Some Comments on Citizenship and Leadership in a “Free
Republic” by the Lutheran Theologian Polycarp Leyser
(a Friend and Colleague of Martin Chemnitz)
For as all citizens of a free city, as many as live in it, have a common right and equal liberty so far as the republic is concerned, and as they nevertheless, for the sake of order, elect senators and place a mayor at their head, handing over to him the keys and statutes of the city in order that he might use them in the common name of all and rule the republic according to them, so also do the citizens of the city of God. They indeed have a share in all holy things, and all things are theirs, whether it be Paul or Peter, life or death, things present or things to come (1 Cor. 3:21). They possess all things under their one Head, Christ, who has given to His church all things necessary for salvation, which he procured by His sacrificial merit, and in it to every single member in particular, even to the most humble. But for the sake of order, they elect certain persons to whom they entrust the administration of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. So there are among us deacons, pastors, doctors, bishops, or superintendents so that all things, according to Paul’s direction, are done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). Here the Jesuits will cry out: “Very well! This example also confirms the supremacy of the pope, who in the church of Christ, together with the college of cardinals, is exalted above all, as are the mayor and the senators in a city.” But this example does not at all support the pope; it rather subverts his whole tyranny. A mayor is lord neither of the senators nor of the citizens, but he is a fellow citizen. He has been placed at the head of all merely for the sake of order. He does not dare undertake anything arbitrarily, much less anything against the liberty of the citizens. But he is held to do all things according to the law and the counsel of the senate. Of the pope the teachers of canon law, his adulators, once boasted (and the Jesuits have not recanted it to this very day), “The power of the pope is of such a nature and so great that no person dare ask him: Why do you do that?” (See section 40 of the canon law, the chapter, “If the Pope.”) It is certain that if a free republic would get such a mayor, they would chase him out of the city before sunset.
(Harmonia quatuor evangelistarum 85, fol. 1627; quoted in C. F. W. Walther, Church and Ministry [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1987], pp. 283-84; emphases added)
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