are in harmony with Christian principles, and it is a sin against God for a Christian not to meet these demands. But no civil power has a divine right to exact of a Christian anything which contradicts his profession. I do not believe that Christianity would encourage any follower of Christ in doing anything which in any way would defeat the very purpose of its mission in the earth. Christianity came to save mens lives, not to destroy. Christ came to teach the world how to get along without the use of the sword. When, therefore, a Christian turns to its use he defeats his very purpose in being a Christian. Never mind about those who will not be Christians and follow after Christian principles. The purpose of civil rulers is to take care of them by the use of the sword. God uses the Christian bearing " the sword of the Spirit" in overcoming evil in the world; but to those who are not subdued thereby He has "ordained" the use of the carnal sword in the event they continue in evil. But doubtless you will say, as many others have, "Well, if God uses civil rulers to punish evil doers by means of the sword, then what would be wrong in a Christian helping to bear it?" My answer to that is, such is not a Christian assignment. No Christian was ever assigned this duty, else we would have proof of it in the Bible and it would have been repeatedly quoted by the Bible Banner.

Though you stated that it is "a Christian duty" to help bear the sword in the punishment of evildoers, the only proof that you gave was your assumption. Do we have to assume that it is right for the Christian to pay tax? Do we have to assume that it is right for a Christian to do anything consistent with New Testament principles which may be enjoined by civil authority? Certainly not.

Are you willing to affirm that bearing the sword is equally binding with paying tax or performing any other duty enjoined by civil authority which is in harmony with New Testament teaching? If so, the issue is drawn, and I am willing to deny it.

Sincerely yours, John W. Hedge.

Dear Brother Hedge:

I have your welcome letter and criticism of my article in the Bible Banner on civil government and carnal war. It is a kindly criticism, and confirms me in the high esteem I have always felt for you as a Christian and an able minister of the gospel. I am glad you can agree with my position in part, but believe you are mistaken when you say it conflicts with a position held by Brother Otey, and the Editor of the Banner on a Christian's right to defend his home against unlawful attack. It rather confirms their position, although they are separate questions, and rest upon different bases.

I do not think it will contribute to an argument on the relation of a Christian to civil government to confuse it with his duties as head of a family. They may in a sense be related questions, but they are not identical. Man as the head of the wife, and her children, is their natural protector, and provider, as well as director, and owes duties to them which no other man can perform. God put them under his care and in a sense they are helpless except as he provides them protection and care, and I cannot conceive of a Christian father failing to provide it even at the cost of life to himself.

But right at this time in our national crisis the burning question is the duties we owe our government in this hour of peril in which it is under unlawful attack, and unprovoked attack, from an evil power. You agree with me that the Lord gave our government a sword, and authorized it to use it in just such a case as this one to resist an evil attack, and punish evil. The only way it can use the sword is through its citizens, therefore your agreement places the sword in their hands, and obligates them to use it to punish this evil.

I think you also agree with me that Christians are citizens of the government where they live, and owe it obedience in all things belonging to such civil powers committed to them by the Lord. You have agreed that the use of the sword to punish evildoers was given to the civil powers by the Lord, and that it is a God-given function for the state to so use it, an ordination of the Lord for the good of men and human society in the world. Christians as citizens owe the state obedience in all rightful functions, and the use of the sword, you agree is a rightful function. Then a Christian as a citizen should bear arms when called upon lawfully.

You agree that a Christian should pay his taxes, and perform all other duties of citizens except the single one of bearing arms. Right here is the issue between us. I contend that if God committed the sword to the civil powers for this specific purpose, it meant for it to use it through the help of its citizens, the only way it could use it. If Christians compose that citizenship, or any part of it, they as citizens are obligated to use that sword when called upon to do so to punish evil, or they will resist the ordinance of God.

You imply, but offer no proof, that God has made an exception in the case of Christians who are citizens-they are exempted from such service. It is a duty imposed upon citizens by an ordinance of the Lord, but Christians are exempted. If such an exemption was made it would have to be done by special statute, and we find not one word in our Bible about any such exemption. We find plenty against killing people, or taking a life of a neighbor, but they are prohibitions against the unlawful use of the sword, and the unlawful taking of life. None of these passages apply to the Christian specifically, they apply to all men, not only as citizens of the state, but of the world, and to the unlawful use of the sword. Such unlawful use of the sword is evil, even in the hands of the civil powers. That is why an aggressive war is evil.

You say an example will be necessary to prove a Christian should use the sword under his government to punish evil. Command, or precept, which means teaching, will not be sufficient, you demand an example.

We sometimes prove matters by finding a command, or a precept, or an example, and say either should be sufficient, but now you have a matter which you say can only be proved by an example. It is nice when we can prove a matter by all three-command, precept, and example but it is not always possible, and neither is it by any means necessary. I might call for an example of a conscientious objector in New Testament times, or when some Christian plead for deferment on the grounds that he was a Christian and objected to bearing arms.

But in the matter of example what about Cornelius, captain over a band of a hundred armed men, all soldiers? Peter was sent of God to tell him words whereby he could be saved, but if you brethren are correct Peter failed to tell him the most important thing of all, that is that he must first lay down the sword. We have an account of what Peter did tell, and they were words that would save him, but not one word about him laying aside his sword, and resigning his command. I am sure that I know preachers today who would have used that in his first line of argument, he would be told that he could not serve in the army and be saved. Lay down your sword, resign your command, then you can be baptized and be saved.

There was also the Phillipian Jailer whose duties required him to use the sword, and Paul preached to him. Did he ask him to resign his post as jailer as a condition of salvation? Peter's sermon to Cornelius, and Paul's to the Jailer, would have been mockery if they could not be saved in their present occupations.

The wife should be subject to her husband in all things which the Lord has committed to the husband as head over his wife. No more, and no less. But certainly in all things the Lord ordained. If he demands submission in something evil which the Lord did not commit to him, she will obey him at her own peril. The same is true of our government. If it calls upon us to obey it in some function the Lord never committed to it, we will do so only at our peril, something like aggressive war for instance. The Lord did not give it a sword to use in aggressive war, that is an evil, and a Christian cannot engage in such a war without sin.

I agree that a Christian should not obey his government when it demands something of him which contradicts his profession. But you have not proved that the use of the sword to punish evildoers contradicts the Christian profession, and you cannot do so without making God contradict Himself. How can that which the Lord ordained contradict the Christian profession?

I agree that the enforcement of civil laws is not a Christian assignment, neither is banking, farming, school teaching, or collecting taxes. It is a civil duty--a civil assignment, therefore--but if called upon to perform such a duty, we resist them, we will be resisting God, for the powers that be, the civil powers, are ordained of God. That does not mean that God ordained any wicked powers, either. God ordained the powers, and they made themselves evil if they are. God made man, and he made Satan, but He did not make them evil, they made themselves evil, and God is not responsible for their evil.

You say I have only assumed the argument that it is a Christian's duty to help bear the sword in punishing evildoers. It is not I, Brother Hedge, who has assumed the argument. You and I have agreed God gave the sword to the state for that specific purpose, and Christians are part and parcel of the state, they help to make up the state. Now you assume that Christians are exempted from this one particular duty which citizens owe their state. You agree the duty should be performed, evil should be punished with the sword, but Christians are exempted. Prove the exemption, and you will have proved something.

That is what ails your proposition, you want me to affirm a negative. You admit all the proposition contains except the bearing of arms by Christians--you say they are exempted. Then you should affirm the exemption. I deny it. I say they should perform all duties which comes within the lines of citizenship, and the powers God conferred on the civil government. You say all except one, it is exempted, and here is the issue between us. Prove the exemption. Your Brother,

T, B. Wilkinson:

Dear Brother Wilkinson:

I have your letter of April 25, and will say in reply that I appreciate the spirit in which you wrote and the good things said about me. I have never been able to see why Christians could not discuss matters over which they differ in a kindly spirit. Let us cherish the hope that what we say in support of our respective positions will not destroy that mutual friendship which we know to exist between us, and especially our love as Christians.

It seems that we have the issue "boiled down" to this: Sword bearing is equally binding upon Christians as much so as paying tax or meeting any other governmental obligation consistent with the Christian's profession. This is what you affirm and which I most earnestly deny. Although you say that I am under obligation to affirm some things, yet logically you are in the affirmative as you can see.

My reference to the wife being "in subjection" to her husband "in all things" was made for the specific purpose of illustrating the sense in which the Christian is to be "in subjection to the powers that be." You admit that if a civil power demands at the hands of a Christian that which contravenes God's will then he is not to be in subjection. Now if you could have found a verse which says, "be in subjection to the powers that be in all things," I feel that you would have used it to establish your claim that sword bearing is a Christian's duty. Now will you say, as one brother with whom I have discussed this question, that sword bearing is not a Christian's duty but his duty as a citizen of the government? If so, then why try to prove what is right for a Christian to do as respects his duty to civil government by Rom. 13:1-7? Are not Christian duties taught there?

Do you concur with the belief that it is right for a Christian to fight for "the four freedoms" one of which is religion? If you say that it is wrong for a Christian to defend the religion of Christ with the carnal sword, then how could you conscientiously meet the government's demand in the present conflict to do that? If you say that you would not meet that demand then you are, to say the least, one fourth "conscientious objector." Again, if the first three freedoms should be fought for and religious freedom should not be fought for, then it is inferior to them. Do you agree?

As I told you before, I emphatically deny that sword bearing is a Christian assignment. I deny that "the rulers" of Rom. 13 were Christians. True, the Christians were citizens of it but not "the ministers" of it. Paul is here (Rom. 13) merely setting forth their relationship to it as that of the governed and protected and not as the "ministers" of said government. Of course, if you or any one else could possibly show by either precept, example, or even necessary inference, that the Christians helped to bear the sword, then your claim would be established. You only assume that they did it simply because they were under the power. Those who exercised the function of sword bearing "attended upon this very thing continually," being "ministers" of God for that purpose. Never mind about it being right for the man of the world to bear the sword and wrong for the Christian to do it. While God appoints "rulers" to execute wrath upon "evil doers" by means of force, he appoints his people to use the "sword of the Spirit" on them. These two swords accomplish God's will in overcoming evil in the earth. Because God appoints one group of individuals to accomplish his will in a certain way does not prove that all groups have that right.

I called for precept and example in the establishment of your position. You reply, "such is not always possible nor necessary." Then why do we have the precepts and examples of Christians, in the Bible? Suppose some one should ask you to prove that it is right for a Christian to pay tax? Would you not go to the precept found in Rom. 13 and the example set by Jesus? Again, when you debate the instrumental music question with a digressive do you not call for the precept and example. Are we trying to do what is right by what the Bible says or by what it doesn't say? If a Christian should refuse to bear the sword would you say he sins? And how could you prove that he sins if you could not produce the proof that such service is authorized?

Your effort to prove by the jailer and Cornelius that it is right for a Christian to bear the sword is beside the point. These men, at the time they functioned as government agents, were not Christians. But you want me to prove that they "resigned" after they became Christians. That's not my obligation. You are the one who declares that they "continued" to bear the sword after they became Christians. This you can't prove, hence your "examples" here fail you.

As to Peter failing to tell Cornelius what to do to be saved, if he failed to tell him to quit his army post if such is wrong. Now I know that you know that we only have a brief account of what Peter told the Jews on Pentecost to do, for "with many other words did he testify and exhort them." Those things are not recorded. Did he tell them, in answer to their question, "What shall we do?" that they would have to leave off the practices of Judaism? If not, then according to your reasoning, he didn't tell the people on Pentecost what to do to be saved! I believe that you know that there is a difference in telling an unsaved man what to do to be saved and in telling him what his duties are as a Christian. The things that are wrong in the life and conduct of a person who becomes a Christian are often times pointed out to him after he becomes such. Hence, new converts are referred to as "babes," hence the need of teaching and discipline. Thus Paul taught the Roman Christians: "Resist not him that is evil, but rather give place unto wrath." Again, "Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." In the world this order is reversed-evil is met with evil. Yet that is God's plan for the world, but not Christians.

Consider this: (1) God "plants" kingdoms (Jer. 18:79.), or "ordains the powers that be" (Rom. 13). (2) He places over these kingdoms "whomsoever he would, even to the basest of men." (Dan. 4:17.) When a kingdom bears evil then does he "pluck it up" at the hands of another power. Examples: The kingdom of Israel was planted by the Lord in the land of Canaan. Because it bore evil fruit he plucked it up using as his agents old wicked Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian hordes. Though Israel fought a "defensive war" in the interest of her national existence, yet God was against them and with the aggressors. Later the kingdom of Babylon was plucked up for the same reason the kingdom of Israel was. I doubt not that God's hand has, through human agency, removed every kingdom since time began because of wickedness. It could be that the present world conflict is for the purpose of removing the "dictator powers" and securing the right for democracy to live in the earth. Again it might be God's will that democracy bow to dictatorship. Since we do not know God's plans for the future we cannot know just when we should fight for the preservation or destruction of any power. If we fight we fight in the dark. There is too much evil in all "the powers" of earth for me to say just which one will be taken and the other left. "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." "Our way of living" now may not be our living tomorrow; but one thing we know, "all things work together for the good of them who love God."

I would suggest that if the Banner editor agrees to publish a discussion between us that we first of all have some understanding about a proposition which expresses the issue between us. Our correspondence so far it seems has been to understand the positions of each other. What do you say?


John W. Hedge.

Dear Brother Hedge:

I was glad to receive your letter dated April 29, and I have read carefully what you have said. You may be assured that our differences on this question will not in the least affect the high regard I have for you as a Christian, and an able gospel preacher, I think I know you are both. I believe that I might be of some help to you in the way of a better understanding of a Christian's relationship to the civil government.

You say we seem to have boiled the question down to an issue, which you state as follows: "Sword bearing is equally binding upon a Christian as much so as tax paying, or meeting other governmental obligations consistent with the Christians profession." You want to earnestly deny this, and say I am logically in the affirmative. I am inclined to think that the things upon which we agree are of greater importance, and really settle the question which you propose to debate if we will only let them speak for us.

We agree that the carnal sword belongs to the civil government, given to it by the Lord, and the duty to bear the sword belongs to the citizens of such governments, along with taxes, and other governmental obligations required of such citizens. We also agree, I think, that a failure to meet the duties required of citizens places them in opposition to their government, and since it is God's will that such duties exist, it places them in opposition to the will of God, and therefore makes them resist the ordinance of God.

We further agree that Christians retain their citizenship as long as they live, and are as much obliged to meet them as any other citizen of the government, and a failure to do so places them in opposition both to the government and to the Christian religion, which requires them to discharge such duties. You agree fully with this, except on the single duty of bearing arms. There you claim to find an exemption of some sort which frees the Christian from this duty. Then this seems to be the point of differences between us. I deny that such exemption exists, and call upon you to produce Scripture to prove it.

Searching for a proposition which sets out what I believe and teach on this subject, I will be glad to affirm that Christians are required by the New Testament to obey the commands of their civil government in all things which the Lord delegated to them as such government. This, of course, would include sword bearing as we have agreed that the Lord delegated the sword to the civil government, but only for the purpose for which the Lord ordained it.

We agree that if a civil government requires a Christian to perform some act that contravenes the will of God, that he should refuse to comply, even at the cost of liberty, or life. But is sword bearing, for proper purposes, under governmental instructions, contrary to the will of God? Did God ordain that which is wicked and sinful? You are wrong when you say I need a passage that says a Christian must be in subjection to the civil powers in all things. I only need a passage which commands him to be in subjection in those things which rightly belong to the civil government, and I have it in the words of the Master. Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesars, and unto God the things which belong to God. Now it is merely a question of whether the sword belongs to Caesar, or God. If God gave it to the civil government, and you say He did, then it is your job to prove that He has taken from it, where Christians are concerned.

Do I believe that sword bearing is a Christian duty? Your question, Brother Hedge, does not do credit to your educated, logical mind. Answer it yourself in the, following question. Do you believe that tax paying is a Christian duty? They are duties that belong in Caesars government, and a failure to render unto Caesar the things which belong to him disobeys the Master.

It is a Christian's duty to obey the laws of his country, and to meet its duties and obligations, and sword bearing is one of them. God ordained the sword as the power by which such governments are upheld. God's kingdom was not of this world, and is upheld by a different kind of power, but Christians are citizens in both kingdoms and have duties in each. But there is conflict in these two sets of duties only when man's ignorance makes them conflict.

This can be done by the Christian being forced by the civil powers, or required, to use the sword for purposes different to the ones the Lord ordained, to kill, and rob, and murder, for conquest and aggression, as the Japs and Germans are doing in this war. On the other hand it might be caused by a Christian resisting the civil powers in the things which the Lord delegated to them like the proper use of the sword, tax paying, and other civil duties. Such conflict can only come from a failure to understand the proper relations between the two sets of duties on the part of one or the other.

Should a Christian fight for the four freedoms? Certainly not, unless it becomes necessary for him to do so in the discharge of his duties as a citizen of the state. Neither should other citizens, even the government should not go to war over them unless it is made the subject of unlawful attack from some wicked power out for conquest, as our government has been in the present war. Our government did not go to war for the four freedoms. We always knew they were right and proper for all men, but had no idea of forcing others to accept them through war, or from the use of any other form or force, or coercion, economic, or political. To force them upon others by the sword would destroy their nature, and instead of them being the four freedoms they would be four forms of democratic oppression, and not a whit better for the world than the powers sought by the dictators in this war. It was Hitler and the Japs who went to war, they took up a sword against them, and when they did so they were making an unlawful use of the sword. Satan alone inspires the unlawful use of the sword, and that is the evil God gave us the sword to resist, and when we do so we fulfill the ordinance of the Lord.

You "emphatically deny that sword bearing is a Christian assignment." Why the emphatics, my brother? No one ever said it was. We have mutually agreed that it is a civil duty, therefore a civil assignment. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we are all citizens of some civil government, even Christians, and we have civil duties and obligations just as binding upon us as our church duties. Tax paying and arms bearing are among them.

You "deny that the rulers of Romans thirteen were Christians." How do you know so much about that which is not written? Paul did not say so. You must admit that some of them might have been, unless you mean to assume the extreme position that no ruler can be a Christian. God ordained the rulers when he ordained civil government, did He ordain something that is a bar to salvation? Do you hold with those who admit that God ordained rulers, but ordained for the devil to furnish all of them? Must the Lord depend entirely upon Satan to furnish rulers for the governments which He ordained? A government is not entirely made up of rulers, the common citizen is an important part in every government.

You warn me to not mind "about it being right for the man of the world to bear arms, and wrong for the Christian to do it." Just why should I not mind this point? It is the meat in the coconut, and I like meat. Why is it right for the non-Christian to bear arms? Because he is a citizen, and a partaker of the protection and benefits his government is able to give him, and his government has a right to require it of him. But the Christian is also a citizen, and a partaker of the protection and benefits of his government, and owes it the same obligations. If not, why not? This is for you to tell, if you can.

They attend upon these things continually, you remind me. Yes, just as many of them as are needed. It is only in time of war, like the one an evil power has forced upon us, that any great number of common citizens are called to arms. Just a few citizens ordinarily actively bear arms, and the only way the common citizen is involved is in the way of moral support. In that sense the entire citizenship is behind the sword of the government.

Precept or example, I will accept either or both where they have a bearing on the point in dispute. I think I have given both in support of my position. But you say the Jailer and Cornelius, are beside the point because they were not Christians when the apostles preached to them. You seem to think Peter and Paul did require them to resign their offices, but not until after Baptism, and they already had them in the church. Now was that not taking an unfair advantage over them? Maybe if the apostles had told them what it was going to cost them they might have asked for time to consider.

But why should they ask them to resign? You admit that the Lord ordained for some one to perform those duties, and it was according to God's will, that the sword should be used for this purpose. It seems to me that a Christian would be the very kind of man the Lord would want in their positions, men who would enforce the law righteously. Don't you believe that rulers should be good men, and where will you find better men than among Christians? What kind of government can the Lord expect in the world if Christians are barred from ruling, and only wicked men can be rulers, men furnished by the devil?

You asked for an example of some Christian who actually bore arms and I gave you Cornelius, and the Jailer. Your sole reply is to assume that they were required to resign their offices, but offered no proof whatever. I also showed you that Jesus said if His kingdom had been of this world His disciples would have fought for Him, and you pass it up.

God plucked up the wicked kingdom of Israel, and he used the sword of Babylon, a pagan kingdom to do it. The wickedness of Israel was against more light, and was more wicked in the eyes of the Lord than the sins of Babylon, and for that reason God plucked up Israel. I do not question the Lord's judgment in plucking them up. He had sent prophets to warn them and they had cast them in prison, and even stoned them, but refused to repent of their evils. Then God said, "if they will not obey I will utterly pluck them up, and destroy that nation" (Jer. 12-17) and they merely reaped what they had sown.

I would not go so far as to say that God directly plucks up evil nations in every instance, I think He interferes very little personally in the affairs in this world, especially in a direct way. I am not strong for the direct operation theory in any of the works of the Lord. His eternal laws take care of them, and human agency has a large part in the operation of God's laws among the nations." Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap," is one of those laws. Nations, like men, individually reap the fruits of their own sowing. "He that taketh the sword shall also perish by the sword" is another way of stating the same eternal law, and this applies to every sort of evil nations can sow.

I do not agree that we cannot know God's plans as respects the principles of right and wrong. Stay on the side of right and justice and you will be on the Lord's side in every case. Neither is there any mystery to me as to what side the Lord is on in this war, and I am not in the dark in the least. You say He might even want the dictators to win, and want the democracies to bow to them, but I do not believe you are that much in the dark as to the issues in this war. At least, we did not attack them, they took up-the sword, and it was a sword of conquest, and aggression, a use the Lord never ordained for it. Since war is always an evil, and they made the war, God gave us a sword with which to resist such aggression, and avenge this evil, and we are His ministers when we so use it. This is the only kind of ministers the Lord ever uses against that hind of evil.

As for you and I debating the question, I was under the impression that we are debating it, and in about the only way Christians can debate such questions. So far as I can judge from our two exchanges the point of difference is very clear, and both of us have been devoting ourselves to the point at issue. There seems to be no difference as to the place occupied by the civil government, God gave it the sword to use for this agreed purpose, stated plainly in Romans thirteen, and He has never taken that sword away from them.

Now, if some one wants to affirm that God gave Japan and Germany a sword to use for the purposes they are using it for, I will gladly deny it. That is an unauthorized use of the sword so far as the Lord is concerned, a sinful use of it, and only Satan authorized, and inspired them, to so use it. That is the use of it that all of the anathemas of God are directed against murder, which is unlawful killing, which the Lord has always condemned as evil. That is why our country is justified in using the sword God gave it to punish their evil deeds.

Our entire difference then settles down to the part a Christian may have in helping to use the sword God gave his country. You claim his profession exempts him from this civilian duty, but admit that it does not exempt him from others, such as paying taxes, and otherwise supporting his government. If a Christian is exempted, by his profession, or by specific direction from the Lord, it is a matter to be proved by the Scriptures, and it is an affirmative matter. A negative might be proved by the silence of the Scriptures, but not an affirmative.

My affirmative position, as I understand you, has already been agreed upon between us, and we have no cause to argue over it. My position is that the Lord gave the sword to the civil government for this specific purpose, and the Christian is an essential part of the civil government as long as he lives in the world, and therefore obligated to perform the duties of citizenship fixed by the Lord. This is my affirmative, and it covers the whole ground. You claim some kind of exemption for the Christian, and that is the only difference I can see between us. You admit the Christian is a citizen, but with reservations, and your reservation destroys the very power by which civil government is able to function and exist. And it is a power which God gave to it, and when so used it fulfills God's will. I will be glad to hear from you again, and assure you of my best wishes for your success in the gospel.

Your brother,

T. B. Wilkinson.

Dear Brother Wilkinson:

I have your letter of recent date concerning our difference over the Christian's relation to civil government and thank you for same. Due to the fact that I am very busy now I will not have the time to go further into the discussion of our difference. Your last article did not, in my judgment, bring to light any new argument, I do not say this to throw off on you. You continue to give your opinion that bearing arms is the same thing in principle as paying tax or meeting any other governmental obligation consistent with the Christian profession. I say they are not the same--so that puts the laboring oar in your hand. You are the one to prove things--not me. You say Cornelius and the jailer are examples favoring your position. This would be true if you could prove that they continued to serve as sword bearers after they became Christians. This you can't do any more than the digressive could prove that the Jews continued to use instrumental music after becoming Christians. I say that the very spirit of Christianity would forbid a Christian to take the life of any one. The spirit of Christianity is to save and not destroy men's lives; hence, while God uses the rulers of the world for the purpose of bearing the sword against evildoers, he does not use his people for that purpose. If he did then would the very purpose of Christianity be defeated. Christians bear the sword which brings peace to earth--and it is more powerful than all the material swords combined. Do you doubt it? Would you lay the sword of the spirit down for the carnal? Do you believe Paul would have done it? Never mind about others bearing the sword for his protection, that's perfectly in accord with the teaching of Paul in Rom. 13:1-7. While the Christian bears the sword which brings peace he is at the same time protected by the Lord through "the rulers" of earthly governments while thus engaged--God overrules in the Kingdoms of men. (Dan. 4:17).

Now if it is right for a Christian to bear the sword in the execution of life it is wrong to refuse to bear it. Being wrong the one who refuses to bear it stands condemned. Would you say it, or would you leave the matter of it being wrong or right on the consciences of men? Enough,

John W. Hedge.

Dear Brother Hedge:

Your letter written from Warren, Ark., to hand, and I note that you are too busy to continue our investigation further at this time. I realize the difficulties under which you are situated, away from home, and your mind occupied by more pressing problems, and think you are justified in asking to be excused at this time, and this is O. K, by me.

But I beg your indulgence in listening to some observations on the points raised in your letter, in which you claim it is just my opinion that bearing arms is the same thing in principle as paying taxes; or meeting other governmental obligations, consistent with Christian principles. You say they are not the same, and that places the laboring oar in my hand to prove that they are. Just why the fact that you say they are not the same places the laboring oar in my hand is not clear, unless you mean that your word is equivalent to authority.

You have admitted that bearing arms is a civil obligation, along with taxes, and other civil duties. You also admit that all the others survive the baptismal waters, and enter into the church with the Christian, except the single one of bearing arms. It is an exception, it does not carry over into the church, and the Christian is exempted from that civil duty. It is also admitted that this is one of the important duties of citizenship the very power by which civil government is upheld, and without which it could not be. God gave it to civil government as that power alone without which it could not stand, but He ordained that Satan must furnish men to man its defenses.

I admit that God overrules in the kingdoms of the world, and often makes use of Satan's sword to serve His purpose, but that does not mean that the sword when so used is an evil if it accomplishes the purpose God ordained Why shall I be obliged to prove that Cornelius and the Jailer continued in their natural occupations after their conversion? Their occupations were important ones, and God had provided them by ordaining them, and now what made them sinful the very moment they are converted. Does repentance demand that a man forsake a lawful occupation just because he has repented? If their occupation had been a sinful one, like gambling, or selling liquor, conversion would bring an end to them, but their occupation was one God ordained. It was a necessary job before they are converted, but now they must resign or be damned. Who ever said so but you? Paul never mentioned anything like that, and they were sent to tell them words whereby they could be saved, both him and Peter. But you say we do not have a record of all they preached unto them. You assume that they might have required them to resign in some things they preached to them, but Luke did not record it, and you try to prove your point by the silence of the Scriptures. You should revise the rule, where the Bible is silent we are silent, and make it say, where the Bible is silent we speak, and we supply what they left off.

Your little byplay on the Jews and instrumental music in the worship is a poor answer to this argument. The Jew left his religion behind when he obeyed the gospel, and accepted the new, or he did not obey the gospel. They could bring their occupations along with them, but their religion was the very thing involved in their conversion, the very thing they had to surrender in order to become a Christian.

You say the very spirit of Christianity would forbid a Christian to take the life of any man. How do you know what the spirit of Christianity would forbid unless the Bible tells you? You might badly misunderstand the spirit of Christianity, and we know many people do. No Christian, or other normal man, would want to take human life, and would not do so except in the line of duty. No hangman delights in the execution of the most hardened criminal, but the laws of God, and the laws of civil government, demand it for the good of society. If this duty devolves upon a Christian he would perform it as agent of the state, and not as a Christian, and the principles of Christianity would require him to perform his duty as a citizen of the state.

You say God uses the sword against evildoers, but He won't use His own people for the purpose, He borrows executioners from Satan. It is right for the Lord to execute the criminal, but it is too wicked for a Christian to perform the execution. If He did use a Christian to perform this wicked act which--the Lord wants performed, it would defeat the very ends of Christianity; but if the Lord uses one of the devil's children to perform it, it will serve the ends of Christianity, a very logical conclusion, I don't think! You make no distinction between Christian acts and civil acts. As a Christian, no man has authority from God to use a sword, even on the worst criminal, unless in' self defense, the authority resides in the civil government, and the executioner only carries out its decree.

"Christians bear the sword which brings peace, and it is more powerful than any carnal sword, or all of them combined." I agree if you mean for the purpose for which this sword was given, but your comparison only confuses the issue for the two swords belong in two different kinds of kingdoms. A carnal sword will cut off a man's head, but may not save his soul. The other sword will save his soul but will not cut off his head, it has no power of that kind. A criminal may laugh at your sermon, but he won't laugh at the carnal sword. God gave different kinds of power for different things. There is a power in bread to feed the body, but the gospel cannot satisfy the demands of the body. Would it not be foolish to say there is more power in the gospel than in all the bread and meat in the world? They are different powers, and for different purposes.

The carnal sword was also given by the Lord to keep the peace of the world, and He must have thought it was necessary or He never would have given it. For what purpose do you think the Lord ordained the carnal sword, to bring war to mankind, or to keep the peace? Satan has used it to make war, but Satan has used other things God gave us for evil purposes, even the gospel

"Would I lay down the sword of the Spirit for the carnal sword?" That all depends on what I want to accomplish. If I want to convert a sinner I will use the gospel sword, but if my purpose is to punish criminals I will need the carnal sword. I used such a sword only two nights ago. As a magistrate entrusted with the enforcement of law, I was called upon to assess punishment on a man who had violated the law of the State. I did not whack off his head at one full sweep, but I assessed such punishment as I thought his offense demanded, what I thought necessary to make him respect the law, and to protect peaceful citizens whose peace might be endangered by such law violations. I used this sword the Lord had placed in my hands as I think a Christian should use it, a minimum fine for this offense, and told the man to go forth and sin no more against the law.

Of course, I did not cut off his head, my jurisdiction does not extend that far, and this was not a capital offense. If it had been, however, I would have heard the cause just as cheerfully, and while I could not pronounce the sentence of death upon him, I could hold him over to a court which could. And if the evidence showed that he had committed a capital crime I would have held him with out bail to be tried for his life in a court of competent jurisdiction.

"Would Paul have laid down the gospel for a Carnal sword?" I am pretty sure that he would not. The Lord called him to be an apostle, and gave him a special commission, and special qualifications, and laid a woe upon him if he did not preach the gospel. I think Paul was a better preacher than he would have been as a soldier. I have heard that he had weak eyes, and a weak body, and such men would make poor soldiers at their best,

You say, "Never mind about others bearing the sword for his protection, that is in perfect accord with Romans 13:1-7. While the Christian bears the sword which brings peace, he is at the same time protected by the Lord through the rulers of the country." Yes, I am sure God uses the civil rulers to protect the preachers of the gospel, and the farmers, and the carpenters, and bankers, and all other peaceable citizens who are going about the business of the country which makes life possible in a great community like ours, and makes it possible for Christianity to grow, and prosper. But who, besides you, has said that those civil rulers could not as well be Christians as children of the devil? Who, besides you, has said the Lord can only man His civil government with wicked rulers, the Lord must borrow rulers from the devil to run His government? Why would a son of old Nick make a better ruler for the civil government the Lord ordained than a Christian? If an humble, God-fearing Christian will make a better ruler, and execute the laws more justly than a wicked man, why not let the Lord use him?

It would be wrong for a Christian to refuse to use the sword the Lord placed in his hands, if it was his duty as a citizen to use it. It would have been wrong for me to refuse to fine that man who merited a fine. I could have made it ten times higher, and added a jail sentence with it, but being a Christian I tempered justice with mercy, and gave him the minimum because I thought it was enough to make him respect the law, and would protect the interest of the state. Would I be condemned if I failed to use the sword? Well, I think the arresting officers who are trying to enforce the law would have condemned me, and the State's attorney whose duty it is to see that the laws are enforced would have condemned me, and I think all loyal citizens who want the laws respected would have condemned me, and that is enough condemnation for refusing to assess a single fine. You seem to only think of the sword in terms of blood, but that is only a small part of it, the extreme, and it is only applied as a last resort. As I said the threat of the sword, and the certainty of punishment, is perhaps its most potent power, and many potential thieves, robbers, and even murderers, are restrained by this fear, and refrain from committing crimes. Remove all law, and all fear of just punishment, and you will find we have more criminal-minded men than you think, and life and property would be in constant jeopardy from them. I have seen this tried out in oil boom towns, and I know whereof I speak.

You may feel that I have devoted more time to this effort than the importance of the case merited, but I assure you that I feel deeply the importance of it. I am sure that if you brethren could realize that what you are doing in this crisis plays into the hands of our countries enemies, strengthens their arms, and to that extent, great or small, prolongs this horrible war at the sacrifices of American lives, as well as those of our enemies, you would want to be most sure of the ground you occupy. Let us suppose for instance that you brethren could be one hundred per cent successful in keeping Christians, and their boys, from bearing arms, or in other ways helping out our country's war effort--just what effect would that have in determining the course of the war?

Of course, you cannot be that successful, for which we all should be thankful, but you can succeed to some extent, and the extent to which you do succeed, to that very extent our country's enemies are made stronger. Unconsciously you brethren, Brother Hedge, are doing a class of work which either Hitler, or Togo, would pay good money to have done if they could not get it done without it costing them any thing. And we never can know until the judgment day just how much they are responsible for stirring up this spirit of opposition to the war effort, not that I believe we have a preacher in our midst who could be influenced directly by anything Hitler or Togo might do. But they are too subtle to ever make a direct approach, and there propaganda will be so well disguised that no one will ever be able to trace it to its fountain head where all propaganda is born.

I have not spoken this directly to any of my other critics, and I admit I have a few others, most of them boys with hot heads, and little understanding, and I am sure that my efforts will be wasted on them. Time will cure most of them, and a more mature understanding of the problems involved. But I know you, and know that I can speak my mind freely to you without injury to the mutual regard we have for each other in the Lord. I know you are sound, both in heart and mind, and your whole desire is to serve the Lord, and finish your course with joy.

I am sure that if you realized, or believed for one moment, that any word of yours has worked to the hurt of our country's resistance to the unholy mob of murderers Satan has turned loose upon the world, and cost the sacrifice of a single life fighting our country's desperate battles, you would not speak it, for if you did you would not be the John Hedge that I know. Of course, I understand from your letters to me that you have not advocated the extreme position of such hot-heads as Eugene Smith, W. L. Wilson, and several other young men, who even go so far as to say that if you carry drinking water to war plant workers you are a killer's helper, and as guilty as the man who bears the sword that does the killing.

I am sure you can realize what effect such agitation as this is bound to have upon our country's war efforts, and that its effects would be tremendous if it was only general among the preachers of the church of Christ alone. Of course, I have no argument with Jehovah Witnesses, Mennonites, Quakers, and men of that type, for their systems were born in a fanaticism that binds them, but I do want to reason with my brethren, and help to wake them up to what this thing really means to civilization, and Christianity. It is only in a civilized world that Christianity has any show to survive, and the Lord knows it, and that is why He gave our country this big sword, the biggest in all history, to preserve this civilization. Satan loosed the sword of Germany and Japan in order to destroy civilization, because he knew it was his only chance to perpetuate his rule in the world. Christianity will grow in an atmosphere of civilization, and nowhere else, and civilization requires a strong civil government in which to live.

This may be my last word to you, but if so I want you to know that I only wish you well in your work, and hold you as ever in the highest regard. When you can, if ever, I will be glad to hear from you again.

Your Brother in Christ,

T. B. Wilkinson.