Lipscomb, Politics and the Sermon on the Mount

This comes from David Lipscomb’s Civil Government (pp. 134-135). Given our political season in this nation, perhaps the words of one our spiritual forefathers have some relevant advice.  He wrote:

“THESE sayings of mine, refer to the sayings presented in this sermon [on the mount] of Jesus, which constitute the laws that must control the lives of his subjects, and must rule in his kingdom. They are given as principles to be practices, without which we are not and cannot be children of our Father which is in heaven. Yet the religious world of to-day both Protestant and Romish, believes these principles not applicable at the present day. The laws and the spirit of civil government are more looked to, to guide the church and regulate the lives of its members, than the teaching of the Bible. Indeed it is usually regarded that the church member may do any thing the civil law allows and what it allows is not to be prohibited in the church. This comes from the members of the church going into the civil governments, imbibing their spirit, adopting their morality and bringing them both into the church of Christ. A man cannot cherish in his heart two spirits, one to rule his religious life, the other to rule his civil life. He cannot adopt two standards of morality, one for his church life, the other for his political life.

      “A man cannot serve two masters, he will love the one, and hate the other, or he will cleave to one and despise the other.”

“That the political affairs, and the standard of general morality may be elevated by the affiliation, is possible, but the true spiritual life is destroyed by the affiliation.

“The antagonism between the principles laid down by Christ and those of civil government is so marked that in history, the statement, that they regulate their conduct by the sermon on the Mount, is equal to saying they take no part in civil affairs.

“The only people who claim to make the “sermon upon //135// the Mount” their rule of life, are the small religious bodies, who take no part in civil affairs. Some bodies of Quakers, Mennonites, Nazarenes and Dunkards, and individuals among the larger brotherhoods.

“But who can study the New Testament, the life of Christ, his teaching through his mission, the admonitions of the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostles and for a moment doubt, that Christ specially gave this sermon to regulate the hearts and lives of his followers. He gave it at the beginning of his ministry that all might understand the life, to which they were specifically called.”



5 Responses to “Lipscomb, Politics and the Sermon on the Mount”

  1. Profile photo of Clark Coleman  Clark Coleman Says:

    I wonder what specific examples brother Lipscomb was thinking of when he wrote this. It seems to me that the Churches of Christ have tended to prohibit many things that were legally permitted but which we consider to be vices: drinking, dancing, etc.

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      I think what he is saying is that Christians live by the Sermon on the Mount though they obey the laws of the land. If civil law permits something, that does not mean it is permissable for Christians. I think his point is more toward nonparticipation in governemnt and that Christian participation in government does not lift up government but rather reduces Christian morals within the government. His primary example of this would be violence (war, capital punshment).

      • Profile photo of Clark Coleman  Clark Coleman Says:

        Yes, but he says that one consequence of Christians getting entangled with civil government is that they view as acceptable whatever the civil law says is legal.

        “The laws and the spirit of civil government are more looked to, to guide the church and regulate the lives of its members, than the teaching of the Bible. Indeed it is usually regarded that the church member may do any thing the civil law allows and what it allows is not to be prohibited in the church.”

        I guess I prefer to strike a middle ground between vagueness and naming names: Don’t name names, just say more specifically what sin is being talked about. If David Lipscomb meant that the church accepts war and capital punishment just because the civil government blesses them in law, then he should say so. I guess my mind prefers concreteness to abstraction when it comes to exhortations of what to do and what not to do.

      • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

        In the larger context, he does this. He has many concrete examples. His point is that just because civil governments sanction war does not mean the church should accept it since the church lives by the Sermon on the Mount.

  2.   rich constant Says:

    most likely…
    even the school book used in the 1800s was the bible.
    the sin of adultery?
    someone messed with my wife i would not be prosecuted for shooting him.
    rudimentary ethics had not been influenced by radio.
    papers.
    which maybe in areas of this country,got around once maybe a month.

    where do we come by our rule of law…
    and today?
    government, Congress and the Senate are going to regulate the ethical process of capitalism….
    git a grip!
    and i work on space ships in my spare time.

    hay!
    divorce is legal,homosexuality is not to be discriminated against.
    just for starters!!!!!
    t.v. internet.
    boy oh boy
    and then all that time on our hands.
    but why manage my time for the LORD and around his purposes.

    you speak to the time this was written and then go to even pre 1960s values, even
    morality and ethics.
    i never heard anything about
    Kennedy”s
    exploits in the white house,
    on and on

    and now today!!!!
    Clark
    you want, excuse me please…
    you said
    “I guess my mind prefers concreteness to abstraction when it comes to exhortations of what to do and what not to do.”

    GAL.5:13-21
    Lipscomb i bet-ya
    understood this little nugget from Paul in a little less of myopic vision,
    due to our predispositions of the way humanism and politically correct mannerism”s shape and mold all of what (mostly all call a well managed life)we do and say, to procure our place in the community. of POWERS AND PRINCIPALITY’S

    AND THEN
    how do we measure up…
    with the christian ethic….
    GAL. 5:22-36

    God continue to help us all.
    blessings
    Clark

    and all
    rich

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