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ousness, Psal. lviii. 1, or whether in heart they work wicked
If they have any corrupt end, or hearts that are not straight, He sits on their heart and judges it; whether this be done either for base gain, or vain glory, or by compulsion, or outward necessity, or danger of censure, or whether it be this latter, an inward necessity of conscience, which makes a true willingness.
Thus people, if they obey for wrath, that is, for fear of the magistrate's sword, more than for conscience of the Lord's command, God accounts not this obedience, but in His judgment it goes for no better than rebellion. It is to be feared, too many magistrates, and others, have in this nation embraced the Reformation, not at all for conscience' sake, but only for wrath, from fear of laws and authority. But although we are not able to follow forth this search to the full, that being the Lord's own prerogative, yet, truly, where it is evident to us that there is nothing of conscience, though in civil things it may pass, yet, in things that are peculiarly matters of conscience in religion, men ought to be somewhat wary, according to the utmost of due discerning; and we are, possibly, somewhat to blame in the promiscuous admitting of such, whose carriage, yea, whose profession and religion speaks aloud, that their compliance was wholly constrained obedience, only for wrath, and not for conscience.
If civil authority is to be obeyed most for conscience, then, church authority, that is more symbolical with conscience, and hath nearer reference to it, ought to aim most at that. Cona viction and conversion is our work, and not constraint; to bring people, both by the word and by a way of discipline suiting and backing it, to a sense of sin and spiritual thoughts of God and His holy law, that they may be subject more for conscience than for wrath.
And ye people, labour more to find the actings of that holy fear of God and conscience of His will in all your ways. Study to have an inward light, a practical, sanctifying light, directing you; and be not merely held in as beasts, by the authority and
laws of men, but learn to know and be sensible of the sovereign authority of the most high God and His law, and to have respect unto all His commandments. If this were once done, how regular a motion would it keep amongst all superiors and inferiors of all sorts, in families and states, the one commanding, the other obeying in God! It would be as sweet music in the celestial choir of their lives and affairs. Right-informing and right-moving consciences would be as continual teachers within, directing all in obedience, and would make it both more constant, sweet, and pleasant, as natural motion; whereas that is grievous and violent which is from wrath, or outward power, and therefore lasts not: as the Israelites worshipped God aright while their good judges lived and ran after idols when they were removed.
Again. This same obedience for conscience, ennobles and sublimates men's actions even in civil things, makes them have somewhat Divine, turns all into sacrifice to God, when all is done for God; even servants and children obeying masters and parents, and subjects, magistrates, for His command's sake; still thinking, in the whole course of their regular, due carriage, in their very callings, This I do for God, my ordinary labour and works, and my just obedience to men, I offer up to Him. This is the philosopher's stone, that turns actions of lower metal into gold; I set the Lord always before me. Psal. xvi. 8.
Obs. 2. Kings, and other powers of the world, who are the enemies, and sometimes the enraged persecutors of our holy religion, mistake their quarrel, and are very wrongfully misprejudiced against it, when, upon that false supposition, they hate and oppose it, suspecting it as an enemy to their dignity and authority; whereas there is nothing that doth so much assert their just power as religion doth. Civil laws may tie the hands and tongue to their obedience, but religion binds all due subjection to them upon the very consciences of their people. Therefore they are both ungrateful and unwise, in using their power against religion, which it so much strengthens. Vol. III.
Their power should strengthen it, both by way of due return, to correspond with it in that, and even for its own interest, receiving a new establishment to itself by establishing religion. Even that master of irreligious policy, Machiavel, confesses that the profession of religion is a friend to authority. But if the shadow of it do any thing that way, we see, contrary to his profane supposition, the substance and truth of it doth it much
Obs. 3. If for conscience sake we are to practise this subjection, then, surely in nothing is it our duty to be subject; against the true rule of conscience, and the prime object of conscience, the authority and law of God. That is the first and highest, our perpetual, unalterable engagement to Him, binding both kings and subjects, both high and low. And if rulers leave their station, we ought to keep ours still, in a straight subjection to God. For the extent of friendship and all other relations, and of all subjection and obedience, is to be ruled and bounded, usque ad aras. Give to Cesar the things that are Cesar's, but nothing of God's: that is neither ours to give, nor his to receive.
For, for this cause pay you tribute also. This the Apostle gives as a sign of that confessed right which magistrates have to the subjection and obedience of the people, that in all nations this homage and acknowledgment is due to them: Tribute to whom tribute is due. Which it may be he the rather mentions, because some question might exist, what might Christians do concerning this. However, this, according to the constitution of several places, he takes as granted, to be not only lawful, but due to be rendered. Here we are not to insist on the scanning of this; but certainly, as the power of a
of a magistrate is not in this, nor in any other thing, absolute and unbounded, so, the legal and just paying of tribute and other revenues by the people, argues their engagement to those set over them, and is to be rendered, not as wages to a mercenary servant, but as an honorary due to their place and calling, who are the ministers of God in civil government. So, also, convenient yet liberal maintenance to the ministers of God's own house, is their right, yet not to enrich them; nor yet ought it to be given grudgingly, as undue, or superciliously, as to servants, but with the cheerfulness and respect agreeable to the Lord's servants, who watch for their souls.
All tribute and obedience still relate to this, and are grounded on it, the Lord's institution of power and government for the good of men. Though it sometimes prove otherwise in the exercise of it, yet; the ordinance is pure, and most wisely suited to its end; from which the sin and corruption of men turn it but too often, to the hurt of both the ruler himself and of the ruled. Eccl. viii. 9: There is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own heart; each proving a scourge to the other, in the just judgment of God upon both for their iniquities ; making a fire from Abimelech to devour the men of Shechem, and the men of Shechem to deal treacherously with Abimelech. Judg. ix. 20. Yet, still the thing itself remains good. Many skilful physicians may kill instead of curing, yet, it is but a caprice to decry all remedies, and the use of things medicinal, which the God of nature hath furnished for
Men may, and alas ! most men do, prejudice their own health, by either intemperate or in some way irregular diet; yet, this makes nothing against the continual necessity. and use of food, nor can dissuade any from using it. Thus, the abuses of authority infringe not this, that magistrates are a public good: yea, the unjust are better than none, tyranny is better than anarchy; there is some justice done in the most unjust government.
But thus, they who are exalted to rule, ought to consider who raised them, and for what they are raised, and so, faithfully to do justice. They are raised high, as the stars are set in their orbits, for influence and the good of the inferior world, and like the mountains which rise above the valleys, not to be places of prey and ruin, but, by the streams they send out, to refresh them. So, from magistrates, judgment ought to run down as water, and justice as a mighty stream. They ought
to consider themselves as ministers; though called magistrates with relation to the people, yet, ministers in relation to God, [reltágyon eg] and the people's in Him, as the word deutógyou imports, being constant labourers for their good; even as the sun is a minister, God's minister of heat and light to the earth. Would they look up thus to God, it would make them look down on their inferiors, not with the ill aspect of pride and cruelty, but with the benign looks of good-will, fidelity, and vigilancy for their welfare, knowing that they are appointed for this
very use in the world; not referring to that which is nearest here, and nearest themselves, the receiving of tribute, but the remotest good, which is the chief end for which their tribute and themselves are appointed, the punishing of the wicked and the encouragement of the good.
Render therefore to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honour to whom honour. The Apostle enlarges his exhortation to the general rule of equity. The humble, upright mind will willingly comply with this, and pay respect to men, in obedience to God, and therefore primarily to Him, which the most neglect. Honour and fear are due to Him as to our Father and Master, and yet, where is it to be found ? If I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? Mal. i. 6. The tribute of praise and glory in all these respects is due, and ought not to be purloined, nor any part detained; but how few are faithful in this ! Much uncustomed goods pass among our hands in the course of our lives, many things wherein we are not mindful to give glory, entire glory to God. But He cannot be deceived: if we go on, He will take us in our quietest conveyance, and all will be forfeited. We shall certainly lose all, if all glory return not to Him. All that we have and are, should we daily and heartily offer up to Him, from whom we have life, and breath, , and all things.
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another. That which the Apostle set before himself, as his own study and