Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Henry Balnaves and the Regulative Principle of the State

Henry Balnaves (1512?-1579), Statesman, Diplomat, and a chief supporter of the Scottish Reformation

Scripture provides sufficient wisdom to govern

Henry Balnaves holds that Scripture provides sufficient wisdom on how God wants rulers to govern:
The right way to rule in thy office is to know God, of whom thou canst have no knowledge, but by his word and law, which teacheth thee what thou shouldest do, and leave undone, according to thy vocation.
And as to thy princely estate, and dignity, and office, thou art father to all thy kingdom, their head in the place of God, to rule, govern, and keep them; upon whom thou shouldest take no less care than the carnal father taketh upon his own best beloved son. For they are given by God to thee in government. Therefore thou shouldest begin to know the will of thy God, and take the book of his law in thy hand, to read upon it, which teacheth thee the will of God. It should never pass forth of thy heart, not depart from thy mouth, day and night having thy meditation thereinto, that thou mayest keep all which is written therein; then shalt thou direct thy way, and have knowledge and understanding of the same, Deut. xvi. Josh. i. 
This being done, thou shalt get the blessing, of which David speaks, saying, Blessed is the man which delighteth in the law of the Lord and hath his meditation thereinto day and night. Then ask of God wisdom and understanding, which is the knowledge of his godly will, and a heart that may receive teaching, that thou mayest judge thy people, and discern betwixt good and evil, as thou art taught by the example of Solomon, 1 Kings iii. ...
Therefore, humbly and lowly submit thyself in the hands of thy God, and take thought of him, being governed by his word. Begin at him, and set forth the true and perfect worshipping of God in thy kingdom. Restore the true, pure, and sincere christian religion; abolish, destroy, and put down all false worshippings and superstitions, contrary to the word of God, and not commanded therein; according to the example of the noble kings of Judah, Hezekiah and Josiah as thou mayest read, 2 Kings xviii. xxiii. This is thy vocation, in the which thou shouldest walk, and orderly proceed in guiding of thy people, as thou art taught by the word of God; and decline not therefrom, neither to the right hand nor to the left, but walk in the kingly way taught thee in the holy scriptures, Deut. xvii.[1]

Rulers should only seek wisdom in God's word

For Balnaves, the godly man in general—and the civil magistrate in particular—should only seek wisdom in God's word. To do otherwise is "nothing but foolishness before God":
To you, which are princes, judges, and superior powers upon earth, pertain wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and learning, that ye may justly and truly exercise the office and charge committed to your care by God. Therefore David exhorts you, saying, Understand and know, O ye kings; and be learned, O ye which judge the earth. And serve the Lord in fear and reverence, and rejoice in him with trembling, Psal. ii. This is your wisdom and understanding taught you in the law of God, Deut. iv. For the godly man needeth not to seek wisdom, but in the scriptures of God, where he shall find how he shall behave him both to God and man, in prosperity and adversity, in peace and war
Therefore, to seek wisdom any other way, it is nothing but foolishness before God, 1 Cor. i. Since ye are the ministers of God unto good, created and ordained by him, (as the apostle saith, Rom. xiii.) it becometh you of your office to guide and rule your subjects in all goodness and sweetness ... [2]

Wrath upon rulers who neglect God's word

Rulers, writes Balnaves, risk facing God's wrath for neglecting God's word:
Your estate and office is great, and not to be contemned, but to be praised and commended of all men; of your subjects feared, reverenced, and also loved, because ye are as it were gods, and are so called in  the scriptures,  by reason of participation of the power of God, committed unto you, whose judgments ye exercise; and are called the sons of God; as David saith, I have said, Ye are gods, and sons of the Most Highest; that is, for the excellent dignity of your office, I have called you my sons. Nevertheless, know yourselves to be but men, and to suffer death as other men do, and in like manner as princes of earthly kingdoms, or tyrants, which have the ruling of commonwealths, as ye have. Therefore be just and righteous, exercising yourselves in all godliness, according to your vocation; being sure ye shall shortly die, and give account and reckoning of your administration. For ye are but flesh, and all flesh is but grass, and all the glory of the same, as it were the flower of the field; The grass is withered, and the flower falleth, but the word of God remaineth for ever, Isa. xl. 1 Peter i. James i. Therefore know Christ to be your king, ruler, guider, and governor, who shall rule you with an iron rod, and break you asunder, as it were a clay pot, or vessel of fragile earth. If ye will not understand the will and commandment of God, his ire and wrath shall rule above your head at all times. These sharp threatenings are shown you in the scriptures Isa. i. Jer. v. David in Psalms ii. lxxxii. and Zechariah vii. where ye are taught the chief points of your office, and works which ye are bound to do; for the neglecting of the which, being left undone, ye shall be accused before God.[3]


[1] M. Henry Balnaves, "The Confession of Faith," in Writings of Edward the Sixth, William Hugh, Queen Catherine Parr, Anne Askew, Lady Jane Grey, Hamilton, and Balnaves: Volume 3: of British reformers (London: Religious Tract Society, 1836), 99, 100.
[2] Ibid., 100.
[3] Ibid., 101, 102.


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