The American Revolution was a war over taxation, lawful authority, and the traditional rights of Englishmen. When the British Parliament passed the Stamp Act (1765), it sought to impose on the American Colonies an authority the Colonies did not recognize. Parliament was the legislature of Great Britain, and her peoples were represented in it. The colonists weren't. The Colonies had their own legislatures. The colonists believed they should only be taxed by their own elected representatives and that "Taxation without representation is tyranny." In their minds, they were fighting for their proper rights as Englishmen — indeed, for the rights that God gave to every man. They believed they were fighting in terms of God's law and with His blessing. In fact, in many churches, especially those with Calvinist leanings, the Revolution was preached as a revival: to oppose tyranny was to defend the kingdom of Jesus Christ. According to John Adams, one of the most popular books in the colonies on the eve of the Revolution was Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos [A Defense of Liberty Against Tyrants], written in 1579 by an anonymous French Calvinist calling himself Junius Brutus. The book details the ideas and words that propelled Christian pastors and laymen to hazard their lives and fortunes in a war for liberty and independence more than two centuries ago. These excerpts from Vindiciae come from the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (www.reformed.org).
The Ruler as God's Minister
From the beginning, Vindiciae argues for and from the sovereignty of God. All authority comes from the Creator, and ought to be exercised on His terms. Civil rulers are not autonomous lawmakers; their authority comes from God.
First, the Holy Scriptures teach that God reigns by His own proper authority, and kings rule by derivation: God from Himself, kings from God. God has a jurisdiction proper and kings are his delegates. It follows then that the jurisdiction of God has no limits, but that of kings is finite; that the power of God is infinite, but that of kings is confined; that the kingdom of God extends itself to all places, but that of kings is restrained within the confines of certain countries.