A Confessional look at the Civil Magistrate with respect to obedience/disobedience to just/unjust la

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Puritan Board Graduate
or an humble entreaty...sorry, felt puritanical with the above title and had to carry the rest out...:lol:

This was done with a quick glance. Much more thorough work would need to be done in regards to comparison, checking scripture references, historical points, etc.

But a prima facie case can be made that
1. We are not to be rebellious and honor the magistrate and keep his commands and
2. Those commands must be just.

Which brings up the age old question - By What Standard? Who defines just?

For complete texts see this thread

My :2cents: to some of the recent threads floating around.

Westminster Confession of Faith
Ch. 23

I. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world{not just the church}, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under him{where do magistrates get their authority? People? Social Contract? Power? nope, God ordained them and they are under Him and by default subject to His law}, over the people, for his own glory,{If a magistrate is to rule unto God's glory then civil law cannot be neutral. Laws permitting abortion is contrary to God's holy law and does not bring God glory, ergo should not be on the books.} and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evildoers.{This now brings up the question: What if the magistrate is an evildoer?}

II. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: in the managing whereof, as they oughtespecially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth{the laws have to be wholesome - what constitutes wholesome?};so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament,{How do we understand this statement? Anyone?} wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.

IV. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates , to honor their persons, to pay them tribute or other dues, to obey their lawful commands{They felt the need to insert the word 'lawful' here. They did not include all commands as some would interpret Rom.13}, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience' sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates' just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them : from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, much less hath the pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretense whatsoever.

The Belgic Confession of Faith, Article XXXVI
The Magistracy (Civil Government)

Moreover, it is the bounden duty of every one, of whatever state, quality, or condition he may be, to subject himself to the magistrates; to pay tribute, to show due honor and respect to them, and to obey them in all things which are not repugnant to the Word of God;{We are not to obey the repugnant laws.} to supplicate for them in their prayers that God may rule and guide them in all their ways, and that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity.

The Scots Confession "“ John Knox
Chapter 24 - The Civil Magistrate

Therefore we confess and avow that those who resist the supreme powers, so long as they are acting in their own spheres,{Brings up issues of interposition} are resisting God's ordinance and cannot be held guiltless. We further state that so long as princes and rulers vigilantly fulfill their office{If they turn wicked and turn on the people???}, anyone who denies them aid, counsel, or service, denies it to God, who by his lieutenant craves it of them.

Genevan Confession - John Calvin & William Farrel

We hold the supremacy and dominion of kings and princes as also of other magistrates and officers, to be a holy thing and a good ordinance of God. And since in performing their office they serve God and follow a Christian vocation{not a neutral undertaking...}, whether in defending the afflicted and innocent, or in correcting and punishing the malice of the perverse, we on our part also ought to accord them honour and reverence, to render respect and subservience, to execute their commands, to bear the charges they impose on us, so far as we are able without offence to God{ Again, in following the magistrate we are not to offent THE KING.}. In sum, we ought to regard them as vicars and lieutenants of God, whom one cannot resist without resisting God himself; and their office as a sacred commission from God which has been given them so that they may rule and govern us. Hence we hold that all Christians are bound to pray God for the prosperity of the superiors and lords of the country where they live, to obey the statutes and ordinances which do not contravene the commandments of God{He states this again - all the while desiring obedience}, to promote the welfare, peace and public good, endeavouring to sustain the honour of those over them and the peace of the people, without contriving or attempting anything to inspire trouble or dissension. On the other hand we declare that all those who conduct themselves unfaithfully towards their superiors, and have not a right concern for the public good of the country where they live, demonstrate thereby their infidelity towards God.

The Second Helvetic Confession - Chapter XXX
Of the Magistracy

The Duty of the Magistrate. The chief duty of the magistrate is to secure and preserve peace and public tranquillity. Doubtless he will never do this more successfully than when he is truly God-fearing and religious; that is to say, when, according to the example of the most holy kings and princes of the people of the Lord, he promotes the preaching of the truth and sincere faith, roots out lies and all superstition, together with all impiety and idolatry, and defends the Church of God. We certainly teach that the care of religion belongs especially to the holy magistrate.

Let him, therefore, hold the Word of God in his hands, and take care lest anything contrary to it is taught. Likewise let him govern the people entrusted to him by God with good laws made according to the Word of God, and let him keep them in discipline, duty and obedience. Let him exercise judgment by judging uprightly. Let him not respect any man's person or accept bribes. Let him protect widows, orphans and the afflicted. Let him punish and even banish criminals, impostors and barbarians. For he does not bear the sword in vain (Rom. 13:4).

Therefore, let him draw this sword of God against all malefactors, seditious persons, thieves, murderers, oppressors, blasphemers, perjured persons, and all those whom God has commanded him to punish and even to execute. Let him suppress stubborn heretics (who are truly heretics), who do not cease to blaspheme the majesty of God and to trouble, and even to destroy the Church of God.

The Duty of Subjects. For as God wants to effect the safety of his people by the magistrate, whom he has given to the world to be, as it were, a father, so all subjects are commanded to acknowledge this favor of God in the magistrate. Therefore let them honor and reverence the magistrate as the minister of God; let them love him, favor him, and pray for him as their father; and let them obey all his just and fair{Again, care was taken to specify which laws were to be obeyed - ALL of them that are Just and Fair} commands. Finally, let them pay all customs and taxes, and all other such dues faithfully and willingly. And if the public safety of the country and justice require it, and the magistrate of necessity wages war, let them even lay down their life and pour out their blood for the public safety and that of the magistrate. And let them do this in the name of God willingly, bravely and cheerfully. For he who opposes the magistrate provokes the severe wrath of God against himself.

The Waldensian Confession

XXXII. That God has established kings and magistrates to govern the people, and that the people ought to be subject and obedient unto them, by virtue of that ordination, not only for fear, but also for conscience' sake, in all things that are conformable to the Word of God,{Waldensians showed who was the Supreme King and lawgiver} who is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.


Puritanboard Librarian
Excellent citations on an important subject and profound questions for consideration. :pilgrim::up:

I don't usually quote Martin Luther King, Jr. but he said something along these lines worth pondering in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.

[Edited on 1-26-2006 by VirginiaHuguenot]
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