We all know what Paul says about submitting to the ruling authorities. Immediately following that, and often ignored, Paul in Romans 13: 5-7 says:
"Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."
This topic has been fairly frequently discussed here on American Creation. For a refresher, there are some great posts and conversations at the link above.
Now, in Mayhew's Discourse he argues that we only need to submit to "good" rulers saying that tyrannical rulers are not God's ministers, but "the Devil's". Starting off with this premise, he concludes (paraphrasingly) that when we judge a ruler to be a tyrant, they are not "intitled [sic] to obedience from their subjects".
Theologically speaking, this is troubling because it can lead to man deciding what the will of God is. There is no shortage of stories in the OT where God uses tyrants to his will, sometimes foreign, sometimes domestic. Additionally, God did use Samuel to warn the people of Israel what having a king would be like in 1 Samuel 8 and it wasn't all wine and roses.
Taking the other side of the coin, we have John Calvin who, in Book IV of Institutes, says:
"But rulers, you will say, owe mutual duties to those under them. This I have already confessed. But if from this you conclude that obedience is to be returned to none but just governors, you reason absurdly."Now Calvin does limit himself in this discussion to private men, and not to those within the government. For private men, Calvin advises that it our only duties to obey, suffer, and pray for deliverance.
To me, the contrast between the two viewpoints is fascinating. I can appreciate Mayhew's view, but can see where it can lead to making God in man's image, a view some would consider heretical. I can also appreciate Calvin's view where he reminds us that we can't know what God's will truly is, but find his support for unquestioning obedience a bit much.
We know now which view won out, as Mayhew's Discourse would be praised by John Adams as having "great influence in the commencement of the Revolution." Additionally, I believe that the prevalence of Mayhew's view over Calvin's is another signal in the shift of early American theology away from the influence of Puritan New England towards the more liberal theology of the Enlightenment period, further clouding the "Christian Nation" debate we all hold so dear.
I take more of the Hegel approach, believing that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.