OUR REPUBLIC! By Jeremiah Taylor at Providence, R. I., July 4th 1876

Power of History2OUR REPUBLIC! An Oration By Rev. Jeremiah Taylor, D. D., Delivered At Providence, Rhode Island, July 4th, 1876, At The Planting Of A Centennial Tree In Roger William’s Park.

Mr. President, Ladies, Gentlemen, Youth And Children: A German schoolmaster once said, “Whenever I enter my schoolroom, I remove my hat and bow with reverence, for there I meet the future dignitaries of my country.” Standing as we do this hour upon the high places of national prosperity and joining with the forty millions of people, the inhabitants of our proud and grateful country in this centennial celebration, the future outlook is awe-inspiring. To us as to him of old, who beheld the bush burning, yet not consumed, there comes the admonition, that we are standing in the presence of the high and the holy. In the order of the exercises which the committee have arranged for this day’s work among us, I am impressed that each department illustrates well some grand historic fact, or enunciates some underlying principle which has built and which must conserve this Republic.

You will have observed that the celebration began by a military and civic procession which, after winding through some of the principal streets of the city, brought up at the venerable “meeting house,” which is older than the nation, and has stood all these years blessing the people, and there combined with the services of religion and the reading of the Declaration of Independence and the address of eloquence.

WeThePeopleWhat better picture of the state of tilings one hundred years ago, when stirred with eloquence as the fire of patriotism burned bright and all consuming, men rushed to their altars for divine guidance, and then to their implements of war, to conquer or die. “A civic and military procession!” just that was the army of the Revolution springing up from field and workshop and all trades and professions wherever a hero might be found and the sacred cause moved him. Next in order to-day came the grand Trades Procession; symbolizing the prosperity of the country during a century of life and industry, and what nation under the whole heaven, can exhibit such a growth in a century as we do to-day, in all these things which constitute the strength and glory of a free people?

The third act in the scene of this pageantry is the one passing here, in which the children and the youth are so largely represented; from whose ranks are to arise the men and the women of the future. Yes, here we stand in the presence of the nation that is to be. There is a meaning, too, in the regatta appointed for the silent hours of incoming evening upon the quiet waters of the Seekonk That old stream that has played so important a part in ages gone as well as now; that yielded her bosom just as readily when furrowed by the canoe of the red man before civilized life began, as now it endures all the wantoness and sport of the trained sons of Brown. For shall we not see in the struggles of the boat race the intensified energy and stimulated purpose exemplified which must constitute the warp and woof in the great business life of the future?

That nation only has a future among the centuries that shall be worthy of record, which employs all her skill and well-directed enterprise to keep fully abreast of all the questions that bear upon human weal, and, when rightly solved, bless mankind to the last degree. We want the bone, the muscle, the sinew capable of hardly endurance, not less than the well-trained thought and sterling virtue for future use. The old Republic, weakened by effeminacy, perished. May God save us from such an unhonored grave!

Portrait_of_George_WashingtonIt will be seen then from this run along the line of the procession that the morning service had a more special reference to the past; was largely puritanic while this of the afternoon and evening contemplate the future, and are mainly prophetic. Let us catch the inspiration that ought to move us even here and now. I have said this service is future in its bearings. But lest the muse of history should turn away in sorrow, stop a moment before we proceed with that idea. Let us not forget this place is hallowed ground. Go up into the old house which has crowned the brow of the hill for the century past, and which has just been “fixed up” for the century to come. Then walk down to the well of whose pure waters, the Williams family drank from generation to generation, and which when mixed with tea gave such zest to the evening hours in the life of Betsey, to whose noble benefaction it is due we are here in such joyous mood, feeling that we are part owners of these twenty acres, if we hold not a foot of soil outside the Park. Then pass down into the sacred enclosure where the “forefathers of the hamlet sleep,” and read the quaintly lettered story of their life and death. We are sorry that you cannot look upon the face of old Roger himself, the patron saint of all these domains, and whose statue with a face as he ought to have looked when living, will one day appear ready to defy the storms of the open heavens as they may here sweep over the plain. But in the absence of that costly embellishment, walk across yon rustic bridge where you will find the apple tree and Roger Williams in it. But to our theme,—With these children from our public schools, and you, Mr. President representing the Board of Education, before me, how natural to say a few things in regard to education and government. And thus we shall see what the children must be and do to render the future grand—enduring. I have just read the story of the “Blue-eyed Boy,” who peered through the keyhole into the Hall of Independence, saw the venerable men sign the Declaration of Independence, then of his own accord shouted to the bellman to ring forth the joyful tidings, then leaping upon the back of his pony, self-appointed, rode night and day to the camp of General Washington, located in New York, and communicated to him what had been done in Congress, and this two days before the commander-in-chief received his dispatches from the proper authorities. Like that patriotic, heroic boy, we want the children of to-day to herald down the coming ages the great facts and principles of our nation’s life and glory. How can they do it?

We have planted our centennial tree; whether it survives and flourishes, or dies after a few months, depends upon certain established laws in nature. Soil, climate, sunshine and storm are to tell in the one direction or the other. The Republic of of the United States, which to-day wears a matronly brow and bears the wreath of a century, is to abide in honor and flourish in prosperity, or to perish from being a nation under the operation of laws no less fixed and obvious.

betsy_ross_flag1We are probably now passing through the test period of our existence. We have seen the sword cannot devour. The world knows, we know, that our arm of power is strong in defence and protection. The adverse elements which, during the century gone, have at times appeared so fierce and destructive, have only reduced elements of strength. Prosperity is often more dangerous than adversity. When Moab could not conquer ancient Israel on the field of battle, she did so spread her net of enticement as to decoy and imperil her. If we have come through the scourge of the sword strong, who can say that corruption and loss of public virtue shall not mark our ruin? We must educate the young aright, if we are to conserve what we have received and now hold. It has been said, “the chief concern of a State is the education of her children.” As a prime element in this education, we have need to inculcate American ideas of government. This may be quite easy to do with that portion of the young that are born here, and whose blood is Anglo Saxon; without other ingredients, the blood and the birth place both have an important bearing. The Englishman, reared on the other side of the Atlantic, does not easily comprehend the genius of our free institutions, and there noticeably are duller scholars still. The government here is through the people, and of course belongs to the people. I am a part of the nation, and am to my measure of ability responsible for what the national life is. This idea of being a factor in the Republic becomes one of the most potent influences for good; one of the most powerful educators in the land. It was this idea that brought to the field of battle such vast armies to save the government in its last scene of danger, and rendered them so tractable, wise, enduring, brave, where no standing armies existed before. Now whether a man came from China or Ireland, Japan or Germany, the north pole or the south pole, let him understand at the earliest possible period, that he is one of us and owes allegiance to no government but what he helps to constitute. It has been said many a time, that the English debt makes the English government strong—because so many of the people are creditors. Our own government in the late war made the people largely its creditors for a like reason. But the bond of our union is deeper, broader than this, more binding, more sure. It is this, that not only the money is ours, but the honor and prosperity, and the very being of the nation belongs to the people. And allow me to say that our system of popular education is one of the best agencies that can be employed to inculcate, foster and strengthen this idea. Every school in our land made up of a distinct nationality, on a fundamental principle of religion or politics, is fostering a spirit anti-Republican, and fraught with evil to our free institutions.

If any people are so purblind as not to see that we offer to them through our public institutions better educational opportunities than they can transplant here from the Old World, then we beg they will abide under their own vine and fig tree and leave to us and ours, what we so highly prize, and propose to perpetuate. We shall not submit to any foreign domination, whether it be political or ecclesiastical.

There will naturally be connected with this American idea of government, as a second educational element, patriotic fervor. One of the weakest things in the old Ottoman power so shaken just now that indicates its near ruin is a lack of patriotism. Such an emotion as love of country is not found there. The Turk may fight because he is forced to, not because his home, family and native land are dearer to him than life.

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

The Storming of Stony Point by Alonzo Chappell

It was this patriotic fervor that brought our nation into being, and this must be an important instrumentality in its continuance. Read the closing sentence in that immortal document which one hundred years ago this very day so fired and nerved the people in their great struggle for liberty: “And for the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” Those words were no mere rhetorical flourish, when published. They included all the language could express, and infinitely more than such a declaration ever contained before.

It may be quite easy to frame resolutions and give pledges in times of peace; but the hour when the framers of the Declaration of Independence spoke so boldly and meaningly was when war was at the door and the hand of a most powerful nation was upon the throat of her feebler Colonies.

To pledge life, property, sacred honor then was to have them put in immediate requisition for the imperiled cause.

It meant, as Benjamin Franklin said to John Hancock, as he wrote his bold name and remarked, (1)”We must all hang together. Yes, we must indeed hang together, or else, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” That high-toned sentiment, fearlessly uttered was sustained by sacrifice and intense endurance. Republics are made of youth and let there arise generation after generation of youth, so infused, men of such devotion to the good of the country, and we are safe for the century to come, for all future years while the world standeth; for:

Our country first, their glory and their pride,
Land of their hopes, land where their fathers died,
When in the right they’ll keep her honor bright,
Wherein the wrong they’ll die to set it right.

It was a painful feature of our American life made prominent before the late rebellion, that so many eminent in positions at home, or traveling abroad, affected to despise their birth-right, were ashamed of their country. They claimed to be English rather than Americans, when in foreign lands. And when here on our soil, fostered, honored, had nothing of the national life and spirit about them.

In such an ignoble spirit the rebellion was matured. They were ever decrying their home blessings, and extolling the beauty and bounty of institutions far away. We are thankful that spirit, so vain and silly, so unnatural and obsequious, has been so thoroughly flogged out of the nation. I do not think so big a fool can be found in the entire land, in this day of grace, July 4, 1876, as a man who chanced to be born in our famed country, wishing the lines of life in the beginning had fallen to him in some other place. American citizenship has passed the period of reproach. It challenges the homage of the world. It is set in gems of beauty. It is royal diadem.

In studying the character of the men who became the founders and framers of this Republic, we find they were distinguished for sterling integrity, and so we must see to it that the young, rising up around us, are possessed of the same element of character, if our institutions are to be perpetuated. What we want to-day in our country is men who can be trusted. They are here, no doubt, and will appear and take their place when called for. Gold is good, and we want that, but men more. We have had a decade of sordid sentiment and base practice.

Such a state of things is not unusual after a season of war. Competition was widespread after the Revolution.

hero_of_vincennes1The vile mercenary spirit has invaded all departments of life and influences. The greed of gain, inflamed by a desire for personal gratification, has been too strong for the ordinary barriers of virtue and fair dealing, and what wrecks of character, fortune and life even have appeared as a consequence upon the surface of society. Men who have become insane through lust and gain scruple not at the use of any means which may accomplish their purpose. And so we distrust one another, and wonder if we shall find at the Centennial Exhibition even that noblest work of God, “an honest man.” It is thought by many that the evil is self-corrective, that the appalling depths of iniquity which have been revealed will frighten and compel a hasty retreat on the part of those who have ventured on the perilous extreme. That is not the ordinary law of reform. Reeking corruption does not of itself become a scene of sweetness and beauty. Let us trust in no such vain hope. Rather let the education of the young be the source of cheerful expectation. Train up the children in the ways of integrity. Let it be engraven upon their hearts in the deep-bedded lines of ineffaceable conviction, that righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways though he be rich.

“Ill fares the land to hast’ning; ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates and men decay.”

Another important lesson to bo taught our youth is that wealth is not the end, but the means, and so our life ought to be one of well-appointed industry and careful husbandry, whether we be rich or poor.

Harriet Martineau, who has just died at her home in England, after traveling through this country and observing the working of our free institutions, recorded as her deliberate opinion that no calamity could befall an American youth more serious in results than to inherit a large patrimony.

The idea has been so wide spread, that if a man has riches he has attained already the chief end of his being, that an overindulged, useless life, is almost a sure concomitant of inherited wealth; more diligence, less extravagance, should be the watchwords with which to start on the new century. With the very fair show which the benevolent department of the country may make as to-day she unrolls her record of church work at home and abroad, her educational work, with endowed colleges and public libraries, her charities to the poor and the unfortunate, it must yet be apparent that as a people we have not learned how to use wealth aright.

The great industries of the land are depressed. The hands of the laborer are seeking in vain for something to do, and the rich are becoming poor, as a consequence of the recklessness of habits in the modes of earning and spending in the past. The same is true of a liberal education, as of wealth. The youth who, blessed with opportunities for a higher education, must be made to feel that they are carried through the schools, not to be drones in society, fancy men, but that they may contribute to the wisdom, integrity and every virtue in the high places of state and nation.

It is sometimes said that higher education unfits some for business. Send a boy to college and he is good for nothing except in the learned professions. “If this be so, then our educational system needs reorganizing.” The old maxim that knowledge is power, is true, and broad as true. A man will be better fitted to fill any occupation in life for a higher education, if he has been educated aright. Out upon any other theory. Let the people everywhere be made to feel this, as the graduates do honor to their privileges, by meeting the just claim that society has upon them and the questions about graded schools and free colleges will fail to be discussed for want of an opponent.

Our country offers the highest prize for every virtue, all trained talent. It is base, it is mean, it is contemptible, not to be true, noble and good when the way to ascend is so easy; where the people are so ready to crown, and honor him who deserves to wear a crown, and when our free institutions are so deserving of all the support and praise we can bring them.

One word more. This has been a Christian nation during the century past. The great principles of divine truth have been wrought into the foundations and abide in the structure. The Word of God has been our sheet anchor in the past; it must be so in the future. Someone has said “Republicanism and freedom are but mere names for beautiful but impossible abstractions, except in the case of a Christainly, educated people.” Keep this thought in the minds of the young, in all their course of education, and they will rise up to bless the land, and possess her fair and large domain. It was [Alexis] De Tocqueville who said, “He who survives the freedom and dignity of his country, has already lived too long.

May none before us, or in the generations following, live thus long. Our Republic to the end of time.

See also: THE POWER OF HISTORY by Horatio Seymour (1810–1886)
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
SCORN TO BE SLAVES by Dr. Joseph Warren 1741-1775
THE MARCH OF FREEDOM by Theodore Parker 1810-1860
THE GENIUS OF AMERICA by Hon. Dr. Felix R. Brunot July 4, 1876
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
A REPUBLIC! A LIVING BREATHING CONSTITUTION DEFINED! by Alphonse De Lamartine 1790-1869
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
Resist Tyrants Obey God

Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. It is not enough in a situation of trust in the commonwealth, that a man means well to his country; it is not enough that in his single person he never did an evil act, but always voted according to his conscience, and even harangued against every design which he apprehended to be prejudicial to the interests of his country. This innoxious and ineffectual character, that seems formed upon a plan of apology and disculpation, falls miserably short of the mark of public duty. That duty demands and requires, that what is right should not only be made known, but made prevalent; that what is evil should not only be detected, but defeated. ~ Edmund Burke

Speaking in 1750 on the anniversary of the death and execution by Cromwell’s Parliament for Constitutional treason of Charles I. Rev. Jonathan Mayhew, a Church of England minister; at Boston’s West Church, affirmed the right of people to resist a tyrannical government. He speaks here to the duty of individual citizens to preserve their rights in the face of despotic rulers. “It is universally better to obey God than Man when the laws of God and Man clash and interfere with one another,” he said in an earlier sermon.

[Excerpt: CHAPTER IV: The New England Historical Conscience – Trevor Colbourn, The Lamp of Experience 1965] Mayhew was probably the most outstanding of New England’s politically minded clerics. A “transcendent genius” according to John Adams, Jonathan Mayhew was an early advocate of “the principles and feelings” for which the Revolution was undertaken. The problems of religion and life were one and the same to Mayhew. At Harvard he wrote in his notebooks that he was determined to discover “the Affairs, Actions and Thoughts of the Living and the Dead, in the most remote Ages and the most distant Nations.” He carefully studied “the Characters and Reign etc of King Charles I” for a better understanding of the origins of the Puritan migration. To this end he studied Whitelocke’s Memorials (“an exquisite scholar”) and read the Memoirs of “honest Ludlow” the regicide. He admired Milton’s account of the English Commonwealth and noted that the rebellion came because “Charles the first had sinned flagrantly and repeatedly” against “the ancient form of Government” in England.

The use to which Mayhew put such studies is best seen in his controversial Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission, (referred to above) a sermon delivered on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of the execution of Charles I on January 30, 1649/50. Taking vigorous issue with recent Anglican efforts to portray Charles as a martyred monarch, Mayhew began his refutation with some remarks on the antiquity of English liberties. The English constitution, he asserted, “is originally and essentially free.” Roman sources, such as the reliable Tacitus, made it clear that “the ancient Britains … were extremely jealous of their liberties.” England’s monarchs originally held title to their throne “solely by grant of parliament,” which meant the ancient English kings ruled “by the voluntary consent of the people.”

If Mayhew’s history showed him a familiar pre-Norman political utopia in England, it also proved the right of all men “to vindicate their natural and legal rights.” On this principle Tarquin was expelled from ancient Rome; on this principle the conquering and tyrannical Julius Caesar was “cut off in the senate house”; and on this principle Charles I “was beheaded before his own banqueting house,” and James II had to flee from the country “which he aim’d at enslaving.” All men had rights; but Englishmen had a record for maintaining theirs despite the tyrannical efforts of misguided kings like Charles I.

The vigor of Mayhew’s presentation established his political reputation. His sermon was published not only in Boston, but in London as well—in 1752 and again in 1767.  In Boston, John Adams remembered long afterward, Mayhew’s sermon “was read by everybody. Among others who joined the newspaper controversy over Charles I were Mayhew supporters who wrote to the Boston Evening-Post citing Burnet: Charles I “had a high Notion of Regal Power, and thought that every Opposition to it was Rebellion.” The same newspaper also published a definition of a good king: such a monarch “has imprison’d none against the law, granted no Monopolies to the Injury of Trade, collected no Ship-Money, rob’d none of their Religious Liberties … all which … were flagrant in the Tyrannical Reigns of the Steward-Family,” so well known for their “violent Attachment to Popery and Arbitrary Power.”

Mayhew had indeed (as John Adams noted) revived Puritan “animosities against tyranny.” In his Election Sermon before Governor William Shirley in 1754, Mayhew returned to his theme that “loyalty and slavery are not synonymous.” “Monarchical government,” he declared, “has no better foundation in the oracles of God, than any other.” In 1765, with the provocation of the Stamp Act to consider, Mayhew delivered another moving discourse on the virtues of liberty and the iniquity of tyranny. The essence of slavery, he announced, consists in subjection to others—“whether many, few, or but one, it matters not.”

Mayhew’s case against England was essentially conservative. He wanted to preserve the constitutional rights belonging to all Englishmen. During the decade preceding his untimely death in 1766, Mayhew read widely on the legal rights of Englishmen in America. His happy correspondence with Thomas Hollis of Lincoln’s Inn brought a steady stream of handsome history books to his Boston home. Hollis also arranged for his literary friends to send Mayhew their productions. Catherine Macaulay supplied Mayhew with volumes of her History of England; Mayhew read her treatment of the Stuarts “with great pleasure.” As Mayhew exclaimed to Hollis, Mrs. Macaulay wrote “with a Spirit of Liberty, which might shame many great Men (so called) in these days of degeneracy, and tyrannysm and oppression.”

Although this sermon came more than a decade before relations between the colonies and England started to deteriorate in earnest, the principles he describes foretell the basis of the American revolution. His sermon from The Pillars of Priestcraft and Orthodoxy Shaken by Richard Baron, part of the sermon based upon Romans 13 follows…….

obedience2God

[begin excerpt quote] I will add the entire book chapter including all of the sermon when I have the time.

A DISCOURSE CONCERNING UNLIMITED SUBMISSION AND NON-RESISTANCE TO THE HIGHER POWERS: With some Reflections on the Resistance made to King CHARLES I. And On The Anniversary of his Death: In which the Mysterious Doctrine of that Prince’s Saintship and Martyrdom is Unriddled:

The Substance of which was delivered in a Sermon preached in the West Meeting-house in Boston the Lord’s Day after the 30th of January, 1749-50. Published at the Request of the Hearers. By Jonathan Mayhew D. D. Pastor of the West Church in Boston.

Fear GOD, honor the King, ~ Saint Paul

He that ruleth over Men, must be just, ruling in the Fear of GOD. ~ The Prophet Samuel,

I have said ye are Gods.—but ye shall die like Men, and fall like one of the PRINCES.” King David.

Quid memorem infandas caedes, quid facta tyranni effera? di capiti ipsius generique reseruent!  Nec non Threicius longa cum veste sacerdos
Obliquitur— Rom. Vat. Prin

First Printed in Boston, New England in 1750

T’HE ensuing discourse is the last of three upon the same subject, with some little alterations and additions. It is hoped that but few will think the subject of it an improper one to be discoursed on in the pulpit, under a notion that, that is preaching politics, instead of CHRIST. However, to remove all prejudices of this sort, I beg it may be remembered, that “all scripture is profitable for doctrine; for reproof, for CORRECTION, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Why, then should not those parts of scripture, which relate to civil government, be examined and explained from the desk, as well as others? Obedience to the civil magistrate, is a christian duty: and if so, why should not the nature, grounds and extent of it be considered in a christian assembly? Besides, if it be said, that it is out of character for a christian minister to meddle with such a subject, this censure will at last fall upon the holy apostles. They write upon it in their epistles to christian churches: and surely it cannot be deemed either criminal or impertinent, to attempt on explanation of their doctrine.

It was the near approach of the Thirtieth of January, that turned my thoughts to this subject: on which solemnity the slavish doctrine of passive obedience and non-resistance, is often warmly asserted, and the dissenters from the established church, represented, net only as schismatics, (with more of triumph than of truth, and of choler than Christianity) but also as persons of seditious, traitorous and rebellious principles—GOD be thanked one. may, in any part of the British dominions, speak freely (if a decent regard be paid to those in authority) both of government and religion; and even give some broad hints, that he is engaged on the side of liberty, the BIBLE and common sense in opposition to tyranny, PRIEST-CRAFT and non-sense, without being in danger either of the Bastile or the Inquisition :—though there will always be some interested politicians, controlled bigots, and hypocritical “zealots for a party, to take offence at such freedoms. Their censure is praise: “Their praise is infamy—A spirit of domination is always to be guarded against both in church and state, even in times of the greatest security; such as the present is amongst US; at least as to the latter. Those nations who are now groaning under the iron scepter of tyranny, were once free. So they might, probably, have remained, by a seasonable precaution against despotic measures. Civil tyranny is usually small in its beginning, like “the drop of a bucket,” (Isaiah 40:15) till at length, like a mighty torrent, or the mighty raging of the sea, it bears down all before it, and deluges whole countries and empires. Thus it is as to ecclesiastical [religious] tyranny also,—the most cruel, intolerable and impious, of any. From small beginnings, “it exalts itself above all that is called GOD and that is worshipped.” (2 Thessalonians 2:4) People have no security against being unmercifully priest-ridden, but by keeping all imperious BISHOPS, and other CLERGYMEN who love to “lord it over God’s heritage” from getting their foot into the stirrup at all. Let them be once fairly mounted, and their “beasts, the laity,” (Mr. Leslie) may prance and flounce about to no purpose; and they “will, at length, be so jaded and hacked by these reverend jockeys, that they will not even have spirits enough to complain, that their backs are galled; or, like Balaam’s ass, to “rebuke the madness of the prophet.” (2 Peter 2:16)

“The mystery of iniquity began to work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) even in the days of some of the apostles. But the kingdom of Antichrist was then, in one respect, like the kingdom of heaven, however different in all others.—It was “as a grain of mustard seed.” (Matthew 17:20) This grain was sown in Italy, that fruitful field: And tho’ it were “least of all seeds,” it soon became a mighty tree. It has long since overspread and darkened the greatest part of Christendom, so that we may apply to it what is said of the tree which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his vision—”The “heighth thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof the end of all the earth—And THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD have shadow under it.” Tyranny brings ignorance and brutality along with it. It degrades men from their just rank, into the class of brutes. It damps their spirits. It suppresses arts. It extinguishes every spark of noble ardor and generosity in the breasts of those who are enslaved by it. It makes naturally strong and great minds, feeble and little; and triumphs over the ruins of virtue and humanity. This is true of tyranny in every shape, There can be nothing great and good, where its influence reaches. For which reason it becomes every friend to truth and human kind; every lover of God and the christian religion, to bear a part in opposing this hateful monster. It was a desire to contribute a mite towards carrying on a war against this common enemy, that produced the following discourse. And if it serve, in any measure, to keep up a spirit of civil and religious liberty amongst us, my end is answered. There are virtuous and candid men in all sects; all such are to be esteemed: There are also vicious men and bigots in all sects; and all such ought to be despised.

To virtue only, and her friends, a friend;
The world beside may murmur or commend.
Know, all the distant din that world can keep
Rolls o’er my grotto, and but soothes my sleep.” (Pope)

Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT is evident that the affair of civil government may properly fall under a moral and religious consideration, at least so far forth as it relates to the general nature and end of magistracy, and to the grounds and extent of that submission, which persons of a private character ought to yield to those who are vested with authority. This must be allowed by all who acknowledge the divine original of Christianity. For although there be a sense, and a very plain and important sense, in which Christ’s kingdom is not of this world; (John 18:36) his inspired apostles have, nevertheless, laid down some general principles concerning the office of civil rulers, and the duty of subjects, together with the reason and obligation of that duty. And from hence it follows, that it is proper for all who acknowledge the authority of Jesus Christ, and the inspiration of his apostles, to endeavor to understand what is in fact the doctrine which they have delivered concerning this matter. It is the duty of christian magistrates to inform themselves what it is which their religion teaches concerning the nature and design of their office. And it is equally the duty of all christian people to inform themselves what it is which their religion teaches concerning that subjection which they owe to the higher powers. It is for these reasons that I have attempted to examine into the scripture account of this matter, in order to lay it before you with the same freedom which I constantly use with relation to other doctrines and precepts of Christianity; not doubting but you will judge upon every thing offered to your consideration, with the same spirit of wisdom and liberty with which it is spoken.

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

It is to be observed, then, that there were some persons amongst the christians of the apostolic age, and particularly those at Rome, to whom St. Paul is here writing, who seditiously disclaimed all subjection to civil authority; refusing to pay taxes, and the duties laid upon their traffic and merchandize; and who scrupled not to speak of their rulers, without any due regard to their office and character.. Some of these turbulent christians were converts from Judaism, and others from pagonism. The Jews in general had, long before this time, taken up a strange conceit, that being the peculiar and elect people of God, they were therefore exempted from the jurisdiction of any heathen princes or governors. Upon this ground it was, that some of them, during the public ministry of our blessed Savior, came to him with that question—Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar or not? (Matthew 22:17) And this notion many of them retained after they were proselyted to the christian faith. As to the gentile converts,, some of them grossly mistook the nature of that liberty which the gospel promised; and thought that by virtue of their subjection to Christ, the only king and head of his church, they were wholly freed from subjection to any other prince; as though Christ’s kingdom had been of this world, in such a sense as to interfere with the civil powers of the earth, and to deliver their subjects from that allegiance and duty, which they before owed to them. Of these visionary Christians in general, who disowned subjection to the civil powers in being where they respectively lived, there is mention made in several places in the new testament: The Apostle Peter in particular, characterizes them in this manner—them that—despise government— presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. (2 Peter 2:10) Now it is with reference to these doting Christians, that the apostle speaks in the passage before us. And I shall now give you the sense of it in a  paraphrase upon each verse in its order, desiring you to keep in mind the character of the persons for whom it is designed, that so, as I go along, you may see how just and natural this address is; and how well suited to the circumstances of those against whom it is levelled.

The apostle’s doctrine, in the passage thus explained, concerning the office of civil rulers, and the duty of subjects, may be summed up. in the following observations.

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

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

Rulers have no authority from God to do mischief…. It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s minister’s. They are more properly “the messengers of Satan to buffet us.” No rulers are properly God’s ministers but such as are “just, ruling in the fear of God.” When once magistrates act contrary to their office, and the end of their institution–when they rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare–they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.

If magistrates are unrighteous,…the main end of civil government will be frustrated. And what reason is there for submitting to that government which does by no means answer the design of government? “Wherefore, ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.” Here the apostle[Paul] argues the duty of a cheerful and conscientious submission to civil government from the nature and end of magistracy, as he had before laid it down; i.e., as the design of it was to punish devil-doers, and to support and encourage such as do well;…if the motive and argument for submission to government be taken from the apparent usefulness of civil authority–it follows, that when no such good end can be answered by submission, there remains no argument or motive to enforce it;…And therefore, in such cases, a regard to the public welfare ought to make us withhold from our rulers that obedience and submission which it would otherwise be our duty to render to them. If it be our duty, for example, to obey our king merely for this reason, that he rules for the public welfare (which is the only argument the apostle makes use of), it follows, by a parity of reason, that when he turns tyrant, and makes his subjects his prey to devour and destroy, instead of his charge to defend and cherish, we are bound to throw off our allegiance to him, and to resist; and that according to the tenor of the apostle’s argument in this passage. Not to discontinue our allegiance in this case would be to join with the sovereign in promoting the slavery and misery of the society, the welfare of which we ourselves, as well as our sovereign, are indispensably obliged to secure and promote, as far as in us lies. It is true the apostle puts no case of such a tyrannical prince; but, by his grounding his argument for submission wholly upon the good of civil society, it is plain he implicitly authorizes, and even requires us to make resistance, whenever this shall be necessary to the public safety and happiness….

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

[Answer]: But…similar difficulties may be raised with respect to almost every duty of natural and revealed religion. To instance only in tow, both of which are near akin, and indeed exactly parallel to the case before us: It is unquestionably the duty of children to submit to their parents, an of servant to their master; but no one asserts that it is their duty to obey and submit to them in all supposable cases, or universally a sin to resist them. Now, does this tend to subvert the just authority of parents and masters, or to introduce confusion and anarchy into private families? No. How, then, does the same principle tend to unhinge the government of that larger family the body politic?…Now, there is at least as much difficulty in stating the measure of duty in these two cases as in the case of rulers and subjects; so that this is really no objection–at least, no reasonable one against resistance to the higher powers. Or, if it is one, it will hold equally against resistance in the other cases mentioned.

We may very safely assert these two things in general, without undermining government: One is, that no civil rulers are to be obeyed when they enjoin things that are inconsistent with the commands of God. All such disobedience is lawful and glorious;…All commands running counter to the declared will of the Supreme Legislator of heaven and earth are null and void, and therefore disobedience to duty, not a crime. Another thing that may be asserted with equal truth and safety is, that no law is to be submitted to, at the expense of; which is the sole end of all government–the good and safety of society….

[Qualifications:] Now, as all men are fallible, it cannot be supposed affairs of any state should be always in the best manner possible, even by greatest wisdom and integrity. Nor is it sufficient to legitimate disobedience to the higher powers that they are not so administered, or that they are in some instances very ill-managed; for, upon this principle, it is scarcely supposable than any government at all could be supported, or subsist. Such a principle manifestly tends to the dissolution of government, and to throw all things into confusion, and anarchy. But is equally evidenced, that those in authority may abuse their power to such a degree, that neither the law of reason, nor of religion requires that any obedience or submission should be paid to them; but, on the contrary, that they should be totally discarded, the authority which they were before vested transferred to others, who may exercise it to those good purposes for which it is given. Nor is this principle, that resistance to the higher power is in some extraordinary cases justifiable, so liable to abuse as many persons seem to apprehend it…. Mankind in general have a disposition to be as submissive and passive and tame under government as they ought to be…. ‘While those who govern do it with any tolerable degree of moderation and justice, and in any good measure act up to their office and character by being public benefactors, the people will generally be easy and peaceable, and be rather inclined to flatter and adore than to insult and resisting People know for what end they set up and maintain their governors, and they are the proper judges when the execute their trust as they ought to do it…. Till people find themselves greatly abused and oppressed by their governors, they are not apt to complain; and whenever they do, in fact, find themselves thus abused and oppressed, they must be stupid not to complain. To say that subjects in general are not the proper judges when their governors oppress them and play the tyrant, and when the defend their rights, administer justice impartially, and promote the public welfare, is as great treason as ever man uttered. It is treason, not against one single man, but the state against the whole body politic; it is treason against mankind, it is treason against common sense, it is treason against God….

[End Quote]

“There is a day coming when proud tyrants will be punished, not only for the cruelties they have been guilty of, but for employing those about them in their cruelties, and so exposing them to the judgments of God.”
Rev. Matthew Henry