Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV.: The Doctrine of Scripture relative to the Obedience due from Subjects to their Sovereigns; together with the Grounds of, and Reasons for the Duty. - A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts
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CHAP. IV.: The Doctrine of Scripture relative to the Obedience due from Subjects to their Sovereigns; together with the Grounds of, and Reasons for the Duty. - Josiah Tucker, A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts 
A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts (London: T. Cadell, 1781).
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The Doctrine of Scripture relative to the Obedience due from Subjects to their Sovereigns; together with the Grounds of, and Reasons for the Duty.
IT is evident, that all those Circumstances, on which relative Duties are founded, must be prior, in the Order of Things, to the Duties resulting from them. It is no less evident, that such Relations or Connections ought to be Matters of public Notoriety, before their respective Duties can be enjoined, and enforced. The Relations between Parent and Child, between Husband and Wife, Master and Servant, Sovereign and Subject, must not only exist,—but the Existence of them ought to be publickly known, before the several Duties of Honour, Fidelity, and Obedience on the one Hand,—and of Protection, affectionate Regard, and providential Care on the other, can be pressed on the Consciences of Mankind with due Force. For the Holy Scriptures do not inform us, who are Parents, and who are Children,—who are Husbands, Masters, or Sovereigns,—nor yet, who are Wives, Servants, or Subjects:—No; this is not their Province, and it would be absurd to expect such Information from them:—But, after these several Relations are become sufficiently known from other Sources of Intelligence, then the Holy Scriptures proceed to inculcate the Duties respectively belonging to each Relation, with proper Motives.
There is, indeed, one Exception, and but one, as far as I can perceive, to this general Observation. It became an excepted Case, because it was plainly a Deviation from the common Course of Things.—The Circumstance I refer to, was that peculiar Relation, which subsisted between the Children of Israel and their Prince, Jehovah. For after the Lord God of Israel had brought his People out of Egypt, by a mighty Hand, and a stretched out Arm, it pleased him to bind them to himself by a peculiar Covenant, condescending to be their temporal King and Governor, and exalting them to the Honour of being his immediate and political Subjects. Now as this was a supernatural Connection, it could have been made known to them only by Means of a supernatural Revelation.
However, thus it came to pass, that the political Constitution of the Sons of Jacob differed from the Polity of all other States upon the Face of the Earth. Consequently, as their State, or Kingdom, under their King Jehovah, was very literally of Divine Appointment, the Israelites first, and the Jews afterwards could say, with strict Justice, as well as with great Propriety, that they had received a political Constitution, and a temporal Kingdom, ordained of God: Which no other Nation could say, besides themselves, in the same Sense.
But alas! whilst this Theocracy, or Divine Government lasted, we do not find, that the Subjects of it were more loyal, dutiful, and submissive than those, who lived under other Forms.—On the contrary, the Scriptures are every where filled with Relations of the Perverseness, Ingratitude, Rebellions, and Apostacies of this very People.—Yet, when this Theocracy had ceased, and when they were reduced to a Level with the rest of Mankind, respecting the Nature of their Government, then they became sensible of their Error,—though indeed not from the best of Motives; and then they most earnestly wished (certainly not with the purest Intentions) for a Return or Restoration of that very Government, which they had so frequently despised, and offended,—Hence therefore they became so very impatient in their Subjection to any other Power, and were continually longing, and attempting to free themselves from every foreign Yoke.
This appears, as from the general Expectation, which every where prevailed among them, that their Messiah was shortly to appear (to whose triumphant Standard the whole Jewish Nation intended to resort);—as also from the particular Emulations, and mutual Jealousies of the Apostles themselves,—ever contending, which of them should be the greatest, that is, which should be the most in Favour with their victorious Prince. Nay, it was this very Persuasion of a temporal Messiah, which induced the Pharisees to join with the Herodians (whom they mortally hated) to put certain ensnaring Questions to our Lord. Matt. Chap. xxii. 15, 22. “Then went the Pharisees, and took Counsel, how they might entangle him in his Talk. And they sent out unto him their Disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, We know that thou art true, and teachest the Way of God in Truth, neither carest thou for any Man; for thou regardest not the Person of Men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou, Is it lawful to give Tribute unto Cæsar, or not, [shall we give or shall we not give? says another Evangelist] but Jesus perceived their Wickedness and said, Shew me the Tribute-Money, and they brought unto him a Penny” [A Piece of Money somewhat larger than our Sixpence] “And he saith unto them, whose is this Image and Superscription? They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, render therefore unto Cæsar, the Things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God, the Things that are God’s. When they had heard these Words, they marvelled, and left him and went their Way.” St. Luke also farther informs us, “That they could not take hold of his Words before the People, and that they marvelled at his Answer and held their Peace.”
Indeed to hold their Peace, in their Situation, was the wisest Thing the Pharisees could do: For had they proceeded to have raised Objections to the Sentence which our Lord had pronounced, concerning the Payment of Taxes, they would have fallen into the very Pit they had dug for him. Had they acknowledged the Lawfulness of paying Tribute unto Cæsar, they would have lost their Popularity and Credit with the Multitude, who expected the Appearance of a temporal Prince to conquer Cæsar; and had they maintained the Unlawfulness of such a Compliance, the Herodians themselves would have been the first to have impeached their Loyalty, and to have informed the Roman Governor of their seditious Conduct: Therefore they marvelled and held their Peace.
Again, when our Lord was brought to his Trial before Pilate, the Roman Governor the same Question was revived, only under somewhat of a different Form. St. John informs us, that Pilate asked him, whether he was a King? and particularly whether he was the King of the Jews?—Meaning thereby, whether he was that great Personage, whom the whole Nation of the Jews had so eagerly expected, and for whose Cause they were all ready to revolt. To which Question our Lord replied, “My Kingdom is not of this World: If my Kingdom were of this World, then would my Servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: But now is my Kingdom not from hence.” [See John xviii. 36.] This Answer was sufficient to convince the Governor, that he had nothing to apprehend from Jesus, as a dangerous Enemy to the State: And most certain he was, that the Jews were not at all disposed to make an Insurrection in his Favour. Therefore he seemed to be quite satisfied as to the only Point, which he wished to know, concerning the Messiah of the Jews.
After our Lord’s Resurrection, the drooping Hopes, and continual Longings of the Apostles after a temporal Kingdom revived again. For having found, that their Master was brought to Life, contrary to all their Expectations, they from hence concluded, that the Scene of Power was at last going to begin, and that an astonishing Display of Prodigies and Wonders would soon take Place. “Therefore when they were come together, they asked him saying, Lord wilt thou at this Time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” To which he returned an Answer, by no Means satisfactory as to the Point of their Inquiry, and yet sufficiently explicit to intimate to them, that there were certain Secrets in the Dispensations of Providence relative to a future Kingdom of the Messiah, which it was their Duty at present not to pry into; because they were not proper for them to know. “He said unto them, it is not for you to know the Times and the Seasons, which the Father hath put in his own Power. But ye shall receive Power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: And ye shall be Witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the uttermost Part of the Earth.”—Acts I. 6, 7, and 8 Verses.
Now in all these Conversations, which our Lord had both with the Jews, and with his own Apostles,—with those who considered him as a vile Impostor, and those who believed him to be the true Messiah, and that very King of the Jews so long expected [so that they need not look for another.]—I say, in all these several Conversations, set on Foot not only from different, but from opposite Motives,—not a Word is hinted about national Grievances, or national Complaints of any Kind. For the Question about the Payment of Tribute was not, Whether it was an unreasonable Tax, immoderate, or oppressive,—whether it was unequally laid, or would be squandered away, or improperly applied [the usual Topics in our Days] but whether they ought to pay any Tax at all, much or little, to a Government, against whose Title they objected, as founded on Violence and Usurpation. In answer to which, the Words of our Lord are as express and determinate as Words can be.—“If you allow, that Cæsar is now the Master of your Country (which you plainly do, by submitting to the Circulation of his Coin, an evident Proof of his sovereign Power!) you must allow, that he has a Right to some Tribute or other in that Coin, which bears his own Image and Superscription. He is now in actual Possession; his Government is peaceably established; it is the Government under which you live, and under which you are protected. Render therefore to Cæsar the Things that are Cæsar’s: For this is a sufficient Warrant for, and Justification of your Conduct; by what Means soever he may have acquired the sovereign Dominion over you.”
Almost 30 Years after the Resurrection of our Lord, the same Controversy concerning the Legality, or rather the Validity of Cæsar’s Title, broke out a fresh. The Jews could not bear the Thought of submitting with Patience to a Title, whose only Recommendation was actual and peaceable Possession. The Judaizing Christians were of course of the same Way of Thinking. And there is no Doubt to be made, but that the other Christian Converts, and indeed that the whole Roman Empire, Jews, Christians, and Pagans, were no Strangers to the Manner, by which the first Cæsars mounted the Throne, and subverted the antient Constitution.
Under these Circumstances, it became of the utmost Consequence to the Christian Cause, to have it determined, what Part the Christian Converts, and more especially its Teachers and Professors, were to take. And I will add, that in every Age of Christianity to the present Hour, it is of the utmost Importance to know, that the Religion of the Gospel is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of Mercy, and good Fruits, without Partiality, and without Hypocrisy.” Consequently its Professors and Teachers should ever represent it, as a Religion peculiarly calculated, not to disturb the Repose and Happiness of Mankind, but on the contrary, to cement them together, and to promote Unity, Peace, and Love, where ever it can.—And surely, as far as the mere Titles of the reigning Powers are concerned, this it can, and therefore this it actually doth, do. “Render therefore to Cæsar the Things that are Cæsar’s.”
As to public Grievances, and well founded national Complaints,—what would have been the Gospel Doctrine concerning the Extent of passive Obedience, or that Degree of patient Submission, which ought to be paid to the higher Powers, in Case they were to be notoriously guilty in the Abuse of their Trust: This Question was never started: Therefore the Gospel of Christ is totally silent on that Head. And perhaps it would always he the better, and the safer Course, to leave these Points, as the Gospel has lest them, totally undecided.—I say, it would be the better and the safer Course; because, as Obedience is a general Duty, and Disobedience or Resistance only an excepted Case, on some extraordinary Emergence, the natural Sense and Feelings of Mankind are seldom or ever wanting to apprize them in any Point where a Duty is to be relaxed. Nay, it is well if they are not too quick-sighted, and more officious than they ought to be in suggesting Exceptions, and Dispensations.
It is true, the Precepts in Scripture, which require Obedience to the higher Powers, urge such Motives, as by a natural Construction may imply, that where such Motives are wanting, there lies no Obligation to obey. And I freely grant, that such an Inference may be fairly made: But nevertheless the Scriptures are silent about it: They make no such Inference, but leave the Relaxation of this Duty to those whom it may concern. Thus, for Example, the Reasons for obeying the civil Magistrate, as alledged by St. Paul, are, “Because he is a Terror to Evil-Doers, and for the Praise of them that do well; because he is the Minister of God for Good, attending continually on this very Thing: For which Purpose he beareth not the Sword in vain, being a Revenger to execute Wrath on them that do Evil.” Now this being supposed as the Basis of his Administration, the Duty of Obedience follows of Course: And therefore the Apostle adds, in the very next Verse: “Wherefore we must needs be subject, not only for Wrath, but also for Conscience Sake.”
On this Principle it is, that Kings and Magistrates are reputed God’s Vicegerents: On this Principle it is that their Authority is derived from him: And consequently that their Subjects cannot even fearGod, in the Manner they ought to do, without honouring his Ministers and Representatives here on Earth.
But supposing that these Vicegerents should act contrary to their Commission: Supposing that they should no longer conduct themselves, as the Ministers of God for Good: In such a Case, what is to be done? I answer, it is very apparent from the Terms of their Commission, That they are no longer entitled to the Obedience of the Subject, as a Point of Duty and Conscience. But nothing farther can be inferred from the mere Words of Scripture; all the rest being left to Men’s natural Feelings, and Discretion to do the best they can in such an unhappy Situation: Only we should always bear in Mind this necessary Caution, that tho’ we are free, “we ought not to use our Liberty as a Cloak for Maliciousness, but to behave as the Servants of God.”
And as the Holy Scriptures are thus averse to the giving any Countenance to popular Tumults and Insurrections,—it is very observable, that the English Constitution acts with the like Caution and Reserve. For the boundary Line between Resistance and Obedience is no more marked out by the Laws of England, than it is in the Gospel of Christ:—Cases and Exceptions there undoubtedly are, in which it would be right not to obey, and even to repel Force by Force. But nevertheless the English Constitution doth not point out those Cases, for fear Mankind should make a bad Use of such an Interpretation;—for fear crafty and designing Men should mislead the giddy Populace to deem that to be legal Liberty, which in Truth and Reality is no better than a rampant Licentiousness, and lawless Anarchy;—and which therefore must, in the Course of Things, end in the Despotism and Tyranny of some cunning, bold Usurper. [See my Vol. of Sermons, Pages 321, 324, printed for Rivington.]
There is but one Difficulty of Consequence, as far as I can see, which attends this Scripture Doctrine [or perhaps, as some would say, this Interpretation of a Scripture Doctrine] concern-the Obedience due to our civil Governors; a Difficulty in my poor Judgement much more plausible than real.
The Objection may thus be urged: According to the present Hypothesis, a vile Usurper, if once established in quiet and peaceable Possession, and behaving well in his public Capacity, hath as good a Title to the Loyalty, and Obedience of the Subject, as the most lawful Prince, though invested with the best hereditary Right, or even elected by the general Voice of the People.—It is admitted that this Consequence must follow from the Premises; nor are we afraid to meet it in its full Force. For Julius Cæsar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, were all Usurpers, yet every one of them was, in Effect, declared by the Scriptures to be the Ordinance of God; as far, I mean, as the Duty of Allegiance and Subjection was concerned.
This Matter wants some Illustration; and to set it in a clear and just Light, the following Considerations ought to be attended to: That civil Government is natural to Man;—and that political Subordinations of some Kind, or under some Form or other, must necessarily take Place:—Moreover, let the Contenders for Empire be whosoever they will, and their Titles (real or pretended) whatsoever they may (that is, whether founded on Consent, Election, Descent or Conquest):—Still the actual Possession of Government is no other than an Office held in Trust for the Good of the Governed. Consequently such an Office, or Trusteeship, must be subject to all those Vicissitudes, Casualties, or Accidents, to which every other public Charge is necessarily exposed. Now, were a Guardian, a Tutor, a Steward, or any other fiduciary Agent to be rendered incapable of executing his Trust, whether by the afflicting Hand of God, or thro’ the Wickedness of Man, it is obvious to common Sense, that [supposing the Office ☞ necessary to be continued] recourse must be had to other Persons, and to other Agents to fill up the Vacancy.—Apply now this Reasoning, mutatis mutandis, to the Case of Sovereigns and their Subjects.—Government there must be: This Point is assumed as a self-evident Principle, from which no Departure can be made. And Power, Wisdom, and Goodness are such necessary Qualifications, for the Exercise of Government, at least in some Degree, that no public Regimen, much less a good one, can subsist without a Mixture, or Combination of them. Suppose therefore that Wisdom, through some unhappy Defect, should be wanting, [and that instead thereof gross Idiotism or Infanity should supervene] this is so total a Disqualification, that all the World will unanimously agree in declaring such unhappy Persons to be entirely unfit to govern; and therefore they must be governed, have Guardians appointed for themselves. Suppose also that Goodness, the next essential Article, be wanting;—if notoriously wanting, and to a very great Degree, a like Sentence of Deprivation ought to be pronounced against such unworthy Governors, who forfeit all Pretensions to be continued in an Office, the End and Design of which they manifestly pervert. Lastly, suppose that Power be wanting: This, we will allow, may sometimes be a Misfortune; and not a Fault. But nevertheless the Want of Power in the Sovereign to protect, must extinguish the reciprocal Duty of Allegiance in the Subject, as much as the Want of Wisdom, or of Goodness. Cases indeed may be put, proper to excite Compassion, and draw forth Pity; but they cannot alter the Nature of Things. For after all, the Affair must come to this.—That if the higher Powers in any Country, whose Administration answers to the apostolic Description of being a Terror to evil Doers, and for the Praise of them that do well;—if, I say, such Powers should be in Danger of being removed, deposed, or subdued, either through the Machinations of some internal Faction, or by the Arms of a Rival, or the Invasion of a foreign Enemy,—then, the first and immediate Duty of every good, and conscientious Subject is, to succour and assist them to the utmost of his Ability, and never to give the least Encouragement to the Adversary. This, most undoubtedly, is the first and immediate Duty of every Subject. But suppose that, after the most faithful Discharge of his Duty in these Respects, the foreign, or domestic Enemy should nevertheless so far prevail, as to be established in quiet and peaceable Possession, What is the next Duty? The next, one would think, is so clearly set forth in the Writings of the New Testament, that it would be impossible to mistake it: “Let every Soul be subject to the higher Powers, the Powers that be: For if Cæsar is become the Master of your Country, and if he protects you in the Enjoyment of your Life and Property, render to Cæsar the Things that are Cæsar’s; and learn from these Circumstances to become his good and faithful Subjects for the future, without Equivocation, or Reserve. The Guilt of such a Revolution doth not fall upon you: For you did every Thing in your Power to have prevented it. Therefore you are no more responsible for the Injuries or Injustice thereby occasioned, whatever they may be, than you are for the Consequences of any other successful Villainy, which Providence hath permitted, and doth daily permit, in the Course of human Affairs. The Claims you make on this new Government, are only the Preservation of Life, Liberty, and Property. These are just Claims, which you have a Right to make, let who will be the ruling Powers: Because Government itself was instituted on purpose, to preserve them.” In one Word, you have a Right to be Quasi-Contractors, “if not actual Contractors, whatever Government shall prevail.”
However, if this Casuistry should not be deemed satisfactory, or if any one hath a Mind to criticise upon it, let him try, if he can, to substitute a better. “Cæsar is the actual and peaceable Possessor of the Throne. This is the Point to be supposed, and allowed: But it is also consessed, that his Title is sounded in Bloodshed and Usurpation. What therefore is a private Person to do in such a Case?” He hath but three Things to chuse: That is, he must either resuse to yield to the Conqueror, and obstinately resolve to accept of no Protection and no Quarter from him;—or he must submit in Appearance, with an Intention nevertheless to rise up and rebel as soon as an Opportunity shall offer:—Or lastly, he must submit in Sincerity, and conscientiously resolve to be faithful and obedient to the Power which presides over, and protects him. Let us therefore now see, which of these deserves the Preference.—The first, I believe, is what no Man, in his Senses, would espouse, or dare to recommend either as humane, just or practicable.—The Second is the Doctrine of the Jacobites on the one Extreme, and of our modern Republicans on the other: For these two Extremes meet at last in the same Point. The Jacobite maintains an unalienable and indeseasible Right in one single Family, and indeed in one single Person of that Family:—The Republican extends this wild Paradox, so as to comprehend every Individual, and the whole human Species: So that both these Factions, if they are consistent with their own Principles, must be the natural and irreconcileable Enemies to every Government but their own. For according to their Ideas of their respective unalienable Rights, all Cessions, all Promises, Oaths, Declarations, Abjurations, &c. &c. are void, and null of Course, when either the right Heir on the one Side, shall appear; or when the People shall have an Opportunity on the other of assembling to assert their unalienable Birth-rights, and to chuse their own Governors and Legislators.—What Scenes, first of Hypocrisy, Perfidy, and Treachery!—and afterwards of Bloodshed, Massacres, and Horror, are these two Systems, the Jacobitical and the Republican, capable of producing, were they left to operate unrestrained, and uncontrolled!
Thirdly, There is but one Choice more to make, namely, That every Individual, if in the Situation above described, ought to be subject in Christian Sincerity, without Guile, or Fraud, to the higher Powers, the Powers for the Time being; notwithstanding any Defect of Title imputed to them.—Of this third Choice therefore I shall say the less, as every Part of the foregoing Treatise has a Reference thereto.—Only let me be permitted to remind my Readers at the Close of the whole, that notwithstanding any little Cavils and Objections which may be made against this Doctrine,—It is the only Scheme that ever was, or ever can be reduced to practice;—And it is also the Law of the Land.