Page images
PDF
EPUB

of opinion that all religion ought to be sub! jected to the controul of the civil magistratę. I shall present the reader with a few short extracts from this part of the work; and though his peculiar sentiments may be presumed un. popular, little danger can be apprehended from their evulgation, as the author will be uniformly found a friend to order and good government.

Of the Principles of Christian Politics.

I have derived the rights of sovereign power, and the duty of subjects hitherto, from the principles of nature only; such as experience has found true, or consent (concerning the use of words) has made so ; that is to say, from the nature of men, known to us by experience; and frin definitions (of such words as are essential to all political reasoning) universally agreed on. But in that I am next to handle, which is the nature and rights of a Christian Common. wealth, whereof there dependeth much upon supernatural revelations of the will of God; the ground of my discourse must be not only the natural word of God, but also the prophetical.

Nevertheless, we are not to renounce our senses, and experience; nor (that which is the undoubted word of God) our natural reason. For they are the talents which he hath put into our hands to negotiate, till the coming again of our blessed Saviour; and therefore not to be folded up in the napkin of an implicit faith, but employed in the purchase of justice, peace, and true religion. For though there be many things in God's word above reason; that is to say, which cannot by natural reason be either demonstrated, or confuted, yet there is nothing contrary to it; but when it seemeth so, the fault is either in our unskilful interpretation, or erroneous ratiocination.

Therefore, when any thing therein written is too hard for our examination, we are bidden to captivate our understanding to the words; and not to labour in sifting out a philosophical truth by logic, of such mysteries as are not comprehensible, nor fall under any rule of natural science. For it is with the mysteries of our religion, as with wholesome pills for the sick, which swallowed whole, have the virtue to cure; but chewed, are for the most part cast up again withoạt effect.

* miracles now cease, we have no sign left, whereby to acknowledge the pretended revelations, or inspirations of any private man; nor obligation to give ear to any doctrine, farther than it is conformable to the Holy Scriptures, which, since the time of our Saviour, supply the place, and suffis ciently recompence the want of all other prophecy :

*

Seeing *

[ocr errors]

and from which, by wise and learned interpretation, and careful ratiocination, all rules and precepts necessary to the knowledge of our duty both to God and man, without enthusiasm, or supernatural inspi. ration, may easily be deduced. And this Scripture is it, out of which I am to take the principles of my discourse, concerning the rights of those that are the supreme governors on earth, of christian commonwealths; and of the duty of christian subjects towards their sovereigns.

It is a question much disputed between the divers sects of christian religion, “ from whence the Scriptures derive their authority?" • * 'T'he question truly stated is, " by what authority they are made law?" As far as they differ not from the laws of nature, there is no doubt but they are the law of God, and carry their authority with them, legible to all men that have the use of natural reason ; but this is no other authority than that of all other moral doctrine consonant to reason ; the dictates whereof are laws, not made, but eternal.

If they be made law by God himself, they are of the nature of written law, which are laws to them only to whom God hath so sufficiently published them, as no man can excuse himself by saying, he knew not they were his.

He, therefore, to whom God hath not supernaturally revealed that they are his, nor that those that

*

published them, were sent by him, is not obliged to obey them by any authority but his, whose commands have already the force of laws; that is to say, by any other authority than that of the commonwealth, residing in the sovereign, who only has the legislative power. Again, if it be not the legislative authority of the commonwealth, that giveth them the force of laws, it must be some other authority derived from God, either private or public; if private, it obliges only him to whom in particular God hath been pleased to reveal it. If public, it is the authority of the commonwealth, or of the church. But the church, if it be one person, is the same thing with a commonwealth of christians ; called a commonwealth, because it consisteth of men united in one person, their sovereign; and a church, because it consisteth in christian men, united in one christian sovereign. But if the church be not one person, then it hath no authority at all; it can neither command nor do any action at all; nor is capable of having any power.or right to any thing; nor has any will, reason, nor voice; for all these qualities are personal. Now if the whole number of christians be not contained in one commonwealth, they are not one person; nor is there an universal church that hath any authority over them; and therefore the Scriptures are not made laws by the universal church: or if it be one commonwealth, then all christian monarchs and states are private persons, and subject to be judged, deposed, and punished by an universal sovereign of all christendom. So that the question of the authority of the Scriptures is reduced to this : “ Whether christian kings, and the sovereign assemblies in christian commonwealths, be absolute in their own territories, immediately under God; or subject to one vicar of Christ, constituted of the universal church; to be judged, condemned, deposed, and put to death, as he shall think expedient, or necessary for the common good ?"

It is impossible for me to follow the author any farther in his detail on this question. I shall therefore content myself with a passage or two, selected from his review and conclusion of the whole.

As to the whole doctrine, I see not yet but the principles of it are true and proper, and the ratiocination solid: for I ground the civil right of sove- . reigns, and both the duty and liberty of subjects, upon the known natural inclinations of mankind, and upon

the articles of the law of nature; of which no man, that pretends but reason enough to govern

« PreviousContinue »