Confession of Faith (1617) - Article XXVII
Of the office of magistracy, and secular power, we confess:
That the office of magistracy is an ordinance and institution of God who Himself willed and ordained that such a power should be over every country in order that thereby countries and cities might, through good policy and laws, for the punishment of the evil and the protection of the pious, be governed and maintained in quiet and peace, in a good civic life; without which power of authority the world, lying as it is in wickedness, could not subsist. Hence, all believers are in duty bound, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake, to submit themselves to this power, and as good subjects, to obey it with fear and reverence; willingly and without murmuring, to render unto their human ordinances and laws everything that is due to them, whether it be tribute custom or excise; and to pray with an humble heart for their life and welfare, and thus to seek with a faithful heart the prosperity of the country and city in which they reside; and though they, for the word of God, may have to suffer persecution, the spoiling of their property, and death, from the authorities, they may not speak evil of them, nor resist them in any wise with weapons and defense, but commit vengeance to God alone, and expect consolation. with God after this life (Romans 12:2; Wisdom 6:4; Ecclesiastes 17:14).
But if the authorities, through Christian equity, grant liberty to practice the faith in every respect, we are under so much the greater obligation of submissive obedience to them; but so far as the authorities abuse the office imposed on them, which extends only to the temporal, bodily government of men in temporal things, and encroach on the office of Christ, who alone has power over the spirits and souls of men, seeking, through their human laws, to press and compel men to act contrary to the word of God, we may not follow them, but must obey God rather than men, seeing Christ has been set by God His Father above all authority and power, the head in His church; and to this Father of Spirits we are directed, that in all things pertaining to the faith we should obey Him.
And as the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, but spiritual, He has dissuaded and prohibited all His servants and followers from all secular government and highness and has instituted in His church various ordinances, as pastors, teachers, helps and governments, by which the saints may be joined together, to edify the body of Christ; but the secular office* He left to the secular government, under which the followers of Christ as strangers and pilgrims, who have here no kingdom, power or continuing city, must sojourn, and fight only with spiritual weapons, which is the word of God; seeing neither Christ nor His apostles prescribed to believers any laws or rules according to which they should govern the world; neither did they refer them to the laws of the Jews, much less to those of the Roman emperors, or heathen laws, according to which they might regulate themselves herein; but they prescribed to believers only good doctrines, how they should conduct themselves in all Christian propriety as obedient subjects, under the government of the authorities; referring them to His own example, who shunned all the greatness of this world, and showed Himself only as a poor servant. Thus must also all His followers avoid the office of magistracy in all its departments, and not administer it, following also in this the example of Christ and His apostles, in whose church said offices were not administered, as is well known to every intelligent person.
But as all Christians are not permitted, but very strictly prohibited by God, to speak evil of, judge or condemn any one that is without their communion, we would with this still much less speak evil or injuriously of the magistracy, but trust in the only good God, who keeps all the alms of man as a signet, and his good deeds as the apple of the eye, and has promised a true reward to him who will give only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple; that He, the Blessed, will also be gracious to, and not leave rewarded the good deeds of all authorities, particularly those who administer their office aright according to the ordinances of God, which consists chiefly in protecting good, innocent, defenseless people, and in punishing the evil. Hence, all Christians are in duty bound to regard the authorities as God's ministers, and to pray for them, with a fervent heart, that it may please God to be gracious to them and give them eternal salvation.
How government is of God, and for what purpose it is instituted, read: "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. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bequeath not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that death evil" (Romans 13:1-4; Sirach 17:17).
"Jesus answered Pilate: Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19: 11; Wisdom 6:3; Daniel 2:21; 4:25; 5:21; Jeremiah 27:5).
How Christ taught His followers not to accept magisterial office, read "But Jesus called them to him, and said unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45; Matthew 20:25; Luke 22:5).
Mark the words: But so shall it not be among you This can not be applied to the apostles only, who were equal servants, the one being no greater than the other, and they soon separating from each other to preach the Gospel to all nations, could not, on this account, show to each other alone the duty of servants here required; hence the word, among you, must necessarily be understood of the whole church, seeing Christ spoke to His twelve apostles many others of His principal doctrines and commandments, which relate to all believers, as His blessed lips say in the Gospel:. "And what I say unto you I say unto all" (Mark 13:37).
"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36; 6:15; Matthew 5:39; 2 Corinthians 10:4; Ephesians 6:13; Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:3; Zechariah 9:10; Psalms 76:3).
Read further, not according to what law the believers are to govern the unbelievers, but only how the church of Christ shall be obedient to government. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers" "Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake". "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due: custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear" Romans 13:1, 5, 7).
"Render therefore unto Cesar the things which are Cesar's and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21; Mark 12:17).
"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well" 1 Peter 2:13, 14).
"Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men" (Titus 3:1, 2; 1 Timothy 2:2; Jeremiah 29:7; Baruch 1:11).
*But not the office of authority, then says the writer.
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