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OF THE DUTY OF CIVIL OBEDIENCE, AS
STATED IN THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES.
We affirm that, as to the extent of our civil rights and obligations, Christianity hath left us where she found us; that she hath neither altered nor ascertained it; that the New Testament contains not one passage, which, fairly interpreted, affords either argument or objection applicable to any conclusions upon the subject that are deduced from the law and religion of nature.
The only passages which have been seriously alleged in the controversy, or which it is necessary for us to state and examine, are the two following; the one extracted from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, the other from the First General Epistle of St. Peter :
ROMANS xiii. 1-7. “ Let every soul be subject unto the high“ er powers : for there is no power but of “ God; the powers that be, are ordained of
“ God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the “ power, resisteth the ordinance of God: " and they that resist, shall receive to them“ selves damnation. For rules are not a “ terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt " thou then not be afraid of the power? Do “ that which is good, and thou shalt have 6 praise of the same: for he is the minister w of God to thee for good. But if thou do " that which is evil, be afraid: for he bear. “eth not the sword in vain: for he is the “ minister of God, a revenger to execute $ wrath upon him that doeth evil. Where“ fore ye must needs be subject, not only “ for wrath, but also for conscience sake. “ For, for this cause pay you tribute also: “ for they are God's ministers, attending “ continually upon this very thing. Render “ therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom “ tribute is due, custom to whom custom,
fear to whom fear, honour to whom hofi nour."
1 PETER ii. 13–18. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of « man, for the Lord's sake; whether it be " to the King as supreme; or unto Govern" ors, or unto them that are sent by him for “the punishment of evil-doers, and for the “ praise of them that do well. For so is the 56 will of God, that with well-doing ye may “ put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; “asfree, and not using your liberty for a “ cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants 66 of God.”
To comprehend the proper import of these instructions, let the reader reflect, that upon the subject of civil obedience there are two questions; the first, whether to obey government be a moral duty and obligation upon the conscience at all? the second, how far; and to what cases, that obedience ought to extend? that these two questions are so distinguishable in the imagination, that it is possible to treat of the one, without any thought of the other; and lastly, that if expressions which relate to one of these questions be transferred and applied to the other, it is with great danger of giving them a signification very different from the author's meaning. This distinction is not only pose sible, but natural. If I met with a person who appeared to entertain doubts, whether civil obedience were a moral duty which ought to be voluntarily discharged, or whether it were not a mere submission to force, like that which we yield to a robber who holds a pistol to our breast, I should represent to him the use and offices of civil government, the end and the necessity of civil subjection; or, if I preferred a different the ory, I shouldexplain to him the social compact, urge him with the obligation and the equity of his implied promise and tacit consent to be governed by the laws of the state from which he received protection; or I should
argue, perhaps, that Nature herself dictated - the law of subordination, when she planted within us an inclination to associate with our species, and framed us with capacities so various and unequal. From whatever principle I set out, I should labour to infer from it this conclusion, " That obedience to the state is “ to be numbered amongst the relative du6 ties of human life, for the transgression of “ which we shall be accountable at the tri“ bunal of Divine justice, whether the ma“ gistrate be able to punish us for it or not;" and being arrived at this conclusion, I should stop, having delivered the conclusion itself, and throughout the whole argument express ed the obedience, which I inculcated, in the most general and unqualified terms; all reservations and restrictions being superfluous,
and foreign to the doubts I was employed to remove.
If, in a short time afterwards, I should be accosted by the same person, with complaints of public grievances, of exorbitant taxes, of acts of cruelty and oppression, of tyrannical encroachments upon the ancient or stipulated rights of the people, and should be consulted whether it were lawful to revolt, or justifiable to join in an attempt to shake off the yoke by open resistance; I should certainly consider myself as having a case and question before me very different from the former. I should now define and discriminate. I should reply, that if public expediency be the foundation, it is also the measure, of civil obedience; that the obligation of subjects and sovereigns is reciprocal ; that the duty of allegiance, whether it be founded in utility or compact, is neither unlimited nor unconditional ; that peace may be purchased too dearly; that patience becomes culpable pu-' sillanimity, when it serves only to encourage our rulers to increase the weight of our burden, or to bind it the faster ; that the submission which surrenders the liberty of a nation, and entails slavery upon future generations, is enjoined by no law of rational mo