To Gib it was very clear.
The verdict of Scripture in this matter, is not comprehended in some few, dark or transitory hints. This is obviously taught and confirmed by a great number of passages throughout Holy Writ: Yea, there are few truths, relative to the practice of Christians, that are more clearly taught in the Word, or more inculcated, than this is.
He presents arguments from 6 Scriptures precepts or commands before examining approved examples in Scripture and then demonstrates the perpetual obligation of the precepts and examples. After this he shows that this was the position of the Continental Reformed Churches also before examining the historic position of the Church of Scotland and the Covenanters. It is a very long and comprehensive treatment!
Argument I. From Prov. xxiv. 21.
The first that shall be noticed, is recorded Prov. xxiv. 21. My son, fear thou the Lord and the King: And meddle not with them that are given to change. Though these words be expressed in the singular number, it would be superfluous to prove, That they must be taken in a plural sense; determining the duty, particularly of the Lord’s people, towards Kings: Nor could Solomon, while himself a King, be partial in this case, because he spoke as moved by the Holy Ghost.
I. The former clause of this precept is positive; My son, fear thou the Lord and the King. And the first thing which, in the present case, must be considered, is the duty here prescribed towards Kings, viz. to fear them. This fear cannot be of a slavish sort, because it is commanded; and that as subordinate unto the fear of the Lord. Again, this fear cannot merely signify that disposition of mind which we ought to have toward Kings. But, as the fear of the Lord, in Scripture stile, doth signify, not only an inward disposition of mind; but also all these external duties that we owe to him: So the fear of Kings must also denote all these external duties that we owe to them. Now, from the nature of the thing, all such duties are reducible to these two heads. First, We must confess that they are Kings; by owning their authority, and submitting to their just laws. Secondly, That this acknowledgment and submission may not be treacherous, we must, in our several capacities, testify against all these particular evils whereby they answer not or contradict the duty of Kings. These are the parts of fear toward Kings; so inseparable, that neither of them can be duly managed unless they be jointly exercised. And this is just what the Presbytery asserts, with respect to the present Civil Government. The next thing to be considered here is, the objects of the duty enjoined, viz. Kings. And, upon this head, it must be premised, that as the different forms of Civil Government agree in their general nature, and as none of them has any institution exclusive of others; so the general rule of duty towards the supreme legislative power under any one of these forms, answers as well under them all: However, it is monarchical or kingly government that is here immediately respected.
The question will now be, What sort of Kings are the people of God thus commanded to fear? And, in the first place, it is certain, that they are commanded to fear only such as are acknowledged by the kingdom they are in; while none else are Kings with respect to them. In the next place, It is as certain, that they are commanded to fear any whom that kingdom acknowledges as Kings, and while they do so. For,
1. This precept was still handed down to the Jews, from one generation to another, as part of the oracles of God immediately committed unto them; nor was it at any time altered, limited or suspended: And therefore it continued always an uniform rule of duty from God unto them, with reference to whatever Kings were acknowledged as such, by the kingdom of Judah and Israel; though most of these were chargeable with unparalleled evils, not only in respect to their private character and conduct, but in their public administration. As it must be still remembered, that though God might justly plead a controversy with that land, and many time did so, both for the sins of the body politic, in not attending to all the rules he gave them anent the choice of their Kings, and in not endeavouring to reform their wicked Kings; as also, for the sins of the people severally, in not testifying duly against, but complying with the sinful statutes and idolatrous practices of their Kings: Yet, while the primores regni and better part of the nation acknowledged such as their Kings, consenting to their regal authority; the office and authority of these Kings did, therefore, still continue valid, so as the particular subjects were bound in conscience to submit unto, and obey their lawful commands: Because that civil authority, having its rise in the consent of the people according to the indispensable law of nature,it could not be subverted by their defection and apostasy; or by their Kings, in consequence thereof, wanting scriptural qualifications.
2. The Jewish people were obliged by God to reckon that, in the matter of this precept, they were but on a level with the people of all other kingdoms; in respect of whatever Kings were thereby acknowledged: And that they themselves were, by this precept, bound to fear these Kings, when, sojourning in their dominions. For these whom other kingdoms acknowledged as Kings, are, all along, by the Spirit of God in scripture, acknowledged and accounted of as such; and that in as unexceptionable terms as any of the Jewish Kings are: In regard there is not the least word in scripture, which so much as insinuates that these kingdoms were wrong in thus acknowledging them; but, on the contrary, the scripture always countenances them in doing so, and leaves not the Jews any occasion of doubting, that the character and right of these Kings did not agree unto this precept. To this purpose, when our Lord Jesus, who is Mediator betwixt God and man, says, by his Spirit through Solomon (Prov. viii. 15, 16.); By me Kings reign, and Princes decree justice; By me Princes rule, and Nobles, even all the Judges of the earth: It is undeniable that, in these words, he not only narrates the government, but sustains the authority of Judges or Kings: And it is as plain, that not only the Jewish Kings are here spoken of, but all the Kings of the earth; so that the authority of all is sustained on a level. When therefore the Jews received this precept, with reference unto their own Kings; it is evident that other oracles of God, and particularly the above cited, did at the same time necessitate them to reckon, that whatever Kings were acknowledged as such by other kingdoms, had an equal right unto fear from their people; and that they themselves were equally obliged, by this precept, to fear such Kings, when sojourning in their dominions: According whereunto, when long after some of them were scattered through the countries of such Kings; this same precept was repeated [1 Pet. ii. 17.], as in force with application to them in these circumstances.
In a word, this text doth plainly teach, that the Lord’s people, particularly, ought to fear all Kings who are acknowledged as such by the kingdom they belong to; as there is no exception made here or elsewhere in scripture.
And, indeed, there was no need of any exception or limitation to be added unto this precept. He who commanded to fear Kings, did, at the same time, know well enough, that neither all, not most, nor any of them, were free of manifold and gross corruptions. By his inspiration it was, that Solomon saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there, Eccl. iii. 16. However, the precept given did sufficiently hit such cases, without needing any restriction. For as there never were, nor could be, any Kings acknowledged as such by a kingdom, but who administered some justice; so all the duty of particular subjects, under the worst of these Kings, is sufficiently comprehended in this command: As it binds them to acknowledge and submit unto their authority, in any lawful exercise of it, while the kingdom sustains their government; but at the same time obliges them, and leaves them full capacity to testify and contend, in their several places, against all their corruptions, and, in this way, to endeavour the reformation of the government: So that the subjection commanded, can never involve them in the guilt of public corruptions.
Here, then, the duty of the Lord’s people, particularly, towards Kings, is fully stated; and it is the same with what the Presbytery now affirms. Nor is this a duty of small importance; while the fear of the King is commanded jointly with the fear of the Lord: And so, whatever religion any profess toward God, they will not be found duly upright therein, when contradicting the duty toward Kings which God here requireth.
II. The latter clause of this precept is negative; Meddle not with them that are given to change.
For understanding this, it must first be considered, who are the persons referred to by the pronoun [them]: And it is needless to prove, because so evident, that the text will not admit of any other sense here,than to understand it of those who are bound to fear the Lord and the King, who yet are given to change; and whom, therefore, the sincerer sort are discharged to meddle with.
And now it is supposed, that there will readily be some men given to change; men of a restless spirit, of a double mind, and of an unstable conduct: Men addicted to novelties; and who, particularly, will depart out of the old road of duty toward civil superiors, upon new pretences. And where innovations are made here, there will readily be some change in the profession or practice of religion; as the fear of the Lord and the King are linked together, and the text speaks jointly of being given to change in both.
At the same time it is here implied, that even the children of God are in danger of meddling with such persons; and have special need to be upon their guard against them.
Thus, in these words, there is an express condemnation of changes from the old path of duty towards civil superiors.
Again, there is here a solemn charge given to the sons of God, to notice the danger they are in of being led aside by the specious pretences that such persons may use, and not so much as to meddle with them; for if they stand not at a distance, they may readily be entangled.
Moreover, this caution and charge is a plain confirmation of, and a sense that God hath set about that very principle and conduct which the Presbytery does maintain from this text.
Argument II. From Eccles. x. 4.
The next precept that shall be considered, is found in Eccles. x. 4. If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences. And here the following observations may be made.
1. For the same reasons that were advanced upon the former text, this must necessarily be understood as spoken to the Lord's people, with reference to any rulers presently acknowledged by the civil state which they belong to.
2. There is a supposition here made, If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee. This rising up of spirit must be understood as groundless, and therefore sinful; because the person spoken to is supposed not, as yet, to have left his place or duty. Again, this rising spirit must be understood as venting itself, by word or action; for, otherways, it could have no tendency to drive a person out of his place. And as the expression is general, without being confined unto any certain occasion or degree of rising up, or unto any particular manner of venting itself; it will therefore necessarily comprehend any wrath or wrong that a particular subject may meet with at the ruler ‘s hand, whether upon private quarrels, or on account of religion; as enmity against religion is vented always upon the professors thereof.
3. There is a direction here given, Leave not thy place: Which cannot be taken in a local sense, on several accounts; and particularly, because then the next words (viz. For yielding pacifieth great offences), instead of being a reason for this command, would be a plain contradiction of it. The words must therefore be taken in a moral sense, as respecting the special business and duty of the subject; which, as hath been considered, is to fear the King or Ruler. The first two clauses, then, of this text, do plainly teach us, That, upon supposition of a ruler ‘s being so corrupt as, without just ground, to discountenance, discourage or distress the subject, upon personal or religious accounts; the subject must not, in the mean time, repay him evil for evil: But while he is bound to use lawful endeavours, as his calling gives access, for self- preservation, for vindicating his innocency and the cause for which he suffers, and for having the government reformed; he must, at the same time, continue in subjection and obedience to the ruler in lawful matters, while the civil state continues to acknowledge him. And as this can be no way inconsistent with his faithful endeavours otherways; so hereby he will approve himself unto God and men, as single, self-denied, and conscientious in these endeavours. But,
4. There is a reason added to this command, For yielding pacifieth great offences. This clause cannot consist with the former, unless it be taken in a moral sense. And as a reason is here given of the foregoing command, so it cannot make sense, unless this yielding be understood as the same thing with the duty commanded. And therefore, the meaning will be this, Leave not, or keep, thy place; for yielding, or the keeping of thy place, pacifieth great offences.
Here then we are informed that, when the spirit of the ruler riseth up unjustly against the subject, corrupt nature (as is evidently seen in the present controversy) is ready to manage a selfish opposition; in retaliating the ruler, by transgressing also the rule of duty toward him: And therefore, the subject ‘s keeping by his duty in that case, is fitly called an yielding; as it is contrary to that selfish opposition which corrupt nature is inclined unto.
It is said, that this yielding pacifieth great offences: And it does so in two ways.
(1.) By way of antidote. For the subject ‘s standing to his duty in that capacity, when the spirit of the ruler riseth up against him, is an habile mean for convincing the ruler of his error, and for extinguishing the offence he has taken.
(2.) By way of anticipation; as it is an habile mean for preventing farther evils and extremes which both the ruler and the subject may afterwards be driven to, if once the subject leave his place: For the beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water; therefore (saith the Lord) leave off contention, before it be meddled with, Prov. xvii. 4.
And, upon the whole, it is very evident from this text, that the scheme of such as oppose what the Presbytery here affirms, as it is a leaving their place, because of the unwarrantable opposition that the ruler stands in to them in any cause of truth which they profess; so it is a direct breach of God’s command, and has a proper tendency to perpetuate these errors or evils wherewith the ruler is chargeable, instead of reforming him: Yea, it is properly calculated for driving both him and them farther forward into great offences. And, on the other hand, it is as plain, that the principle and conduct which the Presbytery maintains, is openly held forth and expressly enjoined by God’s command; and that it is a mean and method of God's appointment, for pacifying great offences, viz. in reforming the Magistrate from his present corruptions, in preventing the farther growth thereof, and in preserving the Lord’s people from other evils and extremes they may be driven to, in this time of trial and temptation, if they study not to keep their place as above explained.
Argument III. From Luke xx. 25.
The third precept which the Presbytery adduces for confirming the principle here maintained is delivered by our Lord, Luke xx. 25. Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s and unto God the things which be God’s. And, for the clearing of this text, there are several things to be considered; viz.
I. A question was now proposed unto our Lord, anent a certain people ‘s subjection to a certain ruler. The people were not Gentiles, or such as had never been reformed; but Jews, a people in covenant with God, whom the Lord had chosen to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that were upon the earth. Again, the ruler was Caesar, an heathen; who, at this time, did actually rule over the Jewish people, being by them acknowledged as their King, John xix. 15.
II. The question proposed to our Lord anent that people and this ruler, was, Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar or no? The question is not, whether any tribute allotted to the use of the temple should be alienated unto Caesar ‘s use; but it is anent paying of tribute in general, as an effect and token of their subjection unto Caesar. And unto this general question our Lord answers, in the words above cited.
When his answer is considered, it appears too bold to pretend, that therein he shifts the question, and leaves Caesar’ s title unto tribute from the Jews undetermined. For,
1. It is very true that these hypocrising spies, who put the question to our Lord, were sent out, by the Chief priests and the scribes, upon a captious and very wicked design; which they were at liberty to pursue more privately, or before the people, as they should find occasion. And, accordingly, when they did now question him before
the people, it was not for information, as if they doubted anent paying of tribute to Caesar; but it was that they might take hold of his words (or entangle him, as Matth. xxii. 15). And it is equally true, that as he perceived their craftiness, and rebuked them for it; so he gave them an answer that disappointed them: For they could not take hold of his words before the people; and they marveled at his answer, and held their peace. Their disappointment, then, did ly here, that they could not take hold of his words before the people, which was the malicious errand they had been sent out upon. And this does not signify, that they could not understand his words; for then their wicked errand had been no more than to understand what he spoke, which is absurd: But the meaning is, that they could not entangle him, or make an handle of his words against him.
However, for the farther opening of this case, it is needful to observe, That, when proposing the question, as they deceitfully introduced themselves by professing that he did not accept the person of any; so, they did not want that our Lord should own Caesar’s title, as if hereby he would raise the people against himself: For there is no ground given to suppose that this would have provoked them, but the contrary. And besides, they were sent to take hold of his words, so as to deliver him unto the power and authority of the Governor who ruled under and for Caesar; and before whom, therefore, they durst not accuse any for owning Caesar. And so it is plain, that they could not presently have any thing in view, but that either he should expose himself to the pains of the Roman law, by disowning Caesar’ s title; or that he should own it in such terms, as would reflect or encroach upon the privileges of the Jewish Church and religion, so as they might deceitfully forge an accusation against our Lord Jesus before the Governor, upon the matters of their law. But in any such expectations our Lord disappointed them. For, in his answer, he acknowledged Caesar’s title: And by annexing, at the same time, the command of rendering unto God the things which be God’s, he preserved the regard and obedience that were due unto God, in his Being and institutions; and determined the just manner and measure of obedience unto Caesar, so as, however they might be rebuked by it, they could not find fault with it. Thus, he disappointed their wicked design in all respects. They could not take hold of his words before the people; they could not find him chargeable with any encroachment upon either civil or ecclesiastic law; nor durst they alledge any such thing, while the people were present and capable of contradicting so false an accusation. And now, they were not only silent, but they marveled at his answer: There was divine wisdom in it, worthy of the Son of God and worthy to be marveled at; as it would have been every way unworthy of him, and unworthy of being marvelled at, if his words had contained no wisdom but what lies in ambiguity, shifting or equivocation. But again,
2. To alledge that this was the case here, would be an using too much freedom with the person and perfection of Jesus Christ. He might indeed have lawfully refused to answer their captious question, had he seen meet; but to impute a shifting or equivocal answer unto our Lord, is to reproach and blaspheme him. For, either Caesar had not a just title, or he had: If he had not, then a shifting answer would have, at least, dissembled and palliated sin; instead of tending to reclaim from it; if he had, then such an answer would have, at least, dissembled and dishonoured truth; instead of declaring and recommending it. Besides, the answer given plainly bears the shape and force of a command: And it must be very dishonouring unto the person and perfection of Christ, to fix upon him an ambiguous and shifting command, or a command that commands no certain thing. Again,
3. To suppose, that our Lord’s answer shifts the question, would be an using violence upon the words; for, shifting is inconsistent with the very nature of a command: And farther, it is remarkable that,
(1.) Our Lord begins to confound his crafty examiners, by enquiring at them anent the coin of their current money, (as the tribute money could have no coin distinct from other money); and he finds, out of their own mouth, that it bore Caesar’s image and superscription: Thus he draws from themselves, both an evidence and acknowledgment of Caesar’s dominion over them.
(2.) He immediately brings this in as a reason of the command, Render THEREFORE unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s. And this word [therefore] can have no reasoning in it, and the form and strength of the whole argument must be destroyed; unless it be understood to intimate that the command is brought in as agreeing unto, and as an inference from what had been immediately before confessed, viz. That the money bore Caesar’s image and superscription. Now the command cannot possibly agree unto, or be an inference from this; unless it enjoin the paying of tribute to Caesar. And so the meaning is, as if our Lord had said, Caesar is actually, and by the nation ‘s consent, your Supreme Civil Ruler; as appears, among other things, from this, that the money ye use bears his image and superscription: For though this be not a mark of his having the property of all your money; yet it is a plain evidence of his said superiority, and your subjection: Therefore render unto Caesar whatsoever is incumbent upon subjects, and particularly tribute; as unto all this he has a lawful right. But,
(3.) Abstracting from the connection, these words [Render unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s] can mean nothing at all; if they mean not that Caesar had a civil right, that there were things thus belonging unto him. And moreover, to deny this would not only be the utmost violence upon these words; but would also force a meaning upon the next words, grossly erroneous, which could not be ascribed unto our Lord without blasphemy. For, if Caesar’s right be undetermined here, then God’s right is undetermined in the following words, viz. And unto God the things which be God’s. If there be ambiguity in any of these clauses, there must be in both; for both God’ s right and Caesar’s are in the same terms asserted: And this is, of itself, a sufficient argument against interpreting our Lord’s words as equivocal, which some have done; that thereby he is brought in as shifting and calling in question the prerogatives of his Father, before that generation, which stood in peculiar need of quite other doctrine.
Thus, that our Lord enjoined subjection by individuals unto Caesar, particularly in paying tribute, has been cleared: Yea, in doing so, he proceeds upon no other or better qualification in Caesar, than that he was actually and allowedly in power over the Jewish nation; as appearing, particularly, by the coin of their money. And it must be granted, that the command is of equal force in all parallel cases; and that, therefore, it plainly agrees to the principle here maintained by the Presbytery.
The precepts already insisted on were given unto the Jewish people, as a special rule of duty toward civil rulers; and, as such, they were immediately handed down to Christians, in these Churches that were planted by the Apostles. But the Divine care, in providing for their establishment in this duty against all temptations, did not rest here. The Apostles of our Lord, and by his counsel, were not ignorant or forgetful of Satan ‘s devices; in improving every handle, for tempting such as he cannot detain in profanity, to turn over into some apparent purity of their own invention. And considering the extraordinary handles which that subtle adversary had, for tempting these Christians unto such an extreme, in throwing off all civil concern with such rulers as they had then ado with; the Apostles were therefore specially directed to build some new and very strong bulwarks, for defence at this quarter: And which are of standing use in all ages, against any such errors and mistakes. Thus,
Argument IV. From Rom. xiii. 1, 7.
There is another precept, very express unto the purpose in hand, which is declared Rom. xiii. 1; being also explained and confirmed downwards unto the 8th verse of that chapter: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, etc.
The present design neither requires or permits, that these verses be expounded, either wholly, or according to the order in which they ly: But it is needful briefly to lay open and vindicate the establishment they give unto the principle now asserted; so as any who will wrest them (against the express warning, 2 Pet. iii. 16, 17.) may be left inexcusable. And, for this end, there must be some separate consideration of four things; whereunto the matter of these verses is reduceable, viz. The objects of the command, the duty commanded, the objects of this duty, and the reasons whereby it is enforced.
I. The objects of the command are called, every Soul; by which expression (according to Scripture-stile, the context, and the Apostle ‘s scope) are signified human persons: Particularly all these at this time in Rome, who had embraced the Christian profession. The whole Epistle was specially directed to them: And in the 3d, 4th, 5th and 6th verses of this chapter, the Apostle expressly inculcates the duty commanded upon them; in the pronouns, Thou, thee, you, and ye.
II. The duty here commanded comprehends the whole of what men can owe, even unto any civil superiors as such. It is, in general, to be subject, (ver. 1.): particularly in rendering tribute, custom, fear, and honour, (verses 6, 7); and that not only for wrath, but also for conscience-sake, (ver. 5.), or, not only from the consideration of danger but also of duty. This is the utmost civil subjection that can be due to any: And all this is here enjoined upon every soul; particularly, upon all the Christians then living in Rome.
III. The objects of this duty are called higher powers, ver. 1. And it is certain, that this character doth properly signify, not civil offices but officers; not magistracy in the abstract, but Magistrates in the concrete: And particularly the Magistrates then existing in the Roman empire.
Toward the clear perception of this, it may be considered, that if the Apostle were speaking without any respect to the persons at that time in power through the Roman empire, and so excluding them from the proper right of Magistrates; he would then be plainly departing from other Scripture-precepts, particularly these already insisted on: He would be openly contradicting his own inspired writings, [Tit. iii. 1. 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2, 3.]; he would be openly condemning the constant and approven tract of Scripture-examples, and particularly his own, Acts xxiv and xxv. Thus, also, he would be openly commending what is openly condemned, 2 Pet. ii. 10. Jude ver. 8. But, moreover,
1. To alledge that he speaks of magistracy in the abstract, and not of Magistrates, particularly such as then were, makes his language altogether absurd. For there is a plurality here spoken of [viz. higher powers]; and this plurality must be all of the same general nature, because it is but one and the same duty which is commanded towards them all: But it is absolutely impossible and absurd, that there should be a plurality of abstracts of the same general nature; because one abstract thing exhausts the whole nature of that thing. Though then there be many Magistrates, yet magistracy can be but one in number: And to use or explain the plural word [powers] in a civil sense, and any other way than as properly signifying persons in power, is perfectly absurd, as being inconsistent with the nature of things. Nor is it any thing less absurd, to enjoin subjection unto Magistracy in the abstract; because it has no real being in the abstract, and it is impossible to be subject unto that which really is not. In the matter of subjection, magistracy must always be considered as subsisting only in the person of Rulers; and the Romans of that time could not be subject to it, but as subsisting in the person of these Rulers who then were. Agreeably unto all this,2. It is usual in Scripture, that the abstract be put for the concrete; as there are five instances of this in one verse, 1 Cor. xii. 28. And God hath set some in the Church, miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. But, more particularly, when the plural word here translated [powers] is elsewhere used in Scripture, it always properly signifies persons in power; as Luke xii. 11. Eph. iii. 10. and vi. 12. Col. i. 16. and ii. 15. 1 Pet. iii. 22. Tit. iii. 1. The first and last of which texts are parallel, in the present case, unto this now under consideration. And,
3. To fix any other meaning upon the word here, as if the Apostle were not speaking of Magistrates, particularly such as then were; not only is inconsistent with the nature of things, contradicts parallel texts of Scripture, and renders Scripture- language of an unfixed sense: But it represents the Apostle as writing needlessly, and under a sinful and dangerous mistake; contrary to the infallible conduct of the Holy Spirit he was under. It is essential to all the books of Scripture, that every part of them was needful, with respect to the duty and interest of men; at that very time when they were first wrote, as well as in after ages: while it would be an impeachment of God to alledge, that he ever made any revelation which was of no use in the time when it was made. But as the passage of Scripture now insisted upon belongs to the rule of manners, what need of it could the Romans then living stand in; if it was not to be applied unto themselves, with reference to the rulers then in being? What manner of use could they, in this case, have for it? How needless behoved to be the Apostle ‘s labour, in giving a rule of manners, with reasonings and expostulations thereanent, unto persons who had no interest in it; no warrant, no access to meddle with it? Yea, his mistake in doing so behoved to be sinful and dangerous: Because if it was unlawful for that people to apply what he wrote unto their own case, the manner of his writing was calculated for leaving them unto, and leading them into sin. For, while he presseth and reasons with them anent the duty of subjection to higher power; he nowhere gives them the least hint, that they ought not thus to apply his words: He says nothing to prevent their doing so. Yea, as appears from what has been advanced, it was impossible for them to receive his Epistle as canonical, without making such application: Nor was it otherways possible for them to understand what is here written. For,
4. In this passage, the Apostle puts it beyond all doubt, that, when mentioning higher powers, he properly means persons in power; particularly these whom the Romans had then ado with: So that his words do openly reject any other sense. For, when giving a reason of subjection to these same higher powers, he calls them RULERS, (ver. 3.), and God’s MINISTERS, (ver. 6.): And, speaking individually of the power, he calls him the MINISTER of God; He that beareth not the sword in vain, a REVENGER to execute wrath upon him that doth evil, (ver. 4.). There can nothing be plainer than this; and it is as plain, that he speaks immediately of the rulers who then were. For (ver. 1.) he calls them powers THAT BE (ousai a word denoting real and present existence); Powers that ARE ordained: And, all along, he speaks of the powers and power in the present time; as persons then actually in office. Accordingly, he inculcates subjection in its several parts; as the duty of these very Christians then in Rome, and as a present duty: While (ver. 6, 7.) he says unto them, Pay YOU tribute, Render tribute, Custom, Fear, Honour. And that Paul should enjoin, or they undertake the present performance of such things, except toward present rulers, is altogether absurd and inconceivable.
And now, that the Spirit of God, by Paul, did here enjoin civil subjection in its full latitude and all its parts, upon the Christians then in Rome, toward rulers then in the Roman empire, is so certain and manifest, that it must be astonishing if any doubt were entertained anent it.
IV. The reasons of this duty, which are here improven, come next to be considered. And these are generally two: The first whereof lies in the original institution of Civil Magistrates, (ver. 1, 2.); and the second in their duty and administration, (ver. 3, 4, 6.).
And it must be first observed, that to refuse any thing already proven (particularly the precept of subjection, ver. 1, 5, 7.), as having an immediate respect unto Magistrates in the concrete, and these in the Roman empire, upon pretence of any insuperable difficulty in applying unto them what is asserted in the Reasons of Subjection now before us; not only implies an heavy reflection upon the Apostle, as writing falsehood or no way to the purpose: But, it is a plain and open abuse of these very reasons. For it is essential unto the nature of reasons, that they suppose it to be already concluded upon, what the thing is for which they are advanced; otherways they are advanced for nothing, or we know not for what, and so are no reasons at all, can have no light in them, nor cast light upon any thing. Thus, in the present case, before the reasons of the command be noticed, it must first be determined who are the objects of the command, what is the duty commanded, and who are the objects of that duty. The reasons must suppose these things to be already determined; and, therefore, can give no help in determining them: And when the determination is once made, no objection can be brought from the reasons against it; because, in the nature of the thing, it must be the standard for trying the reasons, and not they for trying it, but only for illustrating and confirming it. The sense, then, of these reasons [ver. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6.], must be regulated by the things already proven: And to proceed otherways, is to wrest these dictates of the Holy Ghost, to cast the whole matter loose; and most unreasonably deny Scripture that common justice which all language requires. Moreover, it is certain, that civil subjection, in its full latitude and all its parts, is here enjoined upon the Christians then in Rome, toward rulers then in the Roman empire; and this has been so far manifested, that there is no room left, in any event, for coming back upon it. 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 these indeed are the persons meant, and to rest in an humble confession of ignorance as to how they come to be so spoken of. However, that in these reasons the Apostle doth no way contradict or darken the command of subjection, as respecting these Roman powers, by advancing any thing which was not applicable unto them; is sufficiently plain. For,
1mo, The first reason of subjection lies in the original institution of Civil Magistrates, (as expressed ver. 1.); For there is no power but of God, the powers that be are ordained of God. Here then it is asserted, That the powers that BE (viz. the rulers presently in the Roman empire) are ordained of God. Yea, it is farther asserted, That there is NO power (viz. no Civil Magistrate) but of God, viz. in a way of ordination. Now this says not, that men who are of a superior place in civil society by bare possession or mere force, are, as such, ordained of God: For these are not powers in a moral sense, and the text speaks only of all that are so; or of all those who are in the possession and exercise of magistracy by the will and consent of civil society, as these only do properly fall under the denomination of Magistrates.
Such, yea all such, are here said to be ordained of God. And they are so, not merely in respect of providential dispensation; but also of preceptive institution. For the remainder of natural light, in the moral dictates of right reason, is the natural and eternal law of God: Now this divine law not only endues men, in their present estate, with a natural inclination to Civil Society and Government; but it prescribes unto them an indispensible necessity of erecting and maintaining the same in some form, as a moral duty, the obligation and benefit whereof no wickedness in them can loose or forfeit. And therefore, 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 this 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.
And this is that divine ordination which the Apostle ascribes to all Magistrates as such; and, particularly, unto these of his day in the Roman empire: While, whatever distinguishing qualifications or approbation God may bestow upon some; yet no Civil Magistrates in the world can have any other sort of divine ordination. And, as this did belong unto these Roman Magistrates, justly therefore does the Apostle argue, with application to them (ver. 2.); That whosoever resisteth the power (viz. the Civil Magistrate, as such) resisteth the ordinance of God: And they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation; or be condemned on this account.
2do, The second reason of subjection lies in the duty and administration of Civil Magistrates (as expressed, vers. 3, 4, 6.); For rulers 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 unto thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. For they are God’ s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Now, for laying open the force of this reason, and obviating any seeming difficulty, in applying the things here said unto Magistrates, particularly such as ruled among the Romans in Paul’s day; the following considerations may suffice.
1. The public good of outward and common order in all reasonable society, unto the glory of God, is the great and only end which these invested with Magistracy can propose; in a sole respect unto that office. And as, in prosecuting this end civilly, according to their office, it is only over mens good and evil works that they can have any inspection; so, it is only over these which they must needs take cognizance of, for the said public good: While, at the same time, their doing so must be in such a manner, and proceed so far allenarly, as is requisite for that end; without assuming any Lordship immediately over mens consciences, or making any encroachment upon the special privileges and business of the Church. And moreover, as the whole institution and end of their office are cut out by, and lie within the compass of natural principles; it were absurd to suppose, that there could or ought to be any exercise thereof towards its end, in the foresaid circumstances, but what can be argued for and defended from natural principles: as indeed there is nothing especially allotted and allowed unto Magistrates, by the word of God and the confessions of the reformed Churches, but what can be so. Now, it must be agreeably to all THIS, that the Apostle signifies Magistrates to be God’s Ministers for good; concerning themselves with good and evil works, in a way of terror, praise, or revenge: For he does so in a sole respect unto their civil office.
2. What the apostle thus ascribes unto Magistrates, is in some measure competent unto all such, in every nation or state; and it always was so, particularly unto these in the Roman Empire of whom he immediately speaks; as may be seen, Acts xxv. 16. True indeed, the advantage in this case lies very far on the side of such as have occasion to exercise their office for promoting the Church's public good; while at the same time they are privileged with (and endeavour to discharge their other special business as well as this, according to) the full discovery which God’s word hath made, of these natural principles that comprehend the due exercise of their office, as well as its institution and end. However, as all Magistrates have still enjoyed some discovery of these, in the dictates of reason; and as they have always had occasion, and been obliged to improve the same, for the good of civil and natural society, in what the Apostle here describes: So there never were, nor could be any Magistrates or persons in civil power by the will of their people, but in whose administration something of this took place; in so much as thereby God has been pleased to preserve some external order and equity in the world, and to restrain mankind from becoming altogether as the fishes of the sea, the greater devouring the less. And this was now the case, with reference to these Roman Magistrates whom the Apostle has particularly in his eye.
3. The Apostle is here speaking of these rulers allenarly as such; abstracting from every other view of them, either good or bad. For every thing he says of them was truly and only verified, in their civil office and administration. Thus he says not a word, nor any way enters into the question, anent their personal characters or 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 any thing 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 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. 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, viz.
(1.) His proper scope toward the Romans here, was to inculcate upon them the duty of subjection unto Magistrates; and this could not lead him out to consider such any other way, than precisely as such.
(2.) For satisfying the Romans anent the reasonableness and necessity of subjection unto Magistrates, nothing could be more serviceable than the description he now gave of them; while it manifests how wholesome, valuable and necessary are the purposes of their institution and true administration; wherewith alone subjection properly concurs: And his confining himself, at present, unto this description, was a very fit mean for getting a due regard unto their office, and unto them in their true possession and exercise thereof, so rivetted upon the minds of these Romans; as it might not be extinguished by, but over-balance any temptation they could be under, to refuse them due obedience, on account of what gross evils they were otherways chargeable with.
(3.) It is evident that while the Apostle discourses, in the present case, about Magistrates purely as such, without noticing any thing good or bad anent their private character and qualifications, moral or religious; or anent their Mal- administrations: his design was to let the Romans see, that however deep a concern they otherways had with them, in these personal respects; yet, in the case of subjection unto their lawful commands, they were to abstract from all consideration of them except as such, or as truly possessing and exercising civil power; confining themselves unto this view of them allenarly.
(4.) At the same time the manner of the Apostle ‘s argument was calculated for discovering unto the Romans the whole cases wherein they had any concern with Magistrates by way of subjection, viz. in so far only as they answer the characters here given: And it was farther calculated, for cautioning the Romans against carrying subjection the length of any sinful compliance with them. For as, in the matter of subjection, the Romans had ado only with the true concerns of their public office: So whatever personal evils they were chargeable with, whether in their private character or conduct, or in their Mal-administrations (as the evils thereof cannot cleave unto their office but their persons); all these they were to oppose, contend and testify against; according to their callings, knowledge and access. And the Apostle not only leaves room for all this, but implicitely holds out the necessity thereof; while he prescribes and admits of no compliance with them, save in the cases expressed.
And now it is altogether evident that, in the reasons of subjection (vers. 1. 4. 6.) the Apostle is so far from contradicting or darkening the command of subjection unto the higher powers (vers. 1. 5. 7.), as immediately respecting the Roman powers or Magistrates of his day, by advancing any thing that was not applicable to them; that on the contrary, by these reasons and what is advanced therein, he notably explains, illustrates and establishes that command, in reference to these powers: So as he could not have discoursed thereanent in any shape more suitable and pat to the purpose.
Moreover when the Apostle charged and persuaded the Christians in Rome to subject themselves unto the Roman Magistrates; he thereby obliged them to conclude, not only that all other Christians and people in the Roman Empire were bound unto the same thing; but also, that whatever Magistrates any civil state acknowledged were to be thus subjected unto throughout the same. For the Roman Magistrates could have no title in this case, but what was common unto all these in their several dominions; nor any better title, in respect to Christians than others: and so the reasons, whereby the Apostle urgeth subjection to the Roman Magistrates, were as pleadable, unto the same extent, in the case of all these other; as indeed he signifies by the general assertion, There is no power but of God. Accordingly, when the rule of duty that has been insisted on was specially directed unto all the Christians in Rome; it was also (in the general nature and essential design of Holy Scripture) given forth as a rule of duty unto all Christians in the world: Plainly teaching that all men, but they especially, ought to be subject, not only for wrath but also for conscience sake, unto all Magistrates presently acknowledged by the civil state they belong to; and that in every lawful administration: As, at the same time, they are bound to contend and testify against all the corruptions and evils, private or public, wherewith any of these Magistrates are chargeable; and that according to their callings, knowledge and access. Now this is all and no more than what the Presbytery affirms, with respect to the present Civil Government; as plainly taught in this passage of the Epistle to the Romans.
Argument V. From Tit. iii. 1.
The fifth precept that shall be improven for the establishment of this principle, is expressed Tit. iii. 1. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey Magistrates; to be ready to every good work.
It is quite undeniable that, in these words, the Apostle strictly charges Titus to inculcate or press upon the Christians then in Crete, the duty of universal subjection and obedience, only in matters lawful, unto Magistrates who then were in the Roman empire.
1. They, upon whom he is charged to inculcate the duty of subjection and obedience, were the Christians then in Crete; for it was among them that Titus laboured in the work of the gospel, and them only could he now put in mind.
2. He is charged to press upon them the duty of universal subjection and obedience, only in lawful matters; for this is plainly the amount of being subject and obeying, in a way of readiness unto every good work: Which is a thing quite different from, and opposite unto any sinful compliances.
3. He is charged to inculcate upon them the duty of such subjection and obedience, unto Magistrates who then were in the Roman empire. For it is expressly Magistrates, whom the Apostle points out as the objects of this duty: And it must be these also whom he calls principalities and powers, see (beside some reasons advanced to this purpose on Rom. xiii. 1.), it is self-evident, that the civil subjection and obedience here intended, being actually the same, cannot have different objects. Again, it is not so much as supposable that, at this time, either Paul should intend, or Titus press, or they should practice subjection and obedience, unto any Magistrates, but such as then were: And, as these Cretians belonged to the Roman empire; the Magistrates in that empire, then being, must needs be specially respected in the charge here given to Titus.
How deep a concern the Apostle entertained and recommends to Titus, anent the up-stirring of these Christians unto subjection and obedience, in matters lawful, to the foresaid Magistrates, is evident at the first reading of this text: And as the same runs parallel unto, and confirms the whole interpretation of the other passage [Rom. xiii. 1. etc.]; so, for such reasons as are thereupon advanced, it must be understood as equally applicable unto all people, with reference to whatever Magistrates are over them, by consent of the Civil State they belong to. Upon the whole, it is undeniable, that Paul here charges Titus to teach and preach that very same principle, which this Presbytery maintain with reference to the present Civil Government.
Argument VI. From 1 Pet. ii. 13, 17.
The last Precept that shall be argued from to this purpose, is exhibited by the Apostle Peter. As he takes notice (2 Epist. iii. 16.) that, in Paul’s Epistles, there are some things hard to be understood; which they that are unlearned, and unstable, wrest: So he takes care to prevent this, particularly in respect of the passages that have been considered; while he gives notable explication and confirmation thereunto, by what is expressed 1 Epist. ii. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.
What is spoken in these verses, to the present case, hath been mostly met with already; all that needs to be said farther,
shall be comprehended in the remarks following.
1. That the Apostle is here speaking immediately of persons in power, particularly such as then were, or could then be submitted unto; cannot be refused, without an open contradiction unto and contempt of holy Scripture.
2. He gives an infallible, and the only habile mark, whereby to know what persons in power were ordained of God; while he teaches (ver. 13.) That all those who are the ordinance of man, or who have a constitution by the consent of civil society, are to be submitted unto for the Lord’s sake, or, as having an institution from him.
3. What is to be understood [Rom. xiii. 1. and Tit. iii. 1.] is here expressed, viz. a distinction of these persons in power, or Magistrates, into supreme and subordinate, ver. 13, 14. The King is supreme (a word of the same derivation and meaning with Sovereign, as they can differ only in sound and grammatical construction, both signifying, in this case, the Chief Civil Magistrate); while Governors are sent by him, and so subordinate unto him.
4. He determines the whole matter in respect of which they were to be submitted unto, viz. The punishment of evil doers, and the praise of them that do well, ver. 14. However seldom they were inclined or employed this way, yet the supreme power of the King, and the commission of Governors, could morally extend no farther: And thus it was only in so far as employed this way, that the King was to be considered as supreme and Governors as sent by him; and both submitted to accordingly.
5. The Apostle plainly supposes [ver. 15.], that Christians were then charged with non-submission to the King and Governors; though but ignorantly by foolish men, probably because they refused sinful compliances: He therefore informs them of the will of God, That, notwithstanding their Christian freedom, they should put these persons to silence; by outshining them in submission as to well-doing. And he gives a notable enforcement unto this duty, by telling [ver. 16.], That in neglecting the same (on however specious pretences), they would not be using their Christian liberty as the servants of God, but for a cloak of maliciousness; or, to palliate some venom of their own spirits.
6. He orders them to yield such submission, without farther question, to every ordinance of man; every person in civil office by the will of society. And,
7. That he might prevent their scrupling to do so, on account of the unworthiness or wickedness of any of these persons; he teaches, That submission to them in well-doing, or in matters lawful, should be studied for the Lord’s sake. If they were to look no higher than the persons of these men, their hearts might readily become quite alienated from any actual connection with them: But it was necessary they should look up unto, and reverence God’ s institution in the office these persons bore; and his sovereign will in chusing to make any use of them, for maintaining any thing of public order that was to be found in the world. And thus, being weaned from their own spirits, and walking in self-denial, they behoved to cherish any thing just in the Civil Administration; by submitting thereunto, from the powerful consideration of their being obtested to do this much for the Lord’s sake: Yea to do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; while this can no way interfere with a due Testimony against prevailing evils, or with due endeavours for reformation.
Finally, What the Apostle here said unto the Christians of his day, doth equally agree unto the case of all; with respect to whatever Magistrates are sustained by the civil body whereof they are members: And this is all that the Presbytery affirms in the present case.
And now it fully appears, what is the harmonious and indubitable verdict of Scripture-precepts, upon the question in debate, viz. That all persons, and particularly the Lord’s people, ought to render subjection and obedience in all matters lawful, unto any Magistrate who is, and while he is acknowledged as such by the Civil State they belong to; being what is every way consistent, yea connected with due faithfulness, in reference to these corruptions wherewith the Magistrates may be chargeable.
The clearest evidence hath been given, that this duty (which was, upon the matter, originally taught by the fifth Commandment), was also, by some precepts branched out therefrom, expressly inculcated upon the Jewish people from one generation to another; and even after they were incorporated with the Roman State: Yea moreover, that besides the continued doctrine of these precepts, the Holy Ghost has been more especially at pains by some others, for preventing any transgression, neglect or forgetfulness of this duty among Christians. And as that principle which the Presbytery here asserts, consisteth merely in a particular maintenance of this duty; it is sufficiently manifest, that the said principle only maintains a duty which is expressly taught by Scripture-precepts: Yea, that singular care has been, all along, taken in Scripture, for keeping this principle alive, in the faith and practice of the Lord’s people.
Argument VII. From the Conformity of the Precepts insisted on, with other Scriptures.
After all, it is affecting and astonishing, to see any opposition made unto such an open and special design of the Holy Ghost in Scripture; and that under a profession of regard to these holy oracles. The precepts which have been insisted upon speak so expressly, so certainly, so loudly, according to the interpretation that has been given of them, plainly remonstrating against any other; that there is no manner of room left for hesitating thereanent, even though a person should remain difficulted, in apprehending the consistency thereof with any other passages of Scripture.
I. In the first place, there is no passage of Scripture that so much as seems openly inconsistent with these precepts, as now interpreted; while no passage so much as seems openly to forbid what is here expressly commanded, or to command any thing directly opposite thereunto. And it must be a very intolerable abuse of Scripture, to attempt warding off the notable light and force of these precepts, by passages that do not so much as seem directly opposite or contradictory; while, even though they did so, they ought to be explained in an agreeableness to such direct and indubitable precepts. But,
But so it is, that no necessity hereof can occur; unless a person will procure it unto himself. For,
II. In the next place, as there are many other passages of Scripture plainly homologating these precepts, in the genuine sense that has been assigned them; so there are none which it is not very obvious, that accordingly they are noways inconsistent with. If there were any, they behoved to ly, either among approven examples, or doctrines, or precepts, or promises, or threatenings; some way related to the general subject in hand: But none such can there be found. For,
1. There are no approven examples, in the conduct of civil members towards Magistrates, whereof these precepts, as now stated, offer to disapprove.
2. Again, there are doctrines and precepts, expressly or implicitly determining the duty of a Civil State, as to what sort of Magistrates they should set up and seek after; and there are some imitable examples recorded, of faithfulness and reformation this way: All which doctrines, precepts and examples are here uncontroverted; in full agreeableness to what has been affirmed. And it is very obvious, that the above precepts, in their foresaid genuine sense, are noways inconsistent therewith. For, as these precepts do plainly enjoin different duties upon different objects; teaching us separately to yield separate obedience, only in matters lawful, to whatever Magistrates the Civil State actually sustains; so whatever defects in or defections from their duty foresaid, the State be otherways chargeable with, it is plain such obedience only homologates that part of their said duty which they perform: While we are, at the same time, left indispensibly bound and evidently free to exert ourselves, by all habile means, in testifying against these their evils; and for getting them convinced of, and reconciled unto the whole extent of their duty, in this matter.
In the next place, there are doctrines and precepts, expressly or implicitly determining the qualifications and duties of Magistrates, as to what they should be and do; and there are some imitable examples recorded, of singular attainments this way: All which doctrines, precepts and examples are here also uncontroverted; in full agreeableness to what has been affirmed. And it is also very obvious, that the above precepts, in their foresaid genuine sense, are noways inconsistent therewith. For,
(1.) As these precepts do plainly speak to different persons, and anent different things; so, on the one hand, the passages holding forth these qualifications and duties of Magistrates do not, by the remotest hint, imply, That if any way they be deficient in or make defection from the same, their authority and commands, even in matters lawful, must not be subjected unto and obeyed: And, on the other hand, these precepts holding forth the duties of subjects, as above-stated, do never, by the remotest consequence, imply any dispensing with those qualifications and duties of Magistrates, or any countenancing of their defects and defections; but, on the contrary, they leave us bound and in full room, to testify against the same, and essay their reformation, by all methods that are habile for us. As,
(2.) 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 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: For all this is always in Scripture, and by all people, implied in the essential notion of Magistrates.
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. But then, SUCH a Measure and Performance of these qualifications and duties cannot be required for the BEING of the Magistrate ‘s 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. And this is a proposition (which Mr Nairn’ s scheme necessarily lands in, if it come to any thing at all, and) which is so very dangerous, that it opens a door for throwing off all relative duties, toward any that are not faultless in their relative capacity. By this way of reasoning, it will follow, that servants are not to obey their masters, while undutiful: Though yet the Spirit of God says (1 Pet. ii. 18.), Servants be subject to your masters, with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
It is manifest, therefore, that the due measure and performance of scriptural qualifications and duties, belongs not to the being and validity of the Magistrate ‘s office; but to the WELL-BEING and Usefulness thereof. But an acknowledgment of the Magistrate ‘s authority in lawful commands, doth only homologate the being and validity of his office, while sustained by the State: Wherefore this acknowledgment can never be inconsistent with the necessity of these qualifications and duties; can never palliate any defects in or defections from the same; and can never encroach upon the necessity or due extent of testifying against these defects or defections, and of essaying the reformation of Magistrates in our several places and callings.
3. Farther, there are, in Scripture, several promises of good, reformed, reforming Magistrates; and of deliverance to the Lord’s people from any grievance they presently ly under, in the want thereof: But these promises can never belong to the rule of duty. A promise of the greatest future good, can be no warrant for spurning at the least present good: Yea, the cherishing any good which is presently bestowed, is the ready way of attaining all the good that is promised. Wherefore no promise anent Magistrates to come, can possibly interfere with the duty of subjecting to any thing lawful in the administration of Magistrates that presently are.
4. Finally, there are threatenings and curses pronounced against wicked Magistrates; and people concurring with them in their wickedness: But it is dreadful to suppose, that these are any way inconsistent with the duty toward Magistrates now pled for; as if God’s indignation against
sinners, did dissolve the obligation of relative duties betwixt them.
According to the observations that have been made, it will appear, that no passage of Scripture doth in the remotest manner militate against the cause now managed. And now it is abundantly manifest, That the principle which the Presbytery holds anent the present Civil Government, doth only maintain a duty that is expressly taught by Scripture-precepts.