William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

Lex, Rex

by Samuel Rutherford

For the lawfulness of resistance in the matter of the king's unjust
invasion of life and religion, we offer these arguments.

Arg. 1: That power which is obliged to command and rule justly and
religiously for the good of the subjects, and is only set over the
people on these conditions, and not absolutely, cannot tie the
people to subjection without resistance, when the power is abused to
the destruction of laws, religion, and the subjects. But all power
of the law is thus obliged, (Rom. xiii. 4 ; Deut. xvii. 18-20 ; 2
Chron. xix. 6 ; Ps. cxxxii. 11, 12 ; lxxxix. 30, 31; 2 Sam. vii. 12;
Jer. xvii. 24, 25,) and hath, and may be, abused by kings, to the
destruction of laws, religion, and subjects. The proposition is
clear. 1. For the powers that tie us to subjection only are of God.

2. Because to resist them, is to resist the ordinance of God. 3.
Because they are not a terror to good works, but to evil. 4. Because
they are God's ministers for our good, but abused powers are not of
God, but of men, or not ordinances of God ; they are a terror to
good works, not to evil ; they are not God's ministers for our good.

Arg. 2: That power which is contrary to law, and is evil and
tyrannical, can tie none to subjection, but is a mere tyrannical
power and unlawful; and if it tie not to subjection, it may lawfully
be resisted. But the power of the king, abused to the destruction of
laws, religion, and subjects, is a power contrary to law, evil, and
tyrannical, and tyeth no man to subjection : wickedness by no
imaginable reason can oblige any man. Obligation to suffer of wicked
men falleth under no commandment of God, except in our Saviour. A
passion, as such, is not formally commanded, I mean a physical
passion, such as to be killed. God hath not said to me in any moral
law, Be thou killed, tortured, beheaded ; but only, Be thou patient,
if God deliver thee to wicked men's hands, to suffer these things.

Arg. 3: There is not a stricter obligation moral betwixt king and
people than betwixt parents and children, master and servant, patron
and clients, husband and wife, the lord and the vassal, between the
pilot of a ship and the passengers, the physician and the sick, the
doctor and the scholars, but the law granteth, (l. Minime 35, de
Relig. et sumpt. funer,) if these betray their trust commited to
them, they may be resisted: if the father turn distracted, and arise
to kill his sons may violently apprehend him, and bind his hands,
and spoil him of his weapons; for in that he is not a
father......The servant may resist the master if he attempts
unjustly kill him, so may the wife do to the husband; if the pilot
should wilfully run the ship on a rock to destroy himself and his
passengers, they might violently thrust him from the helm. Every
tyrant is a furious man, and is morally distracted, as Althusius
said, Polit. c. 28, n. 30, and seq.

Arg. 4: That which is given as a blessing, and a favour, and a
screen, between the people's liberty and their bondage, cannot be a
given of God as a bondage and slavery to the people. But the power
of king is given as a blessing and favour God to defend the poor and
needy, to preserve both tables of the law, and to keep the people in
their liberties from oppressing and treading one upon another. But
so it is, that if such a power be given of God to a king, by which,
actu primo, he is invested of God to do acts of tyranny, and so to
do them, that to resist him in the most innocent way, which is
self-defence, must be a resisting of God, and rebellion against the
king, his deputy ; then hath God given a royal power as
uncontrollable by mortal men, by any violence, as if God himself
were immediately and personally resisted, when the king is resisted,
and so this power shall be a power to waste and deatroy
irresistibly, and so in itself a plague and a curse; for it cannot
be ordained both according to the intention and genuine formal
effect and intrinsical operation of the power, to preserve the
tables of the law, religion and liberty, subjects and laws, and also
to destroy the same. But it is taught by royalists that this power
is for tyranny, as well as for peaceable government; because to
resist this royal power put forth in acts either ways, either in
acts of tyranny or just government, is to resist the ordinance of
God, as royalists say, from Rom. xiii. 1-3. And we know, to resist
God's ordinances and God's deputy, formaliter, as his deputy, is to
resist God himself,(1 Sam. viii. 7; Matt.x. 40,) as if God were
doing personally these acts that the king is doing; and it importeth
as much as the King of kings doth these acts in and through the
tyrant. Now, it is blasphemy to think or say, that when a king is
drinking the blood of innocents, and wasting the church of God, that
God, if he were personally present, would commit these same acts of
tyranny, (God avert such blasphemy !) and that God in and through
the king, as his lawful deputy and vicegerent in these acts of
tyranny, is wasting the poor church of God. If it be said, in these
sinful acts of tyranny, he is not God's formal vicegerent, but only
in good and lawful acts of government, yet he is not to be resisted
in these acts, not because the acts are just and good, but because
of the dignity of his royal person. Yet this must prove that those
who resiet the king in these acts of tyranny, must resist no
ordinance of God, but only resist him who is the Lord's deputy,
though not as the Lord's deputy. What absurdity is there in that
more than to disobey him, refusing active obedience to him who is
tha Lord's deputy, not as the, Lord's deputy, but as a man
commanding besides his master's warrant?

Arg. 5: That which is inconsistent with the care and providence of
God in giving a king to his church is not to be taught. Now God's
end in giving a king to his church, as the feeding, safety,
preservation, and the peaceable and quiet life of his church. (1
Tim. ii. 2 ; Isa. xlix. 23 ; Psal. lxxix. 71). But God should cross
his own end in the same act of giving a king, if he should provide a
king, who, by office, were to suppress robbers, murderers, and all
oppressors and wasters in his holy mount, and yet should give an
irresistible power to one crowned lion, a king, who may kill ten
hundred thousand protestants for their religion, in an ordinary
providence; and they are by an ordinary law of God to give their
throats to his emissaries and bloody executioners. If any say the
king will not be so cruel, - I believe it; because, actu secundo, it
is not possibly in his power to be so cruel. We owe thanks to his
good will that he killeth not so many, but no thanks to the nature
and genuine intrinsical end of a king, who hath power from God to
kill all these, and that without resistance made by any mortal man.
Yea, no thanks (God avert blasphemy!) to God's ordinary providence,
which (if royalists may be believed) putteth no bar upon the
unlimited power of a man inclined to sin, and abuse his power to so
much cruelty. Some may say, the same absurdity doth follow if the
king should turn papist, and the parliament all were papists. In
that case there might be so many martyrs for the truth put to death,
and God should put no bar of providence upon this power, then more
than now; and yet, in that case, the king and parliament should be
judges given of God, actu primo, and by virtue of their office
obliged to preserve the people in peace and godliness. But I answer,
If God gave a lawful official power to king and parliament to work
the same cruelty upon millions of martyrs, and it should be unlawful
for them by arms to defend themselves, I should then think that king
and parliament were both ex officio, by virtue of their office, and
actu primo, judges and fathers, and also by that same office,
murderers and butchers,- which were a grievous aspersion to the
unspotted providence of God.

Arg. 6: If the estates of a kingdom give the power to a king, it is
their own power in the fountain ; and if they give it for their own
good, they have power to judge when it is used against themselves,
and for their evil, and so power to limit and resist the power that
they gave. Now, that they may take away this power, is clear in
Athaliah's case. It is true she was a tyrant without a title, and
had not the right of heaven to the crown, yet she had, in men's
court, a title. For supposing all the royal seed to be killed, and
the people consent, we cannot say that, for these six years or
thereabout, she was no magistrate: that there were none on the
throne of David at this time: that she was not to be obeyed as God's
deputy. But grant that she was no magistrate; yet when Jehoash is
brought forth to be crowned, it was a controversy to the states to
whom the crown should belong. 1. Athaliah was in possession. 2.
Jehoash himself being but seven years old, could not be judge. 3. It
might be doubted if Joash was the true son of Ahaziah, and if he was
not killed with the rest of the blood royal. Two great adversaries
say with us ; Hugo Grotius.....saith he dare not condemn this, if
the lesser part of the people, and every one of them indifferently,
should defend themselves against a tyrant, ultimo necessitatis
proesidio. The case of Scotland, when we were blocked up by sea and
land with armies: the case of England, when the king, induced by
prelates, first attempted to bring an army to cut off parliament,
and then gather an army, and fortified York and invaded Hull, to
make the militia his own, sure is considerable. Barclay saith, the
people hath....a power to defend themselves against prodigious
cruelty. The case of England and Ireland, now invaded by bloody
rebels of Ireland, is also worthy of consideration. I could cite
hosts more.


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