We are pleased to present an updated version of John Knox's letter, The Appellation (The Lesser Magistrates), in updated, modern English. You can access a free preview below. If you'd like to support our work, please consider purchasing a physical copy on Amazon or browsing other updated books.

Book Summary

The Appellation refers to a document written by John Knox, a Scottish Protestant reformer, in 1558. In this text, Knox addresses the nobility and estates of Scotland, urging them to support the Reformation and resist the authority of the Catholic Church.

What is the Doctrine of Lesser Magistrates?

The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates is a Biblical doctrine that asserts the right and duty of lower-ranking government officials or authorities (lesser magistrates) to resist, oppose, or even defy unlawful or tyrannical actions by higher-ranking authorities. This doctrine says that when higher authorities act outside the bounds of their legitimate powers or violate fundamental principles, lower authorities have a moral obligation to interpose and protect the rights and liberties of the people.

The concept is rooted in historical and theological perspectives. It has been invoked in various historical and political contexts as a justification for resistance against unjust and tyrannical rulers.

The Lesser Magistrates

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The Appellation

The appeal of John Knox

From the harsh and unjust verdict

given against him by the

fraudulent bishops and clergy of Scotland,

along with his plea and encouragement

to the nobility, estates,

and community

of the same realm.

Printed in Geneva, 1558.

To the esteemed nobility and citizens of Scotland, I, John Knox, wish you grace, mercy, and peace from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, along with the spirit of righteous judgment.

It's not just the love of this earthly life, nor the fear of physical death, that compels me to share with you the wrongs done against me and to seek your help, as lawful authorities appointed by God, in addressing these wrongs. Part of my motivation comes from the respect every person owes to God's eternal truth, and part from the love I bear for your salvation and the salvation of my brethren in Scotland who have been misled by those who lack the fear of God. God, in his infinite mercy, has not only enlightened my mind and touched my heart so that I clearly see and sincerely believe that there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved except Jesus alone (Acts 4:12). He, through the sacrifice he once offered on the cross, has forever sanctified those who will inherit the promised kingdom (Heb. 10:12-13). But God has also, in his abundant grace, made me, the most wretched among thousands, a witness, minister, and preacher of this doctrine. I did not hesitate to share the essence of this doctrine with my brethren in Scotland in 1556, because I know I am a steward (1 Cor. 3) and will be held accountable for the talent entrusted to me by God, who will not accept any vain excuses that fearful men might offer (Matt. 25). 

Therefore, during the time I was with them (God is my witness), I faithfully and sincerely divided the word of salvation according to the gift granted to me. I taught all men to hate sin, which is so odious to God that only the death of his only son could satisfy his justice, and to magnify the great mercies of our heavenly Father, who did not spare his own glory but gave him to the world to suffer the ignominious and cruel death of the cross, thereby reconciling his chosen children to himself (John 3:16-17; Rom. 5, 8; 2 Cor. 5:18-19). Furthermore, I taught what the duty of those who believe themselves cleansed by such a price from their former filthiness is. Namely, they are bound to walk in the newness of life, fighting against the lusts of the flesh and striving at all times to glorify God by such good works as he has prepared his children to walk in (Rom. 6, Eph. 4-5; Eph. 2:10).

In my teachings, I've always affirmed, as taught by my master Jesus Christ, that anyone who denies Him or is ashamed of Him in front of this wicked generation, will be denied by Christ Jesus Himself. He will be ashamed of them when He appears in His majesty (Matt. 10:33). That's why I've never hesitated to assert that it's absolutely necessary for those who hope for eternal life to avoid all superstition, empty religious practices, and idolatry. By empty religious practices and idolatry, I mean anything that's done in God's service or honor without the explicit command from His own word.

I believed this doctrine to be so in line with God's holy scriptures that I thought no one could be audacious enough to condemn any part of it. Yet, your false bishops and ungodly clergy have condemned me as a heretic and this doctrine as heretical, pronouncing a death sentence against me. To prove this, they've even burned a picture of me. I want to make it clear to your honors that I reject this false and cruel sentence, and all judgments from that wicked generation. I'm appealing to a lawful and general council, one that follows the most ancient laws and canons, and is held by those whose blatant impiety can't be reformed within it. I humbly ask your honors, as God has appointed you as princes over these people, to defend the innocent who are troubled in your dominion. Until the religious controversies of today are lawfully decided, I ask that you protect and defend me and others who are unjustly persecuted by these cruel beasts.

Honorable judges, I'm sure you're aware that it's not just me standing against the harmful influence of the Papists. Most of Germany, Switzerland, the King of Denmark, the nobility of Poland, along with many other cities and reformed churches, are also resisting the tyranny of the Antichrist. We're all calling for a legitimate and general council where all religious controversies can be settled by the authority of God's sacred word. I'm appealing to this council once again, asking you to consider my straightforward appeal as valuable and effective as if it were made with more pomp and ceremony. I'm asking you to protect me, as God-ordained powers, against the fury of tyrants. I'm not asking you to support me in any wrongdoing, mistake, or false belief, but to grant me the fairness that God, through his word, ancient laws, and the decisions of the most godly councils, provides to those accused or defamed.

God's word insists that no man should die unless he is proven guilty and deserving of death for his committed offenses. This guilt must be clearly established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Deut. 17:6-7). Ancient laws allow for just defenses for those accused, no matter how terrible their crimes may be. Moreover, godly advice dictates that neither a bishop nor any other ecclesiastical person accused of any crime should participate in judgment, consultation, or council where the case of their accusers is being tried.

I'm asking for a few things from you, esteemed individuals. Firstly, I want the doctrine that our opponents condemn as heresy to be examined in the light of the simple and clear word of God. Secondly, I want us, who are fighting against this destructive generation of Antichrist, to be allowed to defend ourselves. Lastly, I want those who are judging us to be removed from their positions, because our accusations are not against any one person, but against the entire kingdom that we are confident we can prove is a power that has been usurped against God, against His commandments, and against the order established by Christ Jesus in His Church through His chief Apostles. In fact, we are confident that we can prove that the Pope's kingdom is the kingdom and power of the Antichrist. Therefore, my lords, I cannot stop asking you, in the name of Christ Jesus, to examine this matter. I ask that you, the authorities of this realm, force those who call themselves bishops to not only stop their cruel persecution of those who are striving to glorify God by exposing the damnable impiety of the man of sin, the Roman Antichrist, but also to answer for the crimes they will be charged with for not properly guiding the flock entrusted to their care.

I'm aware that there are two things here that might raise some eyebrows. First off, you might question whether my appeal is legitimate and should be accepted, given that I've been labeled a heretic. Secondly, you might wonder if you're obligated to defend someone like me, who's asking for your support. Especially considering that your bishops, who claim all authority in religious matters, have already passed their judgment on me. I have no doubt that I can clearly prove two things. First, that my appeal is completely lawful and just. And second, that if you, honorable ones, refuse to defend me when I'm calling for your help, you would be showing yourselves as rebels against God, supporters of murderers, and spillers of innocent blood.

I have a valid reason, according to civil law (as for their canon, it's condemned by God), to appeal against their unjust sentence. I don't plan on going into a lengthy discussion about this. I'll just touch on the points that everyone agrees are valid reasons for an appeal. 

Firstly, they couldn't legally summon me at that time because I was outside their jurisdiction, busy preaching the Gospel of Christ in a free city that isn't subject to their tyranny.

Secondly, no one gave me a heads up about their summons. Their suspected malice was so secretive that when I asked for a copy of the summons, they flat out denied it.

Thirdly, I couldn't have had any free or safe access to the kingdom of Scotland, as I was previously exiled from it due to their unjust tyranny. 

Lastly, they could not and cannot be fair and impartial judges towards me. This is because, before any summons were raised against me, I had already accused them through my letters published to the Queen Dowager. I had charged them with all sorts of crimes, even offering myself at the risk of my life to prove these accusations. For these reasons, they are not only unworthy of ecclesiastical authority, but also of any tolerance within a commonwealth professing Christ. My accusation preceded their summons. Therefore, neither by God's law nor by man's law can they be competent judges to me until I am granted a place to openly prove my accusation against them, and they are compelled to respond as criminals. I will clearly prove that not only bishops, but also Popes have been removed from all authority and judgment until they have cleared themselves of accusations laid against them. Moreover, I will prove that bishops and Popes have been justly stripped of all honors and administration for lesser crimes than I have charged against the whole lot of your bishops.

But since this isn't my main point, I'm okay with just demonstrating for now that it's completely lawful for God's prophets and preachers of Jesus Christ to appeal from the judgment of the visible church to the knowledge of the temporal magistrate. This magistrate, according to God's law, is obligated to hear their cases and protect them from tyranny.

The prophet Jeremiah (Jer 26) was instructed by God to stand in the courtyard of the Lord's house and deliver this sermon, essentially saying that Jerusalem would be destroyed and exposed to ridicule by all nations of the earth. He also warned that the renowned temple of God would be left desolate, just like Shiloh, because the priests, the prophets, and the people were not following the Law that God had set before them. Despite the voices of the prophets whom God sent to call them to repentance, they refused to obey.

Jeremiah was arrested for this sermon and a death sentence was pronounced against him. This was done by the priests, the prophets, and the people. When the princes of Judah heard about this, they left the king's house and went to the Lord's temple to understand the situation better. However, the priests and prophets stuck to their harsh sentence, saying, "This man deserves to die. He has prophesied against this city, as you have heard." (Jer. 26:11) But Jeremiah, moved by the Holy Spirit, began his defense against their tyrannical sentence. He said, "The Lord has sent me to prophesy against this house and this city, all the words you have heard. So now, correct your ways and listen to the voice of the Lord your God. Then he will repent of the evil he has spoken against you. As for me, I am in your hands” (Jer. 26:12-15) (he said this to the princes), “do to me as you think is good and right. However, know this for certain, if you murder me, you will make yourselves, this city, and its inhabitants guilty of shedding innocent blood. For truly, the Lord has sent me to speak all these words in your ears."

The text tells us that the leaders and the people said, "This man doesn't deserve to die, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God." (Jer. 26:16-19) After some debate, the Prophet was saved from this danger. This story clearly supports what I've been saying. It shows that it's perfectly acceptable for God's servants to seek the help of civil authorities against an unjust death sentence, no matter who pronounces it. It also shows that civil authorities have the power to curb the fury of priests and absolve those they have condemned. The Prophet of God was condemned by those who were known to be the visible church on earth at the time, namely the priests and prophets in Jerusalem. These were the successors of Aaron, who were given the task of speaking to the people in God's name. The people were commanded to listen to the law from their mouths, and anyone who rebelled or disobeyed was to be put to death without mercy. (Deut. 17:8-13) 

These men, authorized by God, first excommunicated Jeremiah because he preached differently than the majority of prophets in Jerusalem. They then arrested him, as you've heard, and pronounced a death sentence against him. But the Prophet appealed against this sentence, seeking help and defense against it. He pleaded earnestly with the leaders, saying, "I am in your hands, do with me as you think is right." He wasn't disregarding his life, but rather, he was strongly urging the leaders and rulers to understand what God would require of them. 

He was saying, "You leaders of Judah and rulers of the people, it's your job to judge fairly between parties, to justify the just man and condemn the wrongdoer (Deut. 17, Jer. 1, Deut. 1, 10). You've heard a death sentence pronounced against me by those who should speak no deceit, because they are sanctified and appointed by God himself to speak his law and pronounce judgment with equity. But they have abandoned the living God and taught the people to follow vanity. They have become mortal enemies to all God's true servants, of whom I am one, rebuking their iniquity, apostasy, and defection from God, which is the only reason they seek my life. It's completely contrary to all equity, law, and justice that I, a man sent by God to call them, this people, and you back to the true service of God, from which you have all strayed, should suffer death because my enemies pronounce such a sentence. I stand before you, whom God has made leaders. Your power is above their tyranny. I present my case before you. I am in your hands and cannot resist whatever you think is just. But lest my patience and lenity make you negligent in defending me in my just cause, or embolden my enemies in seeking my blood, I must not hide this one thing: If you murder me (which you do if you do not defend me), you make not only my enemies guilty of my blood, but also yourselves and this whole city."

From these words, it's clear that the Prophet of God, condemned to death by the priests and prophets of the visible Church, sought aid, support, and defense from the princes and temporal magistrates. He warned that his blood would be required at their hands if they did not defend him from the fury of his enemies. He also gave valid reasons for his appeal and why he should have been defended: he was sent by God to rebuke their vices and defection from God; he taught no doctrine that God had not already pronounced in his Law; he desired their conversion to God, continually calling upon them to walk in the ways that God had approved. Therefore, he boldly asked the princes, as God's lieutenants, to defend him from the blind rage and tyranny of the priests, despite their claim to authority to judge in all matters of religion. He did the same when he was thrown in prison and later brought before King Zedekiah. 

After defending his innocence, asserting that he had not offended the king, his servants, or the people, he finally pleaded with the king for his life, saying, “But now, my lord, the king, please pay attention. I beg you, let my prayer reach your presence. Please don't order me to be taken back to the house of Jonathan the scribe, so I don't die there” (Jer. 37:20).

The text clearly shows that the king ordered a change in the location of his imprisonment. This makes it obvious that the prophet sought help from the civil authorities more than once. Initially, the princes, and later the king, recognized that it was their duty to save him from the unjust sentence that had been pronounced against him. 

If anyone thinks that Jeremiah didn't actually appeal because he only pointed out the injustice done to him and merely asked for protection based on his innocence, let that person understand that I'm doing the same thing. I'm appealing against the false and cruel sentence that your bishops have pronounced against me. The only valid reason for an appeal is when innocence is harmed or suspected to be harmed, whether it's due to a judge's ignorance or the malice and corruption of those who, under the guise of justice, practice tyranny. If I were a thief, murderer, blasphemer, open adulterer, or any other offender whom God's word commands to suffer for a crime committed, my appeal would be pointless and should be rejected. But since I'm innocent, and the doctrine that your bishops have condemned in me is God's eternal truth, I have just as much right to ask for your protection against that cruelty as the Prophet Jeremiah had to seek the help of the princes and king of Judah. 

This will become even more evident in the case of Paul, who, after being arrested in Jerusalem, first claimed the rights of Roman citizens to avoid torture when the captain wanted to interrogate him (Acts 22-25). Later, in the council, where no fair judgment could be expected, he declared that he was a Pharisee and that he was being accused of the resurrection of the dead. Finally, in the presence of Festus, he appealed from all knowledge and judgment of the priests in Jerusalem to the Emperor. This last point is particularly relevant to my case, so I will discuss it a bit more.

After Paul had been accused several times, as clearly shown in the Acts of the Apostles, eventually the chief priests and their faction came to Caesarea with Festus, the president. They presented Paul for judgment, accusing him of terrible crimes. However, they couldn't prove these accusations. Paul defended himself by stating that he hadn't committed any offenses against the Law, the Temple, or even the Emperor.

But Festus, wanting to please the Jews, asked Paul, "Are you willing to go up to Jerusalem and be judged for these matters in my presence?" (Acts 25:9-11) However, Paul responded, "I stand before the Emperor's court, where I should be judged. I haven't done any harm to the Jews, as you well know. If I have done anything unjust or committed a crime deserving of death, I won't refuse to die. But if there's no truth to these accusations they're making against me, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar."

At first glance, it might seem like Paul did a great disservice to Festus the judge, and the entire priesthood, who expected more fairness from a cruel tyrant than from that entire learned assembly. No doubt, Festus understood this when he said, "Have you appealed to Caesar? You will go to Caesar." It's as if he was saying, "I, as a man who wants to understand the truth before I pass judgement, have asked you to go to Jerusalem, where the learned people of your own nation can hear your case and decide on it. The controversy is about religious matters. You're accused of being an apostate from the Law, a violator of the temple, and a transgressor of the traditions of your fathers. I'm ignorant in these matters and therefore, I want to be informed by those who are learned in this religion. Yet, you refuse to let these godly fathers hear your case and instead, you appeal to the Emperor, preferring him over all our judgements, probably just to buy time." 

So, it might seem like Paul not only did a disservice to the judge and the priests, but also that his case was highly suspicious. Partly because he rejected the judgement of those who were thought to have the most knowledge of God's will and religion, and partly because he appealed to the Emperor, who was far away in Rome, ignorant of God and an enemy to all virtue. But considering the nature of his enemies and what they had planned against him from the day he began to speak freely in the name of Christ, Paul wasn't afraid to appeal against them and the judge who wanted to please them. They had declared themselves enemies of Jesus Christ and his blessed Gospel, and had sought Paul's death, even through factions and treasonous conspiracy. So, he wouldn't let them judge his case or hear it as Festus wanted. Instead, he based his appeal on strong reasons, namely, that he hadn't offended the Jews or the Law, but was innocent, and therefore no judge should hand him over to his enemies. With these reasons, he didn't care about Festus' displeasure or the rumors of the ignorant crowd, but boldly appealed from all of them to the judgment of the Emperor. 

From these two examples, I hope you understand that it's lawful for God's servants, oppressed by tyranny, to seek remedy against it, either by appealing from their sentence or by seeking the help of civil magistrates. What God approved in Jeremiah and Paul, he can't condemn in anyone else who is similarly treated. 

I could cite some examples from the early church, relevant to this matter: like Ambrose and Athanasius. Ambrose refused to be judged anywhere but in Milan, where his teachings were known and accepted by many in his church. Athanasius, on the other hand, would not acknowledge those councils where he knew that those plotting against the truth would be judging and consulting. However, since the scriptures of God are my sole foundation and key source in all significant matters, I find the previous two examples enough. They serve both to justify my appeal as reasonable and just, and to show you, your honors, that in good conscience, you cannot deny accepting it.

If anyone thinks it's arrogant or foolish of me to compare myself with Jeremiah and Paul, let them understand that as God is unchanging, so is the truth of his glorious Gospel, whenever it is attacked, no matter how weak the suffering members are. As for my own person, God will reveal what I think when the secrets of all hearts are disclosed. Those who know me can partly testify to the arrogance or pride they see in me. 

But as for the doctrine and cause that the adulterous and pestilent generation of Antichrist's servants (who want to be called Bishops among you) have condemned in me, I neither fear nor am ashamed to confess and avow before men and angels to be the eternal truth of the eternal God. In that case, I don't hesitate to compare myself with any member in whom the truth has been attacked since the beginning. For it was the truth that Jeremiah preached in these words,

“The priests haven't recognized me” says the Lord, “but the pastors have deceitfully turned away and fallen back from me. The prophets have prophesied in Baal, and have pursued those things that can't provide any help.” (Jer. 1-2) My people have abandoned the fountain of living waters, and have dug for themselves pits that can't hold any water. It's a fact that in the days of Isaiah, pastors and watchmen (in the days of Isaiah 56:10-12) had become ignorant, proud, greedy, and blind. And just as it was true that the princes and priests were responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ and the persecution of his apostles (Acts 3-4), it's also true that those who have condemned me - the entire papal clergy - have strayed from the true faith. They've listened to deceitful spirits and devilish doctrines, they've fallen from grace, and they've become enemies of Jesus Christ, denying his power and blaspheming his death and suffering (1 Tim. 4:1-7; Jude 4-19; 2 Pet. 3).

Just as the visible church of that time had no real crime to accuse the prophets or apostles of, except for their teachings, those who seek my blood have no other crime to accuse me of, except for my belief. I've always maintained, and am ready to prove, that the religion currently enforced by fire and sword is as far from the true religion taught by the apostles as darkness is from light, or the devil is from God. Those who now claim to be the church are no more the chosen bride of Christ than the synagogue of the Jews was the true church of God when they crucified Jesus, condemned his teachings, and persecuted his apostles. Therefore, since my fight is against the proud and cruel hypocrites of this age, just as the fight of those great instruments was against the false prophets and corrupt church of their time, no one should find it strange that I compare myself to them. I'm fighting the same fight, and you, my lords, should feel no less obligated to support me than the princes of Judah felt obligated to support Jeremiah, whom they saved from the death sentence pronounced by the visible church. 

I implore you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to not dismiss my appeal as pointless or vain, but to accept it and offer me your protection so that I can return to my homeland, which I've never wronged. I want to openly confess my beliefs in front of the entire realm and compel those who have long deceived both you and the people to answer for their actions. But in case there's any doubt about whether I'm asking too much of you, I hope to prove that my request is something you cannot deny without incurring God's wrath. I'm asking you, as leaders of your community, to strive to glorify God, ensure your subjects are properly instructed in his true religion, protect them from oppression and tyranny, support true teachers, and punish those who deceive the people and those who exploit and oppress the flock, as God's law prescribes. Your titles and the benefits you receive, God's universal law, and the examples of the most godly princes all bind and oblige you to fulfill these duties. 

My aim isn't to extensively argue that your primary focus should be to enhance God's glory, nor will I elaborate on all the reasons proving that you aren't raised to rule over your peers as carefree individuals. These concepts are so ingrained in nature that even pagans have acknowledged them. Since God alone has placed you in positions of authority, made you His representatives, and designated you as magistrates to govern your peers - whom nature has made equal to you in aspects like conception, birth, life, and death - it would be terribly ungrateful if you were to be unfaithful to Him who has so honored you. You are like everyone else in these human aspects, but it is God who has elevated you, granting you the privilege to be called "gods” (Ps. 82:2, 6).

So, wouldn't it be a terrible act of ingratitude if you were found to be unfaithful to Him who has honored you so? And wouldn't it be monstrous if you were proven to be unmerciful to those over whom you're appointed to rule, like parents over their children? Even non-believers have agreed that the primary responsibility of rulers and those in authority should be to glorify their gods and uphold their religion, which they believed to be true. Their secondary duty was to protect and defend their subjects with fairness and justice. I won't go into detail about what your focus should be in maintaining God's true honor. I don't want to give the impression that you should be less concerned about God's true religion than non-believers were about their idolatry. But because other requests might seem more difficult to grant, I'll briefly but candidly discuss what God's word assures me is true. Firstly, you're morally obligated to punish wrongdoers and protect the innocent who seek your help. Secondly, God expects you to ensure that your subjects are properly educated in his true religion, and that you reform it whenever it's corrupted by Satan's malice or human negligence. Lastly, you're obligated to remove from honor and punish with death (if the crime warrants it) those who deceive the people or deprive them of their spiritual nourishment, which is God's living word. 

The first and second points are clearly stated in the words of St. Paul when he speaks of lawful powers. The message here is clear: “every soul should submit themselves to higher powers, for all power comes from God. The powers that exist have been ordained by God. Therefore, anyone who resists these powers is essentially resisting God's ordinance. Those who resist will bring damnation upon themselves.Rulers are not to be feared by those who do good, but by those who do evil. So, do you want to live without fear of the powers that be? Then do good, and you will be praised for it. The ruler is God's servant, working for your well-being. However, if you choose to do evil, be afraid. The ruler doesn't wield the sword for no reason. He is God's servant, assigned to exact vengeance on those who do evil” (Rom. 13:1-4).

The Apostle strongly commands obedience to lawful powers in these words, declaring God's wrath and vengeance against those who resist God's ordinance. He also outlines the duties of these powers: to punish wrongdoers, support those who do good, and govern in such a way that their subjects benefit and are praised for doing well. Now, if you are powers ordained by God (which I believe everyone will agree), then according to the Apostle's clear words, God has given you the sword to protect the innocent and punish criminals. However, my colleagues and I, who stand accused, are not only ready to prove our innocence in all matters brought against us, but we also offer clear evidence that your Bishops are the real plague, having infected all of Christianity. Therefore, based on the Apostle's teachings, you are obligated to support us and punish those who are clearly convicted and proven guilty. 

Furthermore, the Apostle's earlier words teach us how much the high powers owe to their subjects. Namely, because they are God's ministers, ordained by Him for the benefit and utility of others, they should focus on this duty with utmost diligence. This is why the Holy Ghost commands subjects to obey and pay tribute, saying, So, “for this you're paying tribute and toll?” (Rom. 13:6) That's because they are God's ministers, carrying the sword for your benefit. It's clear that there's no honor without a responsibility attached. I really want you to deeply consider this: God hasn't placed you above your peers to rule as tyrants without considering their welfare and prosperity. You hear the Holy Ghost testifying the opposite, affirming that all lawful powers are God's ministers ordained for the wealth, profit, and salvation of their subjects, not for their destruction. Could you say, I beg you, that magistrates who trap their subjects in a city without any food, or give them only poisoned food, are ruling for the benefit of their subjects? I trust that no one would be so foolish as to claim that. Instead, any sensible person would boldly state that those who do such things are tyrants, unworthy of any rule. If we don't deny what Jesus Christ affirms as an undeniable truth, namely, that the soul is greater and more precious than the body, then we can easily see how unworthy of authority are those who today prevent their subjects from hearing God's word, and by fire and sword force them to feed on the very poison of their souls, the damnable doctrine of Antichrist. 

So, in this point, I can't stop urging you to diligently watch over your responsibilities, which are greater than most people think. It's not enough for you to refrain from violent wrong and oppression, which ungodly men exercise against their subjects. You are further bound to rule over them for their welfare. You can't do this if you either neglect to provide true pastors, or if you support those who are ravenous wolves, allowing their souls to starve and perish for lack of true food, which is the sincerely preached Gospel of Christ. It won't excuse you in His presence, who will require an account of every talent entrusted to you, to say that you thought the care of souls had been committed to your bishops. No, my Lords, you can't escape God's judgement that way. For if your bishops are proven to be no bishops, but deceptive thieves.I'm putting myself on the line here to assert that these ravenous wolves (and I'm ready to back this up with God's word, by law, and councils, and even by the judgment of all the godly learned from the early Church to this day) are more dangerous than you might think. If you continue to allow and defend them, you'll be seen as complicit in their theft and murder in the eyes of God. This is similar to the accusation that the Prophet Isaiah made against the leaders of Jerusalem. He says, "Your prices are apostates." That means they're stubbornly turning away from God, and “they're hanging out with thieves” (Isa. 1:23).

This serious accusation was made against them, even though they ruled in the city that was once called holy, where the temple, rites, and ordinances of God were. This was because they were not only wicked themselves, but primarily because they supported wicked men, their priests and false prophets, in positions of honor and authority. If they didn't escape this accusation from the Holy Spirit in that age, don't expect to escape the accusation or judgment pronounced against those who support wicked men. Both will drink from the cup of God's wrath and vengeance together (Jer. 23, 27, Ez. 13, Hos. 4). And don't deceive yourselves into thinking your bishops are virtuous and godly. I assert and am ready to prove that there have never been more wicked men than the entirety of your clergy, universally known in any age. Even Sodom and Gomorrah may be justified in comparison. They allowed righteous Lot to live among them without any harm to his body, which your corrupt generation does not. Instead, they cruelly persecute by fire and sword the true members of Christ's body for no other reason than their true service and honoring of God.

Therefore, I'm not afraid to assert what God will one day justify: that by your offices, you are obligated not only to suppress their tyranny but also to punish them as thieves and murderers, as idolaters and blasphemers of God. In their place, you are bound to install true preachers of Christ's Gospel for the instruction, comfort, and salvation of your subjects. Otherwise, the Holy Spirit will never acknowledge that you rule in justice for their benefit. If you claim to possess the kingdom with Jesus Christ, you can't follow the example of the ignorant multitude of princes or the ungodly and cruel rulers of the earth. Some of them spend their time in laziness, insolence, and debauchery without regard for God's honor or the salvation of their brethren. Others oppress with proud Nimrod those who are subject to them. But your model and example must be the practice of those whom God has approved by the testimony of his word, as will be explained later.

It's clear that lawful powers are given the authority to punish wrongdoers, protect the innocent, and work for the benefit and well-being of their subjects. Now, let's think about whether the reformation of a deteriorating religion and the punishment of false teachers fall under the jurisdiction of civil authorities and the nobility of any realm. I'm well aware that Satan, in his quest to maintain his darkness, has managed to convince the blind world of two main points. First, he has persuaded princes, rulers, and magistrates that the responsibility of tending to Christ's flock doesn't fall on their shoulders, but rather on the bishops and the ecclesiastical estate. Secondly, he has convinced them that the reformation of religion, no matter how corrupt, and the punishment of those who are sworn soldiers in their kingdom, are exempt from all civil power and are reserved for themselves and their own judgment. However, it's clear that no offender can justly be exempt from punishment, and that the organization and reformation of religion, along with the instruction of subjects, particularly fall under the jurisdiction of the civil magistrate. This is most evidently declared by God's perfect ordinance, his plain word, and the actions and examples of those who are highly praised by God.

When God established His Law, statutes, and ceremonies among the Israelites, He didn't exclude religious matters from Moses' authority. Just as He entrusted Moses with civil governance, He also gave him the responsibility for religious matters (Ex. 21, 24-25). This means that God first revealed His will to Moses, and then commanded him to implement whatever was to be taught or done in religious matters. 

God didn't reveal anything specifically to Aaron. Instead, Aaron was instructed to rely entirely on Moses' guidance. Aaron wasn't even allowed to perform any religious rites for himself or his children during their inauguration and sanctification into the priesthood. All of these responsibilities were entrusted to Moses: “You will set apart Aaron and his sons from the rest of the people of Israel, so they can perform the duties of the priesthood. You will make special garments for them, anoint them, wash them, and give them the sacrificial offerings to present" (Ex. 28).”

So, about every rite and ceremony that was to be performed, Moses was given specific instructions to carry them out. Now, if Aaron and his sons were so obedient to Moses that they did nothing without his command, who would dare to assert that the civil authority has no role in religious matters? Seeing that God strictly required even those who represented Christ to receive their sanctification and initiation into their roles from the civil authority, and considering that Moses was so highly esteemed above Aaron that the former commanded and the latter obeyed, who would dare to think that the civil authority is now so profane in God's eyes that it is excluded from all involvement with religious matters? The Holy Spirit, in various places, declares the opposite. One of the key commands given to a king, when he ascends his throne, is to write a copy of the Lord's law. This is so that he can have it with him at all times, to read and learn from every day of his life. The aim is for him to learn to fear and respect God, and to follow all the words of His law and His rules (Deut. 17:18-20). This command doesn't just require the king to fear God and follow His laws himself, but also to ensure that God's true religion is upheld by the people under his rule.

This was not only understood by David and Solomon, but also by some godly kings in Judah after the apostasy and idolatry that infected Israel through Jeroboam. These kings put their understanding into practice and used their power to bring about significant religious reforms. For example, Asa and Jehoshaphat, kings in Judah, found their religion to be completely corrupted. They dedicated themselves to serving the Lord and walking in His ways. The Holy Spirit tells us that Asa removed his mother (or some say grandmother) from a position of honor because she had committed and tried to maintain horrible idolatry (2 Chron 14, 17). Jehoshaphat not only rejected foreign gods himself, but also destroyed the main symbols of idolatry and sent out the Levites to teach the people. It's clear that both of these kings understood such reforms to be part of their duties.

The actions of Hezekiah and Josiah provide even clearer evidence of the power and duty of the civil magistrate in religious reformation. Before Hezekiah's reign, religion was so corrupt that the doors of the Lord's house were shut, the lamps were extinguished, and no sacrifices were made in an orderly manner. But in the first year and first month of his reign, Hezekiah opened the doors of the temple, brought in the priests and Levites, and gathered them together. He spoke to them, saying, "Listen to me, you Levites. Purify yourselves now and purify the house of the Lord, the God of your ancestors (1 Chron. 29). Remove all the defilement from the sanctuary. “Our ancestors were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord's dwelling place and turned their backs on him. That is why the Lord's wrath has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem. He has made them an object of dread, astonishment and scorn, as you can see with your own eyes. This is why our fathers have fallen by the sword and why our sons and daughters and our wives are in captivity. Now I intend to make a covenant with the Lord, the God of Israel, so that his fierce anger will turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense."

Anyone who isn't blind can clearly see that the king acknowledges that it's his responsibility to reform the religion, to assign the Levites to their duties, and to remind them of their roles and responsibilities. He makes this even clearer when he writes letters to all of Israel, to Ephraim and Manasseh, and sends them by the hands of messengers. Hey there, children of Israel, it's time to return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. If you do, He'll come back to those who are left from the hands of Assur. Don't be like your ancestors and your siblings who messed up against the Lord God of their fathers, which led to their downfall, as you can see. So, don't harden your hearts. Instead, reach out to the Lord, return to His sanctuary, and serve Him. If you do, He'll show mercy to you, your sons, and daughters who are in bondage. Because He's compassionate and easy to approach (2 Chron. 30:6-9).

So far, King Hezekiah has been using letters and messengers to urge the people, who have turned away from God, to repent. He's been doing this not only in Judah, where he is the rightful king, but also in Israel, which is under the rule of another king. Even though some wicked people mocked his messengers, they didn't escape their rightful punishment. In fact, within six years, Samaria was destroyed and Israel was taken captive by Shalmaneser. But none of this deterred the zealous King Hezekiah. He continued to do his duty in restoring the religion to God's perfect ordinance, removing all abominations.

The same can be said about Josiah, who not only revived the faith, but also destroyed all traces of idolatry that had been around for a long time (2 Chron. 34). It's written about him that after the book of the law was discovered and he had sought advice from the prophetess Hulda, he gathered all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. Standing in the Lord's temple, he made a covenant that everyone, from the greatest to the least, would follow the Lord, observe his law, statutes, and testimonies with all their heart and soul, and affirm everything written in the book of God. He also instructed Hilkiah, the high priest, and the lower-ranking priests to remove from the Lord's temple all the items that had been made for Baal. He burned these items and took their ashes to Bethel. He went on to destroy all the idols, even those that had been around since Solomon's time. He burned them, ground them into dust, and scattered some of it in the Kidron Valley and the rest on the graves of the idolaters, whose bones he burned on the altars where they had previously made sacrifices, not only in Judah but also in Bethel, where Jeroboam had set up his idols (2 Kings 23). He even went further and killed the priests of the high places who were idolaters and had misled the people. He killed them and burned their bones on their own altars before returning to Jerusalem. This was the reform Josiah made, and for this, he received this testimony from the Holy Spirit: there was no king before or after him who turned to God with all his heart and all his strength, according to the entire law of Moses.

It's clear from historical accounts that the reformation of religion in all aspects, along with the punishment of false teachers, falls under the jurisdiction of the civil authorities. Whatever God demanded of these authorities, His justice must demand of others who hold similar responsibilities and authority. What He approved in them, He cannot but approve in all others who, with the same zeal and sincerity, strive to cleanse the Lord's temple and sanctuary.  God required them to diligently observe His Law, statutes, and ceremonies. And how pleasing their actions were to God, He Himself bears witness (2 Chron. 32). To some, He granted remarkable victories without human intervention, and in their most desperate dangers, He showed His special favor towards them through supernatural signs. To others, He so established their kingdom that their enemies were forced to bow under their feet. And the names of all these individuals He has recorded not only in the book of life, but also in the blessed memory of all generations since their time, which will continue until the coming of the Lord Jesus, who will reward with the crown of immortality not only them, but also those who sincerely strive to do the will and promote the glory of His heavenly Father in the midst of this corrupt generation. Considering all this, you, my Lords, should set aside all delay and take action for the reformation of religion in your territories and boundaries. Religion is now so corrupt that no part of Christ's institution remains in its original purity. Therefore, it's necessary that you quickly provide for reformation, or else you reveal yourselves to not only lack love for your subjects, but also to live without concern for your own salvation, indeed without any fear and true reverence for God.

Perhaps two things might lead you to believe that these historical accounts don't apply to you. First, because you are not Jews but Gentiles, and second, because you are not kings, but nobles in your realm. But don't be deceived. Neither of these can excuse you in God's presence from doing your duty. It's more than certain that whatever God required of the civil authorities in Israel or Judah concerning the observance of true religion during the time of the Law, the same He requires of lawful authorities professing Christ Jesus in the time of the Gospel, as the Holy Ghost has taught us through the words of David in Psalm 2. "You should know, as you judge the earth, show respect to the Son, so that the Lord doesn't become angry and you don't perish from the path." (Ps. 2:10)

This advice wasn't just for judges under the law, but also includes anyone who's been honored during the time of the Gospel, when Jesus Christ reigns and fights in his spiritual kingdom. The enemies in that psalm are first harshly criticized, their fury exposed, and their vanity mocked. Then, kings and judges, who believe they're above all laws and obedience, are told to repent their previous blind rage. Judges are instructed to be educated. Finally, everyone is commanded to serve the eternal in fear, to rejoice before him in trembling, to "kiss the son", meaning to give him the most humble obedience. From this, it's clear that rulers, magistrates, and judges in Christ's kingdom are just as obligated to obey God as those under the Law were.