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ism sometimes carried this notion quite on the verge of extremes; yet Christianity has at all times fixed with greater precision the true limit to this point. The ancient sages not unfrequently allude to what they understand to be the true position. Thus, Tertulian has said, we honor the emperor but in such a manner as is lawful for us and proper for him. That is, as a man who is next after God in rank and authority, from whom he has received all that he is and whatsoever he has, and who knows no superior but God alone." For this reason he calls the emperor in another place a "second majesty, inferior to nothing but the first." The Persians not unfrequently styled their prince the great king, the king of kings. It has been supposed that two reasons might induce those princes to take those very ostentatious titles. The one because the empire was formed of many conquered kingdoms, all united under one head. The other, because they had several kings their vassals, either in their court or dependent on them. The crown was hereditary among them, descending from father to son, and generally to the eldest. Absolute as the regal authority was among the Persians; yet it was in some measure kept within bounds by the establishment of a national council, appointed by the state, consisting of seven of the princes or chief lords of the nation, no less distinguished for their wisdom and abilities than by their illustrious birth. We are told in the Scriptures, (Ezra, vii. 14,) that Ezra was sent into Judea in the name and by the authority of king Artaxerxes and his seven counsellors. "Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king and of his seven counsellors." These counsellors were well versed in the laws, ancient customs and maxims of the state. They always attended the prince who never transacted any thing, or determined any affair of importance without their advice. This council had no power to control or interfere with the king's authority, having at
most a mere advisory power, yet such advice was usually so much respected as to be acquiesced in by the prince. Although they were under the direction of the sovereign and were dependent on him, yet they exerted a great check upon arbitrary power, and contributed much to the public order: and with them originated many of the wise regulations relative to their internal police, and external relations. To this council the king transferred from himself many weighty cares with which he must otherwise have been overwhelmed; and by them he likewise executed whatever had been resolved on. It was by this means that the great maxims of the state were preserved, the knowledge of its true interests perpetuated, its affairs carried on with harmony and order, and innovations, errors and oversights prevented.
The Persians kept public registers of all the edicts and ordinances of the prince, and all the privileges granted to the people, and all the favors conferred upon particular persons. They also kept the annals of the kingdom in which all the events of former kings, all resolutions taken, all regulations established, and service done by any particular person were exactly and circumstantially entered.
These annals were carefully preserved and frequently perused both by the kings and the ministers in order to acquaint themselves with time past, and that they might have a clear idea of the state of the kingdom, avoid arbitrary, unequal, and uncertain conduct, and maintain uniformity in the management of affairs. Josephus informs us that the kings of Persia used to administer justice in their own persons; and the Bible also affords us several instances in which justice was thus directly administered by the prince in his own person. To qualify them for the due discharge of this duty, they were early and publicly instructed in the laws of their country.
With the prince and his councillors was vested the legislative authority of the nation.
§ 13. The original government of the Jews was that of a Theocracy. It has been supposed by some and insisted that the government of God established among this peculiar people, was that of a monarchy. This position, however, has been most successfully refuted by other writers and it certainly is not to be collected from the records of the word of God. In the opinion of Calvin this government was aristocratical, instead of monarchal; and of the same opinion was Josephus, Philo and Moses Mainonidaz and the most and best of both Jewish and Christian authors. Josephus says that Saul's sin by which he fell, was that he took away the aristocracy, which could not have been done had it not previously existed. Philo imputes the institution among them of a kingly government to the fury of sinful people, rather than to the ordinance of God, or the mandates of his word. Aberland says, it proceeded from their delight in idolatry to which their neighbors were addicted, and which could be only upheld by a government in practice and principle contrary to that which God had instituted. Among the Hebrews, kings were not originally instituted by God, but were subsequently permitted on account of the sins of God's people. The precept in the laws (Deut. 17,) concerning kings is not in the nature of a command to make them, but rather instructions what manner of kings they should make, if they desired to have them. Moses, Joshua, and the other judges, had neither the name or power of kings: they were not of the tribe to which the sceptre was promised, nor did they transmit the power they had to their children, nor was it continued by any kind of regular succession, but it was transmitted to those fitted by temper and habit to deliver the nation out of their distress on given contingencies.
Hence we find that it was thus that Eliud, Gideon,
Jeptha and others, were set up; and on one occasion the promise of authority was made, to whomsoever would give battle to the children of Ammon should be head over the inheritance of Gilead. Thus was Jeptha made chief. Their government consisted of three parts: besides the magistrates of the several tribes and cities, they had a chief magistrate who was called judge or captain, a council of seventy chosen men and the general assembly of the people. The first was occasional, like the dictators of Rome, as the Romans in times of danger frequently chose such a man as was much esteemed for valor and wisdom. God's peculiar people had a peculiar regard to that wisdom and valor which was accompanied with his presence. The second was known as the great Sanhedrim, which was instituted by Moses by the command of God, and the third was the assembly of the people of which we find frequent instances in the Scriptures. In Joshua 22d, we learn that when the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and half of that of Manasseh had built an altar, on the side of Jordan, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them. Thus it will be perceived, that this was the exercise of the highest and most important act which could concern the people, that even of war and peace; and that too with their own brethren while Joshua was still alive. It is evident that this whole transaction, was determined upon and settled by the assembly of the people, for we are told they sent Phineas. This embassy was not only thus democratically sent, but it was also equally democratically received. It was directed to all the children of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, and the answer was sent by them all. One of the last eminent acts performed by Joshua himself, was the calling a like assembly to Shechem, composed of elders, heads of families, judges, officers, and all the people: and they agreeing, made a covenant before the Lord.
The like assembly was gathered together for the election of Saul, and every man was there; and though the elders only, are said to have asked a king of Samuel, yet they it seems were deputed from the whole congregation, for God said "Hearken to the voice of the people." In the same manner the tribe of Judah, and after that the rest, chose and anointed David to be their king; and after the death of Solomon all Israel met together to trial with Rehoboam, and ten of the tribes abrogated his kingdom. It has been said if these actions were considered singly, the Hebrew government might have been called a democracy, as well as that of Athens; for without doubt they evidently manifested the supreme power to have been lodged in those general assemblies of the people. But the government as to its outward order consisting of those three parts, which comprehended three simple species and no times having been appointed nor occasion specified upon which judges should be chosen, or these assemblies called, whereas the Sanhedrim which was the aristocratical part was permanent, the whole might rightly be called or considered as an aristocracy.