of 1688 was a dry run for 1776
by Tom Van Dyke
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.---Epistle to the Romans, 13:1
As for Romans 13 and "the meaning understood for 1600 years," let's be precise as to what "1600 years" means.
Leaving aside the long history of arguments that initiated with
---John of Salisbury in 1150 [his Policratus was universally read] through
---Aquinas and the Schoolmen [by what right does one man rule another?], through
---Jonathan Mayhew and other Founding era Protestant preachers and theologians,
let's look back to 1600s Britain: the English Civil War and the Glorious Revolution, to the thinkers like John Locke and Algernon Sidney who directly influenced the American colonials.
In short, 'twas all a dry run for the American revolution: Britain's "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 brought peace to the land and resulted in the restoration of the monarchy with King William and Queen Mary. It came to two theological solutions:
1) It was wrong for the English Civil War to execute Charles I in 1649;
2) King James II "abdicated" when he fled to France in 1688, and so the Glorious Revolution's restoration of William and Mary to the throne made them rightful monarchs
The American Revolution [actually, they called it the "War with Britain" at the time] handled both these problems at the outset in the Declaration of Independence:
1) "When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another..."
The American Revolution was no coup d'etat, no replacement of the head of state, as was the execution of Charles I. It was a separation of one people from another.
2) "He [King George III] has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us."
Abdicated. Theological problems solved, in the way that Britain had solved them nearly 100 years before. We may also add
3) that the Crown [William and Mary] accepted the primacy of Parliament when they accepted the throne. That was the deal.
So when the Declaration of Independence condemned the Crown---a personification of the British Government as its titular head of state
3) "For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent..."
"For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever."
...it announced that the deal between one people and another had been broken. And so, when the Declaration states
"Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us."
the British are now the colonists' "brethren," and parliament were not their masters or rulers, because by whatever right one man [parliament] had to rule over another [the colonies] was "unwarrantable jurisdiction" because of the lack of consent of the governed.
And so when the Declaration asserts
"They [Parliament] too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation..."
it's the end of "consanguinity," then, of being of the same blood, the same tribe. What had been one people was now two peoples: without a legislature of their own, or representation in the British parliament, the colonists were second-class citizens, and that meant they did not consider themselves citizens atall.
The Biblical argument against revolution is per Romans 13, which reads:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
But the American colonists came to the same arguments as the British themselves before them, and found their way around and through Romans 13. It was a "separation," not a revolution, and as for the "higher powers," the Crown had abdicated, and the parliament, first among their equals, abrogated the colonists' rights as Englishmen.
It's said by some observers that the Continentals didn't talk about Romans 13 much. True perhaps, but I say Romans 13 was between the lines, every line. The colonists were conscientious men who wanted to do the right thing, before man and before God. And that's why the Declaration of Independence reads the way it does.
Hey, they didn't even cut off the King's head. Compared to the British themselves, the Americans were quite reasonable and decent about the whole thing.