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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Power of Magistrates in the Church

By James Noyes (1608–1656)

[Born in Wiltshire, England, 1608. Died at Newbury, Mass., 1658. The Temple Measured, or a Brief Survey of the Temple Mystical. 1647.]

THE ACTS of magistracy are not only civil laws, precepts, punishments, rewards; but also spiritual laws, precepts, prayers, blessing, instructions, admonitions. These spiritual acts do denominate magistratical power to be spiritual power though not ecclesiastical. Church power is spiritual generically in respect of acts which are spiritual in common, but by way of specialty it is spiritual, as it is ecclesiastical. Magistratical power is both civil and spiritual, yet not ecclesiastical; or civil as it is opposed to ecclesiastical power, not as opposed to spiritual. The next ends of magistratical acts are spiritual, and acts are distinguished by their ends or immediate objects. The spiritual good of men is both intended and acquired in magistratical acts as primarily as the temporal good of men. A magistrate doth instruct, pray, etc., to the end he might confer some spiritual good, and the act itself doth as naturally and immediately produce such an effect as if it were the act of an ecclesiastical person; and such an act is supposed to be the act of a magistrate as he is a magistrate, not only as he is a Christian. And if the magistrate be profane and should not intend any spiritual good (as it was said of one, that he was bonus Rex, but malus homo) it is sufficient that the act itself doth.

The spiritual good of men and the glory of God are primary ends of the constitution of magistracy in nature. A throne of magistracy is erected (and ought to be in the intention of men) as directly for religion as for civil peace. Though a Prince hath not all the means to make a good man which a Priest hath, yet he hath some, and is to improve them for the making of his subjects good men spiritually as well as civilly; and he that is integrè bonus civis est bonus vir, in respect of all virtues in both tables. Else why is it the duty of magistrates to instruct, pray, provide by laws, etc., for the preservation and promotion of religion? Such ends were primary ends of magistracy in Adam, only we must remember that axiom, Finem legis non cadere sub legem.

The Priesthood itself is naturally a branch of magistracy; it remained in the Patriarchs till God severed one from the other; and God did not give all spiritual power to Aaron when he distinguished the Priesthood; much remained still in Moses. The œcumenical power of a master of a family is not ecclesiastical, yet he hath spiritual power to teach, pray, bless, command as he is a Pater-familias. Else a magistrate as a magistrate, must subordinate the first table to the second, the glory of God to the temporal good of men, God to man, religion to civility. A magistrate when he prays, blesseth or commandeth all to seek the God of Israel, as he his Custos utriusque tabulæ, is not supposed to use any of these means in the first place for the temporal prosperity of the Commonwealth. Must a magistrate as a magistrate pray only for corn, wine and oil? or may he serve God only for corn, wine and oil, and bless only with the dew of Heaven and fatness of the earth? A physician, indeed, as a physician doth only heal and intend to heal the natural man, because he hath only natural mediums, but a magistrate hath spiritual mediums, as he is a magistrate. A magistrate as a man may make a temporal being his first and last and only end, but as a magistrate he intends both temporals and spirituals. A Christian as a man, may be for the world, but as a Christian he is for the Lord. A magistrate’s office is spiritual, though the magistrate’s person be profane and heathenish.