B. H. Roberts reviews John Taylor’s “The Government of God”

B. H. Roberts’ The Life of John Taylor discusses Taylor’s “masterpiece” The Government of God (available on PG). The rest of this post consists of an extract from Chapter 26 of the former.

It was while he [Taylor] was on this French and German mission, too, that he wrote his admirable work “The Government of God,” a book of some two hundred pages. The author defines the kingdom of God to be the government of God, on the earth, or in the heavens; and then in his first two chapters proceeds to place the magnificence, harmony, beauty and strength of the government of God, as seen throughout the universe, in contrast with the meanness, confusion and weakness of the government of men.

It is a bold picture he draws in each case; one displaying the intelligence, the light, the glory, the beneficence and power of God; the other the ignorance, the folly, the littleness and imbecility of man. The great evils, both national and individual which He depicts with such vividness, the author maintains are beyond the power of human agency to correct. “They are diseases,” he remarks, “that have been generating for centuries; that have entered into the vitals of all institutions, religious and political, that have prostrated the powers and energies of all bodies politic, and left the world to groan under them, for they are evils that exist in church and state, at home and abroad; among Jew and Gentile, Christian, Pagan and Mahometan; king, prince, courtier and peasant; like the deadly simoon, they have paralyzed the energies, broken the spirits, damped the enterprise, corrupted the morals and crushed the hopes of the world. * * * No power on this side of heaven can correct this evil. It is a world that is degenerated, and it requires a God to put it right.”

The author then rather hurriedly reviews the incompetency of the means made use of by man to regenerate the world; showing that neither the Roman Catholic nor Greek churches, though having full sway in some countries, and backed by national and even international power, have been able to make happy, prosperous, unselfish and righteous those countries whose destinies they have directed; and being unable to accomplish these desirable objects in the nations where their power has been supreme, the author argues that they would be unsuccessful in regenerating the world should their dominion be universal.

Nor is our author more hopeful that the reformed churches, the Protestants, would be any more successful than the Greek and Roman churches have been. So far Protestantism has but increased division, and multiplied strife without changing materially the moral and spiritual condition of the world.

Turning from those who would regenerate the world through the medium of Christianity–a false, a corrupted Christianity, for such is the so-called Christian religion of the churches above mentioned–turning from these to those who would take their destiny into their own hands, and who, either denying the existence of God or ignoring His right to direct in the affairs of men, seek by their own wisdom to establish institutions for the amelioration of mankind, our author remarks:

“If skepticism is to be the basis of the happiness of man, we shall be in a poor situation to improve the world. It is practical infidelity that has placed the world in its present condition; how far the unblushing profession of it will lead to restoration and happiness, I must leave my readers to judge. It is our departure from God that has brought upon us all our misery. It is not a very reasonable way to alleviate it by confirming mankind is skepticism.”

Neither has man been able to devise any form of government that is a panacea for the numerous ills with which the world is cursed. Poverty, iniquity, crime, injustice, greed, pride, lust, oppression, exist in republics as well as in kingdoms or empires; in limited monarchies as well as in those that are absolute. Our author maintains that neither religion nor philosophy, the church nor the state, nor education nor all of these combined, as they exist among men, are sufficient to regenerate the world; “our past failures,” he writes, “make it evident that any future effort, with the same means, would be useless.”

The author then proceeds to discuss the questions–What is man? What his destiny and relationship to God? The object of his existence on the earth, his relationship thereto; and his accountability to God. To say that Elder Taylor treats these grave questions with marked ability is unnecessary.

He then deals with God’s course in the moral government of the world; and then of the question–“Whose right is it to govern the world?” He clearly proves that it is God’s right, basing that right on the fact that God created it–that it is His; and He, and they to whom He delegates His power are the only ones who have legitimate authority to govern it. But men have usurped authority; they have taken the management of affairs, so far as they have the power into their own hands; they have rejected God and his counsels; and, as a consequence, the evils and corruptions of which all nations and peoples are sick follow.

This leads him to the question: Will man always be permitted to usurp authority over his fellow-men, and over the works of God? He answers in the negative. It would be unreasonable, unjust, unscriptural–contrary to the promises of God–and would frustrate His designs in the creation of the world. No, the time must come when the moral world, like the physical universe, shall be under the direction of the Almighty, and God’s will be done on earth as it is done in heaven. The manner in which this is to be brought about, the peace, prosperity, happiness and general blessedness which are to follow the establishment of the government of God on earth, are the subjects of his concluding chapters.

Such, in brief, is an outline of this fine work–Elder Taylor’s masterpiece! A work which is sufficient at once to establish both his literary ability and his power as a moral philosopher. One can only regret that in the later years of his life he did not find time to enlarge it. The flight is splendid, but one wishes he had remained longer on the wing. He wrote this work, as he tells us in his foot-note on the first page, to believers in the Bible. I regret that he did not so add to it that its sublime truths would appeal with equal force to those who reject the Jewish Scriptures. No writer in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has yet, in any manner worth mentioning, undertaken to establish the divinity of the Jewish Scriptures, or made answer to the indictments brought against the Bible by infidels; but no one can read the “Government of God” without being convinced that its author was pre-eminently qualified for such an undertaking.

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