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CH A P. IV.
OF THE DUTY OF CIVIL OBEDIENCE AS STATED
IN THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES.
W E affirm, that as to the extent of our civil
W rights and obligations, Christianity hath left us where she found us ; that she hath neither altered, nor ascertained it; that the New Testament contains not one passage, which, fairly interpreted, affords either argument or objection applicable to any conclusions upon the subject, that are deduced from the law and religion of
The only passages which have been seriously alleged in the controversy, or which it is necefsary for us to state and examine, are the two following; the one extracted from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, the other from the First General Epistle of St. Peter,
ROMANs xiii. 1—7. “ Let every soul be subject unto the higher “ powersFor there is no power but of God; L 4
" the powers that be, are ordained of God.
1 Peter, ii. 13---18.
“ do well. For so is the will of God, that with “ well-doing ye may put to silence the igno“rance of foolish men: as free, and not using “ your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but s6 as the servants of God.”
To comprehend the proper import of these instructions, let the reader reflect, that upon the subject of civil obedience there are two questions; the first, whether to obey government be a moral duty and obligation upon the conscience at all; the second, how far, and to what cases, that obedience ought to extend ;—that these two questions are so distinguishable in the imagination, that it is possible to treat of the one, without any thought of the other; and lastly, that if expresfions which relate to one of these questions be transferred and applied to the other, it is with great danger of giving them a signification very different from the author's meaning. This diftinction is not only possible, but natural. If I met with a person, who appeared to entertain doubts, whether civil obedience were a moral duty which ought to be voluntarily discharged, or whether it were not a mere submission to force, like that, which we yield to a robber, who holds a pistol to our breast, I should represent to him the use and offices of civil government,
the end and the necessity of civil subjection ; or, if I preferred a different theory, I should explain to him the social compact, urge him with the obligation and the equity of his implied promise and tacit consent to be governed by the laws of the state from which he received protection; or I should argue, perhaps, that Nature herself dictated the law of subordination, when the planted within us an inclination to associate with our species, and framed us with capacities so various and unequal.- From whatever principle I set out, I should labour to infer from it this conclufion, “ That obedience to the state, is to be “ numbered amongst the relative duties of human “ life, for the transgression of which, we shall « be accountable at the tribunal of divine justice, ss whether the magistrate be able to punish us for “ it or not;” and being arrived at this conclufion, I should stop, having delivered the conclufion itself, and throughout the whole argument expressed the obedience, which I inculcated, in the most general and unqualified terms, all reservations and restrictions being superfluous, and foreign to the doubts I was employed to remove.
If in a short time afterwards, I should be accofted by the fame person, with complaints of public grievances, of exorbitant taxes, of acts of cruelty and oppression, of tyrannical encroachments upon the ancient or ftipulated rights or the people, and should be consulted whether it were lawful to revolt, or justifiable to join in an attempt to shake off the yoke by open resistance; I should certainly consider myself as having a case and question before me very different from the former. I should now define and discriminate. I should reply, that if public expediency be the foundation, it is also the measure of civil obedience; that the obligation of subjects and sovereigns is reciprocal ; that the duty of allegiance, whether it be founded in utility or compact, is neither unlimited nor unconditional; that peace may be purchased too dear; that patience becomes culpable pufillanimity, when it serves only to encourage our rulers to increafe the weight of our burthen, or to bind it the faster ; that the submission, which surrenders the liberty of a nation, and entails slavery upon future generations, is enjoined by no law of rational morality: finally, I should instruct him to compare the peril and expence of his enterprize, with the effects it was expected to produce, and to make choice of the alternative, by which not his own present relief or profit, but