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neither ; suppose he had writ to the senate of Rome; what then? No law that is grounded upon a reason expressly set down in the law itself obligeth further than the reason of it extends. “Be subject," says he, únoraYNTE: that is, according to the genuine sense and import of the word,“ Be subordinate, or legally subject.”. For the law, Aristotle
is order. “ Subinit for the Lord's sake." Why so? Because a king is an officer" appointed by God for the punishment of evil-doers, and the praise of them that do well; for so is the will of God:” to wit, that we should submit and yield obedience to such as are here described. There is not a word spoken of any
other. You see the ground of this precept, and how well it is laid. The apostle adds in the 16th verse, “as free;" therefore not as slaves. What now? if princes pervert the design of magistracy, and use the power that is put into their hands to the ruin and destruction of good men, and the praise and encouragement of evil-doers; must we all be condemned to perpetual slavery, not private persons only, but our nobility, all our inferior magistrates, our very parliament itself? Is not temporal government called a human ordinance? How comes it to pass then, that mankind should have power to appoint and constitute what may be good and profitable for one another; and want power to restrain or suppress things that are universally mischievous and destructive? That prince, you say, to whom St. Peter enjoins subjection, was Nero the tyrant: and from thence you infer, that it is our duty to submit and yield obedience to such. But it is not certain that this epistle was writ in Nero's reign : it is as likely to have been writ in Claudius's time. And they that are commanded to submit were private persons and strangers; they were no consuls, no magistrates: it was not the Roman senate that St. Peter dirccted his epistle to. Now let us hear what use you make of St. Paul, (for you take a freedom with the apostles, I find, that you will not allow us to take with princes; you make St. Peter the chief of them to-day, and to-morrow put another in his place). St. Paul in his 13th chapter to the Romans has these words : soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no
66 Let every
6 He * This question the reader will find elaborately and eloquently discussed in the first book of Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, where all the learning as well as the philosophy of the subject may be said to be concentrated. Milton's ideas of law were as elevated as those of Hooker himself, while he was much more free to distinguish the true law from the counterfeit than that very excellent person, who in his reverence for things established falls occasionally into a sort of superstition. Law in the sense in which it is valuable is nothing but right reason, and therefore cannot be spoken of with too much praise ; whereas the laws of particular countries are often contrary to reason, and therefore productive to those who live under them of incalculable detriment and misfortune. Our own laws, like those of most other European states, are often defective and often unjust ; and therefore, among the most needful reforms which the people of this age can desire, is reform of the laws, which, enacted in the midst of ignorance and barbarism, bear the marks of their origin upon the very face of them. For such laws Milton was the last man in the world to entertain respect, though, like every other good citizen, he earnestly loved such of the institutions of his country as tend to promote public happiness.-- ED.
power but of God; the powers that be, are ordained of God.” I confess he writes this to the Romans, not to strangers dispersed, as Peter did; but, however, he writes to private persons, and those of the meaner rank; and yet he gives us a true and clear account of the reason,
the original, and the design of government; and shews us the true and proper ground of our obedience, that it is far from imposing a necessity upon us of being slaves. “Let every soul,” says he, that is, let every man,
66 submit." Chrysostom tells
us, that St. Paul's design in this discourse was to make it appear that our Saviour did not go about to introduce principles inconsistent with the civil government, but such as strengthened it, and settled it upon the surest foundations.” He never intended then bv setting Nero or any other tyrant out of the reach of all laws, to enslave mankind under his lust and cruelty. intended too,” says the same author, “ to dissuade from unnecessary and causeless wars." But he does not condemn a war taken up against a tyrant, a bosom enemy of his own country, and consequently the most dangerous that may be. « It was commonly said in those days, that the doctrine of the apostles was seditious, themselves persons that endeavoured to shake the settled laws and government of the world ; that this was what they aimed at in all they said and did.” The apostle in this chapter stops the mouths of such gainsayers: so that the apostles did not write in defence of tyrants, as you do; but they asserted such things as made them suspected to be enemies to the government they lived under, things that stood in need of being explained and interpreted, and having another sense put upon them than was generally received. St. Chrysostom has now taught us what the apostle's design was in this discourse; let us now examine his words : " Let every soul be subject to the higher powers.” He tells us not what those higher powers are, nor who they are; for he never intended to overthrow all governments, and the several constitutions of nations, and subject all to some one man's will. Every good emperor acknowledged that the laws of the empire, and the authority of the senate, was above himself; and the same principle and notion of government has obtained all along in civilized nations. Pindar, as he is cited by Herodotus, calls the law Trávtwv Baoilea, * king over all. Orpheus in his hymns calls it the king both of gods and men: and he gives the reason why it is so; because, says he, it is that that sits at the helm of all human affairs. Plato in his book de Legibus calls it το χρατέν εν τη πόλει : that that ought to have the greatest sway in the commonwealth. In his epistles he
commends that form of government in which the law is made lord and master, and no scope given to any man to tyrannize over the laws. Aristotle is of the same opinion in his Politics, and so is Cicero in his book de Legibus, that the laws ought to govern the magistrates, as they do the people. The law therefore having always been accounted the highest power on earth, by the judgment of the most learned and wise men that ever were, and by the constitutions of the best-ordered states; and it being very certain that the doctrine of the gospel is neither contrary to reason, nor the law of nations, that man is truly and properly, subject to the higher powers, who obeys the law and the magistrates, so far as they govern according to law. So that St. Paul does not only command the people, but princes themselves, to be in subjection; who are not above the laws, but bound by them: “for there is no power but of God:” that is, no form, no lawful constitution of any government. The most ancient laws that are known to us were formerly ascribed to God as their author.
For the law, says Cicero in his Philippics, is no other than a rule of well-grounded reason, derived from God himself, enjoining whatever is just and right, and forbidding the contrary. So that the institution of magistracy is jure Divino, and the end of it is, that mankind might live under certain laws, and be governed by them. But what particular form of government each nation would live under, and what persons should be intrusted with the magistracy, without doubt, was left to the choice of each nation. Hence St. Peter calls kings and deputies human ordinances. And Hosea, in the 8th chapter of his prophecy, “They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not.” For in the commonwealth of the Hebrews, where, upon matters of great and weighty importance, they could have access to God himself, and consult with him, they could not choose a king themselves by law, but were to refer the matter to him. Other nations have received no such command. Sometimes the very form of government, if it be amiss, or at least those persons that have the power in their hands, are not of God, but of men, or of the devil, Luke iv. “ All this
power will I give unto thee, for it is delivered unto me, and I give it to whom I will." Hence the devil is called the prince of this world; and in the 12th of the Revelations, the dragon gave to the beast his power, and his throne, and great authority. So that we must not understand St. Paul, as if he spoke of all sorts of magistrates in general, but of lawful magistrates; and so they are described in what follows. We must also understand him of the powers themselves ; not of those men always, in whose hands they are lodged. St. Chrysostom speaks very well and clearly upon this occasion. " What?” saye he,“ is every prince then appointed by God to be so? I say no such thing," says he.
« St. Paul speaks not of the person of the magistrate, but of the magistracy itself. He does not say there is no prince but who is of God. He says there is no power but of God." Thus far St. Chrysostom; for what powers are, are ordained of
: God: so that Paul speaks only of a lawful magistracy. For what is evil and amiss cannot be said to be ordained, because it is disorderly; order and disorder cannot consist
together in the same subject. The apostle says, “ The powers that be;" and you interpret his words as if he had said, “ The powers that now be;" that you may prove
that the Romans ought in conscience to obey Nero, who you take for granted was then emperor. I am very well content you should read the words so, and draw that conclusion from them. The consequence will be that Englishmen ought to yield obedience to the present government, as it is now established according to a new model; because you must needs acknowledge that it is the present government, and ordained of God, as much at least as Nero's
And lest you should object that Nero came to the empire by a lawful succession, it is apparent, from the Roman history, that both he and Tiberius got into the chair by the tricks and artifices of their mothers, and had no right at all to the succession. So that you are inconsistent with yourself, and retract from your own principles, in affirming that the Romans owed subjection to the government that then was, and yet denying that Englishmen owe subjection to the government that now is. But it is no wonder to hear you contradict yourself. There are no two things in the world more directly opposite, and contrary to one another, than you are to yourself. But what will become of you, poor wretch ? You have quite undone the young king with your witticisms, and ruined his fortunes utterly ; for, according to your own doctrine, you must needs confess that this present government in England is ordained of God, and that all Englishmen are bound in conscience to submit to it. Take notice, all ye critics and textuaries, do not you presume to meddle with this text. Thus Salmasius corrects that passage in the epistle to the Romans: he has made a discovery that the words ought not to be read, “ The powers that are;” but, “ The powers that now are:” and all this to prove that all men owed subjection and obedience to Nero the tyrant, whom he supposed to have been then emperor.
This epistle, which you say was writ in Nero's time, was writ in his predecessor's time, who was an honest well-meaning man: and this learned men evince by undeniable arguments. But besides, the five first years of Nero's reign were without exception. So that this threadbare argu