The book is in the form of a dialogue between Theodidactus (Godly teacher) and Philatlethes (lover of truth).
Theodidactus : An oath is a most sacred bond, and with a secret terror imprinted by the immediate finger of God in the taking thereof, doth so straightly oblige the inmost soul and conscience, that although many men be obdurate unto other grievous sins: yet they will be tender and sensitive of the violation of an oath. "Very often" saith Saint Augustine "men provoke their wives whom they suspect to be adulterous to clear themselves by an oath, which they would not do, unless they believe that those which fear not adultery may fear perjury. For indeed" saith he "some unchaste women which have feared not to deceive their husbands by wantonness, have been afraid to use God unto them as witness of their chastity." In the marital conjunction of the husband and wife, there is a lively resemblance of the obligation of subjects in civil allegiance unto their prince: for as the coupling of the wife unto the husband in dutiful obedience, so of the subjects unto their prince in loyalty and fidelity is a very arct and near union and as the husband is the head of the wife (I Corinthians 11:3) so is the prince of his subjects (I Sam. 15:17).
Theodidactus : This will be evident
unto you by a compendious recital of the chief parts and duties of
allegiance from a subject to his prince. And we cannot learn these
duties from a better master than God himself, who hath so exactly
taught them in his sacred word. The general duty which God enjoineth
upon all men, to eschew evil and do good, is diffused through
the particular duties of every man: whether it be the duty of a
servant unto his master, of a son unto his father, or of a subject
unto his prince. And in the allegiance of a subject unto his
sovereign, the evil he is to eschew, is evil in action, for he
is not to touch him with any hurtful touch (Psalms 105), nor to
stretch out his hand against his sacred person (I Samuel 15), nor so
much as to affright or disgrace him by cutting the lap of his garment.
Evil in words, for he is not curse his ruler (Exodus 23).
Evil in cogitations, for he is not to curse the king in his
thought (Ecclesiastes 10). So likewise the good which he is to do out
of obedience unto his prince is in deed, by paying tribute unto
him for his regal support (Romans 13), by fighting his battles with Joab, adventuring his life with David to vanquish his enemies. In
speech, by revealing with religious Mordecai the treasonable
designments of Bigan and Teresh (Esther 2), by pouring our prayers and
supplications for his welfare (1 Timothy 2). In thought, by
esteeming and honoring him from the heart, and out of conscience
(Romans 13). as the anointed of the Lord, God's holy ordinance and
minister (Esay 45), and as a God upon earth (Psalms 82). For this is
to obey him for the Lord's sake, to fear God and honor the king (I
Peter 2), when we fear God by whom the king reigneth, and his throne
is established (Proverbs 8).
Now if the subjects of our sovereign out of their allegiance unto his Majesty, are not lay violent hands upon his sacred person, but to succor and defend him even with the hazard of their lives: not to curse him with their tongues, but to bless him by prayers and supplications, and preserve him by discovering all attempts against his life and dignity, not to harbor in their souls any evil thought of him, but from their heart to honor him as God's vicegerent here upon earth; and the bond of this allegiance is inviolable and cannot be by any means dissolved: then although the Pope doth arrogantly presume to discharge them from their allegiance unto his Majesty, to absolve them from their oaths of obedience, to give license unto them to bear arms against him, and offer violence unto his person, to excommunicate and depose his Majesty; all these impious and irreligious practices are in vain.
the foundation or first prop or pillar: Our sovereign Lord King James receiving his authority only from God, hath no superior to chastise and punish him but God alone.
Although the power of princes is not from the people, yet it is often
derived unto them from their noble progenitors by succession, or
obtained through their own prowess, and by lawful conquest: how
then is it only and immediately from God?
Theodidactus : Succession and lawful conquest are titles whereby princes receive their authority, they are not the original and immediate foundation of this authority. Heat, moisture, cold, dryness and our tempter [= temperature] arising from them (whiles we are miraculously fashioned in our mother's womb) are preparations whereby our bodies are made fit receptacles for our souls; but the Creator of our soul is God. So princes have just claim unto their sovereign power by the titles of succession and conquest, but the prime author of their power is God.
Theodidactus : And therefore Saint
Peter exhorteth his brethren the Jews (himself residing then at
Rome) to submit themselves and be subject unto a profane infidel, a
cruel tyrant. For Claudius upon the sight of the least prodigy
worshipped the heathen Gods after the custom of the ancient Romans: he
was naturally so merciless and given to blood-shed, that he would have
tortures in examinations, punishments for parricides executed in his
own presence. He had most cruel searchers of all that came but to
salute him, sparing not any sex or age; delighted to see the faces of
fencers (whose throats he had caused to be cut for stumbling by chance
in their sword-fights) as they lay gasping and yielding up their
breath. He was excessively given to the wanton love of women, and was
so enthralled unto his wives and freemen that, as it was commodious
unto them or stood with their affection, he granted honorable
dignities, conferred the conducts of armies, and decreed impunities or
Unto such an unbelieving and bloody oppressor, Saint Peter earnestly exhorteth the believing Jews to yield obedience.
Theodidactus : The Bishop of Rome cannot dispense with the Law of Nature, which from the first beginning of the reasonable creature is unchangeable, nor with the moral law of God, whose precepts are indispensable. But the duty of subjects in obedience unto their sovereign is grounded upon the Law of Nature, beginning with our first beginning. For as we be born sons so we be born subjects; his sons from whose loins - his subjects in whose dominions we are born. The same duties are also enjoined by the moral law and particularly in the Fifth Commandment, Honor thy father and thy mother: where, as we are required to honor the fathers of private families, so much more the father of our country and the whole kingdom.
Theodidactus : Princes in their rage may endeavor to destroy wholly to destroy Christ's Church: but in vain. Because Christ hath so built it upon a rock (Matthew 16) that the strength and gates of hell shall not prevail against it, as quite to vanquish it. And when they do labor to effect so heinous an impiety, the only means we have to appease their fury is serious repentance for our sins, which have brought this chastisement upon us: and humble prayer unto God, who guideth the hearts of princes like rivers of waters.
[Spelling and punctuation modernized]