"The President, the Congress, the general assemblies, the governors, and the councils of state as the delegates of the people, are the rulers of the United States of America, according to the division of power made to them by the Constitution of the United States and by the constitutions of their respective states, and the said states are a sovereign and independent nation, and ought not to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction."
It is the duty of all Christians, and especially of all Christian ministers, to observe and obey the laws and commands of the governing or supreme authority of the country of which they are citizens or subjects or in which they reside, and to use all laudable means to encourage and enjoin obedience to the powers that be.
John Wesley, remained loyal to the British government as a Citizen of the Empire. While he did not offer the article, Article 23, to the Methodist societies in America; he did include a prayer for the rulers of these United States.
When the American societies were fully organized into a sovereign body and "The Articles of Religion" were adapted as the theological and doctrinal guide, they refrained Wesleys prayer to read as stated above in Article 23 and it was adapted by the Christian Conference, meeting in Baltimore, in 1784. A few editorial changes were made in 1804.
Traditionally, Methodists have been law abiding citizens and have proven themselves loyal to our representative and democratic form of government.
Our republic provides a congenial climate in which a free church can exercise itself as the conscience of our total culture and free enterprise system.
Methodists have never been lagging in their duty to their country. Lincoln said that the Methodists sent more prayers to heaven for Gods blessing on the nation and more sons to battle to preserve us as a nation than any other religious body.
Methodist pastors have responded to the challenge of the chaplaincy and many have served as state senate chaplains and as chaplains of the United States Senate. Methodist chaplains have outnumbered all other chaplains from the other religious bodies in the United States.
The Evangelical Methodist Church has Chaplains in all three branches of the Armed Services.
We are deeply grateful for a government that protects the free pulpit and we know that we who occupy these pulpits recognize our responsibility to maintain these precious legacies.
We, as an ecclesiastical body, within the framework of our nation, are bounden to uphold the duly elected heads of state with our prayers and encouragement, trusting that they will courageously defend these inalienable rights and do our part to preserve them for our sons and daughters.
When the Article of Religion was finally adopted by the Conference, meeting in New York City, May 29, 1789, George Washington, who had recently been inaugurated as the first president of the United States, was sent a copy of this "Article" with the assurance of the prayers and loyalty of all Methodist pastors in the Unites States and its duly elected leaders as follows in the letter below:
"We promise you our fervent prayers to the throne of grace, that God almighty may endow you with all the graces and gifts of His Holy Spirit, that He may enable you to fill up your important station to His glory, the good of His Church, the happiness of the United States, and the welfare of Mankind."
Washington very graciously received the communication and replied in like spirit as follows: "After mentioning that I trust the people of every denomination, who demean themselves as good citizens, will have occasion to be convinced that I shall always strive to prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine vital religion. I must assure you in particular that I take in kindest part the promise you make of presenting your prayers at the throne of grace for me, and that I likewise implore the divine benediction on yourselves and your religious community."
The Methodist Church was born midst the struggles for the freedom of this nation and had its birth with the birth of Civil liberty and the national life of these United States. This article was its first Civil utterance of any religious body recognizing its relationship to the civil government of this country. It recognized our republican form of government, its officers as ruler, exercising a power delegated to them by the citizens who exercise the elective franchise--a government of the people, by the people, for the people.
If bad men are elected to high civil positions by the choice of the people, the people become the partakers of their deeds and are responsible for their inequitable administration.
The Scriptures are clear as to our duty as Christians in the selection of our leaders politically as well as spiritually, as recorded in Exodus 18:22; "Thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness, and place such over them, to be rulers" and as also, recorded in II Samuel 23:3, "He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God."
There is no doubt that the relationship of the Church to civil government is recognized in the Word of God. We are directed by it to offer our prayers for civil authorities as revealed in I Timothy 2:1-3, "I exhort you, therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercession and giving thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all Godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour."
The Word of God also declares in Romans 13:1, that "The Powers that be are ordained of God," both civil and religious and in vers 5, Paul declares, "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." We may not approve of the man or his administration but we must be loyal and respectful and "render unto Caesar the things which are Caesars and unto God the things which are Gods." Matthew 22:21.
None knew better than our Lord Jesus that Caesar, who now occupied the throne, possessed traits of character which were everything but commendable; and yet, as an emperor, he was to be obeyed in all matters that did not require denying "Divine Law." Moreover, as a ruler, he was to be remembered in the prayers of Christians and provided with "tribute money" to defray the expenses of government."
Scriptural Reference: Exodus 18:21; II Samuel 23:3; Romans 13:1-7; Exodus 22:28; Ecclesiastes 10:20; Acts 23:5; IPeter 2:17; Titus 3:1; IPeter2:13-14 Proverbs 11:11.