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"This Slanderous Reprehension of Laws"

March 9, 2010
I have huge problems with Melanchthon’s treatment of Romans 13, from which this passage is excerpted, but nevertheless, there may well be some interesting points of intersection with how I used Romans 13 in my recent post “The Power of Civil Obedience.”  I am increasingly wondering how constructive much of our obsession with griping against the government really is--I mean, I obviously think it’s important that we should understand the truth about the evils that we are facing in modern states, and confront these evils, but the obligations of charity and love of enemy don’t disappear.  Just something worth chewing on:

 “Furthermore, Christians attribute to the magistrates wisdom and justice, that is, they do not prefer their private judgements, before the laws and decrees of the magistrate, but obey them.  They quarrel not with them, they do not disanull the laws; and this honor is most necessary to the public peace, not to use cavillation against the laws, nor enviously to interpret them.  Moreover, hereto it belongeth to cover, to excuse, and to mitigate, the oversights of the laws and of the magistrates.  This courteous interpretation, as it is necessary in our private conversation, so much more is it necessary in public society towards the magistrate, as it is written: “Love beareth all things, and love is the bond of perfection, to prevent all dissolutions of the commonwealth.” Again, “Love covereth the multitude of sins.”  Again, “Obey your magistrates, though they be rigorous.”  Rude and unskillful men, are diligently to be admonished in this, that they quarrel not, nor change the laws and public institutions.  Father Noah did curse his son Ham, for that he uncovered him and scorned him; and even so let them be assured which deprave the laws, they which maliciously make the worst of the magistrate’s oversights, that they be cursed of God, and shall be punished for this offence, for that they give not due honor to the laws and magistrates, and this slanderous reprehension of laws, ought the rather to be eschewed, because it bringeth forth horrible commotions in the commonwealth.”

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