Saint John Chrysostom on Obedience to Prelates

From Saint John Chrysostom, commenting on Hebrews 13:17:
Anarchy is an evil, and the occasion of many calamities, and the source of disorder and confusion. For as, if you take away the leader from a chorus, the chorus will not be in tune and in order; and if from a phalanx of an army thou remove the commander, the evolutions will no longer be made in time and order, and if from a ship thou take away the helmsman, you will sink the vessel; so too if from a flock thou remove the shepherd, you have overthrown and destroyed all.
Anarchy then is an evil, and a cause of ruin. But no less an evil also is the disobedience to rulers. For it comes again to the same. For a people not obeying a ruler, is like one which has none; and perhaps even worse. For in the former case they have at least an excuse for disorder, but no longer in the latter, but are punished.
But perhaps some one will say, there is also a third evil, when the ruler is bad. I myself too know it, and no small evil it is, but even a far worse evil than anarchy. For it is better to be led by no one, than to be led by one who is evil. For the former indeed are oftentimes saved, and oftentimes are in peril, but the latter will be altogether in peril, being led into the pit [of destruction].
How then does Paul say, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves”? Having said above, “whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation” (c. ver. 7), he then said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves.”
What then (you say), when he is wicked should we obey?
Wicked? In what sense? If indeed in regard to Faith, flee and avoid him; not only if he be a man, but even if he be an angel come down from Heaven; but if in regard to life, be not over-curious. And this instance I do not allege from my own mind, but from the Divine Scripture. For hear Christ saying, “The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.” (Matt. xxiii. 2.) Having previously spoken many fearful things concerning them, He then says, “They sit on Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they tell you observe, do; but do not ye after their works.” (Matt. xxiii. 2, 3.) They have (He means) the dignity of office, but are of unclean life. Do thou however attend, not to their life, but to their words. For as regards their characters, no one would be harmed [thereby]. How is this? Both because their characters are manifest to all, and also because though he were ten thousand times as wicked he will never teach what is wicked. But as respects Faith, [the evil] is not manifest to all, and the wicked [ruler] will not shrink from teaching it.
Moreover, “Judge not that ye be not judged” (Matt. vii. 1) concerns life, not faith: surely what follows makes this plain. For “why” (He says) “beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matt. vii. 3.)
“All things therefore” (He says) “which they bid you observe, do ye” (now to “do” belongs to works not to Faith) “but do not ye after their works.” Seest thou that [the discourse] is not concerning doctrines, but concerning life and works?