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sisteth the ordinance of God, and shall receive to himself damnation; that is, not damnation in the proper sense, or as the word is now understood, but the condemnation, denounced by the law of God against all sin. By St. Peter we are directed to submit to every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the King, as Supreme; or unto Governors, that is, generally, to all persons possessing lawful authority; for such, he declares, is the will of God. With these precepts in his hand, no Christian can fail to believe the questions, mentioned above, to be of incalculable importance to him, and his fellow-men. It is as really the duty of a Minister to explain this part of the Gospel to his congregation, and to enforce upon them these precepts, as any other. Nor can he be at all excused in passing them by. I shall, therefore, exhibit to you, on the present occasion, my own views concerning this long, and vehemently disputed topic. In the first place: Subjects are not bound to obey the commands of magistrates, as such, when they are not warranted by Law. he law creates magistrates; and defines all their powers, and rights. Whenever they require that, which is not warranted by law, they cease to act as magistrates; and return to the character of mere citizens. In this character they have plainly no authority over their fellow-citizens. It is not the man, but the magistrate, whom God requires us to obey. Secondly. Subjects are bound to obey magistrates, when acting agreeably to the laws, in all cases not contrary to the will of God, as §in the Scriptures. This I take to be the true import of the directions, given by St. Peter and St. Paul. These Apostles cannot, I think, be rationally supposed to enjoin upon subjects obedience to those commands of a Ruler, which contravene the laws of the land; or which lie beyond the limits of his lawful authority. They require our obedience to the magistrate, acting as a magistrate, or within the limits of his lawful authority; ...; not to the magistrate, transgressing the bounds of law, and acting, merely as a private individual, aci." to the dictates of his own discretion, caprice, or whim. Much less can they be supposed to require our obedience to those commands of a Ruler, which are opposed to the Law of God. . Whether we should obey God rather than men, can never # seriously made a question by Common sense, any more than by 10tW. here may be, there often are, cases, in which, from motives of prudence and expediency, we may feel ourselves bound to obey magistrates, for the time at least, when acting beyond their authority, and aside from law. This subject is too extensive, to be particularly considered on the present occasion. I shall only observe, therefore, that we are bound to fix in our minds a high sense of the duty, and importance, of obeying rulers; and of the danger, always threatening the public peace, and prosperity, from
unnecessary disobedience. Such a sense will, it is believed, prevent most of the real difficulties, to be apprehended in cases of this nature. The observations, already made concerning this general subject, will prepare the way for settling our opinions concerning a particular question, involved in it, which is of high importance to mankind. It is this : Whether a nation is warranted to resist Rulers, when seriously encroaching on its liberties 2 It is my intention to confine the answer, which will now be given to this question, to the lawfulness of such resistance. The expediency of it, I shall suppose to be granted; so far as the safety, and success, of the resistance is concerned. In other words, I shall suppose the People, immediately interested in the question, to have as fair an opportunity, as can be reasonably expected, of preserving, or acquiring political liberty; and of establishing, after the contest is ended, a free and happy government. In this case, the resistance in question is, in my own view, warranted by the Law of God. It is well known, that this opinion has been adopted by some wise and good men, and denied by others. But the reasons, alleged by both classes for their respective doctrines, have, so far as they have fallen under my observation, been less satisfactory, than I wished. o A nation, already free, ought, whenever encroachments upon its freedom are begun, to reason in some such manner, as the fol
lowing: 44 Hopin, according to the universal and uniform experience of man, has regularly been fatal to every human interest. It has attacked private happiness, and invaded public prosperity. It has multiplied sufferings without number, and beyond degree. It has visited, regularly, the nation, the neighbourhood, and the fireside; and carried with it public sorrow, and private anguish. Personal Liberty has withered at its touch; and national safety, eace, and prosperity, have faded at its approach. Enjoyment as fled before it; life expired; and hope vanished. Evils of this magnitude have all been suffered, also, merely to gratify the caprice, the pride, the ambition, the avarice, the resentment, or the voluptuousness, of one, or a few, individuals; each of whose interests is of the same value in the sight of God, and no more, than those of every other individual belonging to the nation. Can there be a reason; do the Scriptures furnish one ; why the millions of the present generation, and the more numerous millions of o: generations, should suffer these evils, merel to gratify the lusts of ten, twenty, or one hundred, of their fellowmen 77° “If an affirmative answer should be given to this question ; let it be remembered, that the same despotic power has, with equal regwlarity, cut off from subjects the means of usefulness and duty. Mankind are sent into the world, to serve God, and do good to each other. If these things are not done; we live in vain, and worse than in vain. If the means of doing them are taken away; we are prevented, just so far, from answering the end of our creation. In vain is mental and bodily energy, in vain are talents, opportunities, and privileges, bestowed by our Creator, if they are to be wrested from us by our fellow-men; or the means of exerting them taken away. ł. vain are we constituted Parents, if we are precluded from procuring the comfortable sustenance, providing for the education, and promoting the o and salvation, of our offspring. In vain are we made children, if we are forbidden to perform the filial duties. In vain are we placed in the other relations of life, if we are prohibited from performing the duties, to which they give birth. Take away usefulness from man; and there is nothing left, which is good; but every thing which is bad. This usefulness, however, Despots have in a dreadful manner either prevented, or destroyed. They have shrunk the talents, and palsied the energy, of the mind; have shut the door of knowledge, and blocked up the path of virtue; have wilted the human race into sloth and imbecility, and lowered the powers of man almost to the level of brutism. The little s: of Greece exhibited more energy, and more specimens of mental greatness, in one hundred and #, years, than the Chinesian World has exhibited in two thousand.” “But this is not all. Despotic Rulers have exercised a most mao influence upon the Virtue of mankind. They have assumed the prerogatives of Heaven; and prescribed as the will of God, a system of religious doctrines, and duties, to their subjects. This system has invariably been absurd, gross, and monstrous. The M.H., which it has enjoined, has been chiefly a code of crimes, fitter for the regulation of banditti, than of sober men. The Religion, which it has taught, has been a scheme of impiety. Yet this system they have enforced by the most terrible F. by the loss of property, liberty, and life; by the gaol and the gibbet, the wheel and the rack, the faggot and the cross. Blood has stained the sceptre; martyrs have surrounded the throne.” “Even this is not all. Despots, bad men themselves, must be served by bad men. The baleful and deleterious influence of the head and the members united, has extended every where; even to the corner and the cottage; and, like the deadly damp of the cavern, has imperceptibly, and silently, extinguished light, and life, wherever it has spread. Virtue has fallen amid the exhalation, unobserved and unknown. In its place has arisen, and flourished, a train of monstrous corruptions, which, with continually increasing strength, have finally gained an entire possession of the land. Degenerated beyond recall, and polluted beyond hope, a people, under this influence, has sunk into remediless ruin; and § continued to exist, until Mercy was wearied out by their profligacy, and reluctantly gave the sign for Vengeance to sweep them away.
One regular and complete example of all these evils is given us by the voice of God Himself in the kingdom of Israel. #. history records a multitude. Is there any principle, either scriptural, or rational, which demands of any nation such a sacrifice 7" “But, were we to admit, that such a sacrifice might lawfully be made by us, so far as ourselves only are concerned, it is further to be remembered, that we are entrusted with all the possessions, privileges, blessings, and hopes, of our offspring *::::: every succeeding generation. Guardians appointed by God himself, how can we fail of discharging punctiliously this sacred trust? The deposit is of value, literally immense. i. involves the education, the comfort, the safety, the usefulness, the religious system, the morals, the piety, and the eternal life of millions, which can neither be known nor calculated. This is a trust, which cannot lawfully be given .# unless in obedience to a known and unquestionable command of God: and no such command can be pleaded. Equally important is it, that we prevent, (for, under God, none but we can prevent) the contrary innumerable and immeasurable evils.” “At the same time, it is ever to be remembered, that, under a free government, all the blessings, which I have mentioned, so far as they are found in the present world, live and prosper. Such a government is the soil and the climate, the rain and the sunshine of human good. ... Despotism, on the contrary, is the combined drought and sterility of Nubia, the frost and darkness of Zembla ; amid which, virtue, comfort, and safety, can never spring.” With these considerations in view, it is unquestionably evident to me, that nations are bound, so far as it is possible, to maintain their freedom, and to resist every serious encroachment upon it, with such efforts, as are necessary for its preservation. Thirdly. Subjects are bound to obey Every Magistrate, acting lawfully, in the same manner. #. Constable and Tithing-man are, in their own sphere, as truly armed with the authority of the State, as the Governor and the rince : and the Divine Command is, Submit to every ordinance of man, that is, to governmental authority in every department, for the Lord's sake. To resist Rulers in high stations may be productive of more mischief than to resist those in low ones. In other respects the guilt of the resistance is the same. 3. Subjects are bound to Honour their Rulers. They are bound to treat them with all the becoming marks of respect and reverence. Rulers, when treated with little external respect, will soon cease to be respected. They are bound to support them honourably. This is one of the few doctrines, in which all ages and nations have united. Avarice alone has, in any case, prompted men to believe the contrary doctrine, or hindered them from carrving this into proper execution.
An honourable support to Rulers is that, which the general sense of propriety pronounces to be of this nature. Subjects are bound also to Speak Respectfully of their Rulers. On this subject it will be necessary to be somewhat more particular. Thou shall not speak oil of the Ruler of thy, People, is certainly a precept, dictated by Reason, as well as #. ation. Still, it cannot, I think, be denied, that the faults of Rulers are, on certain occasions, to be exposed, as well as those of private individuals. The Prophets frequently exposed the faults of their Rulers; and Christ and his Apostles, those of the magistrates of their day. The question, When and in what manner this may be done by us, becomes, therefore, a serious topic of investigation. Concerning this subject the following thoughts have occurred to me. First. Censures of Rulers, in order to be lawful, must be true. Secondly. There must be a real and solid reason for uttering them. It is not enough, that a Ruler has done evil. In order to be justified in publishing it, we must be assured, that some important good will, with i probability, spring from the publication. The evil, arising from this source, is, in the abstract, always real and important. Where there is no good, sufficiently probable, and sufficiently important, to balance this evil, we cannot be vindicated in bringing it into existence. #. y. We must sincerely aim at doing this good. A watchful and faithful determination of this kind, accompanied by a scrupulous and conscientious sense of its high importance, as a part of our duty, will ordinarily preserve us from the danger of transgression. He, who in the proper and Evangelical manner has formed such a determination, and made it an habitual part of his character, will almost always perform his o with respect to this subject; and rarely, or never, censure a Ruler, unless on solid grounds. Fourthly. Such censures should in all ordinary cases be uttered in the language of JModeration, and not of Invective, or Ridicule. A great part of the evils, done in this way, flow from the Manner, in which the Censure is conducted. Where this is sober and temperate, there is usually little room to fear. Where it is not, the Censurer is always exposed to the danger of Criminality. 4. Subjects are bound to Defend their Rulers. This duty equally includes opposition to private and civil violence, and resistance to open hostility; and is so obvious and acknowledged, as to need no illustration. In defending their o subjects are only employed in ultimately defending themSelves. 5. Subjects are bound to furnish all necessary supplies for the exigences of Government.