Mennonite Articles of Faith (1766) - Article 28
XXVIII. Of the Office of Temporal Government.
We believe that although men have by nature no right to rule over one another with violence, but only in a brotherly spirit to control themselves and come to one another's assistance (Acts 17:26, 27; Matthew 7:12), nevertheless, the office of government has become necessary by reason of man's great corruptness (Genesis 6:12, 13) and that the Lord our God therefore has not only permitted but determined and ordained it (Romans 13:1-8) first through His divine providence in general but then, too, among His people, Israel, by specific command (Deuteronomy 16:18; Exodus 18:25; Numbers 11:11, 16, 17) and that the same seems still absolutely necessary as well for the observance of right and good order in social life as for the punishment of the evil and the protection of the good, and other like objects.
For this reason we hold ourselves in duty bound towards our lawful government to regard the same as God's servant for our good, to honor it with due reverence (1 Peter 2:12-21), to be obedient unto it in all things that are not in violation of God's commandments or of one's good conscience (Acts 4:19, 20), to pay cheerfully and faithfully all proper taxes and assessments, and devoutly to pray for it (1 Timothy 2:1-4; Jeremiah 29:7), etc. All this we need to observe the more in all cases since we know that "promotion cometh neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south; but God is the judge: He putteth down one and lifteth up another" (Psalms 75:6, 7) according to His will (Proverbs 8:15, 16), now to bless and now to chastise.
Should, however, such an office be conferred upon us, we would hesitate and would not dare to accept it, not knowing the will of Christ as to how such office should be administered. (True, there are other things, too, in civil life concerning which we have no explicit direction, but they are less difficult and can more easily be ordered according to God's Word.) No direction whatever concerning it is found among all His commandments respecting the administration of His kingdom, nor among all the instructions of his apostles. (We know nothing as to how the government is to be instituted or how the office should be administered. This gives us reason to be scrupulous). Moreover when we consider that the Lord Jesus seems everywhere to warn His disciples against bearing rule according to the manner of the world (Matthew 20:25, 26; Luke 22:25-30; John 18:36), as well as against all vengeance (Matthew 5:39, 40; Romans 12: 19), the swearing of oaths, and all worldly conformity, we consider it a very difficult matter to administer this office according to faith. We hold, too, that the power vested for a time in the Jewish government (Deuteronomy 17:8-12; 2 Chronicles 10:5-11) is in Christ fulfilled, brought to an end and abolished (Matthew 5:17; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 2:15-23; 3:16-25), and hence can not be applicable to Christ's people (Hebrews 7:12); on the other hand it seems to us no less calculated to arouse scruples when human laws are to be enforced which are at variance with the principles of civil law which God Himself laid down for Israel. Cases occur which often cause judges to hesitate: Compare the present laws concerning theft and adultery with Exodus 22:1; Leviticus 20:10.
For these various reasons we consider ourselves fortunate to be exempt from this most important and at best dangerous service (we regard it a favor not to be called or impressed into civil office) while at the same time we can live in peace and quiet under the protection of such a benign government, who, though not recognizing for themselves the difficulties mentioned (but rather seeing in their office a divine calling) have yet granted to us such great privileges and exemptions (exemption from oaths and military service) for which we can not thank God enough (1 Timothy 2:1-4) and owe our government all reverence and love.
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