Chapter 23. Of the Civil Magistrate

Read Chapter 23(Of the Civil Magistrate) of the Westminster Confession of Faith
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1. God, the supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates, to be, under Him, over the people, for His own glory, and the public good: and, to this end, hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defence and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers.1

2. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto;2in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth;3so for that end, they may lawfully now, under the New Testament, wage war, upon just and necessary occasion.4

3. The civil magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and sacraments, or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven:5yet he hath authority, and it is his duty, to take order, that unity and peace be. preserved in the Church, that the truth of God be kept pure and entire; that all blasphemies and heresies be suppressed; all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline prevented or reformed; and all the ordinances of God duly settled, administrated, and observed.6For the better effecting whereof, he hath power to call synods, to be present at them, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.7

4. It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates,8to honour their persons,9to pay them tribute or other dues,10to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority, for conscience’ sake.11Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrates’ just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to them:12from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted,13much less hath the Pope any power and jurisdiction over them in their dominions, or over any of their people; and, least of all, to deprive them of their dominions, or lives, if he shall judge them to be heretics, or upon any other pretence whatsoever.14