48.Has any of the rulers, or of the Pharisees, believed in him? “ has none on his side,” they say, “ low and ignorant men; the rulers, and every person of distinction, are opposed to him.” They expressly name the Pharisees, because they had a reputation above others, both for knowledge and holiness, so that they might be said to be the princes of the people. This objection appears to have some plausibility; for if the rulers and governors of the Church do not retain their authority, it is impossible that any thing shall ever be properly done, or that the good order of the Church shall long continue. We know what are the fierce passions of the common people; in consequence of which the most frightful disorder must follow, when every man is allowed to do what he pleases. The authority of those who rule is therefore a necessary bridle for preserving the good order of the Church; and, accordingly, it was provided by the Law of God that, if any question or controversy should arise, it should be submitted to the decision of the High Priest, (Deu_17:8.)
But they err in this respect, that, while they claim for themselves the highest authority, they are unwilling to submit to God. It is true that God conferred the power of judgment on the high priest, but God did not intend that the high priest should decide, except according to his Law. All the authority that is possessed by pastors, therefore, is subject to the word of God, that all may be kept in their own rank, from the greatest to the smallest, and that God alone may be exalted. If pastors who honestly and sincerely discharge their duty, claim authority for themselves, this glorying will be holy and lawful; but when the mere authority of men is supported, without the authority of God’ word, it is vain and useless boasting. But it often happens that wicked men rule in the Church; and therefore we must beware of giving any authority to men, as soon as they depart from the word of God.
We see that nearly all the prophets were tormented by this kind of annoyance; for, in order to bury their doctrine, men continually brought against them the magnificent titles of Princes, of Priests, and of the Church. Provided with the same armor, Papists in the present day rage not less fiercely than did the adversaries of Christ and of the Prophets in former times. It is a horrible blindness, indeed, when a mortal man is not ashamed to oppose himself to God; but to such a pitch of madness does Satan carry those who set a higher value on their own ambition than on the truth of God. Meanwhile, it is our duty to cherish such a reverence for the word of God as shall extinguish all the splendor of the world, and scatter its vain pretensions; for miserable would be our condition, if our salvation depended on the will of princes, and far too unsteady would our faith be, if it were to stand or fall according to their pleasure.