Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Henry Bullinger on Libertarianism

originally posted at Reformed Covenanter

Here followeth now the second part of the magistrates’ ordinance, which consisteth in making good laws for the preservation of honesty, justice, and public peace; which is likewise accomplished in good and upright laws.  But some there are who think it mere tyranny to lay laws on free men’s backs, as it were a yoke upon necks not used to labour; supposing that every one ought rather to be left to his own will and discretion.  The apostle indeed did say, “The law is not given for the just, but for the unjust:” but the cause, why the law is not given to the just, is because he is just; for the just worketh justice, and doth of his own accord the thing which the law exacteth of every mortal man.  Wherefore the law is not troublesome to the just man, because it is agreeable to the mind and thoughts of upright livers, who do embrace it with all their hearts.  But the unjust desireth nothing more than to live as he lusteth: he is not conformable in any point to the law, and therefore must he by the law be kept under, and bridled from marring himself and hurting other.

So then, since to good men the laws are no troublesome burden but an acceptable pleasure, which are also necessary for the unjust, as ordained for the bridling of lawless and unruly people; it followeth consequently, that they are good and profitable for all men, and not to be rejected of any man.  What may be said of that, moreover, that God himself, who did forsee the disposition of us men, what we would be, and hath still favoured the true liberty which he desired always to have preserved among his people, as one that ever meant them good, and never did ordain the thing that should turn to their hinderance or discommodity; that God himself (I say) was their lawgiver, and hath not suffered any age at any time to live as people without a law?  Yea too, those commonweals have been happy always, that have admitted laws, and submitted themselves to be governed by laws; when as, contrarily, those kingdoms have of all other been most miserable, and torn in pieces by civil dissensions and foreign enemies, which, having banished upright laws, did strive to maintain their own kind of freedom, their uncontrolled dealing and licentious liberty, that is, their beastly lust and uncivil rudeness.  Good laws therefore are for the health and preservation of the people, and necessary for the peace and safeguard of commonweals and kingdoms.

Henry Bullinger, Fifty godly and learned sermons divided into the five decades containing the chief and principal points of Christian religion, ed. Thomas Harding (1849-52 Parker edn; 4 vols, Grand Rapids, 2004), i, 337-8.

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