Extracts from Jus Divinum

Naphtali Press

Extracts from Jus Divinum

Copyright (c) Naphtali Press 1996

Publisher’s Preface

There have been several editions and printings of Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici. It was first published in London in 1646, and was followed in 1647 by a second edition, with a brief reply to certain queries by W.A. A third edition was released in 1654, “augmented in many places.” An American edition was issued in 1844, based on an English printing of 1799 (based on that of 1654). The editor obtained a first edition on a trip to London for a meeting there for the observance of the 350th anniversary of the seating of the Westminster Assembly. This text was used as the base text. The publisher has compared the text to the 1844 American edition, and where differences arose, the 1654 edition was itself checked. The London ministers viewed the third edition as a refined presentation of their views (see the last page of Reply to Certain Queries, in the appendix). Because this new edition was begun with the first edition as its base text, the major changes between it and the third edition have been noted. Material in brackets{} belong to the third edition, while text from the first edition which was removed from the third edition is footnoted and marked by square brackets []. The changes are interesting, but when viewed strictly from within the scope and purpose of the work, they appear rather inconsequential. The major differences have been footnoted.

As indicated above, the reply to a work responding to Jus Divinum has been placed in the appendix of this edition, and the publisher has provided a subject index, as well as a bibliographical index containing nearly all of the works referenced by the sundry ministers of London. In addition to his preface, the editor has provided a valuable piece, “The Original Intent of Westminster As Clarified by Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici,” as well as mini-biographies of some of the more prominent theologians and authors referenced in Jus Divinum (see Personae in the Appendix).

The notes on style and authors following the Editor’s Preface, will provide the reader with information that will aid in obtaining the best use of this excellent work, which has been held in high esteem by Presbyterians since its first publication; “a work of admirable and overpowering argument.”[Thomas Smyth, Works, Vol. 2, Presbytery and Not Prelacy, The Scriptural and Primitive Polity. Index IV: Works on Presbyterianism, p. 562] Naphtali Press is pleased to be able to offer this new critical edition as part of its ongoing series: 17th Century Presbyterians.

Christopher Coldwell

March 4, 1995

Jus Divinum

Chapter Two Of the Nature of a jus divinum, or a divine right in General.

Copyright (c) Naphtali Press 1996

Now touching this jus divinum of Church-Government, two things are yet more particularly to be opened and proved for the more satisfactory clearing thereof unto sober minds, to unprejudiced and unpre-engaged judgements, viz.: 1. What the nature of a jus divinum is, and how many ways a thing may be said to be jure divino, and that by warrant of Scripture. 2. What the nature of the Government of the Church under the New Testament is, which is vouched by the Scripture to be jure divino.

For the first, viz. What the nature of a jus divinum, or a divine right is, consider both what jus divinum is in general, and how many ways a thing may be said by Scripture warrant to be jure divino, or of divine right in particular.

Jus is a Latin word, which we sometimes render “Law”; as, Jus naturale, the “Law of nature”; Jus Gentium, the “Law of Nations,” etc. Sometimes we render it, “Right, just, or due,” viz., according unto some law 7 (Jus idem est quod justum, aquum, etc.) Different Etymologies are given of it by learned men, 8 chiefly these two:

1. Jus is derived a jubendo, from commanding; and the thing commanded, jussum, seems notably to speak as much, if we cut the word in two, jus-sum. And in this sense it is, that Jus is so often used for a “Law, Precept, or Command” (Nam Lex in jussione, seu imperio positaest), as Suarez rightly notes. The nature of a Law consists in commanding. Agreeable to this sense is the Hebrew word hok, which signifies 9 Jus, Statutum, Lex, etc. (Right, Statute, Law), or that which is just to be received by virtue of some Statute Law. And it differs from misphat Jus, Judicium, etc. (Right, Judgement), in that the former word is most commonly applied to Rules and Rites Ecclesiastical, this latter word to Political for most part (as Mercer in Pagn. notes).

2. Jus by some is derived a Justitia, Right, from Righteousness, Justice, etc. — Jus being the first syllable of the word. To this Etymology inclines Isiodore 10 (Jus dictum est, quia justum est), and Augustine 11 consents hereto (Jus & injuria contraria sunt: jus enim est quod justum est). Thomas 12 also conceives, that this is the first reason and signification of the word Jus, and concludes: Jus non esse legem, sed potius esse id, quod lege prascribitur seu mensuratur, i.e. Jus, Right is not the Law itself, but rather that which is prescribed or measured by the Law. (Answerable hereunto is the Greek word nomos, Law; so called from rendering or distributing to every person what is “just, meet, equal.”) According to this sense, Jus, Right, implies a kind of due, equity or power in or to any thing. There is jus in re, and ad rem; as the father has right in his inheritance, the heir (though under age) has right to his inheritance. Which of these two Etymologies is truest, will be hard to determine; in our present case of jus divinum we may make use of both.

Divinum, in Greek is theion, Divine. This term in Scripture: 1. Sometimes notes the divine essence, or God-head itself, to theion heinai homioi (“that the God head is like to” — Acts 17:29). 2. Sometimes it signifies certain divine endowments, whether gracious or glorious, communicated to us from God, and in some sense comparing us unto God: “You should become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). 3. Sometimes it points out a divine warrant or authority from God, engraven or instamped upon anything, whereby it is exalted above all human or created authority and power. And thus, all Scripture is theopneustos (divinely-breathed, or inspired-of-God; hence is the divine authority of Scripture asserted — 2 Timothy 3:16-17). And in this last sense especially this jus divinum, or divine right, is here spoken of in reference to Church-Government, as it signifies a divine warrant and authority from God himself, engraven upon that Church-Government and Discipline (hereafter to be handled), and revealed to us in his holy Scriptures, these infallible and perfect Oracles. So that Jus divinum, divine Right (according to this interpretation of the terms) is that which is either justum, just, meet, and equal; or jussum, commanded, enjoined by any divine warrant or authority. And generally, a thing may be said to be jure divino, which is any way divinitus justum, divinely just, equal, etc.; or, divinitus jussum, divinely commanded by any Law of God, or by that which is equivalent to a divine Law. And whatsoever matters in Church-Government can be proved by Scripture to have this stamp of divine warrant and authority set upon them, they may properly be said to be jure divino, and by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ, to whom God has delegated all power and authority for government of his Church (Mt. 28:18-20; Is. 9:6; Jn 5:22; Eph. 1:22).

In this sense, if Church-government, or any part of it is found to be jure divino consequently: 1. It is above and contradistinct from all human power and created authority in the world whatsoever. Jus divinum is the highest and best Tenure, whereby the Church can hold of Christ any Doctrine, Worship, or Government. Only God can stamp such a jus divinum upon any of these things, whereby Conscience shall be obliged. All human inventions herein, whether devised of our own hearts, or derived as Traditions from others, are incompatible and inconsistent herewith; vain in themselves, and to all that use them, and condemned of God. (See 1 Kings 12:32-33; Is. 29:4; Mt. 15:6-9).

2. It is beyond all just, human or created power, to abolish or oppose the same, or the due execution thereof in the Church of Christ. For, what is jure divino is held of God, and not of man; and to oppose that, were to fight against God. The supreme Magistrates in such cases should be Nurse-fathers (Is. 49:23), not Stepfathers to the Church — their power being cumulative and perfective, not privative and destructive unto her. For she both had and exercised a power in Church-government, long before there was any Christian Magistrate in the world. And it cannot be proved that Christ ever resumed that power from his Church, or translated it to the Political Magistrate when he became Christian.

3. It is so obligatory unto all Churches in the whole Christian world that they ought uniformly to submit themselves unto it in all the Substantials of it so far as is possible. For a Jus divinum is equally obligatory to one Church as well as to another. And it is so obligatory to all persons, states and degrees, that none ought to be exempted from that Church-government which is jure divino, nor to be tolerated in another Church-government, which is but jure humano; nor ought any Christian to seek after, or content himself with any such Exemption or Toleration. For in so doing, inventions of men are [would be] preferred before the ordinances of God; our own wisdom, will, authority [would be] before the wisdom, will, authority of Christ. And we should in effect say, “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Lk. 19:27); “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their cords away from us” (Ps. 2:3).


  1. Calvin, Lex Jurid. on verb "Jus".
  2. Suarex, Tractat. de legibus, I, ch. 2.
  3. Mercer on verb in Pagn Lex. Hebr.
  4. Isodore, Etymol., ch. 3.
  5. Augustine, on Psalm 145. Sub. fin.
  6. Aquinas, 2, Q. 57, art. I, 2.
  7. Calvin, Lex Jurid. on verb “Jus”.
  8. Suarex, Tractat. de legibus, I, ch. 2.
  9. Mercer on verb in Pagn Lex. Hebr.
  10. Isodore, Etymol., ch. 3.
  11. Augustine, on Psalm 145. Sub. fin.
  12. Aquinas, 2, Q. 57, art. I, 2.