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I. IT is the evident doctrine of scripture, that government is the appointment of God, to be a restraint on man's selfishness, and to preserve a measure of order in the world, notwithstanding human depravity. Rulers are, therefore, called “God’s ministers for good “to those that do well,” and “revengers, to execute “wrath on evil doers.”—So that government, as it subsists among men, is in fact both a consequence, and a demonstration, of our fallen state; and the inconveniences resulting from the abuse of it should be patiently endured, because we are sinners. The comtroversies concerning the origin of government, as the “ordinance of man,” though important in politicks, are in this respect of no consequence: for God as the Author of our rational nature, and the supreme Ruler of the world, is the Fountain of all subordinate authority; by whatever second causes he hath been
pleased to confer it. It is his revealed will that there
* 1 Sam. viii. .
furnished a pretence to those who refuse " to be sub*' ject to principalities and powers."
III. The established form of government in every country is, jor 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 surpris. ing that objections may justly be made to many parts of their private character, or publick administration: for who could endure so severe a scrutiny, as is now generally made into their conduct and measures? So that Vol. IN. 3 R
when revolutions take place, one sinner succeeds another in the post of temptation and observation; inordinate self-love continues to produce it’s 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 fac. tion, 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 majority would always oppose their measures, from envy of their preeminence, 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, cove. tous, designing, and selfish.