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

Samuel Rutherford

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QUESTION 37
Whether or No it Be Lawful That the Estates of Scotland Help Their Oppressed Brethren, the Parliament and Protestants in England, Against Papists and Prelates Now in Arms Against Them, and Killing Them, and Endeavoring the Establishment of Popery, Though the King of Scotland Should Inhibit Them

1. Marianus says, one is obliged to help his brother, non vinculo efficaci, not with any efficacious band; because in these, (says he,) non est actio aut pœna, one may not have action of law against his brother, who refused to help him; yet, (says he) as man he is obliged to man, nexu civilis societatis, by the bond of human society.

2. Others say, one nation may indirectly defend a neighbor nation against a common enemy, because it is a self-defense; and it is presumed that a foreign enemy, having overcome the neighbor nation, shall invade that nation itself who denies help and succor to the neighbor nation. This is a self-opinion, and to me it looks not like the spiritual law of God.

3. Some say it is lawful, but not always expedient, in which opinion there is this much truth, that if the neighbor nation have an evil cause, neque licet, neque expedit, it is neither lawful nor expedient. But what is lawful in the case of necessity so extreme, as is the loss of a brother’s life, or of a nation, must be expedient; because necessity of non-sinning rnakes any lawful thing expedient. As to help my brother in fire or water, requiring my present and speedy help, though to the loss of my goods, must be as expedient as a negative commandment, Thou shalt not murder.

4. Others think it lawful in the case that my brother seek my help only, otherwise I have no calling thereunto; to which opinion I cannot universally subscribe, it is held, both by reason and the soundest divines, that to rebuke my brother of sin is actus misencordiae et charitatis, an act of mercy and charity to his soul; yet I hold I am obliged to rebuke him by God’s law (Levit. 19:17,) otherwise I hate him. (Thes. 5:14; Col. 4:17: Math, 18:15.)

Nor can I think in reason, that my duty of love to my brother does not oblige me but upon dependency on his free consent; but as I am to help my neighbor’s ox out of a ditch, though my neighbor know not, and so I have only his implicit and virtual consent, so is the case here. I go not farther in this case of conscience, — if a neighbor nation be jealous of our help, and in an hostile way should oppose us in helping, (which, blessed be the Lord, the honorable houses of the parliament of England has not done, though malignant spirits tempted them to such a course,) what, in that case, we should owe to the afflicted members of Christ’s body, is a case may be determined easily.

5. The fifth and last opinion is of those who think, if the king command papists and prelates to rise against the parliament and our brethren in England in wars, that we are obliged in conscience, and by our oath and covenant, to help our native prince against them, — to which opinion, with hands and feet I should accord, if our king’s cause were just and lawful; but from this it follows, that we must thus far judge of the cause, as concerns our consciences, in the matter of our necessary duty, leaving the judicial cognizance to the honorable parliament of England. But because I cannot return to all these opinions particularly, I see no reason but the civil law of a kingdom does oblige any citizen to help an innocent man against a murdering robber, and that he may be judicially accused as a murderer, who fails in his duty, and that Solon said well, Beatam remp. esse illam, in qua quisque injuriam alterius suam estimet, It is a blessed society in which every man is to repute an injury done against a brother, as an injury done against himself. As the Egyptians had a good law, by which he was accused upon his head who helped not one that suffered wrong; and if he was not able to help, he was held to accuse the injurer, if not, his punishment was whips or three days’ hunger; it may be upon this ground it was that Moses slew the Egyptian. Ambrose commended him for so doing.

Assert. — We are obliged, by many bands, to expose our lives, goods, children, etc., in this cause of religion and of the unjust oppression of enemies, for the safety and detence of our dear brethren and true religion in England; 1 Prov. 24:11, 12, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn to death, twEmf@la Myxiqul; (taken as captives to be killed,) and those that are ready to be slain. It thou sayest, Behold we knew it not, does not he that ponders the heart consider it? and he that keeps thy soul, does he not know it? and shall he not render to every man according to his work?” Mr. Jermine is too narrow, who, commenting on the place, restricts all to these two, that the priest should deliver by interceding for the innocent, and the king by pardoning only. But to deliver is a work of violence, as (1 Sam. 30:18) David by the sword rescued his wives; Hos. 5:14, “I will take away, and none shall rescue;” 1 Sam. 17:35, “I rescued the lambs out of his mouth,” out of the lion’s mouth, which behooved to be done with great violence; 2 Kings 18:34, “They have not delivered w%lyci@hi-yk@i Samaria out of my hand.” So Cornel. à Lapide, Charitas suadet, ut vi et armis eruamus injuste ductos ad mortem. Ambrose (lib. 1, offic. c. 36) cites this same text, and commends Moses who killed the Egyptian in defending a Hebrew man. To deliver is an act of charity, and so to be done, though the judge forbid it, when the innocent is unjustly put to death.

Obj. — But in so doing, private men may offer violence to the lawful magistrate when he unjustly puts an innocent man to death, and rescue him out of the hands of the magistrate; and this were to bring in anarchy and confusion; for if it be an act of charity to deliver the innocent out of the hands of the magistrate, it is homicide to a private man not to do it; for our obedience to the law of nature ties as absolutely, though the magistrate forbid these acts; for it is known that I must obey God rather than men.

Ans. — 1. The law of nature ties us to obedience in acts of charity, yet not to perform these acts after any way and manner in a mere natural way, impetu naturae; but I am to perform acts of natural charity in a rational and prudent way, and in looking to God’s law, else, if my brother or father were justly condemned to die, I might violently deliver him out of the magistrate’s hand, but, by the contrary, my hand should be first on him, without natural compassion. As, if my brother or my wife have been a blasphemer of God, (Deut. 13:6-8,) therefore, I am to do acts natural, as a wise man observing (as Solomon says, Eccles. 8:5) “both time and judgment.” Now, it were no wisdom for one private man to hazard his own life by attempting to rescue an innocent brother, because he has not strength to do it, and the law of nature obliges me not to acts of charity when I, in all reason, see them impossible; but a multitude who had strength did well to rescue innocent Jonathan out of the hands of the king, that he should not be put to death; yet one man was not tied by the law of nature to rescue Jonathan if the king and prince had condemned him, though unjustly.

2. The host of men that helped David against king Saul (1 Sam. 22:2) entered in a lawful war, and (1 Chron.12:18) Amasa, by the Spirit of the Lord, blesses his helpers, — “Peace, peace be unto thee, and peace be to thy helpers, for thy God helps thee.” Therefore, peace must be to the parliament of England, and to their helpers, their brethren of Scotland.

3. Numb. 32:1-3, etc.; Josh. 1:12-14, the children of Gad, and of Reuben, and the half tribe of Manasseh, though their inheritance fell to be on this side of Jordan, yet they were to go over the river armed, to fight for their brethren, while they had also possession of the land, at the commandment; of Moses and Joshua.

4. So Saul and Israel helped the men of Jabesh-Gilead conjoined in Mood with them, against Nahash the Ammonite, and his unjust conditions in plucking out their right eyes, 1 Sam. 11.

5. Jephtha (Judg. 12:2) justly rebukes the men of Ephraim because they would not help him and his people against the Ammonites.

6. If the communion of saints be any bond, — that England and we have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one head and Savior, Jesus Christ,” then are we obliged to help our bleeding sister-church against these same common enemies, papists and prelates; but the former is undeniably true, for we send help to the Rochelle, if there had not been a secret betraying of our brethren, we send help to the recovery of the palatinate, and the aid of the confederate princes against Babel’s strength and power, and that lawfully, but we did it at great leisure and coldly. Queen Elizabeth helped Holland against the king of Spain; and, besides the union in religion, we sail in one ship together, being in one island, under one king; and now, by the mercy of God, have sworn one covenant, and so must stand or fall together.

7. We are obliged, by the union between the kingdoms, concluded to be by the Convention of the Estates of Scotland, anno 1585, at the desire of the General Assembly, 1583, to join forces together at home, and enter in league with protestant princes and estates abroad, to maintain the protestant religion against the bloody confederacy of Trent; and, accordingly, this league between the two crowns was subscribed at Berwick, 1586, and the same renewed, 1587-8, as also the Confession of Faith subscribed, when the Spanish armada was on our coasts.

8. The law of God, commanding that we love our neighbor as ourselves, and therefore to defend one another against unjust violence, (l. ut vim. ff. de just, et jur.,) obliges us to the same, except we think God can be pleased with lip-love in word only, which the Spirit of God condemns (1 John 2:9-10; 3:16). And the sum of law and prophets is, that as we would not men should refuse to help us when we are unjustly oppressed, so neither would we so serve our afflicted brethren, (l. in facto ff. de cond. et demonstr. sect. Si uxor. Justit. de nupt.)

9. Every man is a keeper of his brother’s life. There is a voluntary homicide when a man refuses food or physic necessary for his own life, and refuses food to his dying brother; and men are not born for themselves; and when the king defends not subjects against their enemies, all fellow-subjects, by the law of nature, of nations, the civil and cannon law, have a natural privilege to defend one another, and are mutual magistrates to one another when there be no other magistrates. If an army of Turks or pagans would come upon Britain, if the king were dead, as he is civilly dead in this juncture of time, when he refuses to help his subjects, one part of Britain would help another; as Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, did right in helping Ahab and Israel, so the Lord had approved of the war. If the left hand be wounded, and the left eye put out, nature teaches that the whole burden of natural acts is devolved on the other hand and eye, and so are they obliged to help one another.

10. As we are to bear one another’s burdens, and to help our enemies to compassionate strangers, so far more those who make one body of Christ with us.

11. Meroz is under a curse, who helps not the Lord, so one part of a church another. A woe lies on them that are at ease in Zion, and helps not afflicted Joseph so far as they are able.

12. The law of gratitude obliges us to this. England sent an array to free both our souls and bodies from the bondage of popery and the fury of the French, upon which occasion a parliament at Leith (anno 1560) established peace and religion, and then after, they helped us against a faction of papists in our own bosom, for which we take God’s name in a prayer, seeking grace never to forget that kindness.

13. When papists in arms had undone England, (if God give them victory,) they should next fall on us, and it should not be in the king’s power to resist them. When our enemies, within two days’ journey, are in arms, and have the person of our king and his judgment, and so the breathing-law of the two kingdoms, under their power, we should but sleep to be killed in our nest, if we did not arise and fight for king, church, country, and brethren.

Obj. By these and the like grounds, when the king’s royal person and life is in danger, he may use papists as subjects, not as papists, in his own natural self-defense.

Ans. 1. — Hell and the devil cannot say that a thought was in any heart against the king’s person. He slept in Scotland safe, and at Westminster in his own palace, when the estates of both kingdoms would not so much as take the water-pot from his bedside, and his spear; and Satan instilled this traitorous lie, first in prelates, then in papists. 2. The king professes his maintenance of the true protestant religion in his declarations since he took arms, but if Saul had put arms in the hands of Baal’s priests, and in an army of Sidonians, Philistines, Ammonites, professing their quarrel against Israel was not to defend the king, but their Dagon and false gods, clear it were, Saul’s army should not stand in relation of helpers of the king’s, but of advancers of their own religion. Now, Irish papists, and English, in arms, press the king to cancel all laws against popery, and make laws for the free liberty of mass, and the full power of papists, then the king must use papists, as papists, in these wars.

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