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and powers, to obey magistrates, and to be ready to every good work.”
It is worthy of observation, that when the Apostle wrote these epistles, the civil authority was wholly in the hands of Heathen magistrates. And some of them too the greatest monsters of cruelty; that were ever suffered to sway a sceptre, or disgrace a throne. Tyrants, who were distinguished only by their crimes, and rendered immortal only by their infamy, Yet such was the pacific spirit of the gos; pel, that Christians were exhorted to “ be subject, not only for wrath,” that is for fear of punishment, 66 but for conscience fake,"
Sentiments similar to these were enforced by the Apostle Peter, in our context. “Submit yourselves, faid he, to every ordinance of man for the LORD's fake. For this is the will of God, that with well, doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of fool. ilh men. As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness ; but as the servants of God.”
The sense of the text will more fully appear, by the following familiar paraphrase. As if he had faid ; - you will not, my brethren, mistake the na: ture
your Christian liberty, to suppose that be, cause you profess to be the disciples of CHRIST, you are freed from your allegiance to the government under which you are placed. It is true, that if the Son hath made you free, then are you free indeed, But this freedom consists in being delivered from the guilt and power of fin, from the dominion of your own lusts, and from final condemnation at the great day when God shall judge the world by Jesus CHRIST. But instead of lessening your obe
ligations to contribute to the peace and order of fou ciety, it greatly increases them. Your duty as Christians is urged by higher motives, and your obedience secured by more folemn fanctions. Submit yourselves therefore to every ordinance of mang designed for the good of society, and not inconfifa tent with the di&tates c. your own consciences, or the duties you owe to your God: And thus, by well-doing, you will put to filence the ignorance of foolish men, who represent your sentiments as tending to disloyalty and fedition. As free, but not abusing your liberty in using it as a cloke for malicious conduct ; but in all circumstances conducta ing yourfelves faithfully as the servants of God.”
From the subject thus placed before us, we are naturally led to the following inquiries. When may a people be said to be free? What are the means best calculated to preserve their freedom, and promote their happiness and prosperity ? And, In what respects are they in danger from the abuse of their liberty?
In order to find a free people, we need not repair to Lybia's burning fands, to learn the favage customs and manners of those barbarous descendants of Ishmael, who indeed boast of their freedom, but whose liberty essentially confifts, in committing, with impunity and without a blush, the most flagrant acts of violence and injustice. Nor is it necessary that the restraints imposed by wife and equitable laws fhould be taken off, and the force of moral principle removed in order to render a people free. Such a state of things would only produce a lawless ungovernable freedom, which would terminate in the worst kind of anarchy and confusion.
It is evident that many who pretend to be the votaries of liberty, never understood its true principles, nor conducted themselves worthy of its bleffings. Genuine social liberty can never exist with. out being protected and supported by law, enlightened and aided by morality and religion.
Bụt what peculiarly distinguishes a free people from all others, is, the right they collectively poffefs to govern themselves : Or in other words, the right of choosing and establishing their own forms of government; and of appointing to office those who make and execute the laws.
That very confiderable privileges may be enjoy- . ed under a despotic government, and that the rights of justice may in general be maintained, will be readily admitted. But if the government exists independent of the governed, they cannot be said to be free. Their security for the few privileges they do enjoy, depends not on their acknowledged rights, but entirely on the will and disposition of the persons in office.
All legitimate governments are, or ought to be founded in compachan For it is not easy to conceive how one man should have a right to rule over ano. ther, equally free as himself, without his consent : And should any one presume to exercise authority over any portion of his fellow-men, without theit express or implied consent ; they might, with great propriety, demand of him by what authority he did it? and who gave him this authority ?
But, instead of being founded in compact, most of the governments which exist, owe their origin to fome ufurping tyrant; who, being more crafty, or
more powerful than his neighbors, affumed domina ion over them. Power thus wrongfully obtained at first, after descending from hand to hand for a few generations, at length becomes legitimated and confirmed by time. '-
The people of these United States are peculiarly happy in this respect. Our history does not begin with narrating the exploits of some fanguinary Chief, whose blood-stained crimes like those of Pin zarró rendered him the terror of defenceless innocence, and the execration of mankind. No; we glory in à race of ancestors, who were men of the purest mórals, and most unsullied virtue. Who were too pious to diffemible, and to independent to submit to ecclefiaftical fulminations. Men who were willing to leave their dear native shores, and cross the wide spreading ocean in quest of this beta ter country. Who cheerfully encountered the numerous perils of an inhospitable wilderness, in order to secure to themselves and their posterity, the unmolested enjoyment of civil and religious liberty.
These blessings and privileges they bequeathed with their dying breath to their children ; and in defence of this precious legacy, we feel ourselves justified to God and the universe, in appealing to arms in our late glorious revolution.
Our cause was just, and heaven succeeded it. The contest was severe, but victory and glory followed. The sun of freedom which had been gradually rifing upon these infant states, now burst forth in me. ridian splendor.. A nation was born in a day. A new era -commenced. Another empire appeared on the map of the world. Astonished Europe beB
held in this western hemispherc à new constellation. Conjecture was on tiptoe gazing, and speculation with unusual adroitness was endeavouring to find its magnitude and motion. Some thought they discovered a new planet in the political horizon, mov. ing regularly in its own orbit. Others concluded it would prove only a fatellite of some Europe. an power. But many who viewed it through a fet of royal optics, conceived it to be only a baleful comet, portending revolution and war, making a hasty transit, and expected momently it would difappear. But, they had yet to learn that we were “ a world by ourselves ;" that we were independent Republicans ; that we were free. .
When the passions incident to a state of war had subsided, and God had given us rest from all our enemies round about, the public attention was naturally drawn to our internal situation. Our provisional government, which, like the tabernacle in the wilderness,had been erected during our revolutionary march, was too defective and inefficient for our future security. It was unable to preserve public credit, or feeure public confidence. It hence be. came indispensably necessary in order to consolidate the union of the States, and to give permanency and dignity to our national character, that a new Constitution should be formed. That the powers of the different branches of the general government should be specifically defined; their limits so diftinctly marked as not to interfere with each other; and sufficient energy given to the whole, to support order and tranquility at home, honor and good faith with all nations with whom we were connected a. broad.