Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God (Part 2)

This is a continuation in a study of sources upon which the U.S. Declaration of Independence was drawn from, extracted for consideration as the Fourth of July commemorations draw near.

* 1558 -- Christopher Goodman published How superior Powers ought to be obeyed of their subjects, and wherein they may lawfully be by God's word disobeyed and resisted.

Chapter VIII. The conclusion of these two parts with a further declaration of the same, that it is both lawful and necessary some times to disobey and also to resist ungodly magistrates and wherein.

Wherefore (dear brethren in the Lord) to return to our purpose, you may well understand these things which have been hitherto mentioned, not only the cause of all our misery in England this day, to have been for that we neither taught, knew, nor used true obedience: but also what obedience God requires of all men, and what He condemns for disobedience. Obedience is to hear God rather then man, and to resist man rather then God, as by the answer and doings of the Apostles, and examples of others you have been instructed. Wherein you may see how little the commandments, threatening, power, authority, or punishments of any king, prince or emperor, ought to prevail with us against the commandment of God, where with we are charged.

* 1573 -- François Hotman published Franco-Gallia.

Translator's Preface:

Tis certainly as much a Treason and Rebellion against this Constitution, and the known Laws, in a Prince to endeavour to break thro them, as 'tis in the People to rise against him, whilst he keeps within their Bounds and does his Duty. Our Constitution is a Government of Laws, not of Persons. Allegiance and Protection are Obligations that cannot subsist separately; when one fails, the other falls of Course. The true Etymology of the word Loyalty (which has been so strangely wrested in the late Reigns ) is an entire Obedience to the Prince in all his Commands according to Law; that is, to the Laws themselves, to which we owe both an active and passive Obedience.

By the old and true Maxim, that the King can do no Wrong, no body is so foolish as to conclude, that he has not Strength to murder, to offer Violence to Women, or Power enough to dispossess a Man wrongfully of his Estate, or that whatever he does (how wicked soever) is just: but the Meaning is, he has no lawful Power to do such Things; and our Constitution considers no Power as irresistible, but what is lawful.

Chapter 1


Now concerning the Extent of their Power and Jurisdiction, he brings in Ambiorix, King of the Eburones, giving an account of it, lib. 5. cap 8. "The Constitution of our Government is such (says he) that the People have no less Power and Authority over me than I have over the People. Non minus habet in me juris multitudo, quam ipse in multidinem. Which Form of Government, Plato, Aristotle, Polybius and Cicero have for this Reason determined to be the best and most Excellent: "Because (says Plato) shou'd Kingly Government be left without a Bridle, when it has attained to supreme Power, as if it stood upon a slippery Place, it easily falls into Tyranny: And therefore it ought to be restrained as with a Curb, by the Authority of the Nobles; and such chosen Men as the People have empower'd to that End and Purpose.

* 1574 -- Theodore Beza published De jure magistratuum (On the Rights of Magistrates Over Their Subjects).

Chapter 5. Whether Manifest Tyrants Can Lawfully Be Checked By Armed Force.

To give a clearer answer to this question I must first lay down certain principles constituting as it were the foundations of the whole question. Assuredly, (it is clear) that peoples did not in the first instance originate from rulers, but whatever peoples desired to be ruled by a single monarch or by chief men elected by them were anterior to their rulers. Hence it follows that peoples were not created for the sake of rulers, but on the contrary the rulers for the sake of the people, even as the guardian is appointed for the ward, not the ward for the guardian, and the shepherd on account of the flock, not the flock on account of the shepherd. This proposition is not merely obvious in itself but may be corroborated by the history of nearly all nations, So much so that God Himself, although he had elected Saul to substitute him for Samuel in accordance with the desires of the people, yet willed that he should be chosen and accepted as King by the suffrages of the people. Thus David, although he had first been chosen as king by God Himself, yet would not undertake the administration of the Kingdom except he had first been confirmed by the suffrages and unfettered concord of the tribes of Israel.


In short, if we would investigate the histories of ancient times recorded by profane writers also, it will be established — as indeed Nature herself seems to proclaim with a loud voice — that rulers by whose authority their inferiors might be guided were elected for this reason that either the whole human race must needs perish or some intermediate class must be instituted so that by it one or more (rulers) might be able to command the others, (and) protect good men but restrain the wicked by means of punishments....Here we are doubtless on dangerous ground; I would therefore once again beseech my readers to bear in mind my remarks immediately preceding lest they draw inadmissible conclusions from what must be said in the sequel. I admit that I most strongly approve of Christian patience as laudable beyond all the other virtues and never sufficiently commended; I admit that men should be zealously exhorted to it because it contributes largely to the attainment of eternal bliss: rebellions and all disorder I detest as awful abominations; in affliction especially I am of opinion that we should depend upon God alone; prayer accompanied by a serious recognition of our error I recognize as the true and necessary remedies for the overthrow of tyranny since this evil is rightly counted among the scourges sent by God for the chastisement of the people. But I deny that all these considerations deprive nations crushed by manifest tyranny of their right to safeguard themselves against it by means of prayers and repentance as well as other just remedies; and this I corroborate whilst I reply on the following powerful arguments.

* 1579 -- Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos (A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants, or, A Vindication Against Tyrants) was published by Stephen Junius Brutus, nom de plume for (most likely) Philippe Duplessis-Mornay (1549-1623) or Hubert Languet (1518-1581), and republished in 1660 (read it online here). John Adams credited this treatise with being widely read and influential on the eve of the American War of Independence.

Whether subjects are obligated to obey rulers who issue commands contrary to the law of God.

At first, the answer to this question may seem to be obvious, for it seems to question an axiom held by all Christians, confirmed in many places in Holy Scripture, various examples throughout history, and by the deaths of all the holy martyrs. For it may be well asked why Christians have endured so many afflictions if it weren't true they were always persuaded that God must be obeyed simply and absolutely, and kings with this exception, that they command not that which is repugnant to the law of God. Otherwise, why should the apostles have answered that God must rather be obeyed than men? (Acts 5:29) Also, seeing that the will of God is always just, while the will of men may be, and often is, unjust, who can doubt that we must always obey God's commandments without any exception, and men's ever with limitation?

But there are many rulers in these days who call themselves "Christian", who arrogantly assume that their power is limited by no one, not even by God, and they surround themselves with flatterers who adore them as gods upon earth.
Everyone knows that if a man disobeys a prince who commands that which is wicked and unlawful, he shall immediately be accused of being a rebel, a traitor, and guilty of high treason. Our Savior Christ, the apostles, and all the Christians of the early church were accused with these false charges.
There are no rulers which ought to be considered as firm and stable, except for those in whom the temple of God is built, and which are indeed the temple itself. These we may truly call Kings. For they reign with God, seeing that it is by Him only that kings reign. On the contrary, what beastly foolishness it is to think that the state and kingdom can be maintained if God Almighty is excluded, and His temple demolished. From this view comes so many tyrannous enterprises, unhappy and tragic deaths of kings, and ruinations of people. If these sycophants knew what difference there is between God and Caesar, between the King of Kings and a simple king, between the lord and the vassal, and what tributes this Lord requires of His subjects, and what authority he gives to kings over those his subjects, certainly so many rulers would not strive to trouble the kingdom of God. And we should not see some of them cast down from their thrones by the just instigation of the Almighty, revenging himself of them, in the midst of their greatest strength, and the people should not be sacked and pillaged and trodden down.
Accordingly, rulers need to know how far they are permitted to extend their authority over their subjects, and their subjects need to know in what ways they are to obey, lest should the one encroach on that jurisdiction, which no way belongs to them, and the others obey him which commands further than he ought, they be both chastised when they shall give an account of themselves before another Judge. Now the end and scope of this question in which the Holy Scripture shall principally give the resolution, is that which follows. The question is, whether subjects are bound to obey kings, in case they command that which is against the law of God: that is to say, to which of the two (God or king) must we rather obey? When the question is resolved concerning the king, to whom is attributed the fullest power, the question concerning other magistrates will be also determined. First, the Holy Scripture teach that God reigns by His own proper authority, and kings rule by derivation, God from Himself, kings from God. God has a jurisdiction proper and kings are his delegates. It follows then that the jurisdiction of God has no limits, but that of kings is finite, that the power of God is infinite, but that of kings is confined, that the kingdom of God extends itself to all places, but that of kings is restrained within the confines of certain countries. In like manner God has created out of nothing both heaven and earth, therefore, by good right He is lord and master of both. All the inhabitants of the earth have received from Him everything they have, and are, essentially, His tenants and lease-holders. All the rulers and governors of the world are but His hirelings and vassals, and are obligated to take and acknowledge their investitures from Him. God alone is the owner and lord, and all men, whatever their station in life, are His tenants, agents, officers and vassals. All without exception owe fealty to Him, according to that which He has committed to their dispensation. The higher their place is, the greater their responsibility to God must be, and according to the rank where God has raised them, must they make their reckoning before His divine majesty. This is what the Holy Scriptures teach in innumerable places, and all the faithful (and even the wisest heathens) have ever acknowledged: that "the earth is the Lord's, and all it contains" (Psalm 24:1). And to the end that men should not falsely worship their own labor and enterprise, the earth yields no increase without the dew of heaven. This is why God commanded that His people should offer to Him the first of their fruits, and the heathens themselves have consecrated the same to their gods, that is, that God might be acknowledged lord, and they his farmers and field workers. The heaven is the throne of the Lord, and the earth His footstool. And, therefore, since all the kings of the world are under His feet, it is no marvel, if God be called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; all kings he termed His ministers established to judge rightly, and govern justly the world in the quality of lieutenants. By me (says the divine wisdom) kings reign, and the princes judge the earth. If they do it not "He takes off the shackles put on by kings and ties a loincloth around their waist" (Job 12:18). As if He should say, it is in my power to establish kings in their thrones, or to thrust them out, and for that reason, the throne of kings is called the throne of God. As the Queen of Sheba said to King Solomon: "Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on his throne to be king for the Lord thy God, to do judgment and justice." (2 Chron. 9:8) In like manner we read in another place, that Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord, or on the throne of the Lord's kingdom.

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