« ПретходнаНастави »
ciples rather calculated to palliate sedition than to promote the peace of society and add to the security of government,) — this forwardness to dispute about the limits of the sovereign's power, and the extent of the people's rights, with this evident desire to set civil authority upon a foundation on which it cannot stand secure, argues, it should seem, that something is forgotten among the writers who have presumed to treat these curious questions, and among those talkers who with little knowledge or reflection of their own think they talk,safely after so high authorities: It surely is forgotten, that whatever praise may be due to the philosophers of the heathen world, who, in order to settle, not to confound the principles of the human conduct, set themselves to investigate the source of the obligations of morality and law, whatever tenderness may be due to the errors into which they would inevitably fall, in their speculations concerning the present condition of mankind, and the apparent constitution of the moral world- of which, destitute as they were of the light of revelation, they knew neither the beginning nor the end,
the Christian is possessed of a written rule of conduct delivered from on high; which is treated with profane contempt if reference be not had to it upon all questions of duty, or if its maxims are tortured from their natural and obvious sense to correspond with the precarious conclusions of any theory spun from the human brain: It hath been forgotten that Christians are possessed of authentic records of the first ages, and of the very beginning of mankind, which for their antiquity alone, independent of their Divine authority, might claim to be consulted in all inquiries where the resolution of the point in question depends upon the history of man.
From these records it appears, that the Providence of God was careful to give a beginning to the human race in that particular way which might for ever bar the existence of the whole or of any large portion of mankind in that state which hath been called the state of nature. Mankind from the beginning never existed otherwise than in society and under government: Whence follows this important con
sequence, that to build the authority of princes, or of the chief magistrate under whatever denomination, upon any compact or agreement between the individuals of a multitude living previously in the state of nature, is in truth to build a reality upon a fiction. That government, in various forms, is now subsisting in the world, is a fact not easily to be denied or doubted: That the state of nature ever did exist, is a position of which proof is wanting: That it existed not in the earliest ages, the pretended time of its existence, is a fact of which proof is not wanting, if credit may be given to the Mosaic records: But to derive governments which now are from a supposed previous condition of mankind which never was, is at the best an absurd and unphilosophical creation of something out of nothing.
But this absurdity is in truth but the least part of the mischief which this illconceived theory draws after it. Had what is called the state of nature, - though a thing so unnatural hath little title to the name, but had this state been in fact the
primeval condition of mankind; that is, had the world been at first peopled with a multitude of individuals no otherwise related than as they had partaken of the same internal nature and carried the same external form- without distinct property, yet all possessing equal right to what they might have strength or cunning to appropriate each to himself of the earth's common without any governor, head, or
guardian, no government could ever have been formed by any compact between the individuals of this multitude, but what their children in the very next generation would have had full right to abolish, or any one or more of those children, even in opposition to the sense of the majority, with perfect innocence, though not without imprudence, might have disobeyed: Insomuch, that if such compact be the true foundation of sovereign authority, the foundation is weaker than these republican theorists themselves conceive..
The whole foundation of government, in their view of it, is laid in these two assumptions, the first, that the will of a majo
rity obliges the minority; and the second, that the whole posterity may be bound by the act and deed of their progenitors. But both these rights,-that of the many to bind the few, and that of the father to make a bargain that shall bind his unborn children,—both these rights, though sacred and incontrovertible in civil society, are yet of the number of those to which civil society itself gives birth; and out of society they could have no existence. The obligations on the minority and on the child to stand by the resolutions of the majority and the engagements of the father, arise not from any thing in the nature of man individually considered: They are rather indeed unnatural; for all obligations, strictly speaking, are unnatural, which bind a man to the terms of a covenant made without his knowledge and consent: But they arise from the condition of man as a member of society,that is, from the relation of the individual to the public; a relation which subsists not till a public is formed. And to make those civil rights and obligations the parents of public authority which are indeed its off