Mr. Mayhew's



The Mystery of King Charles's

Saintship and Martyrdom is unriddled.



THE author of this discourse has been credibly informed, that some persons, both formerly and lately, have wrote either at, or about him—or something; (be cannot well tell what) in the common news papers, which he does not often read. He, therefore, takes this op­portunity to assure the writers of that rank, and in that form, once for all, that they may slander him as much as they please, without his notice, and, very probably, without his knowledge. But if any person of com­mon sense and common honesty, shall condescend to animadvert in a different way, upon any thing which he has published, he may depend upon having all proper regard shown to him.

J. M.

The principal Errata of the press, are as follows.

Page 29. line 10, from the bottom, insert the word and before if. p. 31. l. 4, from the bottom, for person read persons. p. 42. l. 7. from the top, dele new and, before arbitrary. Errors in the pointing are left to be corrected by the reader.


A DISCOURSE CONCERNING Unlimited Submission AND Non-Resistance TO THE HIGHER POWERS: With some REFLECTIONS on the RESISTANCE made to King CHARLES I. AND ON THE Anniversary of his Death:

In which the MYSTERIOUS Doctrine of that Prince's Saintship and Martyrdom is UNRIDDLED:

The Substance of which was delivered in a SERMON preached in the West Meeting-House in Boston the LORD'S DAY after the 30th of January, 1749/50.

Published at the Request of the Hearers.

By JONATHAN MAYHEW, A. M. Pastor of the West Church in Boston.

Fear GOD, honor the King. Saint PAUL.
He that ruleth over Men, must be just, ruling in the Fear of GOD. Prophet SAMUEL.
I have said, ye are Gods—but ye shall die like Men, and fall like one of the PRINCES. King DAVID.
Quid memorem in [...]andas caedes? quid facta TYRANNI Effera? Dii CAPITI ips [...] GENERIQUE reservent—Necnon Threïcius longa cum veste SACERDOS Obloquitur—Rom. Vat. Prin.

BOSTON, Printed and Sold by D. FOWLE in Queen street; and by D. GOOKIN over against the South-Meeting-House. 1750.



THE ensuing discourse is the last of three upon the same subject, with some little alterations and addi­tions. It is hoped that but few will think the subject of it an improper one to be discoursed on in the pulpit, under a notion that this is preaching politics, instead of CHRIST. However, to remove all prejudices of this sort, I beg it may be remembred, that "all scripture—is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for CORRECTION, for instruction in righteousness." * Why, then, should not those parts of scripture which relate to civil government, be ex­amined and explained [...]om the desk, as well as others? Obe­dience to the civil magistrate is a christian duty: and if so, why should not the nature, grounds and extent of it be considered in a christian assembly? Besides, if it be said, that it is out of character for a christian minister to meddle with such a subject, this censure will at last fall upon the holy apostles. They write upon it in their epistles to christian churches: And surely it cannot be deemed either criminal or impertinent, to attempt an explanation of their doctrine.

IT was the near approach of the Thirtieth of January, that turned my thoughts to this subject: on which solemnity the slavish doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, [Page] is often warmly asserted; and the dissenters from the esta­blished church, represented, not only as scismatics, (with more of triumph than of truth, and of choler than christianity) but also as persons of seditious, traiterous and rebellious principles—GOD be thanked one may, in any part of the british dominions, speak freely (if a decent regard be paid to those in authority) both of government and religion; and even give some broad hints, that he is engaged on the side of Liberty, the BIBLE and Common Sense, in opposition to Tyranny, PRIEST-CRAFT and Non-sense, without being in danger either of the bastile or the inquisition:—Though there will always be some interested politicians, contracted bigots, and hypocritical zealots for a party, to take offence at such freedoms. Their censure is praise: Their praise is infamy—A spirit of domination is always to be guarded against both in church and state, even in times of the greatest security; such as the present is amongst US; at least as to the latter. Those nations who are now groaning under the iron scepter of tyranny, were once free. So they might, probably, have remained, by a seasonable precaution against despotic measures. Civil tyranny is usually small in its be­ginning, like "the drop of a bucket," * till at length, like a mighty torrent, or the raging waves of the sea, it bears down all before it, and deluges whole countries and empires. Thus it is as to ecclesiastical tyranny also,—the most cruel, intolerable and impious, of any. From small beginnings, "it exalts itself above all that is called GOD "and that is worshipped" People have no security [Page] against being unmercifully priest-ridden, but by keeping all imperious BISHOPS, and other CLERGYMEN who love to "lord it over God's heritage," from getting their foot into the stirrup at all. Let them be once fairly mounted, and their "beasts, the laiety," may prance and flounce about to no purpose: And they will, at length, be so jaded and hack'd by these reverend jockies, that they will not even have spirits enough to complain, that their backs are galled; or, like Balaam's ass, to "rebuke the madness "of the prophet."

"THE mystery of iniquity began to work" even in the days of some of the apostles. But the kingdom of Antichrist was then, in one respect, like the kingdom of heaven, however different in all others.—It was "as a "grain of mustard-seed." * This grain was sown in Italy, that fruitful field: And though it were "the least of all seeds," it soon became a mighty tree. It has, long since, overspread and darkned the greatest part of Christendom, so that we may apply to it what is said of the tree which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his vision—‘The height thereof reacheth unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth—And THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD have shadow under it.’ Tyranny brings ignorance and brutality along with it. It degrades men from their just rank, into the class of brutes. It damps their spirits. It suppresses arts. It extinguishes every spark of noble ardor and generosity in the breasts of those who are enslaved by it. It makes naturally-strong and great minds, [Page] feeble and little; and triumphs over the ruins of virtue and humanity. This is true of tyranny in every shape. There can be nothing great and good, where its influence reaches. For which reason it becomes every friend to truth and human kind; every lover of God and the christian religion, to bear a part in opposing this hateful monster. It was a desire to contribute a mite towards carrying on a war against this common enemy, that produced the following dis­course. And if it serve in any measure, to keep up a spirit of civil and religious liberty amongst us, my end is an­swered.—There are virtuous and candid men in all sects; all such are to be esteemed: There are also vicious men and bigols in all sects; and all such ought to be despised.

"To virtue only and her friends, a friend;
"The world beside may murmur or commend.
"Know, all the distant din that world can keep
"Rolls o'er my grotto, and but sooths my sleep."
Jonathan Mayhew.

Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers.

ROM. XIII. 1.—8.

1. Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God.

2. Whosoever therefore resisteth the [...] resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation.

3. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

4. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.

5. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

6. For, for this cause pay you tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

7. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honour, to whom honour.

IT is evident that the affair of civil government may properly fall under: moral and religious considera­tion, at least so far forth as it relates to the general nature and end of magistracy, and to the grounds and extent of that submission which persons of a private character, ought to yield to those who are vested with [Page 2] authority. This must be allowed by all who acknow­ledge the divine original of christianity. For although there be a sense, and a very plain and important sense, in which Christ's kingdom is not of this world; his in­spired apostles have, nevertheless, laid down some general principles concerning the office of civil rulers, and the duty of subjects, together with the reason and obligation of that duty. And from hence it follows, that it is pro­per for all who acknowledge the authority of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of his apostles, to endeavour to under­stand what is in fact the doctrine which they have deli­vered concerning this matter. It is the duty of christian magistrates to inform themselves what it is which their religion teaches concerning the nature and design of their office. And it is equally the duty of all christian peo­ple to inform themselves what it is which their religion teaches concerning that subjection which they owe to the higher powers. It is for these reasons that I have attempted to examine into the scripture-account of this matter, in order to lay it before you with the same freedom which I constantly use with relation to other doctrines and precepts of christianity; not doubting but you will judge upon every thing offered to your consideration, with the same spirit of freedom and liberty with which it is spoken.

THE passage read, is the most full and express of any in the new testament, relating to rulers and subjects: And therefore I thought it proper to ground upon it, what I had to propose to you with reference to the [Page 3] authority of the civil magistrate, and the subjection which is due to him. But before I enter upon an ex­planation of the several parts of this passage, it will be proper to observe one thing which may serve as a key to the whole of it.

IT is to be observed, then, that there were some persons amongst the christians of the apostolic age, and particularly those at Rome, to whom St. Paul is here writing, who seditiously disclaimed all subjection to civil authority; refusing to pay taxes, and the duties laid upon their trafic and merchandize; and who scrupled not to speak of their rulers, without any due regard to their office and character. Some of these turbulent christians were converts from judaism, and others from paganism. The jews in general had, long before this time, taken up a strange conceit, that being the pecu­liar and elect people of God, they were, therefore, ex­empted from the jurisdiction of any heathen princes or governors. Upon this ground it was, that some of them, during the public ministry of our blessed Saviour, came to him with that question—Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cesar or not? * And this notion many of them retained after they were proselyted to the chri­stian Faith. As to the gentile converts, some of them grosly mistook the nature of that liberty which the gos­pel promised; and thought that by virtue of their subjection to Christ, the only King and Head of his church, they were wholly freed from subjection to any other prince; as tho' Christ's kingdom had been of this [Page 4] world, in such a sense as to interfere with the civil powers of the earth, and to deliver their subjects from that allegiance and duty, which they before owed to them. Of these visionary christians in general, who dis­owned subjection to the civil powers in being where they respectively lived, there is mention made in several places in the new-testament: The apostle Peter in par­ticular, characterizes them in this manner—them that—despise government—presumpluous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Now it is with reference to these doting christians, that the apostle speaks in the passage before us. And I shall now give you the sense of it in a paraphrase upon each verse in its order, desiring you to keep in mind the character of the persons for whom it is designed, that so, as I go along, you may see how just and natural this address is; and how well suited to the circumstances of those against whom it is levelled.

THE apostle begins thus—Let every soul * be subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power § but of [Page 5] God: the powers that be * are ordained of God ver. 1. q. d. ‘Whereas some professed christians vainly ima­gine, that they are wholly excused from all manner of duty and subjection to civil authority, refusing to honour their rulers, and to pay taxes; which opini­on is not only unreasonable in itself, but also tends to fix a lasting reproach upon the christian name and profession, I now, as an apostle and ambassador of Christ, exhort every one of you, be he who he will, to pay all dutiful submission to those [...] ves­ted with any civil office. For there is, properly speaking, no authority but what is derived from God, as it is only by his permission and providence that any possess it. Yea, I may add, that all civil magistrates, as such, altho' they may be heathens, are appointed and ordained of God. For it is certainly God's will, that so useful an institution as that of magistracy, should take place in the world, for the good of civil society.’ The apostle proceeds—Who­soever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance [Page 6] of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. ver. 2. q. d. ‘Think not, therefore, that ye are guiltless of any crime or sin against God, when ye factiously disobey and resist the civil au­thority. For magistracy and government being, as I have said, the ordinance and appointment of God, it follows, that to resist magistrates in the execution of their offices, is really to resist the will and ordi­nance of God himself: And they who thus resist, will accordingly be punished by God for this sin in common with others.’ The apostle goes on—For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then, not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shall have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good, ver. 3d, and part of the 4th. q. d. ‘That you may see the truth and justness of what I assert, (viz. that magistracy is the ordinance of God, and that you sin against him in opposing it,) consider that even pagan rulers, are not, by the nature and design of their office, enemies and a terror to the good and virtuous actions of men, but only to the injurious and mischievous to society. Will ye not, then, re­verence and honor magistracy, when ye see the good [Page 7] end and intention of it? How can ye be so unreasona­ble? Only mind to do your duty as members of society; and this will gain you the applause and favour of all good rulers. For while you do thus, they are, by their office, as ministers of God, obli­ged to encourage and protect you; it is for this very purpose that they are clothed with power.’ The apostle subjoins—But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for be beareth not the sword in vain. For be is the minister of God, a revenger, to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. * ver. 4. latter part. q. d. ‘But upon the other hand, if ye refuse to do your duty as members of society; if ye refuse to bear your part in the support of government; if ye are dis­orderly, and do things which merit civil chastisement, then, indeed, ye have reason to be afraid. For it is [Page 8] not in vain that rulers are vested with the power of inflicting punishment. They are, by their office, not only the ministers of God for good to those that do well; but also his ministers to revenge, to dis­countenance and punish those that are unruly, and in­jurious to their neighbours.’ The apostle proceeds—Wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake, ver. 5. q. d. ‘Since there­fore, magistracy is the ordinance of God; and since rulers are, by their office, benefactors to society, by discouraging what is bad, and encouraging what is good, and so preserving peace and order amongst men; it is evident that ye ought to pay a willing subjection to them; not to obey merely for fear of exposing yourselves to their wrath and displeasure, but also in point of reason, duty and conscience: Ye are under an indispensable obligation, as christians, to honour their office, and to submit to them in the execution of it.’ The apostle goes on—For, for this cause pay you tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing, ver. 6. q. d. ‘And here is a plain reason also why ye should pay tribute to them; for they are God's ministers, exalted above the common level of mankind, not that they may indulge themselves in softness and luxury, and be entitled to the servile homage of their fellow-men; but that they may execute an office no less laborious than honourable; and attend continually upon the public welfare. This being their business [Page 9] and duty, it is but reasonable, that they should be re­quited for their care and diligence in performing it; and enabled, by taxes levied upon the subject, effectu­ally to prosecute the great end of their institution, the good of society.’ The apostle sums all up in the following words—Render therefore to all their dues: tribute, * to whom tribute is due; custom, * to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; honour, to whom honour, ver. 7. q. d. ‘Let it not, therefore, be said of any of you hereafter, that you contemn govern­ment, to the reproach of yourselves, and of the christian religion. Neither your being jews by na­tion, nor your becoming the subjects of Christ's king­dom, gives you any dispensation for making distur­bances in the government under which you live. Approve yourselves, therefore, as peaceable and du­tiful subjects. Be ready to pay to your rulers all that they may, in respect of their office, justly de­mand of you. Render tribute and custom to those of your governors to whom tribute and custom be­long: And chearfully honor and reverence all who are vested with civil authority, according to their deserts.’

THE apostle's doctrine, in the passage thus explained, concerning the office of civil rulers, and the duty of [Page 10] subjects, may be summed up in the following obser­vations; * viz.

THAT the end of magistracy is the good of civil society, as such:

THAT civil rulers, as such, are the ordinance and mi­nisters of God; it being by his permission and provi­dence that any bear rule: and agreeable to his will, that there should be some persons vested with authority in society, for the well-being of it:

THAT which is here said concerning civil rulers, ex­tends to all of them in common: it relates indifferently to monarchical, republican and aristocratical government; and to all other forms which truly answer the sole end of government, the happiness of society; and to all the different degrees of authority in any particular state; to inferior officers no less than to the supreme:

THAT disobedience to civil rulers in the due exer­cise of their authority, is not merely a political sin, but an heinous offence against God and religion:

THAT the true ground and reason of our obliga­tion to be subject to the higher powers, is the usefulness [Page 11] of magistracy (when properly exercised) to human society, and its subserviency to the general welfare:

THAT obedience to civil rulers is here equally requi­red under all forms of government, which answer the sole end of all government, the good of society; and to every degree of authority in any state, whether supreme or subordinate:

(From whence it follows,

THAT if unlimited obedience and non-resistance, be here required as a duty under any one form of govern­ment, it is also required as a duty under all other forms; and as a duty to subordinate rulers as well as to the supreme.)

AND lastly, that those civil rulers to whom the apostle injoins subjection, are the persons in possession; [Page 12] the powers that be; those who are actually vested with authority.

THERE is one very important and interesting point which remains to be inquired into; namely, the extent of that subjection to the higher powers, which is here enjoined as a duty upon all christians. Some have thought it warrantable and glorious, to disobey the civil powers in certain circumstances; and, in cases of very great and general oppression, when humble remonstrances fail of having any effect; and when the publick welfare can­not be otherwise provided for and secured, to rise una­nimously even against the sovereign himself, in order to redress their grievances; to vindicate their natural and legal rights: to break the yoke of tyranny, and free themselves and posterity from inglorious servitude and ruin. It is upon this principle that many royal oppres­sors have been driven from their thrones into banish­ment; and many slain by the hands of their subjects. [Page 13] It was upon this principle that Tarquin was expelled from Rome; and Julius Cesar, the conqueror of the world, and the tyrant of his country, cut off in the senate house. It was upon this principle, that king Charles I, was be­headed before his own banqueting house. It was upon this principle, that king James II. was made to fly that country which he aim'd at enslaving: And upon this principle was that revolution brought about, which has been so fruitful of happy consequences to Great-Britain. But, in opposition to this principle, it has often been as­serted, that the scripture in general (and the passage un­der consideration in particular) makes all resistance to princes a crime, in any case whatever—If they turn ty­rants, and become the common oppressors of those, whose welfare they ought to regard with a paternal af­fection, we must not pretend to right ourselves, unless it be by prayers and tears and humble intreaties: And if these methods fail of procuring redress, we must not have recourse to any other, but all suffer ourselves to be robbed and butchered at the pleasure of the Lord's anointed; left we should incur the sin of rebellion, and the punishment of damnation. For he has God's au­thority and commission to bear him out in the worst of crimes, so far that he may not be withstood or controuled. Now whether we are obliged to yield such an absolute submission to our prince; or whether diso­bedience and resistance may not be justifiable in some cases, notwithstanding any thing in the passage before us, is an inquiry in which we are all concerned; and this is the inquiry which is the main design of the present discourse.

[Page 14]Now there does not seem to be any necessity of sup­posing, that an absolute, unlimited obedience, whether active or passive, is here injoined, merely for this reason, that the precept is delivered in absolute terms, without any exception or limitation expresly mentioned. We are enjoined, (ver. 1.) to be subject to the higher powers: and (ver. 5.) to be subject for conscience sake. And because these expressions are absolute and unlimited, (or more properly, general) some have inferred, that the subjection required in them, must be absolute and unli­mited also: At least so far forth as to make passive obedience and non-resistance, a duty in all cases what­ever, if not active obedience likewise. Though, by the way, there is here no distinction made betwixt active and passive obedience; and if either of them be requi­red in an unlimited sense, the other must be required in the same sense also, by virtue of the present argument; because the expressions are equally absolute with respect to both. But that unlimited obedience of any sort, cannot be argued merely from the indefinite expressions in which obedience is enjoined, appears from hence, that expressions of the same nature, frequently occur in scrip­ture, upon which it is confessed on all hands, that no such absolute and unlimited sense ought to be put. For example, Love not the world; neither the things that are in the world; Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth; * Take therefore no thought for the morrow; are precepts expressed in at least equally absolute and unli­mited terms: but it is generally allowed that they are to be understood with certain restrictions and limitati­ons; [Page 15] some degree of love to the world, and the things of it, being allowable. Nor, indeed, do the Right Re­verend Fathers in God, and other dignified clergymen of the established church, seem to be altogether averse to admitting of restrictions in the latter case, how warm soever any of them may be against restrictions, and limitations, in the case of submission to authority, whe­ther civil or ecclesiastical. It is worth remarking also, that patience and submission under private injuries, are injoined in much more peremptory and absolute terms, than any that are used with regard to submission to the injustice and oppression of civil rulers. Thus, I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on the right check, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile with him, go with him twain. Any man may be desied to produce such strong expressions in favor of a passive and tame submission to unjust, tyran­nical rulers, as are here used to inforce submission to private injuries. But how few are there that understand those expressions literally? And the reason why they do not, is because (with submission to the quakers) common sense shows that they were not intended to be so understood.

BUT to instance in some scripture precepts, which are more directly to the point in hand.—Children are commanded to obey their parents, and servants, their masters, in as absolute and unlimited terms as subjects [Page 16] are here commanded to obey their civil rulers. Thus this same apostle—Children obey your parents in the Lord; for this is right. Honour thy father and mother,—which is the first commandment with promise.—Servants, be obe­dient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, with singleness of your heart as unto Christ. * Thus also wives are commanded to be obedient to their husbands—Wives, submit your selves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, even as CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH—Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands IN EVERY THING. In all these cases, submission is required in terms (at least) as absolute and universal, as are ever used with respect to rulers and subjects. But who supposes that the apo­stle ever intended to teach, that children, servants and wives, should, in all cases whatever, obey their pa­rents, masters and husbands respectively, never making any opposition to their will, even although they should require them to break the commandments of God, or should causelesly make an attempt upon their lives? No one puts such a sense upon these expressions, how­ever absolute and unlimited. Why then should it be supposed, that the apostle designed to teach universal obedience, whether active or passive, to the higher pow­ers, merely because his precepts are delivered in absolute and unlimited terms? And if this be a good argument in one case, why is it not in others also? If it be said [Page 17] that resistance and disobedience to the higher powers, is here said positively to be a sin, so also is the disobedience of children to parents; servants, to masters; and wives, to husbands, in other places of scripture. But the ques­tion still remains, whether in all these cases there be not some exceptions? In the three latter, it is allowed there are. And from hence it follows, that barely the use of absolute expressions, is no proof, that obedience to civil rulers, is, in all cases, a duty; or resistance, in all cases a sin. I should not have thought it worth while to take any notice at all of this argument, had it not been much insisted upon by some of the advocates for passive obedience and non-resistance: For it is, in itself, perfectly trifling; and render'd considera­ble, only by the stress that has been laid upon it for want of better.

THERE is, indeed, one passage in the new-testament, where it may seem, at first view, that an unlimited submission to civil rulers, is injoined.—Submit your selves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake. —To every ordinance of man.—However, this expression is no stronger than that before taken notice of, with relation to the duty of wives—So let the wives be subject to their own husbands—IN EVERY THING. But the true solution of this difficulty (if it be one) is this: by every ordinance of man, * is not meant every command of the civil magistrate without exception; but every [Page 18] order of magistrates appointed by man;—whether superior or inferior: For so the apostle explains himself in the very next words—Whether it be to the king as supreme, or to governors, as unto them that are sent, &c. But although the apostle had not subjoined any such expla­nation, the reason of the thing itself would have obli­ged us to limit the expression [every ordinance of man] to such human ordinances and commands, as are not in­consistent with the ordinances and commands of God, the supreme lawgiver; or with any other higher, and antecedent, obligations.

IT is to be observed, in the next place, that as the duty of universal obedience and non-resistance to the higher powers, cannot be argued from the absolute unli­mited expressions which the apostle here uses; so neither can it be argued from the scope and drift of his rea­soning, considered with relation to the persons he was here opposing. As was observed above, there were some professed christians in the apostolic age, who dis­claimed all magistracy and civil authority in general, despising government, and speaking evil of dignities; some under a notion that jews ought not to be under the jurisdiction of [...] rulers; and others, that they were set free from the temporal powers, by Christ. Now it is with persons of this licentious opinion and character, that the apostle is concerned. And all that was directly to his point, was to show, that they were bound to sub­mit to magistracy in general. This is a circumstance very material to be taken notice of, in order to ascertain [Page 19] the sense of the apostle. For this being considered, it is sufficient to account for all that he says concerning the duty of subjection, and the sin of resistance, to the higher powers, without having recourse to the doctrine of unlimited submission and passive obedience, in all cases whatever. Were it known that those in opposi­tion to whom, the apostle wrote, allowed of civil au­thority in general, and only asserted that there were some cases in which obedience and non-resistance, were not a duty; there would, then, indeed, be reason for interpreting this passage as containing the doctrine of unlimited obedience, and non-resistance, as it must, in this case, be supposed to have been levelled against such as denied that doctrine. But since it is certain that there were persons who vainly imagined, that civil government in general, was not to be regarded by them, it is most reasonable to suppose, that the apostle designed his dis­course only against them. And agreeably to this suppo­sition, we find that he argues the usefulness of civil ma­gistracy in general; its agreeableness to the will and purpose of God, who is over all; and so deduces from hence, the [...] of submission to it. But it will not follow, that because civil government, is, in general, a good institution, and necessary to the peace and happi­ness of human society, therefore there are no supposeable cases in which resistance to it can be innocent. So that the duty of unlimited obedience, whether active or pas­sive, can be argued, neither from the manner of expres­sion here used, nor from the general scope and design of the passage.

[Page 20]AND if we attend to the nature of the argument with which the apostle here inforces the duty of submis­sion to the higher powers, we shall find it to be such an one as concludes not in favor of submission to all who bear the title of rulers, in common; but only, to those who actually perform the duty of rulers, by exercising a reasonable and just authority, for the good of human society. This is a point which it will be proper to en­large upon; because the question before us turns very much upon the truth or falshood of this position. It is obvious, then, in general, that the civil rulers whom the apostle here speaks of, and obedience to whom he presses upon christians as a duty, are good rulers, such as are, in the exercise of their office and power, bene­factors to society. Such they are described to be, thro'­out this passage. Thus it is said, that they are not a terror to good works, but to the evil; that they are God's ministers for good; revengers to execute wrath upon him that doth evil; and that they attend continually upon this very thing. St. Peter gives the same account of rulers: They are for a praise to them that do well, and the pu­nishment of evil doers. * It is manifest that this cha­racter and description of rulers, agrees only to such as are rulers in fact, as well as in name: to such as govern well, and act agreeably to their office. And the apo­stle's argument for submission to rulers, is wholly built [Page 21] and grounded upon a presumption that they do in fact answer this character; and is of no force at all upon supposition of the contrary. If rulers are a terror to good works, and not to the evil; if they are not ministers for good to society, but for evil and distress, by violence and oppression; if they execute wrath upon fober, peace­able persons, who do their duty as members of society; and suffer rich and honourable knaves to escape with impunity; if, instead of attending continually upon the good work of advancing the publick welfare, they attend only upon the gratification of their own lust and pride and ambition, to the destruction of the public welfare; if this be the case, it is plain that the apostle's argument for submission does not reach them; they are not the same, but different persons from those whom he cha­racterizes; and who must be obeyed according to his reasoning.—Let me illustrate the apostle's argument, by the following stmilitude: (it is no matter how far it is from any thing which has, in fact, happened in the world.) Suppose, then, it was allowed, in general, that the clergy were an useful order of men; that they ought to be esteemed very highly in love for their works sake; and to be decently supported by those whom they serve, the labourer being worthy of his reward. * Sup­pose farther, that a number of Reverend and Right Re­verend Drones, who worked not; who preached, perhaps, but once a year, and then, not the gospel of Jesus Christ; but the divine right of tythes;—the dignity of their office as ambassadors of Christ, the equity of sine cures, and [Page 22] a plurality of benefices;—the excellency of the devotions in that prayer book, which some of them hired chap­lains to use for them;—or some favourite point of church­tyranny, and antichristian usurpation; suppose such men as these, spending their lives in effeminacy, luxury and idleness; (or when they were not idle, doing that which is worse than idleness; suppose such men) should, merely by the merit of ordination and consecration, and a pecu­liar, odd habit, claim great respect and reverence from those whom they civilly called the beasts of the laiety; and demand thousands per annum, for that good service which they—never performed; and for which, if they had performed it, this would be much more than a quan­tum meruit: suppose this should be the case, (it is only by way of simile, and surely it will give no offence) would not every body be astonished at such insolence, injustice and impiety? And ought not such men to be told plainly, that they could not reasonably expect the esteem and reward, due to the ministers of the gospel, unless they did the duties of their office? Should they not be told, that their title and habit claimed no regard, reverence or pay, separate from the care and work and various duties of their function? And that while they neglected the latter, the former served only to render them the more ridiculous and contemptible?—The appli­cation of this stmilitude to the case in hand, is very easy.—If those who bear the title of civil rulers, do not perform the duty of civil rulers, but act directly counter to the sole end and design of their office; if they [Page 23] injure and oppress their subjects, instead of defending their rights and doing them good; they have not the least pretence to be honored, obeyed and rewarded, ac­cording to the apostle's argument. For his reasoning, in order to show the duty of subjection to the higher powers, is, as was before observed, built wholly upon the supposition, that they do, in fact, perform the duty of rulers.

IF it be said, that the apostle here uses another ar­gument for submission to the higher powers, besides that which is taken from the usefulness of their office to civil society, when properly discharged and executed; namely, that their power is from God; that they are ordained of God; and that they are God's ministers: And if it be said, that this argument for submission to them will hold good, although they do not exercise their power for the benefit, but for the ruin, and destruction of human society; this objection was obviated, in part, before. Rulers have no authority from God to do mischief. They are not God's ordinance, or God's ministers, in any other sense than as it is by his permission and pro­vidence, that they are exalted to bear rule; and as magistracy duly exercised, and authority rightly applied, in the enacting and executing good laws,—laws attem­pered and accommodated to the common welfare of the subjects, must be supposed to be agreeable to the will of the beneficent author and supreme Lord of the uni­verse; whose kingdom [...] over all; * and whose [Page 24] tender mercies are over all his works. It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors, God's ministers. They are more properly the messengers of satan to buffet us. * No rulers are properly God's ministers, but such as are just, ruling in the fear of God. When once magistrates act contrary to their office, and the end of their insti­tution; when they rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare; they imme­diately ease to be the ordinance and ministers of God; and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen. So that whenever that argu­ment for submission, fails, which is grounded upon the usefulness of magistracy to civil society, (as it always does when magistrates do hurt to society instead of good) the other argument, which is taken from their being the ordinance of God, must necessarily fail also; no person of a civil character being God's minister, in the sense of the apostle, any farther than he performs God's will, by exercising a just and reasonable authority; and ruling for the good of the subject.

THIS in general. Let us now trace the apostle's reasoning in favor of submission to the higher powers, a little more particularly and exactly. For by this it will appear, on one hand, how good and conclusive it is, for submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner: And, on the other, how weak and trifling and inconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of [Page 25] obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers in common with others of a different character.

THE apostle enters upon his subject thus—Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers; for there is no power but of God: the powers that be, are ordained of God. * Here he urges the duty of obedience from this topic of argument, that civil rulers, as they are supposed to fulfil the pleasure of God, are the ordi­nance of God. But how is this an argument for obe­dience to such rulers as do not perform the pleasure of God, by doing good; but the pleasure of the devil, by doing evil; and such as are not, therefore, God's ministers, but the devil's! Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist, shall receive to themselves damnation. Here the apostle argues, that those who resist a rea­sonable and just authority, which is agreeable to the will of God, do really resist the will of God himself; and will, therefore, be punished by him. But how does this prove, that those who resist a lawless, unreasonable power, which is contrary to the will of God, do therein resist the will and ordinance of God? Is re­sisting those who resist God's will, the same thing with resisting God? Or shall those who do so, receive to themselves damnation! For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good; and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. Here the apostle argues more explicitly [Page 26] than he had before done, for revereing, and submitting to, magistracy, from this consideration, that such as really performed the duty of magistrates, would be enemies only to the evil actions of men, and would befriend and encourage the good; and so be a common blessing to society. But how is this an argument, that we must honor, and submit to, such magistrates as are not enemies to the evil actions of men; but to the good; and such as are not a common blessing, but a common curse, to society! But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid: For be is the minister of God, a revenger, to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. Here the apostle argues from the nature and end of magistracy, that such as did evil, (and such only) had reason to be afraid of the higher powers; it being part of their office to punish evil doers, no less than to de­fend and encourage such as do well. But if magistrates are unrighteous; if they are respecters of persons; if they are partial in their administration of justice; then those who do well have as much reason to be afraid, as those that do evil: there can be no safety for the good, nor any peculiar ground of terror to the unruly and in­jurious. So that, in this case, the main end of civil government will be frustrated. And what reason is there for submitting to that government, which does by no means answer the design of government? Where­fore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. * Here the apostle argues the duty of a chearful and conscientious submission to civil go­vernment, [Page 27] from the nature and end of magistracy as he had before laid it down. i.e. as the design of it was to punish evil doers, and to support and encourage such as do well; and as it must, if so exercised, be agreeable to the will of God. But how does what he here says, prove the duty of a chearful and conscientious subjection to those who forfeit the character of rulers? to those who encourage the bad, and discourage the good? The argument here used no more proves it to be a sin to resist such rulers, than it does, to resist the devil, that he may free from us. * For one is as truly the minister of God as the other. For, for this cause pay you tribute also; for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Here the apostle argues the duty of paying taxes, from this consideration, that those who perform the duty of rulers, are continually attending upon the public welfare. But how does this argument conclude for paying taxes to such princes as are conti­nually endeavouring to ruin the public? And especially when such payment would facilitate and promote this wicked design! Render therefore to all their dues; tri­bute, to whom tribute is due; custom, to whom custom; fear, to whom fear; bonor, to whom bonor. Here the apostle sums up what he had been saying concerning the duty of subjects to rulers. And his argument stands thus—‘Since magistrates who execute their office well, are common benefactors to society; and may, in that respect, be properly stiled the ministers and ordi­nance of God; and since they are constantly employed [Page 28] in the service of the public; it becomes you to pay them tribute and custom; and to reverence, honor, and submit to, them in the execution of their re­spective offices.’ This is apparently good reasoning. But does this argument conclude for the duty of paying tribute, custom, reverence, honor and obedience, to such persons as (although they bear the title of rulers) use all their power to hurt and injure the public? such as are not God's ministers, but satan's? such as do not take care of, and attend upon, the public interest, but their own, to the ruin of the public? that is, in short, to such as have no natural and just claim at all to tribute, custom, reverence, honor and obedience? It is to be hoped that those who have any regard to the apostle's character as an inspired writer, or even as a man of common understanding, will not represent him as reasoning in such a loose incoherent manner; and draw­ing conclusions which have not the least relation to his premises. For what can be more absurd than an argu­ment thus framed? ‘Rulers are, by their office, bound to consult the public welfare and the good of so­ciety: therefore you are bound to pay them tribute, to honor, and to submit to them, even when they destroy the public welfare, and are a common pest to society, by acting in direct contradiction to the nature and end of their office.’

THUS, upon a careful review of the apostle's reasoning in this passage, it appears that his arguments to enforce submission, are of such a nature, as to conclude only in favour of submission to such rulers as he himself describes: [Page 29] i.e. such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants, and public oppressors, are not intitled to obedience from their subjects, by virtue of any thing here laid down by the inspired apostle.

I NOW add, farther, that the apostle's argument is so far from proving it to be the duty of people to obey, and submit to, such rulers as act in contradiction to the public good, and so to the design of their office, that it proves the direct contrary. For, please to observe, that if the end of all civil government, be the good of society; if this be the thing that is aimed at in constituting civil rulers; and if the motive and argument for submission to government, be taken from the apparent usefulness of civil authority; it follows, that when no such good end can be answered by sub­mission, there remains no argument or motive to enforce it; if instead of this good end's being brought about by submission, a contrary end is brought about, and the ruin and misery of society effected by it, here is a plain and positive reason against submission in all such cases, should they ever happen. And therefore, in such cases, a regard to the public welfare, ought to make us with-hold from our rulers, that obedience and sub­jection which it would, otherwise, be our duty to render to them. If it be our duty, for example, to obey our king, merely for this reason, that he rules for the pub­lic [Page 30] welfare, (which is the only argument the apostle makes use of) it follows, by a parity of reason, that when he turns tyrant, and makes his subjects his prey to devour and to destroy, instead of his charge to defend and cherish, we are bound to throw off our allegiance to him, and to resist; and that according to the tenor of the apostle's argument in this passage. Not to dis­continue our allegiance, in this case, would be to join with the sovereign in promoting the slavery and mi­sery of that society, the welfare of which, we ourselves, as well as our sovereign, are indispensably obliged to se­cure and promote, as far as in us lies. It is true the apostle puts no case of such a tyrannical prince; but by his grounding his argument for submission wholly upon the good of civil society; it is plain he implicitly autho­rises, and even requires us to make resistance, whenever this shall be necessary to the public safety and happiness. Let me make use of this easy and familiar similitude to illustrate the point in hand—Suppose God requires a family of children, to obey their father and not to resist him; and inforces his command with this argument; that the superintendence and care and authority of a just and kind parent, will contribute to the happiness of the whole family; so that they ought to obey him for their own sakes more than for his: Suppose this parent at length runs distracted, and attempts, in his mad sit, to cut all his children's throats: Now, in this case, is not the reason before assigned, why these children should obey their parent while he continued of a sound mind, namely, their common good, a reason equally conclusive [Page 31] for disobeying and resisting him, since he is become delirious, and attempts their ruin? It makes no alteration in the argument, whether this parent, properly speaking, loses his reason; or does, while he retains his understand­ing, that which is as fatal in its consequences, as any thing he could do, were he really deprived of it. This similitude needs no formal application—

BUT it ought to be remembred, that If the duty of universal obedience and non-resistance to our king or prince, can be argued from this passage, the same unli­mited submission under a republican, or any other form of government; and even to all the subordinate powers in any particular state, can be proved by it as well: which is more than those who alledge it for the menti­oned purpose, would be willing should be inferred from it. So that this passage does not answer their purpose; but really overthrows and confutes it. This matter deserves to be more particularly considered.—The ad­vocates for unlimited submission and passive obedience, do, if I mistake not, always speak with reference to kingly or monarchical government as distinguished from all other forms; and, with reference to submitting to the will of the king, in distinction from all subordinate officers, acting beyond their commission, and the autho­rity which they have received from the crown. It is not pretended that any person besides kings, have a di­vine right to do what they please, so that no one may resist them, without incurring the guilt of factiousness and rebellion. If any other supreme powers oppress the [Page 32] people, it is generally allowed, that the people may get redress, by resistance, if other methods prove inef­fectual. And if any officers in a kingly government, go beyond the limits of that power which they have de­rived from the crown, (the supposed original source of all power and authority in the state) and attempt, ille­gally, to take away the properties and lives of their fel­low-subjects, they may be forcibly resisted, at least till application can be made to the crown. But as to the sovereign himself, he may not be resisted in any case; nor any of his officers, while they confine themselves within the bounds which he has prescribed to them. This is, I think, a true sketch of the principles of those who defend the doctrine of passive obedience and non­resistance. Now there is nothing in scripture which supports this scheme of political principles. As to the passage under consideration, the apostle here speaks of civil rulers in general; of all persons in common, vested with authority for the good of society, without any par­ticular reference to one form of government, more than to another; or to the supreme power in any particular state, more than to subordinate powers. The apostle does not concern himself with the different forms of go­vernment. This he supposes left intirely to human prudence [Page 33] prudence and discretion. Now the consequence of this is, that unlimited and passive obedience, is no more enjoined in this passage, under monarchical government; or to the supreme power in any state, than under all other species of government, which answer the end of government; or, to all the subordinate degrees of civil authority, from the highest to the lowest. Those, therefore, who would from this passage infer the guilt of resisting kings, in all cases whatever, though acting ever so contrary to the design of their office, must,if they will be consistent, go much farther, and infer from it the guilt of resistance under all other forms of government; and of resisting any petty officer in the state, tho acting beyond his commission, in the most arbitrary, illegal manner possible. The argument holds equally strong in both cases. All civil rulers, as such, are the ordinance and ministers of God; and they are all, by the nature of their office, and in their respective spheres and stations, bound to consult the public welfare. With the same reason therefore, that any deny unlimited and passive obedi­ence [Page 34] to be here injoined under a republic or aristocrasy, or any other established form of civil government; or to subordinate powers, acting in an illegal and oppressive manner; (with the same reason) others may deny, that such obedience is enjoined to a king or monarch, or any civil power whatever. For the apostle says nothing that is peculiar to kings; what he says, extends equally to all other persons whatever, vested with any civil office. They are all, in exactly the same sense, the ordinance of God; and the ministers of God; and obedience is equally enjoined to be paid to them all. For, as the apostle expresses it, there is NO POWER but of God: And we are requi­red to render to ALL their DUES; and not MORE than their DUES. And what these dues are, and to whom they are to be rendered, the apostle sayeth not; but leaves to the reason and consciences of men to determine.

THUS it appears, that the common argument, grounded upon this passage, in favor of universal, and passive obedience, really overthrows itself, by proving too much, if it proves any thing at all; namely, that no civil officer is, in any case whatever, to be resisted, though acting in express contradiction to the design of his office; which no man, in his senses, ever did, or can assert.

IF we calmly consider the nature of the thing itself, nothing can well be imagined more directly contrary to common sense, than [...] suppose that millions of people should be subjected to the arbitrary, precarious pleasure [Page 35] of one single man; (who has naturally no superiority over them in point of authority) so that their estates, and every thing that is valuable in life, and even their lives also, shall be absolutely at his disposal, if he happens to be wanton and capricious enough to demand them. What unprejudiced man can think, that God made ALL to be thus subservient to the lawless pleasure and phrenzy of ONE, so that it shall always be a sin to resist him! Nothing but the most plain and express revelation from heaven could make a sober impartial man believe such a monstrous, unaccountable doctrine, and, indeed, the thing itself, appears so shocking—so out of all propor­tion, that it may be questioned, whether all the miracles that ever were wrought, could make it credible, that this doctrine really came from God. At present, there is not the least syllable in scripture which gives any coun­tenance to it. The hereditary, indefeasible, divine right of kings, and the doctrine of non-resistance, which is built upon the supposition of such a right, are altogether as fabulous and chimerical, as transubstantiation; or any of the most absurd reveries of ancient or modern visionaries. These notions are fetched neither from divine revelation, nor human reason; and if they are derived from neither of those sources, it is not much matter from whence they come, or whither they go. Only it is a pity that such doctrines should be propagated in society, to raise fac­tions and rebellions, as we see they have, in fact, been both in the last, and in the present, REIGN.

BUT then, if unlimited submission and passive obedi­ence to the higher powers, in all possible cases, be not a [Page 36] duty, it will be asked, ‘How far are we obliged to submit? If we may innocently disobey and resist in some cases, why not in all? Where shall we stop? What is the measure of our duty? This doctrine tends to the total dissolution of civil government; and to introduce such scenes of wild anarchy and con­fusion, as are more fatal to society than the worst of tyranny.’

AFTER this manner, some men object; and, indeed, this is the most plausible thing that can be said in favor of such an absolute submission as they plead for. But the worst (or rather the best) of it, is, that there is very little strength or solidity in it. For similar difficulties may be raised with respect to almost every duty of natural and revealed religion.—To instance only in two, both of which are near akin, and indeed exactly parallel, to the case before us. It is unquestionably the duty of children to submit to their parents; and of servants, to their masters. But no one asserts, that it is their duty to obey, and submit to them, in all supposeable cases; or universally a sin to resist them. Now does this tend to subvert the just authority of parents and masters? Or to introduce confusion and anarchy into private families? No. How then does the same principle tend to unhinge the govern­ment of that larger family, the body politic? We know, in general, that children and servants are obliged to obey their parents and masters respectively. We know also, with equal certainty, that they are not obliged to submit to them in all things, without exception; but may, in some cases, reasonably, and therefore innocently, [Page 37] resist them. These principles are acknowledged upon all hands, whatever difficulty there may be in fixing the exact limits of submission. Now there is at least as much difficulty in stating the measure of duty in these two cases, as in the case of rulers and subjects. So that this is really no objection, at least no reasonable one, against resistance to the higher powers: Or, if it is one, it will hold equally against resistance in the other cases mentioned.—It is indeed true, that turbulent, vicious­minded men, may take occasion from this principle, that their rulers may, in some cases, be lawfully resisted, to raise factions and disturbances in the state; and to make resistance where resistance is needless, and therefore, sin­ful. But is it not equally true, that children and ser­vants of turbulent, vicious minds, may take occasion from this principle, that parents and masters may, in some cases be lawfully resisted, to resist when resistance is un­necessary, and therefore, criminal? Is the principle in either case false in itself, merely because it may be abu­sed; and applied to legitimate disobedience and resist­ance in those instances, to which it ought not to be applied? According to this way of arguing, there will be no true principles in the world; for there are none but what may be wrested and perverted to serve bad pur­poses, either through the weakness or wickedness of men.

[Page 38]A PEOPLE, really oppressed to a great degree by their sovereign, cannot well be insensible when they are so oppressed. And such a people (if I may allude to an ancient fable) have, like the besperian fruit, a DRAGON [Page 39] for their protector and guardian: Nor would they have any reason to mourn, if some HERCULES should ap­pear [Page 40] to dispatch him—For a nation thus abused to arise unanimously, and to resist their prince, even to the de­throning him, is not criminal; but a reasonable way of vindicating their liberties and just rights; it is making use of the means, and the only means, which God has put into their power, for mutual and self-defence. And it would be highly criminal in them, not to make use of this means. It would be stupid tameness, and unac­countable folly, for whole nations to suffer one unreasona­ble, ambitious and cruel man, to wanton and riot in their misery. And in such a case it would, of the two, be more rational to suppose, that they that did NOT resist, than that they who did, would receive to themselves damnation.


THIS naturally brings us to make some reflections upon the resistance which was made about a century since, to that unhappy prince, KING CHARLES I; and upon the ANNIVERSARY of his death. This is a point which I should not have concerned myself about, were it not that some men continue to speak of it, even to this day, with a great deal of warmth and zeal; and in such a manner as to undermine all the principles of LIBERTY, whether civil or religious, and to introduce the most abject slavery both in church and state: so that it is become a matter of universal concern.—What I have to offer upon this subject, will be comprised in a short answer to the following queries; viz.

[Page 41]FOR what reason the resistance to king Charles the First was made?

BY whom it was made?

WHETHER this resistance was REBELLION, or not?

How the Anniversary of king Charles' death came at first to be solemnized as a day of fasting and humiliation?

And lastly,

WHY those of the episcopal clergy who are very high in the principles of ecclesiastical authority, continue to speak of this unhappy man, as a great SAINT and a MARTYR?

FOR what reason, then, was the resistance to king Charles, made? The general answer to this inquiry is, that it was on account of the tyranny and oppression of his reign. Not a great while after his accession to the throne, he married a french catholic; and with her seemed to have wedded the politics, if not the religion of France, also. For afterwards, during a reign, or rather a tyranny of many years, he governed in a perfectly wild and arbi­trary manner, paying no regard to the constitution and the laws of the kingdom, by which the power of the crown was limited; or to the solemn oath which he had taken at his coronation. It would be endless, as well as needless, to give a particular account of all the illegal and despotic measures which he took in his administra­tion;—partly from his own natural lust of power, and partly from the influence of wicked councellors and [Page 42] ministers.—He committed many illustrious members of both houses of parliament to the lower, for opposing his ar­bitrary schemes.—He levied many taxes upon the people without consent of parliament;—and then imprisoned great numbers of the principal merchants and gentry for not paying them.—He erected, or at least revived, several new and arbitrary courts, in which the most unheard-of barbarities were committed with his knowledge and approbation—He supported that more than fiend, arch-bishop Laud and the clergy of his stamp, in all their church tyranny and hellish cruelties—He authorised a book in favor of sports upon the Lord's day; and several clergymen were persecuted by him and the mentioned pious bishop, for not reading it to the people after divine service—When the parliament complained to him of the arbitrary proceedings of his corrupt ministers, he told that august body, in a rough, domineering, unprincely manner, that he wondred any one should be so foolish and insolent as to think that he would part with the meanest of his servants upon their account—He refused to call any parliament at all for the space of twelve years together, during all which time, he governed in an absolute lawless and despotic manner—He took all op­portunities to encourage the papists, and to promote them to the highest offices of honor and trust—He (proba­bly) abetted the horrid massacre in Ireland, in which two hundred thousand Protestants were butchered by the roman catholics.—He sent a large sum of money, which he had raised by his arbitrary taxes, into Germany, to raise foreign troops, in order to force more arbitrary taxes [Page 43] upon his subjects.—He not only by a long series of acti­ons, but also in plain terms, asserted an absolute uncon­troulable power; saying even in one of his speeches to parliament, that as it was blasphemy to dispute what God might do; so it was sedition in subjects to dispute what the king might do.—Towards the end of his tyranny, he came to the house of commons with an armed force, and demanded five of its principal members to be delivered up to him—And this was a prelude to that unnatural war which he soon after levied against his own dutiful subjects; whom he was bound by all the laws of honor, humanity, piety, and I might add, of interest also, to defend and cherish with a paternal affection—I have only time to hint at these facts in a general way, all which, and many more of the same tenor, may be proved by good authorities: So that the figurative language which St. John uses concerning the just and beneficent deeds of our blessed Saviour, may be applied to the unrighteous and execrable deeds of this prince, viz. And there are also many other things which king Charles did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself, could not contain the books that should be written. * Now it was on account of king Charles's thus assuming a power above the laws, in direct contra­diction to his coronation oath, and governing the greatest part of his time, in the most arbitrary oppressive manner; it was upon this account, that that resistance was made [Page 44] to him, which, at length, issued in the loss of his crown, and of that head which was unworthy to wear it.

BUT by whom was this resistance made? Not by a private junto;—not by a small seditious party;—not by a few desparadoes, who, to mend their fortunes, would embroil the state;—but by the LORDS and COMMONS of England. It was they that almost unanimously opposed the king's measures for overturning the constitution, and changing that free and happy government into a wretched, absolute monarchy. It was they that when the king was about levying forces against his subjects, in order to make himself absolute, commissioned officers, and raised an army to defend themselves and the public: And it was they that maintained the war against him all along, till he was made a prisoner. This is indisputable. Though it was not properly speaking the parliament, but the army, which put him to death afterwards. And it ought to be freely acknowledged, that most of their proceed­ing, in order to get this matter effected; and particu­larly the court by which the king was at last tried and condemned, was little better than a mere mockery of justice.—

THE next question which naturally arises, is, whether this resistance which was made to the king by the par­liament, was properly rebellion, or not? The answer to which is plain, that it was not; but a most righteous and glorious stand, made in defence of the natural and legal rights of the people, against the unnatural and illegal encroachments of arbitrary power. Nor was this a rash [Page 45] and too sudden opposition. The nation had been patient under the oppressions of the crown, even to long suf­fering;—for a course of many years; and there was no rational hope of redress in any other way—Resistance was absolutely necessary in order to preserve the nation from slavery, misery and ruin. And who so proper to make this resistance as the lords and commons;—the whole representative body of the people;—guardians of the public welfare; and each of which was, in point of le­gislation, vested with an equal, co-ordinate power, with that of the crown? Here were two branches of the [Page 46] legislature against one;—two, which had law and equity and the constitution on their side, against one which was impiously attempting to overturn law and equity and the constitution; and to exercise a wanton licentious sovereign­ty over the properties, consciences and lives of all the people:—Such a sovereignty as some inconsiderately ascribe to the supreme Governor of the world.—I say, inconsi­derately; because God himself does not govern in an absolutely arbitrary and despotic manner. The power of this Almighty King (I speak it not without caution and reverence; the power of this Almighty King) is limited by law; not, indeed, by acts of parliament, but by the eternal laws of truth, wisdom and equity; and the ever­lasting tables of right reason;—tables that cannot be repealed, or thrown down and broken like those of Moses.—But king Charles sat himself up above all these, as much as he did above the written laws of the realm; and made mere humor and caprice, which are no rule at all, the only rule and measure of his administration. And now, is it not perfectly ridiculous to call resistance to such a tyrant, by the name of rebellion?the grand rebellion? Even that—parliament, which brought king [Page 47] Charles II. to the throne, and which run loyally mad, severely reproved one of their own members for condem­ning the proceedings of that parliament which first took up arms against the former king. And upon the same principles that the proceedings of this parliament may be censured as wicked and rebellious, the proceedings of those who, since, opposed king James II, and brought the prince of Orange to the throne, may be censured as wicked and rebellious also. The cases are parallel.—But whatever some men may think, it is to be hoped that, for their own sakes, they will not dare to speak against the REVOLUTION, upon the justice and legality of which depends (in part) his present MAJESTY's right to the throne.

IF it be said, that although the parliament which first­opposed king Charles's measures, and at length took up arms against him, were not guilty of rebellion; yet cer­tainly those persons were, who condemned, and put him to death; even this perhaps is not true. For he had, in fact, unkinged himself long before, and had forfeited his title to the allegiance of the people. So that those who put him to death, were, at most only guilty of murder; which, indeed, is bad enough, if they were really guilty of that; (which is at least disputable.) Cromwell, and those who were principally concerned in the nominal) king's death, might possibly have been very vicked and designing men. Nor shall I say any thing in vindication of the reigning hypocrisy of those times; or of Cromwell's male-administration during the inter­regnum: (for it is truth, and not a party, that I am speak­ing [Page 48] for.) But still it may be said, that Cromwell and his adherents were not, properly speaking, guilty of rebellion; because he, whom they beheaded was not, properly speak­ing, their king; but a lawless tyrant.—much less, are the whole body of the nation at that time to be charged with rebellion on that account; for it was no national act; it was not done by a free parliament. And much less still, is the nation at present, to be charged with the great sin of rebellion, for what their ancestors did, (or rather did NOT) a century ago.

BUT how came the anniversary of king Charles's death, to be solemnized as a day of fasting and humiliation? The true answer in brief, to which inquiry, is, that this fast was instituted by way of court and complement to king Charles II, upon the restoration. All were desirous of making their court to him; of ingratiating themselves; and of making him forget what had been done in oppo­sition to his father, so as not to revenge it. To effect this, they ran into the most extravagant professions of affection and loyalty to him, insomuch that he himself said, that it was a mad and hair brain'd loyalty which they professed. And amongst other strange things, which his first parliament did, they ordered the Thirtieth of January (the day on which his father was beheaded) to be kept as a day of solemn humiliation, to deprecate the judgments of heaven for the rebellion which the nation had been guilty of, in that which was no national thing; and which was not rebellion in them that did it—Thus they soothed and flattered their new king, at the expence [Page 49] of their liberties:—And were ready to yield up freely to Charles II, all that enormous power, which they had justly resisted Charles I, for usurping to himself.

THE last query mentioned, was, Why those of the episcopal clergy who are very high in the principles of ecclesiastical authority, continue to speak of this unhappy prince as a great Saint and a Martyr? This, we know, is what they constantly do, especially upon the 30th of January;—a day sacred to the extolling of him, and to the reproaching of those who are not of the established church. Out of the same mouth on this day, proceedeth blessing and cursing; there with bless they their God, even Charles, and therewith curse they the diffenters: And their tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. King Charles is, upon this solemnity, frequently compared to our Lord Jesus Christ, both in respect of the holiness of his life, and the greatness and injustice of his sufferings; and it is a wonder they do not add something concerning the merits of his death also—But blessed saint and royal martyr, are as humble titles as any that are thought worthy of him.

Now this may, at first view, well appear to be a very strange phenomenon. For king Charles was really a man black with guilt and laden with iniquity, as appears by his crimes before mentioned. He liv'd a tyrant; and it was the oppression and violence of his reign, that brought him to his untimely and violent end at last. Now what of saintship or martyrdom is there in all this: [Page 50] What of saintship is there in encouraging people to pro­fane the Lord's Day? What of saintship in falshood and perjury? What of saintship in repeated robberies and depredations? What of saintship in throwing real saints, and glorious patriots, into goals? What of saint­ship in overturning an excellent civil constitution;—and proudly grasping at an illegal and monstrous power? What of saintship in the murder of thousands of inno­cent people; and involving a nation in all the calamities of a civil war? And what of martyrdom is there, in a man's bringing an immature and violent death upon himself, by being wicked overmuch? Is there any such thing as grace, without goodness! As being a follower of Christ, without following him? As being his disciple, without learning of him to be just and beneficent? Or, as saintship without sanctity? * If not, I fear it will be hard to prove this man a saint. And verily one would be apt to suspect that that church must be but [Page 51] poorly stocked with saints and martyrs, which is forced to adopt such enormous sinners into her kalendar, in order to swell the number.

BUT to unravel this mystery of (nonsense as well as of) iniquity, which has already worked for a long time amongst us; * or, at least, to give the most probable solution of it; it is to be remembred, that king Charles, this burlesque upon faintship and martyrdom, though so great an oppressor, was a true friend to the Church;—so true a friend to her, that he was very well affected towards the roman catholics; and would, probably, have been very willing to unite Lambeth and Rome. This appears by his marrying a true daughter of that true mother of barlots; which he did with a dispensation from the Pope, that supreme BISHOP; to whom when he wrote, he gave the title of MOST HOLY FATHER. His queen was extremely bigotted to all the follies and superstitions, and to the bierarchy, of Rome; and had a prodigious ascendency over him all his life. It was, in part, owing to this, that he (probably) abetted the mas­sacre of the protestants in Ireland; that he assisted in extirpating the french protestants at Rochelle; that he all along encouraged papists, and popishly effected cler­gymen, in preference to all other persons, and that he upheld that monster of wickedness, ARCH-BISHOP LAUD, and the bishops of his stamp, in all their church­tyranny and diabolical cruelties. In return to his kindness and indulgence in which respects, they caused many of [Page 52] the pulpits throughout the nation, to ring with the divine absolute, indefeasible right of kings; with the praises of Charles and his reign; and with the damnable sin of resisting the Lord's anointed, let him do what he would. So that not Christ, but Charles, was commonly preached to the people.—In plain english, there seems to have been an impious bargain struck up betwixt the scepter and the surplice, for enslaving both the bodies and souls of men. The king appeared to be willing that the clergy should do what they would,—set up a monstrous hierarchy like that of Rome,—a monstrous inquisition like that of Spain or Portugal,—or any thing else which their own pride, and the devil's malice, could prompt them to: Provided always, that the clergy would be tools to the crown; that they would make the people believe, that kings had God's authority for breaking God's law; that they had a commission from heaven to seize the estates and lives of their subjects at pleasure; and that it was a damnable sin to resist them, even when they did such things as deserved more than damnation.—This appears to be the true key for explaining the myste­rious doctrine of king Charles's saintship and martyrdom. He was a saint, not because he was in his life, a good man, but a good churchman; not because he was a lover of holiness, but the hierarchy; not because he was a friend to Christ, but the Craft. And he was a martyr in his death, not because he bravely suffered death in the cause of truth and righteousness, but because he died an enemy to liberty and the rights of conscience; i. e. not because he died an enemy to sin, but dissenters. For these rea­sons [Page 53] it is that all bigotted clergymen, and friends to church-power, paint this man as a saint in his life, though he was such a mighty, such a royal sinner; and as a martyr in his death, though he fell a sacrifice only to his own ambition, avarice, and unbounded lust of power. And from prostituting their praise upon king Charles, and offering him that incense which is not his due, it is natural for them to make a transition to the diffenters, (as they commonly do) and to load them with that re­proach which they do not deserve; they being generally prosessed enemies both to civil and ecclesiastical tyranny. WE are commonly charged (upon the Thirtieth of Ja­nuary) with the guilt of putting the king to death, under a notion that it was our ancestors that did it; and so we are represented in the blackest colours, not only as scismaticks, but also as traitors and rebels and all that is bad. And these lofty gentlemen usually rail upon this head, in such a manner as plainly shows, that they are either grosly ignorant of the history of those times which they speak of; or, which is worse, that they are guilty of the most shameful prevarication, slander and falshood.—But every petty priest, with a roll and a gown, thinks he must do something in imitation of his betters, in lawn, and show himself a true son of the church: And thus, through a foolish ambition to appear considerable, they only render themselves contemptible.

BUT suppose our fore-fathers did kill their mock saint and martyr a century ago, what is that to us now? If I mistake not, these gentlemen generally preach down the doctrine of the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity, [Page 54] as absurd and unreasonable, notwithstanding they have solemnly subscribed what is equivalent to it in their own articles of religion. And therefore one would hardly ex­pect that they would lay the guilt of the king's death upon us, altho' our fore-fathers had been the only authors of it. But this conduct is much more surprising, when it does not appear that our ancestors had any more hand in it than their own.—However, bigotry is sufficient to ac­count for this, and many other pbenomena, which cannot be accounted for in any other way.

ALTHOUGH the observation of this anniversary seems to have been (at least) superstitious in its original; and al­though it is often abused to very bad purposes by the esta­blished clergy, as they serve themselves of it, to perpetuate strife, a party spirit, and divisions in the christian church; yet it is to be hoped that one good end will be answered by it, quite contrary to their intention: It is to be hoped, that it will prove a standing memento, that Britons will not be slaves; and a warning to all corrupt councellors and ministers, not to go too far in advising to arbitrary, des­potic measures—

To conclude: Let us all learn to be free, and to be loyal. Let us not profess ourselves vassals to the lawless pleasure of any man on earth. But let us remember, at the same time, government is sacred, and not to be trisled with. It is our happiness to live under the government of a PRINCE who is satisfied with ruling according to law; as every other good prince will—We enjoy under his ad­ministration all the liberty that is proper and expedient [Page 55] for us. It becomes us, therefore, to be contented, and dutiful subjects. Let us prize our freedom; but not use our liberty for a cloke of maliciousness. There are men who strike at liberty under the term licenliousness. There are others who aim at popularity under the dis­guise of patriolism. Be aware of both. Extremes are dangerous. There is at present amongst us, perhaps, more danger of the latter, than of the former. For which reason I would exhort you to pay all due Regard to the government over us; to the KING and all in authority; and to lead a quiet and peaceable life. —And while I am speaking of loyalty to our earthly Prince, suffer me just to put you in mind to be loyal also to the supreme RULER of the universe, by whom kings reign, and princes decree justice. * To which king eter­nal immortal, invisible, even to the ONLY WISE GOD, be all honor and praise, DOMINION and thanksgiving, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. AMEN.


This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.