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been pleased to confer it. It is his revealed will that there should be rulers armed with power to enforce obedience: his providence hath concurred with his word by establishing and maintaining government throughout the earth : and, though coercive power originated from sin, yet in the present state of human nature its advantages are so many, that the worst form of government, and administered in the worst manner, is preferable to entire anarchy, for the people at large.
II. The scripture does not prescribe any particular forın of government as of divine right and universal obligation. Regal or imperial authority was most common when those precepts were penned that relate to this subject; and therefore that is generally mentioned: yet they may be equally applied to other established forms; nor do they seem absolutely intended to decide that regal authority is in all cases most eligible. Yet, on the other hand, when the Lord by Samuel shewed Israel “ the manner of kings,” he contrasted the monarchs of the earth with those holy men whom he had immediately appointed to judge his chosen people; not monarchy itself with other forms of government, as established in the ordinary course of human affairs. Man's reason and self-love suffice for the regulation of such matters; and the divine decision of this question would in many cases have increased the embarrassment of conscientious persons. So that they who have attempted to prove, from Scripture, the exclusive divine right of any one form of government, have in different
11 Sam. viii.
ways prejudiced men against the truth, and furnished a pretence to those who refuse “ to be subject to principalities and powers.”
III. The established form of government in every country is, for the time, of divine authority, by whatever method the power hath been acquired, and whatever may be the conduct of the rulers. That, which in one sense is an “ ordinance of “ man," is in another sense“ ordained of God: for “ there is no power but of God.” He hath appointed government, and his providence determines who shall govern : and it should be carefully noted that, when the inspired apostles gave these instructions, Nero, that monster of iniquity, filled the imperial throne. The way in which the Roman emperors obtained their dominion, the use which they made of it, and the character of the reigning prince, were as exceptionable as possible: yet even such powers were for the time “ ordained “ of God;” doubtless as a righteous judgment on the guilty nations: and, though proper remedies may (as we shall see,) be applied to such evils, yet in the mean time submission to God's appointment is required of us; and we should always prefer suffering to sin.
IV. The scripture every where leads us to expect that many things will be reprehensible in the conduct of rulers. They have the same evil nature as their subjects, with far more to inflame their passions, and to prompt to self-indulgence : and, as they are placed in the most conspicuous station, it cannot be surprising that objections may justly be made to many parts of their private character or public administration : for who could endure so severe a scrutiny as is now generally made into their conduct and measures ? So that, when revolutions take place, one sinner succeeds · another in the post of temptation and observation ; inordinate self-love continues to produce its effects, and murmurs and clamours are soon excited ; as every man acquainted with human nature might have foreseen.
Indeed, if rulers were perfect in wisdom and justice, their equal administration would counteract the selfishness of multitudes; and, the ambition or avarice of men, more distinguished by abilities than integrity, being disappointed, they would soon devise methods of exciting discontent: even as the laws and providential dispensations of God himself are far from giving satisfaction to mankind. But, as matters now stand, unless the selfishness of many such persons were in some measure gratified, and they were thus engaged to support the existing government in every country for their own emolument, it would soon be subverted by the combined force of ambition, avarice, designing faction, and ignorant discontent, however prudent and equitable it were: for disinterested patriotism is a very rare thing indeed, at all times, and in all places. When this had produced a revolution, the prevailing party must take the same method of supporting their authority, or else it would be speedily subverted, and perpetual convulsions would be the inevitable consequence: for, did not interested motives attach multitudes to the party of the rulers, a vast ma
jority would always oppose their measures, from envy of their pre-eminence, or hope of wresting it out of their hands. So that a government, conducted in a manner that seems in speculation perfectly right, can only be ideal, so long as men in general continue ambitious, covetous, designing, and selfish.
Every reflecting person must also know that the hardships and disadvantages of those things which have been tried are sensibly felt; whereas men in general imagine that situations of which they have had no experience are exempt from grievances : yet they often afterwards find in them such as are still more insupportable. Indeed one inconvenience in our present condition naturally impresses our minds with greater force than twenty advantages by which it is counterbalanced : for this is the fault of our rebellious ungrateful hearts in every thing, as well as in that particular which is the subject of our present inquiry.
And here I would for a moment digress from my plan, to observe that numbers seem to think only of the burdens and inconveniences of our present government, without duly estimating the manifold benefits enjoyed under it: but, whatever human wisdom may hereafter effect, or rather, whatever a kind providence may hereafter confer on some favoured nation, or on mankind in general, the fact is incontrovertible, that no country hitherto, from the beginning of the world, has so long enjoyed such substantial and numerous advantages, with so few real grievances, as Britain has done; though a contrary inference might naturally be drawn from the murmurs and complaints which are made by great numbers. Improvements may no doubt be made by peaceable means : but, should great and violent innovations take place, experience will probably shew that evils more formidable than we have hitherto known will be the unexpected and unavoidable consequence.