Imatges de pÓgina

The only defect in this account is, that neither the Scriptures, nor any subsequent history of the early ages of the church, fạrnish any direct attestation of the existence of such disaffected sentiments amongst the primitive converts. They fupply indeed some circumstances, which render probable the opinion, that extravagant notions of the political rights of the Christian state were at that time entertained by inany profelytes to the religion. From the question proposed to Christ,"Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar?" it

may be presumed that doubts had been started in the Jewijl schools concerning the obligation, or even the lawfulness, of submission to the Roman yoke. The accounts delivered by Josephus, of various insurrections of the Jews of that and the following age, excited by this principle, or upon this pretence, confirm the presumption. Now, as the Christians were at first chiefly taken from the fews, confounded with them by the rest of the world, and, from the affinity of the two religions, apt to intermix the doctrines of both, it is not to be wondered at, that a tenet, so flattering to the self-importance of those who embraced it, should have been communicated to the new institution. Again, the teachers of Christianity, amongst the privileges which their


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religion conferred

upon its profcilors, were wont to extol the “liberty into which they were call

ed,"-"in which Christ had made them free.” ' This liberty, wliich was intended of a deliverance froin the various servitude, in which they had heretcfore lived, to the doninaiion of finful passions, to the superstition of the Gentile idolatry, or the incumbered ritual of the fewish dispensation, might by some be interpreted to signify an emancipation from all refraint which was imposed by an authority merely human. At least they might be represented by their enemies as maintaining notions of this dangerous tendency. To some error or calumny of this kind, the words of St. Peter seem to allude: “ For so is the will of God, that with well-doing

ye may put to filence the ignorance of foolish

inen: as free, and not using your liberty for “ a cloak of maliciousness (i. e. sedition), but as “ the servants of God.” After all, if any one think this conjecture too feebly supported by testimony, to be relied upon in the interpretation of fcripture, he will then revert to the considerations alleged in the preceding part of this chapter.

After fo copious an account of what we apprehend to be the general design and doctrine M



of thefe much agitated passages, little need be
added in explanation of particular clauses. St.
Paul has said, “ Whosoever resisteth the power,
“ refifteth the ordinance of God.” This phrase,
" the ordinance of God,” is by many so in-
terpreted as to authorize the most exalted and
fuperstitious ideas of the regal character. But,
furely, such interpreters have facrificed truth
to adulation. For, in the first place, the expref-
fion, as used by St. Paul, is just as applicable to
one kind of government, and to one kind of
fucceffion, as to another--to the elective magi-
strates of a pure republic, as to an absolute here-
ditary monarch. In the nest place, it is not
ailirmed cf the supreme magistrate exclusively,
that he is the ordinance of God; the title, what-
ever it imports, belongs to every inferior officer
of the state as much as to the highest. The
divine right of Kings is, like the divine right
of other magistrates-the law of the land, or even
actual and quiet poffeffion of their office ; a
right ratified, we humbly presume, by the di-
vine approbation, so long as obedience to their
authority appears to be necessary or conducive to
the common welfare. Princes are ordained of
God by virtue only of that general decree, by
which he ailents, and adds the fauction of his

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will, to every law of society, which promotes his own purpose, the communication of human happiness: according to which idea of their origin and constitution, (and without any repugnancy to the words of St. Paul) they are by St. Peter denominated the ordinance of man.

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CIVIL Liberty is the not being restrained by any

Law, but what conduces in a greater degree to the public welfare.

To do what we will, is natural liberty; to do what we will, consistently with the interest of the community to which we belong, is civil liberty; that is to say, the only liberty to be defired in a state of civil society.

I should wish, no doubt, to be allowed to act in

every instance as I pleafed, but I reflect that the reit also of mankind would then do the lame; in which state of universal independence and self-direction I should ineet with so many checks and obftacles to my own will, from the interference and opposition of other men's, that not only my happiness, but my liberty, would be less, thán whilst the whole community were fubject to the dominion of equal laws. I ne boasted liberty of a state of nature exists


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