Of political government, and its distinction into several kinds
Authority, how far from God, how far from men?
Government and subjection are relatives; so that what is said of the one, may in proportion be said
of the other. Which being so, it will be needless to treat of both; because it will be easy to apply
what is spoken of one to the other. Government is
the exercise of a moral
power. One of these is the root and measure of the other; which, if it exceed, is exorbitant, is not
government, but a transgression of it. This power and government is differenced with respect to
the governed; to wit, a family, which is called economical; or a public society, which is called
political, or magistracy. Concerning this magistracy we will treat: 1. In general.
2. Of the
principal kind of it.
In general concerning magistracy, there are two things about which I find difficulty and
difference, viz. the original, and the end.
First, for the original: there seem to be two extremes in opinion; while some amplify the divinity
thereof, others speak so slightly of it, as if there were little else but human institution in it. I will
briefly lay down my apprehensions of the evident truth in this point; and it may be, things being
clearly and distinctly set down, there will be no real ground for contrariety in this matter. Three
things herein must necessarily be distinguished, viz.: 1. The constitution or power of magistracy
in general. 2. The limitation of it to this or that kind. 3. The determination of it to this or that
individual person or line.
For the first of these: 1. It is God's express ordinance that, in the societies of mankind, there
should be a magistracy or government. At first, when there were but two, God ordained it
(Genesis 3: 16). St Paul affirms as much of the powers that be, none excepted (Romans 13: I). 2.
This power, wherever placed, ought to be respected as a participation of divine sovereignty
(Psalm 82: I, 6); and every soul ought to be subject to it for the Lord's sake (I Peter 2: 13): that is,
for conscience' sake of God's ordinance (Romans 13: 5), and under penalty of damnation (verse