Page images

this glorious action, might seem to have avoided the light, and to have acted contrary to law and justice. You aggravate the matter by telling us, that it was not done in an uproar, or brought about by any faction amongst great men, or in the heat of a rebellion, either of the people or the soldiers : that there was no hatred, no fear, no ambition, no blind precipitate rashness in the case; but that it was long consulted on, and done with deliberation. You did well in leaving off being an Advocate, and turn grammarian, who, from the accidents and circumstances of a thing, which in themselves considered sway neither one way nor other, argue in dispraise of it, before you have proved the thing itself to be either good or bad. See how open you lie if the action you are discoursing of be commendable and praiseworthy, they that did it deserve the greater honor, in that they were prepossessed with no passions, but did what they did for virtue's sake. If there were great difficulty in the enterprise, they did well in not going about it rashly, but upon advice and consideration. Though for my own part, when I call to mind with how unexpected an importunity and fervency of mind, and with how unanimous a consent, the whole army, and a great part of the people from almost every county in the kingdom, cried out with one voice for justice against the king, as being the sole author of all their calamities, I cannot but think, that these things were brought about by a

divine impulse. Whatever the matter was, whether we consider the magistrates, or the body of the people, no men ever undertook with more courage, and, which our adversaries themselves confess, in a more sedate temper of mind, so brave an action; an action that might have become those famous heroes, of whom we read in former ages; an action, by which they ennobled not only laws, and their execution, which seem for the future equally restored to high and low against one another; but even justice, and to have rendered it, after so signal a judgment, more illustrious and greater than in its own self.

If whatever a king has a mind to do, the right of kings will bear him out in, (which was a lesson that the bloody tyrant, Antoninus Caracalla, though his step-mother Julia preached it to him, and endeavored to inure him to the practice of it, by making him commit incest with herself, yet could hardly suck in,) then there neither is, nor ever was, that king, that deserved the name of a tyrant. They may safely violate all the laws of God and man: their very being kings keeps them innocent. What crime was ever any of them guilty of? They did but make use of their own right upon their own vassals. No king can commit such horrible cruelties and outrages, as will not be within this right of kings. So that there is no pretence left for any complaints or expostulations with any of them. And dare you assert, that

"this right of kings," as you call it, "is grounded upon the law of nations, or rather upon that of nature," you brute beast? for you deserve not the name of a man, that are so cruel and unjust towards all those of your own kind; that endeavor, as much as in you lies, so to bear down and vilify the whole race of mankind, that were made after the image of God, as to assert and maintain, those cruel and unmerciful taskmasters, that through the superstitious whimsies, or sloth, or treachery of some persons, get into the chair, are provided and appointed by nature herself, that mild and gentle mother of us all, to be the governors of those nations they enslave. By which pestilent doctrine of yours, having rendered them more fierce and untractable, you not only enable them to make havoc of, and trample under foot, their miserable subjects; but endeavor to arm them for that very purpose with the law of nature, the right of kings, and the very constitutions of government, than which nothing can be more impious or ridiculous.

[ocr errors]

I confess there are but few, and those men of great wisdom and courage, that are either desirous of liberty, or capable of using it. The greatest part of the world choose to live under masters; but yet they would have them just ones. As for such as are unjust and tyrannical, neither was God ever so much an enemy to mankind, as to enjoin a necessity of submitting to them; nor was there

ever any people so destitute of all sense, and sunk into such a depth of despair, as to impose so cruel a law upon themselves and their posterity.

If one should consider attentively the countenance of a man, and inquire after whose image so noble a creature were framed, would not any one that heard him presently make answer, that he was made after the image of God himself? Being therefore peculiarly God's own, and consequently things that are to be given to him, we are entirely free by nature, and cannot without the greatest sacrilege imaginable be reduced into a condition of slavery to any man, especially to a wicked, unjust, cruel tyrant. . . . .

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 Távτwv Baoiλéa, 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 τὸ κρατοῦν ἐν τῇ 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 wellgrounded 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..

Do you pretend that kings are infallible? If

« PreviousContinue »