The following is an excerpt from Lex Rex by Samuel Rutherford. You can buy it here.
Whether the King Be Only and Immediately from God, and Not from the People
That this question may be the clearer we are to set down these considerations: —
1. The question is, Whether the kingly office itself come from God. I conceive it is, and flows from the people, not by formal institution, as if the people had by an act of reason devised and excogitated such a power: God ordained the power. It is from the people only by a virtual emanation, in respect that a community having no government at all may ordain a king or appoint an aristocracy. But the question is concerning the designation of the person: Whence is it that this man rather than that man is crowned king? and whence is it — from God immediately and only — that this man rather than that man, and this race or family rather than that race and family, is chosen for the crown? Or is it from the people also, and their free choice? For the pastor’s and the doctor’s office is from Christ only; but that John rather than Thomas be the doctor or the pastor is from the will and choice of men — the presbyters and people.
2. The royal power is three ways in the people:
- 1st, Radically and virtually, as in the first subject.
- 2nd, Collative vel communicative, by way of free donation, they giving it to this man, not to that man, that he may rule over them.
- 3rd, Limitate, — they giving it so as these three acts remain with the people. (1.) That they may measure out, by ounce weights, so much royal power, and no more and no less. (2.) So as they may limit, moderate, and set banks and marches to the exercise. (3.) That they give it out, conditionate, upon this and that condition, that they may take again to themselves what they gave out upon condition if the condition be violated.
The first I conceive is clear,
- 1st, Because all living creatures have radically in them a power of self-preservation, to defend themselves from violence, — as we see lions have paws, some beasts have horns, some claws, — men being reasonable creatures, united in society, must have power in a more reasonable and honorable way to put this power of warding off violence in the hands of one or more rulers, to defend themselves by magistrates.
- 2nd, If all men be born, as concerning civil power, alike, — for no man comes out of the womb with a diadem on his head or a scepter in his hand, and yet men united in a society may give crown and scepter to this man and not to that man, — then this power was in this united society, but it was not in them formally, for they should then all have been one king, and so both above and superior, and below and inferior to themselves, which we cannot say; therefore this power must have been virtually in them, because neither man nor community of men can give that which they neither have formally nor virtually in them.
- 3rd, Royalists cannot deny but cities have power to create a higher ruler, for royal power is but the united and superlative power of inferior judges in one greater judge whom they call a king.
Conclus. The power of creating a man a king is from the people.
1. Because those who may create this man a king rather than that man have power to appoint a king; for a comparative action does positively infer an action. If a man have power to marry this woman and not that woman, we may strongly conclude that he has power to marry; now 1 Kings 16, the people made Omri king and not Zimri, and his son Ahab rather than Tibni the son of Sinath. Nor can it be replied that this was no lawful power that the people used, for that cannot elude the argument; for (1 Kings 1) the people made Solomon king and not Adonijah, though Adonijah was the older brother. They say, God did extraordinarily both make the office, and design Solomon to be king, — the people had no hand in it, but approved God’s act.
Ans. This is what we say, God by the people, by Nathan the prophet, and by the servants of David and the states crying, “God save king Solomon!” made Solomon king; and here is a real action of the people. God is the first agent in all acts of the creature. Where a people makes choice of a man to be their king, the states do no other thing, under God, but create this man rather than another; and we cannot here find two actions, one of God, another of the people; but in one and the same action, God, by the people’s free suffrages and voices, creates such a man king, passing by many thousands; and the people are not passive in the action, because by the authoritative choice of the states the man is made of a private man and no king, a public person and a crowned king: 2 Sam. 16:18, “Hushai said to Absalom, Nay, but whom the Lord and the people, and all the men of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide;” Judg. 8:22, “The men of Israel said to Gideon, Rule thou over us;” Judg. 9:6, “The men of Shechem made Abimelech king;” Judg. 11:8, 11; 2 Kings 14:21, “The people made Azariah king;” 1 Sam. 12:1; 2 Chron. 23:3.
2. If God does regulate his people in making this man king, not that man, then he thereby insinuates that the people have a power to make this man king, and not that man. But God does regulate his people in making a king; therefore the people have a power to make this man king, not that man king. The proposition is clear, because God’s law does not regulate a non-ens, a mere nothing, or an unlawful power; nor can God’s holy law regulate an unlawful power, or an unlawful action, but quite abolish and interdict it. The Lord sets not down rules and ways how men should not commit treason, but the Lord commands loyalty, and simply interdicts treason. If people have then more power to create a king over themselves than they had to make prophets, then God forbidding them to choose such a man for their king should say as much to his people as if he would say, “I command you to make Isaiah and Jeremiah prophets over you, but not these and those men.” This, certainly, should prove that not God only, but the people also, with God, made prophets. I leave this to the consideration of the godly. The prophets were immediately called of God to be prophets, whether the people consented that they should be prophets or not; therefore God immediately and only sent the prophets, not the people; but though God extraordinarily designed some men to be kings, and anointed them by his prophets, yet were they never actually installed kings till the people made them kings. I prove the assumption, Deut. 17:14, 15, “When thou shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me, thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose; one from amongst thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” Should not this be an unjust charge to the people, if God only, without any action of the people, should immediately set a king over them? Might not the people reply, We have no power at all to set a king over ourselves, more than we have power to make Isaiah a prophet, who saw the visions of God. To what end then should God mock us, and say, “Make a brother and not a stranger king over you?”
3. Expressly Scripture says, that the people made the king, though under God: Judg. 9:6, “The men of Shechem made Abimelech king;” 1 Sam. 11:15, “And all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the Lord;” 2 King. 10:5, “We will not make any king.” This had been an irrational speech to Jehu if both Jehu and the people held the royalists’ tenet, that the people had no power to make a king, nor any active or causative influence therein, but that God immediately made the king: 1 Chron. 12:38, “All these came with a perfect heart to make David king in Hebron;” and all the rest were of one heart to make David king. On these words Lavater says, The same way are magistrates now to be chosen; now this day God, by an immediate oracle from heaven, appoints the office of a king, but I am sure he does not immediately design the man, but does only mark him out to the people as one who has the most royal endowments, and the due qualifications required in a lawful magistrate by the word of God: Exod 18:21, “Men of truth, hating covetousness,” etc.; Deut. 1:16, 17, Men who will judge causes between their brethren righteously, without respect of persons; 1 Sam. 10:21, Saul was chosen out of the tribes according to the law of God; Deut 17, They might not choose a stranger; and Abulensis, Serrarius, Cornelius à Lapide, Sancheiz, and other popish writers, think that Saul was not only anointed with oil first privately by Samuel, (1 Sam. 10:1,2,) but also at two other times before the people, — once at Mizpah, and another time at Gilgal, by a parliament and a convention of the states. And Samuel judged the voices of the people so essential to make a king that Samuel does not acknowledge him as formal king, (1 Sam. 10:7, 8, 17, 18, 19,) though he honored him because he was to be king. (1 Sam. 9:23, 24,) while the tribes of Israel and parliament were gathered together to make him king according to God’s law, (Deut. 17) as is evident.
- 1st, For Samuel (1 Sam. 5:20,) caused all the tribes of Israel to stand before the Lord, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken. The law provided one of their own, not a stranger to reign over them; and, because some of the states of parliament did not choose him, but, being children of Belial, despised him in their hearts, (v. 27,) therefore after king Saul, by that victory over the Ammonites, had conquered the affections of all the people fully, (v. 10, 11,) Samuel would have his coronation and election by the estates of parliament renewed at Gilgal by all the people, (v. 14, 15,) to establish him king.
- 2nd, The Lord by lots found out the tribe of Benjamin.
- 3rd, The Lord found out the man, by name, Saul the son of Kish, when he did hide himself amongst the stuff, that the people might do their part in the creating of the king, whereas Samuel had anointed him before. But the text says expressly that the people made Saul king; and Calvin, Martyr, Lavater, and popish writers, as Serrarius, Mendoza, Sancheiz, Cornelius à Lapide, Lyranus, Hugo Cardinalis, Carthusius, Sanctius, do all hence conclude that the people, under God, make the king.
I see no reason why Barelaius should here distinguish a power of choosing a king, which he grants the people has, and a power of making a king, which he says is only proper to God.
Ans. Choosing of a king is either — a comparative crowning of this man, not that man; and if the people have this it is a creating of a king under God, who principally disposes of kings and kingdoms; and this is enough for us. The want of this made Zimri no king, and those whom the rulers of Jezreel at Samaria (2 King. 10) refused to make kings, no kings. This election of the people made Athaliah a princess; the removal of it, and translation of the crown by the people to Joash made her no princess: for, I ask you, what other calling of God has a race of a family, and a person to the crown, but only the election of the states? There is now no voice from heaven, no immediately inspired prophets such as Samuel and Elisha, to anoint David, not Eliab, — Solomon, not Adonijah. The du/namij or the heroic spirit of a royal faculty of governing, is, I grant, from God only, not from the people; but I suppose that makes not a king, for then many sitting on the throne this day should be no kings, and many private persons should be kings. If they mean by the people’s choosing nothing but the people’s approbative consent, posterior to God’s act of creating a king, let them show us an act of God making kings, and establishing royal power in this family rather than in that family, which is prior to the people’s consent, — distinct from the people’s consent I believe there is none at all.
Hence I argue: If there be no calling or title on earth to tie the crown to such a family and person but the suffrages of the people, then have the line of such a family, and the persons now, no calling of God, no right to the crown, but only by the suffrages of the people, except we say that there be no lawful kings on earth now when prophetical unction and designation to crowns are ceased, contrary to express scripture: Rom. 13:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:13-17.
But there is no title on earth now to the crowns to families, to persons, but only the suffrages of the people: for,
- 1st, Conquest without the consent of the people is but royal robbery, as we shall see.
- 2nd, There is no prophetical and immediate calling to kingdoms now.
- 3rd, The Lord’s giving regal parts is somewhat; but I hope royalists will not deny but a child, young in years and judgment, may be a lawful king.
- 4th, Mr. Maxwell’s appointing of the kingly office does no more make one man a lawful king than another; for this were a wide consequence. God has appointed that kings should be; therefore John à Stiles is a king; yea, therefore David is a king. It follows not. Therefore it remains only that the suffrages of the people of God is that just title and divine calling that kings have now to their crowns. I presuppose they have gifts to govern from God.
If the Lord’s immediate designation of David, and his anointing by the divine authority of Samuel, had been that which alone, without the election of the people, made David formally king of Israel, then there were two kings in Israel at one time; for Samuel anointed David, and so he was formally king upon the ground laid by royalists, that the king has no royal power from the people; and David, after he himself was anointed by Samuel, diverse times calls Saul the Lord’s anointed, and that by the inspiration of God’s Spirit, as we and royalists do both agree. Now two lawful supreme monarchs in one kingdom I conceive to be most repugnant to God’s truth and sound reason; for they are as repugnant as two most highs or as two infinites. It shall follow that David all the while between his anointing by Samuel and his coronation by the suffrages of all Israel at Hebron, was in-lacking in discharging and acquitting himself of his royal duty, God having made him formally a king, and so laying upon him a charge to execute justice and judgment, and defend religion, which he did not discharge. All David’s suffering, upon David’s part, must be unjust, for, as king, he should have cut off the murderer Saul, who killed the priests of the Lord; especially, seeing Saul, by this ground, must be a private murderer, and David the only lawful king. David, if he was formally king, deserted his calling in flying to the Philistines; for a king should not forsake his calling upon any hazard, even of his life, no more than a pilot should give over the helm in an extreme storm; but certainly God’s dispensation in this warrants us to say, no man can be formally a lawful king without the suffrages of the people: for Saul, after Samuel from the Lord anointed him, remained a private man, and no king, till the people made him king, and elected him; and David, anointed by that same divine authority, remained formally a subject, and not a king, till all Israel made him king at Hebron; and Solomon, though by God designed and ordained to be king, yet was never king until the people made him so, (1 Kings 1); therefore there flows something from the power of the people, by which he who is no king now becomes a king formally, and by God’s lawful call; whereas before the man was no king, but, as touching all royal power, a mere private man. And I am sure birth must be less than God’s designation to a crown, as is clear, — Adonijah was older than Solomon, yet God will have Solomon, the younger by birth, to be king, and not Adonijah. And so Mr. Symmons, and other court prophets, must prevaricate, who will have birth, without the people’s election, to make a king, and the people’s voices but a ceremony.
I think royalists cannot deny but a people ruled by aristocratic magistrates may elect a king, and a king so elected is formally made a lawful king by the people’s election; for of six willing and gifted to reign, what makes one a king and not the other five? Certainly by God’s disposing the people to choose this man, and not another man. it cannot be said but God gives the kingly power immediately; and by him kings reign, that is true. This office is immediately from God, but the question now is, What is that which formally applies the office and royal power to this person rather than to the other five as meet? Nothing can here be dreamed of but God’s inclining the hearts of the states to choose this man and not that man.