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and those of the commons to the lust of the nobility. These, and an infinite number of others like to them, were not right sanctions, but such as have produced unspeakable mischiefs and calamities. They were not therefore laws: the name of justice is abusively attributed to them: those that govern by them cannot be the ministers of God: and the apostle, commanding our obedience to the minister of God for our good, commands us not to be obedient to the minister of the devil to our hurt; for we cannot serve two masters.
THAT WHICH IS NOT JUST, IS NOT LAW; AND THAT WHICH IS NOT LAW, OUGHT NOT TO BE OBEYED.
OUR author, having for a long time pretended conscience, now pulls off his mask, and plainly tells us, that it is not on account of conscience, but for fear of punishment, or hopes of reward, that laws are to be obeyed. "That familiar distinction of the schoolmen,” says he, whereby they subject kings to the directive, but not to the coactive power of the law, is a confession, that kings are not bound by the positive laws of any nation, since the com
pulsory power of laws is that which properly makes laws to be laws." Not troubling myself with this distinction of the schoolmen, nor acknowledging any truth to be in it, or that they are competent judges of such matters, I say, that if it be true, our author's conclusion is altogether false; for the directive power of the law, which is certain, and grounded upon the inherent good and rectitude that is in it, is that alone which has a power over the conscience, whereas the coercive is merely contingent; and the most just powers, commanding the most just things, have so often fallen under the violence of the most unjust men, commanding the most execrable villanies, that if they were therefore to be obeyed, the conciences of men must be regulated by the success of a battle or conspiracy, than which nothing can be affirmed more impious and absurd. By this rule, David was not to be obeyed, when by the wickedness of his son he was driven from Jerusalem, and deprived of all coercive power; and the conscientious obedience that had been due to him, was transferred to Absalom, who sought his life. And in St. Paul's time it was not from him, who was guided only by the Spirit of God, and had no manner of coercive power, that christians were to learn their duty, but from Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, who had that power well established by the mercenary legions. If this were so, the governments of the world might be justly called "magna latrocinia ;" and men, laying aside all consideration of reason or justice, ought only to follow those, who can inflict the greatest punishments, or give the greatest rewards. But
Persia, no sooner received the parchment-roll, wherein he was commanded by the ephori to come home for the defence of his own country, than he immediately returned, and is on that account called by no less a man than Xenophon,* a good and faithful king, rendering obedience to the laws of his country.
By this it appears, that there are kings, who may be feared by those that do ill, and not by such as do well; for, having no more power than what the law gives, and being obliged to execute it as the law directs, they cannot depart from the precept of the apostle. My own actions, therefore, or the sense of my own guilt arising from them, is to be the measure of my fear of that magistrate who is the minister of God, and not his power.
The like may be said of almost all the nations of the world, that have had any thing of civil order amongst them. The supreme magistrate, under what name soever he was known, whether king, emperor, asymnetes, suffetes, consul, dictator, or archon, has usually a part assigned to him in the administration of justice, and making war; but that he may know it to be assigned, and not inherent, and so assigned as to be employed for the public good, not to his own profit or pleasure, it is circumscribed by such rules as he cannot safely transgress. This is above all seen in the German nations, from whom we draw our original and government; and is so well
* De reg. Agesil.
described by Tacitus in his treatise of their customs and manners, that I shall content myself to refer to it, and to what I have cited from him in the former part of this work.* The Saxons, coming into our country, retained to themselves the same rights. They had no kings but such as were set up by themselves, and they abrogated their power when they pleased.† Offa acknowledged, "that he was chosen for the defence of their liberty, not from his own merit, but by their favour;" and in the "conventus pananglicus," at which all the chief men, as well secular as ecclesiastical, were present, it was decreed by the king, archbishops, abbots, dukes, and senators, that the kings should be chosen by the priests, and by the elders of the people. In pursuance of which, Egbert, who had no right to the succession, was made king, Ethelwerd was chosen in the same manner by the consent of all. Ethelwolf, a monk, for want of a better, was advanced to the same honour. His son Alfred, though crowned by the Pope, and marrying without the consent of the nobility and kingdom, against their customs and statutes, acknowledged, that he had received the crown from the bounty of the princes, elders, and people; and in his will declared, that he left the people as he had found them, free as the inward thoughts
* De morib. Germ.
+ Ad libertatis vestræ tuitionem non meis meritis, sed sola liberalitate vestra.
Contra morem & stauta.
Successor monarchiæ electus.
Et eligerunt, Deo dictante, Edgarum in Regem, annuente populo.
Sævus in principio, miser in medio, turpis in exitu.
|| Canutus fœdus cum principibus & omni populo, & illi cum ipso percusserunt.
Annuente clero & populo Londini, in regem eligitur.