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Civil Government

James Dodson

Moses, the Lawgiver.

Moses, the Lawgiver.


"I lay down this maxime of Divinitie; Tyranny being a worke of Sathan, is not from God, because sinne either habituall or actuall, is not from God; the power that is, must be from God; the Magistrate as Magistrate, is good, in nature of office, and the intrinsecall end of his office, Rom. 13:4. for he is the Minister of God for thy good; and therefore a power ethicall, politick, or morall, to oppresse, is not from God, and is not a power, but a licentious deviation of a power, and is no more from God, but from sinfull nature, and the old serpent, then a license to sinne."—Samuel Rutherfurd, Lex Rex (1644).


Works on Civil Government:


Romans XIII.1-5.-1601-Andrew Melville (1545-1622).-An extract from Melville's commentary on Romans, translated from the Latin by J.M. Willson, showing his agreement with the Reformed Presbyterian stance on this passage.

A Sermon Preached To the Honorable House of Commons, At their late solemn Fast, Wednesday, December 27. 1643.-1644-Alexander Henderson.-A sermon detailing the great need and method of reforming both the church and the nation together with a dire warning to magistrates that will not be reformed.

Wholesome Severity reconciled with Christian Liberty.-1644-George Gillespie.-A tract concerning the extent and application of the laws of the Bible in the civil affairs of nations with a discussion of how this comports with liberty of conscience.

Ruler's Sins the Cause of National Judgments.-1650-Patrick Gillespie.-A sermon warning about the dangers posed to a people by the wickedness of their rulers with some explanation of the covenantal solidarity of the moral person of nations.

The Mystery of Magistracy Unvailed.-1663-Anonymous.-This piece presents a clear exposition of the doctrine of the civil magistracy. It addresses the duties of both rulers and subjects. Most importantly, it explains how to know when magistrates degenerate into tyrants and what the proper response of Christians should be when magistrates become illegitmate.

The Sanquhar Declaration.-1680-Richard Cameron (1648-1680).-A short and terse casting off of any allegiance to the unlawful magistracy of Charles II. and his courtiers and dragoons with some reasons why on behalf of the Societies.

Thirty-Fourth Question: The Political Government of the Church.-1685-Francis Turretin (1623-1687).-In this section, there is a comprehensive overview of the issues, limits and duties of the civil magistrate in all matters circa sacra together with a defense of punishing obstinate heretics.

A Hind let loose; or An Historical Representation of the Testimonies of the Church of Scotland, -1687-Alexander Shields.-A thorough survey of the history of the Scottish church which contains many hints on church communion together with several chapters devoted to Covenanter controversies.

A Letter on the Civil Magistrate.-1781-John McMillan III.-This letter defends the Reformed Presbyterian position on civil magistracy in opposition to the various misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Seceders.

Answers to Twelve Queries, Proposed to the serious Consideration of the Reformed Presbytery, and their Followers.-1794-William Steven.-A spirited defense of John McMillan's Letter on Civil Magistracy wherein a number of often asked questions are reviewed and answered in explanation of the Covenanter position. 

A View of the Rights of God and Man.-1797-James McKinney.-This sermon seeks to expound the proper limits and duties surrounding civil liberties in order to avoid both tyranny and infidelity.

Messiah, Governor of the Nations of the Earth:-1803-Alexander McLeod.-A discourse on the Mediatorial character of Christ and the importance of this doctrine with respect to the duty of nations favored with the light of the Gospel.

The Two Sons of Oil; or, The Faithful Witness for Magistracy and Ministry Upon a Scriptural Basis.-1803-Samuel Brown Wylie.-This small treatise constitutes one of the most readable and comprehensive expositions of the Reformed Presbyterian position with respect to the application of its principles on civil magistracy in the United States. Written in the early days of the republic, it shows that godless principles were incorporated into the U.S. Constitution.

The Subjection of Kings and Nations to Messiah.-1820-James Renwick Willson.-An excellent presentation of the doctrine of the Mediatorial reign of Christ and its implications for all nations and kingdoms. This is the Covenanter postmillennial vision.

Prince Messiah’s Claims to Dominion Over All Governments: and the Disregard of his Authority by the United States, in the Federal Constitution.-1832-James Renwick Willson.-Two essays: the first, examining the claims of Christ over the nations; and, the second, the application of these claims to the present constitution of the civil government in the United States.

The Christian Magistrate: A Discourse.-1832-Thomas Houston.-An excellent survey of the qualifications and duties of the civil magistrate.  Houston is particularly helpful to explain how a Christian magistrate is responsible to establish the true religion and his power circa sacra. His discussion of punishing heretics and idolaters required a full length defense which he issued the following year. This is a strong indictment of theological liberalism and its tendencies.

The Reviewer Reviewed, and The Covenanter and Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church Vindicated, from the Perversions and Groundless Allegations of the Rev. John Paul, in a Pamphlet, Entitled, "The Covenanter Reviewed & Persecution Condemned."-1833-Thomas Houston.-A vigorous defense of his discourse on the Christian Magistrate from charges of being contrary to the received doctrine of the Reformed Presbyterian Church.  Mr. Houston demonstrates the depth of historical support for this doctrine.  This pamphlet also has much to teach about historical testimony and the engagement to walk in the footsteps of the flock.

Argument On The Magistrate’s Power Circa-Sacra. [Published as an Overture.]-1834-Reformed Presbyterian Church, in America.-This Overture, written by Rev. William Sloane, who was a member of the Synod, defends the Reformed position the power of the magistrate circa sacra. It does so contrasting this view against that of Erastians and those who hold to religious toleration.

Bible Magistracy: or Christ's Dominion Over the Nations with an Examination of the Civil Institutions of the United States.-1842-James M. Willson.-This represents Willson's early work on the mediatorial kingdom of Christ and its implications in the relam of civil government particularly that of the United States.

Letter on “The Higher Powers.”-1845-Thomas Sproull.-This letter explains why by "higher powers" Paul did not mean the Roman powers of his day and why "higher powers" does refer to any legitimate civil government constituted according to the will of God.

An Essay on Submission to the Powers That Be.-1850-James M. Willson.-In this essay, Willson explores the kinds of civil governments unto which Christians owe a conscientious submission in the Lord. He demonstrates that this only pertains to governments possessing certain characteristics, particularly a profession of Christianity.

Civil Government: An Exposition of Romans XIII. 1-7.-1853-James M. Willson.-This volume contains a very careful and nuanced exposition of a portion of Scripture that has often been put to ill use by those who are not the friends of the rights of God or man.

Argumentative Testimony. According to the Resolution of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod.-1855-James McLeod Willson.-Two chapters for the proposed "Argumentative" portion of the RP Testimony; the first, discussing Testimony Bearing; the second, the Right of Dissent from Immoral Civil Constitutions.

The Duty of Nations to the Church.-1860-David Steele.-An article explaining that nations must serve the Mediator Christ in their national capacity by giving their support to national establishments of religion.

Our Political Protest.-1872-John Haslett Boggs (1837-1928).-A sermon that gives a number of reasons why Covenanters do not vote under the present political administration and outlining other reasons for concern in the political system which are not in themselves reasons for not voting.

The Loyal Archite; or the Attributes of Legitimate Civil Government.-1875-Thomas Sproull.-A sermon addressing three chief requirements for a legitimate constitution of civil government.

Reformed Presbyterians and the Oath of Allegiance.-1877-Josias Alexander Chancellor (1824-1895).-An Irish Covenanter explains the problem with the oath of allegiance and why Reformed Presbyterians are political dissenters.

A Case of Conscience.-1878-David Steele.-An short article on the question of Covenanters and taxation.

CIRCULAR No. 2.-1885-David Steele.-On Covenanter identity, the American "civil" war and matters of taxation.

Christ's; or, Separation from Godless Governments.-1893-Robert James George (1844-1911).-A tract explaining why political dissent is necessary for Covenanters and why it is a term of communion in the Reformed Presbyterian church.

Why Reformed Presbyterians Cannot Vote.-1908-Finley Milligan Foster (1853-1948).-A tract based upon a sermon given during the presidential election of 1908 explaining why Reformed Presbyterians should not avail themselves of the elective franchise under the present constitution of government in the united States. 

Why Covenanters Do Not Vote.-1912-Thomas Houston Acheson (1861-1925).-An American R.P. minister explains why Covenanters do not vote, during the U.S. presidential election season of 1912, and addresses several objections to political dissent.