The sword rests

  • Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. … Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due. (Romans 13:1, 3–7, NRSV)

Paul wrote this in a letter to the church in Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire: a church that was vulnerable as any persecution of Christians was likely to impact the Roman church before it reached any of the others: hence Paul’s recommendation that everything should be done to recommend church members as loyal citizens. Occasionally persecution would erupt if Christians felt unable in good conscious to do as they were told, but Paul was offering the sensible advice that nothing should be done that would unnecessarily provoke an official reaction. 

The City of London Corporation is the oldest government in the country, predating parliament: and at the heart of that government is the Lord Mayor, who with the Sheriffs, Aldermen and Common Councillors continues to govern the square mile. When the Lord Mayor visits a church in the City, they place their sword of office in a sword rest. St Mary Abchurch has two that have evolved as Lord Mayors have attached their coats of arms to them. While not everyone in Wren’s England would have approved of the restoration of the monarchy, there was little appetite for violent conflict. A Lord Mayor’s visit would have been welcomed as both effect and cause of social stability. 

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