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§ 60. 2. Of the Political Estate; [1] The Civil Authority.

The civil authority, no less than the ministry, is an estate appointed by God. [2] The power intrusted to it, with all its prerogatives, is derived, therefore, from Him; [3] and through it He desires to promote the temporal welfare of men. [4] Its primary duty, therefore, is to watch over the preservation of outward order and good behavior, [5] and it has the right and the duty of operating in this direction through laws which it is to enact, according to its own judgment, yet without encroaching upon natural or divine right. [6] This mission assigned to the civil authority has, however, as its ultimate aim the promotion of the prosperity of the Church; for the outward welfare aimed at by the civil authority would of itself have no significance. [7] Therefore the civil authority has, at the same time, an immediate calling to fulfil in regard to the Church (officium circa sacra); it is hence also to aid and protect the institutions of Christianity, to ward off all hostile attacks by means of the external power committed to it, and to withstand all injurious influences. [8] It is not to interfere, however, with the internal doctrinal or disciplinary affairs of the Church. [9]

[1] GRH. (XIII, 228): “The term magistratus is taken in a twofold sense: (1) abstractly, for the power and authority themselves, with which those are divinely endowed to whom the government has been intrusted; (2) concretely, for the persons who exercise the magistracy and are endowed with the power to govern.”

[2] HOLL. (1353): “The efficient principal cause of the magistracy 617is the triune God (Rom. 13:1; Prov. 8:15; Dan. 2:21), who intrusts to certain persons the office of magistrate, either immediately (Ex. 3:10; Numb. 27:18; 1 Sam. 9:15) or mediately (John 19:11).”

Id. (1354): “To-day, by God’s control, suitable persons attain to the office of magistrate, either by election, or by succession, or by rightfully taking possession of it.”

[3] GRH. (XIII, 308): “From Rom. 13:1, etc., it is evident that the magistrate has been endowed with certain power.” Yet “the power of the magistrate is not absolute, unlimited, and unconditional, but it is restricted by laws and the norm of a higher power. For, since the magistrate has received his power from God, he is under obligation to recognize God as his superior, and, in the use of his power, to conform to His will and laws. When, therefore, statesmen ascribe absolute power to the supreme magistrate, this must be received not unconditionally nor with respect to the higher power, namely, God,  . . . but only with respect to the lower magistrates.”

Political power consists “(1) in ordaining in such a manner as to produce honorable and salutary laws pertaining to the advantage of subjects and of the state” (legislative power); “(2) in judging so as, in cases for trial, to make the decision and administer justice to subjects according to the norm of the laws” (judicial power; “(3) in executing so as to adorn those obedient to honorable laws and rewards, and to punish the disobedient and negligent by means of penalties” (executive power). Hence the right of the sword, Gen. 9:6.

[4] GRH. (XIII, 225): “Because of the fall of those first created, the human race has lost not only the spiritual and eternal blessings of the life to come, but also the bodily and outward comforts of this life; yet God, out of wonderful and ever unspeakable kindness, because of the intercession of His Son, has not only restored and renewed the former, but also the latter, and has appointed means for preserving them.” “Through the political magistrate, (God) preserves peace and outward tranquility, administers civil justice, and protects our property, reputation, and persons.” (Ib., 226.)

[5] GRH. (XIII, 225): “By means of the former” (the civil magistrate) “both outward discipline and public peace and tranquility are preserved.”

HUTT. (Loc. Th., 279): “The chief duties of the civil magistrate are: (1) to pay attention to both tables of the Decalogue, so far as they pertain to outward discipline; (2) to make enactments 618concerning civil and domestic affairs, harmonizing with divine and natural law; (3) to diligently see to it that the laws that have been published be carried into execution; (4) to inflict punishments upon the delinquent, according to the nature of the offence; to assist the obedient and bestow upon them rewards.”

HOLL. (1366): “The civil magistrate has been ordained for the public good, and his office if fourfold: (1) Ecclesiastical, for kings are the nursing fathers of the Church, and the bishops outside of the temple. (2) Civil, by guarding the interests of citizens, and repelling foreign enemies from the boundaries of the country. (3) Moral, in so far as he enacts wholesome laws, by which subjects are held to their duty, so as to lead a peaceable life in godliness and honesty, 1 Tim. 2:2. (4) Natural, by which rulers provide for the support and other necessaries of subjects; for example, Pharaoh, Gen. 41:34.”

[6] HUTT. (Loc. Th., 285): “Christians are necessarily under obligation to obey their magistrates and laws, except when they command us to sin; when we must obey God rather than men, Acts 5:29.”

[7] GRH. (XIII, 225): “The magistracy has been established by God, no less than the ministry, for the collection, preservation, and extension of the Church, inasmuch as by means of it both outward discipline and public peace and tranquility are preserved, without which the ministry of the Church could not readily perform its duty, and the collection and extension of the Church could scarcely have a place, 1 Tim. 2:2.”

The magistracy is therefore termed “a wall and shield to the Church, Ps. 47:10. For not only by this most firm wall are our bodies and property surrounded, but a protection is also afforded the Church, while the rage of those is restrained who desire to overturn all sacred things, in order that they may freely indulge their own lusts.” Further, it is designated “a nursing father to the Church, Is. 49:23.” . . . ”Outward discipline is maintained, justice is administered, tranquility and favorable times are protected by the civil estate, to the end that, by the Word of God, through the ministry, a Church may be collected out of the human race. For, since by and since the Fall, the human race had been so miserably and dreadfully corrupted by sin, that, without a public rule, all things in it would be in confusion and disorder, God also established governments for the sake of the Church.” . . .

[8] HOLL. (1361): “The magistracy is employed with sacred affairs, by carefully observing and performing those things which ought to be believed and done by all men who are to be saved, Ps. 2:10-12, 619and by directing the Church and the Christian religion in their external government.”

There belong specifically thereto (Br., 809): “The appointing of suitable ministers of the Church; the erection and preservation of schools and houses of worship, as well as the providing for the honorable support of ministers; the appointing of visitations and councils; the framing and maintenance of the laws of the Church, the controlling of the revenues of the Church, and the preservation of Church discipline; the trial of heretical ministers, as also of those of bad character, and all other similar persons belonging to the churches and schools, and the compelling them to appear before a court; providing for the punishment of those convicted of heresies or crimes; and the abrogation of heresies that are manifest and have been condemned by the Church, and of idolatrous forms of worship, so that the Church be cleansed from them.”

[9] HOLL. (1362): “The inner economy and government of sacred things, consisting in the doctrine of the Word, in absolution from sins, and the lawful administration of the Sacraments, are peculiar to the ministers of the Church. The magistrate cannot claim them for himself without committing crime.”

“The civil magistrate has not the power of a master builder, in regard to sacred affairs, equally with, and without any distinction from, civil affairs.”

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