Answers to Twelve Queries, Proposed to the serious Consideration of the Reformed Presbytery, and their Followers.
By the Reverent WILLIAM FLETCHER,
In a POSTSCRIPT to what he calls his SCRIPTURE LOYALIST.
In a LETTER, addressed
To the Author of said Pamphlet.
By WILLIAM STEVEN,
MINISTER of the GOSPEL, CROOKEDHOLM.
Prov. xv. 1. A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.
PRINTED IN THE YEAR M.DCC.XCIV.
[Corrected according to the Errata sheet]
INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS, stating the Reasons of this Publication, &c.
ANSWER to QUERY I. SHEWING that the Covenanters, in the persecuting period, considered it as their duty to have rejected the King’s authority, when he overturned the work of GOD, subverted the constitution of the Nation, and broke his coronation Oath, p. 10-; that, by the doctrine of the Secession, Char[les]. II. became an absolute tyrant in his 1st Parliament, ib. -; and yet he had all, which they make essential to a lawful authority, p. 11 -; the impossibility of knowing a Tyrant upon Mr. F[letche]r’s principles, p. 12 -; the acknowledgment of the Secession, respecting Char. II. the substance of what the R[eformed] P[resbytery] plead for on the head of civil government, p. 13.
ANSWER to QUERY II. SHEWING that the R[eformed] P[resbytery] and their followers are under no greater necessary to contradict, in practice, the principles which they profess, than our worthy Covenanters were in the last century, p. 14.
ANSWER to QUERY III. SHEWING that the R. P. and their followers can reduce every jot of their political principles to practice, in the same manner that our worthy Covenanters did in their time, p. 14 -; that they are the same in judgment with the late Martyrs, on the head of praying for government, ib. -; that Mr. F----r’s gloss on various passages of Scripture on that subject is false, p. 16 -; and his defence of the Secession form of prayer is sophistical, p. 22.
ANSWER to QUERY IV. SHEWING that, according to Mr. F----r himself, Rom. xiii. 1-7, was of real use to the Christians before the establishment of Christianity, viz. to shew what all magistrates ought to be, p. 27.
ANSWER to QUERY V. A summary of the R. P’s sense of Rom. xiii. 1-7, p. 28 -; defence of Mr. M’Millan’s exposition of said passage, p. 29 -; Mr. F----r inconsistent with himself on that passage, p. 31 -; judgment of various authors in favour of the R. P’s sense, p. 35 -; the Associate Presbytery’s own exposition to the same purpose, p. 41 -; Mr. F----r’s distinction in the character of civil rulers considered in a footnote, p. 47 -; the R. P’s sense confirmed from Paul’s reproof to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. 1-8, p. 54 -; the Secession’s gloss of said passage refuted, p. 55 -; observations on Paul’s appeal to Cæsar, p. 58 -; on the high characters given to Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar, p. 62 -; vindication of the distinction between preceptive and providential Magistrates, p. 64 -; and of Mr. M’Millan’s observation respecting the deed of a corrupt majority according to Secession principles, p. 69 -; the characters in Rom. xiii. 3, 4. not applicable to the Roman Cæsars according to the doctrine of the Secession church, p. 72 -; and of Mr. F----r himself, p. 76 -; Mr. F----r’s doctrine establishes the obsolete scheme of passive obedience and nonresistance, p. 80 -; his lawful authority, p. 85 -; his lawful commands, p. 86 -; his arguments divests the late Martyrs of any warrant from Scripture for their conduct, p. 88.
ANSWER to QUERY VI. SHEWING that CHRIST, Luke xx. 25; did not recognise the power of Cæsar as lawful, nor commanded the Jews to pay the tribute-money, as a tessera of their loyalty to him as a lawful Magistrate, p. 89 -; this farther proved from the disappointment of the spies, who meant to entangle CHRIST, p. 90 -; from CHRIST’s answers to similar captious questions, p. 91 -; Mr. F----r’s exposition establishes absolute Tyranny, contrary to his own principles, p. 96 -; Mr. F----r’s insinuation, respecting the killing of Cæsar, is an application of his own, p. 97 -; the tribute, mentioned Matth. xvii. was sacred, not civil tribute, p. 98 -; the sense of this text, according to the Ass. P----y and Mr. F----r, is the same with that of the Old Royalists, and leads to absolute monarchy, p. 103 -; the opinions of Milton, Sydney, and Gee, respecting Cæsar’s tribute, p. 104 -; Mr. Shield’s opinion, p. 105 -; the absurdities which would follow from Mr. F----r’s sense of our Saviour’s words concerning it, ib.
ANSWER to QUERY VII. SHEWING that neither the Jews nor CHRIST’s disciples ever thought, that CHRIST intended them to be subject to the Roman state, as a lawful government and the moral ordinance of GOD, p. 108.
ANSWER to QUERY VIII. SHEWING, that Mr. Thorburn, in the quotation mentioned by Mr. F----r, meant only a preference of Scripture precept to the example of the saints -; and that it is a gross perversion of their example to adduce it for the support of absolute and despotic power, p. 109.
ANSWER to QUERY IX. SHEWING, that the passive obedience and nonresistance of the Redeemer, which he submitted to for our salvation, is no argument for obedience unto Magistrates, p. 110 -; that Mr. F----r’s opinion on this, is contrary to his own doctrine, p. 112.
ANSWER to QUERY X. SHEWING, that Magistracy is an ordinance of GOD, as the Moral Governor of the world, and that the dispensation of it is put into the hands of CHRIST as Mediator, p. 114 -; that Christians may be so situated, that they cannot have a lawful civil government, nor yet the ordinances of the gospel, p. 115 -; that absolute power is neither an ordinance of the GOD of nature, nor of CHRIST as Mediator, p. 116.
ANSWER to QUERY XI. SHEWING, that there is no covenant of Royalty with any particular family now existing, as was with the house of David, p. 116 -; the Scripture qualifications of Magistrates, ib. -; Mr. F----r’s reasoning and that of the late Martyrs very different, respecting civil and religious liberty, p. 117 -; Mr. Shield’s vindication of the refuting to own the Tyrant’s authority, p. 118 -; the principle of Mr. F----r and the Ass. P----y, opposite to those of the Martyrs and their advocates, p. 119 -; that the method taken by the Ass. P----y and Mr. F----r, respecting obedience to Magistrates, from Scripture, is not likely to convince the R. P. of their error, though they were in one, p. 120 -; this query stated on the old slavish doctrine of passive obedience, &c. ib.
ANSWER to QUERY XII. SHEWING the reasons why the R. P. support their principles by acts of Parliament, p. 121 -; and yet rest them wholly on the Word of GOD, p. 124 -; the import of this query in three particulars, ib.
CONCLUSION, p. 126.
L E T T E R
REVEREND DEAR SIR,
The Second Edition of your Scripture Loyalist, published some time in the Spring of the year 1789, came not into my hand for a considerable time after, and although it had come sooner, through the throng of other work, in which I was necessarily engaged during the Summer, it would not have been in my power to have turned my attention to it. In the interval between the publication and my opportunity of seeing it, many boasting reports reached my ears, which indeed had all come through the channel of the people, in the connection of both sides of the Secession: representing it to be a very masterly done work on the subject, clearly and finally deciding the controversy concerning Magistracy and Civil Power, which has subsisted between the Secession and the Reformed Presbytery ever since the year 1743, leaving no room for a reply, nor anything farther to be said on the subject. I was far from saying it could not be so: but as it is always honourable to retract error and embrace the truth, whenever there is a clear conviction of the one and discovery of the other, I had made up my mind, to give up the controversy, whenever I should obtain satisfaction, by a full and deliberate view of your decision.
Sometime, I think, in the month of September that year, your performance was put into my hand, and you may be sure I read it with avidity, eagerly expecting section after section, to meet with the boasted decisive stroke. But after I had made my progress to the end, I must confess, the whole left me entirely disappointed. I indeed found much decisive confidence, a pedantic parade of language, attended with a masterly air of great superior self-importance; as if learning, knowledge, and wisdom to understand and manage that, and every other subject, should exclusively belong to, and live and die with the Secession: while in fact there is nothing in substance, but the old ground walked over of new, and the old beaten path again trode, and followed out its native length and direction, until it terminate in the centre of the hostile camp of absolute power, passive obedience and nonresistance.
I at once saw the flaw and fallacy in the foundation of the whole fabric of your argumentation, and I was perfectly satisfied as to the propriety of giving a check to such principles and reasoning, on account of the real injury done thereby, to truth, Scripture precept, and the practice of saints, and to the civil and religious privileges and immunities of men. But when, how, or by whom this should be done, I had no idea. The Reformed Presbytery I knew, were wearied of the controversy, both because it was become trite, and also on the side of the Secession, it is reduced to a mere childish threap [argument], by barely repeating over and over the same things, supported only by positive and arbitrary assertion, without paying any due attention to the arguments on the other side: which, as it renders disputation idle, so it is equally discouraging, as if one should weary himself reasoning with a deaf man, who, not hearing what is said to him, should continue on, telling his own tale.
This being the case, the Presbytery have exercised a quiet forbearance for many years, while they have frequently been officiously attacked, with unprovoked maltreatment and abuse, from every quarter of the Secession, both at home and abroad. As if their Presbytery designation, their principles, their writings, their persons and manners, their people and number, had all been just objects of public derision and mockery, they have been held up to the world as the objects of public scorn and contempt in any anonymous satirical farce, under the title of, A Review of the Antigovernment Scheme, in which, when misrepresentation, and sophistical deceit failed, the low-lifted Satirist, in order to stuff his piece with comical and extravagant passages, had recourse to known and deliberate lies. By all which it indeed evidently appeared, that the faculties and dispositions of the silly author, were better calculated for being a profane Comedian, than a grave Divine. And if I have been rightly informed, it fared with him, as might readily have been expected; as, for a profane and scandalous carriage, he judicially and his lying lips put to silence, which spake grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous, Psal. xxxi. 18. This scurrilous pamphlet however, was ushered into the world by an aged and eminent Father and Leader at the head of the Secession body, who might rather have been expected to have used his influence to have suppressed such insolent abuse. It has been boasted of as a well managed performance, and recommended to the perusal of the people. You honour it, by referring to it for the support of your argument, by all which, I am sorry to say, a disposition, far from being serious or honourable to the cause of truth and religion, appears in the whole brotherhood.
When your Synod thought of publishing what they call, A Re-exhibition of their Testimony, and appointed a Committee to manage that business, they considered it as a work of merit, to pick up a fragment, of what they took to be, the distinguishing principles of the Reformed Presbytery, and which they thought would be easiest misrepresented, and set in a ridiculous light, to be sent abroad to the world, and among their own people. And when [John] M’Millan, of Stirling, published a letter on that subject, addressed to the members of committee, it was far below their dignity to take the smallest notice of it, until a considerable number of years after, when the resentment still unextinguished in their breasts, burst out into a flame through you, in the re-exhibition of your obsolete Scripture Loyalist, with corrections and considerable enlargements. The first anonymous edition of it was, as it deserved, treated with silence and contempt. Nor is the merit of this edition in itself any higher, were it not for the circumstances attending it.
The ministers of the Secession have, in many instances, used the most detractive and diminutive freedom with the Reformed Presbytery, which I have no inclination to spend time in reciting. I shall only mention the following;—A reverend Father, in an eminent town, it is needless to say on what side of the Secession he stands, for they are all one in this controversy, had some individuals in his congregation a few years ago, who happened to fall into a state of suspense between them and the Reformed Presbytery, and applied to him, to tell him their scruples, or to ask advice; he, assuming the prerogative of JEHOVAH, gravely told them, that the Reformed Presbytery were guilty of little told them, that the Reformed Presbytery were guilty of little less than the sin against the HOLY GHOST, as they were going against the light of their own consciences; and they had no peace of mind in maintaining their principles themselves, and if they joined them they would enjoy no peace of mind either: the profane folly and falsehood of which, the persons can from experience witness against him to his face.
Instances could also be condescended upon, when Members of the Reformed Presbytery happened to fall into Company with Members of the Secession, in a very transient and accidental manner, under circumstances which forbade them to detain, or to comply with an invitation to do so, but necessarily required them to pass on their way with all expedition. After parting, a conjecture was generously formed, and industriously propagated, that they, being conscious of the untenableness of their principles, and of their inability to support them, appeared like men in a panic all the time they staid, and were uneasy and impatient to be gone, lest they should have been attacked upon them.—Such the effect of pride and self-conceit!
I should have judged such things in themselves altogether unworthy of notice, had it not been to shew some of the pitiful and low shifts, which some of the Secession take, to traduce the Characters of the Reformed Presbytery and their followers; and, if possible, to prevent such malevolent conduct in time to come.
The inflammatory spirit of your Pamphlet, has inspired the people of the Secession in all quarters, with a fort of overbearing insolence. Where they dare take the freedom among the weaker part of the followers of the Reformed Presbytery, they do not stand to insult them, saying, “We once had a charitable respect for the Reformed Presbytery and their people, but since we read Mr. Fletcher’s book, we see, that of all the denominations and Sectaries in the land, they are by far the worst. The Reformed Presbytery neither have, nor seek any foundation in Scripture for their principles, they build them all on acts of Parliament. There never were a people professing Christianity, that so contradicted both Old and New Testaments. The controversy is now fairly decided against the Reformed Presbytery; they are sensible of this, and are self-condemned, and have no more to answer, otherwise they would not bear so much as has been said against them, without making a reply.” And some have even gone the length of accosting persons passing them, on their way to sermon, saying, “Read Fletcher’s book, and you will go no more to hear these folks.”—The season after the publications of your pamphlet, some individuals of the people of the connection of your Synod, were pleased, through curiosity, or far worse motives, to give their attendance at a Sacramental Occasion, on the Sabbath, where the Author of the Letter from Stirling being an assistant, had exhorted a table; immediately after which, it had been necessary for them to go and refresh themselves at a tent, where in the face of an open and promiscuous company, they treated him with the most insolent contempt and abuse, through the channel of your book, to their own lasting disgrace, and that of their connection, until a person of prudence and sense, who could not bear their rude conduct, gave them a check.
Your book, and, indeed, all the writings of the Secession on that Controversy, are calculated, not only to inflame their own people, and the world, against the Reformed Presbytery and their people; but the British government also, should they be disposed to turn their attention to these things. There are hints slyly interspersed through them, from which a design of that kind is plainly evident. And, indeed, nothing can be more direct to this purpose, than for the anonymous Reviewer to say, That the people of the Reformed Presbytery keep fire-arms secretly deposited about their habitations, to be ready for the hostile opportunity of rebelling, or words to this purpose.—And even in common conversation concerning them, with an air of contempt and disdain, they continually play upon, and repeat the epithets, Antigovernment, antigovernment-men, antigovernment principles, disorderly principles, principles eversive of all government, &c.—While, in the meantime, through divine aid, I shall make it appear to every intelligent mind, not blinded by bigoted prejudice, before I have done, that the antigovernment, anarchical principles are all on your own side, and that your boasted loyalty to the present British government, is a mere empty sound, void of the essence of true and proper loyalty to any government; and that, exclusive of the empty, verbal pretence, it is, in substance, no more than any oppressed people are obliged to give the worst government that ever existed.
Not only the injury done to truth and human liberty, by your mistaken and erroneous principles and doctrine about government, but the continuance of this overbearing maltreatment and abuse, both apologizes and accounts for, and shows the plain necessity and propriety of, something being done to the vindicate truth, and also the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, from unprovoked reproach.
I sincerely wish, an abler pen had engaged in this necessary and honourable undertaking, as there is not a Member in the Presbytery less fit for such a design. A variety of them are much better accomplished, in every point of view for taking up the subject, had their minds served them, and other circumstances with them been answerable thereto. Besides, that my talents are not calculated for Controversy, I find an aversion in my disposition of mind, to litigation, in every case, and in every respect I avoid it, as some have thought, even to a fault. I scarcely ever took up the Controversy in public, except in a few instances, when drawn into it on self-defence, against some imprudent and officious attacks, by Ministers of the Secession, in some parts of the Country where I have been. When any branch of it happens to fall in my way, in my ordinary course of administration, I offer my sentiments doctrinally, without a reference to persons, or denomination on the other side. I have always found myself loath to appear bitter, and exclaim loudly, about the points of difference between the Reformed Presbytery and the Secession, before a promiscuous audience, lest the generation that stand by, should improve it as a reproach to both, and it might render Witness-bearing for Reformation less esteemed.—When Mr. [John] Thomson, of Kirkintilloch, published what he calls, The Presbyterian Covenanter defended, &c. for my own entertainment, and to employ a leisure hour, I wrote a few sheets in answer to it, without any fixed intention of publishing it; a few individuals of my brethren only, saw the manuscript. Some of them urged me to publish it, but, from my aversion to appear in that way, I passed it over, still wishing the contention to die out; and hoping, that, if the two bodies of professed Testimony-bearers, should still be so unhappy, as not to see eye to eye in the points of difference, yet they might come to exercise a mutual forbearance toward on another; or, at least, to be moderate in their treatment of each other, and not to expose themselves, and their Witnessing Work, before the generation. My hopes in this, however, have been vain, and it appears, that the envy of Ephraim is not yet to depart and that the adversaries of Judah are not yet to be cut off. But Ephraim, it seems, must yet envy Judah, and Judah must yet vex Ephraim.
If the Secession body, almost overgrown, and increased in number and popularity, think, on that account, that they have a right to ride over, and tread down the unfashionable Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, they ought to consider, that, as we have a right, so we must be allowed, to speak for, and vindicate ourselves in our own way. And if we cannot write, speak, or preach, with floods of showy eloquence, or an ostensive parade or flowery Oratory, attended with the declamation of the Bar, and airs and gestures of the Theatre, tickling the itching ears, and attracting the attention of an injudicious and fluctuating populace; yet, if we can plead for truth, and exhibit the doctrines of the gospel, in the plain and unaffected language of the humble and lowly JESUS, and his Apostles, preaching CHRIST, and him crucified, not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the SPIRIT, and of power, we will be content, if it should be said of us, as of the Apostle, their bodily presence is weak, and their speech contemptible.
I had scarcely resolved upon offering you my thoughts on the Controversy, when an entire stop was put unto it for near eighteen months, mostly without thoughts of ever resuming my design, by a dispensation of Divine Providence, which employed both my time and mind in a different way. When that cloud had passed over me, and my spirit was somewhat relieved from the pressure of affliction in my family, and had recovered in some degree its equilibrium, and finding the call or it to continue, I thought of resuming my former purpose. But through the foreign nature of the subject from that of my weekly studies, necessary attendance on my other work, and other avocations from family circumstances, my progress must be very slow.
Having engaged in it, I wish to avoid jeering burlesque, and personal raillery and abuse, to which you seem to have given full scope. But if I know anything of reasoning, you shall have the full weight of fair argument, in plain and simple language without ostensive affectation, or overbearing banter on the one hand, or effeminate softness, or sheepish pusillanimity on the other; as if I were either indifferent how the matter went, or were afraid either to speak to you, or for the cause of truth, which I firmly believe and profess.
I do not mean to take any formal notice of the Controversy, as it stands between Mr. Newton and you. All I shall say is, if you think his queries injudiciously and improperly stated, you must surely be conscious, that they are as injudiciously answered. To retaliate on him, you have thought proper to conclude your performance with a postscript, containing twelve queries, instead of a hundred; which, you say, might have been easily proposed—These, you recommend to the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, to be seriously considered by them, as you think they will be more likely to reform the Reformed Brethren than a thousand twice told, that have no concern with the present controversy. The Reformed Brethren owe their acknowledgements to you, for charitably thinking there is some probability of their being convicted of, and reformed from, the error of their ways. Your queries however, are not likely to have that success, as they leave their cause totally unaffected, and therefore are not calculated to reach conviction.
In offering my thoughts to you and the public, I cannot do better, than take the order of your queries for my plan. And in making replies, I shall take in what parts of the controversy seem natively connected with each query respectively; and if there remain any articles worthy of notice, I shall take them up in some cursory remarks at the end. I therefore proceed to query first.
Query I. “You profess yourselves to be the genuine successors of our worthy Covenanters; but can you mention anyone of these, who, in the persecuting period, refused to obey the King as supreme, in things lawful, till he became an absolute tyrant?”
Answ. You refuse the Reformed Presbytery the honour of being the successors of the worthy Covenanters; and claim it to yourselves by an exclusive title. But can you approve of, and join with our worthy Covenanters, at the end of the persecuting period, in declaring that they should have rejected the King’s authority, when he overturned the Work of GOD, and the whole constitution of the nation, and violated his coronation oath? and stated their not doing so as a ground of solemn fasting and humiliation before the Lord; as evidently appears from their solemn declarations at that time, at Sanquhar, &c. Mr. Renwick’s Life, Sermons, and Causes of a fast, kept at Carntable, December 28, 1686. If the doctrine, even of your own church, is sound, King Charles became an absolute tyrant, when he rescinded the constitution of the nation in his first Parliament, Defence of the Associate Presbytery’s principles, about the present Civil government, page 93.
“The Powers whom they rejected, did differ, not only as to their administration, but as to their office and kind, from any we have now ado with. King Charles II, after his restoration, revoked and rescinded the whole former deed, of the body politic, investing him with Magistracy; as instead of holding his office immediately by the will of the body politic, he, by consent of Parliament, renounced any holding of them; and (absurdly, against the very essential nature of magistracy) he arrogated a derivation of it from GOD immediately.” Parl. I. Sess. I. cap. v. 15. Presbyterian Covenant defended, page 10. “That when any magistrate, whether an individual or collective, violates and counteracts these conditions upon which he received his power; whether expressed or necessarily implied, he forfeits his power: and the body politic have a just right to divest him thereof; or, if the power is degenerated into absolute and self-evident tyranny, exercised upon the spiritual or natural liberties of the people, I think any part of the society have a right to reject the authority in itself, to defend themselves and brethren by force, and even to attempt the deliverance of themselves and the body politic, by offensive arms. And if they should be unsuccessful, and suffer ignominiously as rebels; yet I scruple not to assert them to be the martyrs of religion, or the liberties of mankind.”—In the first of those quotations, by the doctrine of the Associate Presbytery (before the distinction of Burgher, or Antiburgher existed) you see that King Charles II. in his first Parliament, divested himself of the very essence of magistracy, and what could remain but absolute, arbitrary and despotic dominion and usurpation, which could claim no right to subjection or obedience, and to which none was due? This being the case, in the second, by the doctrine of a Burgher brother, whose orthodoxy you will not dispute, King Charles II. had forfeited his right to authority, so that the body politic, or any part of it, might reject the authority in itself, and even attempt the deliverance of themselves and brethren by force of arms.—Now, Sir, granting that our worthy Covenanters had submitted to the authority of King Charles II. as unto the ordinance of GOD, and had approved of their so doing, what does it avail your argument, seeing it was to a man, who, by your own doctrine, had forfeited his power, and was divested of the essence of magistracy? and more especially, when the disapproved of anything like subjection they had ever made to him, considered it as their sin, and as such, humbled themselves for it before the Lord. If this argument does anything for you at all it does too much, even more than you would admit of; for you say; “It is not a slavish subjection to the despotic authority of cruel tyrants and usurpers, which is defended in the following pages.—Nothing is said in the following pages, with a design to favour the servile doctrine of passive obedience.—When princes grasp at an absolute power, to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects, and when they become habitually cruel and tyrannical, the people, who set them on their thrones, ought to dispose them?”—This argument then, taken from the subjection of worthy Covenanters to King Charles II. proves too much; and therefore, according to the well known rule in reasoning, proves nothing at all: it therefore goes for nothing.
But, my dear Sir, why should you acknowledge that ever Charles II. was an absolute tyrant, in any time of his life, as he had all that Seceders make essential to a legitimate authority, which is the ordinance of GOD. He acted by the consent of Parliament, the primores regni [leaders of the kingdom] of the nation, he was still acknowledged by the body politic; his tyrannical administrations affected only a small minority in the state, who would not submit to the changes he introduced; and though they could not submit their consciences unto him in the matters of religion, and therefore behoved to suffer persecution; yet, according to you, they should never have presumed to reject his authority; and, by so doing, you ought to insist, that they were, at least, in danger of incurring the awful doom of resisters of the ordinance of GOD, Rom. xiii. 2. And as to what you say, concerning the spiritual supremacy usurped by him, and his requiring to be acknowledged in it, as being the cause of their rejecting his authority, that was no more (if the doctrine of the Author of the Presbyterian Covenanter defended is sound) than every persecutor for conscience sake, in the matters of religion, is chargeable with. “What are the most valuable and immutable natural rights of men, but religion and liberty of conscience? and what is the liberty wherewith CHRIST hath made his people free, but the liberty of enjoying these free from every restraint, but his own gracious authority? and therefore, he, who infringes these natural rights among Christians, by persecution, usurps the Mediator’s kingly office.” According to this you see, that the persecutors of the Primitive Christians, were as much usurpers of the Mediator’s office as Charles II. was, whom yet you contend, that they all, in ever instance, acknowledged, as the powers in being, and so the ordinance of GOD.—And why should you not contend, that our worthy Covenanters either did, or ought to have still acknowledged Charles II as the power in being, and of consequence the ordinance of GOD?
If I might be allowed the freedom to ask, Sir, how obtained you the idea of an absolute tyrant? for, if your account of matters be true, there never was any such thing on the face of the earth, until about the year 1680. How can it be accounted for, that such an uncommon and alarming phenomenon appeared in the moral world, toward the end of the seventeenth century, and had never appeared before, since the beginning of time? and, I think, upon your principles, will never appear again unto the end of days, as you say,—“That the Church of CHRIST, in all ages and places of the world, wherever GOD appointed the bounds of her habitation, was subject to the higher powers, and not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward; is a truth so plainly revealed in the volume of GOD’S book, that he who runs may read it,” page 18 of your pamphlet—How did you then know, Sir, that Charles II. was an absolute tyrant? Was there any such essential difference between him and many persecutors, who were in the foregoing revolving ages of the Church, or was he more froward than any of them, that even the very worst of them were the higher powers, and he an absolute tyrant, specifically different and worse than any of them. How could our worthy Covenanters know, that he was a tyrant, seeing that neither the volume of GOD’S book, nor the example of GOD’S saints, gave them a hint of any such character? and particularly, how could they ever conceive, that it was their duty to reject his authority? and father, how can you allow or approve of their doing so, seeing they had neither precept nor precedent for it?—Do not you see, Sir, that, in your heat, and hurry of zeal, to divest the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, of the honour of going forth by the footsteps of the flock of CHRIST, you have at once totally divested our worthy Covenanters of this honour also? whom yet you affect to honour, with the title of, A NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS.—Did you act consistent with yourself, you would treat their memories with the same spite and virulence, and hold them up to the world and posterity, in the same ludicrous light you do the Reformed Presbytery and their followers.
The Reformed Presbytery, Sir, have all they plead for, when you acknowledge, that Charles II. was an absolute tyrant, and that our worthy Covenanters rejected his authority—By this acknowledgment you grant, that absolute, arbitrary and despotic dominion, is specifically different, in nature and kind, from Civil government, which is the ordinance of GOD; and consequently, that its authority is not obligatory upon the consciences of men—By this acknowledgement likewise you grant, that a minority in the community, may not only silently dissent from, and reject from dominion, even while it is submitted to by the majority, but may explicitly declare their rejection of the authority in itself; and if pressed to acknowledge it, may resist by force, and even attempt to rescue themselves and brethren by offensive arms.—These things being granted, I know no more pled for by the Reformed Presbytery nor their followers; and had they been duly attended to, they might have saved you the trouble of writing your pamphlet. I proceed to Query II.
Query II. “Doth GOD require Christians to profess principles, which they must, of absolute necessity, contradict in practice?”
Answ. GOD, Sir, requires Christians to profess the principles of truth and righteousness, at all times and on all occasions. And if, for the punishment of their sin, the trial of their faith, or otherwise serving his own wise purposes, he lays them under dispensations of Providence, in which they have it not in their power to carry their principles into practice; in that case I leave it to you to say, whether they are required to renounce their principles or not. You acknowledge that our worthy Covenanters rejected the authority of King Charles II. whom yet the body politic still owned, and submitted unto; I retort the question, did GOD require them to profess principles, which they behooved, of absolute necessity to contradict in practice? will you be so free as to say, that they acted contrary to the precepts of GOD, and the practice of the saints? and that, in their practice, they contradicted their principles.
Query III. “Is it not evident, even yourselves being judges, that you cannot reduce to practice, a single jot of your political principles, except your refusing to pray for government?”
Answ. Our worthy Covenanters and Martyrs, lived under a government, acknowledged and submitted unto by the community at large, which yet they declared they disowned.—Let Seceders say, even themselves being judges, that they could not reduce to practice, a single jot of their political principles, except their refusing to pray for government.—This, and the foregoing query, are evidently stated, and go upon the supposition, that whatever is done by a legislature, and either approved of, or practically submitted unto by the body politic, must be considered, as at least tacitly, virtually, and practically approved of, or submitted to by every individual, while naturally and locally connected with the community; and that for a minority to pretend to dissent from, disapprove of, or declare they disown, what is thus submitted, &c. involves a contradiction. But this at once reprobates as absurd, the conduct of the Covenanters, which yet you profess to approve of, destroys civil and Christian liberty, enslaves the consciences of men, and is against the principles and practice of Seceders themselves.
As to what you call, refusing to pray for government. If the Reformed Presbytery are any more contracted in their prayers, and do not express themselves with zeal for the coming of the REDEEMER’S kingdom, and with Christian benevolence and generosity, pleading for grace to their fellow men of all ranks and degrees, high or low, prince or peasant, kings or subjects, the noble or the ignoble, and for them who wear crowns or that walk on crutches, equal to Seceders, let them that hear both judge.—And, if they cannot, in conscience, submit to prescribed forms, by human authority, or habitually repeat dry parades of royal epithets; or cannot express themselves with such formality about the present complex Erastian constitution, partly spiritual, partly temporal, partly civil, partly ecclesiastic, on account of which, and other inconsistencies with the former covenanted constitution, it cannot be sworn unto even by Seceders: I say, if they cannot find themselves clear to express their prayers as some others do, they might charitably be excused, especially by those, who, upon matters of conscience, as they profess, have been obliged to step out of the national establishment; or, if they cannot join with some in their prayers for the King, who plead, that as the LORD hath given him a distinguished place in heaven.—As they do not know, that such a privilege to kings, is the subject of a promise, they ought to be excused, if they do not make it the subject of their prayers.
You surely will not refuse, Sir, that, with the Martyrs, whose successors you contend you are, the refusing to pray for the then government, was not only a head of Testimony, but also of suffering; and yet you reason from Scripture, as if no such thing ought to be, page 29, “To pray for a blessing to civil rulers, and for long life, and prosperity, not only to the meek and gentle, but also to the froward, is warranted by Scripture precept and example. Seek the peace of the city, said Jeremiah to the captives in Babylon, and pray unto the LORD for it, Jer. xxix. 7. Paul exhorts, That prayers be made for kings, and for all that are in authority, 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2. Our Lord exhorts to bless them that curse us, and pray for them who persecute us, Matth. v. 44. Nehemiah said unto King Artaxerxes, Let the king live for ever, Neh. ii. 3. And Daniel to King Darius, O King! live for ever, Dan. vi. 21."—Do not the Martyrs then, for their refusing to pray for government, stand condemned by Scripture precept and example? and if they were alive, would they not here say, Master, thus saying, thou reproachest us also? If you say as in p. 1, “Is there no difference between the iron rod of an oppressing and murdering tyrant, and the gentle sceptre of a gracious prince?”—Yes, Sir, there is; but with you, the meek and gentle, and the froward, are both comprehended within the precept and example. The oppressing and murdering tyrant and his iron rod, is but a froward prince, and ought (according to you) to have long life and prosperity prayed for to him. And yet the Martyrs declined to do this, not only so, but when urged to it, chose rather to suffer, than comply, and vindicated themselves in doing so, by Scripture precept and example. The judicious Author of the Hind Let Loose, whom you acknowledge to be a very sensible Covenanter, largely illustrates this from page 453 to 468, Old Edition; to which I must refer you and the reader.—I shall only here insert the form of prayer, which he says be used for the then government. “I shall conclude, says he, with that form of prayer which I use for the King,” who was only a froward prince. “O LORD GOD, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself, lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth, render a reward to the proud. Lord! how long shall the wicked? how long shall the wicked triumph? Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, that frameth mischief by a law? The mighty and the terrible GOD destroy all kings and people, that put to their hand to alter and destroy this house of GOD. Overturn, overturn, overturn this throne of tyranny, and let it be no more, until he come, whose right it is.”—I shall leave it to you and the reader, to consider and determine, how far long life and prosperity to the proud and froward princes, is the subject of this prayer. The same Author insists, that to pray for prosperity to the then government, or any absolute and tyrannical powers, is contrary to every petition in the LORD’S prayer, together with the conclusion.—And, in like manner, contrary to the threatenings of GOD against the wicked, his promises to the Church, and the Church’s prayers against his enemies: all which he exemplifies from Scripture.—Now if you are right, the Martyrs, and those who defended them on this head, must have been woefully deceived; and they stand condemned for the most egregious perversion and abuse of Scripture prayers, promises, and threatenings, and died as the most deluded bigots in error and obstinacy.
That prayers for Civil rulers is a duty, was never denied, as far as I know, either by the Reformed Presbytery or their followers—But I confess, Sir, I do not see the connection between such a duty, and the captives in Babylon, praying for the peace of the city to which they were sent, Jer. xxix. 7. It is manifest, that this prayer, recommended to the captives, includes no duty they owed, either to the Babylonish monarch, or to the city and the inhabitants thereof, as if either had been a blessing unto them. On the contrary, they were a curse, and the rod of GOD’S judgment to punish them for their sins, for the removal of which, in his own time, it was their duty to pray. The subject matter of the prayer therefore, is solely their own peace and happiness, during the time appointed them to sojourn there. Seek the peace of the city, and pray unto the LORD for it: for, in the peace therefore, shall ye have peace.—The authority for praying for government, is like the ordinance itself, of a moral and lasting nature; but the command to the captives, was merely positive and temporary, during their 70 years residence in that place; at the expiration of which, their prayer was entirely reversed. Jer. li. 35. The violence done to me, and to my flesh, be upon Babylon, shall the inhabitant of Zion say; and my blood be upon the inhabitants of Chaldea, shall Jerusalem say. O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones, Psal. cxxxvii. 8, 9. If the Babylonish monarch, and his government, was the ordinance of GOD, for which the captives were commanded to pray and give thanks, during the time of their captivity, as a blessing bestowed upon and enjoyed by them, why were they to reverse their prayer at their return? was not gratitude to the King, and inhabitants, due at their departure, as well as at their entry? were not the Chaldean court equally civil rulers, to whom long life and prosperity was to be prayed for, when the captives took their leave of them, as when they remained with them? why then were they directed to pray for violence, and the avenging of their blood upon them?—It is abundantly evident therefore, that the prayer of the captives for the peace of the city, was merely for their own peace and happiness while in it, exclusive of any concern about the civil rulers, or rather tyrants of Babylon; whose government, instead of being a blessing unto them, had, from beginning to end, been a scene of violence, tyranny and oppression: for which, violence and the vengeance of the ALMIGHTY, now to be prayed for, and inflicted upon them to the uttermost.—This prayer then, can never be adduced, as either a precept or a precedent for paying for civil rulers; and much less for such, as, instead of being rulers, are oppressing tyrants; than which a more inconsiderate, and absurd perversion of Scripture cannot be.
The Apostle’s exhortation to Timothy, That prayer, &c. should be made for all men, for kings, and for all that are in authority, is a precept, enjoining the Christian church, to pray for grace to all men indefinitely, without the exception of any nation, rank, or description; and for such men as are in the rank of kings among others, that they may obtain grace; and also, as they are, and because they are, in authority, that they may obtain the SPIRIT of Wisdom for government; and to thank GOD for them, and pray for their continuance, when, by wise government, they are a blessing to the community, and to the Church. But to apply this precept unto all promiscuously, who have been called kings, and have been said to be in authority, or may come in the course of Providence to be so, is a boundless perversion and prostitution of it, and is no more absurd in its nature and consequences, than inconsistent with your own doctrine. To say as you do, page 2, “That when princes grasp at absolute power, to dispose of the lives and properties of subjects, and when they become habitually cruel and tyrannical, they ought to be deposed;” and yet say, that the Apostle enjoined prayer and thanksgiving for the Roman emperors as in, and because they were in authority, is a glaring inconsistency. The emperors grasped at absolute power, to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects; they were in general, habitually cruel and tyrannical; and particularly to the Christians, spoiling them of their privileges, natural, civil, and religious: and therefore, by your doctrine, ought to have been deposed.—That which ought to be deposed and annihilated, the continuance of it cannot prayed for; nor can thanksgiving be made for it. But the Roman emperors, for their absolute power, and tyrannical administration, ought (by your doctrine) to have been deposed, and their power and administration annihilated; therefore prayer and thanksgiving could not be made for them without a contradiction.—By your doctrine in the same page, “it is contrary to the principles of self-preservation, Scripture, and common sense, to teach that men should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to throw it off.” The government of the Roman emperors was a yoke of oppression upon the empire at large, and particularly upon the Christian Church; therefore, according to your own principles, it was contrary to Scripture, &c. to pray for long life, and prosperity to it.—The LORD, in his Word, threatens persecutors, and oppressors, with judgments, and promiseth to deliver the Church from oppression, and the saints pray for the accomplishment of the promise.—To explain therefore, this precept of the Apostle, in a way that contradicts all these, must be perversely absurd. If you say, that it was neither for the absolute power of the emperors, nor their tyrannical administration, but for them as Civil rulers, and their administration as Civil government, that the Apostle enjoined prayer; this is as much as to say, that the Christians to whom the Apostle wrote, either did, or might conceive, and imagine to themselves a lawful power and administration, and attribute them to the Roman emperors, and then pray for them as Civil rulers, while yet such an imagination, or idea of them, was contrary unto the fact. If the Primitive Christians, at the Apostle’s injunction, prayed for the Roman emperors, as Civil rulers, though their power was absolute, and their administration tyrannical, why, by the same authority, did not they, whom you call, THE NOBLE ARMY OF MARTYRS, pray for long life and prosperity to Charles II. and James VII.? Although their power was usurped and absolute, and their administration cruel and tyrannical, they might, notwithstanding, have conceived them to be civil rulers, and their administration to be civil government, for which they were bound by this precept of the Apostle to pray.
If we duly attend unto the reason assigned by the Apostle, for this exhortation to Timothy, respecting prayer, namely, That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all Godliness and honesty, it may go far, to lead us unto the understanding of the proper application of it. It is rational to think, that as the lives and conduct of men in general, affected the quiet and peaceable life of the Church and its members, in the exercise of religion, so they were to direct their prayers for them. In these dark places of the earth, full of the habitations of horrid cruelty, in that infant state of the Church, to pray for the success of the gospel, that all men might be cured of their ignorance, and for saving, or even restraining grace unto them, whereby they might be reclaimed from error, and have their ferocity of temper, and other corruptions subdued, was a rational mean toward promoting the quiet and peaceable life of the Church, as well as it was acceptable to GOD, who, according to his revealed will, will have all men to be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth; and such men as are in the rank of kings, and occupy the place of power, as well as others.—In like manner, according as the government of kings, and such as occupied the place of power, affected the quiet and peaceable life of the Church, so they would order their prayers for them. When in any place, the nature of the power was in itself lawful, and the administration such as promoted the comfortable being of the Church, in all Godliness and honesty, then she had encouragement to pray and give thanks for such a government. On the contrary, wherever the power was usurped and absolute, and therefore in itself unlawful; and the administration also tyrannical, so as not only to be a disturbance, but a real hindrance of the Church’s peace in Godliness, by oppression, persecution and abuse, in that case, and in a consistency with the peace of the Church, which is the reason of the prayer, she is to pray, That the Lord, in his own time and way, would rid her of such a curse; and subdue his and her enemies, either by the power of his grace, or by the iron-rod of his wrath, as may be most conducive to his own glory and her good.—To suppose, or insist, that by this exhortation of the Apostle, the Church is to pray in a formal and random manner, for all that are called kings, and occupy the place of power, that they may be successful; or, as you express it, may have long life and prosperity, under the notion of civil rulers, without rationally ordering her prayers, according as the nature and tendency of the power, and the manner and tenor of the administration, affects her peace and quietness in Godliness and honesty, is contrary to the dictates, either of reason or religion. Nor can such inconsiderate prayers, rationally ever be expected to be successful, as a mean of obtaining the comfort of the Church, which is the formal reason of the exhortation. And therefore, after all the indecent, indiscreet, and silly quirkish burlesque, with which you fill up almost two pages, upon these words, quoted from Vindiciæ Magistratus, by Mr. [John] Thorburn, viz. “That when Paul exhorts to pray for kings, and for all that are in authority, he enjoined and recommended to pray for, and wish well to GOD’S ordinance, or lawful authority,” making it to be absurdly praying for GOD’S ordinance, or authority in the abstract, I cannot see but it is a more sound and safe comment upon the Apostle’s exhortation, and liable to less absurdity than your boundless prostitution of it is. The Church and her members have often prayed, that kings might be nursing-fathers, and their mother nursing-mothers, and judges might be restored as at the first, and counsellors as at the beginning, that officers might be peace, and exactors righteousness, when such had no real being, as to them, but in the promise; and yet were not branded and abused with absurdity, for praying for magistracy, or lawful authority, in the abstract.
But, if no other explanation of this exhortation of the Apostle will satisfy you, than an application of it unto all in the place of power promiscuously, and expressly to the Roman emperors in the Apostle’s day, notwithstanding that their power was usurped and absolute; and therefore unlawful in itself, and their administration cruel and tyrannical, and themselves incorrigible and implacable enemies to the Christian Church, depriving her members of their privileges, natural, civil, and religious; and also the making prayer for them, and success to their government, an act of subjection to them; then, you thereby, contrary to your own doctrine, page 2, legitimate usurped absolute power, passive obedience and nonresistance. You make the Apostle’s exhortation, to contradict the divine threatenings against the Church’s implacable enemies, the gracious promises of the Church’s deliverance, and the saint’s prayers for the accomplishment of these promises, and the practice of the late Martyrs, who refused to pray for those in the place of power, who were enemies to the Church. A more perverse, contradictory, and foolish idea, cannot be conceived, than that to pray for success and prosperity, to the open and avowed enemies and disturbers of the Church’s peace, is a mean conducive to promote a quiet and peaceable life, in all Godliness and honesty: Or that prayer, intercession, &c. is to be made for such, under the pretense that they are civil rulers: Or that such prayer can be acceptable with GOD; unless you suppose him to have given up the controversy against sin and sinners.
When CHRIST says, Matth. v. 44. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you, he exhorts Christians to bear injuries, to which they are ever incident, with resignation, humility, meekness, and patience, not indulging a hot and fiery temper, attended with resentment and revengefulness of spirit, rendering evil for evil, and railing for railing, but shewing a readiness to forgive; and, in so far as the offence or sin is against them, even to pray, that it may not be laid to the charge of such as insult and abuse them.—But, my dear Sir, what hath all this ado with making prayers, intercessions, &c. for civil rulers. Must civil rulers be supposed to curse men, and despitefully use and persecute Christians: such must be very uncivil rulers, and absolutely unworthy of the place and honour. Shall even he that hateth right govern? Is it fit to say to a king, thou art wicked! and to princes, ye are ungodly? Job xxxiv. 17, 18. It is the very use and design of civil rulers, to prevent such abuse; and, if they pervert their power to such wicked purposes, instead of praying for, or wishing them success, by your own doctrine, they ought to be deposed, and dismissed from the place of power.
Nehemiah said unto King Artaxerxes, Let the King live for ever! And Daniel said to King Darius, O King, live for ever! This piece of mere civil homage or honour, which, like Joseph’s swearing by the life of Pharaoh, cannot otherwise be apologized for, than that it was the custom of the place, and people, among whom they were, and which great and good men will sometimes inadvertently fall into, must be introduced and urged as a solemn prayer for civil rulers. He, who, for the malice and ill-will of a few selfish and designing princes, could be capable of such beastly cruelty, as to cast any man, and especially such a man as Daniel, into a den of voracious lions, deserved not the name of a civil ruler; but that of a cruel and despotic tyrant more fitly became him. And why should so great a man as Nehemiah have been sore afraid to speak of the place of his fathers’ sepulchres before Artaxerxes, but lest it should not meet his good humor and approbation? there was one law of his to put him to death, as in the case of Esther with Ahasuerus. Those proud aspiring mortals, blasphemously assuming the place and prerogative of JEHOVAH, viz. absolute power to dispose of the lives and properties of men; whom they pleased they killed, and whom they pleased they saved alive: These grasping, cruel and tyrannical princes, who, you say, page 2, ought to be deposed, yet you will have the saints praying for long life and prosperity to them.
Let any read the awful denunciations of divine vengeance and wrath, in the complicated detail of the most terrible judgments, in all possible variegated forms, to affect these lands, the inhabitants, the dominion, and succession of dominators, in all possible cases and circumstances, made from the LORD by the Prophet Isaiah xiiith and xivth chapters, and particularly by Jeremiah, chap. 1. and li. until they should become like to Sodom and Gomorrah, for their pride against GOD, and their cruelty toward his people. Let him also read and consider the mournful complaint made by Nehemiah, chap. ix. 36, 37 verses, the oppression and distress they were under, even when returned to their own land. And then let him try if it is possible for him to believe your interpretation, and application of Jeremiah, xxix. 7 Seek the peace of the city, &c. And the civil compliment of Nehemiah and Daniel, Let the King live for ever! &c. It is manifest, that Nebuchadnezzar, and his successors, in that absurd, absolute dominion, which they blasphemously assumed, and the cruel tyranny which they exercised in the earth, and especially upon the church, were men of death, whom the Lord had purposed, and declared he would destroy; and yet you will have Nehemiah, the Prophet Jeremiah and Daniel, to pray for long life and prosperity to them, that they might be men of life, and live for ever, and so make these Men of GOD, to pray for the preservation and success of that, which he had purposed, and revealed unto them, he would destroy. If, as you say, they really prayed for prosperity to them, on what promise could they rest their faith for the accomplishment? They would not be prayers of faith, for they had no promise to rely on, and whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Such an interpretation therefore, is highly derogatory from the honour of the saints.
In the way of an objection to be answered, you take occasion to introduce that well known form of prayer for government, made use of, and prescribed by the Secession judicatories, in the following words, “To pray that GOD may bless our Sovereign King George, and the apparent heir of the Crown, that he may blast all the plots or efforts, of whatever enemies, open or secret, against the Protestant Succession to the throne of these kingdoms, in the family of Hanover; that he may be gracious to the High Courts of Parliament, in this and the neighbouring island, and lead them to proper measures for the honour of CHRIST, must be understood as containing earnest supplications to the LORD, that he may continue and preserve an Erastian constitution.” To this objection you answer, in a masterly parade of overbearing and empty assertions. You take it for granted, that your bare word is argument; you say so and so, and therefore your reader must believe that it is so and so. You pretend that the objection was sufficiently answered in what was said to the preceding one; but you say, as arguments are never wanting to refute error in whatever shape it appears, so you will answer in the following particulars. And, first, you assert, “That the supplications in this prayer are not understood by the supplicants, in the sense of the objectors; nor doth the hearer of prayer understand them in such a sense.” This is forcible reasoning. It will be granted, that the supplicants should best know their own thoughts, and the ideas they annex unto the words they use. But you must also allow, that others have equal access, and right too, to know the common and ordinary sense and import of language. And whether GOD hears supplications in another sense than they are expressed in words, will be very hard for you to determine, unless it be, when the words are good, but the heart not sincere, Psal. lxxviii. 37. But if this prayer has been heard at all, it seems rather to have been in the sense of the objectors, for the continuance of an Erastian constitution, has all along been more visible, than the prevalence of grace, among the men established upon it.
Your next assertion is, “The sense alleged, is neither expressed, nor in the least insinuated, in the words of this prayer.” And downward you say, “The Scripture tells us, that to bid a false teacher GOD speed, is to be partaker of his evil deeds; but it nowhere tells us, to pray for the grace of GOD, and for long life, and prosperity even to bad men, is to be partaker of their evil deeds.” Now, here we have the sense of the supplicants in this prayer, viz. saving grace to the souls of Civil rulers, long life and prosperity, i.e. health and happiness to their persons. Well, suppose you heard a man, pray for long life and prosperity to the East India Company, and that their Court of Directors may be blessed, making no exceptions of any evils about them, would you not thereby understand, that he approved of that monopoly, and the principles and laws upon which it is founded; and that he wished for the continuance of it, with success unto the measures of the Directors at home and abroad. In the same manner, if you heard one pray in favours of the revolution in France, and for long life, and prosperity to their national convention, and success unto their arms offensive and defensive, without any exceptions, would you not at once be persuaded, that he approved of Republican government in the general, and of the principles upon which the national convention is founded in particular, and the grounds on which they have taken up arms, and wished the continuance of their Republican State against all efforts open or secret. Would it ever come into your head, from the common ordinary sense of words, and import of language to conceive, that nothing more was meant by such supplicants, than saving grace to the souls, and health and happiness to the persons of the members of the East Indian Company, &c. or to the persons of the members of the National Convention of France, &c. In like manner when prayer is made for a King, with the apparent heir of a Crown, and no exceptions made, and that all plots, or efforts open or secret, of whatever enemies, against a succession to a throne in any one family, may be blasted; and that the LORD may be gracious to the High Courts of Parliament, in the different islands of an empire, as in this supplication, must not everyone be led to think, that the supplicants approve, not only the kingly government in general, but when such a prayer is applied to a particular king and nation, that they approve of the Constitution, by which the King holds his power, that they also approve of a limited succession to a throne, or hereditary government, and especially of that particular succession mentioned in the prayer; and also of the constitution of the High Courts of Parliament in general, without the exception of any evil, when none is mentioned, nor in the least insinuated, as also of the general tenor of their administration; and that they supplicate, that the whole may continue as it is.—Would it be possible for any man, to read or hear, a supplication, expressed in such language as this is, and believe, that not the whole political constitution as it stands, in all its principles and administration is approved of, and its continuation prayed for, but only, and no more than, saving grace, long life, good health and happiness to the men? You say, page 16, “Praying for Magistrates is an act of subjection to them,” it must therefore include their political constitution, office and administration. If prayer for magistrates is only for grace, life and happiness to their persons, why distinguish them, by their official characters, from men or Christians in general? or how could such a prayer be an act of subjection to them as kings, than praying for saving grace, long life and prosperity, to men who are kings, is anymore an act of subjection to them as kings, than praying for saving grace, &c. to men who are beggars, is an act of subjection to them as beggars. As men are the objects of redeeming love, or the subjects of saving grace, they are all on a level. In CHRIST JESUS, there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, and I may add, King nor subject.
This way you go about to explain this prayer, is a mere and palpable deceit, as farther appears from the use you make of the words of the Apostle. “To bid a false teacher GOD speed, is to be partaker of his evil deeds, but the Scripture nowhere tells us, that to pray for the grace of GOD, and for long life and prosperity even to bad men, is to be partaker of their evil deeds.” This, Sir, is just in effect, by a mere sophistical quibble, to give the Apostle the lie. The Apostle, like every honest man, speaking the language of common sense, connected the false teacher, and his false teaching together, in one idea, as you also, had you acted the honest part of the Apostle, ought to have connected the bad man, and his badness together, in one idea, and then the conclusion of the Apostle would have been one, in both cases. But you deceitfully separate between the bad man, and his badness, and then you make prayer for long life and prosperity to the bad man, to have no respect to his badness, or evil deeds. Upon your principle, why may not the grace of GOD, long life and prosperity be prayed for to a false teacher, without being partaker of his evil deeds, as well as for a bad man, without being partaker of his evil deeds? and then the Apostle himself shall be found a false teacher, teaching Christians, that bidding GOD speed unto a false teacher, or in other words, any way countenancing, assisting, or encouraging him, makes them partakers of his evil deeds, which yet, according to you, is false. False teachers, false speakers, false dealers, false swearers, and I may add, false kings, false magistrates and rulers are all bad men; and if the Apostle’s conclusion be just, with regard to the first, it is so in regard in all: if your conclusion be just, with respect to the last, it is so with respect to all, and whether the Apostle’s word or yours is to stand, judge ye.
Again you say, “If prayer for GOD’S blessing to civil rulers, is inseparably connected with a praying for the continuance of the evils in their constitution, we must not pray for them while the world standeth.” Prayer, in the sense you insist upon, is no prayer for rulers at all, but for men, that they may obtain saving grace, and enjoy health and happiness in their persons, which is a duty incumbent on Christians reciprocally one toward another. A civil ruler, as such, is inseparably connected with the constitution, by, and according to, which he holds and exercises his power. And the constitution is inseparably connected with his principles upon which it is founded, and the articles of which it is composed: there is an essential oneness in the whole, and to separate them in idea, and proceed in prayer upon that idea, as you do with the bad man, is a whimsical deceit, contrary to the honest principles and doctrine of the Apostle. In connection with the words quoted above, you say, “Nor yet for ecclesiastic rulers, for there have always been evils in the constitution of both, and will be to the end of time.” That is granted, but you will surely allow, that there is a material difference, between accidental evils, or such as may casually prevail from time to time in a constitution or administration, and such as may be called essential evils, both in the constitution and administration, by their designedly incorporated with it, and authoritatively declared to belong essentially unto it, and on that very account are retained, and refused to be let go, or to be given up. If you say, that evils of this kind, have always been, in both ecclesiastic and civil constitutions, you surely speak rashly and censure the constitution of the Apostolic church itself, and both the ecclesiastic and civil constitutions of the Israel of GOD, which were all the dictates of Divine wisdom, and established by Divine authority. And, if it should unhappily be the case, that the world should never again be honoured and blessed with ecclesiastic and civil constitutions, except such as designedly and obstinately hold fast iniquity, and refuse to let it go, I cannot help thinking, that it is better to withhold prayer for them, than thereby to bid them GOD speed, and, according to the Apostle’s doctrine, become partakers of their evil deeds.
You farther add, “Nay, according to this objection, we must not pray for grace to sinners, because that is a praying for the continuance of the reign of sin in them, we must not pray for more grace to saints, because this is a praying for the continuance of the reign of sin in them, we must not pray for more grace to saints, because this is a praying for the continuance of the remains of sin in them. And for the same reason, we must not pray for ourselves, whether we be saints or sinners.” Your design in this foreign and forced inference, was no doubt, with your tale, to make the objection as ridiculous as possible in the eyes of your reader. But whatever was your design, I shall only say, that had the prayer you defend, run in the form of those that ought to be, and usually are, made for either sinners or saints, there would have been less reason for objections against it. When prayer is made for grace to sinners, sin and unworthiness is confessed, supplication is made, that guilt original and actual may be pardoned, that the reign of sin may be broken, and the heart and life reformed. When prayer is made for more grace to saints, sin and unworthiness is also acknowledged, and regretted, supplication is made for the pardon of the guilt of daily transgressions, that the remaining power of indwelling sin may be farther broken, and the sanctification of heart and life more and more advanced. And for the same reason, you have no right to pray for yourself, whether you be a saint or a sinner, without the confession of sin, and humble acknowledgement of guilt, original and actual, or constitutional and practical. No more had the Secession judicatories a right to prescribe, nor you a right either to use or defend a form of prayer for any government, or civil constitution, which must be acknowledged to be chargeable with evils, without such humble confession and acknowledgements, unless it be, that, because evils have and will always prevail, it becomes unnecessary to attend unto, or to mention them. And the same reason will render acknowledgement of sin in prayer unnecessary, either for sinners or saints, or yet ourselves. When the words of this prayer are so laid and expressed, as to include, every part of the constitution, and no exception made, who can understand it otherwise, than that the supplicants approve of the whole, and the constitution being undeniably Erastian, so the prayer is an earnest supplication for the continuance of an Erastian constitution.
If observation be just, and if report may be credited, some folks political principles and prayers too, go much according to the fashion. When King-craft was in vogue, political zeal burnt high, the present British government was extolled, and the mildest of kings, the gentle sceptre of a gracious prince, the best modelled government in the known world, &c. &c. were current encomiums; but nowadays, when the rage for kings seems to be abated, political zeal is turned, the fervour of prayer is begun to cool, and they, who cried up the exigence of government, required the payment of every tax, and that they ought to be paid with the whole heart, for conscience sake, now begin to complain of the enormous expense of the civil list, the insupportable burden of place-men and pensioners, and join the common voice calling out for a reform. It would fitly become those who have used, and do defend the prayer of which we have been speaking, seriously to consider in the present juncture, whether there may be any plots or efforts, by secret or open enemies, against the Protestant succession to the throne of these kingdoms, in the family of Hanover, and the high courts of Parliament in this and the neighbouring island, lest unhappily they provoke GOD, and injure their own consciences, by addressing the throne of grace, with contradictory and hypocritical prayers.
Upon the whole, from what has been replied to this, and your former query, it is obvious to every judicious mind, that a professed friend and successor, as you are, to the late noble Army of Martyrs in Scotland, you have entirely robbed them of two heads of their Testimony, for which they loved not their lives unto the death, but sealed them with their best blood, namely their disowning the usurped authority and tyrannical government of King Charles II. and James VII. and likewise their refusing to pray for them, and their government; Principles and practices, for which you leave them neither precept nor precedent in the volume of GOD’S book. And this will further appear from what may be replied to the subsequent queries. I now proceed to
Query IV. “Were the precepts delivered by Paul, Rom. xiii. 1-7, of any use to Christians, before Christianity became the established religion in the Roman empire?”
Answ. Had you recollected, and for a moment reflected upon your own doctrine, Scripture Loyalist, page 35, near the foot, it might happily have prevented you the trouble of stating this question, your words may form a very proper answer, and are as follow, “The characters in this passage are intended to shew, what all magistrates ought to be: and in this respect are as applicable to Heathen, as to Christian magistrates: rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil: that is, their office and duty is not, to punish men for their good; but for their evil works. He is the Minister of GOD to thee for good: that is, the magistrate, who is GOD’S vicegerent, ought to preserve the natural, civil, and religious rights of his subjects.”—Now, Sir, after this, what occasion for your making a query of it, if these characters were intended to shew what all magistrates ought to be, and were applicable, and of consequence useful to the Heathen at Rome, were they not at the same time applicable and useful to the Christians at Rome, for one and the same purpose, namely, to shew what all magistrates ought to be? are instructions to a people of no use, until they be in a situation for an immediate putting them in practice? this would at once supersede the necessity and usefulness, of the education of youth, in the knowledge of the Divine law, with all the relations and duties thereof respectively; or of the Gospel, and all the ordinances thereof, their nature, use, and end; because of the incompetency of their state, for putting these in practice immediately; or, perhaps, for many years after; the absurdity of which is obvious. The absurdity of supposing the precepts delivered by the Apostle, Rom. xiii. 1-7, to the Christians at Rome, to be of no use before Christianity became the established religion in the empire, is equally obvious.
Query V. “Do you believe, that Paul, in the passage above quoted, commanded the Christians at Rome to render tribute, custom, fear, honor, to magistracy in the abstract, as the letter from Stirling, plainly supposes, page 58, near the foot.”
Answ. We believe, Sir, that the Apostle Paul, in the passage above quoted, taught the Christian at Rome, that magistracy is an ordinance of Divine authority, with the nature, use, and ends of it; and described the character, dignity and duty of the magistrate; the design and utility of his official administrations; and commanded the Christians at Rome, or elsewhere, to render tribute, custom, fear, honor, to magistracy and magistrates, corresponding with the description, which he had given of them, wherever they met with them. And thus, on the one hand, he wisely and prudently reprehended the mistaken notion of those, who dreamed, that the Christian liberty set loose from subjection, to magistrates; and on the other, guarded the Christian religion, from the reproach unjustly cast upon it in that day, viz. that it was, in its nature, contrary to civil and political order and government. But that the Roman Cæsars were the powers, to whom the description and command of the Apostle are applied, has been questioned by others besides the Reformed Presbytery.
I acknowledge, Sir, that in the 14th and 15th pages of your pamphlet, you take an uncommon freedom in reprehending Mr. M’Millan in Stirling, for supposing that the Apostle Paul meant magistracy in the abstract in all its branches, or else the office filled with virtuous rulers only, and use a long parade of masterly overbearing language, scarcely decent. “This exposition is the fruit, either of the strongest prejudice, or of the most wilful ignorance; it is incredible how Mr. M’Millan, or any other man in his right mind, can believe is to be true. The first sense represents the Apostle, as speaking perfect jargon and nonsense. As this sense is absurd in the highest degree, and a manifest disgrace to a Master in Israel, so the other sense is utterly false, viz. that the Apostle means the office of magistracy filled with virtuous rulers: for there were no such rulers in Paul’s day, nor for three hundred years after it. Mr. M’Millan junior hath indeed, awakened this adder in the path; and as Saul of Tarsus dealt with the saints, hath compelled it to blaspheme, or speak words, which are a reproach to the wisdom of the SPIRIT of inspiration,—to say, that by the powers that be, is meant magistracy in the abstract, is to make the HOLY GHOST assert absurdity, to say that virtuous rulers are meant, is to make the SPIRIT of GOD maintain, that the then rulers were virtuous, which is a notorious falsehood.—To hear the Mother of harlots, and her deluded followers, who are drunk with the wine of her fornication, torturing the Scriptures, and compelling them to support their doctrines of devils, is no wonder at all.—But to find the highest pretenders among Presbyterians, to orthodoxy and reformation, evidently perverting one of the plainest passages in the Book of GOD, is not only matter of wonder, but likewise of lamentations, of mourning, and wo, &c.”—Is it true, Sir, that you claim an exclusive right to use bold and groundless assertions, Billingsgate [coarse abusive] language, provoking and reviling speeches? for, in page 74, you say, “If a reply shall be returned to the preceding pages, it is expected, that it will abound not with bold and groundless assertions, but with scriptural arguments; not with human but with heavenly acts of Parliament; and not with Billingsgate [vulgar, abusive] language, but with words of truth and soberness. Provoking and reviling speeches should never be used as armour in the Christian warfare.”—Now, Sir, one would be ready to think, that after concluding your piece with these words, you would rationally have been led to a reflex view of the preceding pages, and to have drawn your pen through the above, and many other provoking and reviling speeches, with which your performance peculiarly abounds.—But if you claim a right to a freedom in this, which you deny to others, I envy not your property, I make you welcome to the honour; I design neither to imitate nor retaliate it. I confess, Sir, you carry your metaphysical refinement, much above what I would choose to do, when you boldly assert as in page 14, “Now, if by the power, and the powers that be, are meant magistracy in the abstract, then the Apostle must be enjoining an act of subjection on the Romans, neither towards GOD nor man, but towards magistracy in the abstract.”—Are the ordinances of GOD, considered in themselves, abstract from either the administrator, or administration of them, no real institutions, but mere ideal beings, the creatures of the mind? have the ordinances, in themselves considered, as they stand as institutions in his Word and law, no connection with GOD? then they are none of the things whereby GOD maketh himself known. I would rather choose to think, that, though the ordinance of magistracy may be considered abstractly, in respect of human administrators or administrations, yet still it is to be considered in the concrete, in respect of GOD the institutor, closely and inseparably connected with him. It is in this view, and on this account, that our Divines consider the Third Commandment, to require the holy and reverend use of GOD’S names, titles, attributes, ordinances, words and works.—All these taken, as abstracted from, or disconnected with GOD, are nothing but common words, and the ideas connected with them only creatures of the mind, to which no holy reverence is due. Your manner of treating magistracy, as in the above assertion, seems to be one of the ways of profaning, and abusing these things, whereby GOD hath made himself known, forbidden in the Third Commandment.
But farther, Sir, if your bold assertions above are well grounded, I am much mistaken, if you do not find, that not only Mr. M’Millan, but all the Christian Commentators and Divines, that ever wrote on that passage of the Apostle, yourself expected, have been out of their judgment. “To say, that by the powers that be, is meant magistracy in the abstract, is to make the HOLY GHOST assert absurdity. To say, that virtuous rulers are meant, is to make the SPIRIT of GOD maintain, that the then rulers were virtuous, which is a notorious falsehood.” Now I presume, you will find it a task too hard for you, to condescend on a single Commentator or Divine, who ever applied the doctrine of the Apostle in this passage, to the Roman emperors, but they grounded it either upon the office, with which they were vested, or on the real or hypothical virtue of their exercising the office. If neither magistracy, nor a virtuous magistrate, virtuously administrating the ordinance, is the object to which tribute, custom, fear and honour are due, it must either be an entirely wicked and dissolute person, or a mere nonentity; either of which, would attribute much greater absurdity and falsehood, to the SPIRIT of GOD, speaking in the passage, than Mr. M’Millan’s exposition.
What idea you annex unto the term virtue, when you assert, that there were no virtuous rulers, for three hundred years after Paul’s day, I know not.—If you mean, that there were no virtuous rulers, until there were Christian rulers, the sentiment is certainly new, and as inconsistent with yourself, as it is new. I own that I thought, a good degree of both intellectual and moral virtue, in manifold instances, had been found in the Heathen world. I do not say, nay, I am far from thinking, that much of either, was to be found among the Roman Cæsars; and as little in the Apostle’s day, as at any other time.—But why do you so boldly and groundlessly assert, that Mr. M’Millan’s exposition, and that of the Reformed Presbytery, makes the HOLY GHOST to assert absurdity and notorious falsehood? while it is the declared design, the obvious and native tendency of that exposition, to rescue that passage of the Apostle, from these abominable absurdities, and that notorious falsehood, which, by your exposition, you deliberately and obstinately, against truth, reason and religious, obtrude upon it, and the SPIRIT of GOD speaking in it. If, as you assert, it is a notorious falsehood to say there were any virtuous rulers in the Apostle’s day; why do you insist, that the Apostle, by the SPIRIT of GOD, predicates virtue of the then rulers?—Pray, Sir, is it no virtue in rulers, that they are not a terror to good works but to the evil; and, that they who do that which is good, shall have praise from them? is it no virtue in a ruler, that he is the Minister of GOD for good, to his good and virtuous subjects? is it no virtue, in a ruler, that he is the Minister of GOD, a revenger to execute wrath on him that doth evil? If these are not virtues in rulers, never any such thing as virtue, was found in rulers, neither before, nor at, nor any time since the Apostles days; nor will ever be found in them, while the world stands. Now, if these virtues were not in the rulers, in the Apostle’s day; and yet you assert, that these were the identical rulers, of whom he predicates these virtues; then, who but yourself, and your Brethren, make the HOLY GHOST to assert absurdity, and the SPIRIT of GOD to maintain a notorious falsehood? That these were the rulers, to whom the Apostle applies the virtuous characters mentioned in the 3 and 4 verses, is most confidently and boldly asserted by you, in what you call an answer to a thirteenth objection, taken out of the Letter from Stirling, page 35th of your pamphlet. “The SPIRIT of GOD expressly applies the characters mentioned in the 3d and 4th verses, to these Heathen magistrates, for rulers are not a terror to good works, &c. what rulers?—None surely, but those who are called the higher powers and the powers that be in the first verse. Now, after the SPIRIT of GOD hath made such a plain application of these characters to Heathen rulers, even the worst of them not expected, it is a daring presumption, in a worm sprung out of the earth, to ask, Can the SPIRIT of GOD mean Pagan idolaters? the words of the Apostle in another case, are very applicable to the bold interrogator, who art thou, O man, that repliest against GOD? It is just as criminal to say to the ALMIGHTY, who speakest thou thus? as to say why hast thou made me thus? We are bound to believe the words of the HOLY ONE, even when we cannot understand them. The characters mentioned by the Apostle in the 3d and 4th verses, are motives to enforce the precept in the first verse; and if these characters are no way applicable to the powers that be, or the then Heathen magistrates, I am sure, more is required than the wit of a man to make sense of the precept.”—Now, that the characters, in the 3d and 4th verses, are virtuous characters, you will not deny; you say, the SPIRIT of GOD expressly applies them to these Heathen rulers; if so, he either applies them effectively, that they might be made virtuous; or, he applies them descriptively, because they were virtuous.—And yet you insist, that to say, they were virtuous, is a notorious falsehood; of consequence it follows, that the SPIRIT’S application effectively, was in vain, and that his application descriptively, was a lie; and so your own old story comes out; namely, that the SPIRIT of GOD maintains a notorious falsehood.—Now, Sir, whose exposition is chargeable with this blasphemy against the HOLY GHOST, but your own? Mr. M’Millan’s exposition goes upon the principles of truth, reason, and religion, he considers magistracy in itself, even while it is not vested in the person of any human administrator, as a real institution and ordinance of GOD, to be acknowledged, and practically submitted to by men, whether there is an organized legislature or not; and not a mere abstract idea, fancy, or creature of the mind, as you absurdly seem to do; and that therefore the Apostle might well enjoin subjection to the ordinance of GOD, even in this abstract sense. Again he was, as you are, persuaded that the Roman emperors were not virtuous rulers; and therefore could not find himself clear, to impure such a falsehood to the SPIRIT of GOD, as that he would describe them to be, what they really were not. And hence his exposition is rational and consistent with truth, and avoids the imputation of contradiction and falsehood upon the Apostle, and the SPIRIT of TRUTH, speaking by him, which yours necessarily involves.
WELL, but you tell us, “If these characters are no way applicable to the powers that be, or the then Heathen magistrates, you are sure, more is required than the wit of a man to make sense of the precept.” Why indeed, I am humbly of opinion, that it would be better to leave it without any senses, than to obtrude a self-contradictory, and blasphemous sense upon it. But my dear Sir, why suppose the wit of a man, to make sense of a precept, which cannot be understood but by faith? “We are bound to believe the Words of the HOLY ONE, when we cannot understand them.” Here I must observe by the way, that, if I am not mistaken, you ought to take home your charge upon Mr. M’Millan, of rendering this precept truly mysterious, which, you say, page 14, is so plain, that he, who runs, may read it. He considered it among these passages of Scripture, which may be explained on rational principles, and proceeded accordingly. But after you have found sense and reason lost in the search, for a solution to so plain a precept, you resolve it by faith, and rest all on the divine Testimony; not indeed in a matter above sense and reason, but contrary unto both; and what is most remarkable, and, indeed, the most melancholy consideration of the whole, you will not acquiesce in the divine Testimony when you have called it in; but venture to say, that it is a notorious falsehood.
This sagacious, judicious, and judicial solution of so plain a precept, you have no doubt, as became you, taken from the Associate Presbytery, expressed in their principles anent civil government, pages 69, 70. “If, therefore, there should seem any insuperable difficulty, in applying unto such magistrates, the characters here given of the higher powers; nothing remains unto one, who would deal reverently with the Oracles of GOD; but to believe the certain evidence, that those, indeed, are the persons meant; and to rest in an humble confession of ignorance, as to how they come to be so spoken of.” And here so plain a precept must yet be supposed to have some insuperable difficulty, in the application of it; for the surmounting of which, nothing remains but faith. Whoever they are, that think, “it is as easy to swallow and digest a camel, or to drink in the absurd doctrine of transubstantiation, as to believe the truth of Mr. M’Millan’s exposition,” it cannot be you, nor your Brethren. Your solution of this precept, will easily surmount the difficulties of any exposition whatever, and remove the absurdity of transubstantiation itself. What greater absurdity is there in the doctrine of transubstantiation, than that it contradicts the common sense and reason of mankind? and what are the insuperable difficulties, that should be supposed to appear, in applying the characters mentioned in the 3d and 4th verses, to the Emperors in the Apostle’s day, but that such an application contradicts the common sense and reason of mankind? if this is not the case, why should it be believed, in a way of resting in a humble confession of ignorance, how they should be so applied? “for we are bound to believe the words of the HOLY ONE, even when we cannot understand them.” And why should we not hear the Popish doctors, removing the absurdity of transubstantiation by this argument, as well as the doctors of the Secession, solving the insuperable difficulties of their application of this precept of the Apostle by it? It is equally conclusive in both cases. I am persuaded, Sir, you will join with me, in thinking it a very straightening pinch, upon a Protestant, when he must resolve one of the plainest precepts in the Book of GOD, by an argument, which, if good, will make the Popish figment of transubstantiation pass for current doctrine all the world over.
But, before I leave this passage of your pamphlet, I beg leave to observe, that however defective it is, in good sense and argument, none, I think, will deny that it is abundantly replete with the keenest acrimony, and not without pregnant evidences of the strongest personal prejudice at the author of the letter from Stirling: And the whole aggravated, by a solemn prostituting of the words of the HOLY GHOST, to the servile purpose of satisfying private passion and resentment. But, perhaps, you had not as yet considered, that provoking and reviling speeches are not to be used as armour in the Christian warfare.
Notwithstanding, that the Reformed Presbytery’s sense of this passage of the Apostle, has been carefully compared with that of both statesmen, and divines, who have wrote upon it, when controverted on the same head, as between Seceders and Dissenters; and they have been found to run exactly parallel: Yet, as if you had either never read those Authors, not the defences of the Presbytery’s sense, in which they are quoted, you pass them over in silence, and affect to call Mr. M’Millan’s representation of it, a new and strange gloss.—This lays me under the very disagreeable necessity of a repeated transcription of some passages of some of those writers.—And, although I am fully satisfied, that this will be of no effect as to you, who evidently consider you own bare assertion, authority in abundance, for anything you can say on this subject, and for your implicit people to receive it without any scruple; yet, that it may appear to the judicious and impartial, who will act such a faithful, honest, and honourable part of themselves, as to look into both sides of the controversy, that the Reformed Presbytery, weak, silly, and bigoted, to a pitiful degree, as you would represent them, have not proceeded so thoughtlessly and inadvertently, in entering into, or striking out an entire new path, never trode by any other, in their exposition of this passage as you have the world believe they have done, I will take the trouble of transcribe the following paragraphs, which, for the sake of readiness, I shall take from the Humble attempt, in defence of reformation principles, by the reverend Mr. John Fairly, one of the members of the Reformed Presbytery; the first begins page 133, and is quoted from the famous John Milton’s defence of the people of England, against Salmasius, page 62 et seq.
“St. Paul, in his xiiith chapter to the Romans, gives us a true and clear account of the reason the original, and the design of government, and shows the true and proper ground of our obedience, that it is far from imposing a necessity upon us of being slaves. Let every soul, i.e. let every man submit. Chrysostom tells us, that Paul’s design in this discourse was to make it appear, that our Savior did not go about to introduce principles inconsistent with civil government; but such as strengthened it, and settled it upon the surest foundations. It was commonly said in those days, that the doctrine of the Apostles was seditious, and themselves persons that endeavours 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. (Thus far Chrysostom.—So that the Apostle did not write in defence of tyrants, as you do: for there is no power but of GOD; i.e. no lawful constitution of any government. The most ancient laws that are known to us were formerly ascribed to GOD as their author; 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.” And afterwards; “Sometimes the very form of government, if it be amiss, or those persons that have the power in their hands, are not of GOD, but of men, or of the devil, Luke iv. 6. 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 xiith of the Revelation, the dragon, the beast, his power and his throne, and great authority: so that we must not understand 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.”—It this magistracy in the abstract?
“Chrysostom speaks very well, and clearly upon this occasion; What! says he, is every prince then appoint by GOD to be so? I say, no such thing. 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 Chrysostom.—“For what powers are, are ordained of GOD; so that Paul speaks only of a lawful magistracy.”—Pray, Sir, do Milton and Chrysostom represent the Apostle as speaking perfect jargon and nonsense. ‘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 the emperor.’ I am very well content you should read the words so, the consequence will be, that Englishmen ought to yield obedience to the present government (viz. Cromwell’s) 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 was. He that resists the power, to wit, a lawful power, resists the ordinance of GOD. The words immediately after, make it as clear as the sun, that the Apostle speaks only of a lawful power; for he gives us in them a definition of magistrates, and thereby explains to us, who are the persons thus authorised, and upon what account we are to yield obedience, lest we should be apt to mistake, and ground extravagant notions upon his discourse. Magistrates, says he, are not a terror to good works, but to the evil, wilt thou not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same; for he is the Minister of GOD to thee for good: he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the Minister of GOD, a revenger to execute wrath on him that doeth evil.—What honest man would not willingly submit to such a magistracy as is here described, and that not only to avoid wrath, and for fear of punishment, but for conscience sake? Whatever power enables a man, or whatsoever magistrate takes upon him, to act contrary to what Paul makes the duty of those that are in authority, neither is that power, nor that magistrate ordained of GOD; and consequently, to such a magistrate no subjection is commanded, nor is any due; nor are the people forbidden to resist such authority: for in so doing, they do not resist the power, nor the magistrate, as they are here excellently well described; but they resist a robber, a tyrant, an enemy, who, if he may, notwithstanding, in some sense, be called a magistrate upon this account only, because he hath power in his hands.—By the same reason, the devil may be called a magistrate.”—Thus far he. 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14. &c. He expounds the same way.
I shall next give the judgment of the noble and learned gentleman Algernon Sydney, on this text, vol. ii. page 80. After vindicating verses 1, 2 of Rom. xiii. from the false gloss that Filmer had put upon them, he insists particularly on the spirit and import of the Apostle’s words, verse 3d and 4th, “The Apostle (says he) farther explaining himself, and shewing who may be accounted magistrates, and what the duty of such a one is, informs us whom we should fear, and on what account: Rulers, says he, 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 praise of the same: for he is the Minister of GOD; a revenger, to execute wrath upon everyone that doeth evil—He therefore is only the Minister of GOD, who is not a terror to good works, but to evil, who executes wrath upon those that do evil, and is a praise to those that do well. And he, who doeth well, ought not to be afraid of the power, for he shall receive praise. Now, if our author were alive (though he was a man of a hard forehead) I would ask him, Whether, in his conscience, he believed that Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and the rabble of the succeeding monsters, were a praise to those that did well, and a terror to those who did evil; and not on the contrary, a praise to the worst, and a terror to the best men of the world? Or for what reason Tacitus could say, that virtue brought men, who lived under them, to certain destruction; and cite so many examples of the brave and good, who were murdered by them for being so, unless they had endeavoured to extinguish all that was good, and to tear up virtue by the roots. Why did he call Domitian an enemy to virtue, if he was a terror only to those that did evil?—If the world has hitherto been misled in those things, and given the name of virtue to vice, and of vice to virtue, then Germanicus, Valerius, Asiaticus, Gorbula, Helvidius, Priscus, Thrasius, Soranus, and others, that resembled them, who fell under the rage of those beasts; nay, Paul himself, and his disciples, were evil doers; and Macro, Narcissus, Pallas, Vinnius, Laco, and Tigellinus, were virtuous and good men. If this be so, we are beholden to Filmer for admonishing mankind of the error in which they had so long continued; if not, those who persecuted and murdered them, for their virtues were not a terror to such as did evil, and a praise to those who did well. The worst men had no need to fear them, but the best had, because they were the best. All princes therefore that have power, are not to be esteemed equally the Ministers of GOD.”—Mark Sir, how well this agrees with your application of these characters to the Heathen rulers, even the worst of them not excepted, page 35 “They that are so, must receive their dignity from a title that is not common to all, even from a just employment of their power, to their encouragement of virtue, and to the discouragement of vice. He that pretends to the veneration and obedience due to the Ministers of GOD, must, by his actions, manifest that he is so. And, though I am unwilling to advance a proposition that may sound harsh to tender ears, I am inclined to believe, that the same rule, which obliges to yield obedience to the good magistrate, who is the Minister of GOD, and assures us, that in obeying him we obey GOD, does equally oblige us not to obey them, who make themselves the ministers of the devil, lest in obeying them we obey the devil whose works they do.”—So speaks this ingenious gentleman on these words.
To these two, I shall add a third evidence, in favour of the Presbytery’s sense of this Scripture, and in opposition to that of Seceders. And that is an author well know, Mr. Benjamin Bennet, in the Preface to his Memorial of the Reformation, page 6, 7. in answer to the Royalists objection, that the Apostle, Rom. xiii. commanded subjection, even to Nero, Claudius; and one of which was the power actually reigning when he wrote this epistle. “To this he replies: It is evident, even to a demonstration, that, as the Apostle does not here appoint any particular form of government, so he says nothing of particular governors, only recommends subjection to governors in the general; and that from the consideration of the divine institution of the office, and the benefit of it to mankind, where duly administered. To resist such governors as answer the end of their office, is, no doubt, a very great fault, and deserves a proportionable punishment, κρίμα, both here and hereafter. But the resisting of tyrants falls not under the Apostle’s sentence, being another sort of creatures, and the very reverse of that character he gives to the Ministers of GOD, to whom he requires subjections.
To put the question beyond all doubt, let us suppose, says he, Nero here meant, and try how finely the text runs when thus applied; I enjoin that every soul (Christians as well as others) be subject to the higher powers, for the powers that at present be, are ordained of GOD. Nero particularly, now at the head of the Roman empire is so, and whoever resists him shall receive damnation: for he is not a terror to good works (discouraging and persecuting good men) but only to evil. Do well, and you shall have nothing to fear from Nero, for he is the Minister of GOD for good; a revenger, to execute wrath upon evildoers: So that it is your duty to be subject unto him (Nero) not only for fear of punishment, but for conscience sake, and the fear of GOD. You ought to support him in all his power and dignity (which he so well employs) paying him such tribute as he demands, and as is due to him: for he is GOD’S Minister, continually attending on this very thing, vigilantly discharging the duty of his office; every way promoting the good of the community.
This must be the Apostle’s sense, or else the objection is nonsense: And I leave it to every impartial person to consider, how injurious it must be to an inspired Apostle, to make him talk at this rate.—What an idea must it give the world of Christianity? what would the Romans particularly (who had such a noble sense of liberty) have thought of the Christian religion, when they heard one of the chief propagators of it, had so zealously espoused the cause of slavery; and obliged all, under pains of damnation, to be subject even to their Nero, whom the Senate had condemned as a public enemy, and the people hated as a tyrant?”
Now, Sir, from these passages, quoted from the abovementioned authors, you will see, that incredible as you seem to think Mr. M’Millan’s Exposition of the above quoted passage of the Apostle to the Romans; it has been believed, asserted and defended long before his day, by men, for learning, intelligence, judicious knowledge, and a name in the State, and in the Church, as they stood respectively related, whose shoes latchets you and I are not worthy to stoop down and unloose.—And you may see from these too, that while you are positive, that the Reformed Presbytery’s sense of the Apostle’s words, represents him as speaking perfect jargon and nonsense, they are equally positive, that your sense, which is the same with that of the Royalists, with whom they had to contend in their day, represents the Apostle and his doctrine in the most unworthy and inconsistent light. To the same purpose, were it necessary, I might produce a variety of others, all maintaining the same sense of that passage. But I shall content myself with transcribing only one authority more, and it is that of the Associate Presbytery, who, although they meant not so, neither, if we believe them, did their hearts think so; yet I apprehend it may be obvious to anyone, who will seriously consider their doctrine on this passage of the Apostle, that the amount of it is a corroboration of the sense maintained by the above quoted authors and the Reformed Presbytery.—Defence of their Principles, page 72, 73.
“The Apostle is here speaking of these rulers, allenarly as such; abstracting from every other view of them, either good or bad. For everything he says of them was truly and only verified in their civil office and administration. Thus he says not a word, nor any wise enters into the question anent their personal characters of qualifications, moral or religious; though undoubtedly there was, at least, much evil about them in this respect. Again, he takes no manner of notice anent their being chargeable with any mal-administrations, either in a way of omission or commission: though yet it was certain that there never were, nor could be any magistrates, either wholly or near wholly free of these; and without having much, or anything in their administration, besides what precisely answers the fair character he now gives of them therein. It is evident, then, that the Apostle, without refusing that there were many other, and many contrary things to be said anent them, speaks of them allenarly as rulers: or as in the lawful possession of ruling power, and in so far as truly exercising the same. In a word, though there were many things different, odious and opposite to be seen about them, yet he does not pursue his present consideration of them any further, than as they were truly wearing and found walking, within the proper compass and limits of magistracy. Their practice did not always answer those things, their actual attendance thereunto was far from being continual: But these were true, and always true of them, considered as in possession of, and so far as truly exercising civil power: their attendance in this respect was continually unto these very things, because altogether confined thereunto.—Now, the Apostle was, at this time, directed by the SPIRIT of GOD, to present magistrates purely in the above shape; and that for very good reasons and wise purposes.”
Now, Sir, from this warped parade of language, and perplexed jingle of words and sentences shuffled together, it manifestly appears, that the Associate Presbytery saw, that there was indeed an insuperable difficulty, in the way of applying the characters of magistrates here given by the Apostle, to the Roman emperors; which, notwithstanding their hard and laborious struggle, they have by no means been able to surmount. For what is to be found, yourself being witness, but magistracy in the abstract? In all that is said, the Apostle is acknowledged to speak only of the office and administration: what he says was truly and only verified in these; all other things are abstracted, either good or bad. What then can remain, but magistracy in the abstract, with a hypothetical administration?
If the Associate Presbytery would make the Apostle to be representing magistracy in the concrete, or as presently vested in, and exercised by the Roman emperors, why did they not make the representation and description to answer what they say is always in Scripture, and by all people implied in the essential notion of magistrates? Page 79, “Magistrates are here always supposed to be in the actual and due possession of these needful and natural abilities, which are common among men. Again they are here always supposed, to be actually possessing and performing the moral and acquired qualifications which they ought to have, and these duties which are incumbent upon them; at least, in some useful and continued degree: for all this is always in Scripture, and by all people implied in the essential notion of magistrates.” Now here is an essentially constituent part of a magistrate, which it is acknowledged the Apostle has taken no notice of in his representation; namely, personal qualifications, natural and acquired, and the performance of incumbent duties, at least in some useful and continued degree. If these were a wanting in the persons, to whom it is alleged the Apostle applies these characters, then the essence of a concrete magistracy is a wanting, and of consequence only an abstract magistracy remains. Or if, as the Presbytery says, they were supported to be in the possession of them; then, what is the difference between a supposed magistrate, and an abstract magistrate?
But the Associate Presbytery proceeds to solve this matter in the following manner. “Therefore it is only in respect of the due measure and performance of these qualifications and duties, that magistrates can be understood as at any time chargeable with defects or defections. Now this is indeed such, as without having attained and engaging unto the same, at least in some hopeful and promising way, no civil state ought to invest any with magistracy.” Here, by the bye, you may observe, Sir, how pitifully inconsiderate and futile it is, for you to sneer with such insolence, in concert with a another haughty brother, on that side of the controversy, as in page 42; as if the Reformed Presbytery had uttered something very senseless and ridiculous, when they maintain in their Testimony, page 192, “That a due measure of those qualifications which GOD the great Law-giver, requires in his word, together with what other stipulations according to the same unerring rule, a Christian people, who are blessed with the light of divine revelation, have made the fundamental conditions of civil government among them, are essentially necessary to the constitution and investiture of lawful authority over such a people.” And page 122, and these alone, according to Scripture, are magistrates of GOD’S institution, who are in some measure possessed of these qualifications.” What more substantially is said here in respect of personal qualifications than is said by the Associate Presbytery in the above quoted passage? do they not speak of the actual and due possession of the needful, and natural abilities, which are common among men? do they not speak of actually possessing and performing these moral and acquired qualifications which they ought to have, and these duties which are incumbent upon them, at least in some useful and continued degree? do they not say, that all this is always in Scripture implied in the essential notion of magistrates? Do they not say that this is such as without having attained and engaging unto the same, at least in some hopeful and promising way, no civil state ought to invest any with magistracy? Now if these qualifications and duties, are always in Scripture implied, in the essential notion of magistrates, are they not then Scripture qualifications, and are they not by the same authority, essential to magistrates? and that too, by the judgment of all people. And while they say that no civil state, ought to invest any who are destitute of these qualifications, with magistracy, may not the Reformed Presbytery say, that no Christian people ought to do it? and after the Associate Presbytery have said, that the possession and performance of these qualifications, are to be, at least, in some useful and continued degree and attained and engaging unto the same, at least, in some hopeful and promising way, what occasion is there for playing upon the words, due measure, thus “is any mere man perfectly endued with what the precept requires? If not, how can he possibly have a due measure, in the eye of GOD’S law, of the qualifications which it requires. The measure of qualifications required of Christian magistrates, and people, in the WORD of GOD, is a perfect measure. The imperfect services of Christians are accepted in the BELOVED: But the law requires nothing less than perfection: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your FATHER which is in heaven is perfect.” Do not the Associate Presbytery, Sir, notwithstanding their qualification and restriction, at least, &c. use the words actual and due possession, DUE measure and performance? nor was there the least occasion for your sarcastical apology; “but, perhaps, we are doing the Reformed Presbytery injustice here; for by a due measure they do not mean a perfect measure of Scripture qualifications, but some measure of them:” Just as if the members of the Reformed Presbytery, poor men, after having their eyes put out, like Samson, were only set to make sport to the RABBIS of the Secession. But must it not be evident to everyone who reads your writings, that by so doing you censure your own Presbytery, and expose your own shame? Now let us attend to what follows. “But the SUCH a measure and performance of these qualifications and duties, cannot be required for the BEING of the magistrates office: either as essential to it, or as a condition of it sine qua non. First, it cannot be required as essential thereunto: for then it would be the same thing with magistracy, which is grossly absurd and big with absurdities. In the next place, it cannot be required as a condition thereof sine qua non; or without which one is not really a magistrate however far sustained as such by civil society: for then no person could be really a magistrate unless he were so faultlessly. It is manifest, therefore, that the due measure and performance of Scriptural qualifications and duties, belongs not to the being and validity of the magistrates office, but to the WELL-BEING and usefulness thereof. But an acknowledgment of the magistrate in lawful commands, doth only homologate the being and validity of his office while sustained by the state.” This deceitful and fallacious reasoning has been sufficiently detected already, and exposed as with a sun-beam by the Reformed Presbytery, Testimony, page 122, to which I refer the reader, and therefore in connection therewith, I shall only here observe, That since the Associate Presbytery could indeed see no due measure nor performance of the qualifications and duties incumbent on magistrates, among these at Rome in the Apostle’s day, and to whom they insist that he applied the characters, in the 3d and 4th verses of the thirteenth chapter of his Epistle, and therefore they are natively led to cut them off altogether, as having no necessary connection with magistracy; and agree, only to sustain the being and validity of the office; what is this then, but magistracy in the abstract: and indeed it appears, that all the magistracy Seceders contend for or acknowledge, is in the abstract; as they say an acknowledgment of the magistrates authority in lawful commands, doth only homologate the being and validity of his office.
The being and validity of the magistrate’s office, may be considered in a twofold view. First, in respect of its divine institution and authority. In this consideration, its being and validity, are no more dependent on the Magistrate himself, nor his lawful commands, than upon a due measure and performance of duties. And to say, that the magistrate and lawful commands, are essential to the being of the office, would make them the same thing with the office or magistracy, which is as absurd and big with absurdities as the other. In the next place, the being and validity of the office, may be considered in respect of effective exercise or administration, whereby only it becomes a benefit and blessing unto the community, or as the Presbytery express it, the wellbeing and usefulness of the office. And in this view, it is acknowledged, that an actual and due possession, a due measure and performance, of qualifications and duties, are essential unto its being and validity. And indeed, it cannot rationally be otherways. Now what better is a magistracy that can have no effective wellbeing and usefulness unto the community, than an abstract magistracy? whence it appears, that after all the Associate Presbytery says, the amount of the Apostle’s doctrine, is nothing other, than a definition and description of the ordinance of magistracy, its original divine institution of GOD, its nature use and ends, with the character and dignity of its administrators, without any application to the persons at the head of the Roman empire in his day, and that because there was an insuperable difficulty in the way of such an application. And indeed, this was the only sensible and rational method for obtaining the valuable ends and purposes, intended by the Apostle, viz. to rectify the mistakes, and errors, which the Christians at Rome, either had imbibed, or were in danger of falling into, concerning civil government and magistrates, and only accords with the method of divine procedure in all similar instances. Thus, when the LORD by Moses taught the Israelitish tribes, concerning the setting up of an organized magistracy, he did it by a description of the qualifications and duties of the magistrate; while yet there was no person, to whom that description was applied, Deut. xvii. When he reprehended and reproved the same tribes, at a later period for asking a King, he did it by the description of a tyrant; while yet there was no person presently in being, in relation to them, to whom it was applied, 1 Sam. viii. In like manner, when the Apostle would rectify the mistakes and errors of the Corinthian church, and set them right, about the use and administration of the Lord’s Supper, he does not direct them to the practice and example of any other Christian Church, or Christian Congregation, nor does he give them a description of that ordinance with application to any other church or people; but presents to them a view of the original institution, nature and manner, use and ends of the ordinance, as he had received it of the LORD, 1 Cor. xi.
And moreover, as a representation of the best magistrates that ever were vested with the office, who are still attended with deficiencies, imperfections and blemishes, in private and public life, would have been a very improper mean to answer the end the Apostle had in view, so it was necessary, that he should have recourse to the pure ordinance itself. This alone was worthy of an inspired Apostle. And therefore the Associate Presbytery well say, “and now that Apostle was at this time directed by the SPIRIT of GOD, to present magistrates purely in the above shape;” not indeed in the shape of the Roman magistrates, or tyrants, for the SPIRIT of GOD gives a very different representation of them. The Apostle himself, and the Christian Church at Rome, and the whole empire, experienced them to be of a very different, and opposite nature and shape from those represented by him: and which agreed circumstantially, with the representation the SPIRIT of GOD gives of them, by the prophet, Dan. vii. 7. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth, it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it. And Rev. xii. 3. And there appeared another wonder in heaven, and behold a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads, verse 4. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth. Verse 7. And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, he was cast into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. These characters are universally applied unto the Roman empire, and of consequence to the reigning powers or rather tyrants in it; and none so far as I have seen, so much as in the least insinuate that there is any insuperable difficulty in the application. Here, you will probably have recourse to your new invented distinction, in the character of rulers, and tell us, “that in their cruel persecuting of the saints of GOD, they were dragons, &c. Yet in their punishing of thieves, murderers, and other pests of society, they were the ministers of GOD.” This distinction shall be considered in course. Here only, it may be a query, what became of the ministers of GOD, when the great dragon, that old serpent called the devil and Satan, and his angels were cast out with him?
I confess, Sir, that I do not see what advantage can arise to this controversy, or what light is thrown on this subject by insisting, that a due measure and performance of qualifications and duties, cannot be required as essential to the magistrate’s office, when it is acknowledged, that this is essential to the usefulness and wellbeing of the office. Everyone knows that the office of the magistrate, his qualifications, and also his person and duties, or lawful commands, are all distinct things, and may be conceived and spoken of separately; but what is that to the purpose, since all must be connected together, in order that the office may become effective in the exercise, wellbeing and usefulness of it? What end does it serve, to reason about the essentiality of things in another consideration and view, than that, in which we have anything to do with them, or in which they can be of any use to us, or to mankind? what better is magistracy, which wants that which is essential to its effective exercise, wellbeing, and usefulness unto a community, than no magistracy? and what occasion is there to dispute about things, that are, and can be, of no use? may not a community as well be without a magistracy, as have one that can be of no use, benefit nor blessing unto it?
Neither can I see the sense, of insisting that a due measure, &c. cannot be required as a condition sine qua non, or without which one is not really a magistrate, however far sustained as such by civil society. It was indeed asserted, that this is such, as without it no people ought to invest any with magistracy, yet it is here plainly supposed, that if they please they may do it, and having done so, if they please they may sustain one for a magistrate, who wants qualifications to render his office useful unto them. Now what right, privilege, liberty, or honour of civil society is hereby supposed or asserted? does it amount to anymore than this, viz. that civil society may do that which is useless and idle? and sustain that which is not, nor can be, of any benefit to it: that one may be a real magistrate, without that which is essential to his being of real use: and that a people may constitute and sustain as an ordinance of GOD, that which can have neither well being nor usefulness. And here it appears, that the voice or acknowledgement of the people is the all in all of a magistrate; it makes no matter what sort of a person he be, he is really a magistrate if the people sustain him in that character. It is no doubt upon this principle that a Reverend brother, author of the Presbyterian Covenanter defended, page 29 says, that though he acknowledges, the motto of authority is “let it be given to the most worthy,” yet the choice of the people will constitute authority without worthiness or merit. Here, Sir, you may be furnished with an answer to your question, page 42, “whoever denied that Christian magistrates should be possessed of some measure of scriptural qualifications?” Tho’ the Associate Presbytery, and Mr. Thomson do not say, that they should not be possessed of such qualifications; they say what is materially the same, viz. that they need not be possessed of them and that the voice of the people constitutes authority without them. It is true indeed you tell us, “That no people were ever so senseless, as to put the reins of civil government into the hands of idiots, or bedlamites.” And what is that to say, but just, that no people were ever so senseless, as to act upon the political principles of seceders. For idiots and bedlamites, should they obtain the voice of, or be sustained by, the multitude, are unexceptionable upon the above principles. It is surely very idle to invent, and defend such political principles, as, it must be acknowledged and asserted that people in the exercise of their reason cannot act upon, and it is without doubt time to give them up. Happy it is surely for the British dominions, that the principles of the inhabitants are far better, than those of seceders, on the head of civil government, and that mournfully defective as the present constitution is, it is far, unspeakably far, above what seceders could admit of. The principles of seceders could admit cheerfully of a magistracy, which no people were every so senseless as to set up, viz. idiots and bedlamites. However far many nations and people through ignorance, inadvertancy, or being overawed by the power and force of a prevailing junto, into submission and forbearance, have been led into very mournful and oppressive circumstances; yet surely no people deliberately, ever invented and defended such senseless principles about government.
Moreover, the argument or reason, upon which the Associate Presbytery reject a due measure, and performance of qualifications and duties, as a condition sine qua non of the magistrate’s office, is grossly absurd, and big with absurdities, and no more absurd than inconsistent with their own doctrine, viz. “for then no person could be really a magistrate, unless he were so faultlessly.” It is not a perfect of faultless measure, which is rejected, or then no person would ever have contended any with them. But it is such a due measure and performance, as is consistent with the wellbeing and usefulness of the office, at least in some useful and continued degree, and in some hopeful and promising way. Do not these restrictions and limitations make the DUE measure to be such, as is consistent with the imperfections of human nature in its present lapsed state? and yet such a due measure, as without them, the magistrate’s office cannot have effective wellbeing and usefulness in any promising and hopeful way. How absurd, self-inconsistent and captious is it then, after having asserted the necessity of such a due measure and performance, &c. as may be attained unto in this imperfect state, to argue that if this should be required as a condition sine qua non of the magistrate’s office, then no person could be really a magistrate unless he were so faultlessly, while a faultless state of perfection is entirely out of the question. It is most fallacious reasoning to reject a due measure of such qualifications as are common among men, and performance of such duties, as are incumbent upon them as magistrates, as a condition of their having or holding of the office, upon a pretence that it infers faultless perfection in them as magistrates. The same might be said concerning the gospel minister, but who sees not the absurdity?
But scornfully as you speak, Sir, of idiots and bedlamites, it had been happy for many nations and people, that those who had the power over them had been no worse. Idiots and bedlamites, or persons under the power of natural idiotism, or madness, if they are capable of doing no good in a community, they can do little ill. It is moral idiotism and madness in those that have power, that becomes ruinous to them that are under them. Happy had it been for the Apostle Paul, for the Christians at Rome and elsewhere, and for the whole Roman empire, had these who ruled over it been no worse than idiots and bedlamites. There would have been no occasion for the black account that historians give of them, and the sufferings of these that fell under their tyranny. The judicious and noble Sidney, pleading the cause of liberty against Filmer, one of your royalist brethren, would not have had occasion for expressing himself as he does, Discourses on Government, vol. II. page 80, 81. “Now if our author were alive, though he was a man of a hard forehead, I would ask him, whether in his conscience he believed that Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and the rabble of succeeding monsters, were a praise to those who did well, and a terror to those who did ill, and not the contrary, a praise to the worst, and a terror to the best men of the world? or for what reason Tacitus could say, that virtue brought men who lived under them to certain destruction, and recite so many examples of the brave and good, who were murdered by them for being so, unless they had endeavoured to extinguish all that was good, and to tear up virtue by the roots? Why did he call Domitian an enemy to virtue, if he was a terror only to those that did well? If the world has hitherto been misled in those things, and given the name of virtue to vice, and of vice to virtue, then Germanicus, Valerius, Asiaticus, Corbulo, Helvidius, Priscus, Thraseas, Soranus, and others that resembled them, who fell under the rage of those beasts; nay, Paul himself and his disciples were evildoers, and Macro, Narcissus, Pallas, Venninus, Laco, and Tigellinus were virtuous and good men. If this be so, we are beholden to Filmer for admonishing mankind of their errors, in which they had so long continued. If not, those, who persecuted and murdered them for their virtues, were not a terror to such as did evil, and a praise to those who did well. The worst men had no need to fear them; but the best had, because they were the best. All princes therefore that have power are not to be esteemed equally the ministers of GOD.” Now, Sir, if this be a false representation of the Roman powers at the Apostles day, prove it to be so; if it be true, then with Sidney, I may ask, do ye believe in your conscience that they were the ministers of GOD whom the Apostle describes? Neither would the learned and judicious Mr. Bennet have had occasion to speak as he does in answer the same royalist objection, preface to his Memorial of the Reformation, quoted formerly, page 7, after having given his comment on that passage of the thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans he says, “This must be the Apostle’s sense or else the objection is nonsense, and I leave it to every impartial person to consider how injurious it must be to an inspired Apostle, to make him talk at this rate. What an idea must it give the world of Christianity? What would the Romans particularly, (who had such a noble sense of liberty) have thought of the Christian religion, when they heard one of the chief propagators of it had so zealously espoused the cause of slavery, and obliged all, under pain of damnation, to be subject even to their Nero, whom the senate had condemned as public enemy, and the people hated as a tyrant.” Those who are under the power of natural idiotism, or madness, can neither be called enemies. to virtue, nor mankind, nor yet tyrants.
But since the Associate Presbytery and their successors, the Burgher and Antiburgher synods, who, though they are at enmity between themselves, yet like Herod, and the Herodians, and Pharisees against CHRIST, they join as affectionate friends against the reformed Presbytery; I say, since they must needs bring in, and rank the Roman Cæsars, among the ministers of GOD’s ordinance, and insist that the Apostle enjoined the Christians at Rome to be subject to them, as such, under the pain of damnation, it was a most necessary previous step, sine qua non, or without which the design could not be accomplished, to cut off and reject, all personal qualifications; and all performance of duties incumbent, whether a perfect and faultless due measure, or an imperfect due measure, such as is common among men, natural or acquired; either as being essential unto, or a condition of having or holding the office. Had these scriptural and rational fences, been allowed to stand about the ordinance of GOD, they easily saw, it was impossible to introduce such persons to that dignity. And therefore, as it is storied concerning the ancient Trojans, who being determined to bring in the huge wooden horse, left before their walls by the Greeks, and as they could not possibly introduce it by the gates, all hands to work, they could not possibly introduce it by the gates, all hands to work, and made a sufficient opening thro’ the walls, and carried it in, which soon after issued in the utter ruin of the city: In like manner Seceders, by the help of metaphysics, sound of words, and shew of learning, go to work, throw down, tear up, and erase the walls, gates and bars, which GOD and man, reason and common sense have set about the ordinance of civil government, until they have made a plain and patent way, for gracefully bringing in the huge secular beast of Rome with its lofty head of absolute, arbitrary, despotic power, exalting itself above all that is called GOD; dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces and stamped the residue with the feet of it. The rights of mankind, civil and religious liberty, and pearls so very precious, in the sight of both GOD and man; and depraved, ambitious, and aspiring mortals are so universally disposed to encroach upon and embezzle this important property, that both have concurred in the ordinance of civil government to be a defence unto it, and that so limited with qualifications, stipulations, and conditions, both on the part of the ruler, and the ruled, that it might be rendered utterly impossible to spoil them of this most beneficial and happy enjoyment. But seceders have with their own hands cut off, cast out, and rejected all restrictions, conditions and securities, leaving nothing to stand, but the precarious voice and acknowledgement of the multitude, upon this very generous credit, that no people were ever so senseless as to put the reins of government into the hands of idiots, and bedlamites, while the sufferings and ruins of many people, and the Roman Empire in particular are standing testimonies to the contrary. The learned and judicious Sidney, in his discourses on government, observes, that the beginning of the decline and downfall of the Roman empire may be dated at the time, when the senate and the people were so foolish and senseless, as to set, or rather to suffer the emperors to set themselves above the law; after which a succession of moral idiots, and bedlamites, or as he stiles them, a succession of monsters and beasts prevailed, who, by their folly, madness, and tyranny, reduced the empire to ruin.
That the persons at the head of the Roman Empire, in the days of the Apostle, were not these to whom he applies the characters in the 3d and 4th verses of the thirteenth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, appears from his doctrine to the Corinthians, first Epistle, vith chapter 1-8 verses; where, with more than ordinary severity, he reproves the Christians at Corinth, for submitting their mutual, civil differences to the judges there, as utterly a fault among them, and a shame unto them. And however faulty, and shameful it was in them, as Christian brethren, to entertain an unbrotherly, impatient, and litigious behavior among them, and to aggravate the fault by going to law with one another, it is evident that the formal ground, specified by the Apostle, upon which he rests his reproof, is the incapacity of the judges, namely, their infidelity and unjustness. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers, 1 Cor. vi. 1, 6. You will not maintain a sentiment so absurd, as that a people are rather to take wrong, and suffer themselves to be defrauded, than go to law simply, for that would be to frustrate the declared divine appointment of both the law and the judges; and however shamefully faulty, and guilty, persons may be in going to law, and dragging others unto it, upon unjust claims, improper motives and circumstances, yet going to law in itself, or simply in order to the rectifying and settling of matters, that cannot be otherwise determined, is to make use of the ordinance, which GOD has appointed for that purpose, and cannot be a fault. The incapacity of the judges then, through their infidelity, and their unjustness, either in respect of the nature and holding of their power, or their administration, or both, is, and must be, the formal reason of the Apostle’s reproof.
That the Roman emperors were the persons to whom the Apostle enjoins subjection, under the pain of damnation, the Associate Presbytery endeavour farther to establish by his own practice, in the management of his defence, and his appeal to Cæsar, with his addresses unto the Roman judges upon that occasion, recorded in the acts of the Apostles, chap. xxiv. 25, 26. And in order to reconcile the smart reproof, given to the Christians at Corinth, with his own example in the above instances, they gloss the passage quoted in the following manner. Defence of their principles, page 86. “Nor do the Apostle’s doctrine and practice, as above declared, bear the smallest inconsistency with what he writes, 1 Cor. vi. 1-8, for that which the Apostle there, in some cases, condemns (viz. pursuits at law) is a thing entirely distinct from civil subjection: seeing, though in these pursuits, the magistrate is acknowledged as such, yet they are no part of subjection to him: so that a person may always continue subject to civil commands, without ever turning a pursuer before civil courts; and, where subjection is a great duty, such pursuits may be a gross sin. Thus, in a perfect consistency with all the civil subjection now defended, it always continues to be utterly a fault, especially among Christians of a sound profession, to entertain an unbrotherly, impatient, and litigious behavior, in going to law, or seeking decision of matters before civil courts, especially where the magistrate is chargeable with infidelity or difference in religion, without first using habile[skillful] endeavours to have those matters decided in a way of private arbitration; and without rather taking wrong, or suffering themselves to be defrauded, where it appears more agreeable to the principles of Christianity, and more for the credit thereof to do so.”—Now, the obvious design of this interpretation is to turn the Apostle’s reproof, upon the turpitude of these Christians entertaining an unbrotherly, impatient, and litigious behavior toward one another, rather than upon their going to law; and what is the matter mended by this, seeing that they must acknowledge, that the fault is specially aggravated, by seeking a decision of matters by judges, chargeable with infidelity, or difference in religion. But, though it will readily be acknowledged, that such a behavior, among Christians of a sound profession, is a blame and a shame at all times, yet that is not the thing the Apostle is here reproving, but the method they took to settle their difference, viz. by submitting them to the unjust and unbelieving judges. The prohibition, in the beginning of the chapter, is manifestly restricted to that; and everything he says to enforce it, in the whole passage, evidently refers to it only.—Another device taken to make this passage speak as they would have it, is, to make pursuits at civil courts entirely distinct from civil subjection, and no part of subjection to the civil magistrate. With regard to this, I will not take upon me at present to determine. I shall only say, that it appears to be a very essential part of the magistrate’s work, to maintain peace among the people he rules over, by a just and authoritative decision of such matters of difference, as unavoidably fall in among them. It was the work of Moses, among the people, to judge between one and another, Exod. xviii. 16. This was the reason of settling judges and officers in all the gates of Israel, throughout their tribes, that they might judge the people, Deut. xvi. 18, 19, 20. And what were they to give judgment about, if it was not such matters? This was the reason that wise men, and known among their tribes; men fearing GOD, and hating covetousness, were to be chosen; and this is the reason of Jehoshaphat’s instruction to the judges, after he had set them up in all the fenced cities of Judah: and said to the judges, Take heed what ye do, for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment; for there is no iniquity with the LORD our GOD, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts, 2 Chron. xix. 6, 7. By all which it appears, to be the very work appointed for magistrates, and magistrates appointed for it, to administer justice; which imports, either the preventing, or the righting of wrong, in some one respect or another.—Now, if the submitting of civil differences to magistrates, is no part of subjection to them, then it appears, that all the subjection required of the Christians at Corinth was circumscribed within a very narrow compass. For you will not plead, that they were to engross themselves with the legislative body, although they could have been admitted; for the Associate Presbytery acknowledge, that they cannot take the present oaths of allegiance, even to the present British government, because it involves a homologation of the united constitution, Defence, page 55. And for the Christians at Corinth to have been embodied by oath, with an infidel constitution, would have involved a homologation of greater evils, and grosser idolatry, than subsists in the British constitution. Nor is it to be supposed, that the Apostle, who prohibited them from doing that, which yet the Associate Presbytery says, is no part of civil subjection, would have approved of, much less encouraged them in, any practice, that would have involved any nearer relation to, or closer connection with, these unjust and unbelieving rulers. Hence it appears, that all that was required of these Christians, or allowed to them by the Apostle, was just to live such a quiet and orderly life, as the Associate Presbytery says, page 54, one is obliged to live under mere usurpers, or habitual tyrants; which yet implies no acknowledgement of their authority, as binding upon the conscience. And thus the Apostle’s prohibition, amounts unto a rejection of the authority of these unjust and unbelieving rulers. For what is civil authority versant about, but civil affairs? The jarring interests, dispositions, opinions, situations, conditions, and conveniences of men, are incident, at all times, to animosities, litigations and strifes. It is the province and work therefore of civil rulers, by just and equitable laws, and by a just and equitable administration thereof, to prevent such differences, as might otherwise occur, and to determine such, as have taken place, by a just and equitable, and authoritative decision. But the Apostle instructed these Christians to reject the rulers in Corinth, as incompetent to such a work, being chargeable with unjustness and infidelity, and taught them a more proper and honourable mode of obtaining decisions in their mutual differences, viz. by arbitrators chosen from among their brethren, and to sustain the loss of not obtaining decisions at all, rather than to submit unto, or to call in the aid of the unjust and unbelieving judges. Now, the rejecting of their authority thus far was, in effect, a rejecting of their authority upon the whole; for all things, and all cases, in which these Christians could have any concern with them, were specifically of the same nature, however much they might differ, in the circumstances of time, place, mode, and importance, yet they were all of the same nature and kind, viz. civil; and, if the reason for rejecting the sustainable in one part, it was sustainable in all. The Apostle having thus taught them, to have nothing to do with these infidel and unjust rulers, in matters among themselves, there is no reason to suppose, that he meant them to pursue for a redress of such grievances, as might fall in between them and their infidel neighbours, for they had no prospect of success: they, and their Christian profession, were equally odious and abominable to the inhabitants and their rulers. They were as sheep among wolves; all therefore that was left unto, or required of them, was to lead quiet and orderly lives, according to the law of GOD, and their Christian profession, giving no just offence, nor provocation unto those beasts of prey, to fall upon and devour them.
There are various considerations, which may induce people, rather to prefer decisions of matters of mutual difference by private arbitration, such as, convenience, saving expense of process, which is often a burden to both parties, the honour of friendship, and the credit of religion, any, or all of which, may be very just, proper, and prudent reasons for choosing private decisions, rather than to be seen impleading one another at public courts, and that even where there is no ground for any manner of objection against the magistrates. But although all these might concur to enforce the Apostle’s reproof, as considerations on the side of the Christians at Corinth, yet none of them is mentioned: his reproof rests solely on that comprehensive objection on the part of the rulers, viz. unjustness, connected with infidelity. And it is not this, or the other unjust judge, nor this, that, or the other instance of unjust administration, but the unjust: which must include the unjustness of that civil constitution, the nature and kind of the power, the having and holding of their office, or the universal course of their administration; any, or all of which are sustained by the Apostle, as sufficient ground for these Christians rejecting their authority. Now it cannot be refused, that the state of matters, in all these respects, at Rome, was equally bad, if not, perhaps a great deal worse than at Corinth, or any other of these countries, that fell a prey to the great iron teeth of the secular beast of Rome (to use the style of the Prophet.) For though all these countries, that were reduced to Roman provinces, fell under the most unjust usurpation, and had deputies placed in them, with a standing soldiery to keep them tributary by force, yet many of them were allowed their own mode of government, with their own judges and officers, which, in many instances and respects, were more just, and more conformed to the rights of man, than the government at Rome at that time was. This being the case, I confess, Sir, that I can see no reason why the Apostle should design the magistracy of Corinth unjust, and reprove the Christians for applying unto them, and at the same time design the magistracy of Rome just, and enjoin the Christians there to esteem an submit to them, as the Ministers of GOD to them for their good, unless you will say, that both the designations were true in partial considerations, and in different respect; but partial considerations are altogether out of the question in both cases, and to say they were true in different respects, would be sophistical in the highest; as it is in the same respect, and in the same point of view the Apostle speaks of them, viz. as civil judges and rulers; and it is in that same respect, that the Christians either at Rome or at Corinth had anything to do with them. As therefore the same reason, for which the Apostle designed the Corinthian rulers unjust, and taught the Christians there to decline their authority, equally subsisted at Rome, and was equally strong for designing the rulers there unjust, and declining their authority: it follows therefore, by native and necessary consequence, that the Roman emperors were not the persons, to whom the Apostle applied the characters, mentioned in the 3d and 4th verses of the thirteenth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans.
As I have no reason to doubt, but that you are of the same sentiments with the Associate Presbytery, in every instance on this controversy, admit, Sir, of their doctrine in this paragraph, namely, that pursuits at law, are no part of subjection to the magistrate, and see what becomes of their argument and yours, taken from Paul’s appeal to Cæsar, with his appearance before, and addresses to, the Roman judges upon that occasion. If pursuits at law, are no part of civil subjection, neither can defences at law be anymore so; pursuits and defences are just the same thing in a different respect, or under a different consideration; the one party pursues for a redress of grievances, and the other pursues for exemption from the charge. The parties as such, stand in an equal relation unto the magistrate, and their cases equally depend upon his decision. Now, by this doctrine of the Associate Presbytery, neither the Jews, who were pursuing Paul for a redress of grievances, nor he pursuing for exemption from their charge, were exercising any part of civil subjection to Cæsar, nor the inferior Roman judges. Why then urge the example of the Apostle, in this instance of his practice, as having the force of a precept, enjoining civil subjection unto the Roman emperors? It is not what acknowledges the magistrate as such, nor his office as such; nor is it such a subjection, as a person or a people may exercise in some hand and critical circumstances, such as the Apostle was under, without being chargeable with sin, that is the matter in controversy; but it is such a civil subjection, which, as a direct duty, obligatory upon the conscience, is due to the just and lawful administrators of the ordinance of GOD. Such a distinguishing and manufacturing of things, turning their face now one way, and then, the quite contrary way; now, in the strongest terms, making pursuits at law civil subjection to the magistrate, and next moment, when it answers another purpose, making it entirely a different thing, and no part of civil subjection, renders the controversy quite precarious, and cuts off all the prospect of coming to a determination.
Considering the account, which the Apostle gives of the Corinthian judges, and the reproof which he gives to the Christians there, for submitting their differences to them, there is no reason to think, that in other circumstances he would have made any appeal to Cæsar. Nor did the morality of the constraint he found himself under to make such an appeal at all result from the authority of the court or judge to whom he appealed; but from the pressing urgency of the hard and critical state he was in at that time, being already in the hands of the Romans; and finding no other opening for his escape, and the safety of his life. It will readily be granted, that no constraint will warrant an action in itself sinful; but it will at the same time be asserted, that constraint will warrant actions, that would not be duty in other circumstances, by any other law or command of GOD, than the pressure and force of the concurring providences by which the person falls under the constraint: Thus a physical constraint, viz. the urgency of natural hunger warranted an action in David, and them that were with him, which was, not only not a duty, but which in other circumstances would have been unlawful, namely, going into the temple, and eating the shewbread, which was not lawful for any man to eat, but the priests only. Now this action, otherwise unlawful, became lawful, thro’ the constraining need, which David and the men who were with him were under; otherwise the Lord would not have brought it for vindication of the disciples plucking the ears of corn upon the Sabbath. In like manner, the constraining need of hunger excused the disciples in plucking the ears of corn upon the Sabbath, which, in other circumstances, would have become a breach of that holy day. In the same manner, a moral constraint warranted an action in the Apostle, in the care under consideration, which, by his own doctrine, in other circumstances, would have been utterly a fault and a shame unto him, namely, his appeal unto Cæsar. Would he, who taught the Christians at Corinth not to go to law before the unjust and unbelievers, and reproved them for doing it, have done the same thing himself? Would not his own hard doctrine to the Romans have been chargeable upon himself? Therefore, thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art, that judgest: for, wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou, that judgest, doest the same things, Rom. ii. 1. No instance can be given of the Apostle’s making such application in all the hardships he was formerly in, when he was out of their hands.—As to what the Associate Presbytery say, concerning the nature of appeals, by moral constraint, viz. “That they not only allow, but require, that the action be voluntary,” I would say, that the reverse is the fact, for how then would it be a constraint? Unless such a constraint, as the Apostle speaks of, when he says, the love of GOD constraineth us; but constraints of this kind are, in the present case, altogether out of the question. The very term appeal, natively and necessarily supposes, in the common use of language, that the action is, what the person would not, upon choice, do, if it were possible for him to avoid it; and if he were not forced, or constrained to do it. The doctrine, that the will cannot be forced, or that a man can do nothing against his will, is only for philosophical speculation, but is of very little use in practice: the sense and feelings of men are Christians, through the course of human life, tell them other things; they find, by regretted experience, that they are many times constrained to yield to actions and things sore against their will. And so much is manifestly included in the relation the Apostle gave of that affair to the Jews, recorded in the xxviiith chapter of the Acts. But such actions and conduct, as persons are led into, under certain circumstances, and under the influence of constraint, are only imitable in similar cases; and cannot be drawn into a precedent for an example, or a rule of conduct, in the ordinary course of life. But, why dispute about an action, which the Associate Presbytery say is no part of civil subjection to the magistrate, and therefore stands in no connection with the controversy?
Again, since pursuits at law, are no part of subjection to the magistrate, neither are the addresses and titles given to them upon such occasions anymore so. “For, as a person may always continue subject to civil commands, without ever turning a pursuer before civil courts:” So, in like manner, may he do, without ever making addresses, or giving titles and epithets unto them. Where then is the strength of your argument, taken from the use of these by the Apostle, upon the occasion of his appeal? Or those used by the Jews to the kings of Babylon, Persia, Egypt, &c? On the front of all which, you might have ranked the remarkable instance of Joseph’s swearing by the life of Pharaoh, which was an signal an evidence of subjection as any of them, and just as much to your purpose too. The penmen of Scripture, generally speak of both persons and things, according to the custom of the times, places, and people among whom they were, without regard strictly to the real properties of things, or the real personal or official characters of persons. The idols of the nations are ordinarily called GODs; JEHOVAH himself saith, Thou shalt have no other GODs before me. Did he therefore acknowledge them to be GODs? Or had they therefore the properties of divinity? Although they were esteemed so by the blinded nations, and on that account called so by him. The servants of Dagon, and they that offered sacrifice to Baal and Jupiter, are called priests, 1 Sam. v. 5. and vi. 2. 2 Kings x. 19. Acts xiv. 13. were they therefore really so? The men that did prophesy before Ahab, and the servants of Baal, were called prophets, 1 King xxii. 6. 2 Kings x. 9. yet neither were they true prophets, neither did they prophesy truth; but were such as GOD did not send, nor did he give them any message to bear: no more did he send such men as were called kings, and esteemed such among the nations, who claimed and usurped despotic, arbitrary power, and ruled with absolute dominion over the bodies, lives, and properties of men and nations, without control. They ran unsent, like Ahab’s false prophets: and, as a lying spirit gave these prophets their message, so these kings received their power from the Dragon. Absolute supremacy over men, is the prerogative of JEHOVAH, which he never, neither did, nor could bestow upon, nor give in commission to any mortal; and he never neither did, nor could give a right to any men or nations, to give such a commission over them to any of their fellow creatures. The very thoughts of such things suggest the idea of blasphemy, and of men exalting themselves above all that is called GOD. Whether you shall call such kings, and such a power, preceptive or providential, or both, I shall, in a little, prove, by the judicial authority, and doctrine of the Associate Presbytery, that they are an absurdity, contrary unto the essential nature of magistracy.
You tell us, page 36. “As high characters are given to Heathen rulers, in other portions of Scripture, as to the Roman emperors in this. Cyrus is called the Lord’s anointed, and Nebuchadnezzar his servant, &c.” From what is hinted above, it appears to be but precarious judging of the real properties of things, or the real character of kings, the nature of their power and administration, by the bare designations ordinarily given unto them in Scripture. Cyrus is called the LORD’S anointed, merely in allusion unto the custom of the Jews, who anointed their kings with oil, as a sign of their being invested with the office and power; while there was no such orderly procedure toward him, by any people, nor anything equivalent thereto: he was the production of the wind upon the great sea, Dan. vii. 2.—Nebuchadnezzar is called the LORD’S servant, merely as he was an instrument to execute wrath and justice upon many wicked nations, and a rod of severe chastisement upon his sinning people Israel. Anointed and servant are, in this application, synonymous terms; to be the LORD’S anointed, was to be his servant, and to be his servant, was to be his anointed. He called in the service of these two men, in the course of his providential administration, in the same manner as he calls in the service of all his creatures, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, from time to time, to accomplish his wife and just purposes toward the inhabitants of the earth, and toward his church and people, which are sometimes for their good, and sometimes for evil. Thus he commanded the ravens to feed the Prophet, 1 Kings xvii. 4. And they were obedient, and brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and were ravens still. He divided the sea, and made a passage to Israel through it on dry land, and the waters were a wall unto them on the right-hand and the left, and a defence unto them on the rear. Thus the waters of the Red-sea served the Lord, in delivering his people out of the iron furnace of Egypt, Exod. xiv. and yet they remained to be the devouring deeps still. The earth helped the woman, and opened her mouth, and swallow up the flood, which the dragon cast out of his mouths, Rev. xii. 16. and continued to be the earth still; even the same earth that opened her mouth and devoured Abiram and his company. Cyrus served the LORD in delivering his people out of the iron furnace of Babylon, and yet he was the head of the beast that came out of the sea still. And was like unto a bear; and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh, Dan. vii. 5. The ravenous bird, which the LORD called from the east, to execute his counsel upon Babylon, from a far country, Isa. xlvi. 11. As these are instances of the LORD’S calling in the service of his creatures for good; so, in like manner, he does it for evil. Thus, fire, hail, snow, vapour, stormy wind, fully keep his word, Psalm cxlviii. 8. He had his four sore judgments ready to send upon Jerusalem; the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence, to cut off from it man and beast, Ezek. xiv. 21. The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died, Numb. xxi. 6. Satan, the Sabeans, the fire of GOD from heaven, the Chaldeans, the wind from the wilderness, were his servants against Job, Job i. 12-19. The sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, was his messenger and servant against Israel, for David’s sin of numbering the people, 2 Chron. xxi. 12. The Assyrian was the Lord’s servant, the rod of his anger, and the staff in their hand was his indignation: I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to read them down like the mire of the streets, Isa. x. 6. Just such a servant of the LORD was Nebuchadnezzar, Jer. xxv. 9. Behold I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring him against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about; and will utterly destroy them, and will make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations; and this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment: and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years, ver. 11. During that long period, be slaves in hard bondage, under the hammer of the whole earth, Jer. l. 23. Who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke: he that ruled the nations in anger, that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof, that opened not the house of his prisoners, Isa. xiv. 6, 17. Even the liberty restored by Cyrus and the succeeding Persian monarchs was but bondage and slavery, and was esteemed so, and deprecated as such by the Jews themselves, Neh. ix. 36. Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that thou gavest unto our Fathers, to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it, and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings, whom thou hast set over us, because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great distress; and because of all this we make a sure covenant, &c. ver. 37, 38.
Now the events, in the accomplishment of which Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar were made instrumental, were under the same kind of administration, with the events accomplished by the other instruments mentioned above; their appointment, or call to their service was of no higher a nature than that of the other: and though they were intelligent beings, they neither knew nor regarded GOD in the tenor and scope of their service, nor were their views and procedure founded upon, or reducible unto, any principles of right reason, equity, and justice. The principles or rather passions they went upon were, pride, ambition, avarice, and insatiable lust after victory, conquest, and worldly pomp and glory, to obtain which, they assumed an absolute, arbitrary, despotic power; and their administration was like the source whence it sprung, tyranny and oppression. Their power was unlawful and blasphemous in itself, not to be assumed by creatures: no people could confer it upon them, for no people nor persons have any such power over themselves, and therefore cannot give it to another; to pretend to give it, to consent or subject to it, as of GOD, is not only grossly foolish and absurd, but sinful in the highest: if any man will maintain such absurdities, he is an object of pity, and it is perfectly vain to reason with him. It appears therefore, that they, and all kings of a similar description, whatever similitude they may bear to kings and magistrates, in some respects, yet they have nothing of the essential nature of civil government, or true magistracy about them. As their assumed power is an absurdity, so they have no office conferred upon them, and consequently are no ministers of any ordinance of either GOD or man, but are the mere instruments of providence; a government, specifically distinct and different from the ordinance of civil government among men. And though Cyrus bears the most amiable character to be met with in ancient history perhaps, yet all that can be said for him, is, that he was more humane and mild tyrant than most others, and carried on his depredations, in the exercise of more of the human feelings than they, while yet he had no other right to the plunder of men and nations, which he unjustly captured, than the highwayman has to the purse of an honest traveller, which he seizes and takes away by superior force. As to the relaxation obtained by the Jews through his instrumentality, the same influence that overruled the ravens to feed the Prophet, overruled the Persian bear, to which it was said, Arise, devour much flesh, to open the door of the prisoners, while yet they were only prisoners at large. Such, Sir, is the just amount of the high characters, titles, and epithets, given to the kings of Babylon, &c. in Scripture.
Having distinguished between the instruments of Providence, and the ministers of the ordinance of magistracy, or, in other words, preceptive and providential magistrates, I am opposed with an express literal contradiction in your pamphlet, page 74, your words are, “This distinction, so far as I know, hath no foundation in the Word of GOD.” As I charitably believe, you do not deny the distinction between the precept and providence absolutely, or in every respect, than which the infidel deist could not do more, so I need not stand to establish it; your contradiction then, I suppose, only respects this application of it to magistrates. In this you follow your predecessors in this controversy, viz. the Associate Presbytery. They say, Defence, page 87, that nothing need be added for clearing of their doctrine, but the overthrow of this distinction; and then they give an account of the subject of the distinction in these words: “Now, as by this distinction, these magistrates are considered with respect to the origin of that office which they actually bear: to a distinction of them, in this respect, into perceptive and providential, is altogether groundless and absurd.” This account of the distinction, I take the freedom to say, is palpably groundless and absurd, and in opposition thereto would say, that by this distinction magistrates are considered with respect to the right, which they have to exercise that office, which they actually pretend to bear, and with respect to the nature and manner of their exercising it. Whoever took it in their head to make this distinction about the origin of the office? Or what end could it ever have served them? nothing is more manifest, than that they, who use this distinction, use it with respect to the right to bear the office, and not to the origin of the office considered in itself, which is invariably in the divine precept, and can admit of no distinction nor dispute. Thus the judicious Author of the Hind let loose, whom you justly honour with the character of a very sensible Covenanter, treating on the head of owning tyrant’s authority, page 365-369, old edition, on the argument, says, that it is “essentially necessary to a moral power and authority, to have a right and title, without which we can own none, but as a tyrant. To clear this (says he) it will be necessary to remove the ordinary pretences, pleaded for a title to warrant the owning of such as are in power, which are these chiefly, viz. Possession, conquest, and hereditary succession, the first (says he) must be touched more particularly, because it has been the originate error, and spring of all the stupid mistakes about government, and is the pitiful plea of many, even malcontents, why this man’s authority (King Charles II.) is to be owned, asserting that a person, attaining and occupying the place of power (by whatsoever means) is to be owned as the magistrate.” And that this can give no right to rule, nor to subjection, he proves by the induction of no less than twelve arguments, judiciously laid and expressed, which I have no room to transcribe at large, but shall only give a few hints from some of them, referring the reader unto the book itself, for more full satisfaction. The first thing he says, is, “If Providence cannot signify GOD’S approbative ordination, because that, without the warrant of his Word, cannot signify either allowance or disallowance, it is so various, being often the same to courses directly contrary, and often times contrary to the same course, &c. 2d. Either every providential possession, in every case, gives a title, or GOD hath declared it as a law, that it shall be so in this particular matter of authority only. The first cannot be said, for that would justify all robbery; nor the second, for where is that law found? &c. His fourth argument is, “That which must follow upon the right, and be legitimated by it, cannot be owned as the right; nor can it give the title, but the possession of the power, or the possessory exercise thereof, must follow upon its right, and be legitimated by it, therefore a man must first be in the relation of a ruler, before he can rule; and men must first be in the relation of subjects, before they can obey.” &c. His seventh argument is that from hence, viz. (a providential possession) “would follow infinite absurdities, this would give equal right in case of vacancy to all men to step to, and stickle for the throne, and expose the commonwealth as a booty to all aspiring spirits; for they need no more to make them sovereigns, and lay a tie of subjection upon the consciences of people, but to get into position; and in case of competition, it would leave people still in suspense and uncertainties whom to own, for they behoved to be subject only to the uppermost, which could not be known until the controversy be decided: it would cassate [annul] and make void all preobligations, cautions, and restrictions from GOD about the government, it would cancel, and make vain all other titles of any, or constitutions, or provisions, or oaths of allegiance; yea, to what purpose were laws or pactions made about ordering the government, if possession gave right, and laid an obligation on all to own it? Yea, then it were sinful to make any such provisions, to fence in and limit the determination of Providence, if providential possession may authorize every intrusive acquisition to be own,” &c. His eighth argument is, “That which would oblige us to own the devil and the pope, cannot be a ground to own any man; but if this were true, that possession gave right, it would oblige us to own the devil and the pope. Satan, we find claiming to himself the possession of the world’s kingdoms, Luke iv. 6. which, as to many of them is in some respect true, for he is called the GOD of this world, &c. Again, the pope, his captain-general, lays claim to a temporal power and ecclesiastic both, over all nations, and possesses it over many; and again under the conduct of his vassal the duke of York, is attempting to recover the possession of Britain, shall he therefore be owned? This cursed principle disposes men for popery, and contributes to strengthen the promises of their dispossession.” His twelfth argument is from Scripture examples, “Many Scriptures examples (says he) confute this; shewing that the possession may be in one, and the power with right in another, David was the magistrate, and yet Absalom possessed the place, 2 Sam. xv. xvi. xvii. xviii. xixth chapters. Shebah also made a revolt, and usurped the possession in a great part, and yet David was king, 2 Sam. xx. 2. Adonijah got the start in respect of possession exalting himself, saying, I will be king: yet the kingdom was Solomon’s from the LORD, 1 Kings, first chapter. The house of Ahaziah had not power to keep still the kingdom, 2 Chron. xxii. 9. And Athaliah took the possession of it, yet the people set up Joash, chap. xxiii. 3. &c.” Now, from these few hints of the judicious sentiments of this very sensible Covenanter, you may see, that the distinction between providential and preceptive magistrates by no means considers them with respect to the origin of the office, but with respect to their right to bear and exercise the office. Again, you may see, that this distinction is very just, founded upon Scripture and reason: you may see farther, that a denial or overthrow of this just and necessary distinction terminates in absolute anarchy, and leaves no rule for any conduct, but opens a flood-gate for all confusion and abuse.
As the Associate Presbytery did overthrow this distinction, so you have buried it, and sealed its grace that it may never rise again Page 47, “Kings are distributed, in Scripture, into good and bad, but not into preceptive and providential. It would be ridiculous, to apply this distinction to mankind in general, or to say, that wicked men are providential men, and good men preceptive men, all men, good and bad, come into the world, and live in it according to the will of adorable Providence; and all kings, good and bad fill their thrones according to the same sovereign will.” Now let us watch a little, and see if this grave will not open of its own accord, and permit the prisoner unlawfully detained to escape. Pray, Sir, by what rule are men distributed into good and bad? Not surely by that sovereign will of adorable Providence, by which they come into the world, and Solomon saith, that the events of Providence are alike unto them all also. Eccles. ix. 2. All things come alike to all: there is one even to the righteous and to the wicked, and the Apostle saith, Where no law is, there is no transgression, Rom. iv. 15. A distribution of men into good and bad does not respect their being or their existence in the world as creatures, but their lives and actions in a moral sense: and therefore it natively and necessarily refers unto a moral standard whereby they are judged; and as they agree or disagree thereto, they are denominated good or bad; hence says the Apostle, I had not known sin but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, thou shalt not covet, Rom. vii. 7. Now what is a moral standard of men’s lives and actions, but the moral law? and what is the moral law, but a moral precept? your distribution therefore of men into good and bad is nothing else, but a distribution of them into moral and immoral, and that is nothing else, but preceptive and non-preceptive or providential, that is, men whose lives and actions agree with the letter of GOD’S moral law and precept; and such who, though they have a being and existence in the world, by the sovereign will of adorable Providence, yet their lives and actions are not according to, nor regulated by, GOD’S preceptive will or moral law; and therefore they are providential men, but not preceptive men. If, as you say, it is ridiculous for church or state to exclude wicked men out of their society, or to inflict church censure, or civil punishment upon them, for that is nothing else but the application of this distinction.
Again, as a distribution of men, into good men and bad, is just the same thing in other words, with preceptive and providential men; so, in like manner, a distribution of kings into good and bad is just the same with preceptive and providential kings. For how are they, as kings, either good or bad, but in reference to a moral standard, whereby matters with respect to their kingly station may be judged? their fitness for government, their having and holding of the power, and the justness of their administration: and as they correspond to or disagree thereto, they are denominated either good or bad. And therefore, if there is no foundation in the Scripture, for the distinction between preceptive and providential magistrates, there neither is, nor can be any for the distribution of kings into good and bad, as the one necessarily includes the other. To allow the one and deny the other is absurd in the highest. It is worthwhile to observe the brilliant nature and force of truth, how it sparkles through the accumulated clouds arising upon it, from the perverse minds of men; and sometimes it compels its adversaries to establish it, at the same time, and by the same means, whereby they intend to pervert it.
We have next your conclusion from your principles, “When it is the will of the all-wise GOD, to appoint the lot of his people, in the territories of princes, who have very few scriptural qualifications, and what part have we in them? Let them rather say to their Father, which is in heaven, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. And let them be subject to their rulers in all things lawful; and not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.” This conclusion to be sure, is very native from the premises. But alas! when taken together, they wear a most dreadful and forbidding aspect, toward the inhabitants of the earth in general, and to those that are called the people of GOD in particular. They exalt the horn of the wicked, they support the cause of the oppressor, and strengthen the arm of all villainy and abuse. They disarm and prohibit all, especially the poor people of GOD, from so much as attempting their own deliverance or defence. Good and bad kings fill their thrones, good and bad men come into the world, and live in it, according to the sovereign will of adorable Providence, the bad have as good a right to be bad, as the good have to be good; let them live, reign, tyrannize, oppress, persecute, and act with absolute sway over the bodies, lives, and properties of men at their pleasure; let men blaspheme, steal, rob, and murder at their will, and commit all wickedness; there is no foundation in Scripture for applying the moral law or precepts of GOD unto their lives and actions; let not good men presume to rectify this sore evil, by calling them to account; or inflicting civil or ecclesiastical pains upon them; for that would be a ridiculous application of the distinction between the preceptive and providential will of GOD, both unto magistrates and to men in general. But let them lay themselves obsequiously down at their feet, saying to their heavenly Father, Thy will be done, &c. Here, Sir, you present us with a new exhibition of Daniel’s striking vision, viz. the great sea, with the four winds of heaven striving upon it, with a succession of cruel beasts, rising out of it, of the most monstrous and hideous forms, emblematically setting forth a forbidding scene of confusion, carnage and destruction. Besides what is here said, do, Sir, but turn back unto the passage quoted from a very sensible Covenanter, the Author of the Hind let Loose, and see his striking, but just, representation of that endless train of absurdities, which necessarily follow upon the overthrow of the native and necessary distinction between preceptive and providential magistrates. Justly does he say, that this is the originate error, and spring of all the stupid mistakes about government. Nor is this to be wondered at; for, if a ship goes to sea, having neither rudder, sails, nor compass, none are surprised to hear, that she is swallowed up of the deep, or broken to pieces on the rocks: in like manner, when a man, concerning things moral or divine, goes into dispute, having neither the law, word, or precept of GOD to direct him, none need be surprised, that he is swallowed up of the gulph and nonsense, or driven to shreds upon the rocks of error and inconsistency.
It is a most just observation, and not a false accusation, that Mr. [John] M’Millan [III.] of Stirling makes in his Letter, when he says, “That your principle allows a majority a lawful proper to degrade a prince without a cause, to pluck him wantonly from his throne, and to exalt the basest of men unto it.” You are much offended at this, and express a doubt of his believing it himself, and support your doubt by a most confident assertion, that neither he nor any other man can produce a single sentence, in all the publications of the Secession, where such doctrine is taught, either express words, or by fair consequence, gravely telling him, that it is expected, if there be a second edition of his Letter, that he will either cancel this accusation against Seceders, or direct the reader where to find a proof.
Should a second edition of the Letter ever be required, I freely confess, Sir, that as yet, I can see no necessity the Author will be under to cancel or retract the accusation; but he may still assert it in the strongest terms, with accumulated evidence. All the publications of the Secession on this controversy may be directed to for a proof, and they with one voice support the charge. Your own most injudicious and extravagant sayings quote above are full to this purpose, and can admit of no other fair consequence. Since all kings, good and bad, fill their thrones according to the will of Providence, the means by which they ascend unto them and continue upon them must be by the same providential will; and therefore, when it is the inclination and will of majority to degrade a good prince, and wantonly dismiss him from his throne, without a cause, and Providence permitting the accomplishment of their design, the event is also providential. The majority in both cases act according to their inclinations and will; and when Providence, which is all the rule you allow unto them, permits them to act effectively in both cases, then they act according to the law, and so act lawfully. And this is agreeable to the account of the administrations of the kingdom of Providence given by the SPIRIT of GOD, Eccles. ix. 2. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good, and to the clean, and to the unclean,” &c. “If the will and consent of society; being sustained by the civil body; the acknowledgement of the civil state,” legitimate the authority, not only of the good and gentle, but also of the froward, not only of those that have few Scripture qualifications, but of those that have none at all; nay, even of the very worst that ever filled a throne, such as Nebuchadnezzar, whom you call a wicked monster, page 10; and Nero, whose character is well known, as the Associate Presbytery, yourself, and everyone have succeeded them in the debate, have explicitly and everywhere taught, then a majority or the civil state, may exalt the worst and basest of men, in the throne, and legitimate his authority by their acknowledgement, who can deny them a power to exalt the worst and basest of men unto it, if it is their inclination and will to do so. Your brother Mr. Thomson says, page quoted formerly, that “the choice of the people will constitute authority without worthiness or merit.” Now, what can a person without worthiness or merit be but the basest of men? You or any other man may try, if he can draw any other fair consequence from this, than that a people may choose and exalt to the throne the basest of men, if it be their will so to do, nor would any other consequence answer the argument he is endeavouring to support.
The Associate Presbytery, Sir, make the choice, will, and consent of the civil state, &c. as above said, to be all that is essential to magistratical authority, not only independent of scriptural directions, about the qualifications and duties of the party chosen, and other circumstances of the choice, even where Scripture light obtains, but also when their choice in the object and circumstances of it, runs counter to such directions. “And wherever they voluntarily constitute or consent unto any form of civil government under the rule of any particular persons, whatever sin be in the circumstances of their deed, with respect to the government or governors which they constitute or consent unto: yet the deed itself or the substance of the deed, is always in consequence of, and agreeable to GOD’S law, wherefore their governors, as such, and in the substance of the matter, are ordained of GOD, according to that law.” Declaration of their Principles, page 70. And thus the choice, will and consent of a civil state, in degrading a good prince without a cause, and exalting the basest of men unto the throne, whatever sin might be in the circumstances of their deed, with respect to the government, or governors which they constitute or consent unto, yet the deed itself, or the substance of the deed, is always in consequence of, and agreeable to, GOD’S law.
That the Associate Presbytery and you allow the civil body an absolute power to do as they please, without any law, rule or restriction, but their own natural inclinations, under the conduct of Providence, is palpably obvious from your cutting off Scripture qualifications, duties, and directions, concerning government and governors, as no way essential to civil authority; and sustaining the will and consent of the civil state alone. And therefore you reject, with scorn and contempt, the idea of scriptural qualifications and duties. Not only so, but in the same ignominious manner, you reject all qualifications, restrictions, and limitations, by acts of Parliament: witness your last query; As also your endeavouring to overthrow and deny the rational, just, and necessary distinction, between the precept and the providence concerning civil governors. For insisting on the necessity of these things you treat the members of the Reformed Presbytery with abuse, as if they were misled, infatuated men, and destitute of common sense. Now, Sir, however offended you may be, I can see no other fair consequence can be drawn from this, than that in the Letter from Stirling.
But this will farther appear, from the Associate Presbytery’s doctrine concerning what they call simple revolts. Speaking of the rejection of Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Baasha, and Jehoram, recorded in the second book of Chronicles: “The whole nature,” they say, “of any simple revolt, lies in breaking off immediately from the civil body, by withdrawing from, or withdrawing part of their territories, and then it necessarily follows at the same time, that these revolters break off from the head of the civil body, without ever denying his authority over the members who still cleave unto the same. And this is the precise nature of all these examples presently referred to.” Declaration, page 82. This I would say, is a precise groundless assertion. But be that as it will, here we have the whole nature of a simple revolt. Now, if a minority may break off from the head of the civil body, and withdraw part of their territories, and even set a king over themselves like the Edomites, and all this without a cause, for otherwise it would not be a simple revolt; is it not a fair consequence to infer, that the majority may withdraw their consent from their civil head without a cause, and dismiss him from the throne, and fill it with another? This is clearly stated and illustrated, to the conviction of every rational and unprejudiced mind, by the Reformed Presbytery, Testimony, page 123-127. to which I refer you and the reader for a fuller proof of the charge.
But farther and finally, if you consider the description of a tyrannical power and administration, which is, in its kind and nature, different from magistracy, given by the Associate Presbytery, with application to the King Charles II. and his succeeding brother the Duke of York, on account of which they acknowledge, that their civil authority was justly rejected by the Martyrs under their reigns; it will appear that the Roman Cæsars, were not the persons to whom the Apostle applied the fair characters in Rom. xiii. 3, 4. which I must yet beg leave to transcribe, Declaration, page 93. “The powers whom they, viz. the Martyrs rejected, did differ not only as to their administration, but as to their office and kind, from any we have now ado with. King Charles II. after his restoration, revoked and rescinded the whole former deed of the body politic, investing him with magistracy; as, instead of holding his office immediately by the will of the body politic, he, by consent of Parliament, renounced any holding of them, and (absurdly against the very essential nature of magistracy) he arrogated a derivation of it from GOD immediately, Parl. I. Sess. I. chap. v. xv. According hereunto, beside all his other wickedness, he proceeded in the exercise of an habitual and horrid tyranny, which came to an unparalleled height, &c. And, as James VII. did tread and proceed in his steps: so it soon appeared at the revolution, that their government had really been a force upon the nation.” To this may be added the sentiments of your friend Mr. Thomson, Presbyterian Covenanter defended, page 80. “I never viewed persecution simply in itself; but as connected with other evils, of which it is as it were the cape-stone, the completing act, or rather the application; without which they are only like a deadly potion, prepared according to art, but not administered; till persecution appears, like a stern tyrant, with the cup of spiritual fornication in the one hand, and the poinard [small dagger] in the other; threatening the soul with the most dreadful tyranny. This, I thought, constituted the tyrant.” As also what he says, page 82, formerly quoted. “What are the most valuable and immutable natural rights of men, but religion and liberty of conscience? and what is the liberty wherewith CHRIST hath made his people free, but the liberty of enjoying these, free from every restraint, but his own gracious authority? and therefore, he, who infringes these natural rights among Christians by persecution, usurps the Mediator’s kingly office.”
Now here is a description of a government and governors, which the Associate Presbytery say is specifically different in nature and kind from civil government, an absurdity, destitute of the very essence of magistracy, complete tyranny, and usurpation of the MEDIATOR’S kingly office, according to Mr. Thomson. Let this be applied to all the ancient monarchies, Egypt, Babylon, &c. and see the consequence. Apply it even, to many of the kings of Judah and Israel, whom yet you contend were all to a man uniformly acknowledged, and submitted to, as the Ministers of GOD; and try what follows. But let us especially apply it unto the Roman Cæsars, which is the matter presently before us. The rejected government of King Charles II. and the Duke of York, as above described, consisted of three things, 1st, Absolute power. 2d, They held it not by the will of the people. 3d, The exercise of a habitual and horrid tyranny, so that their government was a force upon the nation. Now it is evident, that all the Cæsars, from first to last, assumed absolute power: the second of them had the name Augustus conferred upon him, from that very circumstance, which, says Prideaux, signifies something that above human is sacred and venerable. And though he was the wisest and worthiest man of all the emperors, yet it is well known, that, by subtlety, deceit, flattery, mercenary influence, and other base, and even violent means, he obtained a packed senate of his creatures, as King Charles II. did of his Parliament; by whose consent he materially revoked and rescinded the whole former legal constitution of the empire, and had absolute power vested in his person alone; by which he might rule the whole empire according to his arbitrary will and pleasure; and this, by one part of the people, who courted his favour, and by another, who dreaded his power, was generally submitted unto, as was likewise the case with Charles II. And though, by the natural wisdom, prudence, and moderation, whereby Augustus conducted himself, he retained the esteem and consent of the senate and people during his life, yet the case altered soon after: the senate saw their error when it was too late, and in vain made many efforts to shake off the yoke, which they had unwisely drawn upon themselves. The government of Rome, even before, but especially after, the commencement of the imperial power, was a force upon the whole empire; few or none of the conquered nations were retained tributary, but by mere force of arms. Some of the succeeding emperors, not only absurdly, against the very essential nature of magistracy, pretended to hold their power immediately of GOD, and not of the people; but even claimed divine honours themselves. And besides all their other wickedness, in the days of the Apostle, the emperor Nero, standing upon the same absurd and illegal constitution, and assuming the same absurd, absolute power, proceeded unto the exercise of a habitual and horrid tyranny, still more dreadful and unparalleled in various instances and respects, than even that of Charles II. was, as all acquainted with his history will acknowledge. His persecution upon the Christians was at least equally shocking; and by imputing his own diabolical wickedness, of setting fire unto, and burning the city of Rome, unto them, he not only rendered them odious there, and caused them to undergo the most inhuman torments; but also over the whole empire; and passed the most cruel edicts against them, whereby the whole empire was drawn into a conspiracy against the kingdom of CHRIST, and against their own rights, and privileges as men, which the Associate Presbytery says, page quoted above, was the case under Charles II. Here was the cup of spiritual fornication in the one hand threatening the soul with the most dreadful tyranny, and the poinard [small dagger] in the other, which Mr. Thomson says, he though had completed the tyrant. Here was an infringer of these natural rights among Christians by persecution, who, he says, is an usurper of CHRIST’S kingly office. Now, since it is abundantly evident, beyond all contradiction, that the Roman powers, at the Apostle’s day, were in the same category in all respects, with King Charles II. and James VII. I beg to know how the latter were absolute, persecuting tyrants, and their government an absurdity, destitute of the essence of magistracy, a force on the nation, and justly rejected by the sufferers, and the former in the lawful possession of civil power, the Ministers of GOD, to whom the Apostle applies the fair characters in the 3d and 4th verses of the thirteenth of his Epistle, and enjoins dutiful subjection to them as such, under the pain of damnation. Pray, Sir, do the essences of things change with the distance of time and place? or, is it so in the case of magistracy only, that absolute power, and tyrannical administration with horrid and bloody persecution made the ordinance of GOD at Rome, in the Apostle’s day, and the same made an absurdity in Britain, in the days of the Martyrs, toward the end of the seventeenth century? The Associate Presbytery justly say, the precept delivered by the Apostle was equally a rule of duty to the Christians at Rome, and in every part of the empire, and they might have added, in every part of the world. Since then, according to the and you, the powers at Rome were moral powers, and therefore of GOD by his approbation, and the Apostle enjoined the Christians to be subject to them as such, why did they and you not contend that Charles II. and James VII. were moral powers also, since they were in the very same predicament, as to the nature and kind of their power and administration? and that, in obedience to the Apostle’s precept, and Martyrs ought still to have acknowledged them as such, and that by rejecting their authority they incurred the awful doom of resisters of the ordinance of GOD?
It is, indeed, not a little entertaining, to observe the manner in which the Associate Presbytery speak of the powers at Rome, Declaration, page 72, 73. “He, the Apostle, does not pursue his present consideration of them any farther than as they were truly wearing, and found walking within the proper compass and limits of magistracy, their practice did not always answer these things, their actual attendance thereunto was far from being continual; but these things were true and always true of them, considered in the lawful possession of, and so far as truly exercising civil power; their attendance, in this respect, was continually unto these very things, because altogether confined thereunto:” Just as if an man, or men, could be in the lawful possession of despotic, arbitrary, and absolute dominion over their fellow men, or as if such absurd dominion was true civil power, or as if such absolute power could have the proper compass and limits of magistracy. But why did they not speak of Charles II. and James VII. in the same stile; it was just as easy considering them in the lawful possession of civil power, and walking within the proper compass and limits of magistracy, and then the Apostle’s description was true, and always true of them, as it was to take up the Roman Cæsars, and especially Nero, under such a consideration. But what follows in the next words is more remarkable still; “and now, the Apostle was, at this time, directed by the SPIRIT of GOD, to represent magistrates purely in the above shape, and that for very good reasons and wise purposes.” But why suppose the necessity of the direction of the SPIRIT of GOD unto the Apostle, for representing or describing a Roman emperor? have they not been described justly many times, by Historians, who neither had, nor pretended to have, any inspiration at all? Had not the Apostle access to know about persons and facts, existing in his time and place where he resided, without the extraordinary assistance of the SPIRIT? why make mysteries of common things? but the Presbytery does not in these words restrict the representation, which they say the Apostle gives by the direction of the SPIRIT, unto the Roman emperors, but magistrates; and indeed it is not probable, nay it is scarcely possible, that they did not see the flaw at the bottom of their perplexed ambiguous interpretation of the Apostle’s words, sometimes applying them in the concrete, at other times in the abstract: and after all their warping to and fro, with many circumlocutions and abstract distinctions, they come off with a mere abstract representation of magistrates in general, and this is just what the Reformed Presbytery contend for, in connected with all others, who do not interpret this passage, in favour of the slavish doctrine of the Old Royalists; nor can any other representation be honourably imputed to the Apostle, as speaking under the direction of the SPIRIT of GOD. In short, Sir, I here offer you two things, choose you which you please, and condemn yourself. Insist on your interpretation of this passage of the Apostle, and see what becomes of your making Charles II. an absolute tyrant, and your commending and approving of the Martyrs for rejecting his authority. Insist that King Charles II. was an absolute tyrant, and that he was justly rejected by the sufferers, and see what becomes of your interpretation of the Apostle’s doctrine. If you reconcile these two, I shall only say, it must be by another medium than you have yet presented unto the public.
To conclude, do not you see, Sir, that this method you have fallen upon of explaining and applying this passage of the Apostle’s doctrine flatly contradicts your own doctrine concerning magistratical power, Introduction to your pamphlet, page 1, 2. “It is not a slavish subjection to the despotic authority of cruel tyrants and usurpers, which is defended in the following pages. Nothing is said in the following pages, with a design to favour the servile doctrine of passive obedience, when princes grasp at an absolute power to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects; and when they become habitually cruel and tyrannical, the people who set them on their thrones ought to dispose them, and put men in their place, who fear GOD and hate covetousness. To teach that mankind should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to throw it off, that they should remain slaves when they can procure their liberty by lawful means, is a doctrine so contrary to the natural principles of self-preservation, to Scripture and common sense, that it deserves no refutation.” Tyrants and usurpers are, with you, mere fictitious and fabulous names, which, according to your account of matters, never had any real being on the face of the earth; but in the instances of the two royal brothers Charles II. and James VII.: and if your reasoning be just, they were no more such, than all that went before them. Did not the princes of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, &c. grasp at an absolute power, to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects? And that they were generally cruel and tyrannical need not be told any, who read and believe what is recorded concerning them in the sacred History. The Roman Cæsars, to a man, grasped at absolute power, and a more execrable wretch than Nero, for cruel tyranny and persecution, is not recorded in the page of history. Yet notwithstanding of this, instead of acknowledging, that they ought to have been deposed, by your interpretation and arguments in support of it, they were all moral powers, ordained of GOD by his preceptive institution, and approbation, to whom, as such, he required subjection for conscience sake. If lawful princes are set upon their thrones, by the regular choice and call of the people, few or none, for whom you so strenuously contend, had any title to that honour. They generally owed their promotion to the arbitrary wills of their despotic predecessors, who set them over their empires, without ever considering whether they were wise men or fools, qualified to rule, or disposed to tyrannize; or to a successful victory after an unlawful and bloody war; or to actual possession under the favour of providence, in some other unaccountable and contingent way, like Daniel’s beasts which rose out of the sea. The body of the people, who occupy the place of subjects, being in these times inured to slavery, knew not their own rights, nor had tasted the sweets of liberty, and therefore could not breathe after it, and though they had, it was not in their power to disentangle themselves. Their despotic princes took care, like Charles II. with his Parliament, to have their councils packed with creatures of their own, who, regardless of their own honour, or that of their country, or yet the liberty of their fellow men, and who for favour and hope of reward, would flatter them in any case; whereby together with a numerous and mercenary military, who, for their pay and other emoluments, would exert their strength in any cause, the people were hectored into forbearance and silence, and ignorant of their rights as men, and through dread and fear of the wrath and rage of their arbitrary oppressors, crouched to the burden; and thus it went, in times past, with the greatest part of the inhabitants of the world. And this is what the Associate Presbytery call, “the will and consent of the civil society, sustained by the state, acknowledged by the civil body,” &c. while yet the will and consent of the civil society, was never regularly either asked or given. This is the precarious, and sandy foundation of civil power, exclusive of Scripture qualifications, or civil acts of Parliament, restrictions or limitations; and upon this you and they found the obligation to a conscientious acknowledgment of the authority of every one, who is by such a will and consent, in the place of power, upon the minority. If, as you say, princes, who grasp at absolute power, &c. ought to be deposed by the people, then Nero, for instance, ought to have been deposed, yet you insist, that he was the minister of GOD, to whom the Apostle applied the most fair and virtuous characters, and enjoined a conscientious acknowledgment of his authority upon the people, upon the severest pains, and that because he held the place of power, by such a will and consent, as is described above. For the same reasons, the absolute and tyrannical King Charles II., who, you acknowledge, was justly rejected by the sufferers, ought to have been conscientiously owned in his authority, as he had as much the will and consent of the people as Nero. Again, if the people ought to depose a prince, who grasps at absolute power, if they are in capacity to do so, then they ought to disown and reject his right to that place, which he occupies for the purpose of oppressing them, whether they are able to dismiss him from it or not. Again, if a majority may and ought to depose an absolute prince, then the smallest minority, even an individual, is free in his conscience to disown and reject his right to the place, which he either does, or may, by virtue of absolute power, occupy for the oppression of himself or brethren. More ridiculous reasoning, cannot fall from the tongue or pen of any man, than to insist, that people are bound in conscience to acknowledge the right of a prince to a place of absolute power, because they cannot depose him from it, or that because a majority, either do not, or cannot, disentangle themselves from the yoke of oppression, therefore a minority are bound in conscience to acknowledge the right of their oppressors, to that place of power, by which they enslave them. The people of Rome did not, or were not able to depose the absolute and cruel tyrant Nero from the place of power, and therefore it was their will and consent that he should remain in it, and of consequence all, majority and minority, and especially the poor oppressed and persecuted remnant of Christians, were bound in conscience, under the highest pains, to acknowledge his right to that place of dominion, by which he persecuted them, and enslaved the whole empire. This is truly slavish doctrine, as it not only consigns over the bodies of men to slavery, but their consciences also; and is that very doctrine, which you so justly explode with contempt, as contrary to the natural principles of self-preservation, Scripture, and common sense. But this is not all, this doctrine puts it forever out of the power of either majority, minority, or individuals, to emancipate themselves from slavery, either by throwing off the yoke, or flying from it; for, if they are bound in conscience as above, they must not so much as take ways and means into contemplation, for delivering themselves; for that would be to propose and encourage themselves in a scheme, to the violation of their consciences. In a word, by this doctrine, if a people either are not in capacity, or shall neglect at first instance, to depose an aspiring prince, he is then forever established upon the throne, and they never have power to call him to account again.
Moreover, this mode of expounding, and applying this passage of the Apostle, now under consideration, obtrudes a doctrine upon the Holy Scripture, which you say, is not only contrary to Scripture but also to common sense. You interpret the precept delivered by the Apostle, Rom. xiii. to enjoin subjection for conscience sake upon the Christians at Rome to a prince who was not only a despot by constitution, but in his administration grasped at absolute power, over the lives, and properties of his subjects, and was habitually cruel and tyrannical. In the same manner you interpret all other similar precepts, in the Old and New Testaments; as enjoining subjection equally, to all princes promiscuously, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward: grasping, cruel, and tyrannical princes are surely froward princes, and yet to such you insist that the Scripture commands a conscientious subjection. Now subjection to an absolute prince is servile slavery in the very nature of it, and has been esteemed, and complained of as such, by those who knew their rights as men, and the liberty secured to them by GOD in his Word. Thus the people of Israel complain of the Persian dominion, Neh. ix. 37. Also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. If you should, in connection with the Associate Presbytery, here say, that the Apostle enjoined subjection to the Roman princes, “in so far only, as he considered them wearing and walking within the proper compass and limits of magistracy, and considered in the lawful possession of, and truly exercising civil powers,” the futility of this has been noticed above. This, indeed, is to make the Apostle to enjoin subjection neither to GOD nor man, nor to magistracy in the abstract, but to an idea, a mere phantom of the mind. Besides, this destroys your own doctrine; for, according to this, the people are to consider, imagine, or suppose, a grasping, cruel, and tyrannical prince, in the lawful possession of, and truly exercising civil power, and walking within the proper compass and limits of magistracy; and then, instead of deposing him from his throne, they are bound, in conscience, to subject themselves unto him as the minister of GOD.
We have a remarkable and striking illustration and application of the command of GOD, enjoining subjection to princes, page 10, of your pamphlet. After having repeated the character given to Cæsar, by the Reformed Presbytery, viz. a proud, aspiring, idolatrous, and bloody usurper, having no other right to the most part of his dominions, than the LORD’S providential disposal, which sometimes makes the tabernacles of robbers to prosper, &c. you run the parallel between him and Nebuchadnezzar, whom you call the famed King of Babylon; and having shown, that the latter was, at least, equal in pride, idolatry, usurpation, and bloody cruelty with the former, you say, “Now GOD expressly commanded Israel to be subject to this wicked monster. Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. Jer. xxvii. 12. He who, for their sins, gave Israel to Nebuchadnezzar the robber, gave the same rebellious people to Cæsar the robber; and, why should not the people of GOD, be subject to robbers, in all things lawful, at GOD’S bidding? He who said, Serve the king of Babylon, said also, Render unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s. And when GOD, as a just punishment of their sins, makes strangers to rule over them, ought they not to say, We will bear the indignation of the Lord, because we have sinned against him?” By this method of reasoning, no man need be at any loss to defend his principles, and at once put to silence his antagonist; for he may by anything prove anything. You tell us in your Introduction, that the topic defended in the following sheets is precisely this, “That obedience is due to the present civil British government in its lawful commands.” This precise topic you prove by this precise argument, viz. GOD expressly commanded his sinning and covenant-breaking Israel, to be subject to the wicked monsters, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and Cæsar, the Roman emperor, and bring their necks under their yoke, and serve them and their people, as a just punishment for their sins. Now, to draw any just conclusion from this argument, the terms must be taken in the same sense, when applied to the present civil British government and its subjects; for, if the sense is altered, there is no conclusion. And therefore, the inhabitants of Britain and Ireland, must be considered as a peculiarly sinful people, the present British king as a wicked monster, and his government a yoke upon the necks of the people, as a just punishment for their sins; and, of consequence, it is the duty of the sinning and covenant-breaking inhabitants of Britain, like Israel to say, We will bear the indignation of the LORD, because we have sinned against him. I have the charity to believe, Sir, that the present civil British government will take your defense of its right to obedience as no compliment, and will abominate, and reject with abhorrence, the principles upon which you ground the right of government to obedience, and the obligation upon the people to obey.
Apply this argument of yours to mankind, and government in general, and then they must be considered as sinners, and government an ordinance appointed for punishment, and governors wicked monsters to execute and administer it. And thus you have discovered the true sense of the character of rulers, Rom. xiii. 4. For he beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of GOD, a revenger, to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. All men are sinners, and the more wicked and cruel governors are, men are sinners, and the more wicked and cruel governors are, they are the less chargeable with bearing the sword in vain. Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus, Epiphanius, Nero, Charles II., &c. were remarkably diligent in executing wrath on them that did evil. You certainly know, and will allow, that whatsoever is afflictive to men, or a punishment of sin, is penal in its nature, and a curse. Civil government in its design, nature, and tendency, is described and represented as a blessing, and on that account called an ordinance of GOD; and Magistrates are designed Ministers of GOD; and are required, not only by GOD in his Word, but also by the common sense of mankind, to be men fearing GOD, and hating covetousness.
Instead of the Babylonian yoke being a blessing, as civil government or magistracy is, it was the winecup of GOD’S fury, Jer. xxv. 15. which all the nations were to drink of; and it was put first into the hand of Jerusalem, and the cities of Judah, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, an hissing, and a curse, as it is this day. Ver. 18. And when all the kingdoms of the world had drunk of it the king of Sheshach or Babylon himself was to drink after them, and be drunken, and spew, and fall, and rise no more, ver. 26, 27. As it belongs to GOD to punish a sinning people, so it belongs to him to determine the time, place, mode, and degree of their punishment. The yoke of Nebuchadnezzar’s tyranny for seventy years was the punishment allotted for Israel, along with other sinning nations; and there was but one alternative for the recusants, namely, either to submit, or to be consumed with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, Jer. xxvii. 8. The yoke of Nebuchadnezzar was equally the judgment of GOD, the winecup of his fury, and penal in its nature, as the sword, famine, and pestilence, and the former no more his moral ordinance of magistracy than the latter. Not only did the nature and kind of both the Babylonian and Roman dominions cut them off, but the very state of your argument cuts them off, from any specifical or essential connection with the ordinance of magistracy; as that government, which is a yoke of oppression and tyranny, for a punishment upon a sinning people, is no longer civil government, but the judgment and curse of GOD. And an argument for subjection to the ordinance of magistracy, taken from its being the express will and command of GOD, that sinning Israel should submit to the sword, famine, and pestilence, as a just punishment of their sins would be just as conclusive, as an argument taken from its being his express command, that they should submit to the yoke of the Babylonian and Roman tyranny, as punishment for their sins.
But if you still insist, that it was the express command of GOD that Israel should subject themselves to Nebuchadnezzar as a magistrate and minister of his ordinance of civil government, then how does this consist with what you teach in the passage quoted above? Viz. “When princes grasp at an absolute power, to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects; and when they become habitually cruel and tyrannical, the people who set them on their thrones ought to depose them.” Was not he, whom you call a wicked monster, obviously, and by your own acknowledgment, a prince of that description, and therefore ought to have been deposed? To insist, as you do, that GOD, in his Word, commands subjection, to princes of such a description, as unto the ministers of his moral ordinance of magistracy, is not only manifestly inconsistent with yourself, but it palms and obtrudes upon the Scripture that slavish doctrine, which you say is contrary to Scripture and common sense.
In like manner, and to the same purpose, you drag in the practice of the church, in all ages and places of the world, wherever Providence ordered the bounds of her habitation, as uniformly subjecting to the powers that be, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward, page 18. “Pious Joseph was a subject; yea, a prime minister to Pharaoh, and yet was blameless. Jacob, the beloved of the LORD, with all his seed were subjects of Heathen rulers, and yet were blameless. The Prophets, as well as all the people of Israel and Judah, were subject unto the worst of their kings. The Prophet Jeremiah supplicated a perfidious Zedekiah, that he might not return unto the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest he died there. It is well known, in what reputation Daniel, and his fellows were held at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, and the first Persian kings. Ezra was sent by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, with a royal commission to rectify the church and state of the Jews. Nehemiah, who was the royal cup-bearer in the Persian-court, was empowered by the same prince, to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Mordecai the Jew, was next unto the king Ahasuerus. And though it be true, that the Jews cast off the authority of Antiochus Epiphanius, king of Syria, and maintained their independency, by force, above a hundred years, under the conduct of Judas Maccabaeus and others, yet this revolt was no act of disobedience to the lawful commands of that prince, but a just defence of the of their holy religion, and precious lives. When the GREAT TEACHER, sent from GOD, came into the world, he found the church of the Jews, subject to the Heathen Roman emperors; and, was so far from disapproving their subjection, that he commanded them to pay tribute to Cæsar. More than three hundred years elapsed between the death of CHRIST, and the reign of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor; and during that period, the New Testament church was subject to the Heathen Roman emperors, and their subjection was warranted by the law of CHRIST; Let every soul, &c. Rom. xiii. 1. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man, &c. 1 Pet. ii. 13. History gives no account, that for the space of three hundred years, they were chargeable with a single act of disobedience to these precepts, either refusing obedience in things lawful, or disseminating seditious principles among their connections. Surely these examples of the Old and New Testament church are recorded, to direct us how to behave toward the powers that be, when GOD, in his adorable providence, gives strangers to rule over us. The approven examples of the saints in Scripture, and such are all those above-mentioned, are as much the rule of our duty, as the precepts of the moral law. Charles had been heading and hanging a considerable time before they rejected his authority; and there is no reason to think they would have rejected it, if he had not enforced the supremacy with death, but allowed them to live as English Dissenters do at present.”
I think, Sir, when you were debating for slavery, by an induction of particular examples of the subjection of the church and saints recorded in Scripture, when strangers ruled over them, it was a pity you neglected, or did not advert unto, that remarkable train of examples, recorded in the book of Judges, as you might have had from thence a treasure of useful materials for illustrating and supporting your slavish doctrine. The Lord, for the punishment of Israel’s sins, sold them over into the hands of the kings of Mesopotamia, Moab, Canaan, Midian, the Philistines, and others, who tyrannized over them, and oppressed them to purpose. They were all strangers, and they were as much either preceptive or providential magistrates, the powers that be, and ordinance of GOD, as the princes of Egypt, Syria, Babylon, Persia, or the Roman emperors; and the example of the church’s subjection to the tyranny and oppression of the former as much approved, as that of the church unto the latter. Now, the whole of the above examples must be understood to be of subjection unto froward princes, such as grasped at absolute power, and were habitually cruel and tyrannical; for otherwise they would make nothing for your purpose. And the amount of the whole detail taken together, having the force of as many precepts of the moral law, and taken in connection with the law of CHRIST is, that they harmoniously, with one powerful, constraining, and obliging voice announce, that the church in particular, and mankind in general, must be subject to the yoke of tyranny and oppression, when they are not able to throw it off important discovery! You tell us in your Introduction that, “To teach that mankind should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to throw it off, that they should remain slaves when they can procure their liberty by lawful means, is a doctrine so contrary to the natural principles of self-preservation, the Scripture and common sense, that it deserves no refutation.” Of consequence then, you bring Scripture precept and example only to prove, that mankind must bear the yoke of oppression when they cannot throw it off, and remain slaves when they cannot procure their liberty by lawful means. Pray, Sir, what occasion for Scripture precept and example to instruct mankind in a matter, in which they cannot err, and enjoin that upon them, which they cannot possibly avoid, whether they have Scripture precept and example to teach them or not. Had you called in the law of CHRIST, and the example of the saints, to teach, and enjoin upon, Christians, how they were to behave toward GOD, under punishment of their sins, by the tyranny and oppression of froward princes, this would have been profitable for the one, and honourable for the other. But it reduces the utility of Scripture precept and example very low in this case, when they are brought to teach mankind, that their behavior toward such princes must be subjection, when they cannot deliver themselves. Froward princes infallibly teach men and Christians this truth, without the assistance either of the law of CHRIST, or the example of the saints. Thus you see, that this method of explaining and applying Scripture precept and example, which you have gone into, terminates in a self-evident and idle absurdity.
But since it is so, as you teach, that willingly to submit to the yoke of oppression, and remain slaves, is contrary, not only to the principles of self-preservation, and common sense, but also to Scripture; then of consequence it follows, that Scripture precept and example, as well as the principles of self-preservation and common sense teach, that mankind ought to exert themselves to the uttermost, in the use of all lawful means, to throw off the yoke of oppression, and emancipate themselves from slavery. And this indeed is the true voice of the law of CHRIST, who himself came into the world, to break the yoke of sin, the procuring cause of every yoke of affliction and oppression; and also the yoke of satan, and of wicked men, and to free his church from every yoke, but his own gracious yoke, which is easy, and his burden which is light; and by his law to teach subjection to every ordinance of magistracy, the design, spirit, and tendency of which is to preserve mankind from oppression, and to break all oppressive yokes wherever they appear. The practice of the church and saints of GOD in Scripture in every instance uniformly accords with this account of the law of CHRIST. Whenever they came to a sense of their sin before GOD, and cried unto him for deliverance, he took notice of their affliction, and interposed for their help. This is the practice of the saints in this case, which is approved of in Scripture, and which therefore becomes exemplary: GOD approved of their practice, by his giving ear unto their complaints, and appearing for their deliverance. While they remained in a supine, stupid insensibility of their sin, and of their affliction, he left them in the hands of their enemies. Though this is what you would represent as the approved example of the saints, under the pretence, that it was a humble and dutiful submission unto froward princes, as magistrates and lawful ministers of GOD’S moral ordinance of civil government. It must be a strange perversity of the human mind, that inclines men to explain and apply the law of CHRIST, and the example of the saints, in a way expressly consistent with themselves, and contrary to the natural principles of self-preservation and common sense.
To hide the surly forbidding aspect of this servile doctrine, you palliate and qualify it by telling us, that it is only subjection to lawful authority, and lawful commands. These are terms you use promiscuously, and no man knows what you mean by either. According to your principles, there was never unlawful authority in the universe, as you leave no criterion whereby to judge of the quality or kind of authority. You ostensively tell your reader, page 1, “That he may see from the title of your little piece, that he is not to be directed to acts of Parliament for a solution of this question, is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar or not?” And page 74, “The cause of the Secession, about civil government, is not built on acts of Parliament.” And again, “If a reply shall be returned to the preceding pages, it is expected that it will abound not with human but heavenly acts of Parliament.” And, page 76, “Why do you support your principles so much by acts of Parliament?” Thus you have cut off all human laws, and acts of Parliament. Again, in the same ostensive manner, you tell us, page 47, “That the distinction between a providential, and preceptive magistrate, has no foundation in the Word of GOD, and therefore cannot direct our faith and practice;” by which you have rejected all heavenly acts of Parliament, and tell us, that all kings, good and bad, fill their thrones, according to the sovereign will of divine Providence. And thus nothing in the Word of GOD, about government and governors, but the command to obey, is retained. It is evident then, that you reject with scorn and contempt, all known and standing laws divine and human, which offer any qualification, restriction, or limitation, to government and the power of princes. And therefore, if anything can be certainly known what you mean by lawful authority, it is nothing else but unlimited, absolute, arbitrary dominion, over the lives and properties of men. You affect to talk about the British constitution, and the good things therein, and what the British king is bound to by acts of Parliament, but they are all words of course; the cause of the Secession about government is not built on acts of Parliament. And therefore, if the British king were to turn as wicked and bloody a monster as Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, or Charles II the law of CHRIST, and the example of the saints, would, upon your principles, secure him in his tribute and due obedience. And yet you say, princes who grasp at unlimited power, &c. ought to be deposed: by whom? by them that set them on their thrones. Who set them on their thrones? they fill their thrones by the sovereign will of divine Providence, and sovereign Providence can only depose them. And thus your lawful authority stands above all laws divine and human, and is only accountable to GOD. And here stands the Royalist.—Such political principles, and the boasted loyalty founded upon them, would be rejected with contempt, by the present British king and Parliament, as an insult upon both the constitution and administration.
Having thus, from your principles, found out your lawful authority, let us search for your lawful commands. From the passive subjection of the church, and saints of GOD, in all ages, under both the Old and New Testaments, toward the powers that be, not only to the meek and gentle, but also to the froward, you infer their lawful authority, and lawful commands; and by this rule they extend exceeding broad. Pious Joseph, and the Lord’s beloved Jacob, were subjects to Pharaoh, and yet they were blameless, therefore his authority and commands were lawful. And of consequence it follows, that the feed of Jacob applied their shoulders to the burdens of brick, even under the increased task of delivering the tale without straw, and yet were blameless therefore, &c. They also submitted to the command of Pharaoh, detaining them from going three days journey into the desert to worship, contrary to the express command of GOD to go, and yet were blameless, therefore, &c. The children of Israel submitted to the command of Nebuchadnezzar, and left their own land and possessions, and sojourned in Babylon, by which also the temple-service and worship of GOD was suspended, and they hanged their silent harps upon the willow-trees by the rivers, in a strange land, and yet were blameless, therefore, &c. CHRIST found the church of the Jews, subject to the Heathen Roman emperors, and approved of the subjection, for they were a rebellious people, commanded to be subject to them as a just punishment for sin, and he commanded them to pay tribute to Cæsar, and so they were blameless, therefore, &c. The Martyrs of JESUS took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, and loved not their lives unto the death, but submitted unto the sentence of their persecutors, and yet were blameless, therefore, &c. Nay, even CHRIST himself submitted to the power of the chief priests and elders, to Herod, and Pontius Pilate, you say, boasted of his power over him, and yet he was blameless. Therefore their authority and their commands were lawful. In all these instances of the church, but, particularly above, all by the example of CHRIST; we are taught to be subject to the lawful authority, and lawful commands of froward princes.
Again, Jeremiah supplicated a perfidious Zedekiah, that he might not cause him to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest he died there; and therefore acknowledged Zedekiah’s lawful authority to return or relieve him, as might seem good unto him. In the same manner the seed of Jacob in Egypt supplicated Pharaoh to lighten their burdens, and therefore they acknowledged his lawful authority to oppress them. Moses and Aaron supplicated Pharaoh, to let the people go, and therefore acknowledged his lawful authority to detain them. This is just as if an honest traveller should fall into the hands of a band of robbers, and should supplicate them not to take his purse, or to do no violence to his person, and this should be interpreted as an acknowledging them to be honest men, and that they had a lawful to his purse, or to do violence to his person, if they pleased. But you tell us, in your Introduction, “That it is not an unlimited subjection to the present civil government you design to defend, but a subjection in the LORD. When obedience to the commands of princes would be a transgression of the law of CHRIST, they ought to be disobeyed. In all ages the saints have been sacred recusants when the will of their superiors on earth clash with the will of the Highest Lord.” And then you instance the three children, who refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s GOD of gold, though the fiery furnace was before them; and the Apostles, who disregarded the authority of the Jewish council, when they commanded them not to speak at all in the name of JESUS. When the will of princes or superiors, and that even upon the highest pains, is, that their subject, should deny GOD, blaspheme his name, worship idols, or renounce the gospel, such are, without doubt, most unlawful commands; such fruit may naturally be expected from the tree of unlimited, absolute power, and happy the saints who obtain grace to become faithful recusants in such an hour of temptation.
Thus we have your state of the difference between lawful and unlawful commands; namely, when the commands of princes interfere with the authority of GOD over the consciences of men, and cannot be submitted to but at the expense of denying him: such are unlawful commands; but when princes command such things as, though they may be tyrannical and oppressive, yet may be passively submitted unto by the subjects, and they be blameless; such are lawful commands, and the authority of the commanding prince is to be acknowledged as binding upon the conscience. This is the very soul of royalism. I do not know that ever any of the Royalists carried their principles father: they acknowledged that their consciences were GOD’s, but that their bodies and goods were at the disposal of the prince. And here terminates your limited subjection, viz. in the unlimited will of the arbitrary and absolute prince. Thus that slavish doctrine, which you justly say, is so contrary to the principles of self-preservation and common sense, that it deserves no refutation, is obtruded upon Scripture precept and example. Had you believed your own doctrine, or adverted unto the inconsistency, you would certainly have laboured, to rescue the law of CHRIST and example of the saints from such a self-evident and injurious absurdity.
The last absurdity necessarily involved in this scheme of interpreting and applying the Apostle’s doctrine, concerning subjection to princes, you have gone into, which I shall mention is, that it at once and entirely strips the Martyrs, under the reigns of Charles II and James VII of any countenance from Scripture precept or example, for their conduct in rejecting and disowning their authority, and justifies the generation in which they lived, who reproached them in the most virulent manner, for carrying their principles unto an insufferable and extravagant height, contrary to the Word of GOD, and the example of the saints. You use every effort to explain the law of CHRIST, and his own example, against them. You endeavour to turn the footsteps of the flock of CHRIST into quite a different path, and leave not a single individual for a precedent. According to you, since the creation of the world, was there never any such thing heard of, as a people, and especially the saints, disowning the authority of froward princes. You would give out, that there is no reason to think they, i.e., the Martyrs, would have rejected the then authority, had the supremacy not been enforced with death, thereby insinuating that Charles II carried his frowardness a greater height than other persecutors ever did, and thereby required the Martyrs to go a greater length in rejecting them than ever any did; while yet this was no more than all the persecutors of the saints, that ever went before him did, for how can any prince persecute the religion of JESUS in his members, but by assuming a supremacy above him, and enforcing it upon them, so that they must either deny the Word of their Testimony or incur death, and therefore, says Mr. Thomson, “He, who infringes these natural rights among Christians by persecution, usurps the MEDIATOR’s kingly office.” Not only does this argumentation of yours divest the Martyrs of the honour of going forth by the footsteps of the saints, in the management of their Testimony, and accuse them of wantonly throwing away their lives, by carrying their principles above what was required, but it charges them with dying in an egregious error, viz. disowning and rejecting the authority of a froward prince, a Magistrate and Minister of GOD, which, by the law of CHRIST, his own practice, and the example of all the saints, they were obliged to have owned as binding upon their consciences. Such is the native and just amount of your reasoning on this passage of the Apostle.—As this query natively includes the chief and greatest part of the subject matter in controversy, I have been the more deliberate upon it:—But I shall now proceed to
Query VI. “Do you believe that CHRIST gave the Jews an allowance to kill Cæsar, as your Testimony very plainly insinuates, page 150, line 10th, and downwards?”
A. It is neither the killing of Cæsar, Sir, nor the saving of him alive, that is the matter either of enquiry or controversy with the Reformed Presbytery, or their followers; but whether the Savior, by these words, render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, recognized the power of Cæsar, as a magistratical authority, legitimate according to the divine law, and commanded the Jews to submit to it, as binding upon their consciences, and to pay the tribute money as an evidence of subjection for conscience sake. This they deny, and this you have by no means proved. The Reformed Presbytery have adduced various reasons, why the words of CHRIST cannot be understood in the above sense. Such as 1st, the captious design of the Jews in putting this question about tribute unto him, unto the intent that they might ensnare and expose him. And therefore, 2d, that the answer is indirect, leaving the matter in question without any positive determination—and that in many, or most of instances, CHRIST had avoided the captious ensnaring designs of his malicious enemies, by answering their questions in the same indirect and indeterminate way. 3d, That a command to such an acknowledgement of the Roman power would contradict their own law, given to them by GOD, which was still binding upon them. 4th, The nature of the Roman power, which was usurped and tyrannical, and the emperors wicked and idolatrous; so that if CHRIST commanded the Jews to acknowledge such, as a legitimate civil authority, it would absurdly legitimate all tyranny, usurpation, and oppression whatsoever. 5th, That the Jews did not understand it as a command to such an acknowledgement themselves. And, 6th, that such a sense of our Saviour’s words is contrary to the judgement of some eminent Divines. All this you treat in your usually supercilious manner, with a parade of overbearing language and assertion, and with an air of very superior self-importance.
To the captious design of the question, you say, page 8, “Let it never be insinuate among Christians, that the Great GOD, our Saviour, durst not tell the truth through the fear of a man that shall die, and the son of man who shall be made as grass.” The Presbytery, Sir, make no such insinuation, but it is manifest the Jews neither wanted, not considered themselves in need of, any instruction from CHRIST in that matter, neither were they intending to regulate their practice by anything he would say, either in the affirmative, or in the negative. The parties, consisting of Herodians and Pharisees, were abundantly satisfied, each with their own views and sentiments about the matter in question. Nor did they really need to come to him for a solution of the case, as the divine law, which they had among their hands, and the principles of self-preservation, and common sense (you know) taught them to use all lawful means, to cast off the yoke of oppression, without an immediate revelation from GOD. Their sole design was to expose him, either to the Pharisees, and the majority of the people, who still remonstrated against the yoke of the Roman usurpation and tyranny; or to the governor: and therefore they imagined themselves sure of obtaining their end, whether he should answer in the affirmative or negative. But the omniscient and divine JESUS, who knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man, John ii. 24, 25. saw and was aware of all their plot: and so it is the said, But he perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Matth. xxii. 18. Whereby it is evident, that he did not consider them entitled to a gracious answer, he never, in any instance, accosted any, who came unto him in the simplicity of a humble heart, to ask counsel or assistance of him, with such a reprehension. And therefore he justly and wisely treated them, according to the direction of the Spirit of wisdom, answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him; answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit, Prov. xxvi. 4, 5.
That Our Saviour leaves Cæsar’s claim unstated in his answer is undeniably evident from the disappointment of the spies. The Pharisees and Herodians carried the matter high between themselves, the former rejecting the claim, and the latter asserting it, but both united against CHRIST, because he had displeased them equally in his doctrine; and therefore had they been disappointed by an affirmative answer, and so could not have accused him unto the governor, they would have obtained what they wanted by a negative answer, and have been able to have exposed him unto the people, but they could not take hold of his words before the people; and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace. It is beyond all dispute, that the Jews expected, that, when the Messiah came, his first work would be to deliver them from the Roman yoke, and on this account Herod had a jealous eye upon him from the day of his birth. And therefore had he asserted Cæsar’s right of authority over them as a nation, they would have been at once confirmed in their opinion, that he was an impostor; had he rejected the right of Cæsar, then the Herodians were ready to carry him before Herod; so that had they understood the answer to determine the matter in question, there was no occasion for marvel or surprise, nor for them to hold their peace, as they had obtained their end. But he, who perceived their craftiness, disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong, Job vii. 12, 13.
In opposition to this you tell us, page 9, that the question “respected sin and duty, which was a clear call to give a decisive answer.” Had there been no other proper means of solution, and had the question been humbly and dutifully asked, the call to a decisive answer would have been clear. But, Sir, did not the question put to CHRIST by the Scribes and Pharisees, John viii. 4-12, concerning the woman taken in adultery, respect sin and duty? Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned, but what sayest thou? was it a matter of indifference, whether this commandment of the law was observed or not? You say, “He, CHRIST, did not say, you may keep or break the law of Moses, in this matter, as you please.” Neither did he do so in the answer about tribute. But had he answered as you would have him, he would have not left the Jews to do as they pleased, but would have laid them under an express command to break the law of Moses, by acknowledging an authority over their nation, expressly forbidden by the law of Moses. When the Reformed Presbytery say, that the Jews could not consent to Cæsar’s authority, but in express contradiction to the divine law, you are pleased to say, page 10, “This is most unguarded assertion; for, if it is true, it is true also, that GOD commanded Israel expressly to contradict his own law, when he commanded them to bring their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon.” I answer, GOD never commanded Israel to acknowledge the authority of the king of Babylon, as a lawful ruler over their nation, nor did he ever in any instance command any people to consent unto, or acknowledge an authority or power as lawful, which was a yoke upon their necks. GOD commanded Israel to submit to drink the wine cup of his wrath, which was to be served up to them, by the king of Babylon and his companies, as a judgment upon them for sin; but he never commanded Israel, nor any people, to acknowledge and esteem the instruments of his indignation, and the rod of his anger, as the Ministers of a divine ordinance, and the shields that defend the earth. And as you say, page 10, “He who said, serve the king of Babylon, said also, Render to Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s, and when GOD as a just punishment for sin makes strangers to rule over them,” &c. By this you make the command of subjection to the king of Babylon, and unto Cæsar to be of the same kind and for the same purpose, viz. the punishment of Israel’s sin: in this there will be no controversy between you and the Reformed Presbytery, although it is to no purpose for the support of your argument. But it is a very injudicious and egregious mistake, to substitute a punishment of sin in the room of the ordinance of magistracy, and then make the commandment of GOD to a sinning people to submit to their punishment, a command to submit to the ordinance of magistracy; and the example of a people, lying under the yoke of tyranny and oppression, as the token of GOD’S anger and rebuke upon them, a moral precept for subjection to GOD’S moral ordinance of civil government. Nothing can be more absurd than to reason at this rate. Nor can anything be more absurd, than to reason from what a people may submit unto, under tyranny and oppression, and yet be blameless, unto what a people under a lawful magistracy, ought in duty to submit unto, if they will not bring themselves under guilt. A patient and humble passive subjection to oppression and slavery, which is a curse, and when a people either have not power to throw off the yoke, or are delivered over to it by an express command of GOD for an appointed time, as a punishment of sin, like Israel to the Babylonish yoke, is one thing; and a dutiful subjection to civil government, and the equitable administrations of magistracy, which is a blessing, is quite another, and entirely a different thing; and in reasoning from the one to the other there is no conclusion.
But you say, “He, CHRIST, did not condemn the woman taken in adultery, because that was not his business, his kingdom not being of this world.” How then found you out, that it was his business to settle the civil claims of the ambitious princes of this world? You assign unto a business, which he expressly refused. When application was made unto him to determine the settlement of an earthly inheritance, he, with a degree of holy contempt, said, Who made me a judge or a divider over you? Luke xii. 14. And yet you make him to divide the inheritance between Israel and Cæsar; and, against their own will, and the law given to them by GOD, to determine a part to an open enemy, who had no other right than mere usurpation. It is an inconceivable mystery, that the spiritual kingdom of the Redeemer exeemed him from the business of settling the claim of the divine law concerning adultery, and at the same time give him a clear call to determine the usurped claim of Cæsar. “But, as the great Minister of the New Testament, he convinced his adversaries of sin.” So he did the spies, and in them the whole multitude of Pharisees and Herodians, who were all his adversaries; he perceived their wickedness and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? striking them to confusion and silence, “But gave them no dubious, no ensnaring answers in matters of sin and duty.” And so it seems, the act of adultery, and the implementing of the law, in condemning and punishing it, are no matters of either sin or duty: a discovery quite acceptable to our age of the world. CHRIST never laid any snares for men, for GOD cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man, James i. 13. But the wicked is snared with the work of his own hands, Psalm i. 15. These wicked and hypocritical tempters of JESUS made the snares in which their own feet were taken. Was there nothing doubtful in the words of our Lord, when he said, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her? Might not the Scribes and Pharisees natively think with themselves, that, according to these words, the law of Moses ought never to have been put in execution upon adultery, nor in any other case whatsoever, because there were never any sinless men to execute it? Or, might they not think, that this answer to their question rendered the law entirely void, and opened a door to all licentiousness, because there were none qualified to reprove sin nor administer the law, since it behoved to be done by sinless men? It is not to be supposed that all the accusers were guilty of adultery, and though they had, CHRIST did not restrict his words to that sin, but sin in general. And when JESUS said, Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more, might they not natively be induced to think, that henceforth adultery was to pass unpunished, since he had laid them under such restrictions, as entirely disabled them and all mankind to execute the law? and neither had he condemned the woman himself. Should you be called to deal with an adulterer, to make satisfaction for his sin, and he should tell you from this answer of CHRIST, and his passing the woman without condemning her, that he could not see that he was under any obligation to answer your session; and that neither had you any right to call him, you may try whether you would be able to determine the matter from the answer, or if you would not be obliged to explain it in some manner, and endeavour to reach conviction to the person by some other means.
Again you tell us, that when CHRIST said, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things, Matth. xxi. 27. “He answered, not doubtfully, but plainly: He gave no answer to their question at all; and therefore did not give an indeterminate one.” This, Sir, is childish and unmanly quibbling, “Nor did CHRIST by refusing to answer their question leave them in the dark about his authority, his divine sonship and mission, for he had plainly told them on other occasions, that he was the Son of GOD, and Saviour of the world.” Here then was a matter of the last importance, namely, CHRIST’S divine sonship and mission the believing or disbelieving of which is in the strictest sense sin or duty, and necessarily connected with the salvation or eternal condemnation of the souls of men, and so of infinitely greater importance than Cæsar’s claim to tribute, which yet because it was improperly and proudly asked, he, in sovereign and divine wisdom, saw fit to refuse an answer, and to leave the captious and haughty enquires, to seek a solution by other means. And this is all the Reformed Presbytery plead for concerning the question about tribute.
Again, when the high priest, John xvii. 19. asked JESUS of his disciples and of his doctrine, JESUS answered him, I spake openly to the world, I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said, ver. 20, 21. “Now, say you, though these are not direct, yet they are plain answers. There is nothing dark, or doubtful, or indeterminate in them, no matter of sin or duty left unresolved; and therefore can never prove, that CHRIST neither enjoined a duty nor forbade a sin, when he said, Render therefore a Cæsar,” &c. That CHRIST, in this and the foregoing instances, answered in plain words there is no doubt, and it is probably those to whom he spoke them understood his design in them too. But notwithstanding the plainness of these answers, the matters in question are left in the dark, and undetermined in them; are the names or number of his disciples stated, or the places where they might be presently lodging or hiding themselves? are the number, kind and nature of his doctrines determined? There is nothing determined in these answers at all, but the querists are left to seek a solution elsewhere. Nor was it intended to prove, that CHRIST neither enjoined a duty nor forbade a sin, in his answer about tribute, but to be an evidence, that he sometimes avoided the captious designs of his adversaries, by leaving their questions unresolved, and this it does manifestly.
But further, you say, page 12, “Nay, we find him giving a most plain and determinate answer to as captious a question as that could be, when Pilate asked him, Art thou the king of the Jews? JESUS answering, said unto him, Thou sayest it, Mark xv. 2.” In this, Sir, I would beg leave to differ from you, and say, that it was by no means a determinate answer, as the question manifestly respected CHRIST’S kingdom in a temporal sense. Pilate neither knew nor believed anything about his spiritual kingdom, and had he answered directly to it in the sense in which it was asked, it would have been in direct opposition to the truth, and to what he says when he answers determinately, My kingdom is not of this world, John xviii. 36. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the CHRIST, the Son of the Blessed? He answered directly and determinately, and JESUS said, I am. Mark xiv. 61, 62. And why not? unerring wisdom knew when to answer determinately, and when not, and had his own wise purposes to serve with all his answers. When he was accused of the chief priests and elders before Pilate, he answered him to never a word, insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly, Matth. xxvii. 12, 14. And he, viz. Herod, questioned with him in many words, but he answered him nothing, Luke xxiii. 9. “And yet he was not afraid of a man that shall die, nor the son of man that shall be made as grass.” Now it will appear manifestly evident unto everyone, who will consider these questions without prejudice, that the matter of sin and duty is as necessarily connected with everyone of them, as with the question about tribute, and yet it is undeniable that CHRIST left them unresolved. If you say that the querists had sufficient means of being resolved otherwise, I answer, so had they in the question concerning tribute, and this is all that is pled for.
You next say, page 9, “This exposition therefore, must not be admitted; for it represents CHRIST as rendering evil for evil, a sin which he himself hath expressly forbidden.” “The Jews rendered evil to CHRIST, by seeking to ensnare him in his words, and according to their exposition, CHRIST rendered evil to the Jews, by seeking to ensnare them in their works.” This, Sir, is a most unwise, injudicious and impious insinuation. The Jews had sufficient means of knowing their duty about the tribute, they had Moses and the Prophets, nor were they wanting any instruction from CHRIST concerning it: their design in putting the question was wicked and hypocritical, as is manifest from the severe reprehension he gave them. And when CHRIST renders to wicked men and hypocrites, according to the evil of their works, must it be said that he renders evil for evil to them? strange presumption! remember your own words, viz. “Let it never be insinuated among Christians, that the Great GOD, our Saviour” renders evil for evil to hypocrites and wicked men, when he renders to them according to their evil deeds. You surely were not aware of the absurd and blasphemous consequences of such loose and random sayings. Again you say, “besides, this exposition represents the infinitely wise Lawgiver, as leaving a precept to the church, which is altogether useless; an express command, in which no sin is forbidden, and no duty enjoined.” This is another loose and ungrounded saying, as neither the Reformed Presbytery, nor their exposition say any such thing. Their words are, Testimony, page 149, “He, CHRIST, in general, teaches to give Cæsar all things, that, by the Law of GOD, were due to him; at the same time enjoining them, that, under pretence of giving to men their demands, they rob not GOD of what was his due, namely, a conscientious regard to all his commands, without regard to persons of any station.” But they justly deny, that CHRIST, in his answer to the spies, stated either Cæsar’s due, or GOD’S due, but left the Jews to be resolved in both, by the divine law, to which they had ready access. If you say, that CHRIST commanded them to be subject to the Romans, as a just punishment of their sin, although this should be granted you, it makes against, but nothing to the advantage of, your argument, as was noticed above.
But your exposition, Sir, must not be admitted, for it represents CHRIST, as commanding the Jews to be subject for conscience-sake to princes, who grasped at absolute power to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects, and who were cruel and tyrannical; and who therefore, as you teach, Introduction, page 4, ought to be deposed, and their thrones filled with men fearing GOD, and hating covetousness. Nay, this exposition of yours makes CHRIST to teach, that men should be slaves, and bear the yoke of oppression, which you say is a doctrine so contrary to the principles of self-preservation, Scripture, and common sense, that it needs no refutation.
You next proceed to say, page 13, “But, after all the pains the Reformed Presbytery have been at, to prove that this text hath no meaning, That CHRIST neither expressly says, it is lawful or unlawful to pay tribute to Cæsar; that it contains no command to pay tribute to Cæsar, they themselves have given it a very odd sense. Page 150 of their Testimony, they say, ‘So, that by looking into the divine law, which determines everyone’s due, according to their just character, and of which they (the Jews) could not be ignorant, they might see, that he (Cæsar) had a just title to all that was due to an usurper, idolater, and murderer.’ They deny that this text contains a command to pay tribute to Cæsar; here they grant, that it contains a command, or at least an allowance, to kill Cæsar. According to them, the sense of this text is, Render therefore unto Cæsar a halter and a gallows; which is a forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar with a witness. Did the Reformed Presbytery know, that they had borne false witness against CHRIST, when this false interpretation dropt from their pen? Did they know that they had been treading in the same path with the accusers of the Lord of glory? If the reformed sense of this text is true, the sense which the accusers of CHRIST put upon it is true also. We found this fellow, said the accusers of CHRIST, perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar. And we found him, says the Reformed Presbytery, or at least insinuating, that it is lawful to kill Cæsar. This last commentary is a virtual approbation of the first; or the Jews spake true, when they said, that CHRIST forbade to give tribute, for if he taught that it was lawful to kill Cæsar, he forbade to give tribute to him with a witness. Alas! that Christian Commentators should be found among the false witnesses who rose up against CHRIST, and laid to his charge things that he knew not.”
In this paragraph, as in many others in your book, there is much vehement, passionate and precipitant keenness, without honesty and judicious consideration. If the sense of our Lord’s words, which you mention, is a very odd sense, it is altogether your own; and why should you palm your own oddities upon the Reformed Presbytery? It is self-evident to every judicious mind, that the Presbytery, in your quotation, is not speaking of our Lord’s words concerning tribute at all, but of the divine law as distinct from them, and given hundreds of years before our Lord’s incarnation; by looking into which, and without asking him, they could have known what was Cæsar’s due. They do not specify the verdict of the law; but you, as a judge upon the bench, without scruple or hesitation, page 31, announce, that the verdict of the divine law, in the case of Cæsar, was death, a halter, and the gallows. Now, Sir, if this is not a true account of the verdict of the divine law, in the case of Cæsar, why should you slander the Reformed Presbytery with your own lie? If it is a true account, why should you upbraid and revile them, for what you must acknowledge to be the truth? If, as you say, Cæsar’s due, by the divine law, was a halter and the gallows, with what face can you interpret the words of CHRIST, as a command to exempt him from the just sentence? not only so, but a command to render tribute, fear, custom, honour, to righteous sentence of the divine law, deserved a halter and the gallows. The amount of what you say in this paragraph is to set the words of CHRIST in direct opposition to the divine law, and to load the Reformed Presbytery with the most unjust blame, and also to deal treacherously with your own candour and honesty. To use your own words, did you not know, Sir, that you had borne false witness against CHRIST, and the Reformed Presbytery, when this false interpretation dropt from your pen? Did you not know, that you had been treading in the same path with the accusers of the Lord of glory?
You tell us further, page 21, “That adorable person, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice, manifested himself to be a servant of rulers, by paying tribute to Cæsar, a Heathen prince. When the tax-gatherers at Capernaum asked Peter, Doth not your Master pay tribute? Peter (says bishop Hall) as one well acquainted with the mind and practice of his Master, answered, Yes, &c. The tribute which CHRIST paid was not, as some think, for the service of the temple, but a civil tribute, paid to the Roman civil rulers, and therefore CHRIST calls them kings,” &c. Whatever some or many have thought, or do still think, about the tribute, mentioned Matth. xvii. will not alter the matter. You surely know, that the run of modern Commentators agree, that it was sacred, and not civil tribute, and when they apply it to Cæsar’s tribute, it is rather by accommodation of CHRIST’S subjection in that instance, and from it inferring the duty of subjects to pay tribute to civil rulers, than asserting that it was civil tribute, and that he paid it to Cæsar. Bishop Hall takes it for granted that it was so, without offering a single consideration why it should be so, but says, in his Contemplation upon the tribute-money, “There was no necessity that the Roman lords should be tied to the Jewish reckonings; it was free for them to impose what payments they pleased upon a subdued people: when great Augustus commanded the world to be taxed this rate was set.” And what is all this but bare assertion. The bishop is much and justly esteemed for his just, judicious, and pious sentiments in divinity and Christian practice; but it is nothing strange to see a man occupying his place, leavened with slavish principles, and in mistake, calling Scripture precept and example to support them. Nor is it strange to find many of former times, under the undue influence of the same old leaven, proceed upon the same mistake. But to see you, a man of this age, a Presbyterian, professedly engaged in the cause of religious and civil liberty and property, so strenuously drag in and wrest Scripture precept and example, to support despotic, arbitrary dominion, and wreathe the yoke of oppression upon your own, an the necks of mankind, is truly surprising.
By the suffrage of the greatest critics, the value of the Stater, the piece of money got in the fish’s mouth, agreed to two half shekels; and being given for CHRIST and Peter, answered to the ransom of the soul, mentioned Exod. xxx. from which they agree, that it was that sacred tribute. Besides, had it been civil tribute, the reason urged by our Lord, for his exemption from payment, would have availed him nothing: he pled and illustrated his immunity by the example of the kings of the earth, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, of strangers. JESUS saith unto him, then are the children free. By the example of earthly kings, taking no tribute of their children, CHRIST was free, and under no obligation to pay this tribute. He was not Son to Cæsar, nor any of the kings of the earth, and therefore could not, on that account, plead immunity from their tribute. That which he pleads exemption from the payment of then, must be the tribute of the KING, whose SON he was, viz. JEHOVAH, the KING of Heaven. Here is a plain and necessary antithesis, between the kings of the earth, and the KING his FATHER, and consequently between the tribute. Nothing can be more manifest therefore, than that the tribute that CHRIST was charged with, and from the payment of which he pleads immunity, was sacred and not civil tribute. Should you with some say, that this tribute was originally sacred tribute, appointed for the service of the temple, but that it was converted into civil tribute by the Romans, who had then conquered the Jews, I would esteem it a favour, if you would also prove this. Many things were the Jews forced to render to the Roman tyrants, and tribute also, against both their law and their will, but I have not yet found, that the sacred tribute of the temple was either asked of them, or granted by them. Low as the Jews were reduced, both in corruption and bondage; yet from the high esteem they still bore to the temple, and the sacred things thereof, there is no reason to think, that upon any peril they would have given up the sacred tribute, so solemnly appointed and stated by the holy Lord of the sanctuary, especially to the Heathen, whose feet treading the sacred threshold would have been esteemed a profanation. Much less must we impeach the faithfulness and honour of JESUS, Who was faithful in all his house as a Son, as Moses also was as a servant, the zeal of whose house ate him up; and who, in the exercise of his zeal and faithfulness, went into the temple of GOD, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrow the tables of the money-chargers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, it is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves, Matth. xxi. 12, 13. by so much as supposing, that he voluntarily resigned the sacred rights, and with his own hand disposed of the sacred treasures, of the temple, to gratify the usurped claims of profane Pagan idolaters, the open thieves and robbers of his house, and of the civil immunities of his people.
In a footnote you say, “The Cause of the Reformed Presbytery is not helped in the least, by supposing that the tribute which CHRIST paid at Capernaum, was for the service of the sanctuary. If it was sinful to pay tribute, for supporting a Pagan civil government, it was no less so, to pay it, for supporting a church, that was wallowing in the mire of error and immorality,” &c. That the tribute which CHRIST paid at Capernaum, was sacred and not civil tribute is undeniably evident, nor will you nor any other ever be able to prove the contrary. That he paid it then, and formerly is also evident. He was circumcised, and had all things accomplished toward him, according to the law of Moses in his infancy. At twelve years old he went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast, and was found in the temple sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. In the time of his public ministry he attended on the passover, and other solemn feasts; he went daily into the temple, and synagogues, at Jerusalem and elsewhere, and taught; and must it be said, that in all this he supported the error and immorality of the Jewish church? And must the divine and sacred institutions and laws of the GOD of the temple of Jerusalem, be compared to, and laid in the balance with, the usurping edicts and demands of the tyrannizing Romans, whose claim at best was founded upon conquest, by an unprovoked and unlawful war? And must the Lord of glory be absurdly entangled in a sinful dilemma, that through him you may confound the Reformed Presbytery? If, as you say, it is sinful, to support a church, wallowing in the mire of error, idolatry, immorality, arbitrary power, and tyranny. And had you dealt honourably with him, whom you acknowledge to be your Lord and Master, you would have endeavoured to vindicate him from both, instead of entangling him in both, that you may absurdly entangle yourself, and the whole human race in slavery.
Having taken it for granted, without the least shadow of proof, that the tribute demanded of CHRIST at Capernaum, was civil tribute, and that as such he paid it to Cæsar; you say, “Are the Reformed Presbytery then walking in the steps of the Great Teacher come from GOD? No, indeed: their refusing obedience to the present civil government in things lawful, is a direct contradiction to the supreme authority, and unblemished practice of the Son of GOD.” I charitably hope and believe, Sir, that the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers too wish to follow the LAMB whithersoever he goes. But as the tribute in question was neither civil tribute, nor paid to the Roman rulers, so it is no part, either of his doctrine or practice concerning government, and therefore has no manner of connection with obedience to the present civil government. It will be granted with all cheerfulness, that kings reign, and princes decree justice by that adorable Person, who paid the tribute at Capernaum. But it will at the same time be denied, that the absolute, arbitrary, despotic dominators of Rome had any other appointment or authority from him, than his four sore judgments, the sword, famine, and pestilence, and the evil beasts. This is substantially the same with your own words, page 10, “He who for their sins, gave Israel to Nebuchadnezzar the robber, gave the same rebellious people to Cæsar the robber.” The Roman force or tyranny was the sword of the Lord, which he commissioned against the Jews for their sins, and it was not withdrawn, until it terminated in the total destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, and put an end unto the Jewish nation. And to reason from the passive subjection, of a distressed and oppressed people, under the sword of a lawless and cruel conquering enemy, to obedience to the present civil government, is a palpable insult upon the present British government; and puts it in the same category with the absolute dominion of ancient times, and the dark places of the earth, that are full of injustice, and the habitations of horrid cruelty; and makes its commands, instead of being law, reason, and equity, to be arbitrary despotic force and tyranny: and upon the matter, represents the British rulers, as bishop Hall does the Roman rulers, when he says, “There was no necessity that the Roman lords should be tied to the Jewish reckoning, it was free for them to impose what payments they pleased upon a subdued people.” How far such arguments do honour to the authority of the present government let all judge.
Instead of CHRIST, in his own person, working a miracle, for the supporting of the Roman dominators, as a legitimate civil authority over the nation of the Jews; or, as a divine ordinance, instituted for the good of mankind, and being anyway subservient to the good of his church; or instructing and commanding the people of the Jews to do so, it was the very design of his coming to overthrow the kingdom, and to set up his own kingdom upon its ruins. HE was the stone cut out of the mountain, without hands, that brake in pieces, the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, of the great image, mentioned in the book of Daniel. It is universally agreed, that the different metals in that image represented four great monarchies, of which that of the Romans was the last. It is rationally allowed also, both by Commentators and Historians, that the state of that empire, which began with Augustus Cæsar, was the feet of the image, consisting partly of iron and partly of clay, and upon which, according to Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, and Daniel’s prophecy, the stone smote it, and brake it to pieces. And it is remarkable, that the whole image was smitten and came down together; then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the wind carried them away, &c. Dan. ii. 35. Whereby it appears, that all these monarchies, from the Babylonian head of gold, to the Roman feet and toes, partly iron and partly clay, were of one nature and spirit, viz. absolute, arbitrary, despotic dominators, oppressors of the earth, and uniformly enemies of the church of GOD; all equally against CHRIST, and the coming and subsisting of his kingdom in the world. So that he, according to the design of his coming, instead of supporting and establishing the Roman dominion himself, and commanding the Jews to do so, by an active submission, and paying of tribute, as unto the ordinance of GOD, brake the whole empire in pieces, and set up his own kingdom upon its repairless ruins. The same is manifestly evident, from that other prophecy of Daniel, concerning the four beasts, and the monarchies represented by them, terminating in the coming of the SON of MAN. And there was given to him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and language, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, Dan. vii. 14. It is the very genius, spirit, and tendency of the kingdom of CHRIST, which he came to set up, and maintain in the world, overthrow and eradicate that absolute, arbitrary, despotic dominion and tyranny, which proud, aspiring, and blasphemous mortals of the earth have thirsted after and usurped; and which is specifically different from that civil power which is the ordinance of GOD. Let anyone seriously and judiciously consider these things, and then let him try, if he can believe and receive your exposition of the thirteenth of the Epistle to the Romans, and the texts concerning tribute, or if he will not rather judge it to be an exposition, manifestly contrary to truth, consistency, and common sense.
When the Reformed Presbytery say, That it is violence done to the text, as also opposite to the sentiments of some eminent Divines on the place, to say that it contains a command, to pay tribute to Cæsar, you are pleased to say, page 11th, “The Reformed Presbyters excepted, we know no eminent Divines, nor Commentators, who deny, that this text contains a command to pay tribute to Cæsar, or, in other words, who strip it of any meaning, and so reckon it a mere cypher in the volume of inspiration.” I confess, Sir, that no Divine nor Commentators that I have yet seen, expound this text in the sense that the Associate Presbytery, and you have done; but such as had formally and professedly espoused the cause of absolute monarchy, and passive obedience and nonresistance. Such of them, as interpret CHRIST’S words to be an answer in the affirmative, only make him thereby to recommend unto the Jews the payment of the tribute, as a subdued people, unto the Romans as their conquerors, whose power they had not been able to resist; and whose money among their hands was an evidence of their subjection, and that the payment of the tribute was no greater acknowledgement of the power over them, than their holding their money as the medium of their commerce, and that therefore it was best for them peaceably to submit, without pretending to say, that CHRIST decided Cæsar’s claim, or that it was the duty of the Jews to make such a payment, on account of the justness of his claim. And some of them even say, that he did not. Now all this amounts to no more than what you say, page 18, pious Joseph, and Jacob the Beloved of the Lord were subjects to Pharaoh, a Heathen prince in Egypt, and were blameless. The Reformed Presbytery, as far as I know, never took it into their heads to say, that any people or person were blameable for submitting to oppression, when they could not deliver themselves from it; or to punishment form GOD, when they had provoked him, and drawn it upon them by their sin. You say, “that rebellious people were given to Cæsar the robber, as a just punishment for their sin,” and why not submit to it? But they justly refuse, that our Lord, in his answer to the Jews about the tribute, acknowledged the Roman power, as a legitimate, civil, and magistratical authority over the Jewish nation, and that therefore it was a duty binding upon their consciences to pay tribute for supporting it as such.
When this text had been brought into controversy by the Royalists, who perverted and abused it, to support absolute power, passive obedience, and nonresistance, by explaining and applying it in the same manner as you do, both Politicians and Divines have seen great cause to step in, and rescue it from that abuse, and mankind from slavery unjustly imposed upon them thereby. Accordingly the famous John Milton, in his defence of the people of England against Salmasius, expresses his sentiment in these words. “It is evident that Our Saviour’s principles, concerning government, were not agreeable to the humour of princes. His answer too implies so much. By which he rather turned them away, than instructed them. He asked for the tribute-money, whose image and superscription is it? says he, They tell him it was Cæsar’s. Give then to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to GOD the things that are GOD’s. Our Savior does not take upon him to determine what things are GOD’s, and what Cæsar’s. He leaves that as he found it,” &c.—And downward. “So that nothing can be more manifest, than that Our Savior in this place never intended to teach our duty to magistrates. (He would have spoken more plainly if he had). But to reprehend the malice and wickedness of the hypocritical Pharisees.” To the same purpose Mr. Algernon Sidney, against Sir Robert Filmer the Royalist, expressed his sentiment on our Savior’s words, in his discourses on government, vol. ii. page 62. “We do not deny to any man, that which is his due, but do not so well know who is Cæsar, nor what it is, that can truly be said to be due to him. I grant that when these words were spoken, the power of the Romans exercised by Tiberius was then expressed by the name of Cæsar, which he, without any title had assumed. The Jews, amongst many other nations, having been subdued submitted to it: and being no way competent judges of the rights belonging to the Synod or people of Rome, they were obliged to acknowledge that power which their masters were under: nay, they had by their sins profaned themselves, and given to the Gentiles a right over them, which none could have had, if they had continued in their obedience to the law of GOD. This was the foundation of the Cæsars dominion over them, but can have no influence upon us.” And again, page 64. “It may also be observed, that CHRIST did not say this, so much to determine the questions that might arise concerning Cæsar’s power: (for he plainly says that was not his work) but to put the Pharisees to silence who tempted him. According to the opinions of the Jews, the MESSIAS would restore the kingdom of Israel; they thought his first work would be to throw off the Roman yoke, but not believing him to be the man, they would have brought him to avow the thing, that they might destroy him. But as that was not his business, and that his time was not yet come, it was not necessary to give them any other answer, than such as might disappoint their purpose.” Mr. Gee on magistracy, in like manner, has the following exposition of our Lord’s words, page 327. “Our Savior being well aware of their conspiracy, and that he might solve their question, and evade their snare from his answer, by way of general rule, of giving to GOD and to Cæsar, each their own, without defining what this money in particular, in relation to each was, or which of them had a right to the payment in question,” &c. To the same purpose, he whom you honour, with the character of a very sensible Covenanter, viz. Mr. Alexander Shields, Hind let loose, page 299, old edition, says, “To that captious question Our Lord returns such an answer, as might both solve it, and evade the snare of the propounders, giving a general rule of giving to GOD and to Cæsar each their own, without defining which of them had the right to the payment in question, upon which they marvelled, which they needed not do, if they had understood in his words an express positive answer, declaring an obligation to make that payment to Cæsar.” To the same effect, says he, page 705. “That which made them marvel at his wise answer was, that he left the titled unstated, and the claim unresolved, whether it belonged to Cæsar or not?” Mr. Renwick’s judgment may be seen in his Testimony vindicated, to be the same with Mr. Shield’s, page 189. To these authors might be added others to the same purpose, who found it their duty to step in, and give their assistance to defend this text from the same abuse, which you throw upon it. I now leave you to say, that they strip it of any meaning, and so reckon it a mere cypher in the Volume of Inspiration.
In short, sir, the fallacy of your sense of Our Savior’s words concerning tribute appears from the unavoidable gross absurdities that follow upon it. If, as you say, CHRIST paid tribute, and commanded it to be paid, unto Cæsar, and thereby recognized his authority as the ordinance of GOD; then, by the supreme authority and unblemished practice of CHRIST absolute monarchy, arbitrary despotic power and tyranny is a lawful power, and the ordinance of GOD; for such was the Roman power at that time. And therefore, says [Algernon] Sidney, Discourses on Government, vol. ii. page 63. “The Cæsar, who then governed, came not to the power by their consent: the question, Will you have this man to reign? had never been asked.” And again, downward, “We know that the power of the Cæsars was usurped, maintained and exercised with the most detestable violence, injustice and cruelty.” And your own doctrine, page 2, is erroneous, where you say, “When princes grasp at absolute power, to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects, and when they become habitually cruel and tyrannical, the people who set them upon their thrones ought to depose them.” The Jews did not set Cæsar on the throne, he imposed upon them, they never consented to his government, he usurped it, and tyrannized over them. And yet, according to this exposition of yours, they might not only, not depose him, had that even been in their power, nor yet simply disown him; but by the supreme authority and example of CHRIST they were commanded to make a direct acknowledgment of his right as divine, to lord it over them; and were obliged in conscience to submit unto him, and support him by tribute as the ordinance of GOD. According to your sense of our Lord’s words, might constitutes right; a highwayman, having superior strength is thereby entitled to dispose upon an honest traveller’s purse, and his life also, and the poor man must not so much as resist, but must acknowledge the robber’s claim to be just, because he is strongest. By your exposition of the words of CHRIST, you establish the doctrine of passive obedience and nonresistance. You indeed tell us, page last quoted, that, “To teach that mankind should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to throw it off, is a doctrine so contrary to the natural principles of self-preservation, to Scripture, and common sense, that it deserves no refutation.” The Jews, in our Savior’s days, were under a severe yoke of oppression, and were slaves in their own land by the tyranny of the Romans, and yet by your argument from CHRIST’s words, they might use no means to throw it off, but were bound in conscience to bear it, as a lawful civil government, the ordinance of GOD. By this reasoning of yours the people of Israel walked not in the steps of CHRIST, the Great Teacher come from GOD, when they resisted the nations who oppressed them. The lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, the Midianites, &c. &c. were all lords, having as just authority over the Jews as Cæsar; they were the powers that be, as well as the Romans; and therefore, by your application of the Redeemer’s words, they ought never to have rejected their authority, nor thrown off their yoke; but were bound in conscience to acknowledge them as lawful powers, and to pay tribute unto them, as the ordinance of GOD. Oliver Cromwell also had a divine right to subjection and tribute. And the General Assembly, and people of Scotland were wrong, who rejected and resisted him as an usurper. All the Martyrs were wrong also, who rejected the authority and resisted the usurped claims of Charles II and James VII. Tho’ they grasped at an absolute power to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects, yet that was no more than the Roman Cæsars did, they were the powers that be, and so lawful rulers, and by the supreme authority and unblemished practice of CHRIST, the Martyrs were bound, in conscience, to acknowledge their divine right to subjection, and tribute.
I confess, Sir, I was entertained, when downward in the same page I noticed a very ostensive note, expressed with an air of very great and superior self-importance, in these words, “I defy any man to prove, either by express Scripture, or by fair and necessary consequences deduced from it, that it is the duty of Christians to disown the authority of Christian magistrates, under whose government they enjoy their natural, civil, and religious privileges, and may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all Godliness and honesty.” It was surely but mean and low, for a man of your principles and talents, to state a defence of this kind, on so narrow a ground. Your book is a defiance of any man to prove, that magistrates of any kind, either ought to be disowned, or ever were disowned, whether they be Christian of Pagan, whether they be Popish or Protestant, whether they be vicious or virtuous, whether they be the protectors or the destroyers of their subjects, whether they be meek or froward, or whether they be just or unjust. And therefore you tell us, page 18, “That the Church of CHRIST, in all ages and places of the world, wherever GOD appointed the bounds of her habitation, was subject to the higher powers, and not only to the good and gentle; but also to the froward is a truth so plainly revealed in the volume of GOD’S book, that he who runs may read it.” The church of CHRIST, Sir, enjoyed neither her civil nor religious privileges in Egypt, under Antiochus Epiphanius, in Babylon, in Rome under the Cæsars, and especially under Nero, nor could she lead a quiet and peaceable life, in Godliness and honesty, under these, but was oppressed and persecuted; and yet, according to you, these were all lawful powers, the ordinance of GOD, having lawful authority and lawful commands, and the church was subject unto them all for conscience-sake. Why then state a defiance on so narrow a ground?
Upon the whole, by this way of explaining and applying the words of CHRIST concerning tribute, you legitimate absolute power and tyranny, you wreathe the yoke of passive obedience, non-resistance, and oppression upon your own, and the necks of the human race, and you obtrude that detestable doctrine upon the supreme authority and unblemished practice of CHRIST, which you justly say is so contrary to the principles of self-preservation, Scripture, and common sense, that it deserves no refutation. And if this be not so, let all judge. So much shall suffice for an answer to your sixth query.
Query VII. “Do you think, that the accusers of CHRIST spake the truth, as your Testimony insinuates, page 151? It is violence done the text, to say that it contains a command to pay tribute to Cæsar, and it would appear, Luke xxiii. 2. that the Jews themselves did not understand it so.” The words in Luke xxiii. 2. Are, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar. Do you really believe, that CHRIST forbade to give tribute to Cæsar, as his false accusers said he did?”
A. When the Jews served CHRIST with his indictment, they did not confine themselves to falsehoods and things that he knew not, for articles of charge against him: but they attributed criminality, to the most authenticated truths. That he was KING of the Jews, and the SON of the BLESSED, was true, and he never denied it; yet they made these criminal articles against him. Had it been literally true, that CHRIST had as expressly forbidden, as you say he expressly commanded, to give tribute to Cæsar, it would have been no way criminal in the eyes of the Jews, had it not been to serve a turn against him. It was from no principle of loyalty or good-will to Augustus, that they said to Pilate, We have no king but Cæsar, and if thou let this man go, thou art not Cæsar’s friend. Pilate knew perfectly, that it was for envy they had delivered him, and that it was from no affection to the Roman government, that they accused him of disloyalty. Their repeated efforts to throw off the Roman tyranny, which continued until the utter extinction of the Jewish nation, evidently discovered, that they never intended to subject themselves unto that yoke of oppression. Had they understood CHRIST to command subjection to the Romans as a lawful government, it would have been a real objection against him, and contrary to what they expected of him, both before and after he came. That the Jews expected, that the MESSIAH, when he came, would restore the kingdom unto Israel can admit of no dispute. The atrocious and inhuman destruction of the babes of Bethlehem by Herod, originated in this expectation. This was made the pretence when the Jewish council said, What do we? for this man doth man miracles, if we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation, John xi. 47, 48. Under the impressions of the same expectation it was, that the disciples going to Emmaus said, But we trusted that it had been he, which should have redeemed Israel, Luke xxiv. 21. On the same account also, the multitude of disciples being come together before his ascension ask CHRIST, saying, LORD, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel? Acts. i. 6. By all which it is undeniably manifest, that when the Jews laid the accusation, Luke xxiii. 2. against CHRIST, they spake the sense of the nation, though they managed it to answer their own wicked designs toward him. The Jews in general, and his own disciples in particular never thought any such thing, as that CHRIST either commanded or intended, that their nation should be subject to the Roman state, as a lawful government, which is the ordinance of GOD and a blessing. Yourself acknowledge, that they were given into the hand of Cæsar the robber, as a just punishment for their sins, page 10.
Query VIII. “Hath not the approven example of saints in Scripture the force of a Scripture precept, for directing the practice of Christians? but you have rejected said example, as appears from Mr. Thorburn’s Vindiciae, page 104, ‘Though I should make no other reply to this part of his proof, than tell him, that it is all brought from example, I would imagine the objection would not want its own weight. Preceptis non examplis standum,’ that is, our duty to civil rulers must not be regulated by the approven example of saints in Scripture, but by Scripture precepts. If this is sound doctrine, we must no more go forth by the footsteps of the flock of CHRIST, nor be followers of Paul, even as he also was of CHRIST. When the Reformed Brethren rejected the example of saints in Scripture, I think they should have expected the example of the KING of saints, who was a servant of rulers.”
A. I confess, Sir, that had I not seen it in this, and various other instances, I would not readily have believed, that a sense of honour and honesty would have suffered you to submit to as much silly and dishonest captiousness as is discovered in this query. It is too like consciousness of a bad cause, and great difficulty in maintaining it, when such methods are adopted for its support. It must be obvious to every person of judicious discernment, that Mr. Thorburn in your quotation means no more, than a preference of Scripture precept to the example of the saints, as the divine standard of all practice, contrary unto, or inconsistent with which, no example of the best saint is of any consequence. When Solomon, in Proverbs viii. 10. brings in wisdom, saying, Receive my instruction, and not silver, must it be understood, that they who receive wisdom’s instructions are henceforth to reject silver? or, is it not rather to be understood, that the former is to be received in preference to the latter? In like manner, when the Apostle, 1 John iii. 18. says, my little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed, and in truth, must it be understood, that we must not express our love to our Christian brother or relation, in word and by our tongue, but retain it secretly and silently in our hearts only? or, is it not rather to be understood, that the reality of love in the heart is to be preferred to a hypocritical pretence? And, when you say, page 47, concerning the distinction between the precept and the providence, that it hath no foundation in the Word of GOD, and therefore cannot direct our faith and practice, would it be fair and honest treatment to infer, that you deny absolutely all distinction between the preceptive and providential will of GOD, and that therefore, by your doctrine, Christians are no more to regulate their practice by the Word of GOD, but by the precarious course of Providence? This would be, in every respect, as just as the inference in your query. Neither Mr. Thorburn, Sir, nor the Reformed Presbytery, nor yet their followers reject the approven example of the saints in Scripture. But they reject, with abhorrence and regret, the perversion of Scripture precept, and the example of the saints, for the support of absolute power, passive obedience, and nonresistance, as an injurious abuse of both; most dishonourable to the memory of the saints recorded in Scripture, and having a most dangerous and pernicious tendency, towards the succeeding generations of the saints in particular, and all mankind in general. After having, in the beginning of your book, laid down an axiom, or first principle, viz. “that it is contrary to the principles of self-preservation, Scripture, and common sense, to teach that men should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to cast it off;” it is most ridiculous in you, to manufacture and pervert Scripture precept and example, in a plain and self-evident contrariety thereto.
Query IX. “Do you believe, that our blessed LORD, in the days of his humiliation, was subject to the powers which then were, or to Heathen magistrates? is not this the name whereby he was called, a servant of rulers, Isa. xlix. 7. ‘a servant of, or subject to rulers?’ said the famous [Thomas] Boston, ‘Pilate boasted of his power over him’ said the pious [Matthew] Henry. ‘This he submitted to for our salvation.”
A. I think, Sir, that it was a most prudent step in you, to tell your reader in the very entry, that “it is not a slavish subjection to the despotic authority of cruel tyrants and usurpers, which is defended in the following pages;” otherwise no man that ever was born, if he exercised his faculties judiciously, would have known by the scope and tenor of your book, but that the very reverse had been your design. Like the watermen, who set their face one way, and row another, you set your face unto the lofty mountains, and little hills, that bring forth peace unto the people by righteousness; but your row into the deep sea, and raging billows of absolute, arbitrary, despotic power and tyranny, and defend the unnatural and slavish doctrine of passive obedience and nonresistance. I know not, that ever the most rigid Royalist adduced the passive obedience and nonresistance of the Redeemer, which he submitted unto for our salvation, as an example, having the force of a precept, directing and binding the consciences of Christians, unto the like obedience to the despotic authority of cruel tyrants and usurpers: for such were the Jews and Romans over CHRIST. The words of the pious Henry on Isa. xlix. 7. are very strong, “He was a servant of rulers, he was trampled upon, abused, scourged, and crucified as a slave, Pilate boasted of his power over him, John xix. 10. This he submitted to for our salvation.” Now, this is no doubt the standard example, by which you will explain all the examples of the saints in scripture. “This is the supreme authority and unblemished practice of CHRIST,” commanding, and exemplifying obedience to magistrates. Pilate boasted of his power over him, so did Pharaoh over the sons of Jacob, so did Nebuchadnezzar over the Israelites in Babylon, so did the Cæsars over the Jewish nation, so did Nero over Paul and the Christians at Rome, so did Charles II boast of his power over the Martyrs in Scotland. And agreeable to the example of CHRIST’S obedience to magistrates, we are told by the Apostle, that others were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection. And others had trials of cruel mockings, and scourgings; yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword, they wandered about in sheeps-skins, and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented: of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and in caves of the earth, &c. Heb. xi. 34-38. Now, as you restrict the imitable example of the saints subjection only to lawful authority, and lawful commands, so the power, of which Pilate boasted over CHRIST, was a lawful power; CHRIST submitted to it and was blameless, and yet it was not an absolute power, grasping at the disposal of the life and property of the subject. And in like manner, the commands to trample upon him, to abuse, scourge, and crucify him as a slave, was a dutiful subjection and obedience, which the Redeemer owed to Pilate as a magistrate? The sentiment of the judicious author of the Hind let Loose, page 293, old edition, is, “That passive subjection can never be owned as a duty to magistrates; but is always to be considered under the notion of a plague, judgment, and curse, and to be complained of as a burden.”
If CHRIST’s passive obedience and nonresistance was due to Pilate as a magistrate, the Jews had reason for saying, if he were not a malefactor we would not have delivered him unto thee, John xviii. 30. and Acts iv. 27. is false, viz. Against thy Holy Child JESUS, Herod, and Pontius Pilate are gathered together: for neither was JESUS holy, as it can never be properly said, that a magistrate comes against a malefactor, when he comes by the righteous authority of the law, to put its righteous sentence in execution. If Pilate had a right as a magistrate, to trample upon, abuse, scourge, and crucify JESUS as a slave, then, there never was any such thing as persecution in the world, all bloody tyrants were in the exercise of their tyranny, discharging their magistratical duty; and all the saints that fell under their beastly cruelty, were yielding a dutiful subjection and obedience unto their lawful commands. And this is the gross absurdity you unaccountably run into, with what you call the approven examples of the saints. By this example of the passive obedience and nonresistance of CHRIST, Christians must neither defend themselves against, nor flee from the hand of their persecutors, even though it were practicable. CHRIST could have prayed to his Father, and, he, would have presently given him more than twelve legions of angels, whereby, he could soon have dispersed Pilate’s band, and all that were combined against him. But he gave his back to the smiter, and his cheek to him that plucketh off the hair, and hid not his face from shame and spitting. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. He taught his disciples both to defend themselves and to flee, when resistance was improper or impracticable. He that hath no sword let him sell his garment and buy one. When they persecute you in one city flee to another. But, in his own practice, he acted otherwise, which, if you urge it as imitable, and obligatory as a precept, every instance of self defence in the saints, or of fleeing from the face of their persecuting enemies stands condemned. And in particular, the remarkable instances of self defence, at Pentland-hills, and Bothwell-bridge, by the late Martyrs, who, instead of resisting, ought, according to the example of CHRIST, to have laid themselves down to be trampled upon, abused, scourged, and hanged or crucified as slaves, by king Charles as supreme, and the judges whom he had sent, and therein given dutiful obedience to their lawful commands. As you rank the passive subjection, or sufferings of the saints in Scripture, in the same category with the passive subjection and sufferings of CHRIST, which he submitted to for our salvation, I hope you will not, according to the now fashionable Socinian creed, say, that they were all saviours by example, allowing CHRIST only the pre-eminence. As you say, Query 8, when the Reformed Brethren rejected the example of saints in Scripture, I think they should have excepted the example of the KING of saints, who was a servant of rulers.
Nothing is more manifest, than, that you here again contradict your own doctrine; namely, “When princes grasp at absolute power, to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects, they ought to be deposed.” If, as you say, CHRIST, by his unblemished practice, legitimated the authority of a prince, who grasped at absolute power, by a dutiful subjection unto him, who, among Christians, dare to oppose such, even though it were practicable for them to do so? and, whereas you say, that it is contrary to the principles of self-preservation, scripture, and common sense, to teach that men should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to throw it off; this also stands condemned by this example of CHRIST’s. I think, Sir, when you obtruded the unnatural doctrine of passive obedience and nonresistance upon the examples of the saints in Scripture, you should have excepted the example of that in CHRIST. Hear the sentiment of him, who, you say, was a very judicious Covenanter, viz. the Author of the Hind let Loose, page 292, old edition, “Again, suffering in opposition to resistance does never fall under any moral law of GOD, except in the absolutely extraordinary case of CHRIST’s passive obedience, which cannot fall under our deliberation or imitation; or, in the case of a positive law, as was given to the Jews to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, which was express and peculiar to them, as shall be cleared,” &c. To suffer unjust oppression, or corporeal punishment can never be a duty due to any man or magistrate. Such passive subjection, in the place of the saints, and the passive obedience and nonresistance of the Redeemer, to which he submitted for our salvation are very proper examples of resignation and patience, under the hand of a holy GOD, when, for the punishment of their sins, or the trial of their faith, he permits many bulls, strong bulls of Bashan to compass about, and beset Christians round, gaping upon them with their mouths, as ravening and roaring lions! as dogs compassing them, and the assembly of the wicked enclosing them, and piercing their hands and feet, Psal. xxii. 12, 13, 16. But to introduce the sufferings of the saints, and of CHRIST, as examples to regulate the dutiful subjection or obedience of Christians towards magistrates, is absurd in the extreme. Having introduced the passive obedience and nonresistance of the Redeemer, and urged it as an example, having the force of a precept, binding the conscience to magistrates, even to such as Cæsar, and Pontius Pilate his deputy, trampling upon, abusing, scourging, and crucifying the holy child of JESUS, with what face will you tell the world, in the third edition of your Pamphlet, with corrections and considerable enlargements? “That it is not not a slavish subjection to the despotic authority of cruel tyrants and usurpers, which is defended in the following pages. It is not an unlimited subjection to the present government, which you design to defend; nothing is said in the following pages, with a design to favour the servile doctrine of passive obedience.” Had you been so happy as to have compared this last, with the two first pages of your book, which taken together excite an idea just as absurd, as a spherical cube or a square circle, you would certainly have paused before you had published. It is not easy to say what, but burning hot zeal in a bad cause, under the influence of more than ordinary inadvertency precipitated you to such absurd extravagances. In every age of the church the Apostle’s words to Timothy are exemplified, Some desire to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.
Query X. “Is magistracy an ordinance of GOD, as the GOD of nature, and common to all men; or, is it an ordinance of CHRIST as MEDIATOR, and peculiar only to Christians? should observe it, however few in number, and wherever they are, though it should be at the peril of their lives: ‘Teaching them,’ said CHRIST to his Apostles, ‘to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’.”
A. I believe, assert, and maintain, Sir; and as far as I know the Reformed Presbytery and their followers do the same, that magistracy is an Ordinance of GOD, as Creator and Moral Governor of the world; or, if you like your own words better, the GOD of nature, which, in a subserviency to his own divine glory, he instituted for the good of mankind in general. We likewise believe, assert, and maintain, that it is comprehended among the all things, which are put under the Redeemer’s feet, 1 Cor. xv. 27. Eph. i. 22. Heb. ii. 8.; and, that the all power, which is given to him in heaven and in earth, Matth. Xxviii. 19. extends to it also, that he may overrule, dispose, and conduct it, in connection with other things and events of the kingdom of Providence, in a subserviency to his own mediatorial glory, and the good of his church; and therefore CHRIST says, By me kings reign, and princes decree justice; by me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth, Prov. viii. 15, 16. There is not a more ungrounded notion about divinity, than to imagine, that the world stands under a twofold dispensation of government, one by the GOD of nature, and the other by the GOD of GRACE; or, the one by the Redeemer, in his essential character as GOD, and the other by him as Mediator. The Word of GOD, and analogy of revealed Truth know no such dispensations and methods of Government. Wherefore GOD also hath highly exalted him; and given him a name, which is above every name, that, at the name of JESUS, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and, that every tongue should confess, that JESUS CHRIST is LORD, to the glory of GOD the FATHER, Phil. ii. 9, 10, 11. Thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands. Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet: for, in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him, Heb. ii. 7, 8. This all-comprehending power, and absolute right of dominion over all things in heaven, earth, and hell, is delegated unto CHRIST; and in no other character could it be delegated to him, than as Mediator; neither could he exercise delegated power, in another character than as Mediator: Nor, is there the remotest hint in Scripture, of any other power or dominion exercised, in the kingdoms either of Providence or of Grace, but that which is delegated to CHRIST: For the FATHER judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the SON; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the SON of MAN, John v. 22, 27. He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, &c. Acts xvii. 31. It is equally congruous with the mediatorial character of CHRIST, to rule the world while it standeth, as to judge it, when an end shall be put to its existence in its present state. Nor can any reason be assigned, why CHRIST should rule the world in one character, and judge it in another, as the Scripture mentions none. There is not a word spoken, nor the smallest matter transacted in the kingdoms either of Grace or Providence, since these remarkable words in the garden, on the back of the fall, Adam, where art thou? unto that final and decisive sentence, which shall be announced from the throne and judgment-seat, on the last and great day, Come, ye Blessed; and, Depart, ye Cursed; but what is spoken and accomplished by the MEDIATOR, in virtue of that absolute power, which is delegated to him. One, discoursing of the sovereignty of GOD, I mean the learned and very judicious Mr. Charnock, hath these remarkable and very significant words; “Yea, HE, GOD, hath gone higher by virtue of his sovereignty, and changed the whole scene and methods of his Government after the fall, from KING CREATOR, to KING REDEEMER.”
Neither the Reformed Presbytery, Sir, nor yet their followers, so far as I know, ever said, that magistracy is as much a gospel ordinance as preaching of the Word, baptism, and the LORD’s supper, &c. are; nor that it is anyway a Gospel ordinance. No such thing is implied in anything they have either published or taught on that subject, nor in what is said above. The man, who will venture to make such an inference, must thereby expose either his own ignorance or dishonesty.
Christians, however few in number, and wherever they are, even though it should be at the peril of their lives, should observe the divine law, and make it the rule of their conduct in every piece of deportment, whether they be blessed with a lawful, organized, civil government or not. But cases and places are not only supposable, but really have been, and may be, in which Christians neither could nor ought, to observe the ordinances of preaching of the Word, baptism, and the Lord’s supper, and at the same time not be chargeable with any contempt of CHRIST’s injunction to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded them.
Meantime, while it is acknowledged, that magistracy is an ordinance as above said, it is refused in the strongest terms, that the absolute power of despotic, and froward princes, for which you so strenuously plead, is any ordinance at all, either of the GOD of nature, or of Grace; either of GOD as Creator, or of CHRIST as Mediator; or that it is either common or peculiar either to men or Christians. On the contrary, it is the engine of satan to torment men, and to ruin the church of GOD.
Query XI. “Did not the most part of the kings of Israel and of Judah want the good qualifications, which you make absolutely necessary to the office of the magistrate? Did GOD ever command the people to disown their authority, because they wanted such and such good qualifications?”
A. If you could say, and prove it to be true, that GOD hath chosen the family of Hanover for instance, or any other family on earth, and hath entered into a covenant of royalty with them, as he did with the house of David, that a man shall not fail them to sit upon the throne, nor the sceptre depart from their house, until both terminate in the MESSIAH; your reasoning from the one to the other might be just, but until this be the ease there is no conclusion, as the cases are by no means equal. But though this might abundantly suffice for an answer to your query, I shall add farther.
The Reformed Presbytery, Sir, make no other qualification necessary to the office of the magistrate, than what Scripture, reason, and the common sense of mankind make so; viz. That they should be able men, such as fear GOD, men of truth, hating covetousness. And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people, Exod. xviii. 21, 25. Take ye wise men and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you, Deut. i. 13. The GOD of Israel said, the ROCK of Israel spake to me, he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of GOD. 2 Sam. xxiii. 3. Along with such qualifications of the persons be chosen to bear the magistratical office, it is rational and necessary, that there be conditions of government, upon which they are invested with the power, and the people submit to be ruled by them, and equitable laws or rules of government of the regulation of the whole; and that these be made, and adhered unto, as a fixed and standing constitution of the state. Without such personal and constitutional qualifications, there may be usurpation, force, tyranny, and oppression; but it is impossible that there can be authority, liberty and property, safety, peace and happiness. Such constitutional qualifications the Israelitish kings all to a man possessed, and these were unalterably fixed unto them by GOD, who himself founded their state. If the most part of the kings of Israel and Judah wanted such personal qualifications, or revoked and rescinded their conditions and rules of government, or violently departed from them in their administration, then their power was what you call, page 1st and 2d, the despotic authority of cruel tyrants and usurpers. They grasped at an absolute power to dispose of the lives and properties of their subjects, and became habitually cruel and tyrannical. Subjection to such authority you say, “You do not defend, and do not design to favour the servile doctrine of passive obedience.” And moreover you say, “that the people who set such grasping usurpers upon their thrones, ought to depose them, and put men in their place who fear GOD and hate covetousness. That it is contrary to the principles of self-preservation, scripture and common sense, to teach that men should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to cast it off.” And yet you say, did ever GOD command the people to disown their authority, because they wanted such and such good qualifications? This interrogative, you, no doubt, mean to be a strong affirmative, and is as much as to say in the strongest terms, that GOD never bade the people of Israel, nor any other people, disown the authority of princes or magistrates, because they want good qualifications. By what authority then do you teach, that the people ought to depose princes, who want such and such good qualifications, and put others in their place, who have such and such good qualifications? If a people may depose princes because they want good qualifications, they may simply disown their authority. And, if a majority may disown unqualified authority, a minority or even an individual is equally free. Why do you teach contrary to GOD, and ascribe a right and power to the people, which GOD forbids? Again when you say, that it is contrary to the principles of self-preservation, scripture, and common sense, to teach that men should bear the yoke of oppression, when they have power to cast it off, it necessarily implies, that Scripture, in connection with the principles of self-preservation, &c. teaches men to throw off the yoke of oppression by all lawful means. To be under unqualified, and froward princes, who grasp at absolute power, &c. is to be under the yoke of oppression; and this, you say, the Scriptures teaches to throw off. If the Scriptures teaches to throw off a power, which is an oppressive yoke, then it teaches to disown the authority of such a power, and yet you say, that GOD never badea people disown such authority. Does the Scripture bid, and GOD forbid, the same thing at the same time? or does the Scripture teach in express contradiction to GOD? I leave you and the reader to judge of such self-contradictory and vain jangling.
You profess to be a successor of that people, whom you honourably and justly design, “The late noble Army of Martyrs in Scotland,” and to be engaged in the same cause of civil and religious liberty and property with them, in opposition to usurpation, tyranny, and oppression; and yet, I think, there is an obvious, substantial difference, between their reasoning and yours on that subject. They laboured under many great discouragements, in the profession and management of the cause, by the abuse of the generation in which they lived. They were industriously misrepresented, and reviled, as “Ignorant, imprudent, transported with blind zeal, extravagant, wild Separatists, espousing new and nice notions, rejecters of the ministry, imposers on the ministry, deniers of all government, usurpers of an imaginary government of their own, that died as fools, and as guilty of their own blood.” And this, says the Author of the Hind let Loose, in his Preface to that work, was their treatment, not only by open enemies, but by friends, “who not only were Protestants, but Presbyterians, under the bonds of the same solemn and sacred covenants, the obligation whereof they still owned, and not only so, but such, whose piety and Godliness cannot be doubted.” An abuse very similar to what the Reformed Presbytery and their followers have, for the same cause, sustained from Presbyterians of a similar description. That body of Presbyterians were natively stimulated to vindicate themselves from that abusive treatment, which the disowning of the usurped authority and absolute power and tyranny of the two froward princes Charles II and the Duke of York had drawn upon them. This was done, at different times, by individuals among them; but was more formally stated, illustrated, and enlarged upon, in that aforementioned work, under the title of a Hind let Loose. The Author takes up the cause, under various articles then stated, not only as heads of Testimony, but as heads of suffering. The second of these is, “The sufferings of many for refusing to own the tyrant’s authority vindicated.” This disowning, &c. he vindicates, 1st. by arguments taken from historical instances, from page 317 to 328, old edition, by which he proves that their practice was not without a precedent. 2dly, By arguments taken from the dictates of reason, from page 328 to 412. And, 3dly, He confirms his vindication by Scripture arguments, which he ranks in the following order: 1st. Scripture inferences, nearly and natively consequential. 2d. From Scripture assertions. 3d. From Scripture precepts. 4th. From Scripture practices. 5th. From Scripture promises. 6th. From Scripture threatenings. 7th. From Scripture prayers.—From these topics of argumentation he largely illustrates, and vindicates the liberty of mankind in general, and Christians in particular, from any obligation in conscience to own usurped authority, and absolute power, as the ordinance of GOD; and justifies their suffering for refusing to own it, from page 413 to 468. He is particularly large in arguments, from Scripture practices approven.
Now you may be sensible, that this plan of reasoning by that sensible covenanter, who represented the late noble Army of Martyrs, and advocated their cause, is materially different from, and entirely opposite unto the method you go upon, in the management of that subject. You find no usurped authority, nor absolute power, in the whole sacred History of the Old and New Testaments, either among the reigning powers of the Heathen nations, nor yet in Israel and Judah. They were all the powers that be, lawful authority, the ordinance of GOD. And therefore, you find no arguments from Scripture, for disowning any such power; not a single precept, nor a single instance of practice among the saints, prophets, or people of GOD, to that purpose. On the contrary, you turn the edge of Scripture argument to the very reverse side. You make every precept to bind the consciences of men to acknowledge every power: the practice of all the saints, not a single instance excepted, you explain to the same effect: and in like manner all the prayers. It’s true indeed, you tell us, that grasped or usurped authority ought to be deposed; and the Associate Presbytery tell us, that tyrants and usurpers have on authority, and that such authority is not to be owned, but at the same time, neither you nor they find any such thing as either deposing or disowning of these. Here, Sir, it is certainly obvious, that your principles, and those of the Martyrs, and these who plead their cause are a real contrast. If you and the Associate Presbytery are right, they must have been in a most egregious mistake, and stand condemned for the most absurd, injurious perversion and abuse of Scripture, contrary to the real state of the facts recorded therein, and to the true spirit, scope, design, and tendency of Scripture precept, and the practice and prayers of the saints, unto a purpose which was a mere non-entity, having no existence but in their over-heated imagination. They stand condemned also, for prostituting and perverting Scripture precept and example, to the purpose of vindicating themselves, in disowning and rejecting the authority of the powers then being, for which they had neither precept nor precedent in the volume of GOD’s book: Nay, contrary to the express divine prohibition: for by your query, “Did ever GOD bid them disown the authority of Charles II and James VII because they wanted such and such good qualifications?” That is, GOD never bade them do it, neither by his Word nor Spirit; nay more, the necessary import of your query s, he expressly forbade them. You take occasion, page 1, to say, “Whoever therefore are the successors of the noble Army of Martyrs in Scotland, it is certain that they who disown the present civil government cannot be such.” I shall say, Whoever are their successors, they who point blank contradict their principles, and tear up the foundation upon which they built their cause, can never be such.
The Reformed Presbytery and their followers need not be surprised nor take it amiss, when they are industriously misrepresented, and held up to the generation, as schismatics, seditious rebels holding principles inconsistent with government, and the peace of human society, denying all government, &c. by you, your brethren and followers, who are a body of Presbyterians, of the same description with them, who, in like manner, abused the Martyrs in their day. But it is pitifully weak and inadvertent, that, for the sake of supporting a false and slanderous misrepresentation of them, the Associate Presbytery and you should have been precipitated into a course of such absurd reasoning. Were it true, that the Reformed Presbytery and their followers denied all government, would it be a conclusive argument, or tend to convince them of their error, to insist that every kind of authority and power, that had been in the world through the revolting periods of time, recorded in the History of the Old and New Testaments, was the ordinance of GOD for the good of mankind, when yet the facts recorded concerning them shew, that by far the great part have been a plague and a curse to mankind in general, and the ruin of the church of GOD in particular? or that civil government is so absolutely without all bounds, limitations, or restrictions, as that every self-exalting power, or arbitrary dominator, that comes to pass in the precarious course of Providence, is that divine ordinance. Such a representation of government must rather natively tend to confirm them in the belief, that there is no such ordinance, and to consider that which you call government, to be the engine of the devil to disturb the earth, oppress men, and raze the foundations of Zion. Or do you really think, Sir, that the owning of the present civil government is honourably and conclusively vindicated, by an argument, which would equally vindicate an owning of the worst government that ever was on the face of the earth, or of itself, though the governors were as diabolically wicked, as it is possible for absolute tyrants to be? viz. The precepts of GOD’s Word and the example of GOD’s saints, bind the consciences of Christians to own, and be subject to the powers that be, wherever Providence orders their lot, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward. It is truly entertaining to observe you saying, page 1, with an air of much self-importance, “Is there no difference between the iron rod of an oppressing and murdering tyrant, and the gentle sceptre of a gracious prince? Yes, Sir, there surely is a vast, essential and specific difference; but you make none, as murdering Antiochus Epiphanius, Nebuchadnezzar, and that murdering monster of beastly cruelty Nero, &c. with their iron rods of tyranny and oppression were, with you, equally the ordinance of GOD, and by the precept of GOD’s Word, and the example of the saints equally to be owned and submitted to, as the gracious British prince and his gentle sceptre. Had you plead, that the Scripture arguments, by which the Martyrs, and they, who defended their cause vindicated their disowning and rejecting the authority of Charles II, &c. would not apply to the present government, this would have been consistent with some judicious sense and wisdom. But to lay the scheme of your reasoning from Scripture, and to manage your arguments so, as entirely annihilates the very cause of their contending, and makes their Scripture arguments a profane and absurd abuse of GOD’s holy Word, and a condemnation of themselves as deluded bigots, not only wantonly casting away their lives, but erroneously resisting the ordinance of GOD, not only without, but contrary to, all Scripture precept and precedent, turning the sense of Scripture precept and example so, as could not be applied to their purpose then, nor in any other time nor instance whatsoever, is absurd to the last degree. If the wicked banditti of malefactor wretches, that disturb the earth, and are the pests of society, could shift their guilty heads below crowns, and obtain the ostensive titles of kings, princes, or emperors, upon your principles they would that moment be safe, and above the reach of all laws human divine. There are laws and restrictions for all sorts of men, but those who wear crowns and bear sceptres; they pass Scot-free. “Did ever GOD bid a people disown them, because they wanted such and such good qualifications?”
Finally, Sir, this query of yours is manifestly stated upon the old, servile, and slavish principles, which run as veins through the whole body of your politics, and are the rotten stamina of that old, ghastly and forbidding fabric of absolute power, passive obedience and nonresistance, which is tumbling down, and its memory will perish and rot, and like that old engine of despotic cruelty, the Bastille in France, will have its foundation razed, and monument to liberty erected upon its repairless ruins.
Query XII. “Why do you endeavour to support your political principles so much by acts of Parliament, and so little by the Word of GOD? ‘To the Law and the Testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them,’ Isai. viii. 20.”
Answ. The reasons, Sir, why the Reformed Presbytery endeavour to support their political principles so much by acts of Parliament are as follow. First, Acts of Parliament, providing for, and securing the civil and religious privileges of the subjects, framed and established into a law, are the rule of magistratical power and administration among that people, and the peoples charter securing to them the free and undisturbed enjoyment of their privileges, and are a boundary unto the aspiring and tyrannical lusts of men; saying unto these, Hitherto shall ye come, and no farther shall ye go, here shall your proud waves be stayed. Scripture, reason, and common sense, dictate the necessity and propriety of such stipulations, limitations and restrictions, settling the conditions of government between rulers and ruled. Our Reformers therefore wisely, and justly had recourse unto, and endeavoured to support their political principles, and their civil and religious rights and privileges by, such acts of Parliament. The Reformed Presbytery, in like manner, go upon the same rational, political, Christian, and manly principles.
Secondly, Agreeably to the above, as it was the scope of the assiduous and unwearied contendings of our honoured ancestors, to obtain the invaluable privilege of civil and religious liberty: so every inch of new ground they made in their progress, they wisely secured with the boundaries and barriers of acts of Parliament, lest they should lose what they had wrought for. Upon this very principle, when they framed the national covenant, they introduced that long detail of parliamentary acts, specifying and confirming the different parts and pieces of reformation they had obtained, and which in that covenant they engaged to maintain and defend; so that, while the acts of Parliament, and the covenants became reciprocal securities to one another, they became one joint security for the civil and religious rights and liberties of the nation; in the struggling and contending for, and bringing about of which, they acted upon the most generous, noble, and patriotic principles, and counted it their highest honour, and the most glorious acquisition they could possibly make, to rear up a fabric of civil and religious liberty, not only for themselves and the generation then being, but for their posterity to all succeeding generations; and left it unto them as an inheritance fully secured and confirmed by the most inviolable civil rights, that human wisdom could devise, or laws comprehend, and which could not be broken in upon by enemies, nor given up by posterity, but upon principles destructive of all laws and deeds, human and divine. This inheritance, purchased at the expense of so much blood and treasure, our worthy Covenanters, and noble Army of Martyrs so much esteemed, that rather than give it up, or suffer it to be broken in upon, in the late times of persecution, they loved not their lives unto the death, and took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, which was another seal appended to these sacred rights. The Reformed Presbytery therefore, desiring to be sensible of the invaluableness of such a blessing in itself, and of the very high price paid down for it, both in the acquisition of it, and in the maintaining and defending of it, after it was acquired; and desiring to be found behaving and acting, as it was certainly intended and expected by these renowned Patriots, that their posterity would do, in holding fast the freedom which they had wrought for them; and wishing to be found followers of them, who, thro’ faith and patience, inherit the promises; count it no disgrace, but esteem it their duty honour, and interest, to process the same political principles, and rest them upon the same acts of Parliament with their much honoured and renowned ancestors.
Thirdly, Another reason, Sir, why the Reformed Presbytery endeavour to support their political principles so much by acts of Parliament is, that, as they believe that the Word of GOD is both the Rule and boundary of all civil and religious liberty, and that to walk in a conformity to it in all things is perfect liberty, so, wherever it is known and received, it secures a liberty from every other restraint. And that to endeavour to shake off every other restraint is to act agreeably to the Word of GOD. They likewise believe, that our Reformers had their eye upon the Word of GOD, both as the object, for which they contended, and the rule, by which they conducted their contendings, and so much is explicitly declared by them in every instance. They believe, in like manner, that the mode of securing civil and religious liberty among, and to a people, by framing acts of Parliament, or similar public deeds, and establishing them into a law, is consistent with, and warranted by, the Word of GOD; and finally, they believe, that, as our renowned Reformers went to the Law and to the Testimony, for the rule of their conduct, so their acts of Parliament, providing for, and securing civil and religious liberty, in time of the Reformation, both to themselves and their posterity, speak according to this Word; and that, therefore, there is light, and truth, and righteousness in them. And, therefore, when they endeavour to support their political principles by these acts of Parliament, they do not consider themselves as departing from the Word of GOD. As in like manner, when they endeavour to support their religious principles and doctrines by acts of Assembly, the Confession of Faith, Catechism, &c. they do not think they are departing from the Word of GOD, the Law and the Testimony, by referring unto and pleading the authority of, these subordinate standards. So, when they refer unto, and plead the authority of, the acts of Parliament, in the time of the reformation, which were the subordinate standards of the political principles of the nation then, as much as the acts of Assembly, Confession of Faith, Catechism, &c. were the subordinate standards of the religious principles of the nation. I say, when they endeavour to support their political principles by the acts of Parliament, they neither think, nor will readily believe, that they are departing from the Word of GOD, the Law and the Testimony; at least, until something more be brought for their conviction, than you have yet advanced. These, sir, are some of the reasons, why the Reformed Presbytery endeavour to support their political principles so much by acts of Parliament.
With regard unto the second part of your query in these words, “And so little by the Word of GOD.” The Reformed Presbytery, Sir, are fully persuaded, and believe, that they support their political principles wholly by the Word of GOD, even when they call in the aid and authority of acts of Parliament, for reasons mentioned above. Upon Scripture authority they testify, that the ordinance of civil government, or magistracy, is a divine institution, that the nature, use, and ends thereof are taught in are taught in the Word of GOD; as also, the qualifications of rulers, and rules of administration. And farther, they have insisted, that it is only a government thus qualified and regulated, that is to be esteemed lawful, or can claim subjection for conscience-sake, in a nation where the Word of GOD is received, and acknowledged by public authority. For this they have been severely faulted and censured by Seceders: you know how you ridicule and lampoon the Reformed Presbytery on this head, page 42 of your Pamphlet. When it may serve to maintain a controversy with us, you censure us for supporting our political principles too much by the Word of GOD; at another time, for the same purpose, you censure us for supporting them too little by it. You must cavil with the Reformed Presbytery at any rate.
Moreover, Sir, this query of yours natively, necessarily and obviously imports the three following things. First, That you totally relinquish the whole of the civil part of our Reformation; and, although you claim, by an exclusive title, the honour of being genuine successors of our Reformers and Martyrs, you give up with the inheritance they left you, purchased at the expense of much blood and treasure, as of no consequence, and not worth contending for. And likewise, you hereby censure and condemn them, for endeavouring to secure their civil and religious liberty, by acts of Parliament, or such public deeds; as also, for endeavouring to support their political principles, by calling in, and referring unto, the authority and obligation of such acts, upon the various occasions when they were in danger of being imposed upon; and especially, for stating their civil liberty secured by these acts of Parliament, as a head of suffering, and laying down their lives upon it: For it is undeniably evident, from almost all their Testimonies, and the defenders of the cause, for which they suffered, that, besides the Prerogatives of CHRIST, and the immunities of the church, they included the liberties of mankind. Secondly, You not only censure and condemn our Reformers for acting a needless part in these acts of Parliament, but for going above or beside what the Word of GOD requires or warrants, as you manifestly state an opposition between that, and these parliamentary securities in this case; and suppose, that the liberty, as secured by these acts of Parliament, and these parliamentary acts, as securing it should be given up in a way of betaking ourselves to the Word of GOD, the Law and the Testimony, as teaching and requiring of us some other and different thing. And thus, according to you, our civil Reformation is antiscriptural, as our Reformers went not to the Word of GOD, the Law and the Testimony; they spake not according to this Word; there is no light in them. Thirdly, Sir, this query imports, that you have no political principles at all. Politics and political principles import liberty, order, safety, peace and happiness, and security for the enjoyment of all these. But the civil Reformation as including and securing all these you have given up, as something other and different, than the Word of GOD allows and secures unto mankind. And therefore was King George the Third, with consent of Parliament, to revoke and rescind the whole civil deed of constitution as it presently stands, with all public deeds or acts of Parliament whereby it is secured, and become as absolute above all law, as king Charles II was; and suppose a minority in the nations, remonstrating against the unhappy tyrannical course, and pleading for their old constitution, and endeavouring to support their political principles by the former acts of Parliament securing it; your principles would immediately determine the matter, by applying your query, Why do you endeavour to support your political principles so much by acts of Parliament? To the Law and to the Testimony, &c. thereby plainly suggesting, that the Word of GOD, the Law and the Testimony determines the claim of every present government, or the powers that be, to the conscientious subjection of the people, as unto the ordinance of GOD; whether they have an security for their civil and religious privileges or not; and however arbitrary and tyrannical their administration may be. That this is undeniably the case is evident from your use or rather abuse of the Word of GOD, &c. expressed in these words, page 18, of your Pamphlet, “That the church of CHRIST, in all ages and places of the world, wherever GOD appointed the bounds of her habitation, was subject to the higher powers; and not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward, is a truth so plainly revealed in the volume of GOD’s book, that he who runs may read it.” Here there is no exception of the worst constitution, character, or administration. Now, as men will be very easily brought to acknowledge, and subject themselves to, the good and gentle higher powers, who secure and maintain their liberties, there is the less need of the Word of GOD to reveal this unto, and enjoin it upon them. But as mankind have a natural aversion at oppression, and are disposed to resist and reject unjust dominion and tyranny, they have the greater need of the Law and the Testimony to direct them in, and enjoin the duty of subjection unto such upon them. And thus, Sir, upon your principles, the chief and only use of the Word of GOD, the Law and the Testimony, on the head of civil government, and the duty of subjects, is, to give a divine sanction to absolute, arbitrary, and despotic dominion and tyranny; and to wreathe the yoke of passive obedience and nonresistance upon the necks of mankind. Such is the native and necessary import of your query. And hence, instead of your principles being political, they are anarchical and truly antigovernment principles. How becoming they are to be professed by a genuine Son of our Reformers and Martyrs, let all that are able judge.
C O N C L U S I O N.
Thus, Sir, I have taken upon me to animadvert on the queries which you though proper to state, and recommend to the serious consideration of the Reformed Presbytery and their followers. How far I have been duly serious in considering them is not my province to say. I shall only say, that I have considered the subject as a matter of very great importance, both in regard of the divine honour of GOD, and the duty and happiness of mankind, necessarily connected therewith. In the answers made, I have no controverted for controversy’s sake, but have offered what, upon the most mature deliberation, appears to me to be the plain dictates of truth, Scripture, religion, reason, common sense and consistency; in opposition to that in yours, which, to anyone, who will judiciously attend unto substance, rather than shadow, sense rather than sound, and sentiment rather than sentences, will appear to be mistake, error, inadvertency, prejudice, and self-consistence.
To use your own words, page 2, I defy any man to prove, either by express Scripture, or by fair and necessary consequences deduced from it, That froward princes, having no scriptural qualifications at all, and under no acts of Parliament, containing conditions of government, limiting and restricting the power, and securing the right and liberties of the subjects, are magistrates at all; or that such dominion is of GOD, or from GOD, in any other sense, than his four sore judgments, the sword, famine, the pestilence, and the evil beasts; or that men or Christians can be under any obligation of subjection to them, but as the weaker are by force subjected unto the stronger; or, as a wicked and sinning people are subjected to such a judgment of GOD for the punishment of their sin; although you are pleased to say, page 47, 48. “When it is the will of the all-wise GOD, to appoint the lot of his people in the territories of princes, who have very few scriptural qualifications, or none at all, let them be subject to their rulers in all things lawful, and not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward,” and despise acts of Parliament, as in the query and various other instances, thereby exalting unlimited, arbitrary dominion and tyranny, unto the place of GOD’s ordinance of civil government, and subjecting mankind to slavery.
The foregoing replies to your queries have, indeed, extended in length, much above my design or expectation. But the following things account for this prolixity; 1st. Principles assumed and arbitrarily laid down, and supported by positive assertions or inconclusive arguments, can rarely be detected and disproved in the same compass. 2d. I find an aversion at returning the assertion for assertion without argument. 3d. A defect of a happy capacity and turn, which some are blessed with, of expressing their thoughts with perspicuity in narrow bounds. 4th. The complicated mass of principles, arbitrary assertions and inconclusive reasoning, kneaded together in your Pamphlet, when meddled with, dilate and expand so exceedingly in the handling, that it is difficult to get free of them.—There remain therefore, various articles, which did not fall so natively in, under the queries, and upon which I wish much to offer you my thoughts, such as your violent and harsh attack upon the Reformed Presbytery and their followers, concerning paying tribute to government; your assertion, that our Covenants oblige us to acknowledge even an Infidel as king; your sense of the controverted article of the twenty-third chapter of the Confession of Faith, &c. &c.; but the limits of this Epistle, and my time at present, will not permit me to enter upon them now. But, if at all consistent with spare time from my weekly work, and other occasions; and if no unforeseen providence fall in to prevent it, I wish to accomplish some animadversions on them in a few months. Should anything already said in the foregoing replies, or that may be said, seem worthy of your notice, and need a public refutation, it will not be improper to have the whole in one view before you. I am sensible, that, according to your method of managing the controversy, it will be very easy to make a reply to anything that can be said. It will not be necessary to make a re-exhibition even of your Scripture Loyalist; a very few pages, containing a recitation of the following texts will be sufficient; viz. Render therefore to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, &c. Let every soul be subject to the higher powers, &c. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the LORD’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, &c. “Now, GOD expressly commanded Israel to be subject to this wicked monster. Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live. He, who for their sins, gave Israel to Nebuchadnezzar the robber, gave the same rebellious people to Cæsar the robber, and why should not the people of GOD be subject to robbers in all things lawful at GOD’s bidding? I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority, &c. Pray for the peace of the city, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you, &c. Nehemiah said to king Artaxerxes, Let the king live for ever, and Daniel to king Darius, O king live for ever. To these may be added the following examples: “Pious Joseph was a subject: yea, prime minister to Pharaoh, and yet was blameless. Jacob, the beloved of the Lord, went down to Egypt with all his seed, well knowing that he and they were to be subjects of Heathen rulers, and yet he was blameless. After the reign of the Judges, Israel had kings of their own nation and religion, and they were subject to the lawful authority of the very worst of them. It is well known what reputation Daniel and his fellows were in at the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Nehemiah was royal cup-bearer in the Persian court. Mordecai the Jew, prime minister to Ahasuerus. That adorable person, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice, manifested himself to be a servant of rulers, by paying tribute to Cæsar a Heathen prince. Pilate boasted of his power over him,” &c. &c. These, with a very few assertions to accommodate them to the occasion and circumstances, may, perhaps, be considered by you and your followers, as an answer sufficient to whatever can be said. Your argument from the Scripture precepts however, as you state and apply them, proves that tyrants and usurpers are lawful magistrates, and therefore proves too much and consequently proves nothing at all. The Scripture examples prove, that the saints, in case of necessity, or as a punishment for sin, may be subject to tyrants and usurpers in all things lawful and yet be blameless: this, as far as I know, was never disputed. But, your argument from them, as you state and apply it, proves that men, especially the saints, must be subject to the yoke of oppression, whether they have power to throw it off or not; which you say, is contrary to the principles of self-preservation, Scripture, and common sense. This also proves too much, and therefore proves nothing; these all go for nought in the present business. These, if you should repeat them a thousand times over, are, according to your statement, a mere nought in the debate and merit no attention.
Perhaps it may answer the convenience, and suit the ironical and fanciful genius, of some anonymous reviewer, to take occasion to write and publish a satirical farce, and by false interpretation, and misrepresentation, and using a little freedom with truth, even in matters of fact, replenish his piece with comical and extravagant passages, and hold me and the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, up to the world, as a body or combination of infatuated misled men, in the highest confusion and disorder, knowing neither what we say nor do, and warn the generation to aware of us, especially when coming near our habitations, for fear of bodily harm by fire-arms. In this case I shall count it joy to suffer shame and injury for the cause of truth, and pray for grace to support, under persecution from the hand of professed Presbyterian Covenanters.
I am by no means so sanguine, as to imagine that nothing can be said in return. That I may be corrected in words improperly chosen, sentences improperly arranged, arguments improperly managed, and thoughts improperly expressed, will readily be granted; and the cause of truth hath often been a loser by such imperfections in its advocates. Occasion may likewise be taken to rank and contrast these, and dress them up in some hideous form, and then combat the man of straw with great pomp; and when he is overthrown, shout for victory while the cause of debate stands firm and untouched.
FROM THE WHOLE it is manifest, that your Scripture Loyalist contradicts himself in his first principles, and is a despotic Royalist;—that his argument from Scripture, and the example of the saints, as he states and applies it, equally legitimates all sorts of dominion, and makes the meek and gentle magistrate, and the proud and froward tyrant to have equal right to the peoples subjection;—condemns the Martyrs for rejecting the usurped, absolute authority of Charles II and James VII in the late times of persecution and tyranny;—expressly, but unjustly, rejects the necessary distinction between preceptive and providential rulers;—scorns acts of Parliament, restricting the power of kings, and securing the rights of the subjects, and thereby supersedes and destroys all civil constitutions. And therefore it is a palpable insult on civil government and the rights of mankind in general. If you dislike this charge, or think the reasoning inconclusive, upon which it is grounded, and wish to vindicate yourself, take the substance of the argument, and abide by the matter in debate, and give me no worse usage than I have given you, and I have no objections to see it out with you. And failing me, I hope some abler pen will take up the subject. It is to be hoped that GOD himself is on his way, in the course of his adorable providence, to deliver mankind form the delusive dotage of such slavish principles.
I conclude, by expressing my real and heart-felt grief at the evidence of the divine displeasure, that hath long appeared in the jarring contentions, among the professed friends of the Covenanted Reformation, whereby their hearts are discouraged, and their hands are weakened in the common cause. This is the more to be regretted, in the present day of peculiar opposition to the cause of truth, by a complicated combination of heretical adversaries. Could they, who have found themselves obliged to step out, and state themselves on the side of the Reformation and Gospel purity, be so happy as to understand one another, in the statement and managing of their Testimony, it might have a happy tendency to encourage their hearts and strengthen their hands, in supporting and displaying the banner of truth against the common enemy. That the time of the accomplishing of that promise to the church may be hastened, Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion, Isai. lii. 8. is the prayer of
REVEREND DEAR SIR,
T H E E N D.
 From the virulence that appears in such spiteful insinuations, made at the expense of truth, even in matters of fact; and others, of a similar nature, very illiberally thrown out in their other writings, and even in your own book, the Reformed Presbytery and their followers, may learn what they have to expect from professed Presbyterian Covenanters, were the government to believe their representation of them, and proceed accordingly.
But were the government to judge it worth their notice, I, for my part, should have no manner of objection, to submit the whole Controversy about government, between the Secession and the Reformed Presbytery, unto his present British Majesty, or the Minister of State; nor should I entertain a doubt of obtaining their approbation, in favors of the political principles and arguments of the latter, in preference to those of the former.
By a deliberate review of the whole, they could easily see, that however weak and whimsical, or even fanatical, in the Reformed Presbytery and their followers, they might judge it, to stickle about the peculiarities of the Civil and Religious Constitutions of the last Century in preference to those of the Revolution; yet, as they found their political principles strictly, not only upon the Divine Oracles, but also upon known fundamental Acts and Laws formerly established, regulating both the Ruler and the Ruled, there can be no great danger from such a people in any Civil State; and least of all, of their being wantonly carried away with the licentious principles and practices, or the mercenary and selfish views, that ordinarily mark the sentiments and motions of the movers and promoters of sedition.
On the other hand, they could easily see, from the principles and pleadings of the Secession, and especially those, of what you call the Scripture Loyalist, that you reduce government to a mere unlimited, arbitrary, absolutely boundless superiority, or dominion of one part of mankind over another, by passing over all things concerning it, but the command to be subject:—That your Scripture Loyalty is, indeed, no honour to government, since it is what you insist is due to any, or every government, even the very worst that ever was on the face of the earth;—That the Loyalty of the Secession, of which they boast so much on all occasions, is a mere empty found, and sycophantic pretence, as the oath of allegiance, and all other oaths, qualifying persons for any place or office in government, in the taking of which, or in the being clear and free in conscience to take them, a voluntary, free and active subjection to any government, chiefly and only consists, the Associate Presbytery, in their Book of Principles, anent the present Civil Government, judicially and explicitly declare, are, what they cannot swear; and therefore that they cannot serve the present government either in church, state, army, or navy: And what remains, but subjection to what they call lawful Commands; and what is that, but a mere passive Compliance with what they reckon the lawful tyrannical Despots, that ever affirmed power; and that in a full consistency with disowning their authority, and simply dissenting from any deed of Constitution made by them, as was the case in Scotland under Cromwell, and with the Sufferers under the royal brothers. They can see likewise, that you render the Divine Oracles, in as far as they relate to government, absolutely without meaning; by applying the Command to Subjection promiscuously to all kinds of dominion. That which means everything, means nothing at all - The precept which will apply in every case, is a rule in no case. - Your Political Principles leave you at full liberty, to float with every tide, and sail before every wind of popular Commotion, without compass, helm, or anchor. So that a people acting up to them, must be unstable as water, and no more to be depended on than the wind that blows; but this will appear more fully in the following answers.
The Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, judging the Revolution Constitution not only short of, but inconsistent with, the Reformation foregoing, to which the Nations were solemnly bound, have declared their simply dissent from it. They judicially and doctrinally vindicate the Reformation, in preference to the Revolution; upon the principles, and for the reasons, which they have uniformly declared. They shew the generation their obligation and duty to walk in, and their sin and danger of departing from, the good Old Paths of the LORD. And with this they rest content, as being all that is incumbent on, or required of them, in their station and circumstances. And as their principles have no tendency to confusion, but to peace and order; so they have all along led peaceable and orderly lives, endeavouring to maintain a conversation void of offence toward GOD and toward man; and would desire to be found waiting in the exercise of prayer, faith and patience, until the LORD’s time to favour Zion come.
They dare challenge their most virulent and spiteful Adversaries, to produce a single instance, wherein they were found either with multitude or tumult, in a disorderly way, or having any behavior tending thereunto, at any time. - In the late popular Commotions, although there was nothing in them that could be called Seditious, as the people of every Civil State have surely a right to be heard in their own Cause, if they think themselves injured by any part of the Constitution or Administration, and when they seek to be heard upon the footing of the Constitution on which they stand; which, as far as I know, was all the people asked. Yet, because of the too general and promiscuous nature and tendency of their principles and procedure, none of the Reformed Presbytery were found at the head, or making any part of these bodies of people, called Societies of Reform. None of its Members took up their time in drawing up promiscuous articles of Reform. Nobody of their people were found taking any part in these Commotions, nor even an individual with their allowance and approbation. So much would the Government find, were it to turn its attention to that affair; and it would come to know the best, and the worst, both of the principles, and practice, of a reproached, and grossly misrepresented people.
 Scripture Loyalist, page 5, 6.
 Presbyterian Covenanter, &c. page 81.
 The above was written during the time of the popular commotions, respecting a Reform in the month of November 1792.
 Ob virtutes certissimum exitium [ensured destruction because of virtues].
 Ipsam excindere virtutem [they destroyed virtue].
 Virtutibus infestum [dangerous virtues].
 An Explication of the thirteenth Chapter of the Romans, by the late Mr. J. Murray of Newcastle, in his Lectures upon Revelation, vol. ii. p. 281. Foot Note. His words are these: “There is a passage, which has been much improved by those that imagine that believers of the Gospel are, by the Apostle, enjoined to yield a passive obedience, and that is in Romans xiii. 1. which Version reads, Let every soul be subject to the higher Powers, &c. to the beginning of the 7th verse.—With all due respect to our Translators, and other learned men, I will affirm, that this is rather a Paraphrase of the Translators than a translation of the text.—From the very genius of the Greek language, it is manifest that ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις do not signify all sorts of authority, but only such as protect men in the enjoyment of their just rights and privileges; and these words ought to be read literally, protecting authorities, or excellent authorities.—Ἐξουσία, in its first signification, signifies just and lawful power, or authority, and can never be applied to tyrants and oppressors, without abuse: ὑπερέχω signifies to protect, or to be eminent, and is here understood in that sense, as in other Greek authors.—Homer makes use of this word in this sense, when he describes Agamemnon addressing the Greeks, when the Trojans were advancing against them (Iliad iv. ver. 249.) Will ye tarry, says he, till the Trojans advance, to know whether Jupiter will protect you? ὄφρα ἴδητ᾽ αἴ κ᾽ ὔμμιν ὑπέρσχῃ χεῖρα Κρονίων.—This Apostle makes use of this word, Phil. iv. 7. to point out the excellency of the peace of GOD. καὶ ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν; and the peace of GOD, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts.—This same Apostle, in the second chapter of this Epistle, makes use of the same word to signify excellency, or what is more excellent, or better: ἀλλήλους ἡγούμενοι ὑπερέχοντας, let them each esteem others better than themselves. It does not appear from this passage that there is any command to be subject to any Powers, except such as excel and protect their subjects.—But, let us read the whole paragraph, without any paraphrase in the translation, and see how it will prove non-resistance. Let every soul be subordinate to the authorities protecting them; for it is not authority, if not from GOD. But these that are authorities under GOD, are appointed. Therefore, he that resisteth the authority, resisteth the appointment of GOD, and they that resist, shall receive judgment to themselves. For rulers are not a terror of good works, but of evil. Will you not fear authority? do good, and you shall have praise from it; for he is the servant of GOD for good. But if you do evil, fear, for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is the servant of GOD, a revenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. Therefore, it is necessary to obey, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake. For this cause pay you tribute also, for they are the servants of GOD, waiting continually for this very thing. Render therefore to all their due, tribute to whom tribute, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour.—Can any words make the subject more plain, that it is the appointment of GOD, and the ruler answering the character here given him, that lays the obligation upon Christians to obey him. If the people, who bring Romans xiii. 1 as a proof of mere passive obedience to all sorts of superiors, will please to read the text carefully, the arguments they use will vanish, whether they will or not. It is plain to a demonstration, that, as the Apostle does not here appoint any particular form of government, so he says nothing of the present rulers, but recommends subjection to governors in general; and that from the consideration of the divine institution of their office, and the advantage thereof to mankind, when right administered.—To resist such governors as answer the end of their office, and the Apostle’s representation is, no doubt, a great crime, and deserves a proportionable punishment, called here κρίμα, both in this life, and that which is to come.—But the resisting of tyranny and tyrants, falls not under the sentence of the Apostle. This text says nothing to the case of tyrants, but really excludes them, as being another sort of creatures from what he describes, and the very reverse of that character which he gives the Ministers of GOD, to whom he requires subjection.—To put this matter beyond dispute, let us suppose Nero here understood, as the advocates of this doctrine must mean, if they mean anything, and try how nicely the text runs when thus applied:
I enjoin that every soul (Christians as well as others) be subject to the higher Powers, for the powers that be are ordained of GOD. Nero (particularly at the head of the Roman empire) is so; and whoever resists him, shall receive damnation: for he is not a terror to good works (murdering and persecuting the good) only to evil.—Do well, and you have nothing to fear from Nero, for he is the Minister of GOD for good, a revenger, to execute wrath upon evildoers; so that it is your duty to be subject to Nero, not only for fear of punishment, but from conscience, and the fear of GOD.—You ought to support him in all his power and dignity (which he so well employs) paying him such tribute as he demands, as is due to him: for he is GOD’S Minister, continually attending on this very thing, carefully and watchfully discharging the duties of his office, protecting all his subjects, restraining the injurious, defending the innocent, in every way promoting the good of the community.—This must be the sense of the Apostle, otherwise the arguments on the other side are void of all meaning, and are nonsense.—Now I leave it to any person of common sense to determine, what a reflection it is upon the Apostle to make him speak in this manner.—What would the Romans think of the Christians, when they heard them propagating so zealously a doctrine, upon the pain of damnation, which they condemned in the senate of Rome, by an act of the same, they condemned Nero as a tyrant, for his murders and barbarities. Could they have said any other thing, than that Paul has espoused the cause of a murderer, whom they had by the Roman laws, condemned, not only as unworthy of rule, but as unworthy to live. I must truly say, that it is contrary, both to the reading and interpretation of the Apostle’s words, to father upon him the doctrine of non-resistance; for, as to passive obedience, it is an absurdity, there can be no such thing existing in the rational world.—It belongs to stocks and stones to obey passively; for no minds can yield obedience but from the heart. When a man is passive, he yields no obedience. But I think it may, with better reason, be concluded, from the Apostle’s words, that neither Christians nor any persons else, are bound to submit to unjust or tyrannical rulers, but, on the contrary, if they do, they are doing all that is in their power to prostitute the ordinance of GOD, and giving the Apostle openly the lie.
They are not at all authorities of GOD, according to the Apostle, if they are a terror to good works, and a praise to evil; for the authorities appointed by GOD are appointed for this end. And the authority that does not answer this end, is not an authority that it is lawful to obey. In such a case, the threatening should be read backwards, namely, he that resisteth not the power shall receive (κρίμα) judgment. If any persons were to read a Greek classic, as these advocates for passive obedience read the New Testament, they would be posted up as enemies to true literature and common sense, by all the literati in the three kingdoms. The Apostles have nowhere affirmed, that Christians, at the pleasure of despots, were to surrender their liberties more than others, who were fellow citizens with them, in the same country. If both the rulers, and the rest of the subjects differ with them, they have no other shift by to remonstrate against their oppression, suffer, or forsake the country.
Here, Sir, is an exposition, than which, for judicious erudition, accurate criticism, rational sentiment and consistency, I suppose you will not pretend to give a better, nor dare to contradict it. And yet you see, it runs directly opposite to yours, and that of the associate Presbytery, and exactly coincides with that of Mr. M’Millan and the Reformed Presbytery.
 Scripture Loyalist, page 42, 43.
 From the Apostle Paul calling Nero a lion, 2 Tim. iv. 17. Mr. M’Millan in his letter justly infers that he was not the person to whom he applies the honourable characters, Rom. xiii. 3, 4; as it was inconsistent to apply to the same person these two contradictory characters, the ministers of GOD for good to men, and a lion to stay the innocent; and that there are no instances in scripture of representing GOD’s moral ordinance of magistracy under the emblem of a voracious lion. Here you cashier him for confounding the ordinance of magistracy and the magistrate saying, “Had the objector considered, the ordinance of magistracy is one thing, and the magistrate another, he would not have exhibited so much sophistical reasoning against the plain dictates of the Holy Ghost.” However far magistracy, and the magistrate may be distinguished, the magistrate is surely the ordinance of GOD, otherwise why should it be written, Thou shalt not revile the GODs. Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Speaking evil of dignities, &c. You tell him page 37 that “there is no inconsistency, in applying to the same person two characters as opposite as light and darkness, as heaven and hell, as CHRIST and Belial. Solomon applies to himself the opposite character of brutishness and wisdom. The spouse of blackness and beauty. Paul of weakness and strength. Peter is described both as a Devil and as a Servant and an Apostle of JESUS CHRIST.” Here the spiritual mystery of grace and corruption in the same person, must be introduced, to illustrate the great political mystery, of a meek and gentle magistrate and minister of GOD for good to men, and a proud and froward tyrant, and lion slaying the innocent, all subsisting in the same person.
“Nero, you say, and other heathen emperors justly merited the character of the lion when they shed the blood of the saints. The character of the ministers of GOD for good to men was due to them, when they punished evil doers, such as the thief, the murderer, &c.” In the same manner Saul, and in the same manner David was on of the best of Kings, a minister of GOD for good to men, but he deserved the character of a lion, when he put the Ammonites under saws, and harrows of iron, &c. The man, therefore, who sees a contradiction, in applying two opposite characters to the same person, either looks through a false medium, or has not his senses exercisedto discern both good and evil.” By this way of reasoning then, a man may be both a liar and a man of veracity, a whoremonger and a chaste person, a villain and an honest man, a murderer, and an innocent and benevolent friend; he is the one, when he is the one, and the other, when he is the other. And when the judge by law condemns, and delivers to the execution, a thief or a murderer, he condemns and delivers unto death an honest man, or an innocent and benevolent friend. And when the martyrs rejected the authority of the absolute tyrant Charles II. they rejected the minister of GOD for good to men, and resisted the ordinance of GOD, administered by a meek and gentle magistrate. According to this reasoning, there can never be a time for a people to do, as you say page 2, they ought to do, viz. depose princes when they grasp at absolute power, and become cruel and tyrannical, for they can only be chargeable with grasping when they do grasp, and with being cruel and tyrannical, when they are cruel and tyrannical: they are meek and gentle, when they are meek and gentle, and froward when they are froward, and they may be both at the same time. The Roman deputy Pilate, was the minister of GOD for good to men, when he crucified the two thieves along with the Redeemer, and at the same time a lion, slaying the innocent Lamb of GOD, JESUS. And thus there is neither a good nor bad character, nor a good nor bad man in the world, for you say, “There is a mixture of good and evil in the actions of all men; and there neither is, nor can be a contradiction, in applying to the same person a disgraceful name when he doth evil, and a good name when he doth good; for such an application is nothing else but a denomination given to man, according to his works.” On another occasion, page 47, you insist that kings are distributed in Scripture into good and bad, here they are neither good nor bad in Scripture, but mixed. They who charged others with making the Scripture a nose of wax like the Papists, ought to take care lest they be chargeable with that abuse themselves.
Now, Sir, however witty and ingenious you may esteem this way of distinguishing in characters to be, I will venture to say, that it is injudicious, unsound, and childish quibbling, good for nothing but to introduce confusion into the moral world, laying a foundation for endless caprice and strife, and opening a floodgate for the most injurious abuse of good characters, and the most unjust defence of bad characters, and destroying all moral order. If, as you say, an absolute usurping tyrant, Nero for instance, with his maladministration and shedding the blood of the Saints, is notwithstanding to be esteemed the minister of GOD for good to men, and submitted to as such, on account of some transient acts of justice, which might at time be done by him; then for the same reason, and with equal justice, thieves, robbers, and murderers ought still to be borne with, and esteemed useful members of society, on account of the many acts of honesty, justice, benevolence and innocency, that may still be done by them. If men in common station, who set themselves above, and will not be governed by law, must be punished and purged out of society, I beg to know by what argument you prove, that men who are called kings and emperors, who set themselves above law, and will not be governed by it, must still be acknowledged, not only as members but even rulers of society, and ministers of GOD for good, unless it be by your old royalist principle, which contradicts common sense by making the king the law, instead of the law being king.
That you have read your Bible with greater attention than some of your neighbours perhaps, I have no reason to doubt, and it is commendable for you to do so, nevertheless I still doubt, that you will find it a difficult thing to prove, that it is common for the Scripture to apply two contradictory characters to the same persons. The instances by which you exemplify this fail exceedingly. Solomon, the spouse, and the characters. Solomon’s character was wisdom: if in any instance or respect, he was brutish in his own sight, or appeared so to others, it was a spot in his character, but not a contradictory character. Comeliness was the character of the spouse: if blackness was no feature it was at most but a spot in her beauty, and not a contradictory character. Paul was strong in the grace, that is in CHRIST JESUS: if he was weak in his own apprehension it was a feared defect, but no different or contradictory character, for when I am weak then am I strong. Peter was a servant and an Apostle of JESUS CHRIST: if in any instance he was an adversary to his Master, and even denied him afterward, these were great spots and blemishes in his character, but no contradictory character is applied to him. A moral character proceeds upon an uniform stedfast course of conduct, and is not good and bad according to every transient, or even overt-act of the person. Peter for his overt-acts of offending, and denying his master was justly reproved, but had neither the name Satan, nor a denier of CHRIST, applied to him as a moral character, and therefore had no contradictory character applied to him. Judas was called a devil, and Judas Iscariot who also betrayed him, i.e. CHRIST, but that was his character, and he has no other contradictory character applied to him. But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, all his transgressions that he hath committed they shall not be mentioned unto him. But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness and committeth iniquity, all his righteousness, that he hath done shall not be mentioned, Ezek. xviii. 21, 22, 24. No contradictory characters here.
Your other examples are equally defective. Ezekiel calls Zedekiah king of Judah a profane and wicked prince; pray where is his other contradictory character. Amos calls the princes of Israel, Kine of Bashan which oppress the poor and crush the needy, Chap. iv. 1. But where is their other contradictory character: CHRIST calls Herod a fox, Luke xiii. 32. because of his lion like abuses upon his fellow men, and his devouring and shedding the blood of the saints: But where is the opposite and contradictory character given to these men in scripture or elsewhere. Characters applied in scripture are either good or bad, but not contradictory. The contradictory characters, which you say Saul and David deserved, are only what you unjustly say they deserved, but not what the scripture applied to them. when the scripture applied good characters to either kings or churches, it often mentions somewhat that is against them, but never applies a contradictory character, and vice versa. The opposite contradictory characters, of good and evil, saints and sinners, righteous and wicked, just and unjust, believers and unbelievers, the children of GOD and the children of Belial, are in scripture always applied to whom they belong respectively, but never promiscuously. Had your way of applying characters been known in scripture, there would have been no occasion for the prohibition, Thou shalt not revile the GODs, nor curse the ruler of thy people, Exod. xxii. 28. The Apostle Paul would have had no occasion to apologize for his calling the high priest a whited wall, for the was nothing else but a denomination given to him according to his works.
Had you duly considered these things, you would have seen the justness of what is said by Mr. M’Millan, and that the charge of exhibiting sophistical reasoning against the plain dictates of the HOLY GHOST stands upon your own score. To use your own words, the man therefore who sees not a contradiction in applying two opposite characters to the same person, either looks through a false medium, or has not his senses exercised to discern both good and evil. And I shall add, such a man too evidently ranks himself among the filthy dreamers, who defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities, Jude 8.
 If, as the Associate Presbytery say, “Pursuits at law, are no part of subjection to the civil magistrate,” then, why so violently charge an inconsistency on the Reformed Presbytery, and their followers, if, in any instance, they are dragged into that disagreeable necessity.
 To depend upon the will of a man is slavery. SYDNEY.
 According to Exod. xxx. 12-16, a poll-tax of half a shekel, was appointed to be levied to everyone of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and above, rich and poor, for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. “This (says Dr. Jenning’s, in his Jewish Antiquities, vol. i. p. 86.) I take to be the tribute which was demanded of CHRIST, Matth. xvii. 24-27; not only because it is called [Greek words], which signifieth two drachms, and so answereth to the Jewish half shekel; but because the reason, which he allegeth why he might have excused himself from paying it, shows, it was a tribute paid, not to the Roman emperor, but to GOD, for the service of his temple; so that CHRIST being the SON of GOD, might have pleaded an exemption.” Treatises relative to the duty of Covenant-renovation, by the Reverend James Morrison, Minister of Associate Congregation of Norham, page 338.
From this we see, that, when it answers the people of the Secession, in their argument against the Reformed Presbytery, they can make the tribute, Matth. xvii. civil tribute, and paid to Cæsar; when it answers themselves in another case, they can make it temple-tribute paid to GOD only.
 I cannot help noticing it as something remarkable, that your Introduction contains something, which you say are carefully to be observed by the Reader, and yet in the whole course of your Pamphlet, you never pay the least attention to them yourself.