Lex Rex [Law Is King, or The Law & The Prince] (1644)

Samuel Rutherford

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Whether or No the Popish Prelate, the Aforesaid Author, Does by Force of Reason Evince That Neither Constitution Nor Designation of the King Is from the People

The P. Prelate aims (but it is an empty aim) to prove that the people are wholly excluded. I answer only arguments not pitched on before, as the Prelate says.

P. Prelate — 1. To whom can it be more proper to give the rule over men than to Him who is the only king truly and properly of the whole world? 2. God is the immediate author of all rule and power that is amongst all his creatures, above or below. 3. Man before the fall received dominion and empire over all the creatures below immediately, as Gen. 1:28; Gen. 9:2; therefore we cannot deny that the most noble government (to wit monarchy) must be immediately from God, without any contract or compact of men.

Ans. — 1. The first reason concludes not what is in question; for God only gives rule and power to one man over another; therefore he gives it immediately. It follows not.

2. It shall as well prove that God does immediately constitute all judges, and therefore it shall be unlawful for a city to appoint a mayor, or a shire a justice of peace.

3. The second argument is inconsequent also, because God in creation is the immediate author of all things, and, therefore, without consent of the creatures, or any act of the creature, created an angel a nobler creature than man, and a man than a woman, and men above beasts; because those that are not can exercise no act at all. But it follows not that all the works of providence, such as is the government of kingdoms, are done immediately by God; for in the works of providence, for the most part in ordinary, God works by means. It is then as good a consequence as this: God immediately created man, therefore he keeps his life immediately also without food and sleep; God immediately created the sun, therefore God immediately, without the mediation of the sun, gives light to the world. The making of a king is an act of reason, and God has given a man reason to rule himself; and therefore has given to a society an instinct of reason to appoint a governor over themselves; but no act of reason goes before man be created, therefore it is not in his power whether he be created a creature of greater power than a beast or no.

4. God by creation gave power to a man over the creatures, and so immediately; but I hope men cannot say, God by creation has made a man king over men.

5. The excellency of monarchy (if it be more excellent than any other government, of which hereafter) is no ground why it should be immediately from God as well as man’s dominion over the creature; for then the work of man’s redemption, being more excellent than the raising of Lazarus, should have been done immediately without the incarnation, death and satisfaction of Christ, (for no act of God without himself is comparable to the work of redemption, 1 Pet. 1:11, 12; Col. 1:18-22,) and God’s less excellent works, as his creating of beasts and worms, should have been done mediately, and his creating of man immediately.

P. Prelate. — They who execute the judgment of God must needs have the power to judge from God; but kings are deputies in the exercise of the judgments of God, therefore the proposition is proved. How is it imaginable that God reconciles the world by ministers, and saves man by them, (1 Cor. 5; 1 Tim. 4:16,) except they receive a power so to do from God? The assumption is, (Deut. 1:17; 1 Chron. 19:6,) Let none say Moses and Jehosaphat spake of inferior judges; for that which the king does to others he does by himself. Also, the execution of the kingly power is from God; for the king is the servant, angel, legate, minister of God, Rom. 13:6, 7. God properly and primarily is King, and King of kings, and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 1:5); all kings, related to him, are kings equivocally, and in resemblance, and he the only King.

Ans. — 1. That which is in question is never concluded, to wit, that “the king is both immediately constituted and designed king by God only, and not by the mediation of the people;” for when God reconciles and saves men by pastors, he saves them by the ‘intervening action of men; so he scourges his people by men as by his sword, (Psal. 17:14,) hand, staff, rod, (Isa. 10:5,) and his hammer. does it follow that God only does immediately scourge his people, and that wicked men have no more hand and action in scourging his people than the Prelate says the people has a hand in making a king? and that is no hand at all by the Prelate’s way.

2. We may borrow the Prelate’s argument: — Inferior judges execute the judgment of the Lord, and not the judgment of the king; therefore, by the Prelate’s argument. God. does only by immediate power execute judgment in them, and the inferior judges are not God’s ministers, executing the judgment of the Lord. But the conclusion is against all truth, and so must the Prelate’s argument be; and that inferior judges are the immediate substitutes and deputies of God, is hence proved, and shall be hereafter made good, if God will.

3. God is properly King of kings, so is God properly causa causarum, the Cause of causes, the Life of lifes, the Joy of joys. What! shall it then follow that he works nothing in the creatures by their mediation as causes? Because God is Light of lights, does he not enlighten the earth and air by the mediation of the sun? Then God communicates not life mediately by generation, he causes not his saints to rejoice, with joy unspeakable and glorious, by the intervening mediation of the Word. These are vain consequences. Sovereignty, and all power and virtue is in God infinitely; and what virtue and power of action is in the creatures, as they are compared with God, are in the creatures equivocally and in resemblance, and kata/ doch\n in opinion rather than really. Hence it must follow that second causes work none at all, — no more than the people has a hand or action in making the King, and that is no hand at all, as the Prelate says. And God only and immediately works all works in the creatures, because both the power of working and actual working comes from God, and the creatures, in all their working, are God’s instruments. And if the Prelate argue so frequently from power given of God, to prove that actual reigning is from God immediately, — Deut. 8:18, The Lord “gives the power to get wealth,” — will it follow that Israel gets no riches at all, or that God does not mediately by them and their industry get them? I think not.

P. Prelate. — To whom can it be due to give the kingly office but to Him only who is able to give the endowment and ability for the office? Now God only and immediately gives ability to be a king, as the sacramental anointing proves, Josh. 3:10. Othniel is the first judge after Joshua; and it is said, “And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he judged Israel:” the like is said of Saul and David.

Ans. — 1. God gave royal endowments immediately, therefore he immediately now makes the king. It follows not, for the species of government is not that which formally constitutes a king, for then Nero, Caligula, Julian, should not have been kings; and those who come to the crown by conquest and blood, are essentially kings, as the Prelate says. But be all these Othniels upon whom the Spirit of the Lord comes? Then they are not essentially kings who are babes and children, and foolish and destitute of the royal endowments; but it is one thing to have a royal gift, and another thing to be formally called to the kingdom. David had royal gifts after Samuel anointed him, but if you make him king, before Saul’s death, Saul was both a traitor all the time that he persecuted David, and so no king, and also king and God’s anointed, as David acknowledges him; and, therefore, that spirit that came on David and Saul, makes nothing against the people’s election of a king, as the Spirit of God is given to pastors under the New Testament, as Christ promised; but it will not follow that the designation of the man who is to be pastor should not be from the church and from men, as the Prelate denies that either the constitution or designation of the king is from the people, but from God only.

2. I believe the infusion of the Spirit of God upon the judges will not prove that kings are now both constituted and designed of God solely, only, and immediately; for the judges were indeed immediately, and for the most part extraordinarily, raised up of God; and God indeed, in the time of the Jews, was the king of Israel in another manner than he was the king of all the nations, and is the king of Christian realms now, and, therefore, the people’s despising of Samuel was a refusing that God should reign over them, because God, in the judges, revealed himself even in matters of policy, as what should be done to the man that gathered sticks on the Sabbath-day, and the like, as he does not now to kings.

P. Prelate. — Sovereignty is a ray of divine glory and majesty, but this cannot be found in people, whether you consider them jointly or singly; if you consider them singly, it cannot be in every individual man, for sectaries say, That all are born equal, with a like freedom; and if it be not in the people singly, it cannot be in them jointly, for all the contribution in this compact and contract, which they fancy to be human composition and voluntary constitution, is only by a surrender of the native right that every one had in himself. From whence, then, can this majesty and authority be derived? Again, where the obligation amongst equals is by contract and compact, violation of the faith plighted in the contract, cannot in proper terms be called disobedience or contempt of authority. It is no more but a receding from, and a violation of, that which was promised, as it may be in states or countries confederate. Nature, reason, conscience, Scripture, teach, that disobedience to sovereign power is not only a violation of truth and breach of covenant, but also high disobedience and contempt, as is clear, I Sam. 10:26. So when Saul (chap. 11) sent a yoke of oxen, hewed in pieces, to all the tribes, the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent, 1 Sam. 11:7; also, (Job 11:18) He looses the bonds of kings, that is, he looses their authority, and brings them into contempt; and he girds their loins with a girdle, that is, he strengthened their authority, and makes the people to reverence them. Heathens observe that there is qeio/n ti, some divine thing in kings. Profane histories say, that this was so eminent in Alexander the Great, that it was a terror to his enemies, and a powerful loadstone to draw men to compose the most seditious councils, and cause his most experienced commanders embrace and obey his counsel and command. Some stories write that, upon some great exigency, there was some resplendent majesty in the eyes of Scipio. This kept Pharaoh from lilting his hand against Moses, who charged him so boldly with his sins. When Moses did speak with God, face to face, in the mount, this resplendent glory of majesty so awed the people, that they dared not behold his glory, Exod. 34; this repressed the fury of the people, enraged against Gideon from destroying their idol, Judg. 6; and the fear of man is naturally upon all living creatures below, Gen. 9: So what can this reverence, which is innate in the hearts of all subjects toward their sovereigns, be, but the ordinance unrepeatable of God, and the natural effect of that majesty of princes with which they are endowed from above?

Ans. — 1. I never heard any shadow of reason till now, and yet (because the lie has a latitude) here is but a shadow, which the Prelate stole from M. Anton. de Dom. Archiepisc, Spalatensis;l and I may say, confidently, his Plagiarius has not one line in his book which is not stolen; and, for the present, Spalato’s argument is but spilt, and the nerves cut from it, while, it is both bleeding and lamed. Let the reader compare them, and I pawn my credit he has ignorantly clipped Spalato. But I answer, “Sovereignty is a beam and ray (as Spalato says) of divine majesty, and is not either formally or virtually in the people.” It is false that it is not virtually in the people; for there be two things in the judge, either inferior or supreme, for the argument holds in the majesty of a parliament, as we shall hear.

    (1.) The gift or grace of governing (the Arminian Prelate will be offended at this).
    (2.) The authority of governing. The gift is supernatural, and is not in man naturally, and so not in the king; for he is physically but a mortal man, and this is a gift received, for Solomon asked it by prayer from God. There is a capacity passive in all individual men for it. As for the official authority itself, it is virtually in all in whom any of God’s image is remaining since the fall, as is clear, as may be gathered from Gen. 1:28; yea, the father, the master, the judge, have it by God’s institution, in some measure, over son, servant, and subject, though it be more in the supreme ruler; and, for our purpose, it is not requisite that authoritative majesty should be in all, (what is in the father and husband I hope to clear,) I mean, it needs not to be formally in all, and so all are born alike and equal. But he who is a Papist, a Socinian, an Arminian, and therefore delivered to Satan by his mother church, must be the sectary, for we are where this Prelate left us, maintainers of the Protestant religion, contained in the Confession of Faith and National Covenant of Scotland, when this Demas forsook us and embraced the world.

2. Though not one single man in Israel be a judge or king by nature, nor have in them formally any ray of royalty or magistratical authority, yet it follows not that Israel, parliamentarily convened, has no such authority as to name Saul king in Mizpah, and David king in Hebron, 1 Sam. 10:24, 25; 1 Chron. 11:12; 12:38. 39. One man alone has not the keys of the kingdom of heaven; (as the Prelate dreams) but it follows not that many, convened in a church way, has not this power, Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:1-4. One man has not strength to fight against an army of ten thousand; does it follow, therefore, that an army of twenty thousand has not strength to fight against these ten thousand? Though one Paul cannot synodically determine the question, (Acts 15) it follows not that the apostles, and elders, and brethren, convened from diverse churches, has not power to determine it in a lawful synod; and, therefore, from a disjoined and scattered power, no man can argue to a united power. So not any one man is an inferior ruler, or has the rays and beams of a number of aristocratical rulers; but it follows not that all these men, combined in a city or society, have not power, in a joint political body, to choose inferior or aristocratical rulers.

3. The P. Prelate’s reason is nothing. All the contribution (saith he) in the compact body to make a king, is only by a surrender of the native right of every single man (the whole being only a voluntary contribution). How, then, can there be any majesty derived from them? I answer, Very well; for the surrender is so voluntary, that it is also natural, and founded on the law of nature, that men must have governors, either many, or one supreme ruler. And it is voluntary, and depends on a positive institution of God, whether the government be by one supreme ruler, as in a monarchy, or in many, as in an aristocracy, according as the necessity and temper of the commonwealth do most require. This constitution is so voluntary, as it has below it the law of nature for its general foundation, and above it, the supervenient institution of God, ordaining that there should be such inagistrates, both kings and other judges, because without such, all. human societies should be dissolved.

4. Individual persons, in creating a magistrate, does not properly surrender their right, which can be called a right; for they do but surrender their power of doing violence to those of their fellows in that same community, so as they shall not now have moral power to do injuries without punishment; and this is not right or liberty properly, but servitude, for a power to do violence and injuries is not liberty, but servitude and bondage. But the Prelate talks of royalty as of mere tyranny, as if it were a proper dominion and servile empire that the prince has over his people, and not more paternal and fatherly, than lordly or masterly.

5. He says, “Violation of faith, plighted in a contract amongst equals, cannot be called disobedience; but disobedience to the authority of the sovereign is not only breach of covenant, but high disobedience and contempt.” But violation of faith amongst equals, as equals, is not properly disobedience; for disobedience is between a superior and an inferior: but violation of faith amongst equals, when they make one of their equals their judge and ruler, is not only violation of truth, but also disobedience. All Israel, and Saul, while he is a private man seeking his father’s asses, are equals by covenant, obliged one to another; and so any injury done by Israel to Saul, in that case, is not disobedience, but only violation of faith. But when all Israel makes Saul their king, and swears to him obedience, he is not now their equal; and an injury done to him now, is both a violation of their faith, and high disobedience also. Suppose a city of aldermen, all equal amongst themselves in dignity and place, take one of their number and make him their mayor and provost — a wrong done to him now, is not only against the rules of fraternity, but disobedience to one placed by God over them.

6. 1 Sam. 11:7, “The fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent to obey Saul;” therefore God has placed authority in kings, which is not in people. It is true; because God has transferred the scattered authorities that are in all the people, in one mass; and, by virtue of his own ordinance, has placed them in one man, who is king. What follows? That God confers this authority immediately upon the king, without the mediation of any action of the people? Yea, the contrary rather follows.

7. God looses the bond of kings; that is, when God is to cast off kings, he causes them to loose all authority, and makes them come into contempt with the people. But what does this prove? That God takes away the majesty and authority of kings immediately; and therefore God gave to kings this authority immediately, without the people’s conveyance? Yea, I take the Prelate’s weapon from him. God does not take the authority of the king from him immediately, but mediately, by the people’s hating and despising him, when they see his wickedness, as the people see Nero a monster — a prodigious blood-sucker. Upon this, all the people contemn him and despise him, and so the majesty is taken from Nero and all his mandates and laws, when they see him trample upon all laws, divine and human, and that mediately by the people’s heart despising of his majesty; and so they repeat, and take again, that awesome authority that they once gave him. And this proves that God gave him the authority mediately, by the consent of man.

8. Nor speaks he of kings only, but (ver. 21) he pours contempt Psal. 107:40 Mybiydin;-l(aa super munificos. Pineda. Ans. Mont. super Principes, upon nobles and great men; and this place may prove that no judges of the earth are made by men.

9. The heathen say, That there is some divinity in princes, as in Alexander the Great and Scipio, toward their enemies; but this will prove that princes and kings have a superiority over those who are not their native subjects, for something of God is in them, in relation to all men that are not their subjects. If this be a ground strong and good, because God only, and independently from men, takes away this majesty, as God only and independently gives it, then a king is sacred to all men, subjects or not subjects. Then it is unlawful to make war against any foreign king and prince, for in invading him or resisting him, you resist that divine majesty of God that is in him; then you may not lawfully flee from a tyrant, no more than you may lawfully flee from God.

10. Scipio was not a king, therefore this divine majesty is in all judges of the earth, in a more or less measure; — therefore God, only and immediately, may take this spark of divine majesty from inferior judges. It follows not. And kings, certainly, cannot infuse any spark of a divine majesty on any inferior judges, for God only immediately infuses it in men; therefore it is unlawful for kings to take this divinity from judges, for they resist God who resist parliaments, no less than those who resist kings. Scipio has divinity in him as well as Caesar, and that immediately from God, and not from any king.

11. Moses was not a king when he went to Pharaoh, for he had not, as yet, a people. Pharaoh was the king, and because Pharaoh was a king, the divines of Oxford must say, His majesty must not, in words of rebuke, be resisted more than by deeds.

12. Moses’ face did shine as a prophet receiving the law from God — not as a king. And is this sunshine from heaven upon the face of Nero and Julian? It must be, if it be a beam of royal majesty, if this pratler say right, but (2 Cor. 3:7) this was a majesty typical, which did adumbrate the glory of the law of God, and is far from being a royalty due to all heathen kings.

13. I would our king would evidence such a majesty in breaking the images and idols of his queen, and of papists about him.

14. The fear of Noah, and the regenerated who are in covenant with the beasts of the field, (Job 5:23,) is upon the beasts of the earth, not by approbation only, as the people makes kings by the Prelate’s way; nor yet by free consent, as the people freely transfer their power to him who is king. The creatures inferior to man, have, by no act of free will, chosen man to be their ruler, and transferred their power to him, because they are, by nature, inferior to man; and God, by nature, has subjected the creatures to man, (Gen. 1:28,) and so this proves not that the king, by nature, is above the people — I mean the man who is king; and, therefore, though God had planted in the hearts of all subjects a fear and reverence toward the king, upon supposition that they have made him king, it follows not that this authority and majesty is immediately given by God to the man who is king, without the intervening consent of the people, for there is a native fear in the scholar to stand in awe of his teacher, and yet the scholar may willingly give himself to be a disciple to his teacher, and so give his teacher power over him.

Citizens naturally tear their supreme governor of the city, yet they give to the man who is their supreme governor, that power and authority which is the ground of awe and reverence. A servant naturally fears his master, yet often he gives his liberty, and resigns it up voluntarily to his master; and this was not extraordinary amongst the Jews, where the servant did entirely love the master, and is now most ordinary when servants do, for hire, tie themselves to such a master. Soldiers naturally fear their commanders, yet they may, and often do, by voluntary consent, make such men their commanders; and, therefore, from this, it follows in no way that the governor of a city, the teacher, the master, the commander in war, have not their power and authority only and immediately from God, but from their inferiors, who, by their free consent, appointed them for such places.

P. Prelate (Arg. 7, p. 51, 52). — This seems, or rather is, an unanswerable argument, — No man has power of life and death but the Sovereign Power of life and death, to wit, God, Gen. 9:5-6. God says thrice he will require the blood of man at the hands of man, and this power God has committed to God’s deputy: whoso sheds man’s blood MdF)fb@f by man shall die, — by the king, for the world knew not any kind of government at this time but monarchical, and this monarch was Noah; and if this power be from God, why not all sovereign power? seeing it is homogeneous, and, as jurists say, in indivisibili posita, a thing in its nature indivisible, and that cannot be distracted or impaired, and if every man had the power of life and death, God should not be the God of order. The P. Prelate takes the pains to prove out of the text that a magistracy is established in the text.

Ans. 1. Let us consider this unanswerable argument. (1.) It is grounded upon a lie, and a conjecture never taught by any but himself, to wit, that MdF)fb@f by, in, or through man, must signify a magistrate, and a king only. This king was Noah. Never interpreter, nay, not common sense can say, that no magistrate is here understood but a king. The consequence is vain: His blood shall be shed by man; therefore by a magistrate? it follows not; therefore by a king? it follows not. There was not a king in the world as yet. Some make Belus, the father of Ninus, the first king, and the builder of Babylon. This Ninus is thought the first builder of the city after called Nineveh, and the first king of the Assyrians. So says Quintus Curtius2 and others; but grave authors believe that Nimrod was no other than Belus the father of Ninus. So says Augustine,3 Eusebius, Hieronym.;4 and Eusebius5 makes him the first founder of Babylon: so says Clemens,6 Pirerius,7 and Josephus says the same. Their times, their cruel natures are the same. Calvin says,8 Noah yet lived while Nimrod lived; and the Scripture says, “Nimrod began to reign, and be powerful on the earth.” And Babel was wOt@k;lam;ma ty#Oi)r’ Gen. 10:10 the beginning of his kingdom. No writer, Moses nor any other, can show as a king before Nimrod. So Eusebius,9 Paul Orosius,10 Hieronym.,11 Josephus,12 say that he was the first king; and
Tostatus Abulens.,13 and our own Calvin, Luther,14 Musculus on the place, and Ainsworth, make him the first king and the founder of Babylon. How Noah was a king, or there was any monarchical government in the world then, the Prelate has alone dreamed it. There was but family-government before this.

2. And if there be magistracy here established by God, there is no warrant to say it is only a monarchy; for if the Holy Ghost intends a policy, it is a policy to be established to the world’s end, and not to be limited (as the Prelate does) to Noah’s days. All interpreters, upon good ground, establish the same policy that our Savior speaks of, when he says, “He shall perish by the sword who takes the sword,” Matt. 26:52. So the Netherlands have no lawful magistrate who has power of life and death, because their government is aristocratical, and they have no king. So all acts of taking away the lives of ill-doers shall be acts of homicide in Holland. How absurd!

3. Nor do I see how the place, in the native scope, does establish a magistracy. Calvin says not so;15 and interpreters deduce, by consequence, the power of the magistrate from this place. But the text is general, — He who kills man shall be killed by man: either he shall fall into the magistrate’s hand, or into the band of some murderer; so Calvin,16 Marlorat, etc. He speaks, says Pirerius,17 not of the fact and event itself, but of the deserving of murderers; and it is certain all murderers fall not into the magistrate’s hands; but he says, by God and man’s laws they ought to die, though sometime one murderer kills another.

4. The sovereign power is given to the king, therefore, it is given to him immediately without the consent of the people. It follows not.

5. Power of life and death is not given to the king only, but also to other magistrates, yea, and to a single private man in the just defense of his own life. Other arguments are but what the Prelate has said already.


     1.    Antonin. de Dominis Archiepis. de dom. lib. 6, c. 2, n. 5, 6, seq.
     2.    Quintius Curtius, lib. 5.
     3.    Aug. de civ. Dei. lib. 16, c. 17.
     4.    Hieron. in Hos. 2.
     5.    Euseb. lib. 9, de prepar. Evan. c. 3.
     6.    Clemems recog. lib. 4.
     7.    Pirerius in Gen. 10:8, 9. diap. 3, a. 67. Illud quoque mihi fit percredible, Nimrod fuisse eundem, atque enim quem alii appellant Beluni patrem Nini
     8.    Calvin Com. in Gen. 9.
     9.    Euseb. prolog. 1 Chron.
   10.    Paul Orosius, lib. l. de Ormesta mundl.
   11.    Hieron. in traditio Hebrei in Gen.
   12.    Tostat. Abulens, in Gen. 10:9.
   13.    Josephus in Gen. 10.
   14.    Luth. Com. ib.
   15.    Calvin Com. Quanquam hoc loco non simpliciter fertur lex politica, ut plectantur homicide.
   16.    Calvin in lect.
   17.    Pirerius in Gen. 9:3, 4, n. 37. Vatablus has diverse interpretations: In homine, i.e. in conspectu omnium et publice, aut in homine, i.e. hominibus testincantibus: alii. in homine. i.e. propter hominem, quia occidit hominem. jussu magistratus. Cajetan expounds MdF)fb@f contra hominem, in despite of man.