Civil Rulers the Ministers of God, For Good to Men

The Origin, Design, Business and Necessity of Civil Government


Jonathan Todd (1713-1791) was a Congregationalist minister to the church in East Guilford, Connecticut where he labored without interruption for 57 years, ceasing in his ministry only during the last year of his life due to poor health. He was a graduate of Yale College, had multiple of his sermons published during his life, and maintained a vigorous and academic correspondence. Franklin Bowditch Dexter’s Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College informs us that Todd’s letters to Ezra Stiles (1727-1795), the seventh president of Yale, ranged widely in content from Hebrew textual criticism to astronomy to meteorology. Benjamin Franklin apparently read some of Todd’s meteorology manuscripts to meetings of the Royal Society in London. During the so-called Old Light-New Light controversy, Todd cast his lot with the former.

Though he wrote no explicitly political treatises, and spent most of polemical energy on ecclesial controversies, he did, at the end of his life, make known his position on the then already heated controversy over slavery. In his will, dated February 3, 1791, Todd directed his executors to free his slaves:

“I have long been convinced in my own mind that the enslaving of the Africans brought from Africa or those born in this country is unjust; and it is one of the sins of the land, and I would endeavor to free my estate from the cry of such a sin against it.”

Long before his death, Todd had gained sufficient reputation and public trust to receive the election day sermon invitation, which is reprinted in lightly edited form below. The full title of Todd’s sermon, preached in 1749 before the General Assembly of Connecticut is, Civil rulers the ministers of God, for good to men. Or, The divine original and authority of civil government asserted; and the business and duty of civil rulers, and the obligations on a people, to support their authority and maintain their character (New London, Connecticut: Timothy Green, 1749).

Todd’s chosen text was Romans 13:6, “For, for this Cause pay you Tribute also: for they are God’s Ministers, attending continually upon this very Thing.” Todd’s sermon runs over 60 pages and more than 15,000 words. For the sake of brevity, this edition has cut the portion of the “particular application” section (over 6,000 words in length) that addresses “the sundry Orders of Men” then assembled—the three estates of magistrates, clergy, and people—directly, applying the doctrine outline in the prior three sections in a contemporary way. Whilst that section may interest historians, it generally provides no more substantive content. The lay reader, therefore, will benefit most from the primary three sections of Todd’s sermon which he outlines at the start, as well as the general applications included below. (For further commentary on Todd’s sermon, see the corresponding Forum section post. See also, the introductory article on American Reformer Resources.)


The Necessity of civil Government is so obvious to anyone, that considers the State and Circumstances of the World, that we may conclude, none will despise Government, but such unhappy Persons, whose Minds and Consciences are defiled, and themselves unto every good work reprobate, walking after their own Lusts.

For, as in the Days when there was no King in Israel, and every Man did that which was right in his own Eyes, (Judges 21:25.) Judgment departed from them, and all evil Works and Confusions prevailed amongst; them; So, will it be amongst every People where there is no Government. Judgment will turn away backward, and Justice stand afar off from such a People: Truth will fail, and he that departed from Evil, will make himself Prey. The Feet of Multitudes will run to Evil, and they make haste to shed innocent Blood. Wasting and Destruction will indeed be in their Paths; and all manner of Oppressions prevail among them. The Prophecy concerning Ishmael would soon be the just Character of Multitudes, that He should be a wild Man, his Hand against every Man, and every Man’s Hand against him (Genesis 16:12).

But yet, there have arisen, even amongst them that pretend to approve Things that are excellent, and to believe on the Name of Jesus Christ, some that despise Dominion, and speak evil of Dignities, (Jude 7). Under a Pretense of Liberty, falsely so called, they would put down all Rule, and all Authority, and Power among Men: Pleading in Defense of their licentious Doctrine, that Christ hath made all his People Kings; and they shall reign on the Earth.

This they pretend is the Liberty where with Christ have made them free. They pretend to believe, that the Prosperity of the Church of Christ depends upon the Destruction of all temporal Powers; and that the golden Age of the Church, and the expected Millennium is to be introduced by weakening the Power of the Princes of this World and setting Men upon a Level. And therefore, have sometimes been called by the Name of Levelers.

But now that no Man may have any the least Ground, to pretend from any Thing that St. Paul hath written concerning thrift Christian Liberty, that he was a Friend to Anarchy— and countenanced such Levelling Principles, He treats particularly upon civil Government in this Chapter: Shewing the divine Institution and Appointment, the Use and Design of it; and the great Work and Business of those that are [intruded] with the Administration thereof: Declaring also, that God himself requires Obedience and Subjection to the Same.

He enjoins that every Soul be subject unto the higher Powers, (or the Authority placed over them) For there is no Power, saith He, but of God, (the Fountain of it) The Powers that be are ordained of God, verse one.

He is so far from countenancing Disobedience to Authority, that he declares, as verse two. Whosoever therefore resists the Power, resists the Ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves Damnation. To resist the Government, in the Administration of that Power God hath committed to them, is as it were to wage War against God himself, and to renounce His Government, by whom Princes rule, and Nobles, even all the Judges of the Earth, (Proverbs 8:16). And therefore, the Children of Rebellion have Reason to expect that God himself will arise to plead his Cause and vindicate his Authority; that He will speak to them in his Wrath and vex them in his sore Displeasure.

The Apostle also presses Subjection to Authority from the Original Intention and Design of Government, which is the public Good. For Rulers, saith He, are not a Terror to good Works, but to the evil, in the former Part of verse three. Rulers acting by the Authority of God, (and there is no Power but of God) are not a Discouragement to good works, but to the evil: They are not designed to discourage any Thing, that tends to promote the Welfare of the World, but only to be a Terror to such Works, as bring a Curse upon the World, and hurt the Interests of Men. They are armed with Authority and Power, to prepare Judgments for Scorners, and Stripes for the Back of Fools; to scatter the Wicked, and bring the Wheel over them, (Proverbs 19:29; 20:26.) Let Men but lead a peaceable and quiet Life in all Godliness and Honesty, and the Magistrate, as God’s Vicegerent, will do them no Hurt; but will rather protect and encourage them.

And therefore, saith the Apostle, in the latter Part of verse three, and beginning of verse four. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the Power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have Praise of the same: For he is the Minister of God to thee for Good. Magistrates are deputed and delegated to act for God: He gives them Power and Authority to encourage the Virtuous; to maintain their Right and Cause.

Indeed, if Men are contentious, and do not obey the Truth, but obey Unrighteousness, they have Reason to be afraid of the Magistrate’s Power: And therefore, saith the Apostle, in the latter Part of v.4. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the Sword in vain: for he is the Minister of God, a revenger to execute Wrath upon him that doeth evil. They are as it were armed with God’s Sword of Justice and must wield it for Him. God hath made them his Officers not only to encourage the Virtuous, but to execute Punishments and Wrath upon them that do evil.

Wherefore, saith the Apostle, verse five, Ye must needs be subject, not only for Wrath, but also for Conscience Sake. Not only for Fear of Punishment from the Magistrate, but out of Conscience and Duty, because so is the Will of God (1 Peter 2:15).

For, saith the Apostle in our Text, for this Cause pay you Tribute also: for they are God’s Ministers, attending continually upon this very Thing. [quaque die (i.e., every day)] ‘Tis in Token of that Subjection you owe them, and in Support of their Authority, you pay Tribute to them, as being God’s Ministers, and employed in the public Service of their Country; attending continually upon this great Work, to which they are commissioned, as Trustees for the public Good, [scilicet (i.e., namely)], to protect and encourage the Righteous, to maintain the public Peace, and plead the Cause of Truth, and stand up for God against the evil Doers amongst Men, and avenge his Authority in executing Wrath upon them.

The Text, I think will naturally lead us, to consider the following Things, agreeable to the Occasion of this Day.

[Section] I. The Authority by which the civil Powers rule.

[Section] II. The great Ends and Designs of civil Government, and the great Work and Business of those that are entrusted with the Administration thereof.

[Section] III. The Obligations upon a People to Support Government.

Section I: The Authority of Government

In the first Place, let us consider the Authority by which the civil Powers rule.

Now the Text tells us, They are God’s Ministers. I am sensible indeed, there is a Distinction between the supreme Powers, and inferior Magistrates, commissioned by them, according to 1 Peter 2:13-14, Submit your selves to every Ordinance of Man for the Lord’s sake: Whether it be to the King, as supreme; or unto Governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the Punishment of evil Doers, and for the Praise of them that do Well.

But although there are various Degrees and Orders of Men entrusted with the administration of Government, and the lower Orders immediately derive their Authority from those above them, yet they all ultimately derive their Authority from God; are His Ministers, and rule for Him. And therefore, ’tis said, Proverbs 8:15-16. By me Kings reign, and Princes decree Justice. By me Princes rule, and Nobles, even all the Judges of the Earth.

As in Kingdoms and particular Governments, all Power descends, from the supreme Authority upon subordinate Magistrates and Officers; so in the universal Monarchy of the World, all lawful Power and Authority is derived from God, the supreme Lord of the World. And, though the Derivation of this Authority be mediate, and Men are in various Ways introduced thereunto, according to the diverse Constitutions of Kingdoms, States and Governments; yet still the Authority by which they rule is from GOD, the Head and Fountain of all Dominion and Authority.

‘Tis the most High that rules in the Kingdoms of Men by the Ministry of Princes and Magistrates: And they minister as in His Name, and by Authority and Commission from Him: And therefore they are styled Gods, Psalm 82:6. I have said, Ye are Gods: and all of you are Children of the most High.

All Government belongs originally unto God himself; but he deputes some of the Sons of Men to act for Him; vests them with His Authority, and charges them, as 2 Chronicles 19:6. Take Heed what ye do: for ye judge not for Man, but for the LORD.

Section II: The Ends of Government

But we proceed to consider, in the second Place, The great Ends and Design of civil Government, and the great Work and Business of those entrusted with the Administration thereof.

And in general, we may say, that the public Good is the great End, and original Design of the Institution of civil Government. It was ordained as a Means to promote the Peace and Welfare of the World; to guard and defend the Innocent, shelter and relieve the Oppressed, encourage the Virtuous, and discourage Vice and Wickedness: And This is the great Thing civil Rulers are continually to attend upon.

Power is given to them from above, to the End they may encourage such Things as promote the Welfare of Mankind, and may suppress such Things as are injurious to the World. A Sword is put into their Hands for the Protection of them that do Well, and the Chastisements of evil Doers.


First, One End and Design of civil Government, and so Part of the Work and Business of those that are entrusted with the Administration thereof, is, to maintain the public Peace. Peace and Quietness is absolutely necessary to the Wellbeing of any People. ‘Tis a fundamental Thing in all Governments, without which none of the other Ends of Government can be secured, nor itself long supported. A Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24).

And then, where Men can’t live quietly, they can’t live happily. Broils and Contention will render any Society of People unhappy, and overspread the whole Face thereof with Confusion and Misery. ‘Tis better dwelling alone in a Wilderness, than in the Midst of Contentions and Quarrels, where Fire-Brands, Arrows and Death are cast about. David in such a Case wished for Wings swift as a Dove to fly away far off to some Place of Safety and Repose, Psalm 55:7-9.

But now, without Government there would be endless Broils and Strife, Wars and Fighting. To prevent which, the God of Peace hath ordained Government in the World. And Rulers are Ministers of God to restrain the Wrath of Men, to curb in that Spirit of Discord, so ready to prevail on all Occasions.

It can’t be expected but that there will be some turbulent and contentious Men among every People; unruly and fierce, inclined to improve every Opportunity to set People together by the Ears, and scatter the Seeds of Discord, and violate the Laws of Peace: Now Government is designed to restrain such, that People may lead quiet and peaceable Lives.

Second, Another End of civil Government, and so Part of the Business of civil Rulers, is, to protect Men in the Enjoyment or their just Rights and Privileges, both natural and acquired, civil and religious. 

I Shall not exercise your Patience, to consider the various natural and acquired, civil and temporal Rights and Privileges of Men; which they justly value and esteem, and could not securely possess without the Protection of Government: It is sufficient to say, before an Auditory so well acquainted with the Rights and Privileges of Mankind, that the great God, who loveth Righteousness, hath instituted Government for the securing of Men in the Enjoyment of these their Rights and Privileges.

If there were none in Authority, but every Man was left to do what was right in his own Eyes, there would be no secure possessing of any Thing. Justice and Righteousness would soon forsake the Earth; Rapine and Violence, Falsehood and Oppression would everywhere prevail and triumph, and those that turn Judgment to Wormwood; and leave off Righteousness in the Earth be multiplied. Neither Promises nor Bonds would avail Strength of Arm would be the only Law of Justice obtaining and acknowledged among Men.

For the maintaining of Righteousness and Judgment therefore in the Earth, is Government set up. And therefore, GOD charges his Ministers entrusted with the Administration thereof, to execute Judgment and Righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the Oppressor, and to let Judgment run down as Waters, and Righteousness as a mighty Stream (Jeremiah 22:3; Amos 5:24).

But besides our temporal Rights, we have our Spiritual Ones, as we are Members of the Body of Christ; even the invaluable Privileges of the Gospel: Which, if they should be taken from us, what have we more!

And yet, there may be Men disposed to take these from us; who, if unrestrained would spread forth their Hands upon all our pleasant Things; drive us from the House of the Lord, or disturb us in our Worship there; break down the carved Work of the House of God, or cast Fire into his Sanctuary.

Government is therefore also designed to protect Men in the Possession of their spiritual Privileges. And therefore, ’tis said concerning Zion, Isaiah 49:23. Kings shall be thy nursing Fathers, and their Queens thy nursing Mothers. They are to be Guardians of the Religion, as well as the civil Rights and Liberties of their People.

Third, Another great Design of Government, and so what Men entrusted with the Administration thereof are continually to attend upon, is, to encourage Men in well Doing. The Apostle saith in verse three, of our Context, Do that which is good, and thou shalt have Praise of the same, i.e., Of the Powers and Rulers.

Government is appointed to encourage and promote universal Righteousness and Goodness; that Men might live not only peaceably and honestly, but religiously in the World.

There hath indeed been a great Cry of late Years, that the civil Magistrate hath Nothing to do about religious Matters, nor ought to make any Laws for the Encouragement of Religion and Protection of the Church of Christ. But this is new Doctrine to the Church of Christ: Which hath always expected that Christian Kings should be its nursing Fathers, and Christian Queens it’s nursing Mothers.

Indeed, whilst the civil Powers remained Enemies to the Cross of Christ, nor acknowledged Him their Head and King, the Churches expected no great Help from them. They trusted on the Arm of Christ, whom God had set his King upon his holy Hill of Zion, immediately to work Salvation for them. And Christ himself by his immediate and unseen Hand was their Defense. And there is no Doubt, but Christ is yet able to plead his own Cause, and to maintain his little Flock in the World, if the higher Powers of this World should neglect the Cause of Zion and Religion and take no Care to support the Worship of God, and the Cause of Truth.

But yet, as it pleases God ordinarily to govern the World more mediately; and when he design Good to the Church, to raise up and spirit the higher Powers to protect and help it; the People of Christ justly have their Eyes to these Vicegerent of God for Protection and Help.

The First Day of the New Testament Church was a Day of Miracles, and God more immediately maintained his Church and Cause in the World. But since Christianity hath been established amongst Men, and Kings have seen the Glory of the Lord upon his Church, and come to the Brightness of her Rising, she hath sucked the Breasts of Kings, according to the Prophecy concerning her, Isaiah 60:16.

It was therefore an ancient Promise to the Church, that when the Gentiles Should come to her Light, Their Kings should minister unto her, Isaiah 69:10.

And indeed, as the Kingdom is Christ’s, and He is made universal Lord under his Father, and all Power is given Him in Heaven and Earth, (Matthew 28:18) and He is given to be Head over all Things to the Church, (Ephesians 1:22) what are the Powers of this World but the Ministers of His Kingdom? — And if so, their Character Obliges them, to exert their Power for the Protection, Preservation and Glory of Christ’s Kingdom.

Or, if we only consider them as the Ministers of God for Good to the World, it is impossible that they should answer to this Character, without endeavoring to support and encourage Religion. For there is Nothing the Welfare of Mankind is so much interested in, as Religion: Nothing that will so beautify and bless the World; that will so promote Peace and Friendship, good Order and Prosperity.

Religion is profitable unto all Things, having Promise of the Life that now is, and of that which is to come, 1 Timothy 4:8. ‘Tis profitable to obtain the Blessing of God, and to promote those social Virtues that are the Glory and Strength of a Society.1 Indeed, ’tis the main Support and strongest Bond of civil Societies. And therefore, to encourage and support Religion is one of the greatest and best Ends of Government.

All wise Governments therefore, have thought, that it belonged to them, to take Care of the Cause of Religion. Even the Heathen Governments, that have been famed for Wisdom, and that have flourished and become great in the World, took Care of the Religious Interests of their People, and encouraged what they supposed to be Godliness.

And where ever we find a Government in Scripture under the Direction of Heaven, we shall find this to be a great Part of the Business thereof. If we attentively read the History of the Kings of God’s ancient People, we shall find that those Princes, who obtained the Character of doing that which was right in the Sight of God, appeared active in their public Character for Religion; taking Care for the Support of the Ministers of Religion, encouraging them to their Work; giving out Proclamations that the Ordinances of God be observed, and issuing out their Orders to pull down the Altars of strange Gods, and the high [Places] and the [Groves], which were disallowed of God, 2 Chronicles14:3.

And to say, at some do, that God himself was the King of Israel, and their Princes and Powers but Officers under Him, though it be true, doth not weaken the Argument; for Christ still remains King in Zion, and the lawful Governors of his People are his Ministers and Officers, and rule for Him.

And therefore, since the Coming of Christ, and the Preaching of his unsearchable Riches amongst the Gentiles, where ever we have hid an Account of Nations Christianized, and brought to an Obedience to the Faith, and their Kings submitting themselves unto the Scepter of Christ, we find the high Powers becoming the Guardians of the Church, and employing their Power to maintain the Glory and Honor of Christ’s Kingdom amongst their People.

So particularly Constantine the first Christian Emperor established Christianity throughout his Realm and made it Part of his Business and Care to encourage the Profession and Practice of Religion in all his Dominions. And this is represented as the Day of Christ’s Victory over the Enemies of his Gospel, in Saint John’s Vision, Revelation 12.

Indeed, Donatus, who headed that terrible Faction, that in the early Times of Christianity infested the Church, was wont to say, Quid Imperatori cum Ecclesia? What hath the civil Magistrate to do with the Church? But the pious Fathers of the Church earnestly insisted upon it, that Kings were to be nursing Fathers unto the Church.

So it was, ’till Popery lifted high it’s formidable Head in the World, and the Bishop of Rome pretended to be Christ’s Vicar upon Earth, vested with Power over the Nations of the Earth, to rule them as with a Rod of Iron, and the World wondered after the Beast, saying, Who is like unto the Beast? Who is able to make War with him, Revelation 13:3-4.

Then indeed the Romish Clergy run down the Magistrate’s Power, and set on high their Ecclesiastical Courts; pretending Power therein to execute Vengeance upon the unruly, and Punishments upon the People; to bind their Kings with Chains, and their Nobles with Fetters of Iron. They insisted that civil Rulers should bow before them, and acknowledge that they held their Crowns and Scepters under them. And therefore they allowed Magistrates to have Nothing to do about Religion, but to give Life to the, Image of the Beast, to support the Usurpation of the Court of Rome, and draw the Sword against those, that were there condemned, and by them delivered over to the secular Arm.

But when the appointed Time of Mercy was come, that God would command the Light to shine out of Darkness, and discover the Mystery of Iniquity, the Reformers began to see that the Power exercised by the Bishop of Rome and his Court was but a Usurpation, and to vindicate the Power of the civil Magistrate.

It was then received as a Doctrine of Truth amongst the reformed Churches, that it was Part of the Business of the Magistrate to take Care about the Worship of God, in their Jurisdiction; to guard and defend the Churches, to provide that Houses for Worship be built, the Ministers of Christ maintained, their just Authority supported, and Obedience to the Laws of Christ encouraged.

It was the common Doctrine of the Protestant Nations, that the civil Magistrate is the Keeper of both Tables of the Law.

It is well known how much this was insisted upon, in the Beginning of the Reformation in England, in Opposition to the Devotees of Rome.

And herein the Reformers in the other Nations agreed with them. And therefore, the reformed Divines of Leyden, in their Collection of the Doctrines of the Reformation, Or Synopsis of pure Divinity, represent it as Part of the Business of the civil Magistrate, to take Care about the Worship of God in their Jurisdiction, to take Care that there be such a Worship as God hath appointed maintained therein, and to guard the Church against the Encroachments of Seducers. And represent it upon this Account necessary, that Christian Powers be knowing in the Scriptures, according to which the Churches are to be formed, or reformed.

They observe that the pious Rulers of Israel ever looked upon this as falling within their Province, and being part of their Business; Whom they represent the reformed Princes imitating. They call the Christian Magistrate the Keeper and Avenger of both Tables of the Law.

And thus, as far as can find, the Reformers did unanimously teach, that the Object of the Magistrate’s Power, is not simply a peaceable Life, (that I may use the Words of (Samuel) Rutherford2 of particular congregations, in defence of ecclesiasticall presbyteries, synods, and assemblies, are examined and tryed (1642), or The due right of presbyteries, or, A peaceable plea for the government of the Church of Scotland … (1644). Most likely the former is in view given Todd’s later citation of Due Right of Presbyteries by an alternate abbreviation. In any case, both texts are cited by Todd in the sermon.]) and external Peace of humane Societies, but also Honesty and Godliness.

And therefore, they were wont to pray, according to the Apostolical Direction, 1 Timothy 2:2. For Kings, and all that are in Authority; that they might lead a quiet and peaceable Life in all GODLINESS and Honesty. Looking upon these Powers as ordained of God, not only to promote Peace, but Godliness and Honesty, their Prayers were unto God for them, that they might answer to their Character, and the great

End of Government be obtained in the peaceable, honest and godly Lives of the People.

Not indeed that they looked upon the civil Magistrate, as empowered to make new Articles of Faith, or to appoint any new Institutions in the Worship of God. This they have looked upon, as the Prerogative of Christ, the Head and great Lawgiver to his Church.3

Nor have they pretended, that proper Ecclesiastical Government and Discipline is to be administered by the civil Magistrate. They have not been ignorant that there is a just and necessary Distinction between the civil and ecclesiastical Government of a People; and that Each of these have their distinct Provinces and Boundaries. The temporal Sword they have acknowledged to be in the Hands of the civil Magistrate, but the spiritual Sword in the Hands of the spiritual Officers in the House of God.4 The Reformers carefully examined the Lines of these Powers, that one might not justle the other; and these Powers clash and be divided against each other. For it is easy to see, that, that would tend to Ruin and Confusion.5

But to proceed,

Fourth, another great End of Government, and so part of the Work and Business of civil Rulers, is, to be a Terror to evil Doers. He is a Revenger, saith the Apostle in verse four of our Context, to execute Wrath upon him that doth Evil.

This indeed hath of late been contradicted; and many have said, that the civil Magistrate hath no Right to punish Men for the Violation of the four first Commands of the Decalogue.

That, if Men should openly and directly set up the Worship of Devils, and in their Assemblies invoke the Prince of Darkness, in Opposition to the first Commandment of the moral Law, they must not be called to an Account by the Magistrate. Or, if any are disposed to set up their Thresholds, in the most idolatrous Manner to worship God, by his own Thresholds, aid therein to set up their Images of Jealousy, contrary to the second Commandment, they must not be restrained. Or, if they defile their Mouths with horrid Oaths, and draw out their Tongues against the Heavens, blaspheming the Lord of Heaven and Earth, in Opposition to the third Commandment, the Magistrate must not yet unsheathe his Sword, nor offer to restrain them. Nor call them to any Account, how much soever they profane his Sabbaths, in Opposition to the fourth Commandment.

This is what many have pleaded of late, who would be thought zealous for God, above others.6

But the Apostle Paul was otherwise minded: He looked upon the civil Powers, as commissioned of God, to be Revengers to execute Wrath upon civil Doers; God’s Vicegerents upon Earth to call evildoers, Men that openly trample upon the Laws of God to an Account.

And one would wonder that anyone should be of a different Judgment: For, Nothing is more evident than that civil Rulers are invested with Power, and instructed with a Charge to punish Evildoers. And whom must they deem Evil-Doers, if not those that insult the Lord, by whom they rule? — Must they call him an Evildoer, that offends against one of his Fellow Creatures, and not him that blasphemes the supreme Lord of all? What? Must they see their great Lord and Master’s Attributes blasphemed, his Name taken in Vain, his Sabbaths profaned, and excuse themselves from using the Sword, wherewith they are armed, Saying, These are not Evildoers? — What! Not they Evildoers,

That stretch out their Hand, and draw out their Tongues against God, and run upon him, even on his Neck, upon the thick Bosses of his Buckler?

Surely, These are some of the Evildoers, that, David, the King favored of Heaven, and raised up on high, called Sons of Belial, that shall be all of them as Thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with Hands. But the Man that shall touch them, must be fenced with Iron, and the Staff of a spear, 2 Samuel 23:6-7. Persons, that were not to be managed by a gentle Reproof, but were to be restrained by Law and the Sword of Justice. We can’t think he excepted such as these, when he said, Psalm 101:8. I will early destroy all the Wicked of the Land: that I may cut off all wicked Doers from the City of the Lord.

And the Time would fail to tell of the Practice of the pious Princes and Governors of Israel, who brought the Wheel over the Wicked. Contemners of God, and his Laws. I shall therefore not enlarge here, but proceed to consider,

Section III: Obligations upon a People to support Government7

One would think, that every one, that considered the great Ends and Design of Government, and the good Work Magistrates are employed in, even to be Ministers of God to their People for Good, and serve the public Interests of Mankind, would think it a Favor, that God will establish a visible Authority upon Earth, and set up any to act in his Name and Stead, who are to attend upon this very Thing, even to employ their Power and Influence for the Good and Happiness of the People under them, that under their Shadow they might lead quiet and peaceable Lives, in all Godliness and Honesty; and would therefore contribute all he may, to support their Dignity, and maintain their Character; to strengthen their Hands and encourage their Hearts.

And so it would be, if all Men understood the Necessity and Advantages of Government, and were disposed to encourage what is for the Good of the World.

But alas! how many unreasonable Men are there, who are ever disposed to oppose what tends to promote the Good of Mankind? This makes the Business of Rule and Government so much the more difficult; and lays an additional Obligation upon all that wish well to Mankind to endeavor to support Government. It shews that Government is so much the more necessary, as well as a more difficult Work.

But my Design, under this Proposition, is, just to hint at what it is proper for a People to do in Support of Government, and then touch upon some Obligations upon a People so to do.

First, We are to hint at what it is proper for a People to do in Support of Government.

And here,

First, Cheerfully to pay Tribute: For this Cause, saith the Apostle in our Text, pay you Tribute also. For they are God’s Minister, attending continually upon this very Thing. As they employ themselves in public Service, so a Tribute is due to them, and necessary to enable them to maintain the Honor of Government, and to live and appear in a Manner suitable to the Dignity of their Places.

Second, To honor and Reverence those in Authority; paying a high Regard to their Character, and to their Persons for their Work and Office sake. This is necessary in Order to maintain their Authority. Disrespect, shown either to the Character or Persons of Rulers, tends to weaken their Power, and to hinder the good Effects of their Administration; to weaken their Hands and discourage their Hearts.

To support Government then, we must reverence Authority, and honor those that are improved in the Administration of Government, according to the Dignity of their Character; considering them as God’s Vicegerents amongst Men; bearing his Character, and honored to be his Representatives, in the World.

Authority is a sacred Thing, and to be referenced accordingly; and Rulers are as it were subordinate Gods to Men, and are not to be treated as though they were not the Lord’s anointed. That divine Law, though conceived in so few Words, is a binding one, 1 Peter 2:17. Honor the King. By the King in which Place, I understand the lawful Authority over us, whatever be the particular Form of Government we are under. The Command is doubtless as obliging, in a Commonwealth, as under a Monarchy.

Third, In Order to support Government, we must be subject thereunto. Let every Soul, says the Apostle, in the 1st v. of our Context, be subject to the higher Powers. The Rebellious and Disobedient aim not at the supporting, but destroying the Government: Whilst they trample upon humane Laws and Ordinances, they despise Government.

Indeed, if any Rulers should be left to frame Mischief by a Law, to command what God forbids, or forbid what God commands, in such a Case, we easily conclude, as the Apostles did, when they were commanded to preach no more in the Name of Jesus, who said, Whether it be right in the Sight of God, to hearken unto you, more than unto God, judge Ye, Acts 4:19. But then, we can’t disobey their just Commands without despising the Authority by which they rule, and bidding defiance to God, whose Ministers they are. And therefore, we are told, Context, verse two Whosoever resists the Power, resists the Ordinance of God.

The Doctrine of Obedience and Subjection to Magistrates, hath doubtless been carried too far by those, who allow the People to make no Resistance, nor Self-Defense, under the most arbitrary and illegal Abuses of Power, but insist, that they tamely sit still, and see their Laws and Liberties, Religion and Properties invaded under a Notion of Authority and Power. Doubtless, when the whole Head is sick, and the Foundations of a State are removed, when the governing Powers become tyrannical and arbitrary, and usurp a Power that never was given them, and evidently go counter to the Instructions of that great Lord, by whom they rule, the Law of Self-Defense is in Force amongst a People, and they may judge, that God is to be Obeyed rather than Man. But then, Men must be very careful, that, under pretense of the mismanagement of the Powers, they don’t usurp an Authority to themselves, which God hath not given them, and themselves embroil the State, and overthrow the Foundations of Government. And, whenever they refuse Subjection to any Law of Man, they must see, that they have sure Warrant therefore in the Word of God; that it interferes with some Command of God; for we are told, Context, verse two, Whosoever resists the Power, resists the Ordinance of God; And they that resist, shall receive to themselves Damnation.

Fourth, In Order to support Government, we should pray for those in Authority. I exhort therefore, says the Apostle, that first of all, Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, and Giving of Thanks be made for all Men: For Kings, and for all that are in Authority; that we may lead to quiet and peaceable Life in all Godliness and Honesty, 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

As large Supplies of Grace are necessary, for the faithful Discharge of the Duties of their high Character; as their Work is difficult, and their Station attended with great Temptations; as the Welfare of their People is much concerned in the Wisdom and Faithfulness of their Government: We should strive together in Prayer to God for them, that they may be abundantly enriched with Grace, and indued with every needful Qualification, to be the Shields of the Earth, and Blessings in their Places; That they may be indued with that Wisdom that is profitable to direct; that they may have Understanding of the Times, to know what Israel ought to do; that they may be indued with Courage to stand in their Stations, when God’s Way is in the Whirlwind, and in the Storm, and the Clouds are the Dust of his Feet, that their Soul may not be melted because of trouble, nor they reel to and fro, and be at their Wits End, like affrighted Mariners, when the stormy Wind is raised. In a Word, we are to pray that God would dispose them to qualify them for, and succeed them in the due Discharge of the Duties of their Station; that under their Administration, Judgment may run, down as Waters, end Righteousness as a mighty Stream.

If we have any Interest in Heaven, any Power with God, we should improve it in their Behalf: If effectual fervent Prayers anything avail, we should be importunate in our Intercession with God for them. For who, not assisted of God, not strengthened from above, is sufficient for the Work, to the which they are called? A Work, the Difficulties whereof are proportionable to its Dignity.

He was well acquainted with the Life and Business of Princes and Rulers, who said, Happy is he who is not obliged to command, the King has the least Liberty and Repose of any Man in his Kingdom… is a Slave to all those he seems to command… is burthened with all their Cares. The best of Rulers have sometimes, been almost overborn with the Burden and Difficulty of their Work. The Murmurings and Jealousies, the ill Humor and Intractableness of their People have even discouraged their Hearts.8 Thus, we find even the meek Moses himself, discouraged, and saying to God, Numbers 11:11-12. Wherefore bast thou afflicted thy Servant? and wherefore have I not found Favor in thy Sight, that thou lay the Burden of all this People upon me? Have I conceived all this People? Have I begotten them, that thou shouldest say unto me, carry them in thy Bosom…? I am not able to bear all this People alone, because it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray thee, out of Hand. Now surely, we should not cease to pray for them, whose Business is so burdensome and full of Difficulties.

And then, their Station is attended with Temptations proportionally great unto the Dignity thereof. It oftentimes happens, that the Way to please the Multitude, is, to desert the Cause of God, and betray the Interest of their Country: And, if they have Resolution enough, to stem the Current of popular Humor, and to endeavor, to the last, to prevent the Ruin a People would bring upon themselves, they will doubtless, be often censured and reproached, and evil intreated; all their Labor, Solicitude and Care, for an unthankful People, being ill taken, and misrepresented. And can it be expected but that this should try their Patience, anger their Spirits, if not provoke them to retire like Elijah from their Post, saying as the Fig Tree; in Jotham’s Parable, (in Judges 9:11). Should I forsake my Sweetness, and my good Fruit, and go to be promoted over the Trees? Or as in Isaiah 3:7. I will not be an Healer, make me not a Ruler of the People. We know Moses himself was to provoked with the Murmurings and Complaining of an unthankful People, that be spoke unadvisedly with his Lips, and himself provoked God, so that it went ill with him, (Psalm 106:32-33).

Besides, we may conclude that the great Adversary of Men, that goes to and fro in the Earth, and walks up and down in, seeking what Mischief he may do, and Whom he may devour among Men, especially endeavors to seduce those, that are set in the higher Seats amongst Men, as knowing that, if Rulers hearken to Lies, the People are in a fair Way, to become wicked, (Proverbs 29:12) and that the Corruption of a Man in Power is a wounding Blow to the People. And therefore, we read, that when Satan stood up against Israel, he provoked David to number Israel, 1 Chronicles 21:1. His Design was to injure all the People, but his Endeavour was to corrupt the Prince, in Order to affect it. And, if the Temptations of Rulers are so great, our Prayers should be always ascending before God in their Behalf.

But having thus hinted at what, it is proper for a People to do in Support of Government, we are, Briefly to consider Some of the Obligations upon a People thus to endeavor to support Government. And here,

First, We are under an Obligation to Support Government, as it is of God’s own Ordination. The Apostle tells us, verse one of our Context, The Powers that be, are ordained of God. And surely it becomes us to support that, which is of divine Appointment. Surely, as God himself hath raised Rulers on high for the good of Men, We are obliged, to do all we properly can, to support their Dignity, and maintain their Character.

Second, An Obligation on us, to endeavor to support Government, arises from the great Necessity and Benefit of it to the World.

As the State of our World is, Government is absolutely necessary for its Well-Being; and there could be no tolerable Living without it: And therefore, God hath in Compassion to Mankind, appointed Government for their own Good, that they may lead a quiet and peaceable Life in all Godliness and Honesty. As therefore we desire the Welfare of Mankind; as we desire the Blessings of Peace, Godliness and Honesty, it concerns us to support Government.

To be sure, All, that wish well to Jerusalem, will be Friends to Government; for; ’tis the ordinary Means God makes use of, to support his Church in the World.

Indeed, He, that is anointed King in Zion is able to protect his Church, if earthly Powers should desert it, and willingly see it laboring under all imaginable Discouragements, yea, razed to the Foundation.

And therefore, when the civil Powers were Persecutors of the Truth, as in the first Ages of Christianity; when they refused to exert their Power to protect the Church, and defend the Faith, yea, rather employed their Power to pull down and destroy the same, yet the Church was upheld, to the Admiration and astonishing Confusion of her Enemies. The Lord alone was her Defense. As the Rulers of the World knew him not, his own almighty Arm, in a miraculous Way, brought Salvation to his People.

But since Christianity is become the Religion of many Nations, and so many Princes have laid down their Scepters at the Feet of Christ, and as it were taken out their Commissions from Him, he is pleased to make these Powers his Ministers to protect his Church.

And we may conclude, that, if amongst the Christian Nations, their Rulers will not favor Zion, it is a Day of the Lord’s Displeasure with his People, and that the Lord is pleased to take away their Hedge and their Defense: And therefore we may expect, that it will be a Day of treading down in the Valley of Vision, and of breaking down the Wells of Zion; Her Glory will fly away like a Bird, and all they which pass by the Way, will pluck her: Unruly Men will rend her in Pieces, destroy her Order, disturb her Peace, and deface her Beauty. The Boar out of the Wood will waste her, and the wild Beast of the Field devour her.

Then, indeed, there will be perilous Times, and evil Men and Seducers will wax worse and and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.

Thus, we see that the spiritual, as well as the temporal Interests of Men, call upon us to endeavor to support Government. So that for our own Sakes, for our Families and our Friends Sake, and for Zion’s Sake, We should contribute what in us lies, that Government may be maintained, encouraged and supported amongst us. But it is Time to come to the

Section VI: Application

I. Learn hence, how thankful we should be for Government; and especially, if we are bless’d with faithful Rulers, that attend upon this very Thing, even to be Ministers of God for Good to them that do well, and Revengers to execute Wrath upon them that do Evil.

Almost any, even a tyrannous Government is better than none; because, while the Government is never so tyrannical, there are but a few exercise that Tyranny: The Multitude are in the mean Time under Restraint. Whereas, if there was no Government at all, every One would be let loose to be a Tyrant; and every domineering Wretch would set up his own Will for a Law, to which he would demand Obedience from Others, and inflict what Penalties upon the Disobedient thereunto, his Malice should dictate, and his Arm could execute: So that no Man could be secure. Fear, and the Pit, and the Snare would be upon all; and that Text in Isaiah 42:22. would be in the most literal sense fulfilled amongst them, This is a People robbed and spoiled, they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison-houses; They are for a prey, and none delivered; for a spoil, and none saith restore.

The Lusts and Passions of Men are such, that if entirely left loose, to themselves, without any Restraint of Government, the World itself would scarce be a habitable Place, but rather a confused Scene of Intemperance, Lewdness, Oppression, Robbery, Murder, and all Manner of Exorbitances. By Reason of the Multitude of Oppressions, they would make the Oppressed to cry; Violence and Spoil would be heard in the Midst of them, and Grief and Wounds be continually before them. So that any Government is better than None.

But by how much the better, the Designs of Government are answered, by how much the more, the Blessings of Peace, and Godliness and Honesty are promoted by the Powers that be, by how much the more, the Vices destructive to the World are restrained, and kept under thereby; So much the more Reason have a People to rejoice in the Blessings of Government, and to be thankful therefor.

‘Tis Matter therefore of great Thankfulness, when any are favored with a legal well constituted Government, such as that of the British Dominions, perhaps the best in any, of the Nations of the Earth.

It is therefore Matter of Wonder, that so many, who have sat so securely under the Shadow of so excellent a Government, and enjoyed so many Liberties and valuable Blessings under the Same, have been disposed to rebel, and to exchange so good a Government for Bondage and Slavery.

And we have Reason to bless and to praise the most high God, that rules in the Kingdom of Men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, that those Sons of Rebellion have not been able to perform their Enterprise, but that the happy Establishment still remains. Oh! may so great a Blessing never be taken from the British Dominions as a Punishment of their Discontent, Forwardness and Murmurings against the Lord, or sad Neglect to improve the Privileges in their Hands!

‘Tis an unspeakable Favor of Heaven also, when a People are favored with such Rulers, who are disposed to minister for Good unto them; who attend upon this very Thing, to answer to the good Designs of Government, to secure Men in the Enjoyment of their Liberties and Possessions; to maintain Truth and Peace; Who espouse the Cause of Christ, establish the true Religion, uphold the pure Worship of God, support the Ministers of Religion, make Evildoers afraid, and encourage those that do well. Happy has New-England been upon this Account. May such a Blessing be continued to us as long as the Sun and the Moon shall endure! May our Judges be as at the first, and our Counselors as at the Beginning! May our Officers be Peace, and our Exactors Righteous|ness to all Generations!

II. Learn hence, that it is a privileged People, that may choose their own Rulers, Seeing so great and good are the Ends of Government, and it is so great a Blessing to have Rulers attending thereunto, and exercising their Power to the Purposes, for which it was communicated to them, such a People have an Advantage to make themselves happy in this Respect. If such a People are not happy in their Rulers, whom shall they blame, but Themselves?

As for other People, whose Rulers are not of their own Election, it will not be so much to be wondered at, if, oftentimes, Men are set over them in Places of Rule and Authority, not so equal thereunto, nor so well qualified to sustain such Characters: For it is a rare thing, when Men are so concerned for Others Welfare as their own. And therefore, when they advance Men over others, the Temptation is stronger to set such over them, as their own private Interests and Affections incline them unto.

But as for those, whose Rulers are of their own Election, what hinders but they may have the best furnished and qualified among them to sustain such Characters and Posts of Trust?

We of this Colony may therefore look upon Ourselves as a greatly privileged People; our Lines are fallen unto us in pleasant Places; yea, We have a goodly Heritage.

Whence then proceeds that Spirit of Discontent, those Murmurings and Complaining, and that Desire of Change so visible amongst this People? Must not these Things proceed from Weakness of Judgment, or some ill Affection of Mind; a Desire of Novelty, foolish Ambition, or a Spirit that can’t be contented with any Condition.

How much the Disposition of such resembles that of the Israelites, who under the best of Governments were discontented, and said, Nay, but we will have a King over us: that we also way be like all the Nations? (1 Samuel 8:19).

They would not be contented with their own most excellent Constitution of Government, ’till it was indeed changed, and they found the Disadvantage of a Change.

At present, We enjoy the Privileges, Others wish for. They, which hate us, see and envy, our Privileges: Our Neighbors mark the Same, and are ready to say, Who is like unto thee, O People saved by the Lord? And why are any, amongst ourselves, weary of their own Mercies and Privileges?

III. Hence People may be directed in the Choice of their Rulers.

We have heard something of the great and good Designs of Government, and of the Work and Business of Governors and Men in Authority. And now whom shall our Freemen present to God, to be authorized as his Vicegerents, and commissioned to the great and important Work, but such as are the best qualified to fill such Places of Honor and Trust? Such as are the most fit to support their Character, and the most likely, in Conformity to the great Design of Government, to employ their Power most effectually for the Good of those who live under the Shadow of it? Such as will be the Glory of the Land, and as the Light of the Morning, when the Sun rises, even a Morning without Clouds?

Jethro’s Direction to Moses, with Respect to the Qualifications of Men to be improved in Places of Authority and Trust, is proper to be given to all our Freemen; Exodus 18:21. Thou, shalt provide out of all the People, able Men, such as fear God, Men of Truths, hating Covetousness; and place such over them.

Rulers should be able Men: Men of Genius and Parts; of a good Capacity, cool Judgment and clear Reason; Men of Understanding and Prudence, and of an excellent Spirit; Men of Courage and Resolution, that will stand steadfast in the most stormy Times, when neither Flatteries nor Clamors can warp aside, but who will remain unmovable in Days of Temptation, like Rocks, against which the Winds spend their Rage, and the roaring Billows break in Vain.

Moreover, they should be such as fear God: Men of Religion and Piety, zealous of the Honor of God, and Friends to Zion; such who prefer Jerusalem above their chief Joy. David, the Man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, said, yea, the Spirit of the Lord spoken by him, and the God of Israel said, He that rules over Men must be just, ruling in the Fear of God, 2 Samuel 23:3.

It can’t be expected, that Men destitute of Religion, will faithfully stand in their Station, and employ their Power, as much as may be, to answer the great Designs of Government. Will they, who themselves are destitute of the Principles of Vertue and Righteousness, lay out themselves to encourage the Cause of Vertue, and be a Terror to Evildoers? Will they, in earnest, maintain the Cause of God, who themselves are no Friends thereto, nor have the Love of God dwelling in them?

Is it likely, that such will stand Steady in the Cause of Zion, if a Time of Temptation should come on, and they might thereby increase the Number of their Enemies, or disadvantage some appearing Interest in the World? No, there is greater Reason to expect, they will swim with the Tide, and be carried away with the Stream of the Times, and behave so as to secure their private Interests, and render themselves popular, whatever becomes of the Cause of God in the World.

There is no rational Prospect, that such, who are not themselves Lovers of God, his People, his House, the Ordinances and Ministers thereof, will lay out themselves to protect the People of God, to defend the Faith, to support the Worship of God, to encourage the Hearts, and strengthen the Hands of the Ministers of Religion. Did I say, there was no rational Prospect of this? I might have said, that, it is a thousand Times likelier, such will desert the Cause of God, and leave his Church to be trampled on, devoured and wasted by all her Adversaries, and the House of God to go to Ruin; and abandon the Ministers of the Sanctuary; yea, and help to make their Burden heavy, and themselves contribute to weaken their Hands, and discourage their Hearts.

Or, if they will smile upon the Practice of Piety, and cherish the Worship and Worshippers of God, so long as it comes not across their Interest in the World, yet except they are fortified with the Principles of Grace and Religion, there is but little Ground to hope they will be valiant for the Truth, and in the Cause of the Churches, or steadfast in the Defense thereof, if once they should look upon that a sinking Cause in the World, and see the Enemies of the Welfare of Zion the rising Party: And that: Promotion is likely to be found amongst them, ‘Tis likelier they will serve the Times, and keep in with the rising Side. We see therefore, of how great Importance it is, that Men of Religion be chosen to rule over us.

But here, Such, as are concerned in choosing Rulers over them, are to be cautioned that they don’t judge amiss as to Men being religious. Some have placed Religion, almost altogether, in Enthusiasm, Raptures, Impulses, and warm Imaginations, which it is possible for a Man to abound with, who hath Nothing of the Fear of God: But the Psalmist directs on whom our Eyes should be as Men of Religion, Psalm 101:6. [Scilicet] The Faithful in the Land, that walk in a perfect Way. The Secrets of Hearts are out of our View, but those that, to Appearance, pay the highest Regards to the weightier Matters of the Law, Judgment, Mercy, Faith, and the Love of God, should be in our Esteem the Excellent of the Earth.

Furthermore, they should be Men of Truth: Men of Integrity and Uprightness; of Honor and Sincerity.

And finally, they should be Men hating Covetousness: Men of a public Spirit, whose Views and Designs are generous and noble, not little and selfish, and contracted within the Limits of their own private Interest and Advantage. They should be Men of a great, a generous and disinterested Spirit. It is not for their own Sake, that Men are exalted to Places of Power, but it is for the Service of the People: So that they should be Men, that prefer the public Good to their own personal Interests.

IV. We may also infer from this Discourse, the great Evil and Danger of despising Government and speaking Evil of Dignities. 

We have heard that Government is of God: And therefore, as he, that resists the Power, resists the Ordinance of God; so they, that despise and make light of Government, offer an Affront to God’s own Majesty, in whose Name it is administered, and by whose Authority all earthly Powers rule. And God himself will sooner or later, arise and vindicate his despised Authority; and call to an Account the Sons of Men, that have dared to despise or revile the Gods, his Representatives upon Earth.

It cannot be safe to insult, and rudely treat those that bear God’s Name, and are his anointed Ones in the Earth. And therefore, a Wo is denounced against those Murmurers and Complainers, that despise Dominion, and speak evil of Dignities, in the Epistle of Jude; and St. Peter tells us, that such are especially reserved unto the Day of Judgment to be punished, 2 [Peter] 2:9-10.

But yet, Seditious Men and Malcontents are ready to imagine, many Times, they are serving the Cause of God, and their Country, and doing well, all the Time, they are sowing the Seeds of Faction; reviling the Powers that be, and fomenting Jealousies of them amongst the People.

They imagine they are weak, or designing, or partial Men, that are at the Helm of the Government: And their high Conceit of themselves strengthens them herein. They imagine that themselves are the People, and Wisdom shall die with them: that their Thoughts are just, their Schemes perfect; and that, were but the

Public Affairs managed according to their Notions, Things would go well but yet they are neglected, and not promoted as, they think their Merit calls for, nor are their Schemes entertained by the ruling Powers, as they think they ought to be. They imagine therefore, that they are not only too much neglected, but the Country is ruined: And that therefore they must, in Faithfulness, raise a Cry against those in Authority, and expose their Faults.

But Men had need consider what manner of Spirit they are of, in all this, and to take heed that their Hearts carry them not away, while they let such complaining Words go out of their Mouths; and remember that Law, Exodus 22:28 Thou shalt not revile the Gods, nor curse the Ruler of thy People.


Image Credit: Harkness Chapel of Connecticut College, New London, CT

Show 8 footnotes
  1. “Supposing, saith Bishop Butler, in his Analogy of Religion, a Kingdom or Society of Men upon the Earth perfectly virtuous for many Ages…. All would in some Way contribute, to the public Prosperity: and in it, each would enjoy the Fruits of his own Virtue. Such a Kingdom would plainly be Superior to all Others, and the World must gradually come under its Empire: not by Means of lawless Violence; but partly by what must he (be) allowed to be just Conquest; and partly by other Kingdoms Submitting themselves voluntarily to it,… and claiming its Protection The Head of it would be an universal Monarch, in another Sense than any Mortal has yet been; and the eastern Stile would be literally applicable to Him, that all People, Nations and Languages should serve Him…. And thus, for Instance, the wonderful Power and Prosperity promised to the Jewish Nation in the Scripture, would be, in a great measure the Consequence of what is predicted of them that the People should be all righteous and inherit the Land forever; Isaiah 60:21. Butler’s Analogy, p. 93-95. (Todd is citing Joseph Butler (1692-1752), noted Anglican critic of John Locke and Deism, and his Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature…. (1736)).”
  2. Todd is referring to either A peaceable and temperate plea for Pauls presbyterie in Scotland, or, A modest and brotherly dispute of the government of the Church of Scotland wherein our discipline is demonstrated to be the true apostolick way of divine truth, and the arguments on the contrary are friendly dissolved, the grounds of separation and the indepencie [sic
  3. “Mr. Rutherford saith Emperors have a kingly Power politic to confirm, and add their civil Sanctions to Church Constitution, but they have no power formally ecclesiastic to define and make Church Laws. Due Right of Presbyteries.”
  4. “The Leyden Divines, in the Synopsis purioris Theoligiae, say, Ecclesiastical Discipline is to be administered by ecclesiastical Officers…. And although’ the Glory of God and the Good of the People ought to be the Supreme Law of the Christian Magistrate, who is a Keeper and Avenger of both Tables of the Law, and He not only as a private Man, but as a Ruler is obliged to read in the Book of God Day and Night, that he may be informed thereby, what he ought to do in protecting the true Religion and in restoring it when gone to Decay, yet he ought not to take it upon him to perform Ecclesiastical Offices. Vide Synopsis purioris Theologia, Disp. L.
  5. Here Todd cites Eliphalet Adams (1677-1753) and loosely quotes at length either his 1710 or 1733 election day sermon both of which were delivered in Connecticut. Among other things, this demonstrates the reach and longevity of election sermons in colonial New England. The quote has been excluded for brevity’s sake.
  6. The title of this heading is original to Todd. The other sections are not accompanied by headings in the text although Todd does outline and label the content of the section in the sermon introduction.
  7. Todd tersely cites, “The Arch Bishop of Cambray (Cambrai),” most likely intending François Fénelon (1651-1715), the author of The adventures of Telemachus, son of Ulysses (1699).
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Jonathan Todd (1713-1791) was a Congregationalist minister to the church in East Guilford, Connecticut where he labored without interruption for 57 years, ceasing in his ministry only during the last year of his life due to poor health. He was a graduate of Yale College, had multiple of his sermons published during his life, and maintained a vigorous and academic correspondence. Franklin Bowditch Dexter’s Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College informs us that Todd’s letters to Ezra Stiles (1727-1795), the seventh president of Yale, ranged widely in content from Hebrew textual criticism to astronomy to meteorology. Benjamin Franklin apparently read some of Todd’s meteorology manuscripts to meetings of the Royal Society in London.

One thought on “Civil Rulers the Ministers of God, For Good to Men

  1. Hmmm
    Connecticut, Yale, bend the knee to government
    May your synod rot
    May all of you be cast into the fiery pit you wish upon your plebe parishioners
    Time to put you mask back on and get your booster
    Shut the doors to your empty church and make tik toks about how homosexuality isn’t really that much of a sin

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