Lex Rex [Law Is King, or The Law & The Prince] (1644)
Whether Royal Power and Definite Forms of Government Be from God
The king may be said to be from God and his word in these several notions:
1. By way of permission, Jer. 43:10, “Say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid, and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.” And thus God made him a catholic king, and gave him all nations to serve him, Jer. 27:6-8, though he was but an unjust tyrant, and his sword the best title to those crowns.
2. The king is said to be from God by way of naked approbation; God giving to a people power to appoint what government they shall think good, but instituting none in special in his word. This way some make kingly power to be from God in the general, but in the particular to be an invention of men, negatively lawful, and not repugnant to the word, as the wretched popish ceremonies are from God. But we teach no such thing: let Maxwell1 free his master Bellarmine,2 and other Jesuits with whom he sides in Romish doctrine: we are free of this. Bellarmine says that politic power in general is warranted by a divine law; but the particular forms of politic power, (he means monarchy, with the first,) is not by divine right, but de jure gentium, by the law of nations, and flows immediately from human election, as all things, says he, that appertain to the law of nations. So monarchy to Bellarmine is but an human invention, as Mr. Maxwell’s surplice is; and Dr. Ferne, sect 3, p. 13, says with Bellarmine.
3. A king is said to be from God, by particular designation, as he appointed Saul by name for the crown of Israel. Of this, hereafter.
4. The kingly or royal office is from God by divine institution, and not by naked approbation; for,
- 1st, we may well prove Aaron’s priesthood to be of divine institution, because God does appoint the priest’s qualification from his family, bodily perfections, and his charge.
- 2nd, We take the pastor to be by divine law and God’s institution, because the Holy Ghost (1 Tim 3:1-4) describes his qualifications; so may we say that the royal power is by divine institution, because God molds him: Deut. 17:15, “Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose, one from amongst thy brethren,” etc.; Rom 13:1, “There is no power but of God, the powers that be are ordained of God.”
- 3rd, That power must be ordained of God as his own ordinance, to which we owe subjection for conscience, and not for fear of punishment; but every power is such, Rom.13.
- 4th, To resist the kingly power is to resist God.
- 5th, He is the minister of God for our good.
- 6th, He bears the sword of God to take vengeance upon evildoers.
- 7th, The Lord expressly says, 1 Pet. 2:17, “Fear God, honor the king;” ver. 13, 14, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as those that are sent by him,” etc.; Tit. 3:1, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers;” and so the fifth commandment lays obedience to the king on us no less than to our parents; whence, I conceive that power to be of God, to which, by the moral law of God, we owe perpetual subjection and obedience.
- 8th, Kings and magistrates are God’s, and God’s deputies and lieutenants upon earth, (Psalm 82:1, 6, 7; Exod. 22:8; 4:16,) and therefore their office must be a lawful ordinance of God.
- 9th, By their office they are feeders of the Lord’s people, 1 Sam. 9:19.
- 10th, It is a great judgment of God when a land wants the benefit of such ordinances of God, Isa. 3:1-3, 6, 7, 11. The execution of their office is an act of the just Lord of heaven and earth, not only by permission, but according to God’s revealed will in his word; their judgment is not the judgment of men, but of the Lord, 2 Chron. 19:6, and their throne is the throne of God. 1 Chron. 22:10. Jerome says,3 to punish murderers and sacrilegious persons is not bloodshed, but the ministry and service of good laws.
So, if the king be a living law by office, and the law put in execution which God has commanded, then, as the moral law is by divine institution, so must the officer of God be, who is custos et vindex legis divine, the keeper, preserver, and avenger of God’s law. Basilius says,4 this is the prince’s office, Ut opem ferat virtuti, malitiam vero impugnet. When Paulinus Treverensis, Lucifer Metropolitane of Sardinia, Dionysius Mediolanensis, and other bishops, were commanded by Constantine to write against Athanasius, they answered, Regnum non ipsius esse, sed dei, a quo acceperit, the kingdom was God’s not his; as Athanasius says,5 Optatus Milevitanus6 helps us in the cause, where he says with Paul “We are to pray for heathen kings.” The genuine end of the magistrate, says Epiphanius,7 is ut ad bonum ordinem universitatis mundi omnia ex deo bene disponantur atque administrenter. But some object, If the kingly power be of divine institution, then shall any other government be unlawful, and contrary to a divine institution, and so we condemn aristocracy and democracy as unlawful.
Ans. This consequence were good, if aristocracy and democracy were not also of divine institution, as all my arguments prove; for I judge they are not governments different in nature, if we speak morally and theologically, only they differ politically and positively; nor is aristocracy any thing but diffused and enlarged monarchy, and monarchy is nothing but contracted aristocracy, even as it is the same hand when the thumb and the four fingers are folded together and when all the five fingers are dilated and stretched out; and wherever God appointed a king he never appointed him absolute, and a sole independent angel, but joined always with him judges, who were no less to judge according to the law of God (2 Chron. 19:6,) than the king, Deut. 17:15. And in a moral obligation of judging righteously, the conscience of the monarch and the conscience of the inferior judges are equally under immediate subjection to the King of kings; for there is here a co-ordination of consciences, and no subordination, for it is not in the power of the inferior judge to judge, quoad specificationem, as the king commands him, because the judgment is neither the king’s, nor any mortal man’s, but the Lord’s, 2 Chron. 19:6, 7.
Hence all the three forms are from God; but let no man say, if they be all indifferent, and equally of God, societies and kingdoms are left in the dark, and know not which of the three they shall pitch upon, because God has given to them no special direction for one rather than for another. But this is easily answered.
- 1st, That a republic appoint rulers to govern them is not an indifferent, but a moral action, because to set no rulers over themselves I conceive were a breach of the fifth commandment, which commands government to be one or other.
- 2nd, It is not in men’s free will that they have government or no government, because it is not in their free will to obey or not to obey the acts of the court of nature, which is God’s court; and this court enacts that societies suffer not mankind to perish, which must necessarily follow if they appoint no government; also it is proved elsewhere, that no moral acts, in their exercises and use, are left indifferent to us; so then, the aptitude and temper of every commonwealth to monarchy, rather than to democracy or aristocracy, is God’s warrant and nearest call to determine the wills and liberty of people to pitch upon a monarchy, hic et nunc, rather than any other form of government, though all the three be from God, even as single life and marriage are both the lawful ordinances of God, and the constitution and temper of the body is a calling to either of the two; nor are we to think that aristocracy and democracy are either unlawful ordinances, or men’s inventions, or that those societies which want monarchy do therefore live in sins.
But some say that Peter calls any form of government an human ordinance, 1 Pet. 2:13, a0nqrwpi/nh kti/sij, therefore monarchy can be no ordination of God.
Ans. Rivetus says,8 “It is called an ordinance of man, not because it is an invention of man, and not an ordinance of God, but respectu subjecti,” Piscator, 9 “Not because man is the efficient cause of magistracy, but because they are men who are magistrates;” Diodatus,10 “Obey princes and magistrates, or governors made by men, or amongst men;” Oecumenius,11 “An human constitution, because it is made by an human disposition, and created by human suffrages;” Dydimus, Because over it “presides presidents made by men;” Cajetanus,12 Estius,13 “Every creature of God (as, preach the gospel to every creature) in authority.” But I take the word, “every creature of man,” to be put emphatically, to commend the worth of obedience to magistrates, though but men, when we do it for the Lord’s sake; therefore Betrandus Cardinalis Ednensis says,14 “He speaks so for the more necessity of merit;” and Glossa Ordinaria says, “Be subject to all powers, etiam ex infidelibus et incredulis, even of infidels and unbelievers.” Lyranus, “For though they be men, the image of God shines in them;” and the Syriac, as Lorinus says,15 leads us thereunto, )#OfnF) yn’b@; NwOhl;k@ul; Lechullechum benai anasa: Obey all the children of men that are in authority.
It is an ordinance of men, not effectively, as if it were an invention and a dream of men; but subjectively, because exercised by man. Objectively, and pelekwj, for the good of men, and for the external man’s peace and safety especially; whereas church-officers are for the spiritual good of men’s souls. And Durandus says well,16 “Civil power according to its institution is of God, and according to its acquisition and way of use is of man.” And we may thus far call the forms of magistrates a human ordinance, that some magistrates are ordained to care for men’s lives and matters criminal, of life and death, and some for men’s lands and estates; some for commodities by sea, and some by land; and are thus called magistrates according to these determinations or human ordinances.
1. Sacrosan. Reg. Maj. the Sacred and Royal Prerogative of Christian kings, c. 1, q. 1, p. 6, 7.
2. Bellarm. de locis, lib. 5, c.6, not. 5. Politica universe considerata est de jure divino, in particulari considerata est de jure gentium
3. Jerome in 1. 4, Comment. in Jerem.
4. Basilius. epist. 125.
5. Athanasius, epist. ad solita
6. Optat. Melevitanus, lib. 3.
7. Epiphanius, lib. 1, tom. 3, Heres. 40.
8. Rivetus in decal. Mand. 5, p. 124
9. Piscator in loc.
10. Diodatus, annot.
11. Oecumenius quod hominum dispositione consistit, et humanis suffragiis creatur.
12. Cajetanus, officium regiminis, quia humanis suffragiis creatur.
13. Estius in loc.
14. Betrandus, tom. 4, Bib.
15. Lorin. in. lo.
16. Durandus lib. de orig. juris.