Today’s installment is much briefer than the last. We continue on with the Doctrina section of Stephanus Fabricius’ twelfth Discourse on Psalm 148. In the previous post, we observed Fabricius’ delineation of the magistrate’s “common,” or shared, duty in relation to the laudes Dei. In today’s, he treats his peculiar duty (officium), the one that belongs to him as a magistrate as such. Fabricius believes that the magistrate has a duty to ensure that the “true religion” (vera religio) is instituted and observed in the realm that is under his sway. This religion is revealed in Scripture and is subject to it. The examples he uses to support his position all come from the Old Testament, in particular from kings that are marked out in the text as being good, at least in comparison to other kings of Israel.
The view expressed by Fabricius here is obviously not one held by most people, Christian or otherwise, in the West today. But that fact and the further fact that Fabricius draws his examples from Old Testament narratives should not obscure a third fact, namely, that the magistracy’s cura religionis was long held to be a matter of natural law; or of general, rather than special, revelation. Thus Cicero (as one example), in discussing the legal ordering of the res publica, or commonwealth, treats religious law before laws respecting magistrates in Books 2 and 3 of De Legibus (“On the Laws”).
Proprium Magistratus officium in cultu Dei est, diligenter curare, ut in ditione sua vera religio, ex puro Dei verbo, Scripturis sacris comprehenso, per ipsum verbum Dei explicato, & iuxta prima fidei principia, atque analogiam fidei intellecto, aut instituatur, aut instituta, pura conservetur; aut corrupta instauretur, ac reformetur: ut falsae doctrinae, abusus, idola & superstitiones tollantur, ad gloriam Dei, ad suam suorumque subditorum salutem: Ezr.7.14.seq. 2.Chron.6.2.Reg.22. Exempla habes in Iosaphato, Asa, Ezechia, Iosia & aliis.
The proper duty of the magistrate [that is, the one that is peculiar to the magistrate as such] in the worship of God is diligently to take care that, in the area under his authority, true religion, from the pure Word of God, contained in the sacred Scriptures, expounded through the very Word of God, and understood according to the first principles of the faith and the analogy of faith, be instituted, or, if it has been instituted, that it be preserved pure; or, if it has been corrupted, that it be restored and reformed; [he is also to take care] that false doctrines, abuses, idols, and superstitions be removed, [both] for the glory of God, [and] for his own salvation and that of his subjects: Ezra 7:14ff; 2 Chron. 6; 1 2 Kings 22. 2 You have examples in Jehoshaphat, Asa, Hezekiah, Josiah, and others.
E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.
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