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ance, no Command of Man, can either make it begin, or cease to be so. The proper Sphere of the Civil Power does therefore lie between these two Extremes. A Middle sort, neither good nor evil, necessary or unlawful, before the Law; and afterwards necessary, only because commanded; unlawful, only because forbidden. For, though the thing it self, abstracting from the Command, be; yet Obedience to any Command, not sinful, never was, never can be, a matter of Indifference.
Nor is the force of this Obligation weakned, when things of this sort are enjoined in the practice of Religion. Because the difference of the Object, about which they are employed, does not make any difference in the Nature of the Things themselves. And therefore, to require, that we shew, where God hath commanded these things, is an unreasonable Demand; because, to justify the Magistrate's Authority, it ought to suffice, that they are no where forbidden. Religion indeed is God's peculiar, and all, that is essential to it, must come from Him: But, for the Circumstances, which regard only the Exercise and Beauty of it, these God hath left to be ordered, as may best conduce to Decency and Convenience. These may vary in several places at one and the fame time, or in the same place at different times. And this shews, how far distant they are from Institutions strictly divine; that they are still of an indifferent Temper, enjoined, altered, removed at pleasure, and as Prudence shall direct. These therefore come within the Verge of the Magistrate, by the same reason that all other Indifferent things do: and, even when enforced by a Law, are not thereby intended to be thought binding for their own fakes ; but only on the account of those general Rules, which call for our Obedience to these, as well as any other Ordinances of our Governors, for the Lord's sake.
Nor will that Apology of a scrupulous Conscience, so common with weak People, avail much in this Case. For a Scruple implies want of Evidence, clear enough to determine the Mind, to either side of the Question. Now, in a state of so much uncertainty, 'tis certainly safer, to take that side of the particular Matter in dispute, which is supported by a plain Command of Obedience in general, and tends to preserve Unity, and Peace, and Order, and Reverence for Authority; than to be carried aside by the unsettledness of our own Mind, to endanger our Souls by the guilt of refusing an Obedience, which we only doubt may be unlawful; and, by our Example, to scandalize our Brethren, foment Divisions and Disorder in Church or State, and bring our Superiors and the Laws into Contempt.
6. I observe from hence, Sixthly, the Extent of this Obligation, that it is Universal, Let every. Soul be fubject. Which plainly shews, That no Quality, or Order of Men can possibly be exempted from it. That our Blessed Lord condescended to these Submissions is manifest, froni his paying Tribute, ftom his Discourses with Pilate, from the Meekness wherewith he suffered, from his Rebuke to Peter in the Garden, and from the whole course of his Deportment, throughout the last Tragical Scene of his Life. That the Apostles never permitted their Courage and Zeal to transport them to any degree of Infolence, or Opposition to the Civil Powers ; appears from their patient and quiet enduring Imprisonments, Scourgings, and all manner of Cruelty and Injustice, inflicted for discharging the Duties of their Post, with which, they declared, no Human Authority could dispense. That the Primitive Christians esteemed it Their Duty, and their Glory, to reverence the Ordinance of God, even in Heathen Emperors, to sacrifice their Lives in the Service of a persecuting State, and without resistance to be most injuriously and barbarously treated by their Governors,
all the Apologies of the Ancients testify. And, that the coming in of the World to the Church did not abridge the Right of Christian Princes, or procure an Immunity to any of their Subjects, we need no other Evidence, than that of a most Holy Prelate, and most renowned Expositor, who, after that accession, hath upon this very Passage delivered his Sense to this effect.
To Mew, that these Commands extend to all Chryfoft.
Mon, to Priests and Monks, and not to the Laity, or Men of Secular Employments only, he begins with these Words, Let every Soul be subječt unto the Higher Powers : Though thou be an Apostle, or an Evangelist, or a Prophet, or of whasoever Character else thou art. For this fubje£tion does not take off from the Dignity of thy Religious Capacity. So little did those better Ages form any Imagination of setting up Two Supreme Lords ; the One in Spirituals, and the Other in Temporals ; fo much less of the Temporal Jurisdiction of any Bishop, Paramount to all Powers, in order to Spirituals: So far were the then Clergy from withdrawing their Allegiance, in claiming an Independence upon the Civil Governor : So ignorant of lege which their Function brought, other than that of out-shining their Flocks, as in others, so in these (than which none are more truly Christian) Virtues, of a most inviolable Loyalty, affectionate Obedience, and profound Reverence, to the Princes set over them
7. Lastly, The Passage now under consideration, represents to us the Equity of this Subjection, from the Benefits, which Government brings and secures to Mankind. To this in general it is, that we owe the Support and Countenance of Virtue, the Chastisement and Suppression of Vice, the Preservation of our just Rights, the Establishment and Security of Property and Order. And They, who, for private Ends, are forward to disturb and invade such Property and Order,
would be an over-match for the Peaceable and Conscientious; were they not restrained by the Fears of present Punishments, and terrified by necessary Examples of Justice upon Evil-doers. And, if it happen, as sometimes it will, that, in the Exercise of such Power, Hardships should fall upon particular Persons; yet for the bearing such with Patience, it is a proper Argument to submit, that the very Abuse of Power is not attended with Consequences, in any degree so destructive, so mischievous and dreadful, as the Subversion, and total Diffolution, of that Power. For this unhinges the whole Frame at once, and diffuses the Calamity, it pretends to redress. Our Governors, though next in Elevation to God, do not cease to be Men ; They continue still liable to Paffions and Resentments, like those of common Men; and to Mistakes and crafty Insinuations, as much more than common Men, as their Sphere of Business is larger, and reduces them to a greater necessity, of seeing and hearing with other Eyes and Ears. All which should prevail for greater allowances, and more candid Constructions of their Management, to be made by those, who do not discern the Difficulties they are under. For private Men cannot, from the narrow View of One small part, form a reasonable Judgment, what Methods are practicable and proper for the Good of the whole Body.
In short, The Publick is their constant Care. To this they sacrifice their Time, their Ease, their Thoughts; and therefore the Supporting their Dignity ought to be a Publick Expence. He that defrauds Then, does in truth wrong himself; and the Head can no more suffer alone in the Political, than it can in the Natural, Body. So that even Interest, anu Self-Love, and Ingenuity, and Gratitude, do all conspire to persuade Fidelity and Subjection ; and God in this, as in other Religious Duties, hath only enjoyned us to do that
in Obedience to Him, which, were it commanded, is most beneficial to our felves.
For I cannot but assure my self, that, were St. Paul's Doctrine here, and these Observations upon it duly attended to, they would be an excellent Rule of Behaviour, and of infinite Importance to the Welfare of all the World, both for this, and the next Life. They would prevent all sinful Compliances on the one hand, and all peevish Obstinacies on the other. They would effectually dispose us, to revere all just Authority, and conform to every innocent Ordinance of our Superiors ; and they would render us bold as Lions, in refusing, whatever tends to the Dishonour of God, and the defiling our own Consciences.
They would likewise teach Governors Equity and Moderation, Piety and Prudence; would inspire a most affectionate Tenderness, for the Safety and Quiet of the Souls under their Charge ; and the strictest Circumspection, not to exceed the Bounds and Intent of their Commission; Constant Endeavours, that all their Injunctions be profitable and Good, promoting Edification and Godliness ; not arbitrary, and rigorous, and ensnaring. In short, These Reflections would make them Fathers of their People indeed, and Children of the Most High, in the best and noblest Sense : Ornaments and Honours to the Authority they bear, and Images so lively of Him, who trusts it to them ; So benign, so beneficial, that their Subjects would Then fay of Them, as they of Lycaonia faid of the Apostles, The Gods are come down to us in the likeness of Meni