The Westminster Assembly on lawful and unlawful civil magistracy

Westminster Abbey

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1647), acknowledged by many to be the most precise and faithful creed of orthodox Christianity, specifically states that only “lawful” civil power is not to be resisted as “the ordinance of God.” Thus, it follows (from not just one reformed theologian, but from this entire assembly of reformed divines who met over a period of five years) that since only “lawful” civil power is “the ordinance of God”, then only “lawful” civil magistracy is to be submitted to for conscience sake, and honored as “the minister of God to thee for good.” The reformed divines of the Westminster Assembly manifestly acknowledged a necessary distinction between lawful and unlawful magistracy.

“The Confession of Faith,” Chapter XX, Westminster Confession of Faith (Invernes: Free Presbyterian Publications, [1647] 1983), pp. 87.


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