Monday, January 28, 2013

Military Laws of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (Theonomy Applied)

Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), or Gustav II Adolfknown also as the "Lion of the North"was king of Sweden from 1611-1632. A defender of Protestantism against the tyranny of Roman Catholicism, he battled Roman Catholic armies during the Thirty Years War, where he died in battle. 

Adolphus's genius as a military commander was so admired that his battle tactics would years later inspire Oliver Cromwell's undefeated New Model Army.

In 1632, the year of his death, Adolphus authorized articles of war called The Swedish Discipline of 1632. These articles of war are both God-centered and apply biblical civil law. We see the God-centeredness in the preamble and the first lawwhere God is immediately invokedand in the initial lawswhich defend God's honor. 

Such initial laws also apply biblical civil law to one degree or another, as do laws that are later listed, which emphasize protecting property and the innocent. Thus throughout the code, we find the commands to love God and to love one's neighbor as foundational. 

The preamble and the aforementioned laws are included below. Note the seriousness by which Adolphus takes biblical law: blasphemy is punishable by deathon the condition that it is proven by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Here we find a biblical prohibition, a biblical punishment, and a biblical court procedure all considered together, as all laws should do. Another example is where those guilty of certain other violations of the first table of the law are  to be "proceeded against according to Gods law."


Gustavus Adolphus By the Grace of God King of the Swedens Gothes and Vandals, Great Prince of Finland Duke of Esthonia and Carelia, and Lord of Ingria, &c. Whereas the exactnesse of Auncient Discipline and Justice is now almost utterly forgotten: and in place thereof many strange and enormous abuses, crept in amongst our soldiers: Wee therefore taking the matter into our tender care and consideration; will by the assistance of Almighty God endevour to doe our uttermost, both for the reducing of the said forme of Discipline, and the rooting out the same abuses, using to that purpose the way of gentlenesse and admonition unto some; and resolving to take the course and strictnesse of Justice unto others, That therefore our soldiers may the better be trained up to the right use and handling of their Armes, so as may best enable them for our service and defence of our native Country: and that every man in like manner, may the better eschew what may fall out to be inconvenient: Wee have once againe overseene our former Articles of warres, calling out from thence these following Articles; which wee have thought most fit and expedient, both for our service and their ordering. Streightly willing or commanding all our soldiers, both natives of our Kingdome as well as Strangers, serving both on Horse and Foote; that from the time of their comming into our service, they doe duely and obediently observe these following Articles: unto which, if any upon presumption doe the contrary, he shall be Punished as here after followeth.

1. Seeing therefore that all our welfare and prosperity, proceedeth from Almighty God; and that it is all mens duty to feare and serve him above all: Wee streightly hereby charge all manner of Persons whatsoever, that they by no meanes use any kind of Idolatry, Witch-craft, or Enchanting of Armes, by Devils inchantment any manner of way whatsoever. And if any herein be found faulty he shall be proceeded against according to Gods law and the Swedens: And so much as the law in that case enjoyneth, shalbe put in execution against them. And it is further provided, that such manner of Malefactors shall by no meanes be suffered to come in Company with any soldiers whatsoever. 

2. If any shall blaspheme the name of God, either drunk or sober,
the thing being proved by two or three witnesses, he shall suffer death without mercy. 

3. If any shall seem to deride or scorne God's Word or Sacraments, and bee taken in the fact, hee shall forthwith bee convented before the Commissioners Ecclesiasticall, to be examined, and being found guilty, he shall be condemned by the Court of Warre to lose his head: but if they were spoken through haste or unadvisedly, for the first offence hee shall bee in yrons fourteen dayes, and for the second, be shot to death. 

4. If any shall swear in his anger by the name of God, being con
victed, shall pay halfe a moneth's pay unto the poor: Or if any bee found drinking, or at any other evill exercise, he shall forfeit half a moneth's pay, and at the next assembly of prayer or preaching, he shall be brought upon his knees before the whole assembly, and there crave pardon of Almighty God. 

5. To the end that God's Word be by no means neglected, Our will
is, that publike prayers bee said every morning and evening throughout the whole Camp, at one time, in every several Regiment, they being called thereunto by the sound of the General's or Marshal's Trumpets, and the Drums of every private Company and Regiment. 

6. Whatsoever Minister shall neglect his time of prayer, except a
lawfull occasion hinders him, he shall for every time being absent, pay half a moneth's pay. 

7. Whatsoever Souldier shall neglect the time of prayer, and is there-
of advised by his Captain, he shall lie in prison 24 hours, except a law-full occasion hindered. 

8. If any Minister be found drunk or drinking at such time as he
should preach, or read prayer, for the first offence he shall be gravely admonisht by the Commissioners Ecclesiasticall, and for the second fault be banisht the Leaguer. 

9a. Every Holy-day and every Sabbath-day at least, shall bee kept
solemn with preaching in a place convenient, before and after noon; this also to bee done twice every week, if the time will permit ... [Editor's note: not an endorsement of man-made "holy days" by this site, as we only consider the Sabbath as a true holy day.]

10. All Merchants and sellers of commodities whatsoever, so soon as
they hear the Token or call to bee given, shall immediately shut up their doors, and so keep them during the said time of Prayer and Sermon; they that presume in that season to sell any thing, shall make forfeit of all things so sold, whereof the one half to goe to the Generall, and the other halfe to the next Hospitall; over and above which, the offender shall for one whole day be put in prison'. 

11. All drinkings and feastings shall in the time of Prayer bee given
over, upon pain of punishment, as is before mentioned in the seventh Article; if any Souldier herein offends, he shall forfeit half his week's pay to the poor; and if he be an Officer, hee shall forfeit what shall be awarded. 

85. Hee that forceth any woman to abuse her, and the matter bee proved, hee shall die for it. 

86. No Whore shall be suffered in the Leaguer; but if any will have
his own wife with him, he may; if any unmarried woman bee found, hee that keeps her may have leave lawfully to marry her, or else be forced to put her away. 

87. No man shall presume to set fire on any Town or Village in our
Land: if any doe, he shall bee punished according to the importancy of the matter, so as the Judges shall sentence him.

88. No Souldier shall set fire upon any Town or Village in the ene
mies' Land, without he be commanded by his Captain: neither shall any Captain give any such command unlesse hee hath first received it from us or our Generall: who so doth the contrary, he shall answer it in the Generals Councell of Warre according to the importance of the matter; and if it be proved to bee prejudiciall unto us, and advantagious for the enemy, he shall suffer death for it. 

89. No Souldier shall pillage anything from our subjects upon any
March, Strength, Leaguer, or otherwise howsoever, upon pain of death. 

90. He that beats his Host or his household servants, the first and
second time hee shall be put in yrons, and made to fast with bread and water according as the wrong is that he hath done, if the harme be great, hee shall be punish'd thereafter, according to the discretion of the Court. 

91. None shall presume to do wrong to any that brings necessaries
to our Leagiier, Castle or Strength whatsoever, or to cast their goods down off their Horses, and take away their Horses perforce; which who so doth shall die for it. 

92. They that pillage or steal either in our Land or in the enemies,
or from any of them that come to furnish our Leaguer or Strength, without leave, shall bee punish'd as for other theft.[1] 


[1] Most of the military code is cited from William Winthrop, "Code of Articles of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1621)," in Military Law: Volume II (Washington, D.C.: W. H. Morrison, 1886), Appendix pp. 8, 9, 15. The preamble and the first article of war are cited from Tryntje Helfferich, ed. and trans., The Thirty Years War: A Documentary History (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 2009), 125, 126.

photo credit: 

Gustav II Adolfs torg, Göteborg (statue)
© Moralist Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics).    

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The Discipline was authorised in 1621, not 1632. 1632 is simply the publication date fo the English translation.