"Calvinists not only believe civil government is ordained and established by God, they also believe that God has given civil government only limited authority. The same power that grants authority to government, also limits that authority.
The concept of limited government is a fundamental principle of U.S. constitutional theory—ours is a government of limited, delegated powers. The framers of the Constitution envisioned our federal government with only the powers delegated to it by the people through the Constitution.
Rutherford in particular emphasized limited government. The people, acting under the will of God, had given the civil government only limited authority, and they had given it conditionally—they reserved the right to terminate their covenant with the ruler if the ruler violated the covenant terms. Consequently the ruler is acting without legitimate authority if he violates the laws of God and nature by suppressing the basic liberties of the people. In such instances he is not to be obeyed. In fact, he is to be resisted. It is the Christian's duty to resist—by force if necessary.
Limited government also formed the basis for resistance to British oppression in the War of Independence. The colonists' slogan, "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God!" grew from roots firmly planted in Calvinist soil.
The Declaration of Independence appears to have been adapted, at least in part, from a Calvinistic predecessor, the Mecklenburg Declaration. On May 20, 1775—more than a year before the Declaration of Independence—a group of Scotch-Irish Presbyteri ans gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina, out of concern over the conflict with Britain. They declared the colonies to be free and independent and used such phrases as "We do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us with the mother-country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British crown." And, "We hereby declare ourselves a free and independent people; are, and of right ought to be, a sovereign and self-governing association, under control of no power other than that of our God and the general government of Congress; to the maintenance of which we solemnly pledge to each other our mutual cooperation and our lives, our fortunes and our most sacred honor." The document, prepared by Presbyterian elder Ephraim Brevard, was sent by special messenger to the Continental Congress. That fact, coupled with the almost identical language used, makes it likely that Jefferson and his committee drew from the Mecklenburg Declara tion when they drafted the Declaration of Independence."
A snippet from Christianity and the Constitution The Faith of our Founding Fathers By John Eidsmoe / Baker