Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

for the purpose of supplying his individual
impotence by the force of combination,
God was, in fact, the institutor of human so-
ciety; and when he permitted man, whom he
had created fallible, to lapse into error and
thus rendered the controll of private interest
and passion requisite for the common secu-
rity, the same Almighty Being was, in truth,
the founder of human government. Poli-
tical institution, therefore, as well as social
union, must be referred to the Creator as to
its first father; and the pure despotism of
Persia or of the Cæsars may as unquestion-
ably assert its claim to this heavenly pedi-
gree as the pure democracy of Athens or
the complex artifice of the constitution of
Britain. “The

“The powers that be are ordained
of God;” and the magistrate may justly be
regarded as the minister of that Supreme
Power to whose permission the necessity of
his existence must ultimately be referred.
But while God must thus be admitted as the
first parent of government in the abstract,
he has evidently submitted the adjustment
of its particular modes to the reason and the
will of man. By this intellectual and moral
agent the requisite controll may be enlarged
or be restrained, may be confined to the

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

& Rom. xiii, 3.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

hands of one, or be distributed among those of many according to the determination of his wants, his habits, or his inclination; and, on the principle that human guilt is punishable by human justice, the abuser of this confided controll must be amenable to the judgment of those from whose authority and for whose benefit he has received it.

To this point, then, we cannot well refuse our concurrence to Milton; but to the next step it will be hazardous to accompany him. If the right to punish these elevated delinquents be invariably annexed to the possession of the power, a fearful opening will be left for mischief; and the sword, directed by private passion or, perhaps, by individual caprice, may injure the interests of thousands while it strikes a criminal magistrate. There may, indeed, be extreme cases in which nature, rising against oppression, will vindicate the blow inflicted one or by the few. But the occurrence of these cases must necessarily be so rare, and the evil of the proposed remedy is so incontrovertibly great, that a christian moralist cannot hesitate to prohibit the execution of the most evident public justice by any less power than that of the public will. The wisdom of the English constitution is, in this instance, especially admirable. Making, un

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

then der the influence of the most cogent reasons, cond the

person of the first magistrate intangible and sacred and yet acknowledging the in

dissoluble union of responsibility with trust, fik

it compels this inviolable officer to act with the agency of others, and to these indispensible instruments it attaches the responsibility of the great executive office.

With the conscious security of a patriarchal father at the head of his extended family, the Sovereign is thus invited to the indulgence of paternal benevolence, while

the interests of the community are as effecopet tually secured as if the sword, in perpetual

and delicate suspense over his head, were ready to fall on him for every abuse of his

delegated authority. But some of the finer Jo

lineaments of the English constitution were not developed in the time of Milton; and his ideas of liberty were formed principally in the school of Greece, where the hand, which slew a tyrant, was consecrated ;' and where, from the natural result of their trembling insecurity, these usurpers of the public rights were peculiarly bloody and ferocious.

The treatise, which we are noticing, is full of strong argument and weighty sense. In support of the lawfulness of tyrannicide, the writer adduces some examples from the Hebrew scriptures; and is willing to infer

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

that the especial commission of unerring wisdom and justice, which certainly hallows the deed immediately in question, communicates the covering of its sanction to deeds precisely the same in kind, motive, and effect. From the sacred writings of the christians he can cite only two or three passages, which prove nothing more than that the blessed Jesus did not assign to monarchs all the attributes which were given to them by the adulation of the world, or feel for wicked sovereigns more respect than he entertained for wicked men.

The opinions of christian divines, which are subsequently produced, make more directly and fully for the author's purpose. According to the judgment of these learned and pious men,“ kings are under the laws, as well as their subjects, and regal guilt

, from its greater consequences, ought to bę corrected with severer infliction:"_“ kings have their authority from the people, who may, upon occasion, reassume it:”-“ kings, , who endeavour to subvert religion, and use their power to the injury of those, for whose benefit it was entrusted to them, break the

1. The divines, whose opinions are cited by Milton on this occasion, are Luther, Zwinglius, Calvin, Bucer, Peter Martyr, Paræus, Gilby, Christopher Goodman, and the Scotch reformi, ers, with the whole body of the Scotch clergy.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

ties between them and their people, and release the latter from their allegiance;"--and, lastly, “ kings or rulers, who become blasphemers of God, oppressors and murderers of their subjects, ought not to be accounted kings or lawful magistrates, but ought, as private men, to be examined, accused, condemned, and punished.”

These authorities unquestionably demonstrate that the responsibility of kings to a human tribunal is a doctrine which has not uniformly been considered as incompatible with christian theology: but their support. cannot be extended to the full assertion in the title of this piece, “ that it is lawful for any who have the power to call to account a tyrant;" &c. though this assertion be a little qualified by the subsequent words, “ and, after due conviction, to depose and put him to death.”

In the course of this work the Presbyterians obtain much of the author's notice; and their conduct is exposed by him with the severity which it deserved. It was difficult, indeed, to animadvert too strongly upon the inconsistency of men who, after resişting the authority of their sovereign; after making him the aim of their devout execrations from the pulpit and of their ar

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »