Of the Civil Magistrate

It’s the Wednesday following the Presidential Election of 2020, and we are a long way off from knowing who the winner of the election will be. I’ve had several conversations with people who wondered what would happen if there was a tie in the Electoral College, so I directed them back to Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. It’s interesting reading, but I hope we don’t have to go through all of that.

As it’s good to get a refresher on the Constitution every now and then, it’s also good to get a refresher on our Confession. Perhaps, in light of the election, it would be good to once again read through what the Westminster Confession teaches us from Scripture about the role of the Civil Government and the Christian’s responsibility. (Next week I’ll return to the study through Jude).

Enjoy!

Chapter XXIIIOf the Civil Magistrate

1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be under Him, over the people, for His own glory, 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 evil doers. (Rom. 13:1–4, 1 Pet. 2:13–14)

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto: (Prov. 8:15–16, Rom. 13:1–2, 4) in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth; (Ps. 2:10–12, 1 Tim. 2:2, Ps. 82:3–4, 2 Sam. 23:3, 1 Pet. 2:13) so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the new testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion. (Luke 3:14, Rom. 13:4, Matt. 8:9–10, Acts 10:1–2, Rev. 17:14, 16)

3. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; (2 Chron. 26:18) or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; (Matt. 18:17, Matt. 16:19, 1 Cor. 12:28–29, Eph. 4:11–12, 1 Cor. 4:1–2, Rom. 10:15, Heb. 5:4) or, in the least, interfere in the matter so faith. (John 18:36, Acts 5:29, Eph. 4:11–12) Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the Church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. (Isa. 49:23, Rom. 13:1–6) And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his Church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. (Ps. 104:15, Acts 18:14–15) It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretence of religion or of infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever: and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance. (Rom. 13:4, 1 Tim. 2:2)

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, (1 Tim. 2:1–2) to honour their persons, (1 Pet. 2:17) to pay them tribute or other dues, (Rom. 13:6–7) to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’sake. (Rom. 13:5, Tit. 3:1) 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: (1 Pet. 2:13–14, 16) from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted, (Rom. 13:1, 1 Kings 2:35, Acts 25:9–11, 2 Pet. 2:1, 10–11, Jude 8–11) 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 pretence whatsoever. (2 Thess. 2:4, Rev. 13:15–17)

 The Westminster Confession of Faith. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Print.

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