Abp. Wulfstan [+1023AD] on the Peace and Comfort of God through Christ in a Christian King

From Archbishop Wulfstan’s “Institutes of Polity”:

Of the Heavenly King

In the Name of the Lord. There is One Eternal King, Ruler and Maker of all creatures. He is Rightfully King, and Glory of Kings, and of all Kings Best, who ever were, or shall be. To Him be ever Praise and Glory, and Eternal Majesty, for Evermore. Amen.

Of an Earthly King

It is the duty of a Christian King, in a Christian nation, to be, as it is right, the people’s comfort, and a righteous shepherd over a Christian flock. And it is his duty, with all his power, to upraise Christianity, and everywhere further and protect God’s Church; and establish peace among, and reconcile all Christian people, with just law, as he most diligently may, and in everything love righteousness, before God and before the world; because he shall thereby chiefly prosper himself, and his subjects also, because he loves justice, before God and before the world. And it is his duty earnestly to support those who desire right, and every severely to punish those who desire perverseness. He shall evil-doing men vigorously chastise with secular punishment, and he shall robbers, and plunderers, and public spoilers [i.e. usurers or counterfeiters–ed], hate and suppress, and all God’s foes sternly withstand; and rightly he shall be both mild and severe, mild to the good, and stern to the evil. That is a king’s prerogative, and a kingly practice, and that in a nation shall be most effective. Lo! through what shall peace and support come to God’s servants and to God’s poor, save through Christ, and through a Christian king? Through the king’s wisdom, the people become happy, well-conditioned, and victorious, and therefore shall a wise king magnify and honour Christainity and kingship, and he shall ever hind and abhor heathenism. He shall very diligently listen to book-precepts, and zealously hold God’s Commandments, and frequently meditate wisdom with the Witan [Council of the Wisemen-ed], if he will rightly obey God. And if any one be so violent, anywhere in the nation, that he will observe no law, so as he ought, but corrupts God’s Law, or obstructs the people’s law, then be it announced to the king, if it be needful, and let him then forthwith decree respecting the bot [amends or reparation-ed], and strenuously compel him to that which is his duty, even forcibly, if he otherwise cannot; and let him do as it behoves him, let him purify his people before God and before the world, if he will merit God’s Mercy.

Of a Kingdom


Eight are the columns which firmly bear up a lawful kingdom: truth, magnanimity, liberality, steadfastness, formidableness, promotion [of the good], lightness [of taxation], righteousness [of judgment]; and seven things are befitting a righteous king: first, that he have very great awe of God, and secondly, that he ever love righteousness, and thirdly, that he be humble before God, and fourthly, that he be rigid towards evil, and fifthly, that he comfort and feed God’s poor, and sixthly, that he further and protect God’s Church, and seventhly, that, towards friends and towards strangers, he be guided alike to just judgment.

Of a Throne

Every lawful throne, which stands perfectly erect, stands on three pillars: one is ‘oratores,’ and the second is ‘laboratores,’ and the third is ‘bellatores.’ Oratores are supplicants, whose duty is to serve God, and earnestly intercede, both day and night, for all the nation. Laboratores are workment, who are to provide that by which all the people shall live. Bellatores are warriors, who are to defend the country martially, with weapons. On these three pillars ought every throne rightfully to stand, in a Christian nation; and if either of them become weak, forthwith the throne will totter; and if either of them break, then will the throne fall down, and that is altogether to the nation’s detriment; but let them be diligently fixed, and strengthened, and confirmed with the Wise Law of God, and just secular law, that will be to the lasting advantage of the nation: and true it is what I say, if Christianity be weakened, the Kingdom will forthwith totter; and if bad laws be set up anywhere in the nation, or vicious habits be anywhere too much loved, that will be all to the nation’s detriment: but let be done as it is requisite, let unrighteousness be suppressed, and God’s Righteousness upraised; that may be beneficial before God, and before the world. Amen.

Of the Chief Witan [Council of Wisemen]

Kings and Bishops, eorls [highest rank of nobleman; under-kings; governors of regions-ed], heretogs [marshals; army commanders-ed], reeves and judges, doctors and lawyers it rightly befits, before God and before the world, that they be of one mind, and love God’s righteousness. And Bishops are heralds, and teachers of God’s Law, and their duty is to preach righteousness, and forbid unrighteousness, and he who disdains to listen to them, let that be in common with him and God Himself. And if Bishops neglect to correct sins and forbid unrighteousness, and make not know God’s Righteousness, but murmur with their throats, where they ought to cry out, woe to them for that silence! Of them spake the Prophet, and thus angrily said: “Thus saith the Lord: If thou wilt not correct the ins of the sinful, and forbid unrighteousness, and make known to the wick his wicked deeds, thou shalt bitterly pay for that soul.”  This may be an heart-care to every Bishop; let him bethink himself earnestly, accordingly as he will. And he who will no properly hear God’s preachers, nor attend to Divine Doctrine as he should; he shall hear foes, if he will not friends; because he is a contemner of God, who contemns God’s preachers; as Christ Himself, in His Gospels, manifestly said, when He thus spake: “He who heareth you, hearth Me; and he who despiseth you, despiseth Me.” Alas! heavy is the burthen, which God’s heralds must bear, if he will not strenuously forbid unrighteousness; because though he himself do good, and another man does amiss, that shall injure him, if he will not correct him; and though God’s herald do amiss, let not a man look to that, but mind his doctrine, if he teach what is good, so as Christ taught that a man should do, when He, in His Gospel, manifestly thus spake: “Follow their doctrines, but not their sins.”  No man ought ever, on account of the Bishop’s sins, to disregard himself, but let him follow his doctrines, if he teach well. And lo! beloved me, do as I enjoin, without anger; listen to what I say. I know very well myself to be wicked in word and deed, all too much; nevertheless I dare not, through fear of God, be altogether silent regarding many of those things which injure this people.