Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

BOOK VIII.

ON THE DUTIES WHICH ARISE OUT OF THE CONSTI

TUTION OF CIVIL SOCIETY.

CHAPTER I.

THE ORIGIN OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT.

It is probable that the first government known among mankind was patriarchal. The account which is given to us in the Pentateuch of the longevity of man in the early ages of the world, and of the habits of pastoral life which prevailed, naturally leads us to this conclusion.

A consideration of the circumstances in which mankind are introduced into the world, and in which they are prepared for the duties and employments in which they are afterwards to engage, strengthens this opinion. Combined from the beginning into families or small communities, they are trained up under a system of discipline; and by being accustomed to render obedience to parental authority, they can afterwards more readily yield whatever subjection the arrangements of Providence may require from them.

Nor can we doubt that the parental authority would, more or less, continue during the parents' life. It would be revered by his offspring after his death ; and they being united together by affection and habit, would be led, from motives of convenience and security,

“ to transfer their obedience to some one of the family, who, by his age or services, or by the part he possessed in the direction of their affairs during the lifetime of the parent, had already taught them to respect his advice, or to attend to his commands."

In this way we may account for the origin of a tribe or clan, which as it increased in affluence and power would extend its authority; so that surrounding families would incorporate themselves into it, that they might enjoy its protection.

Various causes might contribute to render this authority, vested in the chief of the clan, hereditary. His own personal accomplishments, his mental superiority, his skill in war, and wisdom in peace, would raise him in the estimation and affection of his clans, men; and what could be more natural than to transfer the affectionate obedience to his son which they had given to him as their leader and commander ? When the sovereign power had been in the same family for some generations, prejudice, interest, indolence, and even reason, would suggest motives for rendering the possession perpetual.

But though in this way we are able to account for the origin of civil government, we still require to be informed of the grounds on which it is a duty in us to render it obedience. Why should I be called upon to obey laws which were framed by my ancestors, and to observe institutions which are enforced by mere human authority? Does it not seem incongruous that millions of mankind, whose physical force when combined seems irresistible, should submit to the control, direction, and enactments, of a few of their fellow-creaturesThese enactments, in many instances, are not agreeable to my understanding, my taste, or to what I conceive to be the good of society; and why should I obey them?

To these inquiries I reply, without entering into the speculations of philosophers concerning the grounds of obedience to civil government, that Divine Revelation clearly shews it to be the will of God, that obedience should be given to the existing anthorities.

CHAPTER II.

ON THE SUPPORT WHICH CHRISTIANITY RENDERS TO CIVIL

GOVERNMENT,

CHRISTIANITY, while it has left our civil rights unimpaired, has clearly defined the character, and, in general, the duties of rulers and of subjects, in regard to each other. It has strongly inferred the duty of obedience to government. The principal passages in which this is enjoined are the following:

“ Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers: for there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For, for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues ; tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour*."

“ Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all ment."

“ Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”

On these passages, and especially on the first, I make the following observations :

I. That the Apostle addresses himself to the favourite notion of the Jews, that they, as the peculiar people of God, were exempted from subjection to heathen rulers, and from paying them tribute. The sentiment accorded well with that proud and refractory spirit which they cherished; and seems to have been patronized by the Pharisees. This opinion

* Rom. xii. 1-7, + Titus iii. 1, 2. 1 Peter ü. 13-18.

was at the foundation of that device of the chief priests and Scribes, in which, with the view of compassing the death of Christ, they employed spies, who feigned themselves to be just men, and sent them to propose an insidious question as to the lawfulness of paying tribute. They conceived that the answer of our Lord, whatever that should be, must inevitably produce his ruin. “ Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth; neither carest thou for any man, for thou regardest not the person of men. Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar, or not? He perceived their wickedness; and said unto them, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites ? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him Cæsar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar's ; and unto God the things that are Gods * ?"

Our Lord thus discountenanced the favourite notion of the Jews, and taught them the duty of obeying a Sovereign whom they themselves recognised, in every thing in which as a sovereign he had a right to command.

The Apostle, in like manner, taught the converts from the Jewish religion at Rome, among whom this opinion probably obtained, that they were cheerfully to submit to the existing authorities, and to obey the laws. However exalted in rank, and whatever office they held in the church, they were bound, in every thing lawful, to render obedience.

“ Let every soul * Math. xxii, 15–24.

« ElőzőTovább »