Civil Government

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil…  For he is the minister of God to thee for good…”

Rom. 13:1-4

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Subsections

Political Theology

On Jurisprudence

The General Equity of O.T. Civil Laws

Resistance to Tyranny

War

Against Separation from Impure Civil Governments

Church-State Relations

Works Against the Roman Apologist Bellarmine  (who treated of the Civil Magistrate)

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Order of Contents

Treatises
On the Limits of Civil Government
Prayers for the Civil Government
Against the Regulative Principle of Civil Government
The Human Root of Civil Power
Laws are not to be for Private Interests
May Church-Officers Hold Civil Office?
The Magistrate Punishes Crime, Not as Sin, but as Civil Scandals Against
.       Good Order, unto a Judicial Expiation of Positive Order
Civil Punishments may be unto the Reformation of the Individual
On Executive Privilege, Power & Mandates
On the Grounds & Extent of Civil Rights & Restrictions
What Should be Capital Crimes?
On Voting for Civil Officers
French
On the History of Political Thought
Bibliography

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Treatises

Medieval Age

Marsilius of Padua – The Defender of the Peace  Buy  (1324; trans. 2005)

“This is arguably the best place to go to understand the Protestant argument against the tyranny of the late medieval papacy and church authorities, and it was written two centuries before the Protestant Reformation!  So sweeping was Marsilius’s condemnation of the papacy and the assumptions that underlay it that he was forced to flee even the anti-papal stronghold of Paris and take refuge with the German prince Ludwig of Bavaria.  Pope Clement VI later anathematized the book as containing “more than 240 heretical articles.”

…At its heart is a positive vision of the function of politics as the art of establishing tranquillity and justice that is deeply rooted in Aristotle and Augustine and at the same time startlingly anticipates many of the key developments of modern political theory.  Among them: a thoroughgoing account of popular sovereignty as the basis of all government, arguments for the importance of regular elections, a clear articulation of the principle of the indivisibility of sovereignty, and a sharp distinction between sins and crimes.” – Davenant Institute

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On the 1500’s

Article

Figgis, J. Neville – Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century  being ch. 22 in The Cambridge Modern History, vol. 3, The Wars of Religion  1909  35 pp.

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Books

Allen, J.W. – A History of Political Thought in the Sixteenth Century  1928  575 pp.

Murray, Robert – Political Consequences of the Reformation: Studies in Sixteenth Century Political Thought  Buy  1960  338 pp.

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1500’s

Calvin, John – Of Civil Government 1536, 32 long paragraphs, being chapter 20 of Book 4 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion 

Bullinger, Henry – On the Duties of Rulers and Subjects  beginning on p. 15, 20 pages, chapter 2 from Edmund Morgan’s Edmund Morgan’s Puritan Political Ideas: 1558-1794

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1600’s

On Rutherford’s, Lex Rex  1644

Adams, Brandon – Rutherford’s Lex Rex – Summary  2017  91 paragraphs

Gillespie, George – ‘On Whether Lawful Authorities may Impose Oaths’  1649  31 paragraphs

The original Westminster Confession in chapter 22.3 says that, “It is a sin to refuse an oath touching anything that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority.”  See this article for the proof-texts of this Biblical teaching and that it was lawful for Scotland and England to impose the Solemn League and Covenant, 1643, on their populaces (which was the catalyst for the Westminster Confession of Faith).

Hausam, Mark – Against Cameronianism, Part 1Part 2  2012  28 & 18 paragraphs

Cameronianism, contrary to Westminster Confession 23.4, teaches that if a civil government is not fully Christian then it does not have lawful authority from God.  The view came from the covenanter Richard Cameron in Scotland in the 1680’s and is currently held by Still Waters Revival as well as some other Reformed Presbyterians. 

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1800’s

Girardeau, John – Conscience and Civil Government: an Oration  1860  28 pp.

Hodge, Charles – On Suing another Christian in Civil Court, from his Commentary on 1 Corinthians, ch. 6:1-11

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Contemporary

Article

Kayser, Phillip – Torture: a Biblical Critique  2010  22 pp.

Kayser demonstrates that torture is contrary to numerous principles in scripture.

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Books

Hazony, Yoram – The Virtue of Nationalism  Buy  2018

“This well-timed bombshell of a book by the remarkable Israeli philosopher and political theorist Yoram Hazony…  is a broadside against the consensus of liberal internationalism, in all its forms, that has dominated Western discourse for at least the last generation. 

Hazony argues that “nationalism” is a much-misunderstood concept; it is not about valuing the aggrandizement of one’s own nation at the expense of all others (indeed, that is but a form of imperialism), but about valuing the good of nations as such—the distinctiveness of different cultural and regional traditions, and the value of them having a mechanism to govern themselves: the nation-state…

…the nationalist heritage as one rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures, recovered by the Protestant Reformers, and best developed within the heritage of Anglo-American political thought.” – Davenant Institute

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On the Limits of Civil Government

Samuel Rutherford

Lex Rex  (1644)

“I lay down this maxim of divinity: Tyranny being a work of Satan, is not from God, because sin, either habitual or actual, is not from God; the power that ‘is’ [Rom. 13:1], must be from God; the magistrate as magistrate, is good, in nature of office, and the intrinsecal end of his office, Rom. 13:4, for he is the minister of God for thy good; and therefore a power ethical, politic, or moral, to oppress, is not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power, and is no more from God (but from sinful nature, and the old serpent) than a license to sin.”

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Prayers for the Civil Government

John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan

‘Just a Talker’, p. 44

“O Lord, bless our sinful, godless, Sabbath-breaking Privy Council.  Thou knowest that Thou art not honored there, for they profane thy holy day by their meetings for state business.”

“O Lord, bless the high courts of parliament now assembled.  Thou knowest that Thou art not honored there, where potsherd warreth with potsherd.  Do Thou be there to over-rule their deliberations.”

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Against the Regulative Principle of Civil Government

Quotes

1600’s

William Ames

An Analytical Exposition of Both Epistles of the Apostle Peter, illustrated by doctrines out of every text.  And applied by their uses, for a further progress in holiness (London, 1641), p. 58

Question:  Why is the Magistracy called an ‘ordinance of man’ [1 Pet. 2] v. 13, seeing all powers are ordained of God, and every power is the ordinance of God, Rom. 13:1-2?

Answer:  The superiority of power, or government itself, is simply and absolutely commanded by God, and in that respect [it] is called the ordinance of God; but this or that special manner of power or government is not determined by God, but by men; and is therefore [it is] called an ordinance of man, which as touching the nature of it, may also be called an ordinance of God: And this is the difference betwixt an ecclesiastical and a civil office:  An ecclesiastical office is not legitimate if it be not directly determined by God Himself, and consequently cannot be changed by men: but this or that civil office may be made and changed by men.  And the reason of the difference is this, because God and Christ alone has dominion and power in spiritual matters; but in civil matters men are also [g]ods, though not absolute.”

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Robert Baillie

A Dissuasive From the Errours of the Time  (1645), p. 31

“They spoil kings and parliaments of their legislative power.

But their great tenet about the magistracy is this, that no prince nor state on the earth has any legislative power; that neither king nor parliament can make any law in anything that concerns either church or state; that God alone is the Lawgiver; that the greatest magistrate has no other power, but to execute the Laws of God set down in Scripture; that the judicial Law of Moses binds at this day all the nations of the world as well as ever it did the Jews: They tell us that whatever God in Scripture has left free, it may not be bound by any human law, whether civil or ecclesiastic; and what God has bound by any law in Scripture, they will not have it loosed by the hand of any man.”

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George Gillespie

Aaron’s Rod Blossoming; or, the divine ordinance of church government vindicated (1646; Edinburgh, 1844), p. 84

“The presbyterial government has no such liberty nor arbitrariness as civil or military government has, there being in all civil or temporal affairs a great deal of latitude left to those who manage the same, so that they command nor act against the Word of God.  But presbyterial government is tied up to the rules of Scripture in all such particulars as are properly spiritual and proper to the church, though, in other particulars, occasional circumstances of times, places, accommodations and the like, the same light of nature and reason guides both church and state; yet in things properly spiritual and ecclesiastical, there is not near so much latitude left to the presbytery, as there is in civil affairs to the magistrate.”

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One Hundred and Eleven Propositions concerning the Ministry and Government of the Church (1647; Edinburgh, 1844), p. 12

“40.  The reformed churches believe also, and openly confess, the power and authority of emperors over their empires, of kings over their kingdoms, of princes and dukes over their dominions, and of other magistrates or states over their commonwealths and cities, to be the ordinances of God Himself appointed as well as to the manifestation of his own glory, as to the singular profit of mankind: and withal, that by reason of the will of God Himself, revealed in his Word, we must not only suffer and be content that those do rule which are set over their own territories, whether by hereditary or elective right, but also to love them, fear them, and with all reverence and honor embrace them as the ambassadors and ministers of the most high and good God, being in his stead, and preferred for the good of their subjects, to pour out prayers for them, to pay tributes to them, and in all business of the commonwealth which is not against the Word of God, to obey their laws and edicts.

48.  For to that end also is the holy Scripture profitable, to show which is the best manner of governing a commonwealth, and that the magistrate, as being Gods minister, may by this guiding star be so directed, as that he may execute the parts of his office according to the will of God and may perfectly be instructed to every good work…”

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Samuel Rutherford  1658

A Survey of the Survey of that Sum of Church Discipline Penned by Thomas Hooker, p. 278

“2.  The civil corporation may:

[1.] limit the major [an official] in regard of time, for a year and no longer;

2. they may make him half a tyrant, a dictator and absolute, or give him less power, that he shall rule none but with the consent of 12 assessors; but the people may not make him a pastor for a year and then lay him aside for no fault as a major is unofficed; nor may they limit him so as he shall not preach in season and out of season but by the consent of 12 men.

3.  The corporation may erect itself in a kingdom or commonwealth and may create consuls, dictators, praetors, tribunos plebis, etc. as may most serve for the safety and peace of this State; but the Church may bring in no new officers but those appointed by Christ; nor may they alter the government, and metamorphose it into another than that which is according to the pattern showed in the mount.”

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The Human Root of Civil Power

Samuel Rutherford

Lex Rex...  (1644), p. 34

“For the subject of royal power, we affirm, the first and ultimate, and native subject of all power is the community, as reasonable men naturally inclining to a society; but the ethical and political subject, or the legal and positive receptacle of this power is various, according to the various constitutions of the policy.  In Scotland and England, it is the three estates of parliament; in other nations, some other judges or peers of the land.”

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Laws & Guidance, Civil or Ecclesiastical, are Not to be for Private Interests

Samuel Rutherford

Lex Rex...  (1644), p. 124

“It is poor hungry skill…  to say that any laws are made for private interests and the good of some individuals.  Laws are not laws if they be not made for the safety of the people.”

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Secondary Source

Kirsteen M. MacKenzie

The Solemn League & Covenant of the Three Kingdoms & the Cromwellian Union, 1643-1663  (Routledge, 2018), ch. 1, p. 36

“The pursuit of covenanted uniformity [in 1643] aimed to compensate for the withering cooperation within the Anglo-Scottish relationship and the emergence of a fully anglocentric approach to the relationship between the Three Stuart Kingdoms.  The priorities of an Independent minority at Westminster became paramount characterised by the emergence of a private interest at the expense of the public interest.”

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May Church-Officers Hold Civil Office?

Intro

Christ gives persons, and their spiritual gifts, as gifts to the Church, for her government and upbuilding (Eph. 4:11-13).  Therefore, holding Church office is for life (apart from disqualifying oneself or extraordinary circumstances).  Due to the importance of the spiritual work and calling (Mt. 6:33; Acts 13:2; 1 Cor. 14:1,5), Church-officers are admonished:  “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please Him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  This was the example of our Lord on earth (Lk. 12:13-14; Mt. 8:20-22), and his instruction to his appointed officers (Mk. 1:17-18; 28:18-20).  Paul’s tentmaking was done out of necessity and was only temporary (for the greater good); the rule is that ministers ought to give themselves “continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word”, for “it is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve tables.” (Acts 6:2,4)  If Church-officers serve in civil offices, a significant amount of their time will be spent on the temporal affairs of this life, contrary to their higher calling.

For these reasons and others, many reformed countries at the Reformation banned Church-officers from holding civil office.  The Romanists had also long and severely abused the practice, bringing in serious conflicts of interest while mixing jurisdictions.  The Anglican Church, however, and her prelates, commonly continued the practice.  The rise of the sects in London in the 1640’s, including congregationalism, commonly held that lay persons with ordinary, natural callings might regularly be pastors, as a matter of principle.  The New England puritans, being congregationalists, tended to hold this theological viewpoint, but also were in the unique circumstance of struggling for their communities’ survival in the wilderness, there being only so many gifted men in their small towns.

John Davenant  (1572–1641), being an Anglican, argues for the compatibility of Church-officers holding civil office.  It is true that Church-officers can hold civil office (such as the Judges, David, etc., though these were types of Christ in that capacity), however, this ought only to be for necessity out of extraordinary reasons in special circumstances.  Deacons and Ruling Elders commonly, today, hold secular positions while yet serving in the Church.  This is out of necessity, as Gillespie and Rutherford remarked during the Post-Reformation, due to the poorness of the Church, who has little to pay them for their labors.  In much of the Early Church and Middle Ages deacons and elders were able to be paid, and devote themselves, full-time.

Gillespie’s context below is a bit different.  He is arguing against ecclesiastical men sitting in a civil body which was given, by charge of the king, jursidiction in both civil and ecclesiastical affairs.  This is different than simply ecclesiastical men sitting in civil bodies that only judge of civil affairs by their civil office, such as was sometimes the case in Post-Reformation England and in Indpendent, puritan New England.

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Article

Davenant, John – ‘Civil Jurisdiction is Rightly Conceded to Ecclesiastical Persons’  in The Determinations, or Resolutions of Certain Theological Questions, Publicly Discussed in the University of Cambridge  trans. Josiah Allport  (1634; 1846), pp. 275-279  bound at the end of John Davenant, A Treatise on Justification, or the Disputatio de Justitia...  trans. Josiah Allport  (1631; London, 1846), vol. 2

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Quote

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 3, bk. 8, Digression 4, pp. 195-7

“Now there was brought forth in Scotland, anno 1610, a certain amphibian brood, sprung out of the stem of Neronian tyranny and in manners like to his nearest kinsman, the Spanish Inquisition.  It is armed with a transcendent power and called by the dreadful name of the High Commission.  Among other things, it arrogates to itself the power of deposing ministers.  But how un∣justly, thus it appears:

1. If those commissioners have any power at all to depose ministers, they have it from the king whose commissioners they are.  But from him they have it not.  Therefore they have none at all.  The proposition is most certain:

For they sit not in that commission to judge in their own name, nor by their own authority quum nihil exerceat delegatus nomine proprio, as Panormitan says (apud Forb. Iren, bk. 2, ch. 11, p. 177), but by virtue only of the commission and delegation which they have of the king.  Yea, bishops themselves exerce not any jurisdiction in the High Commission as bishops, but only as the king’s commissioners, as Dr. Downame aknowledges (Defens., bk. 1, p. 8).

The assumption is grounded upon this reason:

The king has not power to depose ministers.  Therefore he cannot give this power to others.  For Nemo potest plus juris transferre in alium quam sibi competere dignoscatur (Boniface, 8, De Regul. Juris Reg., 79).  The king may sometimes inflict such a civil punishment upon ministers, whereupon secondarily and accidentally will follow their falling away from their ecclesiastical office and function, (in which sense it is said that Solomon deposed Abiathar, as we heard before), but to depose them directly and formally (which the High Commission usurps to do), he has no power, and that because this deposition is an act of ecclesiastical jurisdiction: Whereas the power of Ecclesiastical jurisdiction does no more agree to the king than the power of ecclesiastical order: his power is civil and temporal, not spiritual and ecclesiastical.  Dr. Field also confesses that none may judicially degrade or put anyone lawfully admitted from his degree and order but the spiritual guides of the Church alone (Of the Church, bk. 5, ch. 53, p. 682).

2.  The deposing of ministers pertains to classical presbyteries, or (if the matter be doubtful and difficille) to synods, as has been showed.  And who then can give the High Commission such authority as to take this power from them, and to assume it unto itself.  These Commissioners profess that they have authority to discharge other ecclesiastical judicatories within the kingdom from meddling with the judging of anything which they shall think impertinent for them, and which they shall think good to judge and decide by themselves in their commission.  Which, if it be so, then (when it pleases them) they may make other ecclesiastical judicatories to be altogether useless and of no effect in the Church.

3. In this commission, ecclesiastical and temporal men are joined together, and both armed with the same power.  Therefore it is not right nor regular, nor in any wise allowable.  For even as when a minister has offended in a civil matter, his fault is to be judged by civil judges according to the civil laws, and by no other: so when he offends in an ecclesiastical matter, his fault is to be judged only by ecclesiastical persons according to ecclesiastical laws: and in such a case Justinian forbids civil men to be joined with ecclesiastical men in judgment (Novell., 83, ch. 1).  They are ecclesiastical things or causes which are handled and examined by the High Commission in the process of deposing ministers: and a shame it is to ecclesiastical men if they can, without the help and joining of temporal men, judge and decide things of this quality.

4. As in the matters to be judged, so in the censures and punishments to be inflicted; ecclesiastical and civil men have in this Commission alike power and authority: for ecclesiastical men therein have power of fining, confining, warding, etc. common to them with the temporal men: and again, the temporal men have power of excommunication, suspension, deprivation, etc. common to them with the ecclesiastical men.  For they all sit there as the king’s commissioners, and so nomine [by name] they exerce this jurisdiction: which Commission being alike discharged by them all, it is manifest that both temporal men take hold of the keys and ecclesiastical men take hold of the civil sword.  And this monstruous confusion and mixture gives sufficient demonstration that such a form of judgement is not from the God of order.”


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The Magistrate Punishes Crime, Not as Sin, but as Civil Scandals Against Good Order, unto a Judicial Expiation of Positive Order

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government...  (1646)

pp. 550-51

“But Magistrates as Magistrates hold forth in their Law-abstinence from those same sins of adultery, incest, murder; But:

1. Not to the consciences of their subjects, but to the outer man as members of the commonwealth.

2. Not under the pain of eternal wrath and condemnation, before the judge of quick and dead: Magistrates as Magistrates have neither calling, office, place nor power to threaten or inflict eternal punishment; if Magistrates do persuade the equity of abstinence from adultery, incest, murder, in their statutes, or acts of parliament, from the Word of God, from the sixth and seventh command of the Decalogue, from the judgement and eternal punishment that follows these sins, they so persuade not as magistrates, but as divines, and as godly and Christian men…

3.  Magistrates as Magistrates hold forth in their Law, abstinence from these sins, not as the ambassadors of Christ, craving subjection of conscience and divine-faith to those charges, but only external obedience: for though ministers as ministers crave faith and subjection of conscience to all commandments and inhibitions, as in Christ’s stead, 2 Cor. 5:19-20, yet the magistrate as the magistrate does not crave either faith or subjection of conscience; nor is he in Christ’s stead to lay divine bands on the conscience, to submit the soul and conscience to believe and abstain; he is the deputy of God as the God of Order, and as the Creator, and Founder, and another of human societies and of Peace, to exact external obedience, and to lay bands on your hands not to shed innocent blood, and on your body not to defile it with adultery, or incest, nor to violate the chastity of your brother…  when the magistrate punishes spiritual sins, heresy, idolatry, he punishes them only with temporary punishment.”

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p. 600

“If any say [such as the Erastians], ‘Who can deny but the magistrate as the magistrate may command that which is obedience to Christ, and reward it, and forbid sin and punish it?’

Answer:  But the magistrate as such forbids not sin as sin, for then as a magistrate he should forbid sin under the punishment of eternal wrath, which he cannot do as a magistrate, he only can forbid sin under the pain of his temporary punishment, which he can inflict, and as it disturbs societies and incorporations.”

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A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649)

Ch. 4, pp. 51-2

“But the sword is a means negatively to punish acts of false worship in those that are under the Christian Magistrate and profess Christian society, insofar as these acts come out to the eyes of men and are destructive to the souls of these in a Christian religion.  Tis even so (and not otherwise punishable by the Magistrate), for he may punish omissions of hearing the doctrine of the Gospel and other external performances of worship, as these omissions by ill example or otherwise are offensive to the souls of these that are to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty;

Nor does it follow that the sword is a kindly means to force outward performances, for the Magistrate as the Magistrate does not command these outward performances as service to God, but rather forbids the omissions of them as destructive to man.

For example, a physician commands fasting; pastors after the example of James commands fasting when judgments are on us; the physician commands it insofar as eating troubles the common society of humors, members and temper of the body, and the physician forbids eating so as he will have no more to do with the patient if he will disobey and so trouble the temper of the body, which is the only object the physician works on.  Pastors command fasting to be in sincerity for afflicting and humbling the soul under the mighty hand of God.

So the Magistrate forbids cutting of a vein or shedding of blood as a thing troubling the peace of human society, yet his command is not a direct means of preventing diseases in the body of a subject and for healthy living.  But the physician commands to cut a vein and to shed blood for health and to prevent a disease, and sins neither against the Magistrate nor God in so doing: so does the Magistrate not directly command going to Church as a worship to God, so as his commands have influence on the conscience as the pastor’s commands have, but he commands going to church and hearing so as the omission of hearing hurts the society where of God has made him a civil and politic head.”

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Ch. 11, p. 139

“For we nowhere teach that the sword is a means of converting, but the just vengeance that is inflicted by the minister of God upon false teachers, as upon other evil-doers, so it is not destinated by God for spiritual gaining and reducing of heretics that may repent, but for judicial expiation of wrongs done to the flock and Christian society.”

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Ch. 27, ‘Whether our Darkness & Incapacity to Believe…’, p. 323-5 (356-8)

“…the Magistrate indeed forbids speaking of blasphemy and teaching of lies in the name of the Lord, but he forbids not teaching of lies, or abstinence from blaspheming, in a spiritual, but in a carnal, co-active, by force of the sword and external way, because he cannot punish the spiritual and internal ways and manner of external obedience, and therefore he cannot under pain of bodily censure command and forbid these ways of obedience; so the Magistrate forbids murder, but God, not the Magistrate, forbids murder, or commands abstinence from killing, out of mercy and love to our neighbor; for the Magistrate cannot punish heart-hatred of our neighbor, or rash anger, but insofar as it comes out to his senses, in striking, maiming, or opprobrious speeches; and these he can forbid and censure and punish.

So we say [that] the Magistrate is but a piece, or a bit of an ordinance (though both lawful and necessary, Rom. 13, for our good [v. 4]) to reform the outside and to work outward reformation; and when he commands the outward man and says, ‘Swear not, blaspheme not, speak not lies in the name of the Lord, kill not, steal not under the pain of feeling the stroke of the sword’: he commands not sinning.  For though he forbid only external abstinence from sins that troubles the outward man, without any spiritual and internal right way of abstaining, he commands not sin and hypocrisy, per se, and kindly [in its kind], and properly.

1.  Because the Magistrate, as the Magistrate, should and ought, as the Minister of God, give commandments to the outward man under pain of corporal punishment, not to the soul or to the inward man.

2.  Because that external obedience, not to kill, not to steal, not to speak lies, is good, lawful external obedience, to man, and profitable in the State for the end that God has appointed it, which is the peaceable conversing one with another; that same abstinence from killing in an unrenewed man, who abstains not from killing for fear of God and love to his brethren, is a sinful abstinence and carnal repentance, by accident, and in relation to the Law of God; but the Magistrate neither commands abstinence from killing from an inward spiritual principle, nor forbids he the contrary: he commands not abstinence from false doctrine out of the love that the messenger owes to him who purchased the flock with his blood, nor forbids he such abstinence, but only he commands abstinence from speaking lies to the people of God.

3.  If we distinguish obedience, there is first a necessary and good and lawful obedience.  2. There is an obedience complete and entire, and full, and sincere. Outward obedience, which the Magistrate commands, is good and lawful and [is] necessary obedience, and is, in the kind of external and necessary obedience (I mean) necessary for its end, [namely] the safety of the society, not hypocritical, unlawful or sinful.  In this notion only it is commanded by the Magistrate, and the omission of it [is] unlawful and punishable by the sword of the deputy and Minister of God.

But if we speak of an obedience complete, full and sincere, which is required from the whole man in order to the Law of God, then the outward obedience that the Magistrate demands is not complete, entire, nor sincere, but in relation to the Law of God, which requires entire obedience from the whole man, soul and body, it is not full, not entire, not sincere obedience, but an outside of obedience; but in this sense the Magistrate does not demand obedience to the Law of God, for he has to do with the outward man only and as a Magistrate has nothing to do with the soul and conscience: so then, though the Magistrate command to preach sound doctrine, forbid to preach lies in the name of the Lord, yet he commands  not hypocrisy and sin; for this argument may as well prove [that] the Magistrate should neither forbid nor punish murder, nor command abstinence from murder to an unrenewed man, for an unrenewed man cannot but abstain from murder in a sinful way, and his abstinence from murder, in order to the spiritual Law of God, is no better ‘than the oblation of swine’s blood, and the cutting off of a dog’s head to God,’ Isa. 66. 1:2, as is all external obedience of either Tables of the Law, First or Second, without faith and spiritual, inward, moral principles and heart-obedience; and Mr. Williams cannot answer this argument but by the principles of Anabaptists, Familists and Enthusiasts, who say [that] all outward ordinances, ministry, preaching, sacraments, yea preachers and magistrates who command outward obedience to God are unlawful now under the New Testament.”

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Civil Punishments may be unto the Reformation of the Individual

Quote

Samuel Bolton

The Arraignment of Error...  (1646), p. 348

“2. It is to be dispensed charitably; and that has respect to the end of the censure: Punishment, as it is not the mere end of the making [of] any law; So neither is it to be the sole end in the execution of it.  This seems too harsh to me—If the Magistrate’s power be ordained of God to be helpful in these cases, I see no reason why it should be so restrained; but in the exercise of it, he may aim at amendment rather than punishment; and to reform rather than to ruin.

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On Executive Privilege, Power & Mandates

Intro

Executive privilege is when no existent laws sufficiently govern how something (especially something emergent) ought to be done, and officers of the executive branch are left with the responsibility (for the good of the commonwealth) and liberty as to how that good end ought to be executed and accomplished.  Good general ends, if they are to take effect, must be enacted in some particular way (which, though, could plausibly be done otherwise, there being some latitude in the matter regarding the indifferent means to the end).  It is left to the discretion of the executive branch how to enact such things.

In the late-1500’s & 1600’s, such an executive privilege was known as the royal-prerogative.  Today it is seen in America’s Executive Branch executing special powers delegated to them, usually (but not always) under numerous restrictions, in doing things apart from the Legislative Branch, sometimes by executive mandates.

Such an executive privilege is legitimate when it is grounded on sufficient natural and moral warrant, being in this way ministerial and declarative in nature.  Needless to say, executive privilege is easily apt to be abused when such acts and mandates do not reflect natural law or preserve equality, or are truly for the health of the community, but rather are made at the mere pleasure and whim of rulers, embody partisan interests, are domineering in nature and do not have the populace’s consent.

During the Post-Reformation era, the Erastians and those who promoted the absolutism of political rulers (the reigning philosophy of the worldlings of the 1600’s) used the pretext of royal prerogative to justify nearly any and everything at the mere pleasure of the ruler, even when it went contrary to the very laws of the land.  The people, needless to say, became enslaved to the mere whims and absolute dictates of their rulers, this often occurring under the pretext of the ‘Divine Right of Kings’.

The issue is not only civil: such arbitrary rule is not infrequently found in churches and families under the assumption of the liberty of the elders, husbands and fathers to rule as they see fit.  In Rutherford’s chapter below, replace ‘king’ with ‘elders’ and ‘father’, and ‘royal prerogative’ with ‘the elders’ prerogative’ or ‘the father’s prerogative’, and worlds of real-life understanding will unfold before your eyes.

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Quotes

George Gillespie

Aaron’s Rod Blossoming…  (1646), Bk. 2, ch. 1, ‘Of the Rise, Growth, Decay & Reviving of Erastianism’, p. 163  Gillespie is giving the history of Erastianism since the Reformation by way of allegory.

“After that this unlucky child [Erastianism] had been nursed upon so bad milk, it came at last to eat strong food, and that was Arbitrary Government, under the name of Royal Prerogative.”

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Samuel Rutherford

Lex Rex...  (1644), Question 39, ‘Whether or No any Prerogative at All Above the Law be Due to the King, or if Jura Magestatis [the Rights of Majesty] be any Such Prerogative Royal?’

“I conceive kings are conceived to have a threefold supreme power:

1.  Strictly absolute to do what they please, their will being simply a law.  This is tyrannical.  Some
kings have it, de facto, ex consuetudine [by custom], but
by a divine law none have it…

2.  There is another power limited to God’s law, the due proper right of kings. (Dt. 17:18-20)

3.  There is, a potestas intermedia, a middle power, not so vast as that which is absolute and tyrannical, which yet is some way human.  This I take what jurists call jus regium, lex regia, jura regalia regis; Cicero, jura majestatis; Livius, jura imperii, and these royal privileges are such common and high dignities as no one particular magistrate can have [inherently, or to himself alone], seeing they are common to all the kingdom…  so the magazine and armory for the safety of the kingdom is in the king’s hand.  The king has the like of these privileges, because he is the common, supreme, public officer and minister of God for the good of all the kingdom;

and, amongst these royal privileges, I reckon that power that is given to the king, when he is made king, to do many things without warrant of the letter of the law, without the express consent of his council, which he cannot always carry about with him, as the law says.  The king shall not raise armies without consent of the parliament; but if an army of Irish, or Danes, or Spaniards, should suddenly land in Scotland, he has a power, without a formally-convened parliament, to command them all to rise in arms against these invaders and defend themselves — this power no inferior magistrate has as he is, but [only] such a magistrate [as the king].

And in many such exigencies, when the necessity of justice or grace requires an ex-temporal [out of the moment] exposition of laws, pro re nata, ‘for present necessary execution’, some say only the emperor, — others, all kings have these pleasures.”

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Article

Rutherford, Samuel – Ch. 23, ‘Whether the King has Any Royal Prerogative, or a Power to Dispense with Laws; & Some Other Grounds Against Absolute Monarchy’  in Lex Rex  (1644; 1843), p. 106-113

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On the Grounds & Extent of Civil Rights & Restrictions

Samuel Rutherford

A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649), ch. 2, p. 39

“…whereas liberty to do ill in any sense is licentiousness, not liberty.”

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Robert L. Dabney

The Practical Philosophy  (Mexico, MO, 1897), p. 383

“Man’s natural liberty is this: privilege of having and doing those things only to which the individual has a moral right. Consequently, the natural liberty of two men in the same commonwealth may be different, because under Providence, their natural endowments and relations may differ. Were it possible to frame a government thoroughly equitable, each person’s civic liberty would be identical with his natural: the privilege of having and doing all those things, and those only, to which each has a moral right.”

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What Should be Capital Crimes?

Samuel Rutherford

A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649), p. 58

“…it was the Magistrate’s duty to take away their head for sodomy, which certainly it was, and that by the very law of nature…”

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On Voting for Civil Officers

Gurnall, William – pp. 22-38  of The Magistrate’s Portraiture, Drawn from the Word, and Preached in a Sermon…  before the Election of Parliament-Men…  (London, 1656)

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French

Rivet, Andrew – Instruction for a Christian Prince, through Dialogues Between a Young Prince & his Tutor, along with a Meditation on the Vow of David, the 101st Psalm  (Leiden, 1642)  Index

“In 1632 Rivet unexpectedly left the University of Leiden because the stadholder Frederik Hendrik, impressed by Rivet’s scholarly qualities and international orientation, wanted his presence at the court in The Hague, seeing in Rivet the ideal educator and governor for his five-year old son, Prince William II…

The marriage of William II to Mary, the oldest daughter of Charles II, in London in 1641, at which wedding Rivet (almost sixty-nine years old) was present, marked the end of his educational task at the court in the Hague.  As a summary of his teaching, he wrote the Instruction du Prince Chrestien.  It contained seventeen dialogues in which he discussed the duties of a prince toward God and his subjects, including precepts for the personal lifestyle of a prince.” – Willem van Asselt in Theology of the French Reformed Churches (RHB, 2014), pp. 266-7

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On the History of Political Thought

The Early Modern Era

eds. Burns & Goldie – The Cambridge History of Political Thought,1450–1700  (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991)

Höpfl, H. – Jesuit Political Thought. The Society of Jesus & the State, c.1540–1630  (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004)

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Netherlands

Article

Van der Wall, E.G.E. – ‘The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus & Dutch Calvinism, 1670–1700’  in eds. H. De Dijn, F. Mignini & P. van Rooden, Spinoza’s Philosophy of Religion, Studia Spinozana 11 (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1995), pp. 201–226

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Books

Blom, H.W. – Causality & Morality in Politics. The Rise of Naturalism in Dutch Seventeenth-Century Political Thought  PhD. diss. (University of Utrecht, 1995)

Mulier, Haitsma – Bibliography of Dutch Seventeenth Century Political Thought. An Annotated Inventory, 1581–1710  (Amsterdam/Maarssen: APA-Holland University Press, 1986)

Kossmann, E.H. – Political Thought in the Dutch Republic. Three Studies  (Amsterdam: KNAW, 2000)

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Bibliography

Mulier, Haitsma – Bibliography of Dutch Seventeenth Century Political Thought. An Annotated Inventory, 1581–1710  (Amsterdam/Maarssen: APA-Holland University Press, 1986)

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“But let us remember that, while Christ forgives the sins of men, he does not overturn political order, or reverse the sentences and punishments appointed by the laws.”

John Calvin

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