Archive Authors Civic Polity E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Sacred Doctrine The Two Kingdoms

Musculus on the Christian Prince

A week or so ago I put up a brief post about Calvin’s comments on Psalm 148:11, “Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth,” and why he singles out kings, princes, and judges for special instruction. Today I’d like to do the same for the sixteenth century Reformed theologian Wolfgang Musculus, with apologies to our in-house expert on Muscular matters.

Musculus’ remarks are from the section of observationes for vv. 11-12 in his commentary on Psalm 148, part of an enormous work on all 150 Psalms, his In sacrosanctum Davidis Psalterium commentarii (I used the Basel edition of 1556). I suspect that this huge book has not been translated into English in its entirety,1 though I haven’t checked. If that suspicion is correct, what follows may be the first introduction of this text to English-speaking readers.

Musculus partitions his observations on the one hundred and forty-eighth Psalm’s call to praise God under four headings: men come last; of men, rulers come first; the injunction is not to the Israelites alone; people of both sexes and of all ages are to engage in the praise of God, promoted by their rulers.

Last week, we saw that Calvin was concerned about how slow princes generally are to discharge their duty, and Musculus marks the same tendency: although they are summoned in first position to divine praise, he wishes that those in his own day would at  least come last to the performance of this service, rather than not at all; but most are satisfied only with an empty show of piety.

But this, Musculus thinks, is not as it should be. Rather, given their position, they should be leaders in the promotion of the praise of God–enjoined in common upon all men–among their subjects. He further observes that, even under the Old Covenant, this office of praise was commanded not just to the Israelites, but to every nation on earth. Therefore, one may reason, the exhortations here given to kings, princes, and judges are equally universal in scope. From this Psalm, that is, one can deduce a principle that is not peculiar to the Mosaic administration.

Text and Translation

Reges terrae, & omnes nationes.) Primum illud expende, quod postremo loco ad laudem Dei vocat homines. Non id agitur, ut postremi sint in officio laudis Dei, sed sicut humanum genus in opere creationis reliqua creata omnia praecesserunt: sic illi praemittuntur hic omnia, ut illorum consideratione ad laudandum Dominum Deum suum non suo duntaxat, sed & omnium aliorum conditorum nomine excitetur.

Deinde observa, quod reges, principes, & iudices terrae primo loco e genere humano ad officium divinae laudis evocantur. Utinam non sint illi ipsi hodie, qui ne postremum quidem locum inter eos, qui Dominum laudant, sortiantur. Verum hoc genus hominum abunde huic se debito satisfacere putat, quod ociosos ventres ad id nutrit, ut in templis speciem aliquam divinae laudis mundo obijciant.

Tertio, nec illud praetereundum est, quod non Israelitas tantum, sed omnes in universum nationes Dominum laudare iubet. Qua de re vide psal. 117.

Quarto observandum est, quod nullum sexum, nullamque aetatem a laude Dei excludit: sed iuvenes & virgines, senes cum parvulis, ad id officii vocat. Nec immerito. Neque enim ullus sexus est, nec ulla aetas, quae non manifesta habeat divinae erga se providentiae argumenta: ut taceam, quod simul omnes ad gratiam regni Dei vocantur. Curandum ergo est regibus ac principibus populorum, ut communem hanc laudem Dei in omnibus suis subditis provehant. De parvulis Dominum laudantibus, vide psal. 8. vers. 2.

Kings of the earth, and all nations.) First consider this, that in the last part [of the psalm] he calls men to the praise of God. This is not done in order that they may be last in the duty of the praise of God; but just as all of the other created things preceded the human race in the work of creation, so here all [other created things] are put before it [i.e., the human race] in order that, by the consideration of those things, they might be roused to praising the Lord God, who is their own,  by the name that is not only theirs, but belongs to all created things.

Next observe that kings, princes, and judges of the earth are summoned in the first position from the human race for the duty of divine praise. Would that there would not exist today those who do not even choose the last place among those who praise the Lord. But this type of men think that they have satisfied this debt in excess, who feed their slothful stomachs only so far as for them to present to the world some *appearance* of divine praise in the holy places.

In the third place, one should not pass over the following fact, [namely,] that he commands not the Israelites alone, but all nations generally to praise the Lord. On this matter see Psalm 117.

In the fourth place one should observe that he excludes no sex and no age from the praise of God, but calls young men and maidens, old men with little children, to this duty. And not undeservedly, for neither is there any sex, nor any age, which does not have clear proofs of divine providence toward itself: so that I may not go on further, since all together are called to the grace of the Kingdom of God. Therefore care must be taken by kings and princes of the peoples that they promote this common praise of God among all their subjects. Concerning little children praising the Lord, see Psalm 8:2.





  1. Though his comments on Psalm 15 and his remarks on oaths and usury have been.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.

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