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be kept from mingling with hell for a single day. All probability is that sin would soon enter and rage unrestrained, if God withdraw all the influence of heaven but the simple workings of each one's own conscience. All created beings were made for law. From their very nature they require the influence of positive enactments and sanctions. If the force of authority be removed, they are at once unnaturalized, unorganized, and the society which they constitute must fall in ruins. The very thought of anarchy is dreadful to every finite mind which allows itself any serious reflection.
If this would follow in a world of primitive obedience, more certainly would destruction ensue to a system in which the principles of depravity were already acting. Take away all positive retribution from vice and crime, and what security remains but that each one must lie at the mercy of the strongest ? The bloody days of Danton and Robespierre would come again, and earth and heaven be robed in sackloth. The race would fail from the earth; society could not hold together for one generation. The only safety possible would be in throwing the nation back into its elements, and each one fleeing from his fellows to perpetual solitude, where no law is needed but that which lays its obligations upon one individual. Society among men exists, and can be maintained only by superadding the sanctions of positive authority to natural obligation. To this we owe all the blessings which social life has ever imparted. This additional influence is necessary. And in various ways it is afforded by the interposition of positive legislation. It gives distinctness and definiteness to duty, by an explicit and peremptory annunciation of the precepts—it adds the sanction of positive rewards and punishments—it gives vitality and personality to law in the recognition of a living present sovereign-it augments obligation by the exhibition of the lawgiver's own moral character, wishes and sympathies—and finally, it prevents all evasion of penalty through the stifling of conscience, by the consciousness that there is a personal agency in another, whose interest as well as duty it is to arraign, convict, condemn and execute.
Authority is thus essential to the well being of creatures. The sceptre must be held over the head of every rational being, with the sole exception of the Great Supreme and Sovereign Lord of all. But more especially for man. He was made for society. All his natural endowments bespeak the design of a
social existence, and urge him to a communion with his species. He cannot be happy in isolated seclusion. The elements of society are separate individuals it is true, but it is a delusion to suppose that they ever existed in solitude. It is but the dream of theorizers, to talk of the organization of civil government by a congregating of separate individuals from all points of the compass, who have left each his solitary cave and come up in his savage wildness to enter into a compact that he will wear clothes, obey laws, and become a civilized and social being. Man never otherwise existed than in society, and as a member of society he must be governed by law, and live submissively under rightful authority. Every influence which goes to weaken the force of law, or strengthen the opinion that man does not need it, is a blow directly at the very vitals of human happiness. It is as foul a treason against the rights of society as is the effort to pervert the principles of natural morality. The moment that legitimate authority is subverted, there is no security for earth or Heaven. Gratifying to the pride of human independence as it may be, to rise above all authority, and obey no law but that which is self-imposed, yet, like every other mad presumption of self-sufficiency, such an attempt can only issue in deeper degradation and ruin. It is not true that man becomes more poble and exalted in proportion as he rises above authority. It is usurping a station which is not his, for which he was never designed, and to which his nature has no adaptation. No being but God can afford to stand beyond the jurisdiction of sovereign authority. Every attempt of men to “be as gods,” in this respect, is as truly rebellion against the laws of heaven and their own nature, as was that of our first parents who fell by the same delusive presumption in Eden.
Here would be the place to introduce the arguments froin Revelation, viz: That God, the source of the highest authority, has explicitly enjoined obedience and respect to human authority. Reference may be made to Matt. 22: 21. Rom. 13: 1, 7. 1 Tim. 2: 12. Titus 3: 1. 1 Pet. 2: 13, 17, etc. in relation to civil authority-and to Ex. 20: 12. Luke 2: 51. Eph. 6: 1. Col. 3: 20. 1 Tim. 3:12, etc. in relation to parental authority. But as our object is to present this subject to the reason of man in the light of its own nature, we pass by the declaration of the word of God. Nature teaches the absolute necessity of positive authority for the government of man.
But authority, to be binding, must be legitimate; although
it is not necessary to obligation that the subject should be able to see the rightness of the precept. Yet it is necessary that be should be able to see the rightness of the authority. It is from this perception that the conscience is bound to obedience. The assumption of authority by mere arbitrary power can fix no sense of obligation upon the mind. It is a tyrannical usurpation, and all resistance to it, with the spirit if not the deeds of a Brutus, is the dictate of freedom and nature. The inquiry therefore is of the highest importance,
II. What is the test of legitimate authority ?
A wide field is here opened before us, but it will not be necessary to our present purpose to explore it very extensively. The following considerations will furnish a sufficient criterion of the legitimacy or validity of the authority exercised.
1. The propriety of the relation between the sovereign and the subject must be consulted.
There is in the nature and relations of things an inherent fitness or unfitness to certain results. This is to be regarded in the estimation of the rightness of the authority. Certain relations in themselves afford a strong presumption for or against the right to command. That in which God stands to his creatures as Creator and Preserver, or a Parent to his children, furnishes a priori a strong presumption in favor of the right to exercise authority by the former over the latter. There is a perceived propriety in it. So also between master and servant, teacher and pupil, the ascertained will of the majority, and that of the minority, there is seen a natural fitness, which would of itself lead the mind to fix on the one as the proper depository of authority over the other. It would be doing violence to the natural feelings to invert this order, and change the source of authority to the other side of the relation. This consideration however can only be presumptive. There can be no universal test from this principle alone. Higher reasons may prevail to remove authority from what may be called these natural sources, and righteously invest another with it. The parent may become utterly disqualified to govern his family, the instructor incompetent, and a nation find it necessary to leave many individuals entirely out of the account in making its estimate of the majority. The propriety of the relation therefore affords only presumptive and not positive right to authority. It may be set aside for sufficient reasons, though never without such reasons. Even in the case of the Supreme Being, something besides creation and preservation is necessary to legitimate authority. If a malevolent being bad created us and given us laws like himself, rebellion and not obedience would be duty. This therefore is one item which is to be regarded as indicative of the proper source of authority, and which is not to be set aside but for strong countervailing reasons.
2. There must be competent qualifications.
This is an essential element in all valid authority. Where the source of sovereignty is manifestly incompetent to the purposes of authority, it can confer no obligation. The competency is found in the possession of those qualifications which secure the enactment of the best laws and the administration of the best government which the nature of the case permits. The intelligence and habits of the people, the exigencies of their condition, and all the general circumstances which give peculiarity to their character must be taken into the account, and the source of authority, which can rightly claim their obedience, must possess within itself those qualifications which secure to that community the best government. There must be intelligence to discern, rectitude to select, and power and decision to execute, the best system of legislation for that people. The possession of these qualities more than any thing else confirms authority. Man must be governed, his nature demands it, and that is the right source of authority which affords the highest security for the best government.
In the divine government all things conspire to its absolute perfection. God's relation to his creatures and his essential attributes ensure perfection in the precept, the penalty, and the execution. There is a government absolutely the best that can be for the subject. It is not essential to a perfect government that it should secure universal obedience. The subject is a distinct agent, and sustains a distinct responsibility, and may therefore be most guilty, while the sovereign and his law are absolutely perfect. If the law is the best for the subject, and its sanctions righteously executed, it has done all that it can do, and is itself perfect though many of its subjects are guilty of wilsul disobedience. This is true of the divine government. But in all human governments there can be only an approximation to perfection. No human source of authority can be found competent to secure an infallible system. That source of authority, however, is legitimate which gives the highest security for the greatest attainable degree of perfection. This is the theory of all correct legislation. Here is the basis of all good government. The general rule of investing the parent with the authority of family goveroment is the highest security for domestic peace and prosperity. In all the different forms of civil governments this principle is the test of its legitimacy-the best security for the best government. Not the legitimacy of descent, or the regularity of election self-considered, but these only as means to an end, and connected with the security of the best government for the people. To this test all authority must submit as the proof of its validity. If it cannot endure the application, it is wrong, and ought at once to yield itself to correction; and if it can endure it, it is right, no matter what its form of administration. The most absolute despotism is as legitimate as the authority of a parent, if it secures to the people the best government for their peculiar genius and character, and rebellion against it, is treason of as deep guilt as that against the most popular form of government on earth.
Here is the ground for the inapplicability of popular republican forms of government to many nations. They are not prepared for so much freedom. All governments to be legitimate must be for the good of the governed, and in many instances the will of the majority would not secure it. They are not ripe for a free popular elective system. There is not sufficient intelligence and virtue to make it safe to trust the supreme authority in their hands. It would be to their own destruction. Indeed it is clear that there has never yet been a nation, where it would be safe to carry out fully the principle of intrusting supreme power to a majority. Our own government may approach the nearest to such a state, of any that has yet been administered; but clearly we are yet at a long remove a proposition. Who would not shrink from the experiment of throwing the destinies of this nation into the hands of a majority of every man, woman and child within it? But why not do this ? Simply because it is clear that it would not secure the best legislation. Yea, there is the most fearful ground of apprehension, that the gateways are already thrown so wide open, that the sweeping flood of vice and licentiousness and popular frenzy which is rolling in shall overwhelm the last hope of freedom forever. If the work of education and moral culture be not pushed forward with a zeal and energy proportioned to the exigencies of the crisis, there can be no other issue. A popular government, administered in such a way as not to secure the