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ON MUTUAL SUBJECTION.
i St. Peter v. i5. .
THE apostle having, in many parts of this e
1 pistle, given directions to Christians concerning the duty of subjection, or obedience to superiors ; in the several instances of the subject to the prince, the child to his parent, the fervant to his master, the wife to her husband, and the younger to the elder ; doth here, in the words of my text, sum up the whole, by advancing a point of doctrine, which at first may appear a little extraordinary: Yea, all of you, faith he, be subject one to another. For it should seem, that two persons cannot properly be said to be subject to each other, and that subjection is only due from inferiors to those above them : yet St. Paul hath several passages to the same purpose. For he exhorts the Romans, in honour to prefer one another ; I and the Philippians, that in lowliness of mind they should let each esteem other better than themselves ; t and the Ephesians, that they should fubmit themselves one to another in the fear of the Lord. || Here we find these two great apostles recommending to all Christians, this duty of mutual fubjecjection. For we may obferve by St. Peter, that having mentioned the several relations which men bear to each other, as governor and subject, master and servant, and the rest which I have already repeated, he makes no exception ; but sums up the whole, with commanding all to be subject one to another. From whence we may conclude, that this subjection due from all men to all men, is something more than the compliment of course, when our betters are pleased to tell us they are our humble servants, but understand us to be their flaves.
having #Rom. xii. 10. + Phil, ii. 3. || Eph. v. 21.
I know very well, that some of those who explain this text, apply it to bumility, to the duties of charity, to private exhortations, and to bearing with each other's infirmities; and it is probable, the apostle may have had a regard to all these. But, however, many learned men agree, that there is something more understood; and so the words, in their plain natural meaning, muft import; as you will observe yourselves, if you read them with the beginning of the verse, which is thus : Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder : yea, all of you be subject one to another. So that, upon the whole, there must be some kind of subjection due from every man to every man, which cannot be made void by any power, pre-eminence, or authority whatsoever. Now, what sort of subjection this is, and how it ought to be paid, shall be the subject of my present discourse.
As God hath contrived all the works of nature to be useful, and, in some manner, a support to Vol. II.
each other, by which the whole frame of the world, under his Providence, is preserved and kept up; so, among mankind, our particular stations are appointed to each of us by God Almighty, wherein we are obliged to act, as far as our power reacheth, towards the good of the whole community. And he who doth not perform that part assigned him, towards advancing the benefit of the whole, in proportion to his opportunities and abilities, is not only an useless, but a very mischievous member of the public ; because he takes his share of the profit, and yet leaves his share of the burden to be borne by others, which is the true principal cause of moit miseries and misfortunes in life. For a wise man who does not ailist with his counsels, a great man with his protection, a rich man with his bounty and charity, and a poor man with his labour, are perfect nuisances in a commonwealth. Neither is any condition of life more honourable in the light of God, than another; otherwise, he would be a respecter of persons, which, he assures us, he is not: for he hath proposed the fame sale vation to all men, and hath only placed them in different ways or stations to work it out. Princes are born with no more advantages of strength or wisdom than other men; and, by an unhappy education, are usually more defective in both, than thousands of their subjects. They depend for every necessary of life upon the meanest of their people: besides, obedience and subjection
were never enjoined by God, to humour the pasfions, lufts, and vanities of those who demand them from us; but we are commanded to obey our governors, because disobedience would breed feditions in the state. Thus, servants are directed to obey their masters, children their parents, and wives their hufbands; not from any respect of persons in God, but because, otherwise, there would be nothing but confusion in private families. This matter will be clearly explained, by considering the comparison which St. Paul makes between the church of Christ, and the body of man: for the same resemblance will hold, not only to families and kingdoms, but to the whole - corporation of mankind. The eye, faith he, cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of youl. Nay, much more, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it ; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it *. The case is directly the same among mankind. The prince cannot say to the merchant, I have no need of thee; nor the merchant to the labourer, I have no need of thee. Nay, much more; those members which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. For the poor are generally more necessary members of the commonwealth than the rich: which clearly shews, that God never intended such poffeffions for the
N 2 * I Cor. xii. 21, 22, 26,
1 occasion or cct state, where plealed to put
saflia We have put
fake and service of those to whom he lends them; but because he hath asligned every man his particular station to be useful in life, and this for the reason given by the apostle, that there may be no schism in the body.
From hence may partly be gathered, the nature of that subjection which we all owe to one another. God Almighty hath been pleased to put us into an imperfect state, where we have perpetual occasion of each other's assistance. There is none fo low, as not to be in a capacity of affifting the highest; nor so high, as not to want the assistance of the lowest.
It plainly appears, from what hath been said, that no one human creature is more worthy than another in the fight of God, farther than according to the goodness or holiness of their lives ; and that power, wealth, and the like outward advantages, are so far from being the marks of God's approving or preferring those on whom they are bestowed, that, on the contrary, he is pleased to suffer them to be almost ingrossed by those who have least title to his favour. Now, according to this equality wherein God hath placed all mankind with relation to himself, you will observe, that, in all the relations between man and man, there is a mutual dependence, whereby the one cannot sublift without the other. Thus, no man can be a prince without subjects, nor a master without servants, nor a father without children. And this both explains and confirms