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rule becomes very difficult in the application: yet sober reflection, a tender conscience, an upright heart, and a dependance on divine teaching, will render a man's path plain before him from day to day; and the comprehensive brevity of scripture did not admit of particular rules being given for all such exempt cases.
Nor would I be positive that the command of " un, “ resisting obedience to the powers that be,” will admit of no further exception in any possible circumstances. The iron rod of cruel oppression may be so severely felt that a whole nation, as one man, may be roused to an united opposition to it, and the ruling party then becomes a mere faction in the state. But it is not to our present purpose to inquire whether, in this case, a conscientious man be absolutely forbidden to concur in promoting the revolution, for which the unanimous voice of a nation calls aloud.- This, we may confident. ly affirm, is not the case, or like to be, in these king. doms: as nothing but extreme tyranny, to which no legal remedy can be applied, ever reduces matters to such an extremity: and in all other circumstances at least I apprehend, the rules laid down will be found scriptural. Indeed, there is scarcely a general precept concerning relative duties, in which common sense, and a deep acquaintance with the scripture, would not constrain us to allow of an exception, in some conceivable circumstances. It is possible that a parent may act in so infatuated, profligate, or cruel a manner, that obedience, in things not absolutely sinful, might be injurious to him, his son, and the whole family: yet this does not absolve children from their obligations to obedience in ordinary circumstances, even though
their parent's conduct and commands be liable to just exception.
III. We are expressly required to pay tribute and custom, for the support of government. Our Lord taught the Jews to “ render to Cesar the things which " were Cesar's," as well as “ to God the things which « were God's:” though Judea became subject to the Roman emperors by conquest, which is perhaps the worst of all titles to authority. The apostle gave the same instruction to christians,* though many iniquitous and oppressive taxes were imposed by the empe. rors and their deputies, which were collected with most grievous extortion, to the enriching of a few individu. als beyond modern conception, and to the impoverish. ing of millions. But no exception was made on that account: for christians ought very little to regard such matters; they should be satisfied with their better por, tion even under persecution; and be very thankful for religious liberty, though hardly dealt with in other things. As government cannot be supported without great expence, and as it produces such immense ad. vantages to us; so the payment of taxes is as necessa. ry to strict probity, as the discharge of other debts; nor can it consist with a good conscience, in any way or degree, to defraud the revenue, or to share in the plunder of those who do. All evasion in this matter involves in it much prevarication and disingenuous. ness: some kinds of it countenance a set of men whose principles and conduct are inimical in the extreme to
* Rom. xij. 6,7.
the peace of the community: and as the governea: will be sure by che tax or other to raise the requisite Sums, so be u: bo fraudenur withholds a part of his quota constrains bis more conscientious neighbour to par it for him: bow tben does he love him as himself? or do to others as he would they should do to him?
To argue that taxes legally imposed are not due, because they are partial and excessive, involves the ab. surdity before developed; for who does not feel a disposition to object to that tax, which bears hard on him. sell? or who, almost, would pay taxes adequate to the publick emergencies under the most frugal adminis. tration, if every one might determine for himself which taxes were equal and proper to be paid, and which were not? On such a plan no government on earth could be conducted: and where shall we draw the line!
- In fact, when taxes are really partial and oppressive, legal methods may be used to get them reduced, changed, or taken off: but till this can be done, i biores us to bear the cross with meekness and pain ; to pay them punctually, and to use no fraudulent methods of obtaining relief from our burdens.
IV. It is our indispensable duty to honour our rulers, and to behave with respect and deference towards them.* This certainly forbids us to accuse them false. ly, to ridicule their real or supposed; infirmities, or to endeavour to bring their characters and authority into contempt: nor can it consist even with mentioning their faults or mistakes without necessity, or in order to de. grade them in the publick opinion. Our sentiments of men and measures are not always in our own power; but the external expression of them should be restrained or regulated by propriety, and the nature of our relation to them. A dutiful son may greatly disapprove of some things in the conduct of his father: but will be circulate the report in order to expose him? will he industriously hold him up to contempt, ridicule, and re: proach? will be not rather endeavour to conceal, or palliate, his misconduct, or contrast it with his virtues? --and if this be impracticable, will he not be deeply concerned for his disgrace? (after the approved conduct of Shem and Japheth, and not after that of undutiful Hamn.)* Such ought to be our conduct towards those whom the providence of God hath placed in authority over us, and whom his word hath commanded us to honour. He hath made no exception to this precept on account of the real or supposed criminality of rulers, for this obvious reason, that no ruler can possiblybe found whose conduct would not afford a factious person an handle for obloquy and derision: even as no parent can behave so well but that an undutiful son will find something to object to, or turn to ridicule.
* 1 Pet.ii. 17.
Indeed imagination can scarcely form an idea of worse rulers than they who possessed the authority when these commands were given: yet even in such circumstances the more holy men are, the less disposed will they be “to bring against them a railing saccusation;”f whịch Michael the archangel would not
do even against the devil himself; so that “ speaking “ evil of dignities, and despising dominion,” is contrary to the holiness of angels, the precepts of scripture, the example of Christ, and the practice of the primitive church when groaning under the most cruel persecu. tion. But if this be so unchristian when rulers are manifestly iniquitous and oppressive, it must be still more inexcusable when their conduct and administra. tion are upon the whole commendable: this accords to scarcely any example in scripture, except that of Korah and his company, and that of the vile antinomians whom Peter and Jude so strenuously opposed. Who would think that his son honoured him, if he allowed his tongue and pen that unbridled licence, in animad. verting on all his actions, which even some, “ who “ seem to be religious,” use concerning their civil governors? Yet the command to honour the king, is as express, as that to honour father and mother; and as obligatory on every man's conscience.
V. We are expressly required to “pray for kings, “ and all that are in authority."* When this command was given, the civil governors were heathens, tyrants, and persecutors: yet, as the captive Jews were directed to pray for the peace of Babylon, that in the peace of that city they might have peace, --so christians were in. structed to pray for their rulers, that they might“ lead “ a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and hon. “ esty;" for “ the king's heart is in the hand of the “ Lord,' and it may be expected that in answer to the
* I Tim. ü. %