Page images
PDF
EPUB

PATRIARCHA

CHAPTER I.

That the first Kings were Fathers of Families.

SINCE the time that school divinity began to flourish there hath been a common opinion maintained, as well by divines as by divers other learned men, which affirms,

“Mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to choose what form of government it please, and that the power which any one man hath over others was at first bestowed according to the discretion of the multitude."

This tenet was first hatched in the schools, and hath been fostered by all succeeding Papists for good divinity. The divines, also, of the Reformed Churches have entertained it, and the common people everywhere tenderly embrace it as being most plausible to flesh and blood, for that it prodigally distributes a portion of liberty to the meanest of the multitude, who magnify liberty as if the height of human felicity were only to be found in it, never remembering that the desire of liberty was the first cause of the fall of Adam.

But howsoever this vulgar opinion hath of late obtained a great reputation, yet it is not to be found in the ancient fathers and doctors of the primitive Church. It contradicts the doctrine and history of the Holy Scriptures, the constant practice of all ancient monarchies, and the very principles of the law of nature. It is hard to say whether it be more erroneous in divinity or dangerous in policy.

Yet upon the ground of this doctrine, both Jesuits and some other zealous favourers of the Geneva discipline have built a perilous conclusion, which is, that the people or multitude have power to punish or deprive the prince if he transgress the laws of the kingdom ; witness Parsons and Buchanan; the first, under the name of Dolman, in the third chapter of his first book, labours to prove that kings have been lawfully chastised by their commonwealths. The latter, in his book “De jure Regni apud Scotos,” maintains a liberty of the people to depose their prince. Cardinal Bellarmine and Calvin both look asquint this way.

This desperate assertion whereby kings are made subject to the censures and deprivations of their subjects follows (as the authors of it conceive) as a necessary consequence of that former position of the supposed natural equality and freedom of mankind, and liberty to choose what form of government it please.

And though Sir John Heywood, Adam Blackwood, John Barclay, and some others have learnedly confuted both Buchanan and Parsons, and bravely vindicated the right of kings in most points, yet all of them, when they come to the argument drawn from the natural liberty and equality of mankind, do with one consent admit it for a truth unquestionable, not so much as once denying or opposing it, whereas if they did but confute this first erroneous principle the whole fabric of this vast engine of popular sedition would drop down of itself.

The rebellious consequence which follows this prime article of the natural freedom of mankind may be my sufficient warrant for a modest examination of the original truth of it; much hath been said, and by many, for the affirmative ; equity requires that an ear be reserved a little for the negative.

In this discourse I shall give myself these cautions :

First, I have nothing to do to meddle with mysteries of state, such arcana imperii, or cabinet councils, the vulgar may not pry into. An implicit faith is given to the meanest artificer in his own craft ; how much more is it, then, due to a prince in the profound secrets of government, the causes and ends of the greatest politic actions and motions of state dazzle the eyes and exceed the capacities of all men, save only those that are hourly versed in the managing public affairs : yet since the rule for each man to know in

[ocr errors]

ز

a

what to obey his prince cannot be learnt without a relative knowledge of those points wherein a sovereign may command, it is necessary when the commands and pleasures of superiors come abroad and call for an obedience that

every man himself know how to regulate his actions or his sufferings, for according to the quality of the thing commanded an active or passive obedience is to be yielded, and this is not to limit the prince's power, but the extent of the subject's obedience, by giving to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, &c.

Secondly, I am not to question or quarrel at the rights or liberties of this or any other nation; my task is chiefly to inquire from whom these first came, not to dispute what or how many these are, but whether they were derived from the laws of natural liberty or from the grace and bounty of princes. My desire and hope is that the people of England may and do enjoy as ample privileges as any nation under heaven; the greatest liberty in the world (if it be duly considered) is for a people to live under a monarch. It is the Magna Charta of this kingdom; all other shows or pretexts of liberty are but several degrees of slavery, and a liberty only to destroy liberty.

If such as maintain the natural liberty of mankind take offence at the liberty I take to examine it, they must take heed that they do not deny by retail that liberty which they affirm by wholesale. For if the thesis be true, the hypothesis will follow, that all men may examine their own charters, deeds, or evidences by which they claim and hold the inheritance or freehold of their liberties.

Thirdly, I must not detract from the worth of all those learned men who are of a contrary opinion in the point of natural liberty. The profoundest scholar that ever known hath not been able to search out every truth that is discoverable ; neither Aristotle in philosophy, nor Hooker in divinity. They are but men, yet I reverence their judgments in most points, and confess myself beholding to their errors too in this ; something that I found amiss in their opinions guided me in the discovery of that truth which (I persuade myself) they missed. A dwarf sometimes may see that which a giant looks over ; for whilst one truth is curiously searched after, another must necessarily be

was

neglected. Late writers have taken up too much upon trust from the subtile schoolmen, who to be sure to thrust down the king below the pope, thought it the safest course to advance the people above the king, that so the papal power might take place of the regal. Thus many an ignorant subject hath been fooled into this faith, that a man may become a martyr for his country by being a traitor to his prince; whereas the new coined distinction of subjects into royalists and patriots is most unnatural, since the relation between king and people is so great that their well-being is so reciprocal.

2. To make evident the grounds of this question about the natural liberty of mankind, I will lay down some passages of Cardinal Bellarmine, that may best unfold the state of this controversy. “Secular or civil power (saith he) is instituted by men; it is in the people, unless they bestow it on a prince. This power is immediately in the whole multitude, as in the subject of it; for this power is in the divine law, but the divine law hath given this power to no particular man—if the positive law be taken away, there is left no reason why amongst a multitude (who are equal) one rather than another should bear rule over the rest. Power is given by the multitude to one man, or to more by the same law of nature; for the commonwealth cannot exercise this power, therefore it is bound to bestow it upon some one man, or some few. It depends upon the consent of the multitude to ordain over themselves a king, or consul, or other magistrates; and if there be a lawful cause, the multitude may change the kingdom into an aristocracy or democracy.” Thus far Bellarmine, in which passages are comprised the strength of all that ever I have read or heard produced for the natural liberty of the subject.

Before I examine or refute these doctrines, I must a little make some observations upon his words.

First, he saith, that by the law of God, power is immediately in the people; hereby he makes God to be the immediate author of a democratical estate ; for a democracy is nothing else but the power of the multitude. If this be true, not only aristocracies but all monarchies are altogether unlawful, as being ordained (as he thinks) by men, whereas God himself hath chosen a democracy.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »