Another political application of the doctrine of original sin is demonstrated in insistence on limited government. Calvin’s pessimistic view of human nature made him distrustful of both monarchs and mobs. He neither believed in absolute democracy nor absolute monarchy. Because individuals are fallen, they need proper limitations on their passions. On one hand, kings often have no one to prevent them from making foolish choices, aside from councilors they may or may not follow. On the other hand, absolute democracy (where the majority makes all governing decisions) casts no limitations on the passions of the majority. Where there are no limits, man’s sinful nature has free reign.
James Madison was right in contrasting men with angels, for the power of man to harm his fellows has no limit if his sinful nature is not checked, either internally or externally. The wisdom of men like John Calvin, who taught that original sin sometimes necessitated resisting tyrants and limiting the power of civil government, was understood by the Founders of the United States. Drawing on the wisdom of Calvin and others, they were prepared when the time came to resist British overreach. In time they founded a new government that would limit sinful men from arbitrarily exercising power at will. For this John Calvin and our Founding Fathers deserve our gratitude.