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culcute the duty, they do not describe the extent of it. They enforce the obligation by the proper lanctions of Christianity, without intending either to enlarge or contract, without considering indeed the limits by which it is bounded. This is also the method, in which the same Apostles enjoin the duty of servants to their masters, of children to their parents, of wives to their husbands. “ Servants, be “ subject to your masters."-" Children, obey your “ parents in all things.” — Wives, submit yourselves “ unto your own husbands." The same concise and absolute form of expression occurs in all these precepts; the same silence, as to any exceptions or distin&tions; yet no one doubts, but that the commands of masters, parents, and husbands, are often so im. moderate, unjust and inconsistent with other obligations, that they both may and ought to be resisted. In letters or differtations written professedly upon separate articles of morality, we might with more reason have looked for a precise delineation of our duty, and some degree of modern accuracy in the rules which were laid down for our direction ; but in these short collections of practical maxims, which compose the conclusion, or some small portion, of a doctrinal or perhaps controversial epistle, we cannot . be surprised to find the author more solicitous to impress the duty, than curious to enumerate excepti. ons.
The confideration of this distinction, is alone sufficient to vindicate these passages of Scripture, from any explanation, which may be put upon them, in favour of an unlimited passive obedience. But if we be permitted to assume a supposition, which many commentators proceed upon as a certainty, that the first Chriftians privately cherished an opinion, that their conversion to Christianity entitled them to new immunities, to an exemption as of right (how. ever they might give way to necessity) from the au
thority of the Roman sovereign, we are furniihed with a still more apt and satisfactory interpretation of - the Apostles' words. The two pallages app!y with great propriety to the refuration of this error: ihes teach the Christian convert to obey the magistrate “ for the Lord's fake,”-“ not only for wraih, but 66 for conscience fake;"_" that there is co power " but of God;"_" that the powers that be," 'even the present rulers of the Roman empire, though heathens and usurpers, seeing they are in polleton of the actual and neceitary authority of civil government, « are ordained of God," and, conle. quently, entitled to receive obedience from bole who profess themselves the peculiar servants of God, in a greater (certainly not in a less degree, than from any others. They briefi, describe the of. fice of civil governors, “ the punishment of evil “ doers, and the praise of them that do well;"
from which description of the use of govert.- ment, they juftly infer the duty of subjectio?,
which duty being as extensive, as the reaion upon · which it is founded, belongs to Chritiaas no less than to the heathen members of the community. If it be admitted, that the two Apostles wrote with a view to this particular question, it wil be contented, that their words cannot be transferred to a question totally different from this, with ary certainty of · carrying along with us their authority and intention.
There exists no resemblance between the case of a primitive convert who disputed the jurisdiction of the Roman government over a disciple of Christia. nity, and his, who, acknowledging the general aq. thority of the state over all its subjects, doubts, whether that authority be not, in some important branch of it, so ill conftituted or abuled, as to war. rant the endeavours of the people to bring about a reformation by force : Nor can we judge what reply the Apostles would have made to this second question, if it had been proposed to them, from any thing
they they have delivered upon the first; any more than in the two consultations above described, it could be known beforehand, what I would say in the la:ter, from the answer which I gave to the former.
The only defect in this account is, that neither the Scriptures, nor any subsequent history of the early ages of the church, furnith any direct alter a'ion of the existence of such disaffected sentiments a margik the primitive converts. They supply indeed some circumstances, wbich render probable the opinion, that extravagant notions of the political rights of the Christian state were at that time entertained by many profelytes to the religion. From the qucilio: proposed to Christ, “ Is it lawful to give tribute “ unto Cæsar ?" it may be presumed that doubts - had been started in the Jewish schools concerning the obligarion, or even the lawfulness of submitton to the Roman yoke. The accounts delivered by Josephus, of various insurrections of the years, of that, and the following age, excited by this princi. ple, or upon this pretence, confirm the preluinption. Now as the Christians were at first chiefly taken from the Jews, confounded with thein 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 i!, should have been communicated to the new inftitution. Again, the teachers of Christianity, amorgst the privileges which their religion conferred upon its profesors, were wont to cxiol the “ liberty to which " they were called, "-" in which Christ had made “ thein free." This liberty, which was intended of a deliverance from the various servitude, in which they had heretofore lived, to the domination of fin. ful pafsions, to the superftition of the Gennle dulatry, or the incumbered ritual of the Jewih dispcn. sation, might by some be interpreted to signity an
Emancipation from all reftraint which was im. posed by an authority merely human. At least they might be represented by their enemies as main. caining notions of this dangerous tëndency. To fome error or calumny of this kind, the words of St. Peter seem to allude: * For fo is the will of 66 God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence 66 the ignorance of foolish men :'as free, and not " using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness (i. e. fedition), but as the servants of God.” After all, if any one think this conjecture too feebly sup. ported by testiniony, to be relied upon in the inter. pretacion of scripture, he will then revert to the considerations alleged in the preceding part of this chapter.
After so copious an account of what we appre. hend to be the general design and doctrine of these much agitated passages, little need be added in ex. planation of particular clauses. St. Paul has said, i. Whosoever resisteth the power, resifteth the ordi. “ nance of God." This phrase, “ the ordinance of 6 God,” is by many so interpreted as to authorize the most exalted and superstitious ideas of the regal character. But, surely, such interpreters have la. crificed truth to adulation. For in the first place, the expression, as used by St. Paul, is just as applicable to one kind of government, and to one kind of succession as to another—to the elective magi. strates of a pure republic, as to an absolute heredi. tary monarch. In the next place, it is not affirmed of the supreme magistrate exclusively, that he is the ordinance of God; the title, whatever 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 Constables, - the law of the land, or even actual and quiet possession of their of. fice; a right, ratified, we humbly presume, by the divine approbation, so long as obedience to their
authority 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 allents, and adds the sanction of his will, to every law of society, which promotes his own purpoie, the communication of human happiness : accurd. ing to which idea of their origin and conftitutio, and without any repugnancy to the words of Si. Paul, they are by St. Peter denominated the ori. nance of men.