Monarchy Contra Polarchy

Michael Hudson and the Meaning of Divine Right


The typical understanding of jus divinum, divine right, especially in ecclesiological debates, is rigid. That is, a divine dictation of a singular form and operation of government, whether in church or state. In fact, it may not be so simple, as is often the case in early modern Protestant theology. There are, of course, examples of the aforementioned rigidity. Consider, the Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici (1646) from the London Ministers of Sion College, a commentary on Westminster. There a church form of government is derived from Scripture and other proofs as definitive and controlling, albeit it is said there too that the light and law of nature should control in matters of religion too. The point, however, is that, at least colloquially, “divine right” stands for a certain presumption.

In the Holy Commonwealth (1659), Richard Baxter says those claiming jus divinum monarchy are not necessarily excluding the legitimacy of other forms at least in some cases. Michael Hudson’s (1605-1648) book, “The Divine Right of Government” calls monarchy “the only legitimate and natural specie of politique government” and says “polarchies” and “popular elections of kings,” but also “national [religious] conformity,” are all “groundless absurdities,” is cited by Baxter for this point. At first glance, however, Hudson’s subtitle seems to be contrary to Baxter’s assessment. What gives? Fleshing this out will, potentially, serve readers of early modern political writing well insofar as it will provide some texture and diversity to divine right arguments which abound in the period. In other words, and per usual, our assumptions are not necessarily shared by our seventeenth century subjects.

Michael Hudson

I imagine, no reader has any idea who Michael Hudson is, I certainly did not—accordingly, we will take time to outline his position as best we can. Hudson’s treatise is lengthy and exhausting read; his penchant for endless “subaltern” distinctions within “subaltern” distinctions would make even some medieval schoolmen gasp. We will do our best to summarize rather than mechanically explicate. Along the way, we will find not only an answer to the question posed vis a vis jus divinum, but also a fascinating rendition of early modern Protestant understanding of the nature of government.

As you might gather, however, Hudson was a staunch royalist during the English Civil War. An Oxford man, he enjoyed the favor of Charles I and lived a rather exciting if short life. He was ultimately killed whilst fomenting a royalist retaliation after having escaped parliamentarian prison a couple times. He was a sort of fighting clergy, in the Zwingli vein. It didn’t turn out so well for his family in the end, apparently. His wife and children had to resort to the poor house after his estates were confiscated upon his death. It appears that his only publications were the one in view, and a second defending Charles which was not published until 1731 for some reason. The first work was obviously the more noteworthy per Baxter and, by his lights, at least partially representative of Hudson’s jure divinum crowd. The arguments made therein are significant for shedding light on divine right debates both in state and church since, typically, any divine right claim from, say, a Presbyterian Westminster divine, is taken as absolutist. This may not, in fact, be the way the term was understood at the time—a suggestion, not a conclusion, based solely on the data presented here.

Jus Divinum

Right off the bat, Hudson explains: “Jus or Right is that which is conformable unto and warrantable by some Law. And Jus Divinum or Divine Right, is that which is conformable unto and warrantable by some Divine Law.” The “will of God” is the “onely ground of a Jus Divinum.”

Hudson’s goal is to demonstrate the “the natural blessing of Monarchie” insofar as it possesses a “Divine Sanction,” and the polar opposite, viz., the “Curse of Polarchie,” or a form of government wherein power is invested in multiple people. To be clear, polyarchy (poly + kratos) is not democracy but rather what we might now call a purely representative system, since pure democracy is neither desirable nor actually achievable—in practice, every citizen cannot posses an equal voice nor enjoy a government completely responsive to every voice. Monarchy or “Regal Government” is “a Political Government over a society wherein one person is supream [sic] and chief.”

At the outset, Hudson distinguishes between absolute and relative forms of divine right.

The former is that which is “grounded upon the eternal will of God concerning himself… in which sense it is the very Essence of God.” By contrast, “Relative Divine Right is that which is grounded upon the perpetual will of God concerning the world and the creatures therein.” Here, on the second count, a further twofold distinction is introduced. Relative divine right can be “creativum” or “preservativum,” creative or preserving.

The creative divine right is exemplified by God’s giving of nature and being to his creatures which includes “natural excellence” and proportional “natural understanding.” Angels, men, and animals are all in view here. How each will behave is determined by their natural capabilities and ends or orientation. All of this is by God’s will and no other cause. This is metaphysics. These things are established at the beginning.

Preservative divine right pertains to his providence, the maintenance of the world. Government, of all kinds, properly belongs to this category. Under this heading, Hudson introduces subcategories, for jus divinum of this kind is twofold, native and redemptive.

Hudson breaks native divine right into several more sub-subcategories, but the gist is that native divine right encompasses God’s preservation of the creature not just in his being but in his behavior and motion according to man’s nature. This is an internal and external governance by God unto their “native and happy state of being.” It is direct and unmediated.

But man is also governed natively through a “Subordinate and Instrumental agency” even in a “state of misery.” For there has, post-fall, been, as a spiritual punishment, 

“a Generall disenablement of the creature for the performance of its native duty to its Creator, by the Generall devestment of the creature of all its native graces and blessings, in place whereof doth succeed the opposite and unnaturall curses and privations which dispose the creature to all manner of unnaturall wickednesse and rebellion against God.”

Redemptive divine right is the preservation and governance of mankind insofar as he is a “new estate of Grace and mercy” via Christ. It is the restitution of men whereby “Divine duties” can once again be performed. Further, redemptive divine right includes the working out of man’s salvation by God, their sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. Hudson breaks this kind of divine right even further but those distinctions will not now detain us. Likewise, vindicative divine right enters as the heading for God’s “retribution of a proportionable vengeance” upon those who have both squandered their natural talents and, ultimately, rejected the Gospel.  

Preliminaries aside, Hudson launches into the first book of the treatise by sketching the types of government, internal and external. He does both directly and indirectly, etc. All creatures are metaphysically finite, which is to say, dependent, and so remain governed by God “even in their very being and existence.” Of course, internal government, as applied to man, also includes the gifts of faith and salvation. Obviously, all this is governed God in a more direct sense even as he employs means unto these ends inside of providence.

The “Externall Regiment,” on the other hand is even more mediate, and although the governance of the internal man includes temporal considerations, those considerations are more in view under external government. External government does not consider the “intrinsecall acts of the soul,” but rather that of the body.

Now, given that external actions are guided by the soul—not to mention God’s providence as already outlined above—it is only right that “God must needs have a principal share and interest in the guidance and Government of the Extrinsecall actions and motions, which are onely fruits and effects of the former.” Of course, God can and does, at times, do this through a “miraculous regiment,” that is, miracles. But more ordinarily, God rules through delegation of an instrumental power, viz., a derivative government.

Even under ordinary or common government, God remains the principal agent. The subordinate agents are kings and governors, “receiving sufficient Commission from God for that purpose.” That some rule over others means that parity or equality in nature and power is not present in creation. Even in the order of creation itself, from angels, to men, to animals, there is a hierarchy of being. Hudson goes on for several chapters demonstrating this point before concluding the first book of the work.

Book Second

Book two lands the plane, as it were. Hudson: “My pen is now at length arrived upon that wished coast.” Now we arrive at government among God’s creatures proper. All that preceded was a “procognita.” From the premises established, Hudson promises, follows monarchy as “the onely sort of Politick Government, warranted either by God or nature.” Baxter’s claim, at this juncture, seems unlikely.

What is monarchy? It is, “a Politick Government Instituted and approved by God, consisting in the prudentiall administration and exercise of the supream Power and Authority of one Person over all others within the same society, for the preservation of Peace and Unity in Order to Gods glory, the Kings honour, and the peoples welfare.”

This is set in opposition to “polarchie,” as mentioned earlier. And this by divine right.

“I shal not need to make a repetition here of the several divisions & subdivisions of Jus Divinum specified in the Introduction, for if the Reader please to reperuse the same, there he may find to what species of Jus Divinum, this Naturall Divine Right which doth claime a place in Monarchie properly appertaineth: Which there he shall find to be a species of Jus Divinum gratiosum, and thus described.”

This refers, as Hudson says, back to his initial breakdown of the types and subdivisions of divine right. Gracious divine right is a species of native divine right, which is governed by providence according to man’s nature. The genus of native divine right is divided by Hudson into gracious and primitive species. The former pertains to the regulation of man according to his “Native and happie state of being” per the “native Divine Lawes” imbedded in him.

“Naturall Divine Right, is that which is grounded upon the will of God revealed in the Scriptures, concerning those natural truths, whereof Heathens and Christians are equally capable by nature, onely the same are made more clearly known and Manifest unto Christians by Revelations of Scripture.”

Natural divine right is divided into implicit and explicit forms.

Implicit natural divine right refers to a sanction that “doth not make a thing absolutely and Essentially Divine and necessary, excluding all humane option and prudence, and not admitting of any case, wherein the Conscience may dispence with the contrary, without manifest guilt of sin.”

“But onely it makes it naturally and Religiously eligible, and desirable of a meanes and help to the performance of those duties which are absolutely and Essentially Divine and necessary.”

Such sanctions are “recommendatorie.” They pertain to the intellectual faculties and prudential judgments (i.e., the “fountain of moral acts”), especially “Prudentia Politica, which directeth the actions and matters of a publike society consisting of diverse families.” Implicit also are natural capacities. They are not commanded positively but inherently active. “Primogeniture in a Royall Progenie is that which doth properly claime a place in Monarchie, in its Naturall capacity.”

Explicit divine right is found in those “duties is contained in express precepts and Commandments.” These are not a matter of prudence or merely natural, but are “Essentially Divine.” Prudence can assist in discerning proper means to fulfill the duty under this heading, but it is limited to this instrumental role. Conscience cannot object to explicit divine right; the obligation is absolute and applies to everyone, it is sin to reject it.

Hudson gives us two categories of explicit divine right. First,

“absolute and Generall precepts of the Moral Law, which concern the duty of man towards God and his neighbour, which is still the same in Essence both under the Law and Gospel, and do Generally oblige all men in all places & at al times, & this kind of precepts it is which adds an absolute & general sanction unto those duties which are the end of Monarchie.”

Thus far, monarchy itself is not explicit divine right. Rather, the “duties which are the end” of monarchy are explicit divine right. A bit later, Hudson describes the end of monarchy (as with any government) as “Gods glory, the Kings honour, and salus populi, or the peoples good and welfare.” Second,

“particular & Circumstantial precepts, which are not Universally obligatory, but do concern either some men at al times, as the judicial & Ceremoniall Lawes did the Jewish Nation, & Jewish, Profelites, or some men onely, and at some times onely, as all personal Commands given upon particular occasions.”

The perpetual, universal moral law is explicit divine right and the now abrogated, circumstantial judicial and ceremonial law of the Old Testament was explicit divine right. Another way to distinguish between implicit and explicit divine right is between natural principles and theological principles.

A summary of where Hudson has taken us so far:

“And thus you see of what sort of Jus Divinum Monarchie is capable: 1. In its Moral capacity as it relates to the habit of prudence: 2. In its Naturall capacity, as it relates to the supremacy of Power: 3. In its Theological capacity, as it relates to those dutyes which are the end of Monarchie.”

Hudson then tells us where he’s going. He will demonstrate the honor afforded monarchy in Scripture, and also its original and efficient cause. He does not yet suggest that Scripture mandates monarchy but merely approves it. He shall then refute “polarchie,” and lastly answer “How farre every man is obliged in conscience to endeavour the Reducement of a Polarchie to a Monarchie,” and, alternatively, whether any man may, in good conscience, alter monarchy into “polarchie.”

Grounds of Divine Right

From Scripture, Hudson claims six principles or modes of evidence conducive to monarchy are clear: “1. Divine Institution, 2. Divine prescription, 3. Divine Stipulation, 4. Divine Assimilation, 5. Divine Accommodation, 6. Divine Regulation.”

Divine Institution, Prescription, and Stipulation

We can group the first three proofs together. Simply put, Adam exercised monarchical authority, and God was universal monarch, obviously. Notice here that Hudson hints at prelapsarian government, in this case, monarchy.

“[I]n the very first beginning of the world, Investing Adam with a Monarchicall Supremacy, not onely Oeconomicall over that one created family in Paradise, but Political over a society consisting of many families which were to descend of Adam: For the same Law which Commanded obedience of children to Parents, servants to Masters and subjects to Kings in Paradise did oblige all Adams posterity for the space of 930. years, to perform this duty of obedience to Adam, within which space Adam became a Father and Governour not onely Oeconomicall of one family, but Political of many families.”

This form of paternal government continued until the confusion of languages, says Hudson. But it is substantively the same as post-Babel monarchy, i.e., rule over society or many families by one supreme heard. Noah and his progeny were monarchs. Melchizedek, a type of Christ, was a monarch and commended the model to Judah in anticipation of the messianic king’s advent. And, of course, many other kings of Israel fit the bill.

What of 1 Samuel 8? Was Israel punished on account of their desire for a king? No, says Hudson. They were right in principle, for God himself had established monarchy and continued to give them kings. The basic desire was good. Israel was punished because of the end or purpose of that desire.

“[T]hat was Idolatrous and sinful, the people therein looking upon a King as the onely meanes whereby they might attain deliverance from the feares and pressures under which they groaned at that time, through the Tyranny of the Philistines, who had subdued them; which was the very end why they desired a King, looking for deliverance from him, and not from God: As God declared unto Samuel, 1 Sam. 1.7. They have not rejected thee (saith the Lord) but they have rejected me; Imputing more to the power of a King for their deliverance, then unto my Power. And therefore to punish this Idolatrous trust of this people, he gave them then a King of that Tribe which Jacobs prophesie did make Tyrannical [i.e., Genesis 49:27].”

Saul would be the “ravening wolf of Benjamin.” David and Solomon would, by their reigns, mark the end of the punishment that came through Saul. God also established a monarchy over Israel after their Egyptian captivity, viz., Moses and Joshua. Israel was later punished for idolatry by the removal of their own kings (i.e., anarchy; lit. no government) and their subjugation to foreign kings. “Anarchie was that very mark and Stigma of God’s wrath and vengeance.” And this according to Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 29:28. Moreover, God honored “Monarchie with many gracious pactions and promises to those who were partakers thereof, as to David, 2 Sam. 7. to Solomon, 1 Kin. 3. yea even to wicked Saul, 1 Sam. 12. and Idolatrous Jeroboam 1. Kin. 11.” Hudson refers to this as divine stipulation.

Conclusion: monarchy was originally instituted by God and continually approved and blessed by him throughout the Old Testament. Tyrants are judgment on a people but kings as such are not. True judgment was not in a bad monarch but in anarchy.

Divine Assimilation

“Monarchie being a resemblance of the most exact Modell, in Divinity, Nature, and Art.” Hudson sees harmony between political order and natural order. As to the first, God is universal monarch and Christ is king of the world. As to the second, “Monarchie is a resemblance of the most exact Model in Nature, and that is man, both in his numericall and specifical capacity.”

As to the second, monarchy reflects man’s anatomy. For “though it be composed of many parts of different qualities, and which are subservient to the body in different offices, yet it hath but one head for the guidance and direction of all, unlesse it be in Monsters, which are therefore justly termed Errours in Nature, as all Polarchies are in Policy.” So too through reproduction, there is one father to a family and one husband to a wife. Polarchies are basically disordered bodies or broken households.

Third, Satan himself, even as he operates as a monarch over the demons, “he will be sure to usurp that form of Government which is most glorious, Divine, and plausible in the eyes of men, to make his delusions more Potent and Effectuall,” and this at every level of human organization. Anarchy is the goal; the polar opposite is the antidote. Hence, “Monarchie is a resemblance of the most exact Model in Art, and of that Policy which is the Master-piece of the most Artificial Imitator, and the most curious Artist in the world viz. the Devil.” That’s the “art” point.

Divine Accommodation and Regulation

“God himself sitting and apportioning this blessing of Monarchie for the most commodious Instrument and meanes to advance virtue & Piety, and more especially unitie and concord (the Basis and foundation Salutis Populi) and to suppresse vice and iniquity, more particularly civil discords and dissentions.”

This (accommodation) gets back to the ends of monarchy. Any government could theoretically do this but the point for Hudson here is the function and purpose of monarchy. Joshua is again cited as an example. Punishment was removal of the monarch: “whilst there was no King in Israel. For in those dayes (saith the Text) every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” This was to make men sensible of their lusts and unruly aspirations, indeed, the necessity of a king. Some of this is repetitive; all of Hudson’s “sanctions” overlap and weave together.

“although all these subordinate Magistracies and Courts of justice were then in Israel, yet the Holy Ghost in every passage inculcateth the defect of a King to be the cause of those many and grievous enormities and offences incurred by the People, which were the cause of many grievous judgements upon that Nation: For when they forsook the wayes of God and followed their own inordinate lusts, God likewise forsook them, giving them over to the lusts of heathen tyrants, and making them which hated them lords over them.”

Divine Regulation is self-explanatory: “God himself prescribing Rules and Lawes.” This is the sixth and final sanction. Hudson finds evidence for this sanction especially in Deuteronomy.

Having provided his modes and means of sanction, Hudson, before proceeding into his critique of polarchy, concludes that monarchy is “Jure Divino (not Explicito, which is proper onely unto dutyes, who Immediate esse consist in action, but) Implicito, which is proper unto blessing, whose Immediate and proper esse consists in enjoyment.”

God only blesses things that are good and useful to man. Polarchie is never blessed or rewarded in Scripture, contends Hudson, but monarchy is. Even though it is not explicitly mandated in Scripture, it nevertheless acquires the status of divine right because of the other proofs or sanctions. It is the best form of government according to the ends of government that are explicitly mandated, and according to supportive and strong circumstantial evidence, we might say, of monarchy’s good operation unto God ordained ends, and, therefore, its divine approval.

Monarchy acquires divine right status because it is implicitly endorsed by God. Jus Divinum, as Hudson defines it, “proceeds from the will of God, as he is the efficient or positive cause of everything.” God is only a “permissive cause” of sin. Polarchy does not fit the bill, but monarchy does.

Against Polarchy

Now, the critique of polarchy. It is permitted but not endorsed by God. Plainly, “Polarchy is a Politick Government, invented by the Devill, for the destruction of humane society, by the Administration and exercise of the Supream Power and Authority of a multitude over the rest of the same society.” A little later he calls polarchy, “the most Commodious Instrument whereby the Devil may work discords and divisions,” for, “a Kingdome divided against itself cannot stand, Mat. 12.24.”

Hudson rejects Aristotle’s assumption that monarchy and polarchy (whether aristocracy or democracy) are equally viable forms of “policy.” Hudson believes that the pagan philosophers lacked divine revelation and an adequate conception of sin and, therefore, missed God’s scriptural, providential, and creational affirmation of monarchy. He is not indifferent to the form of government as others are. There is a sense in which Hudson views the standard regime cycle progression as an evolution of curse, for each form does not “equal ground both in Divinity and nature.” “Polar∣chical dissentions” have threatened or ended all the great kingdoms including, per Josephus, the Jewish one

For, “I am most assuredly confident that the learnedest Antiquarie in the world, cannot produce any Authentick Record to evidence the Original of any Polarchy, within the space of three thousand yeares, after the first Institution of Monarchie by God in Paradise.” The introduction of the seventy elders under Moses does not supply such an example, for they were an inferior court. “Indeed the first face of any Government which looks like a Polarchy, presents itself upon the death of Amaziah King of Judah, who was murdered by a conspiracy of some of his Nobles.”

In his expanded case against aristocracy and democracy, Hudson mirrors his formula above, drawing out curses of polarchy according to its institution, prescription, stipulation, assimilation, accommodation, and regulation. We need not cover these in detail. If monarchy is the most primitive and biblical form of government, rooted in creation itself and only frustrated by traitorous usurpations, then any contrary model is per se disfavored in Hudson’s paradigm.

Church history is also on Hudson’s side, he claims. Christian commonwealths governed by polarchies are led by “giddy fanatick humours,” and “abounded with blasphemous Heresies in Doctrine, & Idolatrous Innovations in Discipline.” He provides no examples.

Again, philosophically, Hudson’s basic case is this: “Supreamacy in Government is the most Immediate resemblance of Divine Majesty upon earth, (For which cause the Kings in Scripture are styled Gods) And therefore a multiplicity of Supream Rulers must needs be an abominable and ridiculous absurdity even by the judgement of the wiser sort of Heathens.”

Walter Ullmann describes this basic assumption well; it is a medieval assumption, viz., that the proper starting political starting point as to earthly government form is the order of the universe beginning with the supreme being which, of course, is monarchical. Government is judged, as to its form, according to its relative conformity to the monarchical model encoded in the world under God. This seems to reflect Hudson’s position well and might speak to why Baxter, even though he did not exactly endorse Hudson’s methodology, possessed a proclivity for the work in view.

Under Hudson’s more medieval view, even the human body directs us:

“Polarchy is a resemblance of the greatest Absurdity in Nature. For though the body of man, which is the most exact Model of Nature, consists of two hands and Armes, and two feet and legs, and though each of them also have five toes and fingers, yet doth one head direct the actions and motions of all these. Nay though a man have more fingers or more toes then usual, yet is not that esteemed such an absurdity in Nature, as to have two heades: And certainly, the more heades that a man hath, the greater monster he is; And the more Supream Governours there are in a state, the more prodigious is the Government.”

Hudson quotes Saint Jerome to show that what is true in the body is also true in nature generally:

“The dumb beasts (saith he) and wilde herds follow their leaders. The Bees have their King, and the Cranes flie after one another like an Alphabet of letters; one Emperour and one Judge of each province: Rome as soon as it was built, could not admit of two brethren to be Kings, and Jacob and Esau fought in one womb. In a house is but one Master, in a ship but one Pilot; in an Army (though never so great) the signe of one Generall is expected. And what inconveniencies may accrew from diversity of Generals in an Army, or the diversity of Masters in one family; the same and greater do accrew from diversity of Supream Governours in one Common-wealth.”

This is not just about convenience or efficiency, though it is no less than that. It is about fundamental order for Hudson. Did not Christ tell us as much? “No servant can serve two Masters, (much lesse three or four or four hundred Masters) but in every Polarchy there are (at least) two Masters (and sometimes many more.)”

Now, Hudson really gets somewhere; to the central, practical and theoretical problem with polarchy. This is, perhaps, the most insightful passage in his critique. He poses a question to himself: albeit a polarchy may be an aggregate of many “natural bodies” (i.e., people) can it not be said that through said aggregation that they constitute a single political authority—either popularly or representatively—to which all can submit? No, says Hudson (predictably). God has not commanded obedience to “abstract Power.” “Gods Commandments enjoyne honour to Parents, not to paternity: to Kings, not to Regality.” Men are not abstractions, but individualized, embodied, souls. They are not, therefore, properly governed by abstractions. There is no unifying political soul to which all are united. The fact of human multiplicity and diversity necessitates a single, unifying head for the sake of order. A man cannot be both ruler and ruled. (Baxter introduces in Holy Commonwealth a similar ruler and ruled dichotomy that is constitutive of commonwealths.)

“Diverse men have divers mindes and divers meanings, and therefore amongst a multitude of Governours, Emulation and Dissention are no rare springs.” Equality amongst governors, a levelling of hierarchy, is the “Mother of all factions.” Thomas Aquinas has similar ideas in De Regno. Even prior to sin, men would need to be ordered toward a shared goal. Given a multiplicity of options and inclinations corresponding to a multiplicity of people, someone would need to step up, as it were, and direct energies toward one option, even though none of the options available in a prelapsarian state would be bad in themselves. Men must be governed. Competition in governance is not conducive to good rule.

None of this precludes monarchs having inferior councils. But the king must be the one to finally distill counsels into a ruling. There must be some concrete, embodied power to issues determinations. The bottom line for Hudson is that faction, competition, and multiplicity in final governance is tantamount to, if not literally, chaos.

But what if you find yourself in a polity that began as a polarchy? What if you were in, say, a representative polarchy? Can you by any measures reduce (to “Pristine Government”) that polity, as Hudson puts it, to a monarchy?

Hudson says this can only be done by lawful means, not violent ones. The latter would defeat the purpose. “For we may not do evil that good may come thereof.” “For such a Reducement, must be onely prayers to God, and petitions to Superiors, and such meanes as do not transgresse the rules of obedience.” Rebellion on part of the people against a polarchic government is not justified, even for the sake of erecting a monarchy.

“So must subjects be content to undergoe this curse and punishment of a Polarchy, til it please God to restore them unto the blessing of Monarchie; but we must not seek to regain it by rebellion or any sinful meanes, for that is to forsake God, and to runne to the Devil for help and delive∣rance from our griefes and afflictions.”

Popular sovereignty is not the basis for kings, even as it can be the dutiful conduit for their appointment, and nor is it the basis for overthrowing polarchy to make way for a king—he inveighs against popular sovereignty generally at length. Hudson is consistent on this, at least, and prudential on this front. Governmental forms should not be flippantly altered. Accordingly, there is not an absolute duty to alter polarchical polities unto monarchy, though the latter be more desirable and in accordance with divine right.

Government Origin

A few more brief notes on government generally. It is not a result of the fall but rather begun under the covenant of works.

“Politick Government… is a naturall blessing, enabling man for the due performance of his naturall duties, and grounded upon the fifth Commandement of the Morall Law; prescribing honour to Parents, which commenced upon mans first creation, before Adams Apostasie: by virtue of which law of Nature… Adams sinfull prevarication had never devested himselfe and his posterity of their native Prerogatives.”

That is, unless the authority of parents is also to be negated or founded on a different basis post-fall, “even Christ himselfe (although totally exempted from all manner of enormous guilt, both actuall and originall, yet) was not exempted from this duty of subjection to his parents, Luke 2.51.” There was no need pre-fall for the legislative or punitive function of government, but only the directive function, to which all men would have willingly assented.

Moreover, the fall

“did not occasion God to ordaine and institute any new sort of humane policy, or any new lawes, for direction of Politicall duties, but onely to ordaine the actuall use and exercise of his Legislative power, to supply and help the defects, imperfections, and infirmities of his understanding, in the lawes of nature, by the composure of Positive Lawes and Statutes.”

The necessity of government has not been introduced by the fall but only compounded thereby. That said, the potential for such power was imbedded in political government prior to the fall, only not exercised prior thereto. This because the legislative function (i.e., lawmaking) of government is designed to “supply and help the defects, imperfections, and infirmities of his understanding, in the lawes of nature, by the composure of Positive Lawes and Statutes,” and the juridical or punitive function is charged with correction of violations. None of this is or was ever intended for anything other than external and civil order and peace. Neither has that changed.

Political Cognizance: External v. Evangelical Duties

Lastly, we will treat the extent, scope, or cognizance of authority for political government vis a vis religion. Post-fall, “naturall knowledge is not sufficient for direction of such naturall duties, as are requisite to peace and unity, the meanes to preserve humane society, which is one of the ends of Politick Government.” Help is needed, from scripture, of course, but also, as we’ve said, from the legislative and judicial function of government (beyond its more passive directive function). These are “emergencies from Apostasie.” Both pre-and-post-fall, however, only external duties are in view. Government is charged with combating the corrupt will of man, to press his natural duties upon him, and to preserve peace and order: “the punishments inflicted by Magistrates, are not intended for the satisfaction of Gods justice for our offences against God, but for the instruction of our obedience in order to the publike peace.” Redemption of man and vindication of God does not come through magistrates.

That said, “all the Nations and Kingdomes of the world now governed, as well Heathen as Christian; for all Government was by his Father transmitted unto [Christ.]” After the resurrection and ascension, all rulers, Christian and pagan, “are Christs Lieutenants and Deputies.” (As Hudson said before, pagan rulers can still be properly constituted rulers.) Yet, even Christian magistrates do not enforce “supernaturall and Evangelicall duties” of the covenant of grace for those are not cognizable under the covenant of works or under the natural basis of government—those things “wherein the light of nature (though it were restored to its native and pristine purity) is no way conducent to guide or direct us.”

Evangelical duties do not directly fall within political cognizance. What are evangelical duties? Hudson analogizes to Jewish ceremonies, forms of worship, and the like, not to mention belief and internal devotion themselves.  

What of religion, then? Does the magistrate have no concern for it? On the contrary.

Political authority is cognizant of “offences against the law of nature, (whether they were transgressions of the first Table, and so immediately against God; or of the second Table, and so immediately against our neighbour),” but also “Evangelicall duties, may and doe fall within the sphere of Politicall Cognizance indirectly,” according to the accidents.

Indeed, “the service and worship of God, ought to be the first and principall care of all Kings.” And, “Religion must be the foundation of all Policy, being the most important businesse amongst the affaires of State, cementing all societies, and energating all lawes, as Plutarch well observeth.”

How does this cash out? Since we have already proceeded far afield in our initial inquiry, that question will serve as prompt to another installment on Hudson’s thought.

Image Credit: Coronation of Emperor Charlemagne by Pope Leo III.

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Timon Cline

Timon Cline is the Editor in Chief at American Reformer. He is an attorney and a fellow at the Craig Center at Westminster Theological Seminary and the Director of Scholarly Initiatives at the Hale Institute of New Saint Andrews College. His writing has appeared in the American Spectator, Mere Orthodoxy, American Greatness, Areo Magazine, and the American Mind, among others. He writes regularly at Modern Reformation and Conciliar Post.

One thought on “Monarchy Contra Polarchy

  1. Besides being similar to Narcissists, as I pointed out in a previous discussion, traditionalists rely too heavily on the past to interpret and respond to the present. Perhaps it is their discomfort with the present moves them to believe that those in the present have nothing to teach those in the past. And yet, traditionalists can easily share the same problem that ideologues in the present have: a strong tendency for authoritarianism. At this point we could point out the warnings against authoritarianism issued by the Frankfurt school whose studies of authoritarianism were prompted by the need to avoid repeating the mistakes that the German people in WW II made, being too loyal to their king–the Fuhrer.

    By relying too much on the past, what is often ignored are contexts. And then when trying to apply the past to the present, what is most often ignored are the contextual differences between the time periods being referenced. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should be narcissistic and ignore the past.

    As Cline goes through the points made by Hudson, he neglects to see if the context, which included Christendom, from which Hudson interpreted the Bible was too influential on Hudson’s interpretation of the Bible. For to the extent that Christendom influenced his interpretations of the Bible is the extent to which Hudson practiced eisogesis rather than exegesis. In other words, Hudson was reading into the Scriptures more than he was discovering what the Scriptures were saying.

    In addition, since Hudson was basing many of his views on the Old Testament, Hudson was adding to his eisogesis of the Scriptures,a projection of an Old Testament view and way of life onto New Testament living. And there we have another contextual problem. Though there is continuity between both the Old and New Testaments and their ways of living, there are quite a few, if not more, differences than there are similarities.

    The basic difference in contexts between the the Old and the New Testaments is that in the former, the covenant people of God ended up being a geo-political nation. In the New Testament, the covenant people of God is the Church. And the Church’s mission is to exist in all nations so that it could fulfill the Great Commission by preaching and teaching the Gospel. And the New Testament teaches us that we are to live as exiles in today’s world because we have no home here, as it says in Hebrews. That we are not to lay up our treasures here as Jesus told us. In addition, we are to relate to unbelievers as Jesus said and the Apostles did.

    Most if not all, of the conclusions that Hudson gained from the Old Testament are not just not repeated in the New Testament, the model of life taught in the New Testament goes strongly against what Hudson said. Even Romans 13 does not teach what Cline wants us to learn from Hudson about monarchy vs polarchy.

    And so, it seems, that what Cline is promoting is from Christian tradition rather than from the Scriptures. And before warning Cline, as well as ourselves, about what Jesus said in Mark 7 about doing the same, we need to ask why Cline pursues the track that he does. Is it, perhaps, like most of us religiously conservative Christians, he leans toward authoritarianism and so that is part of the context that influences what he sees, reads, agrees with, and promotes?

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