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1 Pet. ii. 13.
as he is a God of Decency and Order, and not of Anarchy and Confusion; hath taken all due care for the placing Men in higher and lower Stations, in such DiItances from, and such Influences over each other, as may best conduce to their mutual Safety and Quiet. 'Tis true, these Præ-eminences are what some are now born to, but still their Title is from above. For the Laws of Nature, and of Nations, the Civil Constitutions of each Country, and the voluntary Compacts of particular Persons, are but so many Sanctions of Almighty God. They are inspired, or confirmed, or allowed, by Him. Government is indeed called the Ordinance of Man, in regard it is exercised by, and contrived for the Benefit, and limited or directed by the Laws, of Men. But still the Right, which Government conveys, is God's; and the different Forms of Government are but so many different Methods of adjusting the Measures, and transferring the Administration of it, to particular Uses, and Persons.
This then shews us the true state of all Temporal Jurisdiction, that it is not, cannot be Universal and Absolute ; but must be limited, and depending, and subordinate only. For which reason it is, that the Scripture, when directing the Duties of the several Sorts of Superiors to Inferiors, constantly remembers to mention their proper Characters, so as to add withal an Advertisement, to whom they stand accountable, for the Administration and regular Discharge of them. The Civil Parent, is for this reason ftiled The Minister of God to Men for their Ver. 4. Good. The Natural advised, that it is a Eph. vi. 4. Duty incumbent upon Him, to bring up his Children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord ; and that his Authority over his own Flesh, is entrusted with him, for this very purpose. The Masters are commanded to treat their servants with Justice, and
Col. iv. I.
Equity, and great Moderation ; as considering, that
They have also a Master in Heaven. So
that the Post assigned to every one of thefe is, upon the Matter, much the fame with that of the Centurion in the Gospel ; who describes himself to
be a Man under Authority, having at the Matth. viii. 9.
same time Soldiers under Him; and so owing and paying a like Obedience to his Superior Officer; which he, by virtue of his Commission, required from others of a lower Rank. An Obedience, to which They could not be engaged, nor He make demand of, but only so far forth, as he had been empowered by the Giver of his Commission: An Obedience due to him, in quality of a Centurion, as an Officer set over private Soldiers ; fet so by One, who had Power of Him and Them; whose higher Elevation gave Him the same Right to command the Centurions, that They had to command any Common Centinel : Or rather, to speak more strictly and properly, One, who alone could, alone did, command Both : Only with this difference, that the Officer was con manded more immediately by the Prince or General himself, as Kings are by Almighty God; the Soldiers by a Deputy, as the People by the Means and Mediation of their Princes: But still, principally and ultimately by God, whose Vicegerents Princes are, as the Magistrates, commissioned by Them, are Theirs.
3. From hence we shall be able to satisfy our selves, in the Third Place, how the Performance of our Duty to the Civil Magistrate becomes an Act of Religion. The true Cale is, that God hath enjoyned it, who alone hath Power over the Consciences of Men ; and therefore our Obedience in this respect can be due, primarily and properly, to none but Him, and to Others, purely upon His account. It is the Father and Ruler of Spirits alone, that can lay Obligations upon the Souls of Men. So says St.
Luke xii. 4, 5
James expresly, There is one Law-giver, that is, One exclusive of all others, who is James iv. 12. able to save and to destroy. For, since that Authority is manifestly defective, which only prescribes Rules for Obedience, but cannot enforce those Rules, by executing and inflicting Punishments on the Disobedient, and bestowing Rewards and Encouragements for Fidelity and Subiniffion; the Apostle wisely added his Reason, in those last Words, Who is able to save and to destroy. So that the Argument in effect stands thus; No Power but God's can punish or reward the Souls of Men, therefore no Authority but God's can bind the Souls of Men. And This indeed we find to have been our Saviour's own Argument too, when preparing his Disciples for Sufferings and Persecutions: I will forwarn you whom ye fall fear : Fear not them which kill the Body, and after that have no more that tbey can do ; but fear Him, which after be bath killed, hath power to cast into Hell.
Men may be subječt for wrath, ( as St. Paul expresseth it) that is, upon prudent and politick Considerations, to Preserve their Liberties, Estates, and Lives; and for avoiding those temporal Inconveniences, which They, who have long Hands and long Swords, might otherwise bring upon them.
But no other Reason can render it necessary to be subje£t for Conscience sake, and upon a Principle of Duty; except this single one, premised by the Apostle here, as the ground of that Necessity; that our Governors are the Ministers of God. That is to say, He intrusted and invested them, The Authority they exercise is His, His Honour is concerned to take Vengeance on them, who shall presume to insult it, The Despi- Ver. 2. sers of Them do despise Him that sent them; and therefore they that refift, because in resisting the
Power, they resist the Ordinances of God, do receive to themselves damnation. In like manner the fame Apostle commands Servants
to do the will of God from the heart, not Eph. vi. 6.
with Eye-service as Men-pleasers, but as those that serve the Lord Christ. He presses the Honour and Observance due from Children, because this
is right and pleasing to the Lord. And Vi. I.
are not these again plain Intimations, that the foundation of all Power is one and the fame, that every Obligation to Superiors is a knot of God's tying, and that the Bonds of Nature, as well as those of Civil Society, voluntary Contract, or personal Confent, are the Works of his Hands, and receive the whole of their strength, and binding virtue from be
4. Fourthly, This lets us in to a just and true Notion of that Duty required on Our parts, stiled by St. Peter, fubmitting our selves to every Ordinance of Man; and by St. Paul here, being subječt unto the higher Powers. Expressions, both of them, cautious and prudent; and fuch, as both suppose a possiblity of some Injunetions, which we may not actually obey; and direct our Behaviour, in such cases of difficulty.
For, if all Power be God's, and whatever portion of it any Mortal enjoys, be derived from, and held under Him; If no Capacity in the World, though never so high, never so facred, can be any thing more, than a Deputation from Heaven ; If the Consciences of Men be the peculiar Dominion of the Father of Spirits, a Jurisdiction incommunicable, which no Man may, no Man can invade; It necessarily follows, that Governors of every kind are bound to impose such Commands only, as are agreeable to the Will of Their and Our Common Father, and Master, and Lord. They may not abuse their Power to the Prejudice of Him whose it is; and who committed it to them in
the quality of a Trust, for which they are highly accountable. But if they do; then those, who are under their Direction, must look to their first and highest Engagement; and no pretence of complying with the Orders of their immediate Superiors, will bear them out, in Actions manifestly displeasing to their Great General Governor. 'Tis certain, that not only no positive Evil must be committed, but no necessary Duty must be left undone, for any Human respects whatsoever: That Daniel was no less concern'd, not to neglect God, by omitting his constant Addresses to Him, than the Three Children not to deny God, by committing Idolatry against him. And that all things else must give way in such Cases; because of what Importance soever other Observances may seem, still Religion is the first and main Point. This must be guarded, at the hazard of all other Interests and Expectances; Which, though never so just, while consistent with our Duty towards God; yet they lose all their weight and value, and the pursuits of them, instead of Duties, or Engagements, do forthwith commence Crimes, and snares to our Consciences, without it.
But, even where actual Obedience is unlawful, Subjection will continue necessary. For this the Scripture
gives us many express Precepts. And for this, not only the History contained there, but that of all Christian Antiquity, furnish great numbers of Examples. Men, who have immortaliz'd the Honour of their own Memory, and the Christian Cause, by enduring grief for Conscience towards Ged, suffering wrongfully. The very remembrance what those Powers were, at the time when this and St. Peter's Epistle were written, is a forcible Argument in the Case. For if to a Nero such Deference were required, how can, Tyrannical Abuse of Power, cruel and unjust Persecution, or Difference in Religion, how can any or all these alone be sufficient, to absolve Subjects from
1 Pet. ii. 19.