John Knox on lawful civil magistrates being ministers of God

John Knox establishes that only lawful magistrates (not tyrants) are “the ordinance of God”, and therefore are to be given the submission required by the apostle Paul in Romans 13:

As the apostle in these words [i.e. Rom. 13:1-4] most straitly commanded obedience to be given to lawful powers, pronouncing God’s wrath and vengeance against such as shall resist the ordinance of God….And this one point I wish your wisdoms deeply to consider, that God has not placed you above your brethren to reign as tyrants without respect of their profit and commodity. You hear the Holy Ghost witness the contrary, affirming that all lawful powers are God’s ministers, ordained for the wealth [well-being], profit, and salvation of their subjects, and not for their destruction. Could it be said (I beseech you) that magistrates, enclosing their subjects in a city without all victuals, or giving unto them no other victuals but such as were poisoned, did rule for the profit of their subjects? I trust that none would be so foolish as so to affirm; but that rather every discreet person would boldly affirm, that such as did so were tyrants unworthy of all regiment [i.e. government].

John Knox, “The Appellation from the Sentence Pronounced by the Bishops and Clergy: Addressed to the Nobility and Estates of Scotland“, The Selected Writings Of John Knox (Dallas, Texas: Presbyterian Heritage Publications [1558] 1995), pp. 490,491.


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