Further, since it is evident that however wisely laws are enacted and however fully they are explained, they are of no use to the well-being of the commonwealth unless they are strenuously defended by ordinary magistrates and unless the obedience of all is very strictly exacted; good magistrates are called “living laws.” And so Your Majesty will most earnestly take care that there will never be lacking to his subjects pious, holy, and prudent magistrates who love the commonwealth. For such is the propensity of human weakness for all vices that there is no one who does not need a watchman, monitor, and overseer of piety and virtue.
Our God, who knows what is in man (John 2:25) and what remedies his salvation requires against the innate diseases of impiety, wickedness, and iniquity, has sufficiently declared this when he established an order of magistrates for his people so that every ten householders should have their own guardian, curator, and moderator, a leader of ten 58; and again one captain of fifty was put in charge of every five leaders of ten; one centurion for two captains of fifty; ten centurions were under one leader of a thousand; all the leaders of thousands together with all the other magistrates obeyed the supreme tribune of each whole tribe as a moderator; and over all these presided one supreme judge and governor of all the people (cf. Ex. 18:21, 25; Deut. 1:15; Judg. 2:16).
From this division of the magistrates the commonwealth will obtain this advantage, that more exact accounts of the lives of individual citizens could be had, that the vices of all could be observed and corrected in time, and that virtues could be aroused, defended, and promoted; if the lower magistrates were deficient, the higher ones could readily amend and repair their negligence rather quickly and salutarily.
In order to accomplish this conscientiously and consistently, the Lord willed these magistrates of his people to be selected with utmost care, by an accurate investigation of his gifts to individuals, so that they might be specifically Anshei Hayil, i.e., “men endowed with heroic virtue, fearing God, loving virtue and hating dirty lucre and gain” (Ex. 18:21).
No man will preserve laws and justice against wrongdoers, (whose number is everywhere and always quite great) and remove all respect of persons far from himself, something completely necessary for the duties of the magistrate, unless he is of a noble spirit and unheeding of the perils which befall those who serve the commonwealth and which they must undergo out of a love of justice.
But because no righteousness can thrive among men who are unjust and impious against God, the first concern of every Christian magistrate ought to be directed to this: that the citizens be faithfully taught and eagerly learn pure religion. Therefore, it is necessary for the magistrates themselves to excel others in both knowledge of and zeal for the Christian religion. This is why God has commanded that magistrates of the law should be approved and praiseworthy in the fear and true worship of his name.
As, however, every corrupt factor of human life, after the neglect of the fear of God, comes from this, that men, as they are by nature born fraudulent and lying, do and contract nothing among each other with complete sincerity and candor and without deceit and cleverness or some pretense and dissimulation, it is necessary that the magistrates, who have been put in charge of the correction of the character and behavior of men, should with singular enmity prosecute all fraud and deceit, all treacherous hypocrisy, and continually burn with an ardent zeal for truth, simplicity, and integrity. Therefore, on this account, God specifically requires of the magistrates of his people that they be men of truth, i.e., singular lovers and supporters of and fighters for truth and sincerity (Ex. 18:21).
It is also evident that one of the principal causes of civil distress and the disturbance of the commonwealth is greed,59 that disease by which everyone tries to surpass others in riches and the conveniences of this life or obtain more than his share of honors and pleasures. Secondly, it is a matter of experience that in governing the commonwealth with equity and a good conscience and in rendering to each man his rights, wealthy men are very much ensnared by their possessions. Finally, all know that singular liberality and generosity are required in magistrates. Accordingly, for these reasons God demands of magistrates that they hate all base gain and wicked lucre, so that they will abstain from all unrighteous greed for possessions and be able to see more clearly and safeguard more constantly what is just and fair. Then they will protect the comonwealth from this plague of human society, the desire for having more than is fair (and the stricter they are, the more successful they will be in this) and they will arouse, foster, and champion humaneness, kindness, and generosity.
Now, men who are outstanding in these virtues, namely, in heroic fortitude of spirit, sincere religion and piety toward God, honesty, liberality, and kindness, and who excel in other virtues, these are suitable to be put over other men in order to rule them, and they will execute rightly and happily this divine office of pious and salutary governance, whence they are called gods in the Scriptures (Ps. 82:6).
And so such men are to be sought with utmost diligence from among the entire people. Whenever men of this kind are recommended by others, they must be investigated and examined most strictly in order to determine whether they are such; here care must be taken not to impose moderators on the people of God other than those who truly desire to show themselves faithful and salutary ministers of God, both for the deterrence and suppression of all impiety, wickedness, and injustice, and for the conservation, promotion, and stimulation of every desire for piety, frugality, and justice.
In this examination, it must be diligently investigated how each has lived from childhood, and whether he has approved himself before all good men through his entire life in his desire for and pursuit of those virtues which I have mentioned from the law of God. Plato thinks that also knowledge of the virtue and holiness of the parents is required.60 For although God calls very many to himself at the ninth and the eleventh hour (cf. Matt. 21:5-6, and sometimes those whom he has brought late to his Kingdom adorn themselves with more virtue than many whom he has brought early), nevertheless it suits men in every choice of magistrates to follow the rule of the Holy Spirit, and to designate and promote to the divine office of governing the commonwealth those especially who are not guilty of any crimes and are commended for all piety and justice by the constant and frequent testimony of good men, so as not to invite for the commonwealth the danger of imposing rulers on it who only seem to be good and wise men. Those who really are good and approved will enjoy more trust and authority among the people.
From these things one can readily see how far there must be driven from the comonwealth that stain of infamy and deadly corruption which has invaded some monarchies, namely, that prefectures and other governmental offices are assigned for carnal favor and a price, and sometimes a number of them to one person.
Some, once they have been appointed to these duties, are even allowed to obtain whatever substitutes they wish for the administration of their responsibilites, not people who are more suitable for the duties delegated to them, but persons who are relatives of theirs or who pay more to be such substitutes or who return to them the greater part of the salary appointed for these offices. For by this license of greed and invitation to avarice it comes about that, because the magistracies are held for a profit, they are most corruptly administered. Indeed, everyone is anxious to get back what he has spent on the magistracies, with interest.
Aware of this, the emperor Justinian decided to require an oath of those entering magistracies in which they would swear that they had spent nothing for the magistracy and had promised nothing to anyone for any patronage or franchise, and that they had not given and would not give anything for a recommendation made to the ruler and that they had promised and contracted nothing, and that they had received the magistracy gratis, so they would administer it purely, gratuitously, and in good faith toward their subjects, content with the ordinary stipend from public funds. The law of the emperors Theodosius and Valentinian may also be considered, which is found in the Cod. Ad legem Iuliam repetundarum, with this formula for the oath, which has been placed in the ninth section among the Authenticae of the emperor Justinian. What must be noted here is that those who undertook the magistracy had to swear “that they had kept and would keep the communion of the most holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of God, and that they would not in any way at any time oppose it, or permit anyone to do so, insofar as they were able.”
And so Your Majesty will also be on guard, in accordance with the law of God and the examples of all pious and wise princes: first, not to give any public office to anyone or let it be conferred to him by a subordinate, unless his piety, prudence and virtue, and political knowledge have been investigated and ascertained so that there is no doubt that he can and will do his duty to the commonwealth in a wholesome way, i.e., for the honor of the glory of God and for the increase of the people’s welfare. For those who do not seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness are slaves of Satan, and they will only show themselves to be pests who are the more harmful to the republic the more ample the power is they obtain in it. And those who are not equipped by God with a gift and ability for governing, although they can show themselves good and reputable private citizens, cannot assume the task of being good rulers over others.
Next, Your Majesty will take care that just as he confers all offices of public government gratuitously and for the favor and consideration of nothing else than furthering the glory of God through the good administration of these offices for the well-being of God’s people, so also should all his princes and superior prefects observe the same sanctity, integrity, and responsibility in selecting and appointing magistrates, deferring in no way at all to carnal favor or the intercession of powerful people, and least of all for a price or a personal favor.
For these offices are not the gifts of men which can rightly be donated to private persons according to the will and desire of the giver, but they are divinely assigned responsibilities which should be given only to those who can be expected to fulfill them for the sanctifying of God’s name and the obtaining of the salvation and happiness of God’s people. The cost of this constant observance of sanctity in the selection and acceptance of magistrates will be the establishment of very heavy penalties for those who have been apprehended paying something to anyone for the sake of a magistracy or who in receiving it have given or promised to give anything or who have received or contracted to receive anything from anyone.
Nor are two magistracies to be conferred on anyone however well-prepared he is for governing the commonwealth, since each magistracy requires so much care and work that it is most rare for any one single person to be able to satisfy all its demands. Much less is it to be conceded to anyone that he should obtain a replacement for any public office and, least of all, that anyone should receive a part of the salary of any magistracy who has not personally administered and fulfilled that magistracy in good faith. For any of these indulgences cause the magistracy to be carried out less reverently, less faithfully, and less wholesomely for the commonwealth.
There will also have to be an end put to those useless and harmful abuses of expenditures which in most places those entering the public office are compelled to make and which must be made at some other times while they are administering the office. For by this abuse, men who are very well fitted for this office are often kept from magistracies because they are not able to bear expenses of this kind on account of the modesty of their estates; then, too, God is gravely offended and he denies his blessing to the exercise of government when such divine responsibilities as these are not undertaken and performed with a responsible invocation of his name and with the exclusion of all luxury and pomp unworthy of Christians.
Then Your Majesty will also take measures to see that as each has received his magistracy entirely gratis, so he will also administer it gratuitously, sincerely, and in very good faith, and consider it criminal (and Your Majesty will provide very severe penalties for this crime) to accept any gift from anyone subject to him. For although the giving and receiving of gifts are a function of charity if they are given for a truly holy charitable purpose, nevertheless, since the weakness of human nature is such that even wise and outstandingly just men are easily corrupted by gifts and led away from truth and justice, it has seemed good to God, who alone is wise and truly loves men, that every single taking of bribes and acceptance of gifts should be utterly forbidden to those who exercise government and preside at trials.
For this is the command of Ex. 23:8 and Deut. 16:19: “Do not accept a bribe; for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise, and perverts just verdicts.” Behold God, who alone knows what is in man (John 2:25), pronounces that bribes blind even wise men, men of good vision, men who are attentive and perspicacious in detecting and clearly seeing the good, the true, and the just; they pervert the speech and the verdicts of men who otherwise love and pursue justice. Therefore, Your Majesty will take the precaution of strictest law that no one of those whom Your Majesty entrusts with the administration of judgment and justice for his people should invite such great danger of blindness and iniquity to himself through the reception of gifts which immediately brings with it partiality and subverts all responsibility of legitimate and healthy government.
Furthermore, as “all the imagination and feeling of the human heart is prone to evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21), for impiety, wickedness, and iniquity, on account of an innate ignorance of God and an unlimited desire 65 for power and honor and pleasures, by which men violate not only the rights of men but also the laws of God, desiring and attempting to get everything for themselves, so individual men, of whatever age they are, not to mention individual states, have constant need of very close watchfulness and very vigilant direction, no less than a ship which is perpetually tossed about in the middle of a stormy sea, as Plato has written.66 Therefore, no village or town should be left without its approved governors and overseers who discharge the responsibility of pious government assiduously and studiously. They must be very careful to watch that the ship of state receives no damage from the waves of luxury, impiety, and injustice, which Satan never ceases to stir up with the hidden power of his suggestions, nor from the winds and storms of the monstrous devices and madness by which he never fails to enforce his horrible slavery on men for the disturbance of all law, human and divine.
So that there may always be a remedy available for these evils, it has seemed good to our God, first, as has been said above, that every ten men should have their own magistrate; and five groups of ten one chief of fifty; two companies of fifty one centurion; ten divisions of one hundred one leader of a thousand; individual thousands a supreme chief and leader of every tribe; and all these a supreme judge and governor of all the people (cf. Deut. 1:15; Judg. 2:16). Then also, that individual cities and towns should have their judges and prefects: “You shall constitute,” he says, “judges and prefects for yourself in all your portions which the Lord your God has given you, according to your tribes, to judge,” i.e., govern, “the people” and to rule “with just judgment and governance” (Deut. 16:18). In order to observe this law as he should, David appointed the prefects for the people of God and the judges of the six thousand only from among the Levites, because they were learned in divine law (cf. I Chron. 23:4) . In this example it must be carefully observed that David appointed as many Levites governors and judges as he found to be learned and prudent above others in divine law. For this divine duty in particular is to be entrusted to wise and prudent men (Deut. 4:6).
And so the fourth chapter of the law for the regulation of government should be that no community at all, however small, should be without its overseer and moderator for a pious, frugal, and righteous life, and that in more densely populated areas there should be in charge of these inferior magistrates other moderators and overseers who, inasmuch as they exercise greater power and authority, should also be of more ample wisdom, sanctity, and equity; and for these there should be again others, so that there may be nothing unsupervised,67 not only among the people but also among the prefects and governors of the people, but so that everyone, a private person, as well as one appointed to public service, has his watchman, inspector, and observer who will urge him to do his duty if he should fail it in some manner or if he should sin in any way.
In order that this can be effected conveniently and realized successfully for usefulness to the commonwealth, Your Majesty himself will also visit the provinces of his realm at opportune times, after the example of pious and wise kings. He will investigate how they are being ruled and honor those who he learns have faithfully done their duty to the commonwealth; and he shall give attention to those whom he discovers to have conducted themselves otherwise, in order to engender a supreme concern for their duty in all his prefects and administrators of public affairs, that inasmuch as this work is most holy, it is carried on in good faith and in a holy way, as the office and government of God.
And since Your Majesty cannot personally make this inspection of the provinces too often, he will make sure that it is done through men fit for this task every year or at the most biannually. For Your Majesty can hardly be unaware that Christian government has fallen horribly in its responsibility.
But the Holy Spirit provides us with an illustrious example of this royal office in King Jehoshaphat, in regard of what Your Majesty can do personally for the inspection of the provinces as well as what he can do through delegates. In both respects he will exercise utmost care to bring it about that his subjects everywhere are taught the rights and law of God in very good faith, and that according to the same law they are zealously governed and judged by magistrates and judges who are pious, prudent, strong, and holy, as the law of God requires. Your Majesty should want to consider this example seriously and imitate it sedulously. And so, concerning the visitation of the kingdom which Your Majesty may do personally, we read in the story of King Jehoshaphat as follows:
“Jehoshaphat dwelt at Jerusalem; and he went out again among the people, from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and brought them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers. He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord; he is with you in giving judgment. Now, then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take heed what you do, for there is no perversion of justice with the Lord our God, or partiality, or taking bribes. Moreover, in Jerusalem Jehoshaphat appointed certain Levites and priests and heads of families in Israel, to give judgment for the Lord and decide disputed cases. They had their seat at Jerusalem. And he charged them: Thus you shall do in the fear of the Lord, in faithfulness, and with your whole heart: whenever a case comes to you from your brethren who live in the cities, concerning bloodshed, law or commandment, statutes or ordinances, then you shall instruct them that they may not incur guilt before the Lord and wrath may not come upon you and your brethren. Thus shall you do, and you will not incur guilt. And behold, Amariah the chief priest is over you in all matters of the Lord; and Zebadiah the son of Ishmael, the governor of the house of Judah, in all the king’s matters; and the Levites will serve you as officers. Deal courageously, and may the Lord be with the upright” (II Chron. 19:4-11).
In this illustrious and truly regal example Your Majesty will observe these things: First, that it is written that King Jehoshaphat again set out to visit the people of his realm. Hence one must understand that he had previously granted to his subjects this benefit of inspection, and had judged it to be required as necessary of a pious king. Secondly, that this pious king visited all the people of his kingdom from Beersheba, at one end of his realm, to Mount Ephraim at the other end. Further, that in this inspection of his subjects he was primarily concerned about the restoration of religion, for he led them back to the Lord their God. This inspection, therefore, was not idle and useless, but a pious king brought it about that the true worship of God was received by all both publicly and privately, with no one now daring to contravene it in word or in deed. And so if anyone did not do this with a sincere heart but as a pretense, he was harmful to himself only and not also others. This king realized that he could never relax in his earnest efforts for the salvation of men and the renewal of religion.
It must further be considered that this king appointed throughout all the cities of his realm judges, i.e., governors, not only in order to punish crimes but also in order to prevent them. And individual cities had a certain number of villages connected with them, which also had their justices, according to the law of the Lord of Ex. 18:26 and Deut. 16:18. Further, he earnestly admonished the judges appointed by him to be mindful that they were rendering judgment for the Lord, not for men, and that the Lord was with them in every judgment, according to the words of the Ps. 82:1: “God stands in the assembly of the gods, and acts as a judge among the gods.” From this admonition of King Jehoshaphat, one can readily understand that he set up as judges and governors for his people the kind of men about whose piety and reverence and fear of God there was no doubt.
It must also be observed that he furthermore constituted a supreme tribunal at Jerusalem, both from among the priests and the Levites, on account of their knowledge of divine law and concern for religion, in which it befitted them to excel the others, and also from among the fathers of the entire people, men outstanding in wisdom, justice, sanctity, and authority, in order that this supreme tribunal would be administered with a more ample and definite responsibility, and with authority and power more agreeable to all the people and deserving their reverence.
Nor should one fail to ponder most reverently what this king said to his prefects and judges: “Instruct them not to incur guilt before the Lord, that wrath may not come upon you and your brethren” (II Chron. 19:10). For the entire people is responsible for sins which are of public connivance; God has shown this sufficiently when he struck down the whole people because of the theft of Achan alone, (cf. Josh. 7:1) and also because of the preposterous indulgence of the priest Eli toward his sons, who were committing such horrible crimes (cf. I Sam. 4:4, 11-18).
Finally, it must be considered that he put a high priest in charge of the religious affairs, and a powerful prince in charge of the royal concerns of the realm; for these affairs require different knowledge and care, and hence also different ministers. And each responsibility
demands more than the whole man.
Now, let us examine an example of an inspection which thisking made through suitable delegates. We read about this in the same book, in the seventeenth chapter:
“In the third year of his reign he sent his princes, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah; and with them the Levites, Shemaiah, Nethaniah, Zebadiah, Asahel, Shemiramoth, Jehonathan, Adonijah, Tobijah and Tobadonijah; and with these Levites, the priests Elishama and Jehoram. And they taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the Lord with them; they went about through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. And the fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, and they made no war against Jehosaphat. Some of the Philistines brought Jehoshaphat presents and silver for tribute; and the Arabs also brought him flocks of sheep, seven thousand seven hundred rams and seven thousand seven hundred he-goats. And Jehoshaphat grew steadily greater in power,” etc. (II Chron. 17:7-12).
In this story it must be noticed, in the first place, how promptly King Jehoshaphat, in the third year of his reign, put his mind to restoring a pure and holy administration of religion and government for his people, and what great success this effort had for himself and his entire kingdom.
Next, it must be observed what an illustrious delegation of princes, Levites, and priests this king sent out for the first inspection of his realm. Then, because he did not wish to effect the reformation either of religion or of public government by edicts alone and by the removal of the implements of impiety, he first provided a careful indoctrination derived from the book of the Law, which he took care to have administered to his people as faithfully as possible through his delegates who were outstanding men of every estate of the realm, and this not only throughout all the provinces and districts of his kingdom but also in each of the cities; and in order to emphasize the certainty and purity of this teaching, he ordered the delegates to carry the book of the Law around with them.
From all this Your Majesty will now easily see how it is a truly royal task, singularly wholesome both to himself and to his realm, to provide for his people everywhere as their magistrates, overseers, and governors men who are pious, prudent, just, of heroic spirit, and utterly alien to all avarice and depravity. He will also arrange to visit and inspect them both personally and through delegates suited for this, men gifted with piety, wisdom, and justice, and a salutary constancy and gravity of spirit who on account of this possess authority, so that he is constantly kept informed how his people are being ruled and governed, and that each magistrate is doing his duty and seeks to correct whatever vice has crept in, whether in regard to religion or another department of the state. And he will take special measures against those officials who are caught in having failed to do their duty either by laxity of law enforcement or by conspiring in crimes, or by striking and despoiling their subjects, or by contaminating the administration of their high office by any base gain.
In order to become informed about such evils in time and in order to punish them with the severity they deserve, it will be very useful to Your Majesty to pass a law for his magistrates such as many ancient states had most wisely instituted for themselves, Athens and others, namely, that all those who have served in a public office should render a public account of their services and actions at stipulated times, whether they are discharged from their office or whether they are still performing it; they must make themselves available and let themselves be accused by all who think they have anything against them, with the herald crying: “Does anyone want to bring a charge?”
If Your Majesty decrees, observes, and enforces these things about the appointment, approbation, visitation, correction, investigation, and (in case anyone is discovered to have failed in his duty) punishment of his magistrates, the Lord will add an increase of his Spirit and efficacy, so that Your Majesty will always find such officials to appoint, through whom he may obtain and preserve for his subjects all those things which are necessary for a pious government and salutary custody. Then his people and citizens will be instructed from childhood through a prudent and faithful education, through excellent laws, and through a constant teaching and strict enforcement of the laws. They will become accustomed to and be impelled toward the true worship of God, a purity of life in every way, toward all charity, toward humaneness and kindness to fellow citizens as well as foreigners, toward application to honorable skills and a salutary industry. Then, in view of the fact that idleness will have been outlawed, everyone will learn these skills in time and carry them out and faithfully and steadily fulfill the duties of life, whatever the skill and lifework may be for which every individual has been made by God and to which he has been assigned by the rulers of the commonwealth. Then every person will not only conduct himself and his household honestly, without any aggrievance of the Church, the state, or even private persons, but he will also be able to help and greatly enrich the commonwealth both personally and through his household, by raising up for it good and wholesome citizens, and by contributing to the public good; whence public expenses can be generously sustained, and it will be possible to provide for the needy, not only among the citizens but also among foreigners, what they need in order to live uprightly and in a manner that is useful to the commonwealth.
For everyone would readily acknowledge that unless these foundations necessary for a good and virtuous Christian life are laid, fixed, and made very solid in the hearts of citizens from childhood on through careful, persistent, and holy education and instruction, a future downfall cannot be avoided, whatever good morals you may afterward try to build up through good laws and strictness of the courts; nor are there effective remedies against deeply ingrained vices that stem from protractedly corrupt morals, however strict the watch and sedulous the correction, any more than physicians can heal bodies weakened through long intemperance, however much salutary medicine they administer to them with utmost care.
Therefore, Your Majesty must with great care, persistence, and solicitude make provision that once the laws and all pious human life have been diligently purged and ordered, he appoints by these very laws men gifted with piety, wisdom, and every virtue, and aflame with every zeal and love for the commonwealth, in order that they may rule in all his villages, towns, cities, and counties as teachers, counselors, overseers, inspectors, and protectors; and with utmost vigilance and severity Your Majesty will safeguard and preserve the diligence and responsibility of these men in the performance of their duty through timely inspections and corrections and by demanding at the proper time from each an account of services rendered.
The actions of these officials, with a blessing on their work by our God and heavenly Father, will implant in Your Majesty’s citizens from childhood on a feeling of shame and horror toward all impiety, wickedness, injustice, and detestable idleness, and such an ardent zeal for all piety, frugality, justice, and salutary industry that the judges, whose role it is to correct by punishment whatever offends against the laws and good behavior, will have little work to do.
And since the Lord cannot fail to add all the true advantages of this life to those who seek first his Kingdom and its righteousness (Matt. 6:33), there will undoubtedly be a superabundance of all the things that one can desire in this life. For God will also grant that the actions of good officials will preserve for them most equitably all his blessings, providing to them all things required for the use of this present life as they are exchanged and shared, and none will be permitted to seek his own gain at the disadvantage of others. Finally, this realm will be terrible to all enemies, when the Lord himself presides and reigns in it through such a holy administration of the commonwealth.