Thou shalt not revile the gods. These four passages confirm what I have said, that in the: Fifth Commandment are comprised, by synecdoche all superiors in authority.: For it was not the design of God to add to the Two Tables, as if something better and more perfect had afterwards come into His mind; which it is sinful to suppose. He was therefore content with the rule once laid down, although He afterwards spoke in a more explanatory manner. But the precepts here given would be unconnected with the Law, if they were not an adjunct, and therefore a part, of the Fifth Commandment.
First of all, He commands that we should think and speak reverently of judges, and others, who exercise the office of magistrate: nor is it to be questioned, that, in the ordinary idiom of the Hebrew language, He repeats the same thing twice over; and consequently that the same persons are called |gods,| and |rulers of the people.| The name of God is, figuratively indeed, but most reasonably, applied to magistrates, upon whom, as the ministers of His authority, He has inscribed a mark of His glory. For, as we have seen that honor is due to fathers, because God has associated them with Himself in the possession of the name, so also here His own dignity is claimed for judges, in order that the people may reverence them, because they are God's representatives, as His lieutenants, and vicars. And so Christ, the surest expositor, explains it, when He quotes the passage from Psalm 82:6, |I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High,| (John 10:34,) viz., |that they are called gods, unto whom the word of God came,| which is to be understood not of the general instruction addressed to all God's children, but of the special command to rule.
It is a signal exaltation of magistrates, that God should not only count them in the place of parents, but present them to us dignified by His own name; whence also it clearly appears that they are not to be obeyed only from fear of punishment, |but also for conscience sake,| (Romans 13:5,) and to be reverently honored, lest God should be despised in them. If any should object, that it would be wrong to praise the vices of those whom we perceive to abuse their power; the answer is easy, that although judges are to be borne with even if they be not the best, still that the honor with which they are invested, is not a covering for vice. Nor does God command us to applaud their faults, but that the people should rather deplore them in silent sorrow, than raise disturbances in a licentious and seditious spirit, and so subvert political government.