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RIGHTS OF GOD.
PRODUCE YOUR CAUSE, SAITH THE LORD; BRING FORTH YOUR STRONG REASONS, SAITH THE KING OF JACOB. ISAIAH XII. 21.
BE STILL, AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD: I WILL BE EXALTED AMONG THE HEATHEN; I WILL BE EXALTED IN THE EARTH. PSALM XLVl. 10.
* The Rights of Man' have of late engrossed much of the public attention: and though by transgression man hath forfeited all rights in respect of God, except to the wages of sin; yet in reference to his fellow creatures he has many and valuable rights, of which he cannot without injustice be abridged. He has a right, with some restrictions, to enjoy the produce of his own labour and ingenuity, to leave it to his children or friends, and to possess what others have left to him. He has a right to think and judge for himself, and to follow his own inclinations, provided he be not inclined to injure or molest other men: and he has a right to liberty of conscience, unless his conscience should excite him to disturb the peace and good order of the community.
Many other rights of man might be mentioned, which are unequivocal, intelligible, and indisputable, if we consider him in society: for an absolute state of nature must be universal hostility, in which every man would be his own defender and avenger; and all would be prompted by their selfish passions to annoy each other, except as restrained by fear, conscience, or attachment to a few individuals.
However justice is still the same, and power is in every case distinct from right: and, though we must give up many things, to which we should otherwise be entitled, in order to possess the immense advantanges of civilized society; yet laws should certainly be so made and executed, that all may enjoy as much liberty as can consist with the existence, energy, and maintenance of government.
But, as in the present state of the world, every man sometimes takes the liberty to do what he has no right to do, so it cannot be wonderful if in every society men are, in some respects, unduly restricted. Imperfection pervades all human affairs; and hitherto it has been found impracticable to restrain men from doing wrong, without sometimes debaring them the liberty to do what would otherwise not be wrong: though perhaps the latter has been better guarded against in Britain than in any other nation from the beginning of the world to this day: and posterity will be most competent to judge of modern improvements.
But some things arc now insisted on, as 'the 'Rights of Man,' which are not well understood, and are incapable of a precise and determinate definition. Whatever they may seem in theory, they are absolutely impracticable in the present condition of human nature; and every attempt to establish them will probably produce confusion and mischief.
This is not, however, my principal objection to these speculations. Let the men of the world try what they can do to mend their condition; whilst the disciples of Him, "whose kingdom is not of this world," may be contented to take matters as they find them, and peaceably to keep on their way to a better and more enduring inheritance. But