By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
In this chapter is the figure of speech known as prosopoeia, or personification, in which any eminent quality or distinct attribute is invested with personal powers and properties, and is said to hear, to speak, to govern, to suffer, or to enjoy, and indeed, whatever else a person amongst us is capable of doing. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the personal and essential Wisdom of God. Here one of His prerogatives is alarmed — He has supreme control and authoritative influence over the great ones of the earth. The administration of all things in the natural and providential, as well as in the spiritual kingdom, is confided into His hands.
I. CIVIL GOVERNMENT IS OF DIVINE INSTITUTION; IT IS AN ORDINANCE OF GOD. It is not the creature of chance; nor founded in the social compact; or by a sort of conventionality understood between the governed and the governors; but is based on the will of God.
1. Prove this by appeal to reason. God formed mankind with a view to happiness, and civil government is necessary to happiness. There can be no happiness without order, security, freedom. It never has been known that human beings, in any large numbers, have existed for any considerable time without the intervention of governments.
2. Prove this by appeal to Scripture (Romans 13:1-3; 1 Peter 2:1-13). God is not the author of any specific form or mode of government in His Holy Word. In the case of Israel God dictated the special system of political government known as the Theocracy. But in other cases the mode of government is left to the suggestions of human wisdom, the improvements of time, and the claims and requirements of experience and of circumstances.
II. THE DUTIES WHICH SUBJECTS OWE TO THEIR CIVIL GOVERNMENT.
1. Reverence and respect, for conscience' sake, and for the Lord's sake. The language of censure never becomes a subject towards his ruler but under the four following restrictions —
(1) That this censure be founded in truth.
(2) That we have a good motive in uttering it.
(3) That we have a right end.
(4) That we preserve due candour, moderation, and allowance.
2. Obedience to the laws. Disobedience to the laws is a sin against the public, and a virtual attack upon the social character of man.
3. Our proportion of contribution to the exigencies of the State.
4. We owe to our rulers to defend and support them in the lawful exercise of their authority.
5. And earnest prayer to God for His blessing upon them. This is the dictate of common benevolence, and is sanctioned and enjoined by a regard to the public welfare. It is the official character of the civil governor that is the ground upon which prayer is claimed for him. The direction of the faculties and talents and influence of the individual must materially interfere with the safety and happiness of the community. We may, therefore, wisely implore God to assist in their counsels those whom, in His providence, He has exalted.
(G. Clayton, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.