Page images
PDF
EPUB

But it is alleed, that, although this compact was never an express one, ii maj, still, be fairly consistered as a tacit and implied compact. To the very existence of a compact it is indispensable, that the contracting party should be conscious, that the subject of the compact is proposed to him for his deliberation, choice, and consent; and that he does actually deliberate, choose, and consent. But there is not even the shadow of a pretence, that any man, considering himself as being in a state of nature, and subject to no civil government, was ever conscious of being invited to become a party to such a compact, and of having this question ever proposed to him for such deliberation, or such consent. There is, therefore, as little foundation for the supposition of a tacit, as for that of an express, social compact.

It is further alleged, that this scheme, although confessedly imaginary, may yet be advantageously employed to illustrate the nature of civil government. In answer to this allegation, I shall only observe, that the philosopher who believes falsehood to be necessary, or useful, to the illustration of truth, must be very hardly driven by his own weakness, or by the erroneousness of his system.

If it were indeed true, that government is thus founded, then these fatal consequences would follow.

Every despotism on earth must stand as long as the world continues. Every subject of despotic power is by this doctrine supposed to promise his obedience to it; and no man can ever withdraw himself from the obligation of his own promise. A new government can never upon this scheme be substituted for a former, but by the choice of the majority of those, who are subject to it; and aš men come into the world, there never can be, in any country, a majority of inhabitants, who have not already promised obedience to the existing government. A minority, therefore, must always comprise the whole number of those, who can lawfully act in the business of modelling the government anew. Nor could even these act in concert, without being guilty of rebellion. Nor could those, who had already promised obedience, be released from their promise. If, therefore, a new government were to be constituted; there must be two sets of inhabitants, every where intermingled throughout such a country, and obeying two distinct and hostile governments.

If any man, in any country, declines his consent to the compact ; he is under no obligation to obey the existing government. Personal consent, according to this scheme, is all, that constitutes such obligation. Such a man may, therefore, fix himself in a state of nature. If he attacks others, indeed; they may attack him in turn: but the government cannot lawfully meddle with him, nor with his concerns.

If the ruler should violate any, even the least part of his own engagements ; then the subjects are released from their engagements :

and of course, from all obligation to obey the luws. In other words, from the least violation of the ruler's engagements, a state of anarchy lawfully and necessarily ensues.

If the subjects pass by such violation in silence; their consent to it is equally implied with their supposed original compact. Of course the ruler may law. fully commit the same violation again as often as he plcases; nor can the subjects lawfully complain ; because they have consented to it in the same manner as to the pre-existing government. Evo cry such violation, therefore, which is not openly resisted, is finally sanctioned.

On the other hand, if a subject violate any of his engagements, however small; the ruler may lawfully make him an Outlaw; and deprive him of every privilege, which he holds as a citizen.

A foreigner, passing through such a country, can be under no obligation to obey its laws; and, if he does any thing, which may be construed as an outrage; must either be suffered to do it with impunity, or must be attacked by private violence. Such attacks, a few times repeated, would convert any people into a horde of robbers.

No man could, in such a government, be punished wih death; however enormous might be his crimes; because no man ever thought of making, or has any right to make, a surrender of his own life into the hands of others.

All these, and a multitude of other, deplorable consequences follow, irresistibly follow, from the doctrine, that government is founded on the social compact.

Government, as I have already remarked, is founded in the Hill of God. The evidence of this position is complete. That God made mankind in order to make them happy, if they themselves will consent to be so, cannot be questioned. As little can it be questioned, that government is indispensable to their happiness, and to all the human means of it; to the safety of life, liberty, and property ; to peace; to order; to useful knowledge; to morals; and to religion. Nay, it is necessary to the very existence of any considerable numbers of mankind. A country without government would speedily, for want of those means of subsistence and comfort, to the existence of which it is indispensable, become an Arabian desert; and that, however fruitful its soil, or salubrious its climate. Mankind have never yet been able to exist for any length of time in a state of anarchy. What reason so completely evinces, the Scriptures decide in the most peremptory manner. that be, says St. Paul, are ordained of God: in other words ; Government is an ordinance of God.

It is not here to be intended, that God has ordained a given form of government. This he has never done, except in a single instance. He

He gave the Israelites a system, substantially of the republican form. This fact may, perhaps, afford a presumption in favour of such a form, wherever it is capable of existing, but can do nothing more. Nothing more is here intended, than that God

The powers has willed the existence of Government itself. He has undoubtedly left it to nations to institute such modes of it, whenever this is in their power, as should best suit their own state of society,

As God willed the existence of government for the happiness of mankind; it is unanswerably certain, that every government is agreeable to his will just so far, as it promotes that happiness ; that that government, which promotes it most, is most agreeable to his will; and that that government, which opposes human happiness, is equally opposed to his will. From these undeniable principles both rulers and subjects may easily learn most of their own duty. Whatever is conformed to them is right: whatever is contrary to them is wrong of course. This, it will be remembered, is the dictate both of common sense, and of the Scriptures.

Every ruler is accordingly bound to remember, that he is raised to the chair of magistracy, solely for the good of those whom he governs. His own good he is to find in the consciousness of hav. ing promoted that of others; and in the support, affection, and respect, which they render, and are bound to render, him for discharging this important duty. There is no greater mistake, there is no more anti-scriptural, or contemptible, absurdity, than the doctrine of millions made for one ; of a ruler, raised to the chair of magistracy, to govern for himself; to receive homage ; to roll in splendour; to riot in luxury; to gratify pride, power, and ambition, at the expense of the toils and sufferings of his fellow-men. Such a ruler is only a public robber. Every man in office, however elevated, is bound to remember, as a being equally accountable to God with his fellow-men, that his personal rights are by the divine constitution and pleasure the same, as those of others; that his personal gratification is of no more importance, and can claim no greater sacrifices, than that of others; that peculation, fraud, falsehood, injustice, oppression, drunkenness, gluttony, lewdness, sloth, profaneness, irreligion, and impiety; in a word, every crime; is accompanied by greater guilt in him, than in men at large; because of his superior advantages to know, and his superior inducements to perform, his duty. Forsaking all private gratifications, then, so far as they are inconsistent with the public happiness, just so much more important than his, as those who enjoy it are more numerous, he is required, indispensably, to see, that his government has that happy and glorious influence upon his people, which is described by a man, thoroughly versed in this subject, in the following beautiful language: The Spirit of the Lord spake by me; and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God; and he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds ; as the tender grass, springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. 2 Sam. xxii. 2-4

a

To possess this beneficent influence; like this glorious luminary to diffuse light, and warmth, and animation, and happiness, to all around him; a Ruler ought,

1. To be a man of absolute Sincerity.

Or the ruler of the Universe it is said, that it is impossible, that he should lie. Mercy and truth, said the wisest ruler that ever lived in this world, preserve the king. The lip of truth, says the

, same prince, shall be established for ever. "If truth,” said King John of France, “ were to be banished from the world; it ought still to find a residence in the breast of Princes.” On the importance of truth I shall have occasion to dwell hereafter.

It ought however, to be observed here, that truth is the basis, on which rest all the natural and moral interests of Intelligent beings; that neither virtue nor happiness can exist without it; and that falsehood, generally diffused, would ruin not only a kingdom or a world, but the universe; would change all rational beings into fiends, and convert heaven itself into a hell.

There are two kinds of government; that of force; and that of persuasion. A government of persuasion is the only moral, or free government. A government of force may preserve order in every case, which that force can reach; but the order is that of a churchyard; the stillness and quiet of death. The inhabitants of a kingdom, governed in this manner, are tenants of the grave : moving masses, indeed, of flesh and bones: but the animating principle is gone. The soul is shrivelled, and fled; and nothing remains, but dust and putrefaction.

A government of persuasion subsists only in the mutual confidence of the ruler and the subjects. But where truth is not, confidence is not. A deceitful ruler is never believed for a moment. could suppose him desirous to do good; he would want the pow. er: for none would trust either his declarations, or his promises. The only feelings, excited in the minds of the community, towards him and his measures, would be jealousy and hatred. Even fools know, that upright and benevolent measures not only need no support from falsehood, but are ruined by it. The very connection of falsehood, therefore, with any measures, proves irresistibly to all men, that the measures themselves are mischievous, and that the Author of them is a villain. Where confidence does not exist, voluntary obedience cannot exist. A lying ruler, if his government is to continue, makes force, or despotism, indispensable to his administration. So sensible are even the most villainous magistrates of these truths, that they leave no measure untried to persuade their subjects, that themselves are men of veracity. Nay, all sagacious despots carefully fulfil their promises to such of their subjects, as they think necessary to the support of their domination, and to the success of their measures. Falsehood may, indeed, in the hands of a man of superior cunning, succeed for a time; but it

a

If we

men.

can never last long: and, whenever detection arrives, it draws after it a terrible train of avengers.

Besides, lying is the most contemptible of all sins. Ye are of your father, the devil

, said our Saviour to the Jews ; for he was a liar from the beginning, and the father of it. This contemptible resemblance to the vilest and most contemptible of all beings, the source of complete de basement to every one who is the subject of it, is pre-eminently contemptible in a ruler. He is, of course, the object both of public and private scorn. No degradation is more indignantly regarded, than that of being governed by a liar.

If a ruler hearken to lies ; says Solomon, all his servants are wicked. Such a magistrate will be served by none but profligate

The evils of his government will, therefore, spread, by means of his subordinate officers, into every nook and corner of the land. Like the Simoon of Nubia, he spreads poison, death, and desolation, over the wretched countries subjected to his sway.

2. A Ruler is bound to be a Just man.

He that ruleth over men, saith God, must be just. This, indeed, is united, of course, with the preceding character. He that speaketh truth, saith Solomon, sheweth forth righteousness. The imporļance of justice in government is, like that of truth, inestimable; and, as ii respects the divine government, is exhibited with wonderful force in that declaration of Moses, He is the Rock ; that is, the immoveable foundation, on which the universe rests. Why? The answer is, His work is perfect : for all his ways are judgment, or justice; a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is He. On the truth and justice of the infinite Mind the universe is built

, as a house upon a rock. Fiat justitia ; ruat coelum;" is an adage, proverbially expressing the judgment of Common sense, concerning this subject. Let Justice be done, although heaven itself should tumble into ruin.

This comprehensive attribute demands in the
First place, Of the Legislator, that he enact just laws.

Laws are the rules, by which rulers themselves, as well as the people at large, are, or ought to be governed. If these are unjust ; the whole system of administration will be a system of iniquity ; and the mass of guilt, thus accumulated, will rest primarily on the head of the Legislator.

Secondly; of the Judge, that all his Interpretations of law, and all his Decisions, founded on it, be just." Wo unto them, saith Isaiah, who justify the wicked for a reward, and take away the righteousness of ihe righteous from him. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; saith God to Israel, thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty : but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. It is not good, says Solomon, to have respect of persons in judgment. He that saith unto the wicked, that is, in a judicial sentence, Thou art rightcous ; him shall people curse : nations shall abhor kime Bet to Vol. III.

42

« EelmineJätka »