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object of delight, and not of fear or terror. God-is visible in all his works; but whilst religion is confused and made subservient to the weak policy of governments and men, and the enactments of governments are so complex that few can understand them, it cannot be expected that the world can be much improved. There is no nation but owns a God, and a government, of some sort or other, which they ought to obey; but the nature of their perfections being kept from their knowledge, and not to be observed in practice, they often yield to unprincipled men, who would deny and disobey both. The laws of God and of good government should be made clear to every understanding, and should not only be known in theory but in practice, which is the only way to make mankind happy; and this may be easily accomplished, if governments were so inclined; for neither the laws of God nor of true government are difficult or multifarious in principle, though they appear eminently so in modern practice.
Nothing less than the Scriptures can, or ought, to determine the laws which should govern the actions and conduct of men, because they concern not only the present but the future welfare of mankind. These, as taken together, in connexion with human institutions, must first depend on knowing, and then in doing, the will of God. What His will is, can only be known by a proper examination of the Scriptures, and the revelations which he
has been pleased to communicate, as a guide for man upon earth. “ To imagine that, without such revelation, mortals can understand or know the will of God, is an absurdity even greater than to sappose that we can know the thoughts of each other, without any declaration of them, either by words or actions. But to admit the necessity of a divine revelation, (which is the surest rule for human actions,) to receive the Scriptures as that revelation, and not to make them the only infallible rule and guide in all matters which relate to the mind and will of God, therein revealed, is so far to render them of none effect*,” and to reduce the mind of man to the mere capacity of a brute.
Government, says Bacon, is a part of knowledge, secret and retired, in respect of which things are deemed secret; for some things are secret, because they are hard to know, and some because they are not fit to utter; thus we see all governments are obscure and in visible.
“ Totamque infusa per artus “ Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet." Such is the description of governments. But, in the conduct of the governors towards the governed, all things ought, as far as the frailty of man permit, to be manifest and revealed ; instead of which, all those who have written of laws, have written either as philosophers or as lawyers, and none as statesniên. As for the philosophers, they make imaginary laws for imaginary commonwealths; and their discourses are as the stars, which give little light, because of their altitude or vast distance. The lawyers write according to the states where they live; what is received as law, and not what ought to be the law; for the wisdom of a law-maker is one thing, and that of a lawyer is another.
There are in nature certain fountains of justice, whence all civil laws are derived; but as streams, or waters, take their tinctures and tastes from the soils through which they run, so civil laws vary according to the regions and governments where they are established. Again, the wisdom of a law. maker does not consist in the form or show of justice, but in the application thereof, taking into consideration by what means laws may be made certain, and what are the causes and remedies of the doubtfulness and uncertainty of law; by what means laws may be made apt and easy to be executed, and what are the impediments and remedies in the execution of laws; what influence laws, touching private right of meum and tuum, have in the public state, and how they may be made suitable and agreeable; how they are to be pruned and reformed, from time to time, and what are the best, means to keep them from being too vast in volume, or too full of obscurity; how they are to be expounded upon causes emergent, how they are to be mitigated by equity and good conscience, and whether discretion and strict law are to be mingled,
or kept apart in the same courts of justice. Also how the practice, profession, and erudition of law are to be governed, and many other points touching the administration and animation of laws. Thus we see the volumes of the modern doctors of civil law exceed those of the ancient jurisconsuls, of which Trebonian compiled the digest; and thus the course of additions and commentaries, infallibly make the body of this science more immense in quantity, but more base in substance.
Nature has designed that there should be different descriptions of people, for the various purposes of life; that there should be hewers of stone and fellers of wood; but she has not ordained that millions should be made miserable in order that a few might be made happy, or that the great body of mankind should be in poverty and wretchedness, to sustain the lesser part in indolence and luxury. For this there is no occasion. Nature has been sufficiently bountiful to supply the wants of all mankind, if men would but permit the means; but this evidently appears to depend upon the political institutions and administrations of governments.
The subjects of every state, or government, ought to contribute to its support, as nearly as possible in proportion to their respective means; that is, in proportion to the revenue they respectively enjoy, of whatever nature or kind it might be, under the protection of that government. This is a grand principle of equity which no one can deny, and which no just person can oppose; and why it is not attended to, must certainly arise from the prevailing interests of different orders of men, or from the want of ability and energy of men in power, to devise the means of raising a revenue by that incomparable law of justice.
“ The taxes which individuals are bound to pay, ought to be levied in a manner that is certain, but not arbitrary.” All should contribute to the public support, according to their means, but none should be taxed partially or unjustly; and the wealth of a nation, however great it might be, will never be sufficient to secure it against difficulties and distresses, unless its revenue be properly managed, and is not exceeded by the expenditure; for, it is the same with states as with individuals, their wealth