Passive Obedience, OR, THE Christian Doctrine Of Not Resisting the SUPREME POWER, Proved and Vindicated upon the PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW of NATURE. In a DISCOURSE Deliver'd at the College-Chapel.
By GEORGE BERKELEY, M. A. Fellow of Trinity-College, Dublin.
Cicero Fragment. de Repub.
The Second Edition.
LONDON: Printed for H. CLEMENTS, at the Half-Moon in St. Paul's Church-Yard. 1712.
To the Reader.
THAT an Absolute Passive Obedi|ence ought not to be paid any Civil Power: But that Submission to Govern|ment shou'd be Measured and Limited by the Public Good of the Society; and that therefore Subjects may Lawfully Resist the Supreme Authority, in those Cases where the Public Good shall plainly seem to re|quire it: Nay, that it is their Duty to do so, inasmuch as they are all under an indi|spensable Obligation to promote the Common Interest: These and the like Notions, which I cannot help thinking Pernicious to Man|kind and Repugnant to Right Reason, ha|ving of late Years been Industriously Culti|vated, and set in the most Advantageous Lights by Men of Parts and Learning, it seemed necessary to Arm the Youth of our University against them, and take care they go into the World well Principled; I do not mean Obstinately Prejudic'd in favour of Page [unnumbered] a Party, but from an early Acquaintance with their Duty, and the clear Rational Grounds of it, Determin'd to such Practi|ces as may speak them Good Christians and Loyal Subjects.
In this View, I made three Discourses not many Months since in the College-Chapel, which some who heard them thought it might be of Use to make more Public: And indeed, the false Accounts that are gone abroad concerning them, have made it necessary. Accordingly I now send them into the World under the Form of one entire Discourse.
To Conclude; As in Writing these Thoughts it was my Endeavour to Preserve that Cool and Impartial Temper which be|comes every sincere Enquirer after Truth, so I heartily wish they may be Read with the same Disposition.Page 1
Romans Ch. 13. Ver. 2.Whosoever Resisteth the Power, Resist|eth the Ordinance of God.
I. IT is not my Design to enquire into the particular Nature of the Government and Constitution of these Kingdoms; much less to pretend to determine con|cerning the Merits of the different Parties now reigning in the State. Those Topicks I profess to lie out of my Sphere, and they will probably be thought by most Men, improper to be Treated of in an Audience almost wholly made up of young Persons, set apart from the business and noise of the World, for their more convenient instruction in Learning and Piety. But surely it is in no re|spect unsuitable to the circumstances of this place to inculcate and explain every branch of the Law of Nature; or those Virtues and Duties which are equally binding in every Kingdom or Society of Men under Heaven; and of this kind I take to be that Christian Duty of not Resisting the Supreme Power implied in my Text. Whosoever Resisteth the Power, Resisteth the Ordinance of God. In Treating on which Words I shall observe the following Method.
II. First, I shall endeavour to prove, That there is an absolute unlimited Non-Resistance or Passive Page 2 Obedience due to the Supreme Civil Power, where|ever placed in any Nation. Secondly, I shall en|quire into the Grounds and Reasons of the contra|ry Opinion. Thirdly, I shall consider the Obje|ctions drawn from the pretended consequences of Non-Resistance to the Supreme Power. In hand|ling these Points, I intend not to build on the Au|thority of Holy Scripture, but altogether on the Principles of Reason common to all mankind; and that, because there are some very rational and learned Men, who being verily perswaded, an ab|solute passive Subjection to any earthly Power, is repugnant to right Reason, can never bring them|selves to admit such an Interpretation of Holy Scripture (however natural and obvious from the words) as shall make that a part of Christian Re|ligion, which seems to them in it self manifestly absurd, and destructive of the Original inherent Rights of humane Nature.
III. I do not mean to Treat of that submission, which Men are either in Duty or Prudence obliged to pay inferior or executive Powers; neither shall I consider where, or in what Persons the Supreme or Legislative Power is lodged in this or that Go|vernment. Only thus much I shall take for gran|ted, That there is in every Civil Community, some where or other, placed a Supreme Power of making Laws, and enforcing the Observation of them. The fulfilling of those Laws, either by a punctual performance of what is enjoyned in them, or, if that be inconsistent with Reason or Con|science, by a patient Submission to whatever Pe|nalties the Supreme Power hath annexed to the Neglect or Transgression of them, is termed Loyal|ty; as on the other hand, the making Use of Force and open Violence, either to withstand the exe|cution Page 3 of the Laws, or ward off the Penalties ap|pointed by the Supreme Power, is properly Named Rebellion. Now to make it evident, that every de|gree of Rebellion is Criminal in the Subject; I shall in the first place endeavour to prove that Loy|alty is a natural or moral Duty; and Disloyalty or Rebellion in the most strict and proper Sense, ae Vice or Breach of the Law of Nature. And Se|condly, I propose to shew that the Prohibitions of Vice, or Negative Precepts of the Law of Nature, as, Thou shalt not commit Adultery, Thou shalt not Forswear thy self, Thou shalt not Resist the Su|preme Power, and the like, ought to be taken in a most absolute, necessary, and immutable Sense: Insomuch, that the attainment of the greatest Good, or deliverance from the greatest Evil, that can be|fal any Man or number of Men in this Life, may not justifie the least Violation of them. First then I am to shew that Loyalty is a Moral Duty, and Disloyalty or Rebellion in the most strict and pro|per Sense a Vice, or breach of the Law of Nature.
IV. Tho' it be a Point agreed amongst all Wise Men, that there are certain Moral Rules or Laws of Nature, which carry with them an eternal and indispensable Obligation; yet concerning the pro|per Methods for discovering those Laws, and di|stinguishing them from others dependent on the Humour and Discretion of Men, there are various Opinions; some direct us to look for them in the Divine Ideas, others in the natural Inscriptions on the Mind; some derive them from the Authority of Learned Men, and the Universal Agreement and Consent of Nations. Lastly, others hold that they are only to be discovered by the deductions of Reason. The three first Methods must be acknow|ledg'd to labour under great Difficulties, and the Page 4 last has not, that I know, been any where distinct|ly explained, or treated of so fully as the impor|tance of the Subject doth deserve. I hope there|fore it will be Pardon'd, if in a Discourse of Pas|sive Obedience, in order to lay the Foundation of that Duty the deeper, we make some Enquiry into the Origine, Nature, and Obligation of Moral Duties in general, and the Criterions whereby they are to be known.
V. Self-Love being a Principle of all others the most Universal, and the most deeply engraven in our Hearts, it is natural for us to regard things, as they are fitted to augment or impair our own Hap|piness; and accordingly we denominate them Good or Evil. Our Judgment is ever employ'd in di|stinguishing between these two, and it is the whole business of our Lives, to endeavour, by a proper application of our Faculties, to procure the one and avoid the other. At our first coming into the World, we are entirely guided by the Impressions of Sense, sensible Pleasure being the infallible Cha|racteristic of present Good, as Pain is of Evil. But by degrees, as we grow up in our acquaintance with the Nature of Things, experience informs us that present Good is afterwards oft attended with a greater Evil; and on the other side, that present Evil is not less frequently the occasion of procuring to us a greater future Good. Besides, as the No|bler Faculties of the human Soul begin to display themselves, they discover to us Goods far more excellent than those which affect the Senses. Hence an alteration is wrought in our Judgments, we no longer comply with the first solicitations of Sense, but stay to consider the remote consequences of an Action, what Good may be hoped, or what Evil feared from it, according to the wonted Course of Page 5 things. This obliges us frequently to overlook present momentary Enjoyments, when they come in competition with greater and more lasting Goods, tho' too far off, or of too refin'd a Nature to affect our Senses.
VI. But as the whole Earth, and the entire du|ration of those perishing Things contained in it, is altogether inconsiderable, or in the Prophet's ex|pressive Stile, less than nothing in respect of Eternity, who sees not that every reasonable Man ought so to frame his Actions, as that they may most effe|ctually contribute to promote his Eternal Interest? And since it is a Truth evident by the Light of Na|ture, that there is a Sovereign Omniscient Spirit, who alone can make us for ever Happy, or for ever Miserable; it plainly follows, that a Confor|mity to his Will, and not any Prospect of Tem|poral Advantage, is the sole Rule whereby every Man who acts up to the Principles of Reason, must Govern and Square his Actions. The same Conclusion doth likewise evidently Result from the Relation which God bears to his Creatures. God alone is Maker and Preserver of all Things. He is therefore with the most undoubted Right the great Legislator of the World; and Mankind are by all the Ties of Duty, no less than Interest, bound to Obey his Laws.
VII. Hence we should above all things endea|vour to trace out the Divine Will, or the general design of Providence with regard to Mankind, and the Methods most directly tending to the accom|plishment of that design, and this seems the ge|nuine and proper way for discovering the Laws of Nature. For Laws being Rules directive of our Actions to the end intended by the Legislator, in Page 6 order to attain the Knowledge of God's Laws, we ought first to enquire what that end is, which he designs should be carried on by human Actions. Now, as God is a Being of Infinite Goodness, it is plain the end he proposes is Good. But God en|joying in himself all possible Perfection, it fol|lows that it is not his own Good, but that of his Creatures. Again, the Moral Actions of Men are entirely terminated within themselves, so as to have no influence on the other orders of Intelli|gences or reasonable Creatures: The end there|fore to be procured by them, can be no other than the good of Men. But as nothing in a natural State can entitle one Man more than another to the favour of God, except only Moral Goodness, which consisting in a Conformity to the Laws of God, doth presuppose the being of such Laws, and Law ever supposing an end, to which it guides our Actions, it follows that Antecedent to the end proposed by God, no distinction can be conceived between Men; that end therefore it self or general design of Providence is not determined or limited by any Respect of Persons: It is not therefore the private Good of this or that Man, Nation or Age, but the general well-being of all Men, of all Nations, of all Ages of the World, which God designs should be procured by the con|curring Actions of each individual. Having thus discover'd the great end, to which all Moral Obli|gations are Subordinate; it remains, that we en|quire what Methods are necessary for the obtain|ing that End.
VIII. The well-being of Mankind must neces|sarily be carried on one of these two ways: Either first, without the injunction of any certain uni|versal Rules of Morality, only by obliging every Page 7 one upon each particular Occasion, to consult the publick Good, and always to do that, which to him shall seem in the present time and circumstan|ces, most to conduce to it. Or Secondly, by en|joining the Observation of some determinate, e|stablish'd Laws, which, if Universally practis'd, have from the Nature of things an Essential fit|ness to procure the well-being of Mankind; tho' in their particular Application, they are some|times through untoward accidents, and the per|verse irregularity of human Wills, the occasions of great Sufferings, and Misfortunes, it may be, to very many good Men. Against the former of these Methods there lie several strong Objections. For brevity I shall mention only two.
IX. First, it will thence follow, that the Best Men for want of Judgment, and the Wisest for want of knowing all the hidden circumstances and consequences of an Action, may very often be at a loss how to behave themselves; which they would not be, in case they judged of each Action, by comparing it with some particular Precept, rather than by examining the Good or Evil which in that single instance it tends to pro|cure: It being far more easy to Judge with cer|tainty, whether such or such an Action be a Trans|gression of this or that Precept, than whether it will be attended with more good or ill Conse|quences. In short, to calculate the events of each particular Action is impossible, and tho' it were not, would yet take up too much time to be of Use in the affairs of Life. Secondly, if that Me|thod be observ'd, it will follow that we can have no sure Standard, to which comparing the Acti|ons of another, we may pronounce them good or bad, Virtues or Vices. For since the measure and Page 8 rule of every good Man's Actions is supposed to be nothing else, but his own private disinterested Opinion, of what makes most for the publick Good at that juncture: And since this Opinion must unavoidably in different Men, from their parti|cular Views and Circumstances, be very different: It is impossible to know, whether any one instance of Parricide or Perjury, for example, be Criminal. The Man may have had his Reasons for it, and that which in me would have been a heinous Sin, may be in him a Duty. Every Man's particular Rule is buried in his own Breast, invisible to all but himself, who therefore can only tell whether he Observes it or no. And since that Rule is fitted to particular Occasions, it must ever change as they do: Hence it is not only various in different Men, but in one and the same Man at different times.
X. From all which it follows, there can be no Harmony or Agreement between the Actions of good Men: No apparent Steddiness or Consisten|cy of one Man with himself, no adhering to Principles: The best Actions may be Condemn'd, and the most Villanous meet with Applause. In a Word, there ensues the most horrible confusion of Vice and Virtue, Sin and Duty, that can pos|sibly be imagined. It follows therefore that the great end, to which God requires the concurrence of human Actions, must of necessity be carried on by the second Method proposed, namely, the observation of certain, universal, determinate Rules or Moral Precepts, which, in their own Nature, have a necessity tendency to promote the Well being of the Sum of Mankind, taking in all Nations and Ages, from the beginning to the end of the World.
Page 9 XI. Hence upon an equal comprehensive Sur|vey of the general Nature, the Passions, Interests, and mutual Respects of Mankind; whatsoever practical Proposition doth to right Reason evi|dently appear to have a necessary connexion with the universal Well-being included in it, is to be look'd upon as enjoined by the Will of God. For he that willeth the end, doth will the necessary means conducive to that end; but it hath been shewn, that God willeth the Universal Well-be|ing of Mankind should be promoted by the con|currence of each particular Person; therefore e|very such practical Proposition, necessarily tend|ing thereto, is to be esteemed a Decree of God, and is consequently a Law to Man.
XII. These Propositions are called Laws of Na|ture, because they are universal, and do not de|rive their Obligation from any Civil Sanction, but immediately from the Author of Nature him|self. They are said to be stamped on the Mind, to be engraven on the Tables of the Heart, because they are well known to Mankind, and suggested and inculcated by Conscience. Lastly, they are term|ed Eternal Rules of Reason, because they necessarily result from the Nature of Things, and may be demonstrated by the infallible deductions of Reason.
XIII. And notwithstanding that these Rules are too often, either by the unhappy concurrence of events, or more especially by the wickedness of perverse Men, who will not Conform to them, made accidental causes of Misery to those good Men, who do; yet this doth not vacate their Ob|ligation, they are ever to be esteemed the fixed Page 10 unalterable Standards of Moral Good and Evil; no private Interest, no Love of Friends, no Re|gard to the publick Good, should make us depart from them. Hence, when any doubt arises con|cerning the Morality of an Action, 'tis plain, this cannot be determined by computing the publick Good, which in that particular Case it is attend|ed with, but only by comparing it with the Eter|nal Law of Reason. He who squares his actions by this Rule, can never do amiss, tho' thereby he should bring himself to Poverty, Death, or Dis|grace: No, not tho' he should involve his Fami|ly, his Friends, his Country in all those Evils, which are accounted the Greatest, and most insup|portable to human Nature. Tenderness and Be|nevolence of Temper are often motives to the best and greatest Actions; but we must not make them the sole Rule of our Actions; they are Pas|sions rooted in our nature, and like all other Pas|sions must be restrain'd and kept under, other|wise they may possibly betray us into as great Enor|mities, as any other unbridled Lust. Nay, they are more dangerous than other Passions, insomuch as they are more plausible, and apt to dazzle, and corrupt the Mind, with the appearance of Good|ness and Generosity.
XIV. For the Illustration of what has been said, it will not be amiss, if from the Moral we turn our Eyes on the Natural World. Homo ortus est (says Balbus in Cicero*) ad Mundum contem|plandum, & imitandum: And surely, it is not pos|sible for free intellectual Agents to propose a no|bler Pattern for their imitation than Nature, which Page 11 is nothing else but a series of free Actions produced by the best and wisest Agent. But it is evident that those Actions are not adapted to particular Views, but all conformed to certain general Rules, which being collected from Observation, are by Philosophers termed Laws of Nature. And these indeed are excellently suited to promote the gene|ral well-being of the Creation: But what from casual combinations of events, and what from the voluntary motions of Animals, it often falls out, that the natural good not only of private Men, but of entire Cities and Nations, wou'd be better pro|moted by a particular Suspension, or Contradicti|on, than an exact Observation of those Laws. Yet for all that, Nature still takes its course; nay, it is plain that Plagues, Famines, Inundations, Earth|quakes, with an infinite variety of Pains and Sor|rows; in a word all kinds of Calamities publick and private do arise from a uniform steddy obser|vation of those general Laws, which are once esta|blish'd by the Author of Nature, and which he will not change or deviate from upon any of those Ac|counts, how wise or benevolent soever it may be thought by foolish Men to do so. As for the Mi|racles Recorded in Scripture, they were always wrought for Confirmation of some Doctrine or Mission from God, and not for the sake of the particular natural goods, as Health or Life, which some Men might have reaped from them. From all which it seems sufficiently plain, that we can|not be at a loss, which way to determine, in case we think God's own Methods the properest to ob|tain his ends, and that it is our Duty to Copy af|ter them, so far as the frailty of our Nature will permit.
Page 12 XV. Thus far in general, of the nature and ne|cessity of moral Rules, and the Criterion or Mark whereby they may be known. As for the particu|lars, from the foregoing Discourse, the principal of them may without much difficulty be deduced. It hath been shewn that the Law of Nature is a System of such Rules or Precepts, as that if they be all of them, at all times, in all places, and by all Men observed, they will necessarily promote the well-being of Mankind, so far as it is attainable by human Actions. Now, let any one who hath the use of Reason, take but an impartial Survey of the general frame and circumstances of human Na|ture, and it will appear plainly to him, that the constant observation of Truth, for instance, of Justice, and Chastity, hath a necessary connexion with their universal well-being, that therefore they are to be esteemed Virtues or Duties, and that, Thou shalt not Forswear thy self, Thou shalt not Commit Adultery, Thou shalt not Steal, are so many unaltera|ble Moral Rules, which to violate in the least de|gree is Vice or Sin. I say, the agreement of these particular practical Propositions, with the Defini|tion, or Criterion premised, doth so clearly result from the nature of Things, that it were a needless digression, in this place to enlarge upon it. And from the same Principle, by the very same Rea|soning, it follows that Loyalty is a moral Virtue, and, Thou shalt not Resist the Supreme Power, a Rule or Law of Nature, the least breach whereof hath the inherent stain of Moral Turpitude.
XVI. The Miseries inseparable from a State of Anarchy are easily imagined. So insufficient is the Wit or Strength of any single Man, either to avert the Evils, or procure the Blessings of Life, and so Page 13 apt are the Wills of different Persons to contradict and thwart each other, that it is absolutely necessa|ry, several independent Powers be combin'd toge|ther, under the Direction (if I may so speak) of one and the same Will, I mean the Law of the Society. Without this there is no Politeness, no Order, no Peace among Men, but the World is one great heap of Misery and Confusion; the Strong as well as the Weak, the Wise as well as the Foolish, standing on all sides exposed to all those Calamities, which Man can be liable to in a State where he has no other Security, than the not being possessed of any thing which may raise Envy or Desire in another. A State! by so much more in|eligible than that of Brutes, as a reasonable Crea|ture hath a greater reflexion and foresight of Mi|series than they. From all which it plainly fol|lows, that Loyalty or Submission to the Supreme Civil Authority, hath, if universally practis'd in conjunction with all other Virtues, a necessary con|nexion with the well-being of the whole Sum of Mankind; and by consequence, if the Criterion we have laid down, be True, it is, strictly speak|ing, a Moral Duty, or branch of Natural Reli|gion. And therefore, the least degree of Rebel|lion is with the utmost strictness and propriety, a Sin: Not only in Christians, but also in those who haxe the Light of Reason alone for their Guide. Nay, upon a thorough and impartial View, this Submission will, I think, appear one of the very first and fundamental Laws of Nature, inasmuch as it is Civil Government which ordains and marks out the various Relations between Men, and regulates Property, thereby giving Scope and lay|ing a foundation for the exercise of all other Du|ties. And in Truth, whoever considers the Con|dition of Man, will scarce conceive it possible that Page 14 the practice of any one Moral Virtue shou'd Ob|tain, in the naked, forlorn State of Nature.
XVII. But since it must be confess'd, that in all Cases our Actions come not within the Direction of certain fixed Moral Rules, it may possibly be still questioned, whether Obedience to the Su|preme Power be not one of those exempted Cases, and consequently to be regulated by the Prudence and Discretion of every single Person, rather than adjusted to the Rule of absolute Non-Resistance. I shall therefore endeavour to make it yet more plain, that, Thou shalt not Resist the Supreme Power, is an undoubted Precept of Morality; as will appear from the following Considerations. First then, Submission to Government is a Point important enough to be established by a Moral Rule. Things of insignificant and trifling Concern are, for that very Reason, exempted from the Rules of Mora|lity. But Government, on which so much depend the Peace, Order, and Well-being of Mankind, cannot surely be thought of too small Importance to be Secur'd and Guarded by a Moral Rule. Go|vernment, I say, which is it self the principal Source under Heaven, of those particular Advan|tages, for the procurement and conservation whereof, several unquestionable Moral Rules were prescribed to Men.
XVIII. Secondly, Obedience to Government is a Case Universal enough to fall under the Di|rection of a Law of Nature. Numberless Rules there may be for regulating Affairs of great Con|cernment, at certain Junctures, and to some parti|cular Persons or Societies, which notwithstanding are not to be esteemed Moral or Natural Laws, but may be either totally abrogated or dispensed with; Page 15 because the private Ends they were intended to promote, respect only some particular Persons, as engaged in Relations not founded in the general Nature of Man, who on various Occasions, and in different Postures of Things, may prosecute their own Designs by different Measures, as in Humane Prudence shall seem convenient. But what rela|tion is there more extensive and universal than that of Subject and Law? This is confin'd to no particular Age or Climate, but universally obtains at all Times, and in all Places, wherever Men live in a state exalted above that of Brutes. It is there|fore evident, that the Rule forbidding Resistance to the Law or Supreme Power, is not upon pre|tence of any defect in point of Universality, to be excluded from the Number of the Laws of Nature.
XIX. Thirdly, There is another Consideration, which confirms the Necessity of admitting this Rule for a Moral or Natural Law; namely, because the Case it regards is of too Nice and Difficult a Na|ture to be left to the Judgment and Determination of each private Person. Some Cases there are so plain and obvious to judge of, that they may safely be trusted to the Prudence of every reasonable Man; but in all Instances, to determine, whether a Civil Law is fitted to promote the Publick Interest; or whether Submission or Resistance will prove most advantageous in the Consequence; or when it is, that the general Good of a Nation may require an Alteration of Government, either in its Form, or in the Hands which Administer it: these are Points too arduous and intricate, and which require too great a degree of Parts, Leisure, and liberal Edu|cation, as well as Disinterestedness and thorough Knowledge in the particular State of a Kingdom, for every Subject to take upon him the Determi|nation Page 16 of them. From which it follows, that up|on this account also, Non-Resistance, which, in the main, no body can deny to be a most profita|ble and wholsome Duty, ought not to be limited by the Judgment of private Persons to particular Occasions, but esteemed a most Sacred Law of Nature.
XX. The foregoing Arguments do, I think, make it manifest, that the Precept against Rebel|lion is on a Level with other Moral Rules. Which will yet farther appear from this fourth and last Consideration. It cannot be denied, that Right Reason doth require some common stated Rule or Measure, whereby Subjects ought to shape their Submission to the Supreme Power. Since any clashing or disagreement in this Point must una|voidably tend to weaken, and dissolve the Society And it is unavoidable, that there shou'd be great clashing, where it is left to the breast of each In|dividual to suit his Fancy with a different measure of Obedience. But this common stated Measure must be either the general Precept forbidding Re|sistance, or else the publick Good of the whole Nation: Which last, tho' it is allowed to be in it self something certain and determinate; yet, for|asmuch as Men can regulate their Conduct only by what appears to them, whether in Truth it be what it appears or no; and since the Prospects Men form to themselves of a Country's publick Good, are commonly as various as its Landschapes which meet the Eye in several Situations: It clear|ly follows, that to make the publick Good the Rule of Obedience, is in effect, not to establish any de|terminate, agreed, common Measure of Loyalty, but to leave every Subject to the Guidance of his own particular mutable Fancy.
Page 17 XXI. From all which Arguments and Conside|rations it is a most evident Conclusion, That the Law prohibiting Rebellion is in strict Truth a Law of Nature, Universal Reason, and Morality. But to this, it will perhaps be objected by some, that whatever may be concluded with regard to Resi|stance, from the tedious Deductions of Reason, yet there is I know not what turpitude and de|formity in some Actions, which at first Blush, shews them to be vicious; but they, not finding them|selves struck with such a sensible and immediate Horror at the thought of Rebellion, cannot think it on a level with other Crimes against Nature. To which I answer, that it is True, there are cer|tain natural Antipathies implanted in the Soul, which are ever the most lasting and insurmounta|ble; but as Custom is a second Nature, whatever Aversions are from our early Childhood continu|ally infused into the Mind, give it so deep a stain as is scarce to be distinguished from natural Com|plexion. And as it doth hence follow, that to make all the inward horrors of Soul, pass for in|fallible marks of Sin, were the way to establish Error and Superstition in the World: So, on the other hand, to suppose all Actions lawful, which are unattended with those starts of Nature, wou'd prove of the last dangerous consequence to Vir|tue and Morality. For these pertaining to us as Men, we must not be directed in respect of them, by any emotions in our Blood and Spirits, but by the dictates of sober and impartial Reason. And if there be any, who find they have a less Abhor|rence of Rebellion than of other Villanies, all that can be inferred from it, is, that this part of their Duty was not so much reflected on, or so early and frequently inculcated into their Hearts, as it ought Page 18 to have been. Since without question there are other Men who have as thorough an Aversion for that, as for any other Crime*.
XXII. Again, it will probably be objected, that Submission to Government differs from moral Du|ties, in that it is founded in a Contract, which up|on the Violation of its Conditions doth of course become void, and in such Case Rebellion is law|ful; it hath not therefore the Nature of a Sin or Crime, which is in it self absolutely unlawful, and must be committed on no Pretext whatsoever. Now, passing over all Enquiry and Dispute con|cerning the first obscure Rise of Government, I observe its being founded on a Contract, may be understood in a twofold Sense, either, first, that several independent Persons finding the unsuffera|ble Inconvenience of a State of Anarchy, where every one was governed by his own Will, consent|ed and agreed together to pay an absolute Submis|sion, to the Decrees of some certain Legislative; which, tho sometimes they may bear hard on the Subject, yet, must surely prove easier to be go|verned by, than the violent Humours, and unsted|dy opposite Wills of a multitude of Savages. And in case we admit such a Compact to have been the original Foundation of Civil Government; it must even on that Supposition be held Sacred and Invi|olable.
Page 19 XXIII. Or Secondly, it is meant that Subjects have contracted with their respective Sovereigns or Legislators, to pay, not an absolute, but conditi|onal and limited Submission to their Laws, that is, upon Condition, and so far forth, as the Observa|tion of them shall contribute to the publick Good: Reserving still to themselves a Right of Superin|tending the Laws, and Judging whether they are fitted to promote the publick Good or no. And (in case they or any of them think it needful) of Re|sisting the higher Powers, and changing the whole Frame of Government by Force; which is a Right that all Mankind, whether single Persons or Socie|ties, have over those that are deputed by them. But in this Sense a Contract cannot be admitted for the Ground and Measure of civil Obedience, except one of these two Things be clearly shewn: Either, First, That such a Contract is an express known Part of the Fundamental Constitution of a Nati|on, equally allowed and unquestioned by all as the common Law of the Land. Or, Secondly, If it be not express, that it is at least necessarily im|plied in the very Nature or Notion of Civil Poli|ty, which supposes it is a thing manifestly absurd, that a Number of Men shou'd be oblig'd to live under an unlimited Subjection to Civil Law, rather than continue wild and independent of each other. But to me it seems most evident, that neither of those Points will ever be proved.
XXIV. And till they are proved beyond all Contradiction, the Doctrine built upon them, ought to be rejected with Detestation. Since to represent the Higher Powers as Deputies of the People, manifestly tends to diminish that Awe and Reverence, which all good Men should have for Page 20 the Laws and Government of their Countrey. And to speak of a conditioned, limited Loyalty, and I know not what vague and undetermined Contracts, is a most effectual Means to loosen the Bands of Civil Society; than which nothing can be of more mischievous Consequence to Mankind. But after all, if there be any Man, who either cannot or will not see the Absurdity and pernici|ousness of those Notions, he wou'd, I doubt not, be convinced with a Witness, in case they should once become current, and every private Man take it in his Head to believe them true, and put them in practice.
XXV. But there still remains an Objection, which hath the Appearance of some Strength against what has been said. Namely, That where|as Civil Polity is a thing entirely of human Insti|tution, it seems contrary to Reason, to make Sub|mission to it part of the Law of Nature, and not rather of the Civil Law. For how can it be ima|gin'd that Nature shou'd dictate or prescribe a na|tural Law about a thing, which depends on the Arbitrary Humour of Men, not only as to its Kind or Form, which is very various and mutable, but even as to its Existence; there being no where to be found a Civil Government set up by Nature. In answer to this, I observe first, that most Moral Precepts do presuppose some voluntary Actions, or Pacts of Men, and are nevertheless esteemed Laws of Nature. Property is assigned, the Signification of Words ascertained, and Matrimony contracted by the Agreement and Consent of Mankind; and for all that it is not doubted, whether Theft, False|hood and Adultery be prohibited by the Law of Nature. Loyalty, therefore, tho it should sup|pose and be the Result of human Institutions, may, Page 21 for all that, be of natural Obligation. I say, Se|condly, that, notwithstanding particular Societies are formed by Men, and are not in all Places alike, as Things esteemed natural are wont to be, yet there is implanted in Mankind a natural Tendency or Disposition to a social Life. I call it natural, be|cause it is universal, and because it necessarily re|sults from the Differences which distinguish Man from Beast: The peculiar Wants, Appetites, Fa|culties, and Capacities of Man, being exactly cal|culated, and framed for such a State, insomuch that without it, it is impossible he should live in a Condition in any Degree suitable to his Nature. And since the Bond and Cement of Society is a Submission to its Laws, it plainly follows, that this Duty hath an equal Right with any other to be thought a Law of Nature. And, surely that Pre|cept which enjoyns Obedience to Civil Laws, cannot it self with any Propriety be accounted a Civil Law; it must therefore either have no Obli|gation at all on the Conscience, or if it hath, it must be derived from the universal Voice of Na|ture and Reason.
XXVI. And thus the first Point proposed seems clearly made out. Namely, That Loyalty is a Virtue or Moral Duty; and Disloyalty or Rebelli|on, in the most strict and proper Sense, a Vice or Crime against the Law of Nature. We are now come to the Second Point, which was to shew, that the Prohibitions of Vice, or negative Precepts of Morality, are to be taken in a most absolute, necessary, and immutable Sense; insomuch that the Attainment of the greatest Good, or Delive|rance from the greatest Evil, that can befal any Man or Number of Men in this Life, may not ju|stify the least Violation of them. But in the first Page 22 place, I shall explain the Reason of distinguishing between Positive and Negative Precepts, the lat|ter only being included in this general Proposition. Now the Ground of that Distinction may be re|solved into this; namely, that very often, either through the Difficulty or Number of Moral Acti|ons, or their Inconsistence with each other, it is not possible for one Man to perform several of them at the same time; whereas it is plainly con|sistent and possible, that any Man shou'd, at the same time, abstain from all manner of positive Actions whatsoever. Hence it comes to pass, that Prohibitions or Negative Precepts must by every one, in all Times and Places, be all actually obser|ved: Whereas those which enjoin the Doing of an Action, allow room for Human Prudence and Discretion, in the Execution of them: it for the most part depending on various accidental Circum|stances; all which ought to be consider'd, and Care taken that Duties of less Moment do not in|terfere with, and hinder the fulfilling of those which are more important. And for this Reason, if not the Positive Laws themselves, at least the Exercise of them admits of Suspension, Limitati|on, and Diversity of Degrees. As to the Indispen|sibleness of the Negative Precepts of the Law of Nature, I shall in its Proof offer Two Arguments, the First from the Nature of the Thing, and the Second from the Imitation of God in his Govern|ment of the World.
XXVII. First then, from the Nature of the Thing, it hath been already shewn, that the great End of Morality can never be carried on, by leaving each particular Person to promote the Pub|lick Good, in such a manner as he shall think most convenient, without prescribing certain determi|nate, Page 23 universal Rules to be the common Measure of Moral Actions; and, if we allow the Necessity of these, and at the same time think it lawful to transgress them, whenever the Publick Good shall seem to require it, what is this, but in Words in|deed to enjoin the Observation of Moral Rules, but in effect to leave every one to be guided by his own Judgment; than which nothing can be ima|gined more pernicious and destructive to Mankind, as hath been already proved. Secondly, This same Point may be collected from the Example set us by the Author of Nature, who, as we have above observed, acts according to certain fixed Laws, which he will not transgress upon the Ac|count of Accidental Evils arising from them. Suppose a Prince, on whose Life the Welfare of a Kingdom depends, to fall down a Precipice, we have no Reason to think, that the Universal Law of Gravitation wou'd be suspended in that Case. The like may be said of all other Laws of Nature, which we do not find to admit of Exceptions on particular Accounts.
XXVIII. And, as without such a Steddiness in Nature, we shou'd soon, instead of this beautiful Frame, see nothing but a disorderly, and confused Chaos: So if once it become current, that the Moral Actions of Men are not to be guided by certain definite inviolable Rules, there will be no longer found that Beauty, Order, and Agreement, in the System of Rational Beings, or Moral World, which will then be all cover'd over with Darkness and Violence. It is true, he who stands close to a Palace, can hardly make a right Judgment of the Architecture and Symmetry of its several Parts, the nearer ever appearing disproportionably great. And if we have a mind to take a fair Prospect of Page 24 the Order and general Well-being, which the in|flexible Laws of Nature and Morality derive on the World, we must, if I may so say, go out of it, and imagine our selves to be distant Spectators of all that is transacted and contained in it; other|wise we are sure to be deceived, by the too near View of the little present Interests of our Selves, our Friends, or our Country. The right Under|standing of what hath been said, will, I think, af|ford a clear Solution to the following Difficulties.
XXIX. First, it may perhaps seem to some, that in Consequence of the foregoing Doctrine, Men will be left to their own private Judgments as much as ever. For, First, the very being of the Laws of Nature; Secondly, the Criterion whereby to know them; and, Thirdly, the Agreement of any particular Precept with that Criterion, are all to be discovered by Reason and Argumentation, in which every Man doth necessarily judge for himself; hence upon that Supposition, there is Place for as great Confusion, Unsteddiness, and Contrariety of Opinions and Actions, as upon any other. I answer, that however Men may dif|fer, as to what were most proper and beneficial to the Publick to be done or omitted on particular Occasions, when they have for the most part nar|row and interested Views; yet in general Conclu|sions, drawn from an equal and enlarged View of Things, it is not possible there should be so great, if any Disagreement at all amongst Candid, Ra|tional Enquirers after Truth.
XXX. Secondly, The most plausible Pretence of all, against the Doctrine we have premised concerning a rigid indispensible Observation of Moral Rules, is that which is founded on the Con|sideration Page 25 of the Publick Weal; for since the com|mon Good of Mankind is confessedly the End which God requires shou'd be promoted by the free Actions of Men, it may seem to follow, that all good Men ought ever to have this in View, as the great Mark to which all their Endeavours should be directed; if therefore in any particular Case, a strict keeping to the Moral Rule shall prove mani|festly inconsistent with the Publick Good, it may be thought agreeable to the Will of God, that in that Case the Rule does not restrain an honest disin|terested Person, from acting for that End to which the Rule it self was Ordained. For it is an Axiom, that the End is more Excellent than the Means, which deriving their Goodness from the End, may not come in Competition with it.
XXXI. In Answer to this, let it be observ'd, that nothing is a Law merely because it conduceth to the Publick Good, but because it is decreed by the Will of God, which alone can give the San|ction of a Law of Nature to any Precept; neither is any thing, how expedient or plausible soever, to be esteemed lawful on any other Account, than its being coincident with, or not repugnant to the Laws promulgated by the Voice of Nature and Reason. It must indeed be allowed, that the ra|tional Deduction of those Laws is founded in the intrinsick Tendency they have to promote the Well-being of Mankind, on Condition they are universally and constantly observed. But tho' it afterwards comes to pass, that they accidentally fail of that End, or even promote the contrary, they are nevertheless binding, as hath been already proved. In short, that whole Difficulty may be resolved by the following Distinction. In framing the general Laws of Nature, it is granted, we must Page 26 be entirely guided by the Publick Good of Man|kind, but not in the ordinary Moral Actions of our Lives. Such a Rule, if universally observ'd, hath from the Nature of Things, a necessary Fit|ness to promote the general Well-being of Man|kind; therefore it is a Law of Nature: This is good Reasoning. But if we shou'd say such an Action doth in this Instance produce much Good, and no Harm to Mankind; therefore it is lawful: This were wrong. The Rule is framed with re|spect to the Good of Mankind, but our Practice must be always shaped immediately by the Rule. They who think the Publick Good of a Nation to be the sole Measure of the Obedience due to the Civil Power, seem not to have considered this Di|stinction.
XXXII. If it be said that some Negative Pre|cepts, e. g. Thou shalt not kill, do admit of Limita|tion, since otherwise it were unlawful for the Ma|gistrate, for a Soldier in a Battel, or a Man in his own Defence to kill another: I answer, when a Duty is expressed in too general Terms, as in this Instance, in Order to a distinct Declaration of it, either those Terms may be changed for others of a more limited Sense, as Kill for Murder, or else from the general Proposition remaining in its full Latitude, Exceptions may be made of those precise Cases, which not agreeing with the Notion of Murder, are not prohibited by the Law of Nature. In the former Case there is a Limitation, but it is only of the Signification of a single Term too ge|neral and improper, by substituting another more proper and particular in its Place. In the latter Case there are Exceptions, but then they are not from the Law of Nature, but from a more general Proposition, which besides that Law, includes some|what Page 27 more, which must be taken away in order to eave the Law by it self clear and determinate. From neither of which Concessions will it follow, that any Negative Law of Nature is limited to those Cases only where its particular Application promotes the Publick Good, or admits all other Cases to be excepted from it, wherein its being actually observed produceth Harm to the Publick. But of this I shall have Occasion to say more in the Sequel. I have now done with the first Head, which was to shew, that there is an Absolute, Un|limited Passive Obedience due to the Supreme Power, where-ever placed in any Nation; and come to enquire into the Grounds and Reasons of the contrary Opinion; which was the Second Thing proposed.
XXXIII. One great Principle, which the Plead|ers for Resistance make the Ground-Work of their Doctrine, is, that the Law of Self-Preservation is Prior to all other Engagement, being the very first and fundamental Law of Nature. Hence, say they, Subjects are obliged by Nature, and it is their Duty, to resist the cruel Attempts of Tyrants, however authorized by unjust and Bloody Laws, which are nothing else but the Decrees of Men, and consequently must give way to those of God, or Nature. But, perhaps, if we narrowly examine this Notion, it will not be found so just and clear as some Men may imagine, or, indeed, as at first Sight it seems to be. For we ought to distinguish between a Two-fold Signification of the Terms Law of Nature; which Words do either denote ae Rule or Precept for the Direction of the voluntary Actions of reasonable Agents, and in that Sense they imply a Duty; or else they are used to signify any general Rule, which we observe to obtain in Page 28 the Works of Nature, independent of the Wills of Men; in which Sense no Duty is implied. And in this last Acceptation, I grant it is a general Law of Nature, that in every Animal there be implan|ted a Desire of Self-Preservation, which, tho' it is the earliest, the deepest, and most lasting of all, whether Natural or Acquired Appetites, yet can|not with any Propriety be termed a Moral Duty. But if in the former Sense of the Words, they mean that Self-Preservation is the first and most fundamental Law of Nature, which therefore must take place of all other Natural or Moral Duties: I think that Assertion to be manifestly false, for this plain Reason, because it wou'd thence follow, a Man may lawfully commit any Sin whatsoever to preserve his Life, than which nothing can be more absurd.
XXXIV. It cannot indeed be denied, that the Law of Nature restrains us from doing those Things which may injure the Life of any Man, and consequently our own. But, notwithstanding all that is said of the Obligativeness and Priority of the Law of Self-Preservation, yet, for ought I can see, there is no particular Law, which oblige; any Man to prefer his own Temporal Good, not even Life it self, to that of another Man, much less to the Observation of any one Moral Duty. This is what we are too ready to perform of our own Accord; and there is more Need of a Law to curb and restrain, than there is of one to excite and inflame our Self-Love.
XXXV. But, Secondly, tho' we shou'd grant the Duty of Self-Preservation to be the first and most necessary of all the Positive or Affirmative Laws of Nature; yet, forasmuch as it is a Maxim Page 29 allowed by all Moralists, that Evil is never to be committed, to the end Good may come of it, it will thence plainly follow, that no Negative Precept ought to be transgressed for the sake of observing a Positive one; and therefore, since we have shewn, Thou shalt not resist the Supreme Power, to be a Nega|tive Law of Nature, it is a necessary Consequence, that it may not be transgressed under pretence of fulfilling the Positive Duty of Self-Preservation.
XXXVI. A second erroneous Ground of our Adversaries, whereon they lay a main Stress, is that they hold the Publick Good of a particular Nation to be the Measure of the Obedience due from the Subject to the Civil Power, which there|fore may be resisted whensoever the Publick Good shall verily seem to require it. But this Point hath been already consider'd, and in Truth it can give small Difficulty to whoever understands Loyalty to be on the same Foot with other Moral Duties en|joyned in negative Precepts, all which tho' equally calculated to promote the general Well-being, may not nevertheless be limited or suspended un|der pretext of giving way to the end, as is plain from what hath been premised on that Subject.
XXXVII. A Third Reason which they insist on, is to this Effect. All Civil Authority or Right is derived originally from the People; but no Body can transfer that to another, which he hath not himself; therefore since no Man hath an absolute unlimited Right over his own Life, the Subject cannot transfer such a Right to the Prince (or Su|preme Power) who consequently hath no such un|limited Right to dispose of the Lives of his Sub|jects. In case therefore a Subject resist his Prince, who acting according to Law, maketh an unjust, Page 30 tho' legal, Attempt on his Life, he does him no Wrong, since Wrong it is not, to prevent another from seizing what he hath no Right to; whence it shou'd seem to follow, that agreeably to Reason, the Prince or Supreme Power wheresoever placed may be resisted. Having thus endeavoured to state their Argument in its clearest Light, I make this Answer. First, it is granted, no Civil Power hath an unlimited Right to dispose of the Life of any Man. Secondly, in case one Man resist another invading that which he hath no Right to, it is granted he doth him no Wrong. But in the Third Place, I deny that it doth thence follow, the Su|preme Power may consonantly to Reason be re|sisted, because that altho' such Resistance wronged not the Prince or Supreme Power wheresoever placed, yet it were injurious to the Author of Na|ture, and a Violation of his Law, which Reason obligeth us to Transgress upon no Account what|soever, as hath been demonstrated.
XXXVIII. A Fourth Mistake or Prejudice which influenceth the Impugners of Non-Resi|stance, arises from the natural Dread of Slavery, Chains, and Fetters which inspires them with an Aversion for any thing, which even metaphorical|ly comes under those Denominations. Hence they cry out against us that we wou'd deprive them of their natural Freedom, that we are making Chains for Mankind, that we are for enslaving them, and the like. But how harsh soever the Sentence may appear, yet it is most true, that our Appetites, even the most natural, as of Ease, Plenty, or Life it self, must be chain'd and fetter'd by the Laws of Nature and Reason. This Slavery, if they will call it so, or Subjection of our Passions to the im|mutable Decrees of Reason, though it may be Page 31 Galling to the sensual Part or the Beast, yet sure I am, it addeth much to the Dignity of that which is peculiarly Human in our Composition. This leads me to the Fifth fundamental Error:
XXXIX. Namely, the mistaking the Object of Passive Obedience. We shou'd consider, that when a Subject endures the Insolence and Oppression of one or more Magistrates, armed with the Supreme Civil Power, the Object of his Submission is, in strict Truth, nothing else but right Reason, which is the Voice of the Author of Nature. Think not we are so senseless, as to imagine Ty|rants cast in a better Mould than other Men: No, they are the worst and vilest of Men, and for their own Sakes, have not the least Right to our Obe|dience. But the Laws of God and Nature must be obey'd, and our Obedience to them is never more acceptable and sincere, than when it expo|seth us to Temporal Calamities.
XL. A Sixth false Ground of Persuasion to those we argue against, is their not distinguishing be|tween the Natures of Positive and Negative Du|ties. For, say they, since our active Obedience to the Supreme Civil Power is acknowledged to be limited, why may not our Duty of Non-Resistance be thought so too? The Answer is plain; because Positive and Negative Moral Precepts are not of the same Nature, the former admitting such Limitati|ons and Exceptions as the latter are on no Account liable to, as hath been already proved. It is very possible that a Man in obeying the Commands of his lawful Governors, might transgress some Law of God contrary to them; which it is not possible for him to do, meerly by a patient Suffering and Non-Resistance for Conscience sake. And this Page 32 furnishes such a Satisfactory and obvious Solution of the forementioned Difficulty, that I am not a little surprized to see it insisted on, by Men, other|wise, of good Sense and Reason. And so much for the Grounds and Reasons of the Adversaries of Non-Resistance. I now proceed to the third and last Thing proposed, Namely, the Consideration of the Objections drawn from the pretended Con|sequences of Non-Resistance.
XLI. First then it will be objected, that in Con|sequence of that Notion, we must believe that God hath, in several Instances, laid the innocent Part of Mankind under an unavoidable Necessity of enduring the greatest Sufferings and Hardships without any Remedy; which is plainly inconsistent with the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, and there|fore the Principle from whence that Consequence flows, ought not to be admitted as a Law of God of Nature. In Answer to which I observe, we must carefully distinguish between the necessary and accidental Consequences of a Moral Law. The former Kind are those which the Law is in its own Nature calculated to produce, and which have an inseparable Connexion with the Observation of it; and indeed if these are bad, we may justly conclude the Law to be so too, and consequently not from God. But the accidental Consequences of a Law, have no intrinsic natural Connexion with, nor do they strictly speaking flow from its Observation, but are the genuine Result of some|thing foreign and circumstantial, which happens to be joyned with it. And these accidental Conse|quences of a very good Law, may nevertheless be very bad; which Badness of theirs is to be char|ged on their own proper and necessary Cause, and not on the Law, which hath no Essential Tenden|cy Page 33 to produce them. Now though it must be granted, that a Lawgiver infinitely wise and good will constitute such Laws for the Regulation of human Actions, as have in their own Nature a ne|cessary inherent Aptness to promote the common Good of all Mankind, and that in the greatest De|gree that the present Circumstances and Capacities of human Nature will admit; yet we deny that the Wisdom and Goodness of the Lawgiver are concerned, or may be called in Question, on Ac|count of the particular Evils which arise, necessa|rily and properly, from the Transgression of some one or more good Laws, and but accidentally from the Observation of others. But it is plain that the several Calamities and Devastations, which oppres|sive Governments bring on the World, are not the genuine necessary Effects of the Law, that enjoin|eth a Passive Subjection to the Supreme Power, neither are they included in the primary Intention thereof, but spring from Avarice, Ambition, Cru|elty, Revenge, and the like inordinate Affections and Vices raging in the Breasts of Governors. They may not therefore argue a defect of Wisdom or Goodness in God's Law, but of Righteousness in Men.
XLII. Such is the present State of Things, so irregular are the Wills, and so unrestrained the Pas|sions of Men, that we every Day see manifest Breaches and Violations of the Laws of Nature, which being always committed in Favour of the Wicked, must surely be sometimes attended with heavy Disadvantages and Miseries, on the Part of those who by a firm Adhesion to his Laws endea|vour to approve themselves in the Eyes of their Creator. There are in short, no Rules of Mora|lity, not excepting the best, but what may subject Page 34 good Men to great Sufferings and Hardships, which necessarily follows from the Wickedness of those they have to deal with, and but accidentally from those good Rules. And as on the one Hand it were inconsistent with the Wisdom of God, by suffering a retaliation of Fraud, Perjury, or the like on the Head of Offenders, to punish one Transgression by another: So on the other Hand, it were inconsistent with his Justice, to leave the Good and Innocent a hopeless Sacrifice to the Wicked. God therefore hath appointed a Day of Retribution in another Life, and in this we have his Grace and a good Conscience for our Support. We shou'd not therefore repine at the Divine Laws, or shew a frowardness or impatience of those transient Sufferings they accidentally expose us to, which however grating to Flesh and Blood, will yet seem of small moment, if we compare the littleness and fleetingness of this present World with the Glory and Eternity of the next.
XLIII. From what hath been said I think it is plain, that the premised Doctrine of Non-Resi|stance were safe, tho' the Evils incurred thereby shou'd be allowed never so great. But perhaps upon a strict examination, they will be found much less than by many they are thought to be. The mischievous effects which are charged on that Doctrine may be reduced to these two Points. First, that it is an encouragement for all Gover|nors to become Tyrants, by the prospect it gives them of Impunity or Non-Resistance. Secondly, that it renders the Oppression and Cruelty of those who are Tyrants, more insupportable and violent, by cutting off all Opposition, and consequently all means of Redress. I shall consider each of these distinctly. As to the first Point, either you'll sup|pose Page 35 the Governors to be good or ill Men. If they are Good, there is no fear of their becoming Ty|rants. And if they are ill Men, that is, such as postpone the Observation of God's Laws to the satisfying of their own Lusts, then it can be no Security to them, that others will rigidly observe those Moral Precepts, which they find themselves so prone to Transgress.
XLIV. It is indeed a Breach of the Law of Na|ture for a Subject, tho' under the greatest and most unjust Sufferings, to lift up his Hand against the Supreme Power. But it is a more heinous and in|excusable Violation of it, for the Persons invested with the Supreme Power, to use that Power to the Ruin and Destruction of the People commit|ted to their Charge. What encouragement there|fore can any Man have, to think that others will not be push'd on by the strong implanted Appe|tite of Self-Preservation, to commit a Crime, when he himself commits a more brutish and un|natural Crime, perhaps without any provocation at all? Or is it to be imagined that they who daily break God's Laws, for the sake of some little Profit or transient Pleasure, will not be tempted by the love of Property, Liberty, or Life it self, to Transgress that single Precept which forbids Re|sistance to the Supreme Power?
XLV. But it will be demanded, to what pur|pose then is this Duty of Non-Resistance Preached and Proved, and Recommended to our Practice, if in all likelihood, when things come to an ex|tremity, Men will never observe it? I Answer, to the very same purpose that any other Duty is Preached. For what Duty is there which many, too many, upon some consideration or other may Page 36 not be prevail'd on to Transgress? Moralists and Divines do not Preach the Duties of Nature and Religion, with the View of Gaining Mankind to a perfect Observation of them; that they know is not to be done. But, however, our Pains are An|swered, if we can make Men less Sinners than otherwise they wou'd be; if by opposing the force of Duty to that of present Interest and Passion, we can get the better of some Temptations, and Balance others, while the greatest still remain In|vincible.
XLVI. But granting those who are invested with the Supreme Power to have all imaginable Security, that no cruel and barbarous Treatment whatever cou'd provoke their Subjects to Rebel|lion: Yet I believe it may be justly questioned, whether such Security would tempt them to more or greater Acts of Cruelty, than Jealousie, Di|strust, Suspicion and Revenge may do in a State less Secure. And so far in consideration of the first Point, Namely, that the Doctrine of Non-Resistance is an encouragement for Governors to become Tyrants.
XLVII. The second Mischievous Effect it was Charged with, is, that it renders the Oppression and Cruelty of those who are Tyrants more in|supportable and violent, by cutting off all Oppo|sition, and consequently all means of Redress. But, if things are rightly consider'd, it will appear, that Redressing the Evils of Government by Force, is at best, a very hazardous Attempt, and what often puts the Publick in a worse State than it was before. For either you suppose the Power of the Rebels to be but small, and easily Crushed, and then this is apt to inspire the Governors with Con|fidence Page 37 and Cruelty. Or, in case you suppose it more considerable, so as to be a Match for the Su|preme Power supported by the Publick Treasure, Forts and Armies, and that the whole Nation is engaged in a Civil War; the certain effects of this are Rapine, Bloodshed, Misery, and Confusion to all Orders and Parties of Men, greater and more insupportable by far, than are known under any the most absolute and severe Tyranny upon Earth. And it may be that after much mutual Slaughter, the Rebellious Party will prevail. And if they do prevail to Destroy the Government in Being, it may be they will Substitute a better in its Place, or change it into better Hands. And may not this come to pass without the expence, and toil, and blood of War? Is not the Heart of a Prince in the Hand of God? May he not therefore give him a right Sense of his Duty, or may he not call him out of the World by Sickness, Accident, or the Hand of some desperate Ruffian, and send a better in his Stead. When I speak as of a Monarchy, I would be understood to mean all sorts of Govern|ment, wheresoever the Supreme Power is Lodged. Upon the whole, I think we may close with the Heathen Philosopher, who thought it the part of a Wise Man, never to attempt the Change of Go|vernment by Force, when it cou'd not be mended without the Slaughter and Banishment of his Countrymen: But to Sit still, and Pray for bet|ter Times*. For this way may do, and the other may not do; there is uncertainty in both Courses. The difference is, that in the way of Rebellion, we are sure to increase the Publick Calamities, for a time at least, tho' we are not sure of lessening them for the future.
Page 38 XLVIII. But tho' it should be acknowledged, that in the main, Submission and Patience ought to be recommended; yet, Men will be still apt to demand, whether extraordinary Cases may not require extraordinary Measures; and therefore in case the Oppression be insupportable, and the Pro|spect of Deliverance sure, whether Rebellion may not be allowed of? I Answer, By no means. Per|jury, or Breach of Faith, may, in some possible Cases, bring great Advantage to a Nation, by free|ing it from Conditions inconsistent with its Liber|ty and Publick Welfare. So likewise, may Adul|tery, by procuring a Domestick Heir, prevent a Kingdom's falling into the Hands of a Foreign Power, which wou'd in all probability prove its Ruin. Yet will any Man say, the extraordinary Nature of those Cases can take away the Guilt of Perjury and Adultery? This is what I will not suppose. But it hath been shewn, that Rebellion is as truly a Crime against Nature and Reason as either of the foregoing, it may not therefore be Justified upon any Account whatever, any more than they.
XLIX. What! Must we then Submit our Necks to the Sword? And is there no Help, no Refuge against extream Tyranny established by Law? In Answer to this, I say in the first place, it is not to be feared that Men in their Wits shou'd seek the Destruction of their People, by such cruel and un|natural Decrees as some are forward to suppose. I say, Secondly, that in case they shou'd, yet most certainly the Subordinate Magistrates may not, nay, they ought not, in Obedience to those De|crees to act any thing contrary to the express Laws of God. And perhaps all things considered, it Page 39 will be thought, that representing this Limitation of their active Obedience by the Laws of God or Nature, as a Duty to the Ministers of the Supreme Power, may prove in those extravagant supposed Cases no less effectual for the Peace and Safety of a Nation, than Preaching up the Power of Resi|stance to the People.
L. Further, It will probably be Objected as an Absurdity in the Doctrine of Passive Obedience, that it enjoyneth Subjects a blind implicit Submis|sion to the Decrees of other Men; which is un|becoming the Dignity and Freedom of reasonable Agents; who indeed ought to pay Obedience to their Superiors, but it shou'd be a rational Obedi|ence, such as arises from a knowledge of the Equi|ty of their Laws, and the Tendency they have to promote the Public Good. To which I Answer, That it is not likely a Government shou'd suffer much for want of having its Laws inspected and amended, by those who are not legally intitled to a share in the management of Affairs of that Na|ture. And it must be confessed, the Bulk of Man|kind are by their Circumstances and Occupations, so far unqualified to judge of such Matters, that they must necessarily pay an implicit deference to some or other, and to whom so properly as to those invested with the Supreme Power?
LI. There is another Objection against abso|lute Submission, which I shou'd not have mentio|ned, but that I find it insisted on by Men of so great Note, as Grotius and Pufendorf*, who think our Non-Resistance shou'd be measured by the in|tention Page 40 of those who first framed the Society. Now, say they, if we suppose the question put to them, Whether they meant to lay every Subject under a Necessity of chusing Death, rather than in any Case to Resist the Cruelty of his Superiors, it cannot be imagined, they wou'd Answer in the Affirmative. For this were to put themselves in a worse Condition, than that which they endea|voured to avoid by entring into Society. For al|tho' they were obnoxious to the Injuries of many, they had nevertheless the Power of Resisting them. But now they are bound, without any Opposition at all, to endure the greatest Injuries from those whom they have Armed with their own Strength. Which is by so much worse than the former State, as the undergoing an Execution is worse than the hazard of a Battle. But (passing by all other Ex|ceptions which this Method of arguing may be li|able to) it is evident, that a Man had better be ex|posed to the absolute irresistible Decrees, even of one single Person, whose own and Posterities true Interest it is to preserve him in Peace and Plenty, and Protect him from the Injuries of all Mankind beside, than remain an open Prey to the Rage and Avarice of every Wicked Man upon Earth, who either exceeds him in Strength, or takes him at an Advantage. The Truth of this is confirmed, as well by the constant Experience of the far greater Part of the World, as by what we have already observ'd concerning Anarchy, and the Inconsi|stence of such a State, with that manner of Life which Human Nature requires. Hence it is plain, the Objection last mentioned is Built on a false Supposition; Viz. That Men, by quitting the Na|tural State of Anarchy for that of absolute Non-Resisting Obedience to Government, wou'd put themselves in a worse Condition than they were in before.
Page 41 LII. The last Objection I shall take Notice of is, that in pursuance of the premised Doctrine, where no Exceptions, no Limitations are to be al|lowed of, it shou'd seem to follow, Men were bound to submit without making any Opposition to Usurpers, or even Madmen possessed of the Su|preme Authority. Which is a Notion so absurd and repugnant to common Sense, that the Founda|tion on which it is Built, may justly be called in Question. Now, in order to clear this Point, I observe the Limitation of Moral Duties may be understood in a Twofold Sense, either first as a Distinction applied to the Terms of a Proposition, whereby that which was expressed before too ge|nerally is limited to a particular Acceptation; and this, in truth, is not so properly limiting the Du|ty as defining it. Or, Secondly, it may be under|stood as a Suspending the Observation of a Duty for avoiding some extraordinary Inconvenience, and thereby confining it to certain Occasions. And in this last Sense only, We have shewn Ne|gative Duties not to admit of Limitation. Name|ly, that by Vertue of the Duty of Non-Resistance, We are not obliged to Submit the Disposal of our Lives and Fortunes to the Discretion either of Mad|men, or of all those who by Craft or Violence in|vade the Supreme Power. Because the Object of the Submission enjoyned Subjects by the Law of Nature is, from the Reason of the thing, Mani|festly limited so as to exclude both the one and the other. Which I shall not go about to prove, be|cause I believe no Body has denied it. Nor doth the Annexing such Limits to the Object of our Obedience, at all limit the Duty it self, in the Sense we except against.
Page 42 LIII. In the Various Changes and Fluctuations of Government, it is impossible to prevent that Controversies shou'd sometimes arise concerning the Seat of the Supreme Power. And in such Ca|ses Subjects cannot be Denied the Liberty of Judg|ing for Themselves, or of taking part with some, and opposing others, according to the best of their Judgments; all which is Consistent with an exact Observation of their Duty, so long as, when the Constitution is clear in the Point, and the Object of their Submission undoubted, no Pretext of In|terest, Friends, or the Publick Good, can make them depart from it. In short, it is acknowledged, that the Precept enjoyning Non-Resistance is Li|mited to particular Objects, but not to particular Occasions. And in this it is like all other Moral Negative Duties, which consider'd as general Pro|positions, do admit of Limitations and Restricti|ons, in order to a distinct Definition of the Duty; but what is once known to be a Duty of that sort, can never become otherwise by any good or ill Effect, Circumstance, or Event whatsoever. And in Truth if it were not so, if there were no Ge|neral Inflexible Rules, but all Negative as well as Positive Duties might be Dispensed with, and Warpt to Serve particular Interests and Occasions, there were an end of all Morality.
LIV. It is therefore Evident, that as the Obser|vation of any other Negative Moral Law, is not to be limited to those Instances only, where it may produce good Effects; so neither is the Observa|tion of Non-Resistance limited in such sort, as that any Man may Lawfully Transgress it, whensoever in his Judgment, the Publick Good of his Particu|lar Country shall require it. And it is with Re|gard Page 43 to this Limitation by the Effects, that I speak of Non-Resistance, as an absolute, unconditioned, unlimited Duty. Which must inevitably be grant|ed, unless one of these three Things can be prov'd: Either, First, that Non-Resistance is no Moral Duty. Or, Secondly, that other Negative Moral Duties are limited by the Effects. Or, Lastly, that there is something peculiar in the Nature of Non-Resistance, which necessarily subjects it to such a Limitation, as no other Negative Moral Duty can admit. The contrary to each of which Points, if I mistake not, hath been clearly made out.
LV. I have now briefly gone through the Ob|jections drawn from the Consequences of Non-Resistance, which was the last General Head I proposed to Treat of. In handling this and the other Points, I have endeavour'd to be as full and clear, as the usual length of these Discourses would permit, and throughout to consider the Argument with the same Indifference, as I shou'd any other part of General Knowledge, being verily perswa|ded that Men, as Christians, are obliged to the Practice of no one Moral Duty, which may not abide the severest Test of Reason.