Lex Rex [Law Is King, or The Law & The Prince] (1644)
Whether or Not the Lawfulness of Defensive Wars has its Warrant in God’s Word, from the Example of David, Elisha, the Eighty Priests Who Resisted Uzziah, Etc.
David defended himself against king Saul, 1. By taking Goliath’s sword with him. 2. By being captain to six hundred men; yea, it is more than clear, (1 Chron. 12:22-34,) that there came to David a host like the host of God, to help against Saul, exceeding four thousand. Now, that this host came warrantably to help him against Saul, I prove,
1. Because it is said, “Now these are they that came to David to Ziklag, while he kept himself close, because of Saul the son of Kish; and they were amongst the mighty men, helpers of the war;” and then so many mighty captains are reckoned out. “There came of the children of Benjamin and Judah to the hold of David.” And there fell some of Manasseh to David, — “As he went to Ziklag there fell to him of Manasseh, Kenah and Jozabad, Jediel and Michael, and Jozabad and Elihu, and Zilthai, captains of the thousands that were of Manasseh.” “And they helped David against the band of the rovers.” “At that time, day by day, there came to David, until it was a great host, like the host of God.” Now the same expression that is in the first verse, where it is said they came to help David against Saul, is repeated in ver. 16, 19-23.
2. That they warrantably came, is evident; because, (1.) The Spirit of God commends them for their valor and skill in war, (ver. 2 etc.), which the Spirit of God does not in unlawful wars. (2.) Because Amassai, (ver. 18), the Spirit of the Lord coming on him, says, “Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse; peace, peace unto thee, and peace to thy helpers, for thy God helps thee.” The Spirit of God inspires no man to pray peace to those who are in an unlawful war.
3. That they came to David’s side only to be sufferers, and to flee with David, and not to pursue and offend, is ridiculous.
- 1st. It is said, (ver. 1,) “They came to David to Ziklag, while he kept himself close, because of Saul the son of Kish. And they were amongst the mighty men, helpers of the war.” It is a scorn to say, that their might, and their helping in war, consisted in being mere patients with David, and such as fled from Saul, for they had been on Saul’s side before; and to come with armor to flee, is a mocking of the word of God.
- 2nd. It is clear, the scope of the Spirit of God is to show how God helped his innocent servant David against his persecuting prince and master, king Saul, in moving so many mighty men of war to come in such multitudes, all in arms, to help him in war. Now to what end would the Lord commend them as fit for war, “men of might, fit to handle shield and buckler, whose faces are as the faces of lions, as swift as the roes on the mountains,” (ver. 8,) and commend them as helpers of David, if it were unlawful for David, and all those mighty men, to carry arms to pursue Saul and his followers, and to do nothing with their armor but flee? Judge if the Spirit of God, in reason, could say, “All these men came armed with bows,” (ver. 2,) and could “handle both the right hand and the left in flinging stones, and shooting of arrows,” and that (ver. 22) all these “came to David, being mighty men of valor, and they came as captains over hundreds, and thousands, and they put to flight all them of the valleys, both toward the east and toward the west” (ver. 13 15,) and that “David received them, and made them captains of the band,” if they did not come in a posture of war, and for hostile invasion, if need were? For if they came only to suffer and to flee, not to pursue, bowmen, captains, and captains of bands made by David, and David’s helpers in the war, came not to help David by flying, that was a hurt to David, not a help.
It is true, Mr. Symmons says, (1 Sam. 22:2,) “Those that came out to David strengthened him, but he strengthened not them; and David might easily have revenged himself on the Ziphites, who did good will to betray him to the hands of Saul, if his conscience had served him.
- 1st. — This would infer that these armed men came to help David against his conscience, and that David was a patient in the business. The contrary is in the text, (1 Sam. 26:2,) “David became a captain over them;” and (1 Chron. 12:17, 18,) “If ye come peaceably to help me, my heart shall be knit to you. Then David received them, and made them captains of the band.”
- 2nd. David might have revenged himself upon the Ziphites, true; but that conscience hindered him cannot be proved. To pursue an enemy is an act of a council of war; and he saw it would create more enemies, not help his cause.
- 3rd. To David to kill Saul sleeping, and the people who, out of a mis-informed conscience came out, many of them to help their lawful prince against a traitor (as was supposed) seeking to kill their king, and to usurp the throne, had not been wisdom nor justice; because to kill the enemy in a just self-defense, must be, when the enemy actually does invade, and the life of the defendant cannot be otherwise saved. A sleeping enemy is not in the act of unjust pursuit of the innocent; but if an army of papists, Philistines, were in the fields sleeping, pursuing not one single David only for a supposed personal wrong to the king, but lying in the fields and camp against the whole kingdom and religion, and laboring to introduce arbitrary government, popery, idolatry, and to destroy laws, and liberties, and parliaments, then David were obliged to kill these murderers in their sleep.
If any say, The case is all one in a natural self-defense, whatever be the cause, and whoever be the enemy, because the self-defender is not to offend, except the unjust invader be in actual pursuit, — now armies in their sleep are not in actual pursuit.
- 1st. — When one man with a multitude invades one man, that one man may pursue, as he sees most conducible for self-defense. Now the law says, “Threatenings and terror of armor makes imminent danger,” and the case of pursuit in self-defense lawful; if therefore an army of Irish rebels and Spaniards were sleeping in their camp, and our king in a deep sleep in the midst of them, and these rebels actually in the camp besieging the parliament, and the city of London, most unjustly to take away parliament, laws, and liberties of religion, it should follow that General Essex ought not to kill the king’s majesty in his sleep, for he is the Lord’s anointed; but will it follow that General Essex may not kill the Irish rebels sleeping about the king; and that he. may not rescue the king’s person out of the hands of the papists and rebels, ensnaring the king, and leading him on to popery, and to employ his authority to defend popery, and trample upon protestant parliaments and laws? Certainly from this example this cannot be concluded. For armies in actual pursuit of a whole parliament, kingdom, laws, and religion, (though sleeping in the camp,) because in actual pursuit, may be invaded, and killed, though sleeping. And David uses no argument, from conscience, why he might not kill Saul’s army, (I conceive he had not arms to do that,) and should have created more enemies to himself, and hazard his own life, and the life of all his men, if he had of purpose killed so many sleeping men; yea, the inexpedience of that, for a private wrong to kill God’s misled people, should have made all Israel enemies to David. But David uses an argument, from conscience only, to prove it was not lawful for him to stretch forth his hand against the king; and for my part, so long as he remains king, and is not dethroned by those who made him king at Hebron, to put hands on his person, I judge utterly unlawful. One man sleeping cannot be in actual pursuit of another man; so that the self-defender may lawfully kill him in his sleep; but the case is far otherwise in lawful wars; the Israelites might lawfully kill the Philistines encamping about Jerusalem to destroy it, and religion, and the church of God, though they were all sleeping; even though we suppose king Saul had brought them in by his authority, and though he were sleeping in the midst of the uncircumcised armies; and it is evident, that an host of armed enemies, though, sleeping, by the law of self-defense, may be killed, lest they awake and kill us; whereas one single man, and that a king:, cannot be killed.
- 2nd. I think, certainly, David had done unwisely, and hazarded his own life and all his men’s, if he, and Abimelech, and Abishai, should have killed an host of their enemies sleeping: that had been a work as impossible to three, as hazardous to all his men.
Dr. Ferne, as Arnisaeus did before him, says, “The example of David was extraordinary, because he was anointed and designed, by God as successor to Saul, and so he must use an extraordinary way of guarding himself.” Arnisaeus (c. 2, n. 15) cites Alberic. Gentilis, that David was now exempted from amongst the number of subjects.
Ans. — 1. There were not two kings in Israel now, both David and Saul.
- 1st. David acknowledged his subjection in naming Saul the Lord’s anointed, and his master, lord and king; and, therefore, David was yet a subject.
- 2nd. If David would have proved his title to the crown by extraordinary ways, he who killed Goliath extraordinarily might have killed Saul by a miracle; but David goes a most ordinary way to work for self-defense, and his coming to the kingdom was through persecution, want, eating show-bread in case of necessity, defending himself with Goliath’s sword.
- 3rd. How was anything extraordinary and above a law, seeing David might have killed his enemy Saul, and, according to God’s law, he spared him? and he argues from a moral duty. He is the Lord’s anointed, therefore I will not kill him. Was this extraordinary above a law? then, according to God’s law, he might have killed him. Royalists cannot say so. What ground to say one of David’s acts in his deportment towards Saul was extraordinary, and not all? Was it extraordinary that David fled? No; or that David consulted the oracle of God what to do when Saul was coming against him?
- 4th. In an ordinary fact something may be extraordinary, — as the dead sleep from the Lord upon Saul and his men, (1 Sam. 26) and yet the fact, according to its substance, ordinary.
- 5th. Nor is this extraordinary, — that a distressed man, being an excellent warrior, as David was, may use the help of six hundred men, who, by the law of charity, are to help to deliver the innocent from death; yea, all Israel were obliged to defend him who killed Goliath.
- 6th. Royalists make David’s act of not putting hands on the Lord’s anointed an ordinary moral reason against resistance, but his putting on of armor they will have extraordinary; and this is, I confess, a short way to an adversary to cull out something that is for his cause and make it ordinary, and something that is against his cause must be extraordinary.
- 7th. These men, by the law of nature, were obliged to join in arms with David; therefore, the non-helping of an oppressed man must be God’s ordinary law, — a blasphemous tenet.
- 8th. If David, by an extraordinary spirit, killed not king Saul, then the Jesuits’ way of killing must be God’s ordinary law.
2. David certainly intended to keep Keilah against king Saul, for the Lord would not have answered David in an unlawful fact; for that were all one as if God should teach David how to play the traitor to his king; for if God had answered, They will not deliver thee up, but they shall save thee from the hand of Saul, — as David believed he might say this, as well as its contradicent, then David behooved to keep the city; for certainly David’s question pre-supposes he was to keep the city.
The example of Elisha the prophet is considerable, (2 Kings 6:32,) “But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders with him; and the king sent a man before him; but, ere the messengers came to him, he said to the elders, See now, the son of a murderer has sent to take away mine head.”
- 1st. Here is unjust violence offered by king Joram to an innocent man. Elisha keeps the house violently against the king’s messenger, as we did keep castles against king Charles’ unlawful messengers. “Look (says he) when the messenger comes, — shut the door.”
- 2nd. There is violence also commanded, and resistance to be made. “Hold him fast at the door.” In the Hebrew it is, tlede@ba@ wOt)o Mte@c;xal;w% tled@aha w%rg;si Arias Montan.: Claudite ostium, et oppremetis eumin ostio, “Violently press him at the door.” And so the Chaldee paraphrase, Ne sinatis eum introire, Jerome. The LXX. Interpreters, paraqli/yate au0to\n e0n th~| qu/ra| illidite eum in ostio, “Press him between the door and the wall.” It is a word of bodily violence, according to Vatablus; yea, Theodoret will have king Joram himself holden at the door. And,
- 3rd. It is no answer that Dr Ferne and other royalists give, that Elisha made no personal resistance to the king himself but only to the king’s cutthroat, sent to take away his head; yea, they say, it is lawful to resist the king’s cutthroats. But the text is clear, that the violent resistance is made to the king himself also, for he adds, “Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” And by this answer, it is lawful to keep towns with iron gates and bars, and violently to oppose the king’s cut-throats coining to take away the heads of the parliaments of both kingdoms, and of protestants in the three kingdoms.
Some royalists are so impudent as to say that there was no violence here, and that Elisha was an extraordinary man, and that it is not lawful for as to call a king the son of a murderer, as the prophet Elisha did; but Ferne, (sect. 2, p. 9,) forgetting himself, says from hence, “It is lawful to resist the prince himself, thus far, as to ward his blows, and hold his hands.” But let Ferne answer, if the violent binding of the prince’s hand, that he shall not be able to kill, be a greater violence done to his royal person than David’s cutting off the skirt of Saul’s garment; for certainly the royal body of a prince is of more worth than his clothes. Now it was a sin, I judge, that smote David’s conscience, that he being a subject, and not in the act of natural self-defense, did cut the garment of the Lord’s anointed. Let Ferne see, then, how he will save his own principles; for certainly he yields the cause for me. I judge that the person of the king, or any judge who is the Lord’s deputy, as is the king, is sacred; and that remaining in that honorable case, no subject can, without guiltiness before God, put hands on his person, the case of natural self-defense being excepted; for, because the royal dignity does not advance a king above the common condition of men, and the throne makes him not leave off to be a man, and a man that can do wrong; and therefore as one that does manifest violence to the life of a man, though his subject, he may be resisted with bodily resistance, in the case of unjust and violent invasion.
It is a vain thing to say, “Who shall be judge between the king and his subjects? The subject cannot judge the king, because none can be judge in his own cause, and an inferior or equal cannot judge a superior or equal.” But I answer,
- 1st. This is the king’s own cause also, and he does unjust violence as a man, and not as a king, and so he cannot be judge more than the subject.
- 2nd. Every one that does unjust violence, as he is such, is inferior to the innocent, and so ought to be judged by some.
- 3rd. There is no need of the formality of a judge in things evident to nature’s eye, such as are manifestly unjust violences. Nature, in acts natural of self-defense, is judge, party, accuser, witness, and all; for it is supposed the judge is absent when the judge does wrong. And for the plea of Elisha’s extraordinary spirit, it is nothing extraordinary to the prophet to call the king the son of a murderer, when he complains to the elders for justice of his oppression, no more than it is for a plaintiff to libel a true crime against a wicked person, and if Elisha’s resistance came from an extraordinary spirit, then it is not natural for an oppressed man to close the door upon a murderer, then the taking away of the innocent prophet’s head must be extraordinary, for this was but an ordinary and most natural remedy against this oppression; and though to name the king the son of a murderer be extraordinary, (and I should grant it without any hurt to this cause,) it follows nowise that the self-defense was extraordinary.
- 4th. (2 Chron. 26:17.) Four score of priests, with Azariah, are commended as valiant men. LXX. ui9oi\ dunatoi\ Heb. lyIxf-yn”b@; Arius Montan. Filii virtutis, Men of courage and valor, for that they resisted Uzziah the king, who would take on him to burn incense to the Lord, against the law.
Mr Symmons, (p. 34, sect. 10,) They withstood him not with swords and weapons, but only by speaking, and one but spake. I answer,
- 1st. It was a bodily resistance; for beside that, Jerome turns it, Viri fortissimi, most violent men. And it is a speech in the Scriptures taken for men valorous for war; as 1 Sam. 16:25; 2 Sam. 17:10: 1 Chron. 5:18; and so does the phrase lyixf rwOb@gi Potent in valor; and the phrase, lyixf-#Oy)i 2 Sam. 24:9; 11:16; 1 Sam. 31:12; and therefore all the eighty, not only by words, but violently; expelled the king out of the temple.
- 2nd. Mw%hyF%zI(u-l(a w%dm;(ay%Awa Ar. Mont. Et steterunt contra Huzzi-Jahu; the LXX say, kai e1sthsen e0pi\ they resisted the king. So Dan. 11:17, The armies of the south shall not stand, Dan. 8:25, it is a word of violence.
- 3rd. The text says, ( ver. 20,) and they thrust him out. w%hw%lhib;y%AwA Arias Mont. Et fecerunt eum festinare; Hieron. Festinato expulerunt eum. The LXX. say, The priest kate/speusan au0to\n ekei~qen; so Vatablus,1 They cast him out.
- 4th. It is said, (ver. 21,) ” He was cut off from the house of the Lord.” Dr Ferne says, (sect. 4, p. 50,) “They are valiant men who dare withstand a king in an evil way, by a home reproof, and by withdrawing the holy things from him, especially since, by the law, the leper was to be put out of the congregation.”
Ans. (1.) — He contradicts the text. It was not a resistance by words, for the text says, “They withstood him, and they thrust him out violently.” (2.) He yields the cause, for to withdraw the holy things of God by corporeal violence, and violently to pull the censer out of his hand, that he should not provoke God’s wrath by offering incense to the Lord, is resistance; and the like violence may, by this example, be used when the king uses the sword and the militia to bring in an enemy to destroy the kingdom. It is no less injustice against the second table, that the king uses the sword to destroy the innocent than to usurp the censer against the first table.
But Dr Ferne yields, that the censer may be pulled out of his hand, lest he provoke God to wrath; therefore, by the same very reason, a fortiore, the sword, the castles, the sea-ports, the militia, may be violently pulled out of his hand; for if there was an express law that the leper should be put out of ‘the congregation, and therefore the king also should be subject to his church-censor, then he subjects the king to a punishment to be indicted by the subjects upon the king.
- 1st. Therefore the king is obnoxious to the co-active power of the law.
- 2nd. Therefore subjects may judge him and punish him.
- 3rd. Therefore he is to be subject to all church-censors no less than the people.
- 4th. There is an express law that the leper should be put out of the congregation. What then? Flattering court divines say, “The king is above all these laws;” for there is an express law of God as express as that ceremonial law on touching lepers, and a more binding law, that the murderer should die the death. Will royalists put no exception upon a ceremonial law of expelling the leper, and yet put an exception upon a divine moral law, concerning the punishing of murderers given before the law on Mount Sinai. (Gen. 6:9.) They so declare that they accept the persons of men.
- 5th. If a leper king could not actually sit upon the throne, but must be cut off from the house of the Lord, because of an express law of God, these being inconsistent, that a king remaining amongst God’s people, ruling and reigning, should keep company with the church of God, and yet be a leper, who was to be cut off, by a divine law, from the church. Now, I persuade myself, that far less can he actually reign in the full use of the power of the sword, if he use the sword to cut off thousands of innocent people; because, murdering the innocent and the fatherless, and royal governing in righteousness and godliness, are more inconsistent by God’s law, being morally opposite, than remaining a governor of the people, and the disease of leprosy, are incompatible.
- 6th. I think not much that Barclay says, (cont. Monar. l. 5, c. 11,) “Uzziah remained king, after he was removed from the congregation for leprosy,”
- (1.) Because that touches the question of dethroning kings, this is an argument brought for violent resisting of kings, and that the people did resume all power from Uzziah, and put it in the “hand of Jotham his son, who was over the king’s house, judging the people of the land” (ver 21). Ana by this same reason the parliaments of both kingdoms may resume the power once given to the king, when he has proved more unfit to govern morally than Uzziah was ceremonially, that he ought not to judge the people of the land in this case.
- (2.) If the priests did execute a ceremonial law upon king Uzziah, far more may the three estates of Scotland, and the two houses of parliament of England, execute the moral law of God on their king.
If the people may covenant by oath to rescue the innocent and unjustly-condemned from the sentence of death, notoriously known to be tyrannous and cruel, then may the people resist the king in his unlawful practices; but this the people did in the matter of Jonathan. Mr. Symmons (p. 32) and Dr Ferne (sect. 9, 49) say, “That with no violence, but by prayers and tears, the people saved Jonathan; as Peter was rescued out of prison by the prayers of the church, king Saul might easily be entreated to break a rash vow to save the life of his eldest son.” —
- 1st. I say not the common people did it, but the people, including proceres regni, the princes of the land, and captains of thousands.
- 2nd. The text has not one word or syllable of either prayers, supplications or tears; but by the contrary, they bound themselves by an oath, contrary to the oath of Saul, (1 Sam. 14:44, 45,) and swore, “God forbid: as the Lord lives, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground. So the people rescued Jonathan.”2 The church prayed not to God for Peter’s deliverance with an oath, that they must have Peter saved, whether God will or no. Though we read of no violence used by the people, yet an oath upon so reasonable a ground, —
- (1.) Without the king’s consent.
(2.) Contrary to a standing law that they had agreed unto. (ver. 24.)
(3.) Contradictory to the king’s sentence and unjust oath.
(4.) Spoken to the king in his face, — all these prove that the people meant, and that the oath ex conditione operis, tended to a violent resisting of the king in a manifestly unjust sentence. Chrysostom, hom. 14, ad Pop., Antioch accuses Saul as a murderer in this sentence, and praises the people: so Junius, Peter Martyr3 (whom royalists impudently cite); so Cornelius à Lapide, Zanchius, Lyra, and Hugo Cardinalis say, “It was tyranny in Saul, and laudable that the people resisted Saul;” and the same is asserted by Josephus (L 6, antiquit. c. 7; so Althusius, Polit. c. 38, a. 109).
We see also, (2 Chron. 21:10,) that Libnah revolted from under Jehoram, because he had forsaken the Lord God of his fathers. It has no ground in the text that royalists say, that the defection of Libnah is not justified in the text, but the cause is from the demerit of wicked Jeboram, because he made defection from God. Libnah made defection from him, as the ten tribes revolted from Rehoboam for Solomon’s idolatry, which, before the Lord, procured this detection, yet the ten tribes make defection for oppression. I answer, Where the literal meaning is simple and obvious, we are not to go from it. The text shows what cause moved Libnah to revolt:4 it was a town of the Levites, and we know they were longer found in the truth than the ten tribes (2 Chron. 13:8-10; Hosea 11:12). Lavater says, Jehoram has pressed them to idolatry, and therefore they revolted. Zanchius and Cornelius à Lapide say, This was the cause that moved them to revolt, and it is clear, (ver. 13,) he caused Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring from God, and no doubt tempted Libnah to the like.”5
Yea, the city of Abel (2 Sam. 20) did well to resist Joab, David’s general, for he came to destroy a whole city for a traitor’s sake, for Sheba; they resisted and defended themselves. The wise woman calls the city a mother in Israel, and the inheritance of the Lord; (ver. 19;) and Joab professes, (ver. 20,) far be it from him to swallow up and destroy Abel. The woman says, (ver. 18,) “They said of old, they shall surely ask counsel at Abel; and so they ended the matter;” that is, the city of Abel was a place of prophets and oracles of old, where they asked responses of their doubts, and therefore peace should be first offered to the city before Joab should destroy it, as the law says, Deut. 20:10. From all which it is evident, that the city, in defending itself, did nothing against peace, so they should deliver Sheba, the traitor, to Joab’s hand, which they accordingly did; and Joab pursued them not as traitors for keeping the city against the king, but professes in that they did no wrong.
1. Vatab. Deturbarunt eum ex illo loco, compulsusque ut egrederetur, in not. Festinanter egredi eum coegeruat, hoc est, extruserunt eum.
2. Chald. Par. Manifestum est quod Jonathan peccavit per ignorantiam.
3. P. Mart. says with a doubt. Si ista seditiose fecerunt nullo modo excusam possunt. Yea, he says they might suffragiis, with their suffrages free him.
4. P. Mar. Com. in 2 Reg. c. 8, says Libnah revolted, Quia subditos nitebatur cogere ad idololatriam, quod ipsi libnenses pati noluernnt et merito: principibus enim parendum est, verum usque ad aras.
5. Vatab. in not. Impulit Judaeos ad idololatriam, alioqui jam pronos ad cultum idololorum.