Posted by: chuckbumgardner | February 7, 2008

Luther on Bad Government

An interesting perspective from Luther in “A Sermon on the Ban” (1520).
Since the beginning of the world it has been true, and it remains true, that spiritual and temporal authority are more often given to the Pilates, Herods, Annases, and Caiaphases than to godly men such as Peter, Paul, and others.  There are always more evil men than godly ones in the government as in all other estates.  Morever, it cannot be supposed or hoped that we shall ever inherit a purely pious government.  Indeed, if a good regiment, government, or blessed use of power is to be had at all, it must come as pure grace, or through special prayer and merit.  For God punishes evil subjects with evil rulers, as he says in Isaiah 3 [:4], “I will make boys their princes, and childish people shall rule over them,” and, “I will take from them every mighty, brave, wise, and able man,” etc. [Isa. 3:2].  Since to have incapable or evil rulers is God’s punishment, and there are so many among us who deserve such punishment, we should not be surprised when the government behaves tyrannically toward us and misuses its power over us.  Indeed, we should wonder and thank God when the government is not tyrannical and does us no injustice.”
    
(Martin Luther, “A Sermon on the Ban” (1520), trans. Eric W. and Ruth C. Gritsch, in Luther’s Works 39 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970), 18)
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