DBQ3.2: Absolutism & Revolution


God establishes kings as his ministers, and reigns through them over the peoples...All power comes from God.  The Prince, adds Saint Paul, "is a minister of God to thee for good.  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; ...for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil."  So princes act as ministers of God and his lieutenants on earth.  It is through them that He rules His empire.  This is why...the royal throne is not the throne of man, but the throne of God Himself....

Saint Paul, after having said that the prince is the minister of God, concludes thus: "Wherefore Ye must needs be in subjection (submission) ..." And again, "servants, obey in all things your temporal (earthly) masters and whatsoever Ye do, do it heartily as to the Lord, and not as unto men."...  Saint Peter says, "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of them that do well."...

In order to render this idea odious (contemptible) and unbearable, many pretend to confuse absolute government with arbitrary (absolute) government.  But there are no two more dissimilar things... The prince need render no account to anyone for the orders he gives.  "I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment and that in regard to the oath of God... Where the word of a king is, there is power; and who may say unto him, What dost though?"  Without his absolute authority the king can do no good, nor punish evil; his power must be such that no one can hope to escape it.

Men must therefore obey princes as they obey justice itself, without which there can be no order or purpose in things.  They are Gods, and share in a fashion the divine independence... There is only God who can judge their judgments and their persons.

1. How does Bossuet think people should act toward their monarch?  Why?

2. To whom does Boussuet believe monarchs are responsible?

3. What does he suggest will happen to rulers who behave improperly?

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