Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,…
It was held in the olden time, but is not now, that authority came from God to the king, and then descended, in the form of law, from the king to the people. We have turned that theory bottom side up, although there are texts of Scripture which run that way. Now we find no difficulty in this land, since we are republicans, in jumping those texts. "Honour the king," meant honour the king; but we say, "Yes, honour authority; and the king represents authority." So we bridge the difficulties without much trouble. When the people have committed their interests to the hands of individuals, they are justly jealous, because they have seen that human nature is fragile timber, like the slender supports of a bridge over which too much must not go, or it will break down under the pressure; properly, there is a wise watchfulness of those who are empowered to execute the law, and to represent, in the various spheres of magistracy, from the lowest to the highest, the will and interests of a great people; but the untaught and unbalanced way in which men exercise this proper watchfulness leads — somewhat in connection with the other things of which I have spoken — to what amounts to almost a universal suspicion. If there is one corrupt judge on the bench, ten judges suffer. If there is one bad senator, the whole senate suffers. If there are a score of purchaseable legislators, then the whole legislature suffers. There is no discrimination made in that matter. Our people have come to look upon those who are entrusted with power as being suspicious persons. The way men get that power rather tempts to this injustice. The rude and mischievous ways of partisans tend to inimical feeling in this same sphere. Men and brethren, do you ever reflect that he that hauls down a magistrate, except where there is absolute and assignable evidence of corruption; that he that deteriorates the authority of a judge; that he that takes from the responsibility and respectability of the representatives of the people, or of the members of the general government, or of governors; that he that makes an assault upon them which shall lower the respect and confidence of the community for them, is striking at the whole system of law and government? Worse than that, it is a blow aimed at the faith of whole classes of men in virtue, in patriotism, and in integrity. A class of men has grown up — and is growing up continually, with the spectacle before them, on every side, of rude and unjust criticisms and depreciations — who say that everybody is selfish, and that. nobody but illusionists suppose that there is any such thing as a disinterested service of one's country. I am ashamed to see so many young men growing up with the feeling that heroism of patriotism is unknown except as a poetic adornment, or a mere spangle on the dress of pretentious patriots.
(H. W. Beecher.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,