Lex Rex [Law Is King, or The Law & The Prince] (1644)
Whether, in the Case of Defensive War, the Distinction of the Person of the King, as a Man, Who Can Commit Acts of Hostile Tyranny Against His Subjects, and of the Office and Royal Power That He has from God and the People, as a King, Can Have Place
Before I can proceed to other Scripture proofs for the lawfulness of resistance, this distinction, rejected by royalists, must be cleared. This is an evident and sensible distinction: The king in concreto, the man who is king, and the king in abstracto, the royal office of the king. The ground of this distinction we desire to be considered from Rom. 13. We affirm with Buchanan, that Paul here speaks of the office and duty of good magistrates, and that the text speaks nothing of an absolute king, nothing of a tyrant; and the royalists distinguish where the law distinguished not, against the law, (l. pret. 10, gl. Bart. de pub. in Rem.); and therefore we move the question here, Whether or no to resist the illegal and tyrannical will of the man who is king, be to resist the king and the ordinance of God; we say no. Nor do we deny the king, abusing his power in unjust acts, to remain king, and the minister of God, whose person for his royal office, and his royal office, are both to be honored, reverenced, and obeyed. God forbid that we should do so as the sons of Belial, imputing to us the doctrine of anabaptists, and the doctrine falsely imputed to Wicliffe, that dominion is founded upon supernatural grace, and that a magistrate being in the state of mortal sin, cannot be a lawful magistrate, we teach no such thing. The P. Prelate shows us his sympathy with papists, and that he builds the monuments and sepulchres of the slain and murdered prophets, when he, refusing to open his mouth in the gates for the righteous, professes he will not purge the witnesses of Christ, the Waldenses, and Wiciiffe, and Huss, of these notes of disloyalty, but that these acts proceeding from this root of bitterness, the abused power of a king, should be acknowledged with obedience active or passive, in these unjust acts, we deny.
Assert. 1. It is evident from Rom. 13 that all subjection and obedience to higher powers commanded there, is subjection to the power and office of the magistrate in abstracto, or, which is all one, to the person using the power lawfully, and that no subjection is due by that text, or any word of God, to the abused and tyrannical power of the king, which I evince from the text, and from other Scriptures.
1. Because the text says, “Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.” But no powers commanding things unlawful, and killing the innocent people of God, can be e0cousi/ai u9perexou/sai higher powers, but in that lower powers. He that commands not what God commands, and punishes and kills where God, if personally and immediately present, would neither command nor punish, is not in these acts to be subjected unto, and obeyed as a superior power, though in habit he may remain a superior power; for all habitual, all actual superiority is a formal participation of the power of the Most High. Arnisaeus well says, (c. 4, p. 96,) “That of Aristotle must be true, It is against nature, better and worthier men should be in subjection to unworthier and more wicked men;” but when magistrates command wickedness, and kill the innocent, the non-obeyers, in so far, are worthier than the commanders (whatever they be in habit and in office) actually, or in these wicked acts are unworthier and inferior, and the non-obeyers are in that worthier, as being zealous adherents to God’s command and not to man’s will. I desire not to be mistaken; if we speak of habitual excellency, godly and holy men, as the witnesses of Christ in things lawful, are to obey wicked and infidel kings and emperors, but in that these wicked kings have an excellency in respect of office above them; but when they command things unlawful, and kill the innocent, they do it not by virtue of any office, and so in that they are not higher powers, but lower and weak ones. Laertius does explain Aristotle well, who defines a tyrant by this, “That he commands his subjects by violence;” and Arnisaeus condemns Laertius for this, “Because one tyrannical action does no more constitute a tyrant, than one “unjust action does constitute an unjust man.” But he may condemn, as he does indeed, (Covarruvias pract. quest. c. 1, and Vasquez Illustr. quest. l. 1, c. 47, n. 1, 12,) for this is essential to a tyrant, to command and rule by violence. If a lawful prince do one or more acts of a tyrant, he is not a tyrant for that, yet his action in that is tyrannical, and he does not that as a king, but in that act as a sinful man, having something of tyranny in him.
2. The powers (Rom. 13:1) that be, are ordained of God, as their author and efficient; but kings commanding unjust things, and killing the innocent, in these acts, are but men, and sinful men; and the power by which they do these acts, a sinful and an usurped power, and so far they are not powers ordained of God, according to his revealed will, which must rule us. Now the authority and official power, in abstracto, is ordained of God, as the text says, and other Scriptures do evidence. And this politicians do clear, while they distinguish between jus personae, and jus coronae, the power of the person, and the power of the crown and royal office. They must then be two different things.
3. He that resists the power, that is, the official power, and the king, as king, and commanding in the Lord, resists the ordinance of God, and God’s lawful constitution. But he who resists the man, who is the king, commanding that which is against God, and killing the innocent, resists no ordinance of God, but an ordinance of sin and Satan; for a man commanding unjustly, and ruling tyrannically, has, in that, no power from God.
4. They that resist the power and royal office of the king in things just and right, shall receive to themselves damnation, but they that resist, that is, refuse, for conscience, to obey the man who is the king, and choose to obey God rather than man, as all the martyrs did, shall receive to themselves salvation. And the eighty valiant men, the priests, who used bodily violence against king Uzziah’s person, “and thrust him out of the house of the Lord,” from offering incense to the Lord, which belonged to the priest only, received not damnation to themselves, but salvation in doing God’s will, and in resisting the king’s wicked will.
5. The lawful ruler, as a ruler, and in respect of his office, is not to be resisted, because he is not a terror to good works, but to evil; and no man who does good is to be afraid of the office or the power, but to expect praise and a reward of the same. But the man who is a king may command an idolatrous and superstitious worship send an army of cut-throats against them, because they refuse that worship, and may reward papists, prelates, and other corrupt men, and may advance them to places of state and honor because they kneel to a tree altar, pray to the east, adore the letters and sound of the word Jesus teach and write Arminianism, and may imprison, deprive, confine, cut the ears, and slit the noses, and burn the faces of those who speak and preach and write the truth of God; and may send armies of cut-throats, Irish rebels, and other papists and malignant atheists, to destroy and murder the judges of the land, and innocent defenders of the reformed religion, etc., the man, I say, in these acts is a terror to good works, an encouragement to evil; and those that do good are to be afraid of the king, and to expect no praise, but punishment and vexation from him; therefore, this reason in the text will prove that the man who is the king, in so far as he does those things that are against his office, may be resisted; and that in these we are not to be subject, but only we are to be subject to his power and royal authority, in abstracto, in so far as, according to his office, he is not a terror to good works, but to evil.
6. The lawful ruler is the minister of God, or the servant of God, for good to the commonwealth; and to resist the servant in that wherein he is a servant, and using the power that he has from his master, is to resist the Lord his master. But the man who is the king, commanding unjust things, and killing the innocent, in these acts is not the minister of God for the good of the commonwealth; he serves himself and papists, and prelates, for the destruction of religion, laws, and commonwealth: therefore the man may be resisted; by this text, when the office and power cannot be resisted.
7. The ruler, as the ruler, and the nature and intrinsical end of the office is, that he bear God’s sword as an avenger to execute wrath on him that does evil, and so cannot be resisted without sin. But the man who is the ruler, and commands things unlawful, and kills the innocent, carries the papist’s and prelate’s sword to execute, not the righteous judgment of the Lord upon the ill-doer, but his own private revenue upon him that does well; therefore, the man may be resisted, the office may not be resisted; and they must be two different things.
8. We must needs be subject to the royal office for conscience, by reason of the fifth commandment; but we must not needs be subject to the man who is king, if he command things unlawful; for Dr Ferne warrants us to resist, if the ruler invade us suddenly, without color of law or reason, and unavoidably; and Winzetus, Barclay, and Grotius, as before I cited, give us leave to resist a king turning a cruel tyrant; but Paul (Rom. 13) forbids us to resist the power, in abstracto; therefore, it must be the man, in concreto, that we must resist.
9. Those we may not resist to whom we owe tribute, as a reward of the onerous work on which they, as ministers of God, do attend continually. But we owe not tribute to the king as a man, for then should we be indebted tribute to all men, but as a king, to whom the wages of tribute is due, as to a princely workman, a king as a king; therefore, the man and the king are different.
10. We owe fear and honor as due to be rendered to the man who is king, because he is a king, not because he is a man; for it is the highest fear and honor duo to any mortal man, which is due to the king, as king.
11. The man and the inferior judge are different; and we cannot, by this text, resist the inferior judge, as a judge, but we resist the ordinance of God, as the text proves. But cavaliers resist the inferior judges as men, and have killed diverse members of both houses of parliament; but hey will not say that they killed them as judges, but as rebels. If therefore, to be a rebel, as a wicked man, and to be a judge, are differenced thus, then, to be a man, and commit some acts of tyranny, and to be the supreme judge and king, are two different things.
12. The congregation, in a letter to the nobility, (Knox, Hist. of Scotland, l. 2.) say, “There is great difference between the authority, which is God’s ordinance, and the persons of those who are placed in authority, The authority and God’s ordinance can never do wrong, for it commands that vice and wicked men be punished, and virtue, with virtuous men and just, be maintained; but the corrupt person placed in this authority may offend, and most commonly do contrary to this authority. And is then the corruption of man to be followed, by reason that it is clothed with the name of authority?” And they give instance in Pharaoh and Saul, who were lawful kings and yet corrupt men. And certainly the man and the divine authority differ, as the subject and the accident, as that which is under a law and can offend God, and that which is neither capable of law nor sin.
13. The king, as king, is a just creature, and by office a living and breathing law. Has will, as he is king, is nothing but a just law; but the king, as a sinful man, is not a just creature, but one who can sin and play the tyrant; and his will, as a private sinful man, is a private will, and may be resisted. So the law says, “The king, as king, can do no wrong,” but the king, as a man, may do a wrong. While as, then, the parliaments of both kingdoms resist the king’s private will, as a man, and fight against his illegal cutthroats, sent out by him to destroy his native subjects, they fight for him as a king, and obey his public legal will, which is his royal will, de jure; and while he is absent from his parliaments as a man, he is legally and in his law-power present, and so the parliaments are as legal as if he were personally present with them.
Let me answer royalists. The P. Prelate says it is Solomon’s word, “By me kings reign;” kings, in concreto, with their sovereignty. He says not, by me royalty or sovereignty reigns. And elsewhere he says that Barclay says, “Paul, writing to the Romans, keeps the usual Roman diction in this, who express by powers, in abstracto, the persons authorized by power, and it is the Scripture’s dialect: by him were created “thrones, dominions, principalities,” that is, angels; to say angels, in abstracto, were created, (2 Pet. 2:10,) They “speak evil of dignities,” Jude 8, “despise dominion,” that is, they speak ill of Cajus, Caligula, Nero. Our Levites rail against the Lord’s anointed, the best of kings in the world. Nero, (Rom. 12:4,) in concreto, bears not the sword in vain. Arnisaeus says it better than the Prelate,1 (he is a witless thief,) Rom. 13:4, “The royal power, in abstracto, does not bear the sword, but the person; not the power, but the prince himself bears the sword.” And the Prelate, poor man, following Dr Ferne, says, “It is absurd to pursue the king’s person with a cannon bullet at Edgehill, and preserve his authority at London, or elsewhere.” So says Ferne, (sect. 10, p. 64,) “The concrete powers here are purposed as objects of our obedience, which cannot be directed but upon power in some person; for it is said, ai# ou!sai e0cousi/ai . The powers that be are of God.” Now power cannot be ou!sa existent but in some person; and, says Ferne, “Can power in the abstract have praise? Or is tribute paid to the power in the abstract? Yea, the power is the reason why we yield obedience to the person,” etc.
The Prelate has as much learning as to copy out of Ferne, Barclay, Arnisaeus, and others, these words and the like, but has not wit to add the sinews of these authors’ reason; and with all this he can in his preface call it his own, and “provoke any to answer him if they dare;” whereas, while I answer this excommunicated pamphleteer, I answer these learned authors, from which he steals all he has; and yet he must persuade the king he is the only man who can defend his Majesty’s cause, and “the importunity (forsooth) of friends extorted this piece,” as if it were a fault that this delphic oracle (giving out railings and lies for responses) should be silent.
- (1.) Not we only, but the Holy Ghost, in terminis, has this distinction, Acts 4:19; 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Then rulers (for of rulers sitting in judgment is that speech uttered) commanding and tyrannising over the apostles, are men contradistinguished from God; and as they command and punish unjustly, they are but men, otherwise commanding for God, they are gods, and more than men.
- (2.) From Theophylact also, or from Chrysostom on Rom. 13 we have this, The apostle speaks not (say they) peri\ tw~n kaq e0tason a0rxo/ntwn a0lla\ peri\ au0tou~ tou~ pra/gmatoj.
- (3.) Sovereignty or royalty does not properly reign or bear the sword, or receive praise, and this accident does not bear a sword; nor do we think (or Paul speak, Rom. 13,) of the abstracted due of power and royalty, subsisting out of its subject; nor dream we that the naked accident of royal authority is to be feared and honored as the Lord’s anointed; the person or man who is the king, and bears the crown on his head, and holds the scepter in his hand, is to be obeyed. Accidents are not persons; but they speak nonsense, and are like brute beasts who deny that all the kingly honor due to the king must be due to him as a king, and because of the royal dignity that God has given to him, and not because he is a man; for a pursuivant’s son is a man; and if a pursuivant’s son would usurp the throne, and take the crown on his head, and the scepter in his hand, and command that all souls be subject to such a superior power, because he is a man, the laws of Scotland would hang a man for a less fault, we know; and the P. Prelate was wont to edify women, and converted souls to Christ, with such a distinction as objectum quod and objectum quo, in the pulpits of Edinburgh, and it has good use here; we never took abstract royalty to be the king.
The kings of Scotland of old were not second notions, and we exclude not the person of the king; yet we distinguish, with leave of the P. Prelate, between the person in linea physica (we must take physica largely here) and in linea morali, obedience, tear, tribute, honor is due to the person of the king, and to the man who is king, not because of his person, or because he is a man, (the P. Prelate may know in what notion we take the name person,) but because God, by the people’s election, has exalted him to royal dignity; and for this cause ill-doers are to subject their throats and necks to the sword of the Lord’s anointed’s executioner or hangman, with patience, and willingly; because, in taking away the head of ill-doers, for ill-doing, he is acting the office of the Lord, by whom he reigns; but if he take away their heads, and send out the long-tusked vultures and boars of Babylon, the Irish rebels, to execute his wrath, as he is in that act a misinformed man, and wants the authority of God’s law and man’s law, he may be resisted with arms. For,
1. If royalists say against this, then, if a king turn an habitual tyrant, and induce an hundred thousand Turks to destroy his subjects upon mere desire of revenge, they are not to resist, but to be subject, and suffer for conscience. I am sure Grotius says,2 “If a king sell his subjects, he loses all title to the crown, and so may be resisted;” and Winzetus says,3 “A tyrant may be resisted;” and Barclay,4 “It is lawful for the people, in case of tyranny, to defend themselves, adversus immanem saevetiam, against extreme cruelty.” And I desire the Prelate to answer how people are subject in suffering such cruelty of the higher power, because he is God’s ordinance, and a power from God, except he say, as he sells his people, and barbarously destroys by the cut-throat Irishmen, his whole subjects refusing to worship idols, he is a man and a sinful man, eatenus, and an inferior power inspired by wicked counsel, not a king, eatenus, not a higher power; and that in resisting him thus, the subjects resist not the ordinance of God.
Also suppose king David defend his kingdom and people against Jesse, his natural father, who we suppose comes in against his son and prince, king David, with a huge army of the Philistines to destroy him and his kingdom, if he shall kill his own native father in that war, at some Edgehill, how shall he preserve at Jerusalem that honor and love that he owes to his father, by virtue of the fifth commandment, “Honor thy father and thy mother, etc.,” let them answer this; except king David consider Jesse in one relation, in abstracto, as his father, whom he is to obey, and as he is a wicked man, and a perfidious subject, in another relation; and except king David say, he is to subject himself to his father, as a father, according to the fifth commandment, and that in the act of his father’s violent invasion, he is not to subject himself to him, as he is a violent invader, and as a man.
Let the royalist see how he can answer the argument, and how Levi is not to know his father and mother, as they are sinful men, (Deut. 33:9,) and yet to know and honor them as parents; and how an Israelite is not to pity the wife that lies in his bosom, when she entices him “to go a whoring after strange gods,” but is to kill her, (Deut. 13:6-8,) and yet the husband is to “love the wife, as Christ loved his church,” Eph. 5:25. If the husband take away his wife’s life in some mountain in the Holy Land, as God’s law commands, let the royalists answer as, where is then the marital love he owes to her, and that respect due to her as she is a wife and a helper?
2. But let not the royalist infer that I am from these examples pleading for the killing of kings; for lawful resistance is one thing, and killing of kings is another, the one defensive and lawful, the other offensive and unlawful, so long as he remains a king, and the Lord’s anointed; but if he be a murderer of his father, who does counsel his father to come to a place of danger where he may be killed, and where the king ought not to be; as Abner was worthy of death, who watched not carefully king Saul, but slept when David came to his bedside, and had opportunity to kill the king; they are traitors and murderers of the king, who dither counseled his Majesty to come to Edgehill, where the danger was so great, or did not violently restrain him from coming thither, seeing kings’ safety and lives are as much, yea, more, in the disposing of the people than in their own private will (2 Sam. 18:2-3); for certainly the people might have violently restrained King Saul from killing himself; and the king is guilty of his own death, and sins against his office and subjects, who comes out in person to any such battles where he may be killed, and the contrary party free of his blood. And here our Prelate is blind, if he see not the clear difference between the king’s person and his office as king, and between his private will and his public and royal will.
3. The angels may be named thrones and dominions in abstracto, and yet created in concreto, and we may say the angel and his power are both created at once; but David was not both born the son of Jesse and a king at once; and the P. Prelate by this may prove it is not lawful to resist the devil, (for he is of the number of these created angels, Col. 1,) as he is a devil; because in resisting the devil as a devil, we must resist an angel of God and a principality.
4. To speak evil of dignities, (2 Pet. 2; Jude 8,) Piscator insinuated, is, to speak evil of the very office of rulers, as well as of their manners; and Theodat. says, on 2 Pet. 2, that “these railers speak evil of the place of governors and masters, as unbeseeming believers.” All our interpreters, as Beza, Calvin, Luther, Bucer, Marloratus, from the place, says it is a special reproof of anabaptists and libertines, who in that time maintained that we are all free men in Christ, and that there should not be kings, masters, nor any magistrates. However the abstract is put for the concrete, it is true, and it says we are not to rail upon Nero; but to say Nero was a persecutor of Christians, and yet obey him commanding what is just, are very consistent.
5. “The persons are proposed (Rom.13) to be the object of our obedience,” says Dr Ferne. This is very true: but he is ignorant of our mind in exponing the word person. We never meant that fear, honor, royalty, tribute, must be due to the abstracted accident of kingly authority, and not to the man who is king; nor is it our meaning that royalty, in abstracto, is crowned king, and is anointed, but that the person is crowned and anointed. But, again, by a person, we mean nothing less than the man Nero wasting Rome, burning, crucifying Paul, and torturing Christians; and that we owe subjection to Nero, and to his person in concreto, as to God’s ordinance, God’s minister, God’s sword-bearer, in that notion of a person, is that only that we deny. Nay, in that Nero, in concreto, to us is no power ordained of God, no minister of God, but a minister of the devil, and Satan’s armor-bearer, and therefore we owe not fear, honor, subjection, or tribute to the person of Nero. But the person thus far is the object of our obedience, that fear, honor, subjection and tribute must be due to the man in concreto, to his person who is prince, but not because he is a man, or a person simply, or a sword-bearer of papists, but for his office, for that eminent place of royal dignity that God has conferred on his person.
We know the light of the sun, the heat of fire, in abstracto, do not properly give light and heat, but the sun and fire in concreto; yet the principium quo, ratio qua, the principles of these operations in sun and fire be light and heat; and we ascribe illuminating of dark bodies, heating of cold bodies, to sun and fire in concreto, yet not to the subjects simply, but to them as affected with such accidents; so here we honor and submit to the man who is king, not because he is a man, that were treason; not because he uses his sword against the church, that were impiety; but because of his royal dignity, and because he uses it for the Lord. It is true, Arnisaeus, Barclay, and Ferne, say, “That kings leave not off to be kings when they use their power and sword against the church and religion. And also it is considerable, that when the worst of emperors, bloody Nero, did reign, the apostle presses the duty of subjection to him, as to a Dower appointed of God, and condemns the resisting of Nero, as the resisting of an ordinance of God. And certainly, if the cause and reason, in point of duty moral, and of conscience before God remain in kings, to wit, that while they are enemies and persecutors, as Nero was, their royal dignity, given them of God remains, then subjection upon that ground is lawful, and resistance unlawful.”
Ans. It is true, so long as kings remain kings, subjection is due to them because kings; but that is not the question. The question is, if subjection be due to them, when they use their power unlawfully and tyrannically. Whatever David did, though he was a king, he did it not as king; he deflowered not Bathsheba as king, and Bathsheba might with bodily resistance and violence lawfully have resisted king David, though kingly power remained in aim, while he should thus attempt to commit adultery; else David might have said to Bathsheba, “Because I am the Lord’s anointed, it is rebellion in thee, a subject, to oppose any bodily violence to my act of forcing of thee; it is unlawful to thee to cry for help, for if any shall offer violently to rescue thee from me, he resists the ordinance of God.” Subjection is due to Nero as an emperor, but not any subjection is due to him in the burning of Rome, and torturing of Christians, except you say that Nero’s power abused in these acts of cruelty was, (1.) A power from God. (2.) An ordinance of God. (3.) That in these he was the minister of God for the good of the commonwealth.
Because some believed Christians were free from the yoke of magistracy, and that the dignity itself was unlawful; and because (c. 12) he had set down the lawful church rulers, and in this and the following chapter; the duties of brotherly love of one toward another; so here (c. 13) he teaches that all magistrates, suppose heathen, are to be obeyed and submitted unto in all things, so far as they are minion of God. Arnisaeus objects to Buchanan If we are by this place to subject ourself to every power, in abstracto, then also to a power contrary to the truth, and to a power of a king exceeding the limits of a king; for such a power is a power, and we are not to distinguish where the law distinguishes.
Ans. 1. The law clearly distinguishes we are to obey parents in the Lord, and if Nero command idolatry, this is an excessive power. Are we obliged to obey, because the law distinguished not? 2. The text says we are to obey every power from God that is God’s ordinance, by which the man is a minister of God for good; but an unjust and excessive power is none of these three. 3. The text in words distinguishes not obedience active in things wicked and lawful, yet we are to distinguish.
Symmons. Is authority subjected solely in the king’s law, and no whit in his person, though put upon him both by God and man? Or, is authority only the subject, and the person exercising the authority, a bare accident to that, being in it only more separably, as pride and folly are in a man. Then, if one in authority command out of his own will, and not by law, if I neither actively nor passively obey, I do not so much as resist abused authority; and then must the prince, by his disorderly will, have quite lost his authority and become like another man; and yet his authority has not fled from him.
- 1. If we speak accurately, neither the man solely, nor his power only, is resisted; but the man clothed with lawful habitual power, is resisted in such and such acts flowing from an abused power.
- 2. It is an ignorant speech to ask, Is authority subjected solely in the king’s law, and no whit in his person, for the authority has all its power by law, not from the man’s person? The authority has nothing from the person but a naked inheritance in the person, as in the subject; and the person is to be honored for the authority, not the authority for the person.
- 3. Authority is not so separable from the person, as that for every act of lawless will the king loses his royal authority and ceases to be king. No, but every act of a king, in so tar, can claim subjection of the inferior, as the act of commanding and ruling has law for it; and in so far as it is lawless, the person in that act repugnant to law loses all due claim of actual subjection in that act, and in that act power actual is lost, as is dear, Acts 4:19; 5:29. The apostles say to rulers, It is safer to obey God than man. What! Were not these rulers lawful magistrates armed with power from God? I answer, habitually they were rulers and more than men, and to obey them in things lawful is to obey God. But, actually, in these unlawful commandments, especially being commanded to speak no more in the name of Jesus, the apostles do acknowledge them to be no more out men; and so their actual authority is as separable from the person, as pride and folly from men.
Symmons. The distinction holds good of inferior magistrates, that they may be considered as magistrates and as men, because their authority is only sacred, and adds veneration to their persons, and is separable from the person. The man may live when his authority is extinguished, but it holds not in kings. King Saul’s person is venerable as his authority, and his authority comes by inheritance, and dies, and lives, inseparably with his person; and authority and person add honor, each one to another.
Ans. 1. If this be true, Manasseh, a king, did not shed innocent blood and use sorcery. He did not these great wickednesses as a man, but as a king. Solomon played the apostate as a king, not as a man, if so, the man must make the king more infallible than the Pope; for the Pope, as a man, can err; as a pope he cannot err, say papists. But prophets, in their persons, were anointed of God as Saul and David were, then must we say, Nathan and Samuel erred not as men, because their persons were sacred and anointed, and sure they erred not as prophets, therefore they erred not all. A king, as a king, is an holy ordinance of God, and so cannot do injustice, therefore they must do acts of justice as men. (1.) The inferior judge is a power from God. (2.) To resist him is to resist an ordinance of God. (3.) He is not a terror to good works, but to evil. (4.) He is a minister of God for good. (5.) He is God’s sword-bearer. His official power to rule may by as good right come by birth as the crown; and the king’s person is sacred only for his office, and is anointed only for his office. For then the Chaldeans dishonored not inferior judges (Lam. 5:12,) when they “hanged the prince, and honored not the faces of elders.” It is in question, if the king’s actual authority be not as separable from him, as the actual authority of the judge.
Symmons (p. 24). The king himself may use this distinction. As a Christian he may forgive any that offends against his person, but as a judge, he must punish, in regard of his office.
Ans. Well, then, flatterers will grant the distinction, when the king does good and pardons the blood of protestants, shed by bloody rebels; but when the king does acts of injustice, he is neither man nor king, but some independent absolute god.
Symmons (p. 27). God’s word ties me to every one of his personal commandments, as well as his legal commandments. Nor do I obey the king’s law, because it is established, or because of its known penalty, nor yet the king himself, because he rules according to law, but I obey the king’s law, because I obey the king; and I obey the king, because I obey God; I obey the king and his law, because I obey God and his law. Better obey the command for a reverent regard to the prince than for a penalty.
Ans. It is hard to answer a sick man. It is blasphemy to seek this distinction of person and office in the King of kings, because by person in a mortal King, we understand a man that can sin. 1. I am not obliged to obey his personal commandment, except I were his domestic; nor his unlawful personal commandments, because they are sinful. 2. It is false that you obey the king’s law, because you obey the king; for then you say but this, I obey the king because I obey the king. The truth is, obedience is not formally terminated on the person of the king. Obedience is relative to a precept, and it is men-service to obey a law, not because it is good and just, but upon this formal motive, because it is the will of a mortal man to command it. And reverence, love, fear, being acts of the affection, are not terminated on a law, but properly on the person of the judge; and they are modifications, or laudable qualifications of acts of obedience, not motives, not the formal reason why I obey, but the manner how I obey. And the apostle makes expressly (Rom. 13:4) fear of punishment a motive of obedience, while he says, “He bears not the sword in rain,” therefore be subject to the king; and this hinders not personal resistance to unjust commandments.
Symmons (p. 27-29). “You say, ‘To obey the prince’s personal commandment against his legal will, is to obey himself against himself.’ So say I, ‘To obey his legal will against his personal will, is to obey himself against himself, for I take his person to be himself.’ ”
Ans. 1. To obey the king’s personal will, when it is sinful, (as we now suppose,) against his legal will, is a sin, and a disobedience to God and the king also, seeing the law is the king’s will as king; but to obey his legal will, against his sinful personal will, (as it must be sinful if contrary to a just law,) is obedience to the king as king, and so obedience to God. 2. You take the king’s person to be himself, but you take quid pro quo; for his person here you must not take physically, for his suppost of soul and body, but morally: it is the king, as a sinful man doing his worst will against the law, which is his just and best will, and the rule of the subjects. And the king’s personal will is so far just, and to regulate the subjects, in so far as it agrees with his legal will or his law, and this will can sin, and therefore may be crossed without breach of the fifth commandment; but his legal will cannot be crossed without disobedience both to God and the king.
Symmons (p. 28). The king’s personal will does not always presuppose passion; and if it be attended with passion, yet we must bear it for conscience sake.
Ans. We are to obey the king’s personal will, when the thing commanded is not sin; but his subjects, as subjects, have little to do with his personal will in that notion. It concerns his domestic servant, and is the king’s will as he is the master of servants, not as he is king in relation to subjects; but we speak of the king’s personal will as repugnant to law, and contrary to the king’s will as king, and so contrary to the filth commandment; and this is attended often not only with passion, but also with prejudice; and we owe no subjection to prejudice and passions, or to actions commanded by these disordered powers, because they are not from God, nor his ordinances, but from men and the flesh, and we owe no subjection to the flesh.
Dr Ferne (sect. 9, p. 58). The distinction of personal and legal will has place in evil actions, but not in resistance, where we cannot sever the person and the dignity or authority, because we cannot resist the power but we must resist the person who has the power. Saul had lawfully the command of arms, but that power he uses unjustly against innocent David. I ask, When these emperors took away lives and goods at their pleasure, was that a power ordained of God? No, but an illegal will, a tyranny but they might not resist; nay, but they cannot resist; for that power and sovereignty employed to compass these illegal commandments was ordained and settled in them. When Pilate condemned our Savior, it was an illegal will, yet our Savior acknowledges in it, that Pilate’s power was given him from above.
Ans. 1. Here we have the distinction denied by royalists, granted by Dr Ferne. But if, when the king commands us to do wickedness, we may resist that personal will, and when he commands us to suffer unjustly we cannot resist his will but we must resist also his royal person; what! is it not still the king, and his person sacred, as his power is sacred, when he commands the subjects to do unjustly, as when he commands them to suffer unjustly? It were tearful to say, when kings command any one act of idolatry, they are no longer kings. If, for conscience, I am to suffer unjustly, when Nero commands unjust punishment, because Nero commanding so, remains God’s minister, why, but when Nero commands me to worship an heathen god, I am upon the same ground to obey that unjust will in doing ill; for Nero, in commanding idolatry, remains the Lord’s minister, his person is sacred in the one commandment of doing ill, as in inflicting ill of punishment. And do I not resist his person in the one as in the other? His power and his person are as inseparably conjoined by God in the one as in the other.
2. In bodily thrusting out of Uzziah from the temple, these fourscore valiant men did resist the king’s person by bodily violence, as well as his power.
3. If the power of killing the martyrs in Nero was no power ordained of God, then the resisting of Nero, in his taking away the lives of the martyrs, was but the resisting of tyranny; and certainly, if that power in Nero” was tetagme/nh a power ordained of God, and not to be resisted, as the place (Rom. 13) is alleged by royalists, then it must be a lawful power, and no tyranny; and if it cannot be resisted, because it was a power ordained and settled in him, it is either settled by God, and so not tyranny, (except God be the author of tyranny,) or then settled by the devil, and so may well be resisted. But the text speaks of no power but of that which is of God.
4. We are not to be subject to all powers in concreto, by the text; for we are not to be subject to powers lawful, yet commanding active obedience to things unlawful. Now subjection includes active obedience of honor, love, fear, paying tribute, and therefore of need force, some powers must be excepted.
5. Pilate’s power is merely a power by divine permission, not a power ordained of God, as are the powers spoken of, Rom. 13.
Gregorius (mor. l. 3, c. 11) expressly says, “This was Satan’s power given to Pilate against Christ. Manibus Satanae pro nostra redemptione se tradidit.” Lyra, “A principibus Romanorum et ulterius permissum a deo, qui est potestas, superior.” Calvin, Beza and Diodatus, says the same; and that he cannot mean of legal power from God’s regulating will is evident,
- 1st. Because Christ is answering Pilate, (John 19:10,) “Knowest though not that I have power to crucify thee?” This was an untruth. Pilate had a command to worship him, and believe in him; and whereas Ferne says, (sect. 9, p. 59,) “Pilate had power to judge any accused before him;” it is true; but he being obliged to believe in Christ, he was obliged to believe in Christ’s innocency, and so neither to judge nor receive accusation against him; and the power he says he had to crucify, was a law-power in Pilate’s meaning, but not in very deed any law power; because a law-power is from God’s regulating will in the fifth commandment, but no creature has a lawful or a law-power to crucify Christ.
- 2nd. A law-power is for good. (Rom. 13:4,) a power to crucify Christ is for ill.
- 3rd. A law-power is a terror to ill works, and a praise to good; Pilate’s power to crucify Christ was the contrary.
- 4th. A law-power is to execute wrath on ill-doing, a power to crucify Christ is no such.
- 5th. A law-power conciliates honor, fear, and veneration, to the person of the judge, a power to crucify Christ conciliates no such thing, but a disgrace to Pilate.
- 6th. The genuine acts of a lawful power are lawful acts; for such as is the fountain-power, such are the acts flowing therefrom. Good acts flow not from bad powers, neither has God given a power to sin, except by way of permission.
1. Arnisaeus de potest. princip. c. 2, 11, 17.
2. Grot. de jur. et pacis, l. 1, c. 4, n. 7.
3. Winzetus Velitat. adver. Buchanan.
4. Barcl. adv. Monarchom. lib. 3. c. 8.